Arunachal traders protest against extortion

 ITANAGAR, feb 1 – In a bid to protest the repeated demand notes being served on the traders allegedly by different covert and overt organisations, the trading community of the State capital and its adjoining areas such as Nirjuli and Banderdewa on Thursday downed their shutters for more than four hours.

The traders resolved to move the police against any bid to extortion, and to bring such cases to the notice of the district authorities for taking measures to contain the menace.

Time and again, the traders, especially non-tribals, are at the receiving end of bandh calls, donation and extortion notes, and threats of dire consequences if they fail to meet the demands of such organisations.

The businessmen are the worst victims during any bandh call as they not only lose business but have also to meet the demands of the bandh sponsors, said Arunachal Chamber of Commerce & Industries (ACCI), the apex organization of traders of the capital complex.

Downing their shutters, the traders, under the banner of ACCI and Bazar Welfare Committees of Itanagar, Naharlagun, Nirjuli and Banderdewa, have unanimously decided to stand united to bring an end to such activities.

Although the local administration of Papum Pare district, had already banned the collection of donations on occasions more than once, it has no impact at all, as various groups and organizations were targeting the individual traders in groups and threatening them of dire consequences. Some organizations threatened a few of the traders to even pack up in case of failure to meet their ransom, said the ACCI president Techi Lala and general secretary Tarh Nachung, in a joint press statement here.

NE should unite on influx

 GUWAHATI, Feb 1 – The Government of India (GoI) should chalk out a comprehensive plan to deport the illegal migrants coming from Bangladesh. If the new Government in Bangladesh is found ready to cooperate in resolving the problem, that should be welcomed and the Central Government should not make the process for resolution of the issue a protracted one. There should be a time-bound approach to resolve the issue. This was the observation made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh. He was addressing the media persons here this evening.

He also made an appeal to the indigenous communities of Assam and the rest of the NE region and the regional parties to unite for resolution of the issue. They should take note of the fact that illegal migrants from Bangladesh are making the socio-economic problems of the region much grave, said Singh.

He alleged that the Congress Governments at the Centre and in the State had not taken any step to deport the Bangladesh nationals from the country, or to issue multi-purpose identity cards and to set up the foreigners’ tribunals as directed by the Supreme Court of India.

He also reiterated his party’s stand to set up a Northeast Security Council to focus on the security issues of the region. Moreover, he said, the Government should look into the funds coming to the accounts of the militants. The Government should examine whether mafia money or some percentage of the Central Government grants are going to the militants, he said, adding, the Government is not meant to enjoy power, but for building the society and the nation.

On the issue of electoral understanding of his party with the regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), he said, referring to his party, that the regional party had entered into an understanding with the most secular party of the country, describing the Congress as the ‘biggest communal party.’ To the BJP, all infiltrators are infiltrators, he said, suggesting that it would not distinguish them on the basis of religion.

He also apprised the newspersons that there was no impasse in his party’s discussion with the AGP on the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat, and, a decision on the seat would soon come up. The discussion with the regional party is progressing in a good manner,’ asserted the BJP president.

The country is in deep crisis today and the credibility of the Government is also questioned, he said and maintained that the Congress could not solve the problems facing the country. It remained in power for over 54 years and has a dismal track record of performance, he said.

On the issue of removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla raised by his party Parliamentarians, he said that the Chief Election Commissioner had vindicated the BJP stand. He also maintained that Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav had not made any adverse comment against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Yadav, a convenor of the NDA, reportedly criticised the BJP for its Hindutva agenda.

