Assam: Opposition challenges govt on altered fees, BJP responds

| Updated: 23 November, 2023 7:41 pm IST

GUWAHATI: A demonstration organised by the United Opposition, led by the Congress and supported by alliance partners including the Aam Admi Party (AAP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), and regional parties like Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP), took place in Guwahati on Thursday. The protest centred around the revised fees introduced under Section 4 of the Assam Right to Public Services (Amendment) Act 2019.

Criticism from opposition parties focused on the alleged imposition of tax-like rules on cultural events such as Bihu and processions. Speaking to The New Indian, Rana Goswami, APCC Working President, compared the move to colonial tax practices, stating, “After independence, there has never been a government that has levied fees on cultural programmes such as Bihu or taking out processions.”

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Responding to questions about funding for Bihu Committees, Goswami claimed that the government had incurred significant debt, making it challenging for common citizens.

In contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) defended the revised fees, asserting alignment with the provisions of Section 4 of the Assam Right to Public Services (Amendment) Act 2019. MLA Diganta Kalita clarified, “There are a lot of rules that have come under this and the ultimate goal is to streamline. This is not a tax, this is a service charge.”

Kalita highlighted that the Assam government had already provided funds to Bihu committees. He accused the opposition, particularly the Congress, of politicising the issue and diverting attention.

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Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addressed the matter on microblogging site X, emphasising that the fees were service charges, not taxes. “If we charge Rs 300 for processing permission, it is important to note that we are allocating nearly 50 crores this year for organising our traditional cultural festivals. For instance, if a Bihu committee receives 1.5 lacs from the government, it is unlikely that anyone would criticise us for collecting Rs 300 for the state exchequer,” the CM tweeted.

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