Stories From Assam That Made Major Headlines in 2020
The year 2020 has been an eventful year in Assam. Various issues and occurrences erupted across the state throughout the year right from geographical events, political protests to a biological apocalypse in the form of COVID-19 pandemic.
Various government decisions and development projects too were completed in the year. Overall, 2020 has been lively year amid a tragic lockdown, where people couldn't even go out of their homes.
CAA extended protest
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests started in Guwahati back in 2019. But they continued through the initial part of the year before fizzling out. In January, after weeks of demonstrations across the state by several organisations and people joining in from all sections of society, an all Assamese woman force came out collectively on January 19. Taking a lead for the on-going anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest in the state, Assam actors and activists launched a website - 'Assam Against CAA' in Guwahati.
However, many of the protests and demonstrations fizzled out as political equations took over the once claimed “apolitical” nature of the protests.
COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown
Assam's first COVID-19 case came on March 31, when a returnee from outside the state tested positive for COVID-19 in Silchar. Overall 1,043 people have died from the virus with 2,16,139 people getting affected. Along the lines of the Centre, the Assam government followed a 'Ruthless Quarantine with A Human Heart' with almost 30 lakh people undergoing both institutional and home isolation. As per a report by Outlook, the state also set up 550 dedicated COVID-19 hospitals and health centres to deal with the pandemic, and provided Rs 2,000 each to people from the state who were stranded outside during the nationwide lockdown.
The lockdown was further extended for 14 days with the rise of cases in June within Kamrup (Metro) from June 28. The rest of the state saw weekend and night curfew.
The National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) gave conditional clearance to a coal mining project at Saleki Reserve Forest in Dehing Patkai to Coal India Limited (CIL). This caused huge protests across the state along with virtual opposition on social media. Subsequently, North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), the CIL subsidiary, temporarily suspended all mining operations in the region.
Later, the Wildlife Sanctuary was accorded National Park status.
An Oil India Limited gas well, the BGR 5, on 27th May, faced a blowout which spewed hydrocarbons across a huge radius raining the adjoining villages in Baghjan with associated condensate. On 9th June, the blowout caught fire when well control experts from M/S Alert Disaster Control had arrived at the scene to begin work on capping the well. The flame of the fire was doused 172 days later on November 15. The blowout has affected the nearby ecologically sensitive areas including the Maguri Beel and the Dibru Saikowa forest areas to an extent.
In 2020, the Assam floods from the mighty Brahmaputra River ravaged the state and coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial flooding started in May 2020 due to heavy rainfall affecting 30,000 and destroying crops across 5 districts. As of October 2020 the floods affected over five million people, claiming the lives of 123 people, with an additional 26 deaths due to landslides. 5,474 villages were affected and over one hundred and fifty thousand people found refuge in relief camps.
The long-pending Guwahati passenger ropeway project connecting the northern and southern banks of the Brahmaputra River was formally inaugurated on August 24 jointly by the Assam minister of finance, health and family welfare Himanta Biswa Sarma and GDD minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya.
It is to be noted that the Guwahati-North Guwahati route is the longest ropeway distance over a river in the entire country.
The cable car takes about seven minutes to take passengers across the river from North Guwahati to Guwahati. The total length of this ropeway is 2 Km and its cabins have been imported from Switzerland.
Secularisation of education: Madrassa Acts and Sanskrit tols removed
The Madrassa Bill was passed by the Assam Assembly. ‘The Assam Repealing Bill, 2020' has abolished the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995, and the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.
The government is now set to transform all state-run Madrassas into regular schools.
Meanwhile, the Sanksrit Tols operating in Assam will also be dissolved. They will come under the purview of Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University. Further, a degree and diploma course will be held for Indian History and another on Ancient Culture.
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