Can’t stop militant forays, say police

Policemen pay homage to their colleagues killed in the encounter at Sonari. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, Feb 1 : A day after Ulfa militants gunned down two policemen in the Sonari police station area, the Sivasagar superintendent of police, Shyam Saikia, today expressed helplessness in preventing militant forays into the district from the adjoining Mon district of Nagaland.
Saikia said the district administration had taken up the issue of Ulfa militants finding shelter in the neighbouring state with its Mon counterpart but to no avail.
“They (the Ulfa militants) are taking shelter in Naga villages, which are dominated by the Khaplang faction of the NSCN and there is little we can do from here unless the Nagaland government takes action,” he said over telephone. Several rounds of discussions have been held with his counterpart in Mon district, he added.
Bansbaripathar Chetiachuk, where the two policemen — assistant sub-inspector Bhimkanta Upadhyay and constable Debojit Borgohain — were killed yesterday, is nearly 2km from the inter-state border. They were gunned down by a group of Ulfa militants who were fleeing from an encounter and came across the two policemen on a motorcycle.
The SP said there was no permanent Ulfa camp in Mon district of Nagaland but the militants use Naga villages as their shelter. “NSCN (K) militants have been providing logistical support like helping the Ulfa cadres find refuge in the villages in the district,” he said.
The police in Mon district have also expressed helplessness since these villages have NSCN (K) cadres and conducting operation in those villages would only complicate matters. The NSCN (K) is currently in ceasefire with the government.
Army sources said Ulfa militants easily cross over to Nagaland after carrying out subversive activities in Assam, especially in Sivasagar district. The group involved in yesterday’s incident did the same.
The pro-peace group of Ulfa today said yesterday’s incident in Sivasagar district could have been averted had the government shown interest in starting the peace dialogue with them. “We still have contacts with various leaders of the anti-talks faction of Ulfa, but they are not willing to join us because we have gone nowhere since we declared a truce in June for lack of interest of the government,” Jiten Dutta, leader of the pro-peace group, said.
Dutta said Rupantor Kakoti, a self-styled sergeant major of the 28 battalion, led the group involved in yesterday’s incident. “Kakoti and others could easily be convinced to join the peace process since these cadres worked with us. But how can we convince them when we ourselves are at a dead end?” he asked.
The pro-peace group announced on January 1 that they had severed ties with the Ulfa leadership and would like to start the peace dialogue with the government on its own. The group, comprising cadres of the Alpha and the Charlie companies of the 28 battalion of Ulfa, declared a unilateral ceasefire in June last year.
Dutta said the group would place a charter of demands to the government on February 1 and decide its further course of action after that. “We will wait for a few days for the government to respond,” he said.

‘Aatank-garh’ Muslims want separate criminal trial system for Indian Muslims

Muslims now want to be tried under separate law

  New Delhi
An over 1,000-strong Ulema Council congregation at Jantar Mantar on Thursday demanded a separate criminal trial system for the nation’s Muslims.

The gathering of Muslims from Azamgarh, led by 20 ulemas belonging to Islamic seminary Jameat-ur-Rashad in UP, claimed that a National Judicial Inquiry Committee be set up to look into cases in which the Muslim men were arrested by police on charges of terrorism but released by courts due to lack of evidence. “The Muslims freed of criminal/terror charges for lack of evidence should be compensated,” demanded the congregation. It also demanded scrapping of the recently passed anti-terror law — the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The crowd arrived at Delhi from Azamgarh in UP by a special train, called the ‘Ulema Express’. The demonstration, which began at 10 am, was also attended by students of the Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Each of the ulemas who spoke to the cheering crowds, insisted that a judicial inquiry be set up especially to look into the September 17 Batla House encounter by a sitting Supreme Court judge. In that encounter, two terrorists from Azamgarh involved in the Delhi blasts were gunned down by the State police.

“It is unacceptable to the Muslim community that innocent, educated young men should be picked up by law-enforcement agencies without any proof, to be released later by the courts for lack of evidence. The media highlights them as hardcore terrorists and their lives are tarnished forever. There should be a provision for compensation to such people,” Ulema Council convener Amir Rashidi Madani said.

Blaming political parties for not supporting them on the issue, Madani said that the Ulema Council would field two candidates from Azamgarh Sadar and Lalganj Lok Sabha seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. “We are also trying for a third alternative. A few parties have approached us for support. But we want that any alternative should be headed by the Ulema Council,” said Madani, whose son Aamir Talha was picked up by the Maharashtra ATS on terror charges. He was later released by the court.

The event was organised by the Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims, an umbrella organisation of five bodies and the Ulema Council of Azamgarh.

Assam truckers threaten indefinite strike

Assam truck owners may go on an indefinite strike, if the Meghalaya Government fails to curb 'illegal check gates' in the State.

In a memorandum to Meghalaya Chief Minister, the Goalpara District Truck Owners Association said despite repeated requests, the government has not taken any to abolish the unauthorised check gates, pollution testing centres and weigh bridges on NH-62.

