Excise Minister of Assam Parimal Suklabaidya (R) addressing media persons at the Cachar BJP headquarters. Photo Credit - Northeast Now

The huge number of people whose names are missing from the final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam must have prayed frantically before Goddess Durga that their names appear in the final NRC. And now, with Durga Puja over, it’s back to burning issues like NRC.

Echoing a similar line of thought, Assam’s Forest, Environment, Excise and Fisheries Minister, Parimal Suklabaidya, while addressing the media at Cachar district’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters on Saturday evening, said, “We are looking forward to the Supreme Court’s verdict on the vexed issue of NRC and its ‘documents’ for verification to be a bonafide citizen of India on October 23 next.”

Suklabaidya called the Press meet to wish media persons on the occasion of ‘Bijoya Dashami’ which was celebrated on Friday. He told Northeast Now, “Our stand is very clear as regards NRC. Our lawyer too will be present on October 23 next for we too have submitted an affidavit before the apex court. We won’t allow any genuine citizen of India to be left out from the citizen’s register nor would we allow anyone to enter India illegally and exercise voting rights in our land.”

The minister also informed that the Excise Department had done a “great job by conducting raids and seizing illegal liquor in the past one month just before the beginning of the festive season in various places of Assam. My personal perception is that puja this time round has been more or less a peaceful affair compared to last two years with less of vandalism as people in general did not get access to illegal liquor.”

Parimal Suklabaidya added, “In the past two- and-a-half years, the alcohol consumption in Assam has decreased by 30 per cent as per statistical reports accumulated. But, it has not had a direct bearing on the tax revenue collected by the Excise and Sales Department. From just Rs 400 crore during the reign of the previous Government, for the financial year 2017-18, we have earned Rs 1,800 crores and this fiscal year of 2018-19, we are going to get around Rs 2,500 crores as revenue. In the past five months, we have collected around Rs 1,100 crore alone.”

What about Assam being declared a ‘dry State’? “It is a tough decision to take as Assam has diverse cultures and is full of tribes and sub-tribes. For many communities here, drinking alcohol is a kind of ritual and they also consider it to have medicinal properties. We cannot tell people to totally abstain from drinking, but we are trying to bring in some kind of strict norms as far as selling of liquor is concerned. The best I can do is to tell people not to indulge in excessive drinking. We used breath analyzers just before and during Durga Puja at various traffic points in the State.”

Talking about Durga Puja, the minister said that in the district of Cachar alone more than 1,000 Durga Pujas were held – “I travelled all over the rural heartland for four days and discovered that the traditions, cultures and rituals have been kept alive to the fullest for which I am grateful to all the puja committees.  Hope to see more tradition-filled pujas in the future and less consumption of alcohol.”

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