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4th Central Conference of ASDC
Call to Rejuvenate the Movement for
Autonomous State

The 4th central conference of the ASDC concluded at Haflong, the district town of North Cachar Hills, on 25 May, 1997. The conference began on 23 May. The conference which was attended by over 700 delegates discussed and unanimously adopted the draft document. The draft in its chapter titled `Present Phase of the Movement' says that after a historic people's movement the state government with the participation of the central government was forced to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on 1st April 1995. In the MoU the district council was to be handed over the following powers: a) Legislative powers on major issues; b) The right to present and adopt the budget; c) In some major matters to directly advice the governor; and d) Exercising some control on law and order machinery. The constitution was amended to provide the newly promoted district council legislative powers on 14 subjects related equivalent to 20 executive departments. In this amendment governor could be advised on 13 subjects. Moreover, the state government was to hand over 30 additional departments to the district council. But the then Congress government tried to scuttle the main provisions of the agreement. ASDC reorganised the movement against Congress and the Congress was routed in the hustings.

The new government under AGP leadership didn't show necessary importance to implement the MoU. ASDC had to issue an ultimatum to the government. Several rounds of discussions followed and pressure was put on the government by different means. Eventually, after eight months on 31 December the government adopted a new office memorandum. Subsequently, on 12 and 13 January the chief minister in mass meetings organised in Diphu and Haflong, formally announced the handing over of 30 departments to the district councils. He declared that by March this year DRDA department will be handed over and relating to other five departments viz. food and civil supplies, measurement, transport, excise and sales tax, necessary revisions will soon be made. However, till date neither DRDA has been handed over nor any revision process for the other departments has taken off. Even though the office memorandum had set March 1997 as the time limit for the transfer of Assistant Chief Engineer, Assistant Project Coordinator of 30 departments, nothing has actually been done so far. Principal Secretary, Secretary and Secretary (adhoc/executive) have not yet been transferred. Violating the conditions of agreement, Chief Minister didn't take into confidence Chief Executive Members (CEM) of district councils in discussions with the Planning Commission. Neither were they consulted in discussions on planning at the government level. District Council was, of course, allowed to present its budget but obstacles were put in the way of increasing capital allocation. And then under the pretext of time constraint, the district council budget was not included in the state council budget. When ASDC representative drew the CM's attention to this anamoly he expressed his willingness to rectify these and in the budget discussions in assembly declared that the budgets prepared by the district councils are acceptable in principle.

On exercising control over law and order, according to the agreement, the council had to have the authority to make comments in CR (confidential report) of police officers and to advice on their appointments and transfers. But no initiative has been taken on this score.

The document says that ASDC had signed the MoU when the central government had outright rejected formation of any new state anywhere in India. The government had agreed for increasing the powers of the district council by amending the Sixth Schedule and this was a new experiment. The success of the MoU depended a lot on policy and attitude of the state government. Authoritarian and reactionary Congress government was replaced by the government of AGP in which CPI and UPPF also participate and which enjoys CPI(M)'s support from outside. But even such a government has not implemented the MoU. They went back on their promises to the people and showed no interest in according real power to the people. It is in these conditions that ASDC is forced to renew the demand of autonomous state. UF government at the centre too has accepted the demand for new states, at least in the case of Uttarakhand.

The conference decided to come out of the five-party alliance and also withdraw its 'unconditional' support to the government. This decision of ASDC was widely covered by the national media and has heated up the political atmosphere in Assam. The decision was taken in the context of AGP government following the footsteps of its predecessor, the Congress(I), in almost all major policy matters.

It should be remembered here that actually no alliance was ever formalised and it was at best a seat adjustment where AGP gave up claims over the seats in the Hill districts. Even in government formation ASDC refused the offer to participate in the government and offered only support from outside against Cong. and BJP threats. But AGP propaganda machinery had projected the whole thing as a 5-party alliance and ASDC's support as unconditional. ASDC's contradicting statements were not given any serious attention by the media and thus a wrong public impression had been created. This conference cleared up this confusion.

The conference elected a 50-member central committee and re-elected Jayant Rongpi and Holiram Terang as the President and the General Secretary respectively. 21 more members will be nominated to the central committee including 4 women. Out of the 50 members elected there are 8 women. Chandrakant Teron and Prakanth Warisa have been elected as new vice-presidents. On the concluding day of the conference a rally of more than 10,000 people was held. A ten-point resolution was also passed by the conference. One of the resolution was to fight against corruption and as an initial step all party leaders of Standing Committee and all elected representatives since 1989 shall announce their property within the month of June this year. It was also decided to come out with a white paper on the situation in NC Hills so as to counter the propaganda by anti-people forces about non-performance of ASDC Council. Reasserting its demand for an Autonomous State, the resolution reiterated the slogan of "No Autonomous State, No Rest".

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