People who get married before attaining the legal marrying age or those who have more than two children will not be eligible for government jobs in Assam, if the Assam government’s new population policy goes through.
“There is no doubt that keeping in mind the volatile population scenario of Assam and the enormous pressure the growing population has put on the state’s resources, some drastic steps seem necessary to ensure a healthy social development of the state,” the draft document states, justifying why the government came up with such unprecedented policy suggestions.
The real motive, behind unveiling the policy, is deeply political. The policy was, in fact, part of the ruling BJP’s vision document for Assam, which experts believe was put in place in order to control the large family sizes of Bengali-speaking Muslim immigrants.
Most Muslim immigrants believed to have illegally emigrated from Bangladesh have large families. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a divisive subject in Assam and one that sees skirmishes and protests even today.
The topic was the thrust issue during the Assam assembly elections – and it was because of its strong stand on the issue that the BJP – a relative outsider in Assam was able to secure a win in the state.
Public feedback will, however, be sought by the government before the draft policy is adopted by the state and made into a law. Besides discouraging couples from having more than two children, the policy also envisions stopping maternity leaves for women who give birth to a third child.
“Government may legislate legal provision to bar people with more than two children to take part in Panchayat and Municipal Body elections,” the draft states, implying that those with more than two children will be exempt from electoral participation too.
If passed, Assam will become the second state in India after Rajasthan to have rules separate from the national population policy of 2000.
“It will require an aggressive communication drive toward creating awareness about these schemes… This is key to the success of a population policy and remains the main challenge before the state government,” the draft notes.
If passed, the policies could have far-reaching consequences not only on Assam’s politics, but it’s very social fabric.