Monsoon Session of Assam Legislative Assembly Saw Passage of Several Bills

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Assam Legislative Assembly session of four days began on a heated note on the first day of the monsoon session, with arguments and protests from the opposition over COVID-19, NRC, and implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

The opposition also staged walkout on the first day of the Assembly session.

Leader of the opposition, Debabrata Saikia accused the state government of politicizing the COVID-19 situation. There were allegations that the government had resorted to making political gains by strictly enforcing lockdown protocols for the opposition leaders.

Congress MLA from North Karimganj Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha alleged that the government was lackadaisical regarding the NRC issue. The MLA took potshots and said that there is no fruitful outcome even though the NRC final list was published on August 30, 2019.

On the other hand, Mariani Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi also echoed similar sentiments and said that the government is politicizing the NRC issue by making changes in the cut-off date.

A total of 21 bills came up during the current session. Among the new bills are-The Birangana Sati Sadhini Rajyik Vishwaidyalaya Bill, 2020, The Assam Agricultural Produce & Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Assam MSME (Facilitation of Establishment and Operation) Bill, 2020, and The Assam Skill University Bill, 2020.

The government is also likely to move bills for two amendments in existing labour laws.

‘Supplementary Demands for Grants’ and ‘Supplementary Appropriation’ (Additional Budget provisions) for 2020-2021 of Rs 814140.62 lakh passed. The state government requires this additional amount in the current fiscal.

The Assam assembly on the closing day of the monsoon session on Wednesday passed a bill to protect, preserve, and restore tangible heritage, which is currently not covered under any national or state law. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that the passing of the Assam Heritage (Tangible) Protection, Preservation, Conservation, and Maintenance Bill, 2020 was a historic step towards implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985. Clause 6 of the accord provides that “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.

The bill seeks to include museum objects like coins, sculptures, manuscripts, epigraphs, or other works of art and craftsmanship and all cultural artifacts of indigenous people. The statement of objects and 665reasons of the bill states, ‘It seeks to protect, preserve, conserve, maintain and restore the tangible heritage of Assam.” The act will cover all heritage that has been in existence for at least 75 years.

Bills to create separate autonomous councils finally passed to rises new hope for the three communities of Assam. The Moran Autonomous Council Bill, The Matak Autonomous Council Bill, and The Kamatapur Autonomous Council Bill were tabled on March 24, the last day of the Budget Session this year. Bills related to Moran and Matak were passed without any objection but the opposition and one member of BJP objected to the nomenclature of the third bill with the request to change it to Koch-Rajbongshi Autonomous Council Bill, 2020.

Soon after, the Coordination Committee of different autonomous councils such as Koch Raj Bongshi, Tai Ahom, Adivasi, Chutia, Gorkha, etc. met the CM and submitted a memorandum enlisting their several demands of granting adequate funds. CM Sonowal, with his mild tone, as usual, spoke out to their satisfaction that his government is working towards fulfilling all their demands including the demand for autonomy. CM with the promise of welfare and creation of autonomous councils stood for the elections in 2016 and thus won out of hope that arose in the hearts of people who saw an array of hope in the CM.

The Assam Assembly passed a bill enabling the government to borrow an additional 2.5 percent of its GDP for 2020-21, owing to the state”s “highly stressed” fiscal situation. The Assam Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Act, 2020 has also empowered the government to go for an additional borrowing of up to Rs 2,000 crore in view of “reduction in the devolution of share of central taxes” for the 2019-20 fiscal.

The Assam Assembly passed the ‘Assam Municipal (Amendment) Bill-2020’ to deal with the typical situation in many of the urban civic bodies whose terms had expired but polls could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown from March 24, 2020.

After this, the Bill becomes an Act, the DCS, and SDO (C) and other designated officials will be allowed to take over charges of these municipal organizations across the State with effect from April 1, 2020. However, the officials will be allowed to take over such charges for a period not exceeding 12 months from the date of expiry of the term of the respective urban civic body.

This mentioned amendment was needed since there is no provision in the ‘Assam Municipal Act-1956’ that after the expiry of the term of the Commissioners of the Municipal Boards, the Deputy Commissioners/Sub-Divisional Officers (Civil) or any other Government officials can take over the charge of such Municipal Boards. The existing rules mandate that the State Election Commission (SEC) should conduct the election of the Municipal Boards on the expiry of their term of five years.

The Assam government failed to utilize 32.3% of the last budgetary provision for the year 2019-2020 that ended on March 31, 2020. However, a worse scenario was during fiscal 2015-2016 when 44% of the then budgetary provisions remained unutilized. The data were reflected in a reply given by Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to a query posed by the Leader of the Opposition and Congress legislator Debabrata Saikia in the Assam Assembly.

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Written by Rashmi Sarmah

Rashmi Sarmah is working as a journalist for Headline8. A post-graduate in Mass Communication with specialization in Advertisement and Public Relations from Cotton University.
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