Assam to create separate department for indigenous groups
The Assam cabinet on Saturday approved the formation of a separate department to protect and preserve the faiths, languages and culture of indigenous communities in the state, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
“Our indigenous populations have their own language, culture and religious beliefs. But due to lack of official help from the government, several of these groups were economically weak,” Sarma added.
The decision to form the ‘indigenous faiths and culture’ department was taken at a special cabinet meeting held to mark completion of two months of the new government and ahead of next week’s budget session of the assembly.
“This new department will work to protect and preserve their unique cultures, languages and beliefs. Since it’s a new department and will require lot of work, the cabinet has requested the finance minister to allot a substantial sum in the next budget for it,” the chief minister said.
Assam has eight major scheduled tribes (ST) besides many other smaller groups and sub-groups. A proposal to grant ST status to six more communities in the state is pending with the Centre for approval.
Sarma said the new department will work independently and focus specifically on issues relating to faith, language and culture of the indigenous communities. Development work and other schemes meant for these communities will be handled by other existing departments.
Saturday’s cabinet meeting also took decisions on key financial and administrative reforms, changing the existing long-winded process of sanctioning schemes and allocation of funds routed through different departments.
“From now decision on all schemes of up to ₹2 crore will be approved by a departmental committee headed by the commissioner of each department and based on approval of the minister these works will be executed,” said Sarma.
Schemes and projects worth ₹2 crore to ₹5 crore will be decided by a committee headed by the chief secretary, while projects between ₹5 crore and ₹100 crore will be decided by the finance minister, Sarma said, adding that schemes worth over ₹100 crore will be approved by the state cabinet.
“This change is being incorporated to end so-called red-tape and bureaucratic hurdles in sanctioning of projects and their funding. This will reduce the time taken in movement of files from one department to another for approval. Officers will be able to give more time in monitoring schemes,” said Sarma.