Guwahati: Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday welcomed the Centre's decision to reduce disturbed areas in Assam under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) saying that around 60 per cent of state's area will now be free from AFSPA's purview.

"I whole-heartedly welcome the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw AFSPA from all areas of Assam barring nine districts and one sub-division. I also convey our deep gratitude to HM Shah for this bold decision. Now around 60 per cent of the State's area will be free from AFSPA's purview," said Sarma.

The Chief Minister said that AFSPA has been in force since 1990 and this move marks the beginning of a new chapter in Assam's future.

"It is a testimony to the significant improvement in law and order in the State. With peace getting primacy, North East is now on a new trajectory of growth and development," he said.

He further said that due to PM Modi's visionary leadership, the region is all set to become the new engine of India's growth "Ashta Lakshmi".

"I also compliment the people of Assam, who have believed in peace," he added.

Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the Central government has decided to reduce disturbed areas under the AFSPA in the states of Nagaland, Assam and Manipur after decades.

Meanwhile, officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that the Centre's decision will considerably reduce areas under AFSPA with effect from April 1. However, the officials also made it clear that AFSPA has not been completely removed.

Disturbed area notification is in force in the whole of Assam since 1990. With the step, the officials said, 23 districts of Assam are now being removed completely and one district partially from the effect of AFSPA with effect from April 1.

The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without any prior warrant. In 2005, the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee had recommended the repeal of AFSPA and suggested an amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 by inserting a new Chapter with respect to the North-Eastern states.