As the general election draws closer, voters are gearing up to elect their leaders. The voters are on the lookout to opt for a better leader for their constituency – someone who is familiar with the people’s problems, the society’s issues and challenges.
The election carnival is in its full bloom with the first phase of the polls just round the week, on April 11.
Most of the Northeast will vote on April 11 (including Assembly polls in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim). Manipur and Tripura will vote in two phases while Assam will elect their leaders for the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the first three phases of the general election – on April 11, April 18 and Aril 23.
While there are specific local issues that the people want to get addressed, here are five core election issues for Assam that need to be addressed by the to-be leaders of the state.
1. Crime Against Women
Crime against women in various parts of the state has been a major challenge for Assam. The government’s data of 2018 revealed that the number of registered cases of crime against women have rapidly increased in the last two years.
Altogether, 29,223 incidents of violence against women were reported from different parts of the state in the past two years. The latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that Assam recorded the second highest crime rate against women in India in 2016.
Among the states, Delhi had the highest crime rate against women (160.4 crimes against a population of one lakh), with Assam a close second (131.3 crimes) and Odisha (84.5) coming third. Nagaland has recorded the lowest rate of crimes against women in the country (9.2 crimes) ranking 36th in the list, with only 53 per cent being charge-sheeted. Meanwhile, the numbers are quite disturbing as there is increasing violence against women in Assam.
Unemployment is a major problem in Assam and the Northeast region. As per the government data of December 2017, the total number of unemployed people registered at the employment exchange in Assam was 19,63,376 with 13,56,612 being male and 6,06,764 female.
According to CMIE’s latest data, unemployment rates hit 6.9 per cent in Assam whereas India’s unemployment at the same time was recorded as 6.8 per cent.
According to the Sentinel’s report of November 29, 2018, the state has about 942 unemployed medical graduates, 7,804 jobless engineering graduates, 16,576 postgraduates, 3,17,8 24 general graduates, approximately 6,82,796 HS-passed candidates, 16,121 ITI certificate holders who are unemployed.
The statistical data on unemployment in Assam is a serious cause of worry. The statistics given above makes it clear that job generation is something which our leaders from Assam must be aware of and must resolve.
3. Citizenship Amendment Bill
The Citizenship Amendment Bill has become a central point of discussion and debate in Assam, ever since it was introduced. There are large groups, organizations and individuals who are still protesting against this bill. The present BJP-led NDA government at the Centre tried to pass the bill in the parliament, but did not place it in the Rajya Sabha after massive public outrage across the Northeast region.
The people of Assam are against the bill as ‘it violates the historic Assam Accord of 1985 and also goes against Assam’s social and cultural fabric’. Assam cannot take the extra load of immigrants because of insufficiency of minerals and resources. Along with this, the bill also apparently violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality to all persons. It is also important to realise that India does not have the resources to absorb anyone and everyone who crosses the border.
Meanwhile, the core point is that for a state like Assam to prosper economically, social and ethnic harmony has to be maintained.
4. Illegal Immigration
The problem of illegal migration has been a serious challenge for the state over the last few decades. The historic Assam Movement against illegal migration took place in the state from 1979 to 1985, but the problem remains unresolved. The people of Assam are still protesting and they demand that this issue be addressed at the earliest. Meanwhile, the NRC updation process has been initiated to identify illegal migrants and safeguard the native population under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
5. Education and Health sector need reformation
Assam is the educational hub for all Northeast states. While the state has a number of good colleges and universities, there is a need for proper structured education system at the grassroots. Besides, there should be job-oriented curriculum that will try to solve the unemployment problem in the region. In addition to these, modern-day techniques should be used to impart education to students in schools and colleges.
The insufficient number of teachers and staff in schools and colleges is the core problem of the educational sector of the state. According to government data, a total of 36,523 teaching posts are vacant at present in Assam, including 17,293 posts in primary schools. The student-teacher ratio in lower primary and upper primary schools is lower than the prescribed limit. While the government has already started many initiatives, the work has not progressed as per people’s expectations.
Assam has been facing many challenges in the health sector. While a lot of work has been done, challenges still exist at the grassroots. There are several public health care centres that have been badly affected in the rural areas due to the shortage of doctors and medical staff. Getting proper medical facilities in the rural areas is a challenge. People in the rural areas are still unable to seek treatment in urban hospitals due to low income.
Along with these five major problems, Assam also faces perennial floods and has other issues like lack of industrialisation, economic inequality and lack of development, poverty, problems of transport and connectivity, slow growth of the state economy etc.
This article was first published in the Youth Ki Awaaz.