They further gave a list of such illegal check gates in the Garo Hills region of Meghalaya and threatened to call for an indefinite 'chakka bandh' if the Mehalaya Government failed once again to take action against them

Detailed security arrangements for Basant Panchmi magh mela.

Allahabad, Jan 31 : Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh, is celebrating Saraswati Puja with full fervour and gaiety at the fourth bathing festival of Magh mela.

Here, around 40 lakh Hindu devotees are expected to take the auspicious holy dip on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.

Quick reaction teams (QRT), commandos and paramilitary forces have been deployed. An anti-terrorist squad (ATS), a special task force, a bomb disposal squad, an anti-mines squad and intelligence officials are checking the banks where the pilgrims bathe.

Deputy Inspector General M K Bashal claimed that Mela police have strengthened security at checkpoints and will implement a disaster management plan to deal with any emergency.

Saraswati Puja and Basant Panchmi are being celebrated with great enthusiasm across the country. Schools and colleges are closed.

The festival is celebrated with colours (gulal), as customs associated with the Holi festival begins from this day.

The birthday of Saraswati, considered as the goddess of knowledge and arts, is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha.

Farmers take up tobacco farming in Uttar Pradesh

Gorakhpur (UP): Despite increasingly pervasive anti-tobacco legislation and tax structures to discourage tobacco consumption, farmers in Uttar Pradesh have taken up tobacco cultivation.

Significant numbers of farmers in Gorakhpur region of the state are resorting to tobacco cultivation more vigorously after prices of the commodity-hit spurt at domestic and international markets.

"Cost of tobacco cultivation is 3,000 rupees per acre and the expected profit that it can yield is 75,000 rupees per acre. It can be profitable for us and for the businessmen also. Previously they used to get tobacco from Bihar, now they can directly get it from us," said Ram Nayan, tobacco grower.

The tobacco traders are also happy at the development as more and more farmers take up tobacco farming in the region.

"We used to import tobacco from Bihar, but now as tobacco production has been started in Gorakhpur itself, we won’t be importing tobacco from other states. By doing so we are actually cutting on the cost of tobacco as we won’t be paying any money to the intermediaries," said Devilal, tobacco businessmen.

The guarantee of an assured market for their crop has provided a strong incentive to farmers to shift to growing tobacco.

India is one of the largest tobacco producers in the world with Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka having emerged as the main tobacco growing regions in the country.

HUJI has plans to set up camps in Assam

Guwahati, Ja 31 : Documents recovered from three Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) ‘link-men’ arrested on Thursday night have revealed that the Bangladesh-based HUJI militant outfit is planning to set up camps in strategic areas of lower Assam.

“Documents recovered from three HUJI ‘link-men’ arrested during seizure of fake currency in Barpeta district on Thursday night unearthed the outfit’s plan to set up bases in strategic areas of lower Assam for subversive activities, sources in the Indian Army said on Friday.

The seizure could be made possible by Indian Army’s Kumaon regiment following a tip off about HUJI ultras in Sapori village in connection with fake currency notes. At least three persons having links with HUJI were arrested by the security personnel along with fake currency and printing machine recovered.

The HUJI, along with the ULFA, is suspected to be involved in recent acts of violence including last year’s serial blasts in the state. (ANI)

Assam couple's bodies reach Tezpur from Kabul

GUWAHATI: Mystery shrouds the deaths of Abu Naser alias Prince and his wife Farhana Azmin, the Assamese couple who were killed in Afghanisthan's capital Kabul recently.

Though the couple's family had alleged that it was a "Taliban-style execution'', Assam police is yet to confirm the cause of death. People close to the couple's family said they could have died of suffocation following leakage of some poisonous gas.

Abu married Farhana six months ago and was an English professor at Mazar-e-Sharif University. They were staying at a guest house of the university along with six others, including one from Germany and a couple from Thailand. All of them died under mysterious circumstances on January 24 night in the guest house.

On Wednesday, their bodies were brought to the Afghanistan embassy in New Delhi. From there, the coffins were flown in to Guwahati and later taken to Tezpur by Farhana's brother and Abu's uncle on Thursday evening.

