New Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Monday said controlling the 'alarming' COVID-19 situation in the state is his first priority and his aim will be to make the state one of the top five in the country in the next five years.
Sarma, who was addressing the press after being sworn in, appealed to all insurgent groups of Assam, specially ULFA (I) to lay down arms and join the mainstream to sort out their issues and establish lasting peace in the state.
He said the first cabinet meeting of the second Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state will be held on Tuesday to discuss the prevailing situation vis a vis the COVID-19 pandemic and decide on measures to contain it.
Sarma, who is also the convenor of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, said his other objectives will be to fulfill all poll promises like providing one lakh jobs every year, waiving off microfinance loans and to make the state free from the perennial floods.
"My aim will be to make Assam one of the top five Indian states in the next five years. We want to take development to newer heights and bring peace among all castes, creeds and communities. We will start working from tomorrow to fulfill this aim," he asserted.
On the 'alarming' COVID-19 situation in the Assam, he said unless the pandemic is controlled in the state, the cases due to it will not go down in the rest of the north east states.
"The COVID-19 situation in Assam is alarming and my first job will be to control it. Our daily cases have crossed 5,000 mark. In our cabinet meeting tomorrow, we will discuss it from all perspectives. We will take measures to contain the cases ... The new government will take every possible measure to contain the spread (of coronavirus)," Sarma said.
Sarma took oath on Monday after he was unanimously elected the leader of BJP Legislature Party and the National Democratic Alliance Legislature Party on Sunday, ending the week-long speculations about who would lead the only non-Congress government to return to power for the second successive term in Assam.
On ending insurgency in the state, he said, "I request Paresh Barua (the commander-in-chief of the banned ULFA(I)) to abjure armed struggle and join talks to solve the problems. Kidnappings and killings complicate problems, not solve them. I hope we will be able to bring back the underground insurgents to the mainstream in the next five years."
The outfit has been responsible for many killings and kidnappings, the latest being that of three ONGC employees from the public sector company's Lakwa oil rig in Sivasagar district along the Assam-Nagaland border in April this year.
Following this security forces had ramped up its counter-insurgency operations and killed a top ULFA(I) commander and arrested one of his aides.
Asked to comment on the contentious National Register of Citizens (NRC), the new chief minister said his government wants reverification of 20 per cent names in the border districts of Assam, and 10 per cent in the rest of the districts.
"If very negligible error is found, then we can go with the existing NRC. But if huge anomalies are found in reverification, then I hope the court will take note of this and do the needful with a new perspective," he said without elaborating.
Sarma said that the government will also try to solve the controversies surrounding the definition of indigenous people in respect to NRC and citizenship issues by talking to all segments of the society in the next five years.
On BJP's promise of bringing in a law against 'love jihad', he said "Each promise made is meant to be implemented. Every promise is solemn for us. We will do everything possible to fulfill them."
He said his predecessor Sarbananda Sonowal led the state in the path of peace and development during the last five years and the new government will take forward the same with 'renewed pace'.
Asked about giving ST status to six tribes as promised by BJP in 2016, Sarma said, "We will see to it that there is no impact on the existing communities. We will discuss this with all stakeholders and proceed accordingly."
About the state's financial condition, Sarma, who was the finance minister of the Sarbananda Sonowal cabinet, said that there is Rs 7,000 crore in the treasury and all developmental works will continue in the coming period.
"We have one of the best fiscal situations. I want to tell everyone that there is absolutely no cause of concern on the financial condition of Assam," Sarma said.
The Assam government will ensure protection of women and punish those harming their dignity.