Sabal Bidhayak: A series of Orientation Programmes
for Assam MLAs

organized by

Assam Legislative Assembly

Programme Design & Coordination by

Centre for Development & Peace Studies

Fifth phase: 20 december, 2016

 
 
MP Bijoya Chakravarty adressing the participants (third from left). Also seen: Ms Maini Mahanta (extreme left), Dr Mahfuza Rahman (second from left) and Mr Wasbir Hussain (extreme right)
 
A brief Report of the Fifth Phase of the Programme
 

The fifth phase of the Sabal Bidhayak programme for the Assam Lagislative Assembly Members was held successfully on 20 December 2016. The six-phase orientation programme has been initiated by the Speaker of the Assembly Sri Ranjeet Kumar Dass while the programme has been designed and coordinated by the Guwahati-based think-tank, Centre for Development and Peace Studies. The programme includes a total of nineteen interactive lecture sessions by experts in different fields. Around thirty speakers from within and outside Assam are participating in the interactive sessions, spread over three months.

 

Session- I
Role of Legislators in Advancing Women and Children’s Rights

  Chair: Dr Mahfuza Rahman
  About the Chair: Dr Mahfuza Rahman is a visiting faculty at Tata Institute of Social Science, Guwahati and Member, National Foundation for India, Ahmedabad. A former Prof. at the Department of Geography at Cotton College, Dr Rahman served as the Executive Director of Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi from 2002-2005, and was Convenor, UGC Cell, Cotton College during 1997-2001. Dr Rahman was awarded Gold Medal for securing First position in M.A. by the Gauhati University in 1975. She did her Ph d from the same University in 1982, was selected for Rotary International Exchange Program to USA 1989, was invited to Represent North East India in the Fourth Women World Conference, Beijing, China 1995.
  Chairing the first session, Dr Mahfuza Rahman set the tone of the day's orientation programme. She said that one has to be very positive, sensitive and open minded while dealing with issues related to women and children. Upholding education and health as the two major sectors where women need to be empowered, Dr Rahman said that the law-makers have the responsibility to work towards social justice and equality of women through administration at the grassroot level like Panchayats and Gaon Sabhas.
  Speaker 1: Smt. Bijoya Chakravarty, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
 

Addressing the MLAs and invited civil society representatives, Ms Bijoya Chakravarty said that a legislator should think and work towards giving a sense of security to the women and children in his or her constituency. She said, “Legislators must also make it a point to champion the rights of women in the unorganised sector and raise issues concerning the welfare of children, besides using their resources as public representatives in the fight against crimes like molestation, rape and dowry”.

Ms Chakravarty pointed out three main Do's for the MLAs:

a) The MLAs must know about the law and how to work in accordance with law

b) They must be involved in advocacy activities for the empowerment and security of women and children

c) They must raise matters concerning women and children on the floor of the House

She said, on the whole legislators must be able to give a sense of security to women and children by fighting for their privileges both within and outside the House.

 
 
An MLA interacting during the session
 

Speaker 2: Ms. Maini Mahanta, Columnist & Television Talk Show Host

 

About the Speaker: Maini Mahanta, editor of Nandini, a leading women’s magazine in Assamese, is a columnist and popular story teller. A television commentator, she is also a well known voice in the women’s rights movement. She has 11 published books to her credit and is also a translator of repute. Ms Mahanta has been associated with broadcast journalism in Assam for more than 25 years, starting with Doordarshan. She holds a masters degree in Economics from Gauhati University.

 

Ms Maini Mahanta said legislators, the police, doctors and lawyers have to be extra-sensitive on issues concerning women and child rights. “I know of a case where a woman was molested on a city road was asked by the police whether she had lost any of her belongings during the incident, thereby suggesting that it was not a major incident”, Mahanta said.