As the bodies reached Barika Suburi, Abu's native village in Tezpur, his parents, Umizur Rahman and Ranu Rahman, broke into tears. Sources close to Abu's family said the final rituals would be held after Farhana's mother arrived from Lakhimpur.

Sonitpur SP Surinder Kumar said, "There has been no communication from both the governments about the cause of Abu and Farhana's deaths.''

Attack on priests, nuns and Christians in Assam

We, the Catholic Christian Community of Upper Assam strongly condemn the demeaning incident in which a section of the locals of Kamalabari town in Majuli subdivision of Jorhat district ill-behaved with the priests, nuns and members of our community on January 24,2009. We take strong exception to the incident, where members of our community, who were returning after attending a religious function, were taken into custody and harassed and few of them even assaulted on baseless grounds. The unacceptable harassment meted out to the community has gravely hurt the religious sentiments of Christians. We strongly protest the gross violation of the human rights and dignity of the people.
The fact is that the Christian people numbering around five hundred were returning from Jengraimukh, Saint Paul’s school after participating in a religious ceremony in which a member of the Mising Community, Mr. Hemanto Pegu was consecrated a priest of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Christians from various places of Jorhat, Golaghat, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar and Tinsukia districts had been there to witness the ordination/ consecration of Hemanta Pegu and were traveling back by jeeps, trucks and buses. At around 2.45pm when they reached the Kamalabari Charali, some locals including women stopped the vehicles and asked for the reasons of their coming to the Island. When they told them that they had come to see the consecration of Hemanto Pegu, they shouted, “Why are you converting the tribals? You beef eaters, never come back again and if you do come, we will cut you into pieces and throw you into the Brahamaputra.” With such threats and abusing languages they allowed the jeeps to go.
Some of the priests who were in the group are: Fr. Jose Varghese, the former Principal of St. Paul’s School, Jengraimukh, Fr. K. A. Thomas, presently, the Director of I-Card Jorhat and many other priests and nuns and Church dignitaries.
After a while Fr.Caesar Henry, the principal of St.Antony’s High School, Mariani and Fr.G.P.Amalraj, the principal of St.Xavier’s High school, Duliajan came in a hired Sumo and followed by two buses and a truck. As soon as they reached the Komalabari petrol pump, the priests were pulled out from the sumo and manhandled. They kicked and punched on their stomach. They shouted slogan, “they are the missionaries, beat them and kill them” they used abusive languages and mocked at them and told to walk all the way to the Ferry Ghat.
The Christian nuns and girls pleaded to the mob not to kick and beat priests and they tried to protect them from further harm. Then the mob rushed to the bus and stopped the bus, told the people to get down from the bus. They were told to hold their ears and tell, “they will not come to Majuli again”
The men were beaten and Kicked and shouted at them with abusive words like, “you Chai bhagan people, you are worth for two rupees and why did you come here; you, the beef eaters, did you come to eat beef here,” though the people pleaded and asked them not to beat, they were mercilessly beaten.
The children got panic and cried. Even today many women and children are in deep trauma. They could not imagine such mob attack upon them for no reason. Then they were told to put their heads down and catch their ears and walk bare footed from Kamalabari to the Ferry Ghat. Like the slaves of the pre-independent India, men, women and children walked to the Ferry Ghat. As they were walking, the Kamalabari people abused them verbally. Then came Fr.Victor Toppo, the then principal of St.Paul’s School, Jengraimukh on a bike. He was stopped and kicked and beaten badly. And also a priest from Don Bosco school, Jorhat was manhandled and beaten. Some students of Holy Cross School, Naojan sustained injuries in stone pelting incident.
We seek to explain to the media and to the people of the state that the Christians were not on their mission to convert the tribals as alleged but using this opportunity when the first Mishing priest was getting ordained, they had made their first ever visit to this world famous island.
This brutal attack is a slur on the harmonious co-existence of the people of Assam.
May I request the media persons to publish this press release in their esteemed dailies to bring out the truth.
Fr. William Horo, Place :D ibrugarh, Director of Media communication,
Dated: 27th Jan2009, Diocese of Dibrugarh, Bishop’s House,PB No.50, Dibrugarh - Assam, 786 001

