Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday asserted in the Assembly that high population is a "disease" for the state, which impacts its performance in various parameters.
He also maintained that the state's poor performance in a nationwide cleanliness survey "is a reflection on the people as a whole rather than the government", as he pitched for a 'proper citizens' movement'.
Taking part in a discussion on the state Budget, Sarma said the state's performance in terms of percentage cannot be compared with Arunachal Pradesh or Meghalaya, which have a much lower population than Assam.
"Our population burden affects our performance in terms of percentage. Population vis-a-vis students determine the percentage", he said, referring to opposition Congress MLA Bharat Chandra Narah pointing out that Assam's gross enrolment ratio (GER) was much less than the national average.
Narah, speaking before the chief minister, had said that Assam's GER was 16.9 per cent as per recent survey findings, while the national average is 27.1 per cent.
Most other North Eastern states have better percentage than Assam, with a few of them even performing better than the national average, he added.
Responding to the Congress MLA's statements, Sarma said, "We have to attack the disease and not the symptoms, and our disease is population."
He also claimed that participation of colleges in the national survey on GER at various levels was low in the state previously, which negatively impacted the state's position.
"This time, everyone participated properly in the higher education survey and when the results come out next year, we will be at 23-24 per cent, which is closer to the national average.
"Previously data of 130 colleges was not even uploaded. I had a meeting with principals of 350 colleges the day before yesterday," he added.
The CM also maintained that there is no shortage of colleges in the state anymore and in some newly opened ones, there is a dearth of students.
"Hence, we have new schemes in the budget to encourage youth to pursue higher studies. We are aware of the problems of the state and the budget is a reply to these", Sarma maintained.
Guwahati, performing poorly in Swachh Survekshan 2024, the CM said a proper citizen movement is needed to address it.
"It is not the Assam government which has been shamed, but our 'jati' (community) which has to bear the 'lajja' (shame) (of poor performance)... The government has provided various facilities, we need to now motivate the people to use it properly. We need a proper citizens' movement," Sarma said.
Citing the instance of door-to-door garbage collection system in Guwahati, he said, "People don't cooperate in even handing over the garbage and also refuse to pay for the garbage collection.
"But in cities like Indore, people systematically hand over the garbage and are willing to pay a fee for the collection facility," he said.
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