She said that each department of the government has role in their own way in the development of women and children and it is not simply the responsibility of the Social Welfare Department. Ms Mahanta raised voice for a proper legislation for the witch hunt menace that is being practiced in parts of Assam. She also suggested that legislators have an important role to play in protecting the rights of women and children in the insurgency affected areas and called for induction of more women constables in the Assam Police. Ms Mahanta reminded the legislators to press for a gender budget in the upcoming Budget Session of the Assam Assembly.

  Session II
Legislature-Executive Relations
  Chair: Dr Abu Nasar Saied Ahmed
  About the Chair: Dr Abu Nasar Saied Ahmed is a Sociologist and former Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. He was awarded Fullbright Post doctoral Fellowship in 1981 and has been a Visiting Fellow/Professor in four research institutions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Dr Ahmed has participated and presented papers in dozens of national and international seminars, has written and edited a number of books, a former Professor of Political Science in Dibrugarh University, Assam, a former member of regional selection committee of Fullbright fellowship, former expert member of UGC, former member of Indian Council of Social Science Research New Delhi and former Director of Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati.
 
 

Mr Jatin Hazarika IAS (retd.) speaking while (from second left) Dr ANS Ahmed, Mr PK Datta, IAS (retd) and Mr Wasbir Hussain look on

 

Speaker 1: Mr Jatin Hazarika, IAS (retd.)

 

About the Speaker: Mr Jatin Hazarika, IAS (retd.) has the unique experience of working closely with six Chief Ministers of Assam belonging to different political parties—Bishnuram Medhi, Bimala Prasad Chaliha, Sarat Chandra Sinha, Golap Borbora, Jogendra Nath Hazarika and Hiteswar Saikia. Mr Hazarika headed important state government departments like Home, Political, Personnel, Administrative Reforms, General Administration, Parliamentary Affairs, Information & Public Relations, Industry, Power, Food & Civil Supplies, Transport, Tourism, Handloom & Textiles etc.

After retirement from IAS in 1987, Mr Hazarika served as the Chairman of the Public Sector Banking Service Board for two terms and was Advisor to the Chief Minister of Assam in the rank of a Cabinet Minister for five years. Mr Hazarika is currently the Chairman, Institute of Child Health & Mothers’ Welfare and Trustee at Assam Government’s Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Trust for Child and Widow Victims of violence.

 

Speaking on ‘Executive Legislature Relations’, Mr Jatin Hazarika, IAS (retd.) said that as per laid down rules, a minister has the power to take the final decision in a matter concerning his or her department but a bureaucrat of that department is expected to provide the minister the right counsel. Mr Hazarika said a bureaucrat is expected to be impartial but if he or she decides to be neutral, then work cannot progress as desired.

 

Speaker 2: Mr PK Dutta, IAS (retd)

  About the Speaker: Mr P K Dutta is the Chairman of the 5th Assam State Finance Commission. A 1967 batch IAS officer, Mr Dutta became Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam on 1st August 2002. He has been Chairman, Assam State Electricity Board, Principal Secretary, Finance, Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup and Cachar, Development Commissioner, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Mines, New Delhi. After retirement he joined as Chairman, Ombudsman, Reserve Bank of India. Mr Dutta did his Masters in Economics and Diploma in Labour Laws.
 

Mr PK Datta said that the fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy is the rule of law. Mr Datta said that if the legislators and bureaucrats decide to follow the rule of law, the chances of conflict between the two can be minimal.

Stating that where there is the question of rights, there is responsibility too, Mr Datta said that conflict between a bureaucrat and a minister might occur mainly because of two reasons: corruption and ego clash. If they can rise above these vices, governance would be much better.

 
 
A participant shares her views during a session
 

Session III
Research as a Tool for Legislators to usher in Development

 

CDPS Team

  Speaking on the occasion, CDPS Executive Director Mr Wasbir Hussain highlighted the findings of a study conducted by the research centre on Women’s Access to Representation and Justice. The Study conducted in Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland found that the primary reason of women in these three states not being part of the decision-making process is the denial of party tickets to women by political parties. He, however, pointed out that the interest level of women in Assam in politics is quite high as revealed by the Study.
 
 
 

Some of the participants and resource persons after the programme

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