Gogoi thrust on education

Guwahati, Nov. 27: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today underscored the need to provide more thrust to tea and minority pockets where the number of out-of-school children is maximum.
He made the observations while chairing the first governing body meeting of Rashtriya Madyamik Siksha Abhijan and the fifth governing body meeting of Sarba Siksha Abhijan, sources said.
Gogoi, however, lauded the efforts of the Sarba Siksha Abhijan for reducing the number of out-of-school children from 13.4 lakh in 2002-03 to 1.99 lakh in 2008-09. It is expected that the number would further go down to 98,667 in the current year. Jorhat, Golaghat and Lakhimpur are the three districts that do not have out-of-school children.
Gogoi stressed the need to create more classrooms to accommodate the increasing number of schoolchildren at the elementary level, saying there was a requirement of another 20,000 classrooms.
The chief minister also underlined the need to provide drinking water, toilet and common room in schools. He asked the officials of the literacy campaign to hold teachers’ training programmes in summer vacations to ensure smooth functioning of classes and also directed them to take stringent action against unwilling teachers.
“Capacity building and empowerment of teachers through in-service training is a prerequisite for quality education and no one can shirk this responsibility at the expense of the education of children,” the source quoting the chief minister said.
Mission director Avinash Joshi asked for the release of the state’s share of free textbooks worth Rs 66.24 crore and urged the finance department to release the sanctioned funds of Rs 21.97 crore awarded under the 12th Finance Commission for the purpose.

Assam to build rhino database

Conservation efforts based on Masai Mara National Park in Kenya
Guwahati, Nov. 28 : Taking a cue from Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park, the Assam forest department has decided to prepare the janamkundali (database) of every rhino found in the state’s national parks for a better understanding of the prized animal.
It would be a Herculean task as Assam has the largest population of one-horned rhinos in the world — Kaziranga National Park alone has a rhino population of more than 2,000.
However, experts said such a database on African rhinos had turned out to be a boon for conservation efforts in Kenya.
The project to prepare a complete database on each and every rhino will be first implemented at Orang Rajiv Gandhi National Park, the smallest rhino habitat in the state with a population of 65.
“Apart from providing better security cover, it will help in proper management and conservation of the rhinos,” the director of the park, Sushil Daila, told this correspondent today.
Daila, along with forest officials from Manas National Park and Kaziranga, had attended a conference sponsored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Nepal a couple of days ago regarding implementation of the project.
The database will include each and every detail of a rhino vis-à-vis date of birth, body structure, behaviour and its area of movement, among others.
The Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) will be used to monitor the rhinos at the parks on a day-to-day basis.
Daila said in the case of existing rhinos, the date of birth would be assumed plus/minus four years.
He said having the janamkundalis of the rhinos would improve the health of the park.
“With the help of such a database, we will know exactly when the park will be saturated with rhino population,” he added.
Citing an example, he said a female rhino normally gave birth after an interval of two to three years, starting from the age of 10. Any variation in this cycle would indicate that something abnormal.
“Such changes could indicate, for instance, that there was a shortage of male rhinos. In such cases, we will have to think of translocating the females to other parks. The entire database would help us to know the rhinos better and boost our conservation efforts,” he said.
The database will also help protect the rhinos from the evil eyes of poachers since tabs would be kept on each rhino as a matter of routine.
“Each and every rhino will be monitored on a daily basis and if a certain rhino is found missing from a certain location where it generally grazes, a search can be launched immediately. All I can say is that poachers will not find it easy to kill a rhino after the database is prepared,” Daila added.

ULFA Admits To Have Set Up Bases In China

Two senior United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leaders have admitted to the police interrogators that the outlawed outfit has set up bases in China.

This is the first time the ULFA, which is fighting to separate Assam from India, has accepted setting up bases in China.
ULFA ‘foreign secretary’ Sasha Choudhury and ‘finance secretary’ Chitraban Hazarika, now in police custody since November 6, told interrogators that apart from Bangladesh they have bases in China and other foreign nations.

"Crores of rupees have been extorted from (Assam) and transferred to (ULFA) leaders in Bangladesh, China and other countries where they have established hideouts," the Special Operations Unit (SOU) of Assam Police quoted the two leaders as saying.
The interrogation testimony was submitted to the Chief Judicial Magistrate's court in Guwahati on Tuesday.

"Several foreign agencies and NGOs provided logistic assistance to the ULFA leaders in foreign countries. They are trying to muster support from China, Bangladesh and other foreign countries for ULFA," the report quoted the arrested men as saying.
According to the officials, the two ULFA leaders were taken into custody by the Border Security Force (BSF) near Gokul Nagar in Tripura on November 5 while trying to creep into India. The two of them, who are based in Dhaka, denied this account.

There have been reports in a section of the media that the two were arrested in Bangladesh and handed them over to the Indian authorities on November 2.

The two men also disclosed that ULFA was planning to acquire a large shipment of arms and explosives from Pakistan and China for ‘use against the Government of India’, according to the interrogation report.

The ULFA is known to have close ties with the Pakistani intelligence. It is also known to have bases in Bangladesh where its top leaders have lived for a long time.

ADB approves loan worth $ 200 million for Assam government

Considering the past performance of Assam government in implementing power sector reforms, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved loan worth $200 million for the ‘Power Sector Enhancement Investment programme' in Assam.

Government sources said that the approved amount would be used to partly fund the state's $764 million power sector investment plan by 2014.

The funds would help in improvement of transmission and distribution infrastructure and reduce system losses. A distribution franchise plan, using a public-private partnership model, would be expanded into double consumer coverage.

The Assam CM had recently said that though the reforms had aided the power sector, there was still much to be done.

Pradyut Bordoloi, power minister of Assam said, "For the past 30 years or so, there has been no investment in the power sector. It was with loans from ADB and that too, with 90 per cent as grant, that our government could make major investment in the sector"

He also pointed out that the peak hour power demand in Guwahati had gone up from 80 MW in 2004 to 205 MW now. The peak hour demand in Assam is estimated to increase to 1700 MW by 2014.

The funds are expected to benefit around 1 million households, businesses, hospitals, schools etc. this loan from ADB is expected to be released in three tranches of $60.3 million, $89.7million and $50 million. The interest rate would be based on LIBOR (London Inter Bank Offer Rate)

Bravery at bullet’s end

Headmaster takes on Naga rebels
Silchar, Nov. 21 : Shot three times and bleeding profusely, 50-year-old Som Bahadur Chettry’s last act was what he had taught his students all throughout his career as a teacher — to stand up against injustice.

The headmaster of Birbhadra High School saved the lives of his family members, and perhaps even his neighbours, when he snatched an AK-56 from a militant’s hands even after being shot, forcing the three assailants to flee from the Upper Daghetar village in North Cachar Hills in the wee hours today.

Chettry, who took bullets in his chest and arms, was rushed to the civil hospital in Haflong, a few kilometres away, but succumbed to his injuries shortly after.

He is survived by his widow, two sons and a daughter.

A police source said a three-member group of suspected National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) rebels barged into Chettry’s house after midnight and demanded Rs 15,000 as “tax” to the outfit.
The headmaster’s family members, who were confined to another room, overheard a heated argument as Chettry said he would not be able to pay such a large sum.

“On being threatened, Chettry offered Rs 260 which was all he had with him at the time,” the police official said.

The militants then assaulted him.

One of the militants lost his temper and opened fire from the AK-56 rifle he was carrying, hitting Chettry on the chest and arms.

Even as he was falling, Chettry grabbed one end of the rifle and snatched it from the militant.

“The militants panicked when they suddenly found themselves unarmed. The AK-56 rifle was the only weapon they had. Chettry shouted for help, attracting the attention of his neighbours. Sensing that they could be in trouble, the trio fled. The villagers rushed Chettry to Haflong but he died just after being brought in,” the police official added.

The incident brought back memories of the Kashmiri girl Rukhsana, who had snatched an AK-47 from a Laskar commander who had entered her home and shot him dead in September this year. Rukhsana was appointed a Special Police Officer earlier this month by the state government as a reward for her exemplary courage.

A senior district administration official said Chettry’s family would be given Rs 3 lakh as part of the Assam government’s policy to pay this amount to any civilian killed in a militant attack.

“However, any decision on rewarding him posthumously for his act of courage will have to be taken at Dispur. We will definitely recommend his name to the government for an award. He can be a role model for others in the state, especially youngsters,” the official added.

A police source said the NSCN (I-M) has become active in the area of late after the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah laid down arms and the “Naga outfit moved in to fill in the vacuum”.

A manhunt has been launched in search of the rebels. Security was tightened in and around the village.
which has a mixed population of Dimasas, Nepalis and Nagas.      

