The two-child policy the Assam government is implementing may also apply to politicians and legislators, state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the man behind the policy, has said. The policy, announced yesterday, bars government jobs for people with more than two children. The state government has announced that it would be rolled out on January 1, 2021.
The Assam legislative Assembly had adopted the two child population policy in 2017. The government says the effort is meant to arrest the booming population growth, which at 17 per cent, stands far higher than the national average of 1.16 per cent.
"This policy will soon be applicable for all, even politicians... We are actively raising the matter with the Centre... that this policy should be adopted even for members of the state legislature and parliamentarians from the state," Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
But with most ministers in the government of Sarbananda Sonowal having a single child or two children, the policy is seen as targeting the Muslim population in the north-eastern state. Coming on the heels of the National Citizens' Register - and the Centre's remarks on deporting illegal immigrants - the move is seen as opening of another contentious front.
Mr Sarma did not mince words. "Minorities are poor. They have big families and can't meet daily expenses. It is time they are told to produce only two children," he said.
The opposition has warned that the policy might backfire if it is pushed only to meet the BJP's political agenda. Many have already pointed out that while arresting the population growth is an acceptable goal, it is by no means an answer to the problems like unemployment.
"If they implement this in haste, without improved health and social infrastructure or education, this will be discriminatory against a particular community," said Debabrata Saikia, the leader of the Opposition in the Assam assembly.
The Assam government employees agree. They have decided to support the move if it helps in population control, but they also want the government to concentrate on the larger issues of growing unemployment and pending benefits to government employees.
"We would support the government in the move if it helps arrest population growth. But we don't think two or three children of an employee is a big issue... there are even bigger issues like unemployment and government benefits," said Partha Hazarika, the general secretary of the Association of Secretariat Employees.
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