Two policemen, ULFA militant killed in Assam

Guwahati, Jan 31 Two policemen and a separatist guerilla were killed and a six-year-old child injured in a gun battle between security forces and militants in Assam Thursday, officials said.
A police spokesman said the gun battle took place between a group of militants belonging to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and a joint team of the police and the army near village Sapekheti in Sibsagar district, about 390 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.
‘Based on specific inputs about a group of ULFA militants taking shelter in a village home, a joint team of the police and the army launched an operation in the area that eventually led to an encounter,’ police official A. Das said.
The militants, estimated to be numbering at least four, fired indiscriminately on the security forces and there was heavy gunfire by both sides, the official said.
‘In the encounter, an ULFA rebel and two policemen were killed, while a six-year-old boy was injured in the crossfire,’ the official said.
At least three ULFA militants managed to escape.
Security forces recovered a huge quantity of explosives and firearms, including two kg of RDX, from the site.
‘A hunt is on to nab the fleeing ULFA rebels who probably were planning to stage some violent strikes in the area,’ the official said.
The ULFA is a rebel group fighting for an independent state in Assam since 1979.

‘Explain meaning of ceasefire to army’

Dimapur : In the backdrop of the ongoing Shiroi standoff between Assam Rifles troopers and NSCN (IM) cadres, the Naga International Support Center today made a number of queries to the Government of India.  The NISC also made a number of demands, including one that demanded that the ‘meaning of ceasefire should be explained to all troops’.

According to the statement from the NISC, a ‘well-covered’ Government of India and “government of the people’s republic of Nagalim” agreement put an end once and for all to any misinterpretation “to the extent of the ceasefire with the addiction of the term ‘without territorial limits’”.

On this argument, the NISC queried if there is “any misunderstanding, misinterpretation, of the meaning and extent of the ceasefire by the armed forces on the ceasefire with the government of the peoples republic of Nagalim?” The NISC also demanded a response if “on the basis of genuine peace talks should your armed forces not show restraint”.

The organization said the “besieging and subsequent threatening” of Naga “soldiers” who were “residing peacefully in the vicinity of a village”, is a threat to civilian life too. “Have your forces been ordered to disrupt the life of peaceful Naga citizens?” the NISC queried.

Considering that the Assam Rifles, according to the NISC, “who base their action on the idea that the ceasefire covers Nagaland State only, not Manipur or other Naga lands and hence no camps if the Naga Army should be there”, the NISC made a number of demands to the Government of India. The Government of India should order the Assam Rifles to immediately withdraw and “explain the meaning of cease fire to all troops”, the NISC demanded. Further, all “conflicting instructions” should be stopped and orders to the army to show restraint should be issued.

Asking the Indian forces to “stop provoking the Naga forces” to the ‘point of jeopardizing the peace process’, the GoI is told by the NISC to show respect for Human Rights “by instantly removing the electrified barbed wire from around the Naga camp”. The statement from the NISC added that “the use of electrified barbed wire around the Naga camp to prevent Naga forces to leave, is an inhumane act and a violation of Human Rights” .
Army enforces C-fire; NSCN cadres arrested
Dimapur : The Assam Rifles has informed that on 28 January based on specific intelligence regarding movement of underground cadres, a joint mobile check post of the 42 AR and 164 TA battalion at Kukidolong intercepted a suspiciously moving car, a Santro, leading  to the arrest of two NSCN (IM) cadres. On searching the vehicle, uniforms and 50 rounds of ammunition of .303 rifle were recovered, informed a press note issued by the PRO of IGAR (North). At the same check post, the IGAR said, another car, an  Alto  traveling from Kohima to Dimapur led to the arrest of four NSCN (K) cadres along with three 9mm pistols and 32 live rounds (9mm) and four mobile sets. All the apprehended cadres were handed over to police, the press note stated.

The Assam Rifles clarified that a state of high vigil is being maintained all over the state to ensure that Ceasefire Ground Rules are adhered to by all the Naga factions. Stringent measures will be adopted against erring cadres violating laid down CFGR within the state of Nagaland, the IGAR press note informed.