Assam boy’s tryst with Olympic star

Shubham Roy Choudhury (left) with two other students during his trip to the UK
For Shubham Roy Choudhury, a Class IX student of Kendriya Vidyalaya Khanapara in Guwahati, it was a moment to savour.
He was among 48 students from 13 countries and one of the two students selected from India who recently got the chance to meet UK Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Denise Lewis in Cardiff, UK.
Shubham was among those who attended the UK School Games from September 3 to 6 as part of the International Inspiration programme. This is a key strand of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to engage and inspire the youth of the world through sport.
The 48-strong group of young leaders was specially selected to attend the 2009 Games in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.
The UK School Games, which is managed by the Youth Sport Trust, is a multi-sport event for elite young athletes of school age and includes opening and closing ceremonies and an athletes’ village to replicate the environment of a major sporting event, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This year’s event featured 1,600 athletes competing across 10 sporting events: track cycling, athletics, badminton, fencing, gymnastics, hockey, judo, swimming, table tennis and volleyball, with disability events in athletics, swimming and table tennis.
“I think the whole programme was fantastic. We learnt about different sports, how to organise an important national event and most valuably, individual development through sport and interact with young people from the UK as well as young leaders across the world,” said Shubham.
Denise Lewis, who met the young leaders at the Games in her role as an ambassador for the International Inspiration programme, said, “I am delighted that we are able to offer these young leaders the opportunity to volunteer at the UK School Games through International Inspiration”.
Guess who went shopping at the Cinnamora Sunday haat or weekly bazaar this Sunday? None other than Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi who returned to the place where he used to go marketing every week when he was young and not so famous. With wife Dolly in tow, Gogoi was a picture of the typical Assamese middle-class shopper as he haggled over the prices of vegetables before buying them. Though there were security personnel, he ensured that they stayed away as he went about shopping.
The Cinnamora weekly market, located on the outskirts of Jorhat town, is a popular Sunday shopping destination for people of not only the upper Assam town but also from nearby places. Gogoi's hometown, Titabor, is around 12km from the market.
A close aide of Gogoi quoted the chief minister as saying that he used to cycle to the market every Sunday from his Jorhat residence when he had more time to spare. “Coming from a rural background, he absolutely loves marketing in such rural ambience,” he added. Besides vegetables, Gogoi bought eggs and bananas from an aged shopkeeper whom the chief minister knows since long. “They chatted for a long time. Gogoi Sir was almost nostalgic,” the aide said.
The Dalai Lama made sure that he would subtly drive home the truth about a lot of things close to his heart during the last leg of his weeklong visit to Arunachal Pradesh on November 14.
One was clearly the development of the Himalayan state to which he had escaped in 1959.
Acknowledging the warm welcome bestowed upon him by the people of the state, the Dalai Lama, during his special discourse to an invited and enlightened group in the state capital, subtly observed, “I am touched by the love and trust of the people of Arunachal. This is a young state ... still developing. But you will need a lot of effort for development. Both spiritual and material development should go hand in hand.”
Though he moved on to other issues, those in the know could not agree more with the Dalai Lama. The state needs largescale development.
A visit to Itanagar or frontier areas like Tawang underlines the desperate need for development.
“The state capital, for instance, has nothing to offer. It is even smaller than some towns in Assam. It is very dull. Even the road leading to the state capital is in bad shape, not a good advertisement for luring investors and tourists,” said a resident, hoping that the new government under Dorjee Khandu, a devout follower of the Dalai Lama, would pay heed to the spiritual leader’s views on development.

Bibliophiles protest Assam move to kill reading habit

Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact. Angry bibliophiles demonstrated this in the Assam capital on Monday.

Decades ago, novelist Ray Bradbury envisaged a robotic, subservient society kept away from books that could help them think. In his fiction Fahrenheit 451, books are for burning and rebellious readers are given a date with a killer mechanical dog.

A couple of police dogs did keep watch on some 500 book lovers and publishers who protested the Tarun Gogoi government’s "bid to kill the reading habit". But they let their handlers in khaki raise the temperature instead.

Resentment among bibliophiles grew after the Kamrup (Metropolitan) district authorities cited security reasons to shift two major annual book fairs out of the city. The Judges’ Field, in the heart of the city, was the traditional venue for both the Guwahati Grantha Mela and the Northeast Book Fair.

Five years ago, the government made Judges’ Field out of bounds for the public, reserving it only for Republic Day and Independence Day functions. Consequently, the book fairs were shifted to the Sonaram School Field and Engineering Institute Field within a 5 km radius of Judges’ Field.

“These two venues are not so conveniently located, but they were at least accessible for bibliophiles,” Giripada Deva Choudhury, president of All Assam Book Publishers and Sellers Association, told Hindustan Times. “But the venue on the city outskirts where the government wants the book fairs to be shifted has no infrastructure and no connectivity.”

According to protest organizer Kamal Kumar Medhi, the government’s anti-bibliophile order was illogical. He said: “If books are a security threat, how come Meena Bazaars, theatres and religious congregations held in the city venues aren’t?”

Consumer rights activist Deven Dutta felt the government was wielding security as excuse to quietly allow a moneyed clique take Judges’ Field over for an elite club. “Luxury for the influential apparently matters more than the simple pleasure of reading for the masses,” he said.

The government’s whimsical decision, felt retired Gauhati University professor Hiren Gohain, was reminiscent of Bradbury’s fictional work. “What the authorities have conveyed is their intention of killing the reading habit, so that youngsters do not grow up into a thinking lot that asks uncomfortable questions.”

Kamrup (Metropolitan) Deputy Commissioner Prateek Hajela, who was handed a memorandum by the protestors, said the government would weigh the bibliophiles’ demand. “The earlier order stays as of now,” he added.

Newly elected Assam MLAs sworn in

Guwahati: The two newly elected Congress MLAs from South Salamara and Dhekiajuli seats were today sworn in.

Wajed Ali Choudhury from South Salmara and Bhimananda Tanti from Dhekiajuli were administered the oath by Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, his cabinet members and other Congress MLAs were present on the occasion while opposition MLAs of the AGP and BJP were conspicuous by their absence, assembly sources said.

The Congress had wrested South Salmara from the AUDF and Dhekiajuli from the AGP in the recently concluded by-elections.

Choudhury defeated Abdul Rehman Ajmal, son of AUDF president and sitting MLA Badruddin Ajmal, while Tanti defeated Shiv Charan Tanti of AGP.

Assam to take on Tripura

Women’s Cricket

Dibrugarh, Oct. 30 : Hosts Assam will take on Tripura in Tinsukia while Bengal will play Jharkhand in Dibrugarh in the two opening matches of the limited overs Women’s Cricket League (East Zone) beginning November 3.

Preparations are on at the Dibrugarh District Sports Association (DDSA) outdoor stadium and the Tinsukia District Sports Association (TDSA) stadium for the meet allotted by the BCCI to the Assam Cricket Association (ACA).

“All preparations are being made as per the specifications of the BCCI. We hope that we will be able to successfully conduct the tournament,” Tariq Khan, the cricket secretary of the DDSA, said.

The DDSA officials worked hard to prepare the ground, which got damaged during recruitment rallies organised by security forces in August and September.

In Tinsukia preparations are on full swing with the district association receiving funds of Rs 1 lakh from the ACA to prepare the wickets prior to the tournament.

The Assam team reached Tinsukia this afternoon and will start net practice from tomorrow.

Assam Carbon seeks govt prescription

GUWAHATI: With the impasse between the management and the workers of Assam Carbon
Products Ltd (ACPL) not ending, the management has sought government intervention to bring back the unit to good health.

ACPL, the Guwahati-based pioneer in carbon industry, has an annual turnover is Rs 40 crore. The company produces high quality electrical and mechanical carbon materials. Railways is the main buyer of electrical carbon.

GM (operations) ACPL G.P Chawla said Morgan Crucible Plc UK has the highest share of 52.62%, Assam government has 3.63% in ACPL. The ACPL has units in Guwahati and Hyderabad.

He informed in recent times ACPL has been going through an uncertain industrial relations environment. The unit is Guwahati has been plagued by disturbances mainly due to the adamant and unreasonable approach of the Assam Carbon workers & Employees Union .

Mr Chawla added the company has made fresh investment of Rs 5 crore in the unit. We have over 250 employees. Workmen enjoy one of the highest salaries among equivalent industries. Average remuneration based on cost to company is about Rs 18,500 per month.

According to him several workers have resorted to go-slow, strikes, gherao and violence. They are demanding 20% unlimited bonus and 85% increase in salary. Earlier, the company had monopoly, now we are facing tough competition. In the past, when there was hardly any competition, the management could afford to buy industrial peace by agreeing to steep pay hikes. In the current scenario, we have been emphasizing on productivity level as recommended by National Productivity Council (NPC), which a section of workers is not ready to accept.

Assam police officers to track suspected foreigners

GUWAHATI: With some suspected foreigners going untraced, the Assam government has authorised police officers to obtain fingerprints and photographs of suspected foreigners before or at the time of referring their cases to the foreigners tribunal.

According to the official statement: "Government has authorised the police officers of the Government of Assam entrusted with the process of detection and deportation of foreigners as well as the police officers entrusted otherwise in the affairs of the government to perform the function of obtaining the fingerprints and photographs of suspected foreigners before or at time of referring their cases to the foreigners tribunal. The order comes into force with immediate effect."

The statement said the order has become necessary in view of the observations that some suspected foreigners went untraced during the pendency of investigation by the state government agency and also during the pendency of the proceedings in the foreigners tribunal. In most cases, declared foreigners cannot be apprehended due to the act of their vanishing and deportations thus cannot be made.

