New department to be created in Assam to protect indigenous

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faith, culture: Sarma (Eds: Adds inputs) Guwahati, Jul 10 (PTI) The Assam cabinet on Saturday decided to create a new department to protect the culture and practices of people belonging to tribal and other indigenous communities, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said here.

The new department, he noted, would ensure that the state's indigenous population gets to preserve their faith and traditions, while also providing requisite support to them.

Most ethnic communities in Assam are believers of animism, though some, over the years, have turned to the dominant religion in their respective areas.

'Indigenous tribes such as the Bodos, Rabhas, Mishings, along with others have their own religious beliefs and unique traditions, which so far have not received the support necessary for their preservation,' the chief minister stated while addressing a press meet here.

He said that Finance Minister Ajanta Neog has been asked to make 'substantial allocation' for the new department in the state budget, set to be tabled next week.

'This will be an independent department, which will solely focus on faith and culture preservation of ethnic communities and not concern itself with other matters related to them,' the CM maintained.

The Assam cabinet usually meets every Wednesday but a special meeting was held on Saturday to mark the completion of two months of the BJP government headed by Sarma.

The cabinet, during the meeting, agreed that financial and administrative reforms were necessary to ensure speedy implementation of various schemes floated by the government.

It decided that departmental committees, headed by commissioners, will be entitled to give its nod for projects worth Rs 2 crore and below, the CM explained.

Similarly, a standing finance committee, headed by the chief secretary, can approve schemes valued between Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore, he stated, while also pointing out that the panel will meet every Friday and decide on the various projects that need to a go-ahead.

A special standing finance panel, headed by the Neog, will also meet every Thursday to approve projects that are worth anything between Rs 5 crore and Rs 100 crore, and only the cabinet has the authority to decide on schemes that involve funds over Rs 100 crore, Sarma said.

'The files will no longer keep moving from one table to the other or from one department to the other with queries being made. Prompt decisions have to be taken to ensure timely clearance of the projects,' he asserted.

During project implementation, the directorate of the departments will have to bear the maximum responsibility, and files should straight move from the directors to the finance department for fund sanction, Sarma insisted.

'Both monitoring and the supervision of project- related work will be carried out by the directors or departmental heads concerned,' the CM said.

The departmental heads will also be responsible for filling up the vacant posts and salary clearance without having to approach the finance department, he said.

The new system will come into effect with the implementation of budget proposals, to be announced on July 16, the chief minister maintained.

He further observed that the entire state machinery will take a month's time to organise and implement the changes suggested, with imperative trainings being given to officials but bottlenecks would eventually be removed and the system will function smoothly with these administrative reforms.

He added that the changes suggested by him were in accordance with a report of an administrative reforms committee, headed by former bureaucrat Jatin Hazarika, during the tenure of late chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

Back then, however, the recommendations were not implemented. PTI DG RMS RMS

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