Former Delhi Congress chief Ram Babu is dead

New Delhi, Jan 29 Ram Babu Sharma, Congress legislator from north east Delhi’s Rohtas Nagar constituency and a former Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief, died early Wednesday after cardiac arrest. He was 53.
Sharma, survived by wife and three children, was cremated in the capital.
Sharma died at 1 a.m. following a heart attack at the Apollo Hospital here, said DPCC president J.P. Aggarwal.
‘Ram Babu was suffering from cancer and was admitted in the hospital Jan 16. However, he had a heart attack and passed away early this morning,’ hospital officials said.
His body was brought to the DPCC office at 1 p.m. for people to pay their last tributes to the departed soul. Many senior political leaders from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party visited.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and her cabinet colleagues were present at the Nigam Bodh Ghat near Kashmere Gate for the last rites.
‘He was cremated around 2:30 p.m.,’ Aggarwal said.
Sharma began his political career as a worker of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) and was elected to the Delhi assembly for the second time in last year’s polls from Rohtas Nagar constituency. He was first elected in 2003.
He was the DPCC chief from 2003 to 2007, after which Aggarwal took over.
He twice successfully contested the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls and was the leader of the house and chairman of the MCD standing committee.

Oh, for a bite of 100kg, jumbo-shaped peda

Sweet-makers of Bokakhat gear up to prepare giant delicacy for Kaziranga Elephant Festival
Guwahati, Jan 29 : According to Hindu mythology, the mouse of elephant-headed God Ganesha is very fond of sweets.
So what better way to propitiate the elephant-headed God than by serving him an elephant-shaped, 100kg peda when the seventh Elephant Festival gets under way at Kaziranga National Park on February 9?
Apart from the gargantuan peda, 100 elephants will display their skills at the festival. “We are expecting a large number of foreign tourists this year at the park,” said Mridul Mahanta, sub-divisional officer of Bokakhat and the secretary of the festival committee.
“The town nearest to Kaziranga is Bokakhat, which is famous for its sweetmeat delicacies. So a jumbo-sized peda is the best gift we can offer to the tourists,” the official said.
The job to prepare the elephantine peda has been entrusted to the sweet-makers of Bokakhat town. Mahanta said nine quintals of milk, 25kg of sugar and mawa would be required to prepare the peda which would be formally cut by chief minister Tarun Gogoi while inaugurating the festival.
“We have already placed the order for the ingredients required to make the peda and every one in Bokakhat town is excited about the idea,” he said.
Apart from the local milk suppliers, a dairy farm at Bokakhat town will supply the bulk of the milk. “We are thrilled about the idea to prepare such a huge peda, it has become a challenge for us,” said an employee of Gopal Krishna Mistan Bhandar, one of the oldest and famous peda outlets in Bokakhat town, over phone. He said it would take skilled hands to prepare the gigantic sweet but “since all our employees are experienced, we think we can pull it off.”
Mahanta said the number of elephants at the festival has been restricted to 100 since it becomes difficult to manage the animals. “We have learnt a few lessons from the six times we have organised this event and are keeping the number to 100.”
Nearly 200 elephants from various parts of the state took part in last year’s edition of the festival.
Apart from the peda and the elephant procession, a marathon has been organised to spread the word on wildlife preservation during the four-day celebrations.
The marathon will start from Bokakhat town and end at Kohora. It will cover a 30km stretch along National Highway 37.
A traditional food festival and an exhibition of handloom and handicraft products will also be held.

manipur School Principals in custody

Imphal, Jan 29 : The court of the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal, today remanded five principals of government higher secondary schools in police custody on charges that they tried to prevent students from taking part in the Republic Day march past.
The principals are Y. Nongallei of C.C. HS School, Ch. Padmabati Devi of T.G. HS School, Y. Ibetombi Devi of the Ibotonsana Girls HS School, S. Khomdonbi Devi of Johnstone HS School and L. Rashi Devi of Ram Lal Paul HS School.
They will be in police custody till January 30 for further interrogation.

Assam all party delegation leaves for Delhi

Assam on Wednesday rushed an eighteen member delegation to visit the Prime Minister at the All India Institute of Medical Science to wish him quick recovery.

Headed by Assam Assembly Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai, the delegatiopm will further call on Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to pressure them to expedite the border sealing work.