Further, it is also necessary to obtain the fingerprints and photographs of suspected foreigners before referring the cases to the foreigners tribunal in order to keep track of such suspected foreigners in the event of their declaration as foreigners by the foreigners tribunal.

Assam tea to get a leg-up

GUWAHATI: In order to set quality benchmark and attract global buyers to quality tea, the Assam government will initiate two-pronged certification measures. Under this method, tea gardens will be graded on the basis of manufacturing practices adopted and price realised at auction sale.

In the first phase, certification will be done on the price realised at the auction sale and in the second phase, factories will be placed under four broad categories 1 star, 2 star, 3 star and 4 star for easy recognition of prospective buyers as to what type they are buying.

Assam industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi, along with chairman of Tea Board Basudeb Banerjee held a meeting with several members of the tea industry here recently.

Mr Bordoloi told ET: "Guwahati tea auction centre will move over to 100% e-auctioning of CTC variety of tea from January next year. Currently 100% e-auctioning of tea in dust variety takes place. We are also initiating a method for grading and qualification by third party."

Sources in the government said that in the first phase, around 20% of Assam valley and 10% of Cachar valley of both bought leaf and state factories, which have been in the bottom sector of sales in three consecutive auctions will be identified. Then, identification will be done on brand name of the bottom sale price with concerned tea factories.
Sources added that the list of factories will be issued notice to identify the reasons for not receiving good price and take steps immediately to improve the quality with six months. A panel consisting of experts from Tea Research Association of India (TRA), North East Institute of Science and Technology, Assam Agriculture University and representatives of tea brokers will advise and guide the factories.

"The price of the factories will again be reviewed after six months and in case the factory concerned does not improve from the bottom level, the expert panel will visit the factory. Another two months will be given to the factory to improve. However, if the quality does not improve in 8 months, the factory will be deregistered," sources informed.
Tea Association of India secretary Dipanjol Deka observed that certification will assist in improving the overall quality. This method will also help in doing away with inferior tea. Under the e-auctioning in CTC category, buyers anywhere can bid. Price realization and exposure to buyers globally will be better."

In the second phase, accreditation will be done for tea gardens and it will be mandatory for tea gardens. This will be carried out by accredited rating agency. This phase will commence one year after the commencement of phase 1.
Under this, samples will be picked up randomly from the auction sale and necessary testing grade will be awarded. Besides this, parameters like manufacturing standard, quality of raw material, condition of factory and machinery, hygiene standards, mode of disposal of made tea, handling of tea waste, price settlement mechanism with small tea growers and usage of energy etc will be taken into consideration.

GU not to take bank loan

V-C goes back on decision, bows to teachers’ lobby
Guwahati, Oct. 23: Gauhati University has gone back on its decision to take a bank loan for creating various facilities and infrastructure at the university, succumbing to pressure from the teachers’ lobby.
A senior official in the university said vice-chancellor Okhil Kumar Medhi held a marathon meeting with representatives of Gauhati University Teachers’ Association (GUTA) on Wednesday evening regarding the current financial status of the university and the planned bank loan.
Medhi assured the teachers’ association that he would raise the matter at the next meeting of the executive council to formally withdraw the decision.
The next meeting is scheduled for the last week of this month or the first week of November.
The official said even though the vice-chancellor during Wednesday’s meeting tried to explain the reasons for considering the bank loan, the teachers were not convinced and continued to pressure him to withdraw the decision.
“The vice-chancellor finally conceded GUTA’s demand. Since the executive council is the highest decision-making body of the university’s affairs, it must give its approval even if a decision is withdrawn or cancelled by the university administration. A majority of the executive council members have been apprised about the teachers’ opposition to the bank loan. The council is also not in favour of offending the strong lobby of teachers,” the official said.
The executive council last month approved the move to take a loan ranging between Rs 3 crore and Rs 5 crore from the State Bank of India to create facilities ostensibly to impress the National Assessment and Accreditation Council to secure five-star status for the university.
The move created a flutter among the faculty with several teachers questioning the university’s ability to repay the loan.
The teachers’ association even launched an agitation against the move.
J.C. Kalita, general secretary of association, thanked the vice-chancellor for his assurance on not going ahead with the bank loan and said they would extend co-operation to the university administration to hunt for alternative sources of funding.
The official said the vice-chancellor had given a detailed account of the university’s present financial status to the teachers during Wednesday’s meeting and sought their help.
The total annual expenditure of the university, including teachers salaries, stand at Rs 47 crore.

Centre forms team to probe Rhino deaths

New Delhi, Oct 23Alarmed at the spurt in rhino poaching cases at Assam's Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, the Centre has constituted a two-member team to probe into the deaths of the one-horned endangered animal.

A decision in this regard was taken recently by the Environment Ministry which felt that despite various steps by the state government for rhino conservation, the situation remained alarming in the Park, situated near the northern banks of the Brahmaputra river.

As many as six rhinos have been killed in the sanctuary this year so far. Seven were poached last year.

"A team consisting of Bibhab Talukdar, an independent wildlife expert from Assam and a representative of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) would visit the affected area and prepare an action plan for further action.

"The report should be submitted within two months," an Environment Ministry official said.

Magazine ignites hope in students

Oct. 14: In a belt torn by clashes and unrest, even a tiny creative initiative like a students’ wall magazine draws applause.

Goaded by the All Bodo Students Union, students in Kokrajhar put up a wall magazine at a community library this weekend.

The president of the Kokrajhar district unit of Absu, Bijay Basumatary, inaugurated the community library while senior Bodo scholar-cum-lecturer of District Institute of Education Training, Banduram Basumatary, unveiled the wall magazine on Saturday amid cheers from students.

The library currently has syllabus books for the school students.

“There is no reading habit among today’s youths. They are into illegal activities — taking up drugs, alcohol,” said Bijay and urged youths to make the best use of the library.

Parents agreed.

“If we look from the education point of view, there is a downfall. Youths are unable to do constructive and innovative work because of the prevailing tension. It is nice to see that the students’ union come up with such an idea,” said H. Brahma, a mother of two.

Assam not keen on Hindi lessons

Guwahati, Oct. 14: Dispur has developed cold feet over the move of the Board of Secondary Education, Assam to make Hindi a compulsory subject in the High School Leaving Certificate Examination following stringent opposition from several quarters.

The board’s move is based on the premise that knowledge of Hindi will stand students from Assam in good stead when they travel to other parts of the country for higher education or jobs. The board wants to popularise Hindi as the national language in the state.

Sources said the government had now asked the board to first conduct a survey to gauge the people’s opinion before firming up the plan.

The board has been strictly told by the state education department to immediately put its plan on hold till further orders.

“The survey will be conducted among teachers, students, academicians and the people. At a time when the ruling Congress government is facing sharp criticism from the Opposition for its alleged failure in the field of education, it does not want to create further controversy by making Hindi a compulsory subject,” a source said.

“Apart from the survey, SEBA has been asked by Dispur to organise seminars, workshops and meetings to generate public opinion on the issue. Education minister Gautam Bora will also hold discussions with SEBA on the issue.”

The source added: “A strong lobby opposing Hindi has already started pressuring the education department and using its clout in Dispur to restrain SEBA from implementing its decision. The lobby has been able to gain support from the influential All Assam Students’ Union, Asam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad and Asam Sahitya Sabha.”

“The lobby has contended that there will be far-reaching negative repercussions if Hindi is made compulsory. The government fears that the students will be unnecessarily harassed if compelled to study Hindi as some of the leading private English-medium schools have approached the education department against SEBA’s move.”

The board’s secretary, D. Mahanta, said a final decision would be taken keeping in mind the students’ interest.

Another SEBA official, however, said the HRD ministry had favoured making Hindi a compulsory subject at the school level.

“Under such circumstances, SEBA will have to thrash out some alternative plans,” he said.

Assam bandh evokes mixed response

TINSUKIA, Oct 14 – The 12-hour Assam bandh call by the Asom Shikshak Karmachari Oikya Mancha today evoked partial response in Tinsukia district. Except public buses, all other small vehicles plied on the roads of the district and most educational and financial institutes remained open during the bandh period. Though major retail markets are closed, being weekly off day, other shops and establishments were open. Works in government, semi-government, tea gardens, oil fields, coal fields, etc., went on normally in the district. No report of untoward incident from any corner of the district receipt till the filing of this report.

Our Correspondents add:

Kalgachia: During the bandh hours, which had affected normal life in greater Kalgachia area, all educational institutions, banks, block development office, business institutes and road-communications remained closed.

Moreover, about 200 picketers (teachers) were arrested and kept in Kalgachia Police OP.

Chapar: The bandh passed off peacefully in Bilasipara sub-division today. No untoward incidents were reported during the bandh. All the government offices, schools, colleges, banks and business establishments were closed during the bandh period in the sub-division.

Hatsingimari: In response to the 12-hour Assam bandh, the teachers of all recognised (non-govt) schools and colleges of South Salmara-Mankachar (Hatsingimari) subdivision came out spontaneously to the road at 5 am today. During the bandh hours, schools and colleges, govt and non-govt offices, markets and business establishments, vehicular movements on the roads remained totally suspended.

The SDO (C), Hatsingimari, Isfakur Rahman, who tried to enter his office at 10 am was compelled by the agitating teachers to wait at the gate for about half an hour.

Kalaigaon: The bandh call evoked total response in Kalaigaon and Tangla areas and passed off peacefully. Vehicles were off the roads and shops, offices and educational institutions were closed.

Tourists inflow in Kaziranga National Park (KNP)

JORHAT, Oct 12 : With the start of Jeep Safaris, the first batch of tourists was let into the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) early today to catch a glimpse of the unique one-horned rhinoceros, Asiatic wild buffalo, the sambhar and Asiatic wild elephant. If one was lucky, then one could sight the lone carnivore– the Royal Bengal Tiger– holding sway over the other herbivores.

The more than 100 year old national park has had a steady stream of tourists since 2001.
Assistant Conservator of Forests LN Baruah said that last year there was 1 lakh 384 tourists from India and 5,767 tourists from abroad. The revenue raked in was Rs 71 lakh 98,504 in Indian currency and Rs 40 lakh 22,194 in foreign currency.

The largest number of tourists was from West Bengal among Indian States followed by Maharashtra while West Germany sent the maximum number of tourists from among the foreign countries.

It may be mentioned that, last year there were thousands of cancellations following the series of bomb blasts in Guwahati on November 30.

Park authorities said that, the park had lost a lot of revenue following the bloodshed and bandh calls given by various organizations. Tourists inflow began again in the new year.

Six killed, three injured in Assam accident

Kokrajhar (Assam), Oct 12 (PTI) At least six persons were killed and three others critically injured when a van in which they were travelling in collided with a truck in lower Assam's Bongaigaon district, police said today.

The accident occurred when the van carrying nine people was hit by the truck in Danglaigaon at National Highway 31 yesterday, they said, adding two persons died on the spot.

Four others died later in the hospital, they said.

Three critically injured persons were admitted to a nursing home in Bongaigaon town.

National tag boost for Assam dolphins

Guwahati, Oct. 12 : The declaration of the Gangetic river dolphin as a national aquatic mammal has come as a big boost to the species in the Brahmaputra, identified as its last refuge.
“This is a very encouraging step for protection of the species since it will now mean government commitment for concrete action,” Abdul Wakid, cetacean (dolphin) specialist and programme head of the Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Programme of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based NGO, said today.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh made the declaration in New Delhi last week.
At present, there are less than 2,000 dolphins of this species surviving in the world, a situation worse than that of the tiger. Of these, nearly 300 dolphins are in the Brahmaputra.
“The Brahmaputra river system in Assam has been identified as one of the last refuge of the species by scientific communities in the world because it is less polluted and has no habitat fragmentation,” Wakid said.
Gill Braulik of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s cetacean specialist group said the Brahmaputra is a very important habitat for these endangered dolphins and to protect them involvement of local river communities was of utmost importance.
“In some places, like in the Kukurmara area of the Kulsi river in Assam, the dolphins, protected by the local communities, have become a tourist attraction. But in other areas, the dolphins are accidentally killed when they get tangled in fishing nets or are sometimes deliberately caught and killed for their oil,” he said.
Forest department officials have also expressed happiness on the support given by the Centre. Dispur had declared river dolphins, locally called xihu, as the state aquatic animal last year.
Although there was a gradual decline in its number in the last few decades, the population has been increasing in more recent times.
In the 1993, 1997 and 2002 surveys, altogether 266, 218, and 198 dolphins were recorded in the Brahmaputra mainstream. However, in the 2005 and 2008 surveys, Aaranyak has recorded 197 and 212 dolphins respectively in the same stretch of the river (Assam-Arunachal border to India-Bangladesh border).
“The increase from 197 (in 2005) to 212 (in 2008) in the Brahmaputra is a good sign. One of the major reasons behind this population increase is the adoption of effective site-based conservation initiatives,” Wakid said.
He said for the better future of the species in the Brahmaputra river system, the management authorities, conservation organisations and local communities need to work closely since threatening factors like accidental killing, poaching and habitat degradation are still commonplace.

Bodo women activist shot at

Nalbari (Assam), Oct 8 (PTI) The head of Bodo Women Justice Forum, a non-political organisation Anjali Daimari was today shot at by unidentified gunmen in Assam's Baksa district but escaped unhurt as she ducked on time.

The police said Daimari, who is also the head of Bodo Department in Burma College, was shot at by the gunmen shot who stopped her car at around 1.30 pm near the college.

The police said she, along with two colleagues, was stopped by two persons on a motorcycle about 50 yards from the college.

A complaint was lodged with the police and a search operation launched to nab the culprits, the police said.

Change of Guards to take place at Rashtrapati Bhavan

New Delhi, Oct 8 (PTI) The over two centuries old tradition of ceremonial Changing of the Guard will take place on the lawns of the Rashtrapati Bhavan on October 10.

The ceremony, which will begin at 9:00 am, will see the incoming 15th Battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles replace the outgoing 6th Battalion of the Assam Rifles.

The about 45-minute long ceremony is free of charge for all visitors.

"The Changing of the Guard Ceremony has a very ancient tradition in which the Infantry Army Guards and the President's Body Guards change guard with clock-work precision. This tradition days back to the raising of the Body Guards in 1773," a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement said.

Assam bandh passes off peacefully

DIBRUGARH, Oct 8 – The 12-hour Assam bandh, called by the Assam Labour Party and Chah Janagustia Adivasi Jatiyo Oikyo Mancha in protest against the recent killing of innocents in Sonitpur district allegedly by Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB passed by without any major incident here. Although a few educational institutions and shops remained opened, financial institutions and the business establishments responded to the bandh call. While long distance vehicles kept off the roads, plying of light motor vehicles in the city was not affected.

There were, however, several reports of stone pelting at buses and trains, causing damage to public and private property.

Our Correspondents add: Jorhat : The 12 hours Assam bandh here passed peacefully. During the daytime, all the shops remained closed in the town and the services of the long distance buses were cancelled. Only a few employees and other public were present in the government offices.

Gossaigaon : The 48-hour bandh called from Oct 5 by All Assam Adivasi Students’ Union in protest against the harassment of AASA supporters on suspicion of theft of arms from Sapkata outpost, and the 12-hour bandh called on Oct 7 by All Assam Labour Party in protest against the killings of innocents by suspected NDFB, passed off peacefully in Kokrajhar district.

However, in the wake of full response to the bandh, many hardships were faced by the common people. The worse affects were seen in Srirampur (Assam-Bengal border) where over 40 trucks carrying fish and over 200 trucks carrying other goods came to a halt for almost three days. Shops remained closed and bus-services were also affected.

Tinsukia : With the normal functioning of tea gardens, Oil India, Digboi Refinery, Coal India Ltd. Divisional Railway Offices, State Government Offices, some of the both private and Govt. educational institutes and private vehicles plying on the roads, the response to the 12-hour Assam bandh call in Tinsukia district was mixed today. Most of the shops and markets were closed as weekly holiday but many of the wayside shops remained open here. However, no public vehicles plied on the roads of the district and financial institutions like banks, insurance, etc., remained closed during the bandh period. No untoward incident was reported from any corner of the district during the bandh period.

India, Bangladesh swap border map

Shillong, Oct.7: India and Bangladesh exchanged boundary maps to facilitate erection of fresh boundary pillars in the border areas in a speedy manner on the concluding day of the 129th Indo-Bangladesh boundary conference here today.
Special director of Meghalaya land records and survey P.W. Ingty said the main points highlighted in the resolution also included correction of names of the newly created districts when the boundary pillars are erected.
Ingty said, “There is a need to include the names of the newly created districts on the border pillars erasing the old names.”
The other specific areas to be pursued include urgent measures for the erection of new boundary pillars in place of the missing, displaced or damaged ones according to the list furnished by the deputy commissioners and border guards of both the countries.
The modalities regarding the construction of the specially designed boundary pillars, drawing up of matters related to field visit for 2009-10, exchange of old boundary maps and strips and arrangement of travel documents were also discussed.
The next boundary conference will be held in Dhaka.
Bangladesh director of land records and survey, Md Rafiqul Islam and other delegations from the neighbouring country expressed hope that both nations would ensure proper maintenance of the pillars erected along the international border.
“We want to ensure that the boundary pillars are maintained without any damage along the 423km international border in Meghalaya,” Ingty said.
Regarding the construction of the specially designed boundary pillars in the vulnerable areas where there was frequent soil erosion and landslides, Ingty said the government was planning to construct 15-feet-long boundary pillars to check the damages.

Three militants gunned down in Manipur

Imphal, Oct 8 (PTI) Three militants were killed in separate encounters with security forces in Manipur, police said today.

Two militants of United Kuki Liberation Council were gunned down in an encounter with Assam Rifles jawans at Gngpimual village in Churachandpur district bordering Myanmar last night.

In another incident, a militant was killed in a shootout with Assam Rifles personnel at a place near India-Myanmar border pillar 81 in Chandel district yesterday, they said.

Security personnel recovered two pistols, four magazines, several rounds of live ammunition and 132 extortion demand letters from the two spots.

Over 300 persons have been killed in militancy-related incidents in Manipur this year.

Indo-Bangla border well demarcated: Bangladesh official

Shillong, Oct 7 (PTI) Maintaining that the Indo-Bangladesh boundary was well demarcated, a top Bangladesh government official today said instances of trespassing and encroachment by people from both sides of the border are wilful.

"The demarcation of the Indo-Bangla border is completed.

We have strip maps of the exact boundary. If some people cross over to the other side, they do it wilfully and not due to ignorance," Director of Bangladesh's survey department Rafiqul Islam said after conclusion of the three-day Indo-Bangla boundary conference here.

He, however, underlined the need to create more awareness among villagers on issues related to the boundary problems.

"In the Meghalaya sector alone, we have 79 strip maps clearly showing the actual boundary. Some of the maps are with us and the remaining with the Indian authorities," Islam said.

Toll in Assam violence rises to 13

GUWAHATI: The toll in the weekend massacre by tribal separatists in an Assam village rose to 13 with a woman succumbing to her injuries at a hospital here Wednesday, government officials said.

A government spokesperson said a 23-year-old woman with bullet wounds in her stomach died early Wednesday.N. Bhattacharyya, a doctor at Guwahati Medical College, said: "We tried our best, but the injury in her abdomen was so extensive that she did not survive.

"Militants of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) late Sunday attacked Bhimajuli village in Sonitpur district, about 240 km north of Assam's main city of Guwahati, and massacred 12 villagers.At least 12 people are still in hospitals with multiple injuries.

Mass funeral of the dead were held Tuesday."We are trying our best to instil a sense of confidence in the area by deploying adequate army, police, and paramilitary troopers," state Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

The NDFB rebels reportedly attacked the villagers after they refused to pay extortion money.

Corruption rampant in NREGA in Assam Cong Govt: AIUDF

New Delhi: Thanks to systemic corruption and lack of transparency on the part of state Congress government NREGA officials have made NREGA a major source of corruption in Assam, alleged All India United Democratic Front of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, Lok Sabha Member from Dhubri in Assam and AIUDF chief.
The allegation was made by AIUDF General Secretary and party spokesman Dr Baharul Islam at a consultative meeting held in the Ministry of Rural Development today.

DR. C.P. Joshi, Minister for Rural Development invited representatives of the state political parties today to evolve suitable strategies for more effective implementation of NREGA. The minister sought cooperation of all political parties towards achieving the ultimate objectives and goals of NREGA.
In Phase-I, 200 identified districts were covered under NREGA. Additional 130 districts were covered in Phase-II in 2007-08. The entire rural areas of the country have been covered from April 2008. According to the ministry, out of the total expenditure of Rs.64,363 crore, an amount of Rs.43,875 crore i.e. 68% has been spent on wages. 7.56 crore institutional accounts of workers have been opened encouraging savings among the poor.
Dr Baharul Islam presented before the minister a list of more than 20 formal complaints filed by various people on corruption in NREGA in Assam and which are available on the ministry’s website. But, none of the complaint has been responded to by the state government as per the ministry’s website. During the meeting he presented a few major cases of corruption that were highlighted in the local media. He said that “the systemic corruption that engulfs the state today at all levels has also infected the implementation of the NREGA. Court cases in places like Karimganj and Barpeta have also showed that how officials have bypassed the Panchayati Raj institutions which were intended to play an important role in planning and executing this flagship programme to respond to the local needs of the people.” Specially, the issue of fake job cards, job cards deposited in the custody of implementing officials or political party middlemen, delayed payment are being used for nefarious purpose of minting money illegally, he alleged.
Dr Baharul Islam further referred to the recent study done by Rajya Sabha MP and former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Bimal Jalan, that highlighted that the official estimates of wages realized by workers are in fact inflated because the actual wages received by workers were much less than what is shown in the official documents. Cases of corruption, fudging in muster rolls, discrepancies in work days and payments have been reported in almost all studies, the study said. “Fraudulent payments and anomalies such as extraction of money have also been reported in (wage) payments through (bank, post-office and other) accounts. States including Assam, in fact, saw reduction in employment generation under NREGA as compared to SGRY,” the study found.
The Rural Minister assured AIUDF that some corrective steps will be taken by the Ministry to stop corruption in NREGA implementation in Assam and there will be a group of prominent persons who will visit NREGA works and submit reports to the Ministry for necessary action.
The meeting was attended by various other political party leaders like Sri Ajit Sing (ALD), Babulal Marandi (JVM), Sri TM Basheer (KULML) besides the Minister of state Pradeep Jain and other senior Ministry officials.

GAIL ties up funds for Assam project

NEW DELHI: State-run GAIL on Thursday said it had tied up funds for a major petrochemical project in Assam being set up by its subsidiary. The
gas utility, which holds 70% stake in Brahmaputra Cracker Private Limited (BCPL), has tied up Rs 1,756 crore debt from a consortium of seven banks led by Punjab National Bank, company chairman B C Tripathi said. Tripathi said the project, estimated to cost Rs 5,461 crore, will be completed by April 2012.

A K Purwaha, who was director (business development) in state-run gas utility GAIL, on Thursday took over as the chairman of engineering consulting firn Engineers India Ltd.

GAIL ties up funds for Assam petrochem project

NEW DELHI: State-run gas utility GAIL India Ltd on Thursday said it has tied up funds for a petrochemical project in Assam being set up by its subsidiary.

Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Ltd (BCPL), in which GAIL holds 70 per cent stake, has tied up Rs 1,756 crore debt from a consortium of seven banks led by Punjab National Bank, BCPL Chairman and GAIL India Chairman and Managing Director, Mr B C Tripathi said here.

The Rs 5,461 crore “project will be completed by April 2012,” he said.

Of the project cost, Rs 2,138 crore have been given as capital subsidy and Rs 909 crore as feedstock subsidy by the central government. Of the balance Rs 3,124 crore, the equity component is Rs 1,041 crore.

“All of the Rs 2,083-crore debt component has been tied up. Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) has sanctioned Rs 327 crore loan and we have today signed loan agreements with a consortium of banks for the remaining Rs 1,756 crore, thereby achieving fin ancial closure of the project,'' he said.

Oil India Ltd, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd and the government of Assam hold 10 per cent stake each. The funding of this project has been envisaged with a debt-equity ratio of 2:1.

The petrochemical complex will comprise of ethylene cracker unit, downstream polymer and integrated off- site/utilities plants, he said, adding that the plant will produce 2,80,000 tonnes per annum of polymers.

Devotees throng Assam’s Kamakhya temple for Kumari Puja

Guwahati, Sep 25 : Hundreds of devotees thronged revered Kamakhya temple in Assam state on Thursday for Kumari Puja organised during Hindu festival of Navratri, in which young girls are worshipped.

Kumari Puja is held at the Kamakhya temple every year prior to Durga Puja celebrations that began on Saturday and end on “Navami” (the ninth day of the Navratri festival). The tradition is as old as that of the origin of Kamakhya temple.

It is believed that the Goddess, although omnipresent, surely exists in the virgin. Reverence to female children as goddesses is an age-old custom of India.

The Kamakhya temple situated in Guwahati, main city of Assam, on the banks of river Brahmaputra, is dedicated to goddess Kamakhya, consort of Shiva, Hindu God of destruction.

It is believed that at Kamakhya, the Goddess appears in the form of a virgin. So some of the pilgrims worship the living virgin as Goddess in this temple.

Worship of a living woman as Goddess is of purely Tantric origin. It is stated that virgin worship is nothing but Shakti worship.

The virgin worship is performed along with Durga, Kali and other Mahavidyas. The salutation mantra of virgin worship is the same as vidya’s salutation mantra. Sometimes, it is also seen that the virgin is fed and clad and saluted without any mantra. The tantrics believe that the virgin is the Goddess incarnate.

“Her name is not Kamakhya but Kamakshi. People come here as their wishes are fulfilled here and that’s why we have come all the way from Bihar,” said Chandreshwar Pathak, a devotee from eastern Bihar.

Read more: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/devotees-throng-assams-kamakhya-temple-for-kumari-puja_100251992.html#ixzz0S6LVISMh

New silk industry brings in job opportunities for locals in Assam

But now, the Government has officially declared Chaygaon as an industrial area, and more and more industries are likely to set up their units here, which would provide an opportunity for the locals to engage themselves in factory work.

“There are many girls and boys who are sitting at home doing nothing. But, after this factory was inaugurated, we got employed and now we don’t have to sit at home and waste our time. Many local boys get involved in some insurgent groups but rather they should find some work in this factory. At least they will be in the mainstream and won’t join the militant groups,” said Archana Kalita, a woman trainee in the factory.

The setting up of the factory would go a long way in organizing the silk industry in Assam to continue in a systematic line to ensure sustained production of high quality yarn and in the process address the basic needs of employment and socio-economic upliftment of the region.

“This factory is although small in terms of quantity, but it is going to be instrumental in helping or contributing about 4000 families surrounding this village and also the whole of northeast,” said Dilip Bora, Managing Director of Fabric Plus.

Bora further said that the factory produces designer fabrics, customized goods, A to Z in silk and fashion fabrics, which are exclusive in the markets and are well appreciated by the customers.

Read more: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/feature/new-silk-industry-brings-in-job-opportunities-for-locals-in-assam_100251942.html#ixzz0S6LMeqR1

Assam Govt orders evacuation from tilted building

GUWAHATI, Sept 23 – Revenue Minister Dr Bhumidhar Barman today reviewed the earthquake preparedness of the State in a meeting with the senior officials of the departments concerned. According to official sources here, the Minister directed the departments concerned to evacuate the residents from Jagabandhu Apartment in Bhangagarh area of the city, which tilted under the impact of the earthquake yesterday.

He also asked the officials concerned to enquire into the matters relating to the permission of the building and also to fix responsibilities for the purpose. If needed, actions should be taken against those found guilty, directed the Minister.

It was also discussed in the meeting as to how the city would be able to cope with the impacts of the earthquakes of greater magnitudes, if an earthquake of 6.2 in the Richter scale can result in cracks and tilts in its buildings.

The departments concerned should also take steps to identify the roads that require widening keeping in view the required width, which is at least 7.5 metres. Steps should be taken expeditiously to widen the roads up to the required limit.

Moreover, the Minister directed that speedy steps should be taken to retrofit the already identified weaker buildings, which include also the lifeline ones. Actions should also be taken in the case of the school buildings, which have been found unsafe. Many school buildings have been found unsafe, said the sources.

In the meeting, it was also decided to strengthen the communication system, the fire brigade services and the Civil Defence Orgainsation, said the sources.

The Revenue Minister also visited some of the affected buildings this evening and he was accompanied by senior officials of the Revenue Department.

Meanwhile, senior officials of the district administration visited the Fancy Bazar building which developed cracks under the impact of the earthquake yesterday.

However, the cracks which developed in a Machkhowa FA Road building have been attributed to construction defects and the cracks in the building developed much before the earthquake, said district administration sources.

Geologist D K Barman of the Directorate of Geology and Mining attributes the tilt in the Bhangagarh building to the carelessness or ignorance of the builders about the existence of a thick layer of plastic clay up to the extent of about 300 feet below the surface.

However, the cracks that developed in some of the city buildings under the impact of yesterday’s earthquake were due to faulty construction, he said.

Another tremor jolts Assam

A tremor of 5.7 magnitude was recorded at 1.09 a.m. on Tuesday woke up people in Assam, who had gone to bed in panic after experiencing a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Monday afternoon.

Monday’s afternoon’s tremor quickly followed by the sixth tremor in past 42 days prompted the State Disaster Management Authority (SDM) on Tuesday to ask the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) and Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) to deploy engineers to identify all vulnerable buildings in the city and instructed the Kamrup (Metropolitan) district administration to take necessary steps to ensure safety of the occupants of such buildings accordingly. Panic gripped residents of multi-storeyed buildings in the city following cracks in some building after Monday’s earthquake.

The SDM also asked all government departments to gear up and activate their contingency plan. The instructions were issued after a review meeting taken by State Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman. Although no casualty or injury was reported in Assam, Monday’s earthquake claimed 11 lives in Bhutan including four road construction workers from lower Assam.

V.K. Pipersenia, Principal Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management, told The Hindu that all government departments were directed to activate their contingency

Serve rural area for 1 yr to get job: Assam govt to medical graduates

In a major move to boost the rural healthcare sector in the state, the government of Assam on Wednesday appointed over 700 doctors.

However, the job is given under one condition. As per the state government, all MBBS graduates will have to serve for a minimum of one year in rural health centres.

The Assam government had also declared that those who are not interested to serve in the rural areas would have to pay Rs 5.34 lakh as compensation.

Speaking on this, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “On appointment, they have to serve the first year in rural areas. That is the least they can do for the people and the government, which spends so much to train a doctor.”

The minister believes that such a proposal could completely change the whole scenario of the rural healthcare sector of Assam.

Sarma also added that Rs 25,000 per month will be given as salary to the doctors posted in the rural areas.

Apart from this, these doctors will also be given bonus marks in the PG exams for serving in rural and difficult areas.

Poachers trying to poison rhinos in Assam’s national park

Kaziranga (Assam), Sep 18 (IANS) Forest authorities in India’s northeastern state of Assam have intensified patrol at a famed national park as there are fears that poacher gangs might try and kill animals by poisoning the grass instead of gunning down the wildlife.

A forest department spokesperson said an alert was sounded at the Kaziranga National Park after they found at least half-a-dozen cattle dead reportedly after grazing on poisoned grass in the fringes of the sanctuary.

“Although forensic test reports were yet to come, we suspect the cattle died after grazing on poisoned grass — some toxic chemicals laced with salt might have been sprinkled on a patch of grassland,” Kaziranga park director S.N. Buragohain told IANS.

Park wardens and rangers said poacher gangs were probably changing their tactics of killing rhinos and other animals using the conventional method of gunning down the wildlife or by digging pits to trap them.

“We have already sent a senior official to the park to investigate the matter. Patrols have been stepped up and efforts on to fence certain stretches in the fringe areas as well to avoid any kind of threat,” Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain told IANS.

“We are taking the reports very seriously, although we would be sure only when we get the forensic report.”

The risk is manifold — tigers could prey on the dead cattle and then themselves become a victim, while rhinos and deer could also stray out of the park to the fringe areas to graze on the poisoned grass.

“Preliminary reports indicate that the poison was laced with salt and then sprinkled on the grassland. And some of the animals have a great penchant for salt and this could be a new modus operandi of poachers to target rhinos,” a forest guard said.

As per the latest rhino census figures of April 2009, some 2,048 of the world’s estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos lumber around the wilds of the 430 sq km Kaziranga — their numbers ironically making the giant mammals a favourite target for poaching.

Last year 18 rhinos were killed by poachers, the first time in a decade that the number of rhinos killed in a year has touched a double digit figure in the park.

Poacher gangs kill rhinos for their horns, which many believe contain aphrodisiac qualities, besides being used as medicines for curing fever, stomach ailments and other diseases in parts of Asia.

Rhino horn is also fancied by buyers from the Middle East who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers, while elephant ivory tusks are primarily used for making ornaments and decorative items.

Profits in the illegal rhino horn trade are staggering — rhino horn sells for up to Rs.1.5 million per kilogram in the international market after they are smuggled to China or sold in other clandestine Asian markets.

Once extracted, the rhino horn is routed to smugglers in places like Dimapur in Nagaland, Imphal in Manipur and Siliguri in West Bengal.

Fake currency seized in Tripura, two held

Agartala, Sep 8 (IANS) Fake currency with the nominal value of Rs.500,000 was seized from a Tripura village bordering Bangladesh and two men were arrested, officials said here Tuesday.
The seizure and arrests were made during searches in Sobhapur village along the India-Bangladesh border, 60 km west of Agartala, Monday night by a joint team of Assam Rifles troopers and Tripura Police.
“Acting on a tip-off, the counterfeit notes in Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 denominations were recovered Monday night from Sobhapur,” said Tripura police spokesman Nepal Das.
The forged notes were concealed in a bag that was hidden in the bush.
Senior police officials, who were interrogating the arrested duo, suspect that the fake currency might have been supplied from across the border through a clandestine channel.
The police in Mizoram and Tripura in August and November last year busted an international fake currency racket and arrested six people, including a Myanmar national and a local bank manager.
The six were arrested from Mamit district of Mizoram and North Tripura district, and fake currency notes with the nominal value of Rs.1 million in Rs.100 and Rs.500 denomination was recovered.
A senior Tripura police official said Tuesday: “Security forces in the northeast India are on the alert for fake currency notes being circulated – strongly believed to be the handiwork of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.”
He said that the matter came up for serious discussion at the recent high-level meetings of the region’s police chiefs held in Guwahati and New Delhi.
“ISI was pumping fake currency notes into the region (to destabilize the economy) along with guns, ammunition and other contraband items, often with the help of various insurgent groups,” the official added.
Fake currency in Rs.100, Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 denominations are mostly in circulation in the northeast region.
Nationalised banks and various other financial institutions in northeast India have taken a series of measures, including installation of fake note detection machines to identify fake currency.

Assam Company Board recommends 15% Dividend for 2008-09

Assam Company Ltd has announced that the Board of Directors of the Company at its adjourned meeting held on September 07, 2009, inter alia, has recommended payment of Dividend @ 15% (Fifteen percent only) per Equity Share of Re 1/- each for the approval of the shareholders at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The stock was trading at Rs.20.05, down by Rs.0.15 or 0.74%. The stock hit an intraday high of Rs.20.70 and low of Rs.19.95.

The total traded quantity was 470548 compared to 2 week average of 2083667.

Assamese shine at the 55th National Film Awards


Assamese film-makers and musicians shone bright at the recently announced 55th National Film Awards for 2007. Musician Zubeen Garg received his first national award as best music director for his work on Echoes of Silence, a film on the Tai Phake people of Assam. The film was awarded the best in the Anthropological/Ethnographic film category.
Merajur Rahman Baruah, a Delhi based film-maker originally from Lakhimpur, bagged the Best Film on Social Issues (Non-feature) award. His film Shifting Prophecy talks about struggles of rural Muslim women in Tamil Nadu against patriarchal social and religious diktat.
Bombay based Nilanjan Dutta from Nagaon was awarded the best film in the scientific category. His film Bhanga Ghara is on water issues in the Malda district of West Bengal.
It can be mentioned that noted film-maker Manju Borah was a member of the jury in the Awards that saw several entries from Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland. There were, however, no entries from Assam in the feature category.

Assam student killed by friends over T-shirt

Guwahati, Sep 8 (IANS) A college student was burnt to death by three of his friends after they had an altercation over a T-shirt, police said here Tuesday.

Nitumoni Das, a first-year student of Dimoria College, was set ablaze by his friends at a private accommodation Monday in Sonapur, a township on the outskirts of Assam’s largest city Guwahati. He was staying in a rented accommodation near the college.

“According to preliminary investigations, three of Nitumoni’s friends came to his room around 3 p.m. Monday and had an altercation over a T-shirt. After a while, the friends poured kerosene oil on Nitumoni and set him on fire,” a senior police officer said.

Nitumoni succumbed to burn injuries late Monday at a private hospital here. The three accused are absconding.

“After setting my son on fire, one of his friends involved in the crime telephoned me and informed that Nitumoni met with an accident and was admitted to a hospital in Guwahati,” the victim’s father Anil Das told IANS.

“Before he expired, Nitumoni narrated the incident and said three of his friends set him on fire after he refused to give them his T-shirt,” the distraught father said.

Tea production down marginally in July

Export volume, value increase.
C.J. Punnathara

Kochi, Sept. 7 With the country facing a major shortfall in tea production this year, much will depend on the coming North-East monsoon. Depending on the intensity and spread of the coming rains, the shortfall can either be mitigated or worsened, Mr N. Dharmaraj, Vice-President for Tea, Harrisons Malayalam, said.
But however good be the coming monsoon, sources in the industry were united in stating that the shortfall is quite unlikely to be fully bridged this year.
Indian tea production registered a 15.7-million kg shortfall during January-July against the corresponding period last year.
Production during July was more or less stable, registering a shortfall of 0.3 million kg.
While acknowledging that some of the production deficit during January-April period could be made up, sources in UPASI warned that the lower intensity and lesser reach of the South-West monsoon this year is likely to lead to increased soil moisture stress in the coming months and the shortfall is expected to widen.
The coming N-E monsoon, which brings extensive rains to the tea-growing regions of North-East and South India, holds the key to tea production this year.
India’s tea exports have registered a fall of 15 million kg during the January-July period over last year.
During July it was up nearly a million kg to 19.47 million kg.
Tea production for the first seven months of the current year was 460.88 million kg as against 476.63 million kg last year. July production fell to 126.98 million kg as against 130.95 million kg last year.
South India seems to have accounted for the bulk of the shortfall at 8.95 million kg till July while North India, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the total Indian production, fell by 6.79 million kg.
The difference between South and North Indian production is expected to widen as heavy rains lashed North-East India in the first week of September.
But the rains in late July could result in lower deficit in August in the South Indian tea plantations.
However, the fall in exports has been more than made up by increased unit value realisation, which resulted in the total value realisation from tea exports spurting up. While the volume of tea exports fell, average unit value realisation went up to Rs 133 a kg, up from Rs 106 a kg last year. With a global deficit expected to grow this year, the demand-supply mismatch could widen, and prices are expected to remain firm in the domestic and international markets.

Assam Police team to reassess 50,000 cases

GUWAHATI, Sept 3 – Status of around 50,000 pending criminal cases gathering dust in police stations across the State would be reassessed by a special team of Assam Police. The special team, as per the module presently being prepared by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) would comprise 200 sub-inspectors undergoing probationary period, who would operate under a senior police inspector to ensure speedy disposal of cases.

Of the total number of pending cases, 30 per cent of them are reported in Guwahati itself.

“The drive would begin from Guwahati and later would be replicated in all the districts of the State,” a source in the police department told The Assam Tribune.

“An overview of the nature of the pending cases showed that most of the pending cases are petty, which could be closed taking into consideration the legalities attached to it. The idea behind carrying out the drive is to reassess the status of the high-profile criminal cases,” the sources stated.

“Taking into account the nature of the crime committed, the cases would either be closed or a fresh investigation would be carried out to bring the culprits to book,” he pointed out.

The source further informed the module would make setting up of a separate unit of police officials in each police station exclusively to study the nature of the pending cases.

Meanwhile, the police department has also been asked to prepare a road map to form separate units for law-and-order and investigation.

One aspect of Assam Police administration including that of others states in the country is the invariably first routine question that an SP, DIG or IGP during tour of districts, ranges and state police station is the number of cases chargesheeted. Any police station or outpost or petrol post incharge thus is focused on chargesheeting cases speedily irrespective of the merits of the case resulting in overlaping of the cases.

Assam records highest rice output in 57 yrs

The Assam could record the highest rice production in 2008-09 fiscal, for a period of 57 years since 1951. This has also helped it attain a surplus of 1.78 lakh MT in matters of rice, against a requirement of 38.92 lakh MT, in that fiscal. The field data of this record rice production have been compiled only recently by the official circles.

Official circles here said that the State produced a total of 40, 69, 986 MT of rice during the said fiscal. This included 3, 74,010 MT of autumn rice, 29, 24, 223 MT of winter rice and 7, 71,753 MT of summer rice.

Significantly, this amount of rice produced by the State last fiscal, was grown on an area of 24.84 lakh hectares of paddy field, against the 39.98 lakh MT of rice grown in an area of 26.46 lakh hectare of paddy field in 2000-2001.

Till the other day, the total quantity of rice produced in 2000-2001 by the State was regarded to be its highest record of rice production in a period of 50 years, since 1951-52.

The area covered to produce 40.70 lakh MT of rice by the State in 2008-09 is also remarkable. It signifies the growing productivity of the paddy fields for various reasons, said the sources.

The State could produce 5.58 lakh MT of autumn rice on an area of 5.40 lakh hectare in 2000-2001. The same year, it could produce 27.60 Lakh MT of winter rice on an area of 17.77 lakh hectare, while the area required by it during that year to produce 6.80 lakh MT of summer rice, was 3.29 lakh hectare.

But, last year, the State used 3.51 lakh hectare of paddy field to produce 3.74 lakh MT of autumn rice, 17.73 lakh hectare of farmland to produce 29.24 lakh MTS of winter rice and 3.60 lakh hectares of farmland to produce 7.72 lakh MT of summer rice.

Here, it is pertinent to mention that a change is taking place in the approach of the State Government towards autumn rice. Since the quantity of autumn rice produced by the farmers is not encouraging, the State Government has now laid more emphasis on using the autumn rice areas for growing summer rice and vegetables. For, summer rice and vegetables are economically more beneficial, said the sources.

From the point of productivity also, summer rice is more productive. The normal productivity of autumn rice in the State is 896 kg per hectare, while it is 1,482 kg per hectare in the case of winter rice. But, in the case of summer rice, the State has attained a normal productivity rate of 1,965 kg per hectare, as per the official data compiled on the basis of the achievements made between 2005-06 and 2007-08.

Then again, the normal productivity average recorded by the State in the case of vegetables is 16,482 kg per hectare, said the sources.

No doubt, the State could raise the all time high productivity rate of autumn rice to 1,084 kg per hectare in 2008-09 from 1,000 kg in 1997-98. Similarly, the productivity of winter rice was also raised from 1,439 kg per hectare in 1997-98 to an all time high of 1,674 kg in 2008-09 and the productivity of summer rice could also be raised to 2,142 kgs per hectare in 2008-09, from 1,797 kg in 1997-98.

The efforts taken under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) has thus paid off. However, the Central Government granted the Mission initiatives only for 13 districts of the State, that too on rice. The State is trying to prevail upon the Central Government to extend the Mission initiatives to the remaining 14 districts also.

Girl trafficking cases up in assam

GUWAHATI, Sept 5 – Trafficking of young girls from Assam has gone up in recent months, with essential interventions from the State Government still not in place. As there has been little effort to implement the Supreme Court directive to constitute committees involving all stakeholders to curb trafficking, criminals are still able to target vulnerable girls in a number of areas.

In the last three months alone, there have been a number of rescues of young girls from Assam in different cities of the country; one organisation in Assam working with partner groups could rescue and repatriate 13 girls during this period. The number of missing girls from Guwahati has also gone up. Tragically, most of the girls trafficked are not adults as traffickers prefer them in the age group of 14 to 16 years, a fact established by the age of those who have been rescued.

Speaking to The Assam Tribune, Digambar Narzary, director of Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based NGO, underlined the urgent need to abide by the Supreme Court directive. “Forming committees with stakeholders from various levels is crucial to check the menace of trafficking in Assam, where many cases happen because there were no one to notice or report the activities,” Narzary remarked.

Narzary, whose organisation has been responsible for rescue and repatriation of young women from various parts of the country, said trafficking has connections with the process of migration and therefore an effective monitoring mechanism should be in place. The nodal officers in the districts should be fed with more information by local communities, information which should include names of destinations to which young women are migrating for work.

Data generated by Nedan Foundation indicate that eleven districts of Lower Assam have emerged as particularly vulnerable with more women being trafficked than before. Some of them have been located in areas such as Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore and New Delhi. Significantly, the eleven districts have witnessed conflict situations and poverty, reasons which have been found responsible for rise in trafficking. Recurring floods in the state have lead to displacement of a large population, and those involved in trafficking have also targeted girls from such groups.

Narzary and others well acquainted with the issue of trafficking of girls in Assam believe that monitoring should be strengthened in the trains moving out from the State, because in recent times those have been the preferred mode of transport for traffickers.

They further favour State-specific Anti-Trafficking Laws in Assam, which recognise the problems endemic to the region. However, despite repeated efforts, such legislation has still not been formed.

The need to have a rethink on the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act is another issue highlighted by groups studying trafficking of girls. Anurita Pathak Hazarika of North East Network (NEN) said, “The Act stigmatises woman and even the word immorality is debatable.” She added that in Assam post-conflict situations in some areas were also responsible for making young women more vulnerable to trafficking.

CPI demands special economic package for drought and flood victims

GUWAHATI, Aug 26 : “Asom is today facing the extremes of both flood and drought. While some parts of the State are reeling under floods, some are facing drought-like situation. The State Government has to take up come up with proper relief measures for the drought and flood victims,” said Communist Party of India national executive member Promode Gogoi at a press conference today in Guwahati.

Gogoi said the party had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi yesterday. In the memorandum the party has demanded a special economic package for the drought and flood victims of Asom, said Gogoi. “The drought-like situation has affected agriculture in many districts. Farmers have been badly hit. On the other hand, floods have wrecked havoc in districts like Dhemaji and Lakhimpur. A special economic package is needed to rehabilitate the victims,” said Gogoi.

The party has also asked the State Government to restore communication links in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji.“Due to the breakdown of communication links, relief measures are not reaching the victims,” said Gogoi.

River dam projects have been grabbing headlines in the recent past with many organizations vehemently protesting against such projects. Gogoi however welcomed the river dam projects taken up by the State Government. He said,“These projects will help in the production of power and in comprehensive irrigation schemes. But work on the Lower Subansiri Project should be stalled till the submission of the final report by the expert committee appointed by the Government.”

Gogoi urged all political parties to rise above their political interests and to work unitedly for a solution to the flood and drought problems in Asom. CPI has called for a stir across the State on August 31 for immediate fulfilment of their demands. THE SENTINEL

APPL tea estates in Assam to receive ISO 22000 certificate for food safety

A scene in a tea estate. Photo: PTI
A scene in a tea estate. Photo: PTI
Four tea estates of the Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL) have become the first recipient of the ISO 22000 Accredited Food Safety certification in the tea sector, a company release said. Formerly under Tata Tea Ltd, these plantations have been now brought under APPL, which is a joint venture of TTL and a clutch of other companies. All 24 estates of APPL are to be brought under the ISO certification by 2011.
The certification has been received from DET NORSKE VERITAS -DNV, for four of APPLs orthodox estates, Achabam TE, Borhat TE, Chubwa TE and Nahorani TE in Assam. The group has 24 estates within Assam and Bengal and produces 41 million kgs of tea. The factories have been upgraded to meet stringent international requirements for food safety, a company release said. This is part of the tea cluster initiative of the CII , the release said.
D Borah, Executive Director of APPL said that the factories have undergone changes to improve processes and hygiene with evidenced reduction of spillage during processing. This process required wide employee involvement and promotion of a culture of sharing best practices for continual improvement. He believes that APPLs decision to engage CII Institute of Quality had facilitated the journey to excellence, starting with Food Safety and Quality.
The Individual estate Certificates would be handed over to the 4 APPL estates in Assam during separate
ceremonies within the coming week and the company plans to upgrade another six estates within the current financial year. The rest of the estates would be made ISO 22000 compliant within 2011.

Flood forces Kaziranga wildlife out of sanctuary

KAZIRANGA (Assam): Authorities in Assam have enforced speed regulations on a highway along the famed Kaziranga National Park to prevent vehicles from hitting animals fleeing the sanctuary to escape a flood, officials said here Monday. Kaziranga is the world's largest sanctuary of the endangered one-horned rhino.

The officials said the order prohibiting people from driving their vehicles above 40 km per hour along the national highway that passes by the Kaziranga National Park in eastern Assam was enforced Sunday because scores of wild animals have started moving to highlands as the sanctuary is getting flooded.

"We have placed police and forest guards along the highway to restrict drivers from increasing their speed beyond a limit as animals from the park are crossing the highway," park ranger Dharanidhar Boro told IANS.

In 2004, speeding trucks mowed down at least 50 animals while they were trying to cross the highway to escape floods.

In the past one week, flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have displaced at least 300,000 people in Assam. The Brahmaputra river has been flowing above the danger mark in at least eight different places in the state.

"Floodwaters have entered some fringe areas inside the park. Already small herds of elephants have started moving out of the park by crossing the highway to take shelter in an adjoining hill," Boro said.

The 430 sq km park, 220 km east of Assam's main city Guwahati, is home to the world's largest population of one-horned rhinoceros. There are an estimated 2,048 rhinos at Kaziranga out of a total world population of some 2,700 of this thick-skinned pachyderm.

Forest rangers say the trend of elephant herds moving to safer areas is a "strong indicator" that heavy flooding inside the park is imminent. "Elephants have very strong senses and can anticipate impending dangers," the park ranger said.

At least 70 animals, including rhinos and wild buffaloes, were drowned during a flood in Kaziranga in 2003.

Park officials are also worried about poachers killing animals, especially rhinos and elephants, as they move from the sanctuary towards the hills to escape the floods.

"If there is a breach in the embankment that surrounds the park, floodwaters would submerge the entire Kaziranga and then there would mass exodus of animals to the hills," said Boro.

Every year, floods leave a trail of destruction in Assam, washing away villages, submerging paddy fields, drowning livestock and causing loss of human life and property.

Flood forces Kaziranga wildlife out of sanctuary

Kaziranga (Assam), Aug 24 : Authorities in Assam have enforced speed regulations on a highway along the famed Kaziranga National Park to prevent vehicles from hitting animals fleeing the sanctuary to escape a flood, officials said here Monday. Kaziranga is the world’s largest sanctuary of the endangered one-horned rhino.
The officials said the order prohibiting people from driving their vehicles above 40 km per hour along the national highway that passes by the Kaziranga National Park in eastern Assam was enforced Sunday because scores of wild animals have started moving to highlands as the sanctuary is getting flooded.
“We have placed police and forest guards along the highway to restrict drivers from increasing their speed beyond a limit as animals from the park are crossing the highway,” park ranger Dharanidhar Boro told IANS.
In 2004, speeding trucks mowed down at least 50 animals while they were trying to cross the highway to escape floods.
In the past one week, flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have displaced at least 300,000 people in Assam. The Brahmaputra river has been flowing above the danger mark in at least eight different places in the state.
“Floodwaters have entered some fringe areas inside the park. Already small herds of elephants have started moving out of the park by crossing the highway to take shelter in an adjoining hill,” Boro said.
The 430 sq km park, 220 km east of Assam’s main city Guwahati, is home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceros. There are an estimated 2,048 rhinos at Kaziranga out of a total world population of some 2,700 of this thick-skinned pachyderm.
Forest rangers say the trend of elephant herds moving to safer areas is a “strong indicator” that heavy flooding inside the park is imminent. “Elephants have very strong senses and can anticipate impending dangers,” the park ranger said.
At least 70 animals, including rhinos and wild buffaloes, were drowned during a flood in Kaziranga in 2003.
Park officials are also worried about poachers killing animals, especially rhinos and elephants, as they move from the sanctuary towards the hills to escape the floods.
“If there is a breach in the embankment that surrounds the park, floodwaters would submerge the entire Kaziranga and then there would mass exodus of animals to the hills,” said Boro.
Every year, floods leave a trail of destruction in Assam, washing away villages, submerging paddy fields, drowning livestock and causing loss of human life and property.

Ragging on the rise in Assam, two students held

Guwahati: In yet another glaring case of ragging in Assam, two college students here have been arrested for harassing girls after authorities filed a formal complaint with the police.
Hridyananda Baruah, a student of BCom final year at the K C Das Commerce College in Assam’s main city of Guwahati, and Anjan Bujarbaruah of the Guwahati Commerce College, were arrested late on Wednesday following a formal complaint by college authorities.
“There was a complaint by the principal of the K C Das Commerce College saying one of their students Hridyananda Baruah was involved in an incident of ragging.
“Based on the complaint, we first arrested Baruah and based on his statement we arrested his friend Anjan Bujarbaruah who was with him during the incident,” said police official F Barghuyan, who is investigating the case.
Hitesh Deka, principal of the K C Das Commerce College, said he was responding to a verbal complaint from girl students that Hridyananda Baruah had “been continuously harassing them”.
“So I lodged a police report. In the meantime, we have expelled him from the college on charges of ragging. We are against any form of ragging in the college and shall not tolerate such incidents,” Deka said. Guwahati Commerce College authorities are also contemplating action.