Notably, Assam Assembly in its recent winter session, decided raise the issue before the Centre. The team has 8 MLAs of Gautam Roy, Rockybul Hussain along with other opposition leader Chandramohan Patowary.

Guardians hail model schools move

Imphal, January 28 : All Manipur Students' Guardians Organisation has appealed to the State Govt for taking up necessary measures to ensure setting up of the proposed model schools in all the districts in time for the next academic session of 2009-10 .

Addressing a press conference in this connection at its Palace Compound office today, general secretary of the Organization O Yaima observed that the decision of the Govt to set up model schools in all the district of the State with the objective of producing good students is appreciable and it would be better if the students could study in these model schools from the academic session of 2009-01 .

This could be made possible if the Govt selects only those schools which are functioning well, he pointed out.

Working president of the Organsiation N Chaoba noted that for setting up the proposed model schools in all the districts, setting up of a Selection Committee at the earliest possible is essential so as to avoid those selections which are not fit to be converted as model schools.

The schools should be selected only after a through scrutiny by the Selection Committee.

He also informed that the different units of the Organisation at the district level have submitted the list of probable schools which could be converted as model schools.

These include Mukta High School at Moirang in Bishnupur district, Churachandpur High School in Churachandpur district, Serou High School in Thoubal district, Maha Union High School in Chandel district, Motbung High School in Senapati district, Tolloi High School in Ukhrul district, Jiribam Higher Secondary School in Jiribam, Tamenglong Higher Secondary School in Tamenglong district, Eastern Ideal Girls' School at Akampat in Imphal East district and Keishampat Girls' School in Imphal West district.

Chaoba further said that all these schools that have been cited by the All Manipur Students' Guardians' Organsiation have adequate buildings and land of their own and can serve the very purpose of the proposed model schools where the students and their teachers can stay together.

These schools would also face no problem of communication, he added.

It may be recalled here that on January 12, the State Cabinet of the Government recommendeded setting up of a special category English medium Government school in each of the district as model school.

Mathur urges ultras to shun violence

GUWAHATI, Jan 28 – Assam Governor Shiv Charan Mathur, in his Republic Day address, appealed to those involved in insurgency and militancy to shun the path of violence and get involved in a negotiation process within the ambit of the Constitution. “We are committed to bring peace to Assam and shall keep our doors open for dialogue but we will not leave any stone unturned to fight anti-national forces,” he declared.

The Governor in his address at Latasil playground after hoisting the National Flag then spoke on the State’s preparedness to confront extremist violence. He mentioned that 9,000 posts of constables and 256 Sub-Inspectors in the Assam Police have been filled recently, while 45 new police stations have been notified. A new battalion, the 23rd AP (IR), has been raised and another sanctioned, he added.

With reference to the Assam Accord, Mathur, asserted that the Government was committed to its implementation “without causing any harassment to any genuine Indian citizen”. He revealed that the implementation of the NRC was going on and data entry of electoral rolls will soon be completed.

On expected lines the Governor’s address then went to dwell on a string of achievements of the State Government. A revenue surplus of Rs 2,581 crore and a fiscal surplus of Rs 554 crore in 2007-08, he said, indicated better financial consolidation. The annual plan for the current year witnessed increase of Rs 1,200 crore over the previous year that he reasoned would accelerate development.

On the crucial livelihood providing agriculture sector, Mathur alluded to the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana that seeks to rejuvenate agriculture and help achieve a growth rate of 2 per cent by the end of the 11th plan. He also stated that 25,000 ha of additional land have been brought under horticultural crops and there is a proposal to build a storage capacity of 62,000 MT to support horticultural activities.

As in the years before, floods and efforts to mitigate its effects did find mention in the Governor’s speech. He said, “While most of the schemes started for this purpose have been completed, 29 schemes under different sources are nearing completion. With the completion of these schemes, more than 35,000 ha of affected agriculture land will be protected.

Cooperatives and Panchayati Raj Institutions figured in the Governor’s speech along with the status of Self Help Groups. He pointed out that during the current year 15,867 SHGs were formed of which 5,624 were provided with subsidies and bank loans. This has increased the number of SHGs to 1.68 lakh in the Assam.

On the employment front, he stated his government’s efforts in the form of NREGA, Mukhya Mantrir Swaniyojan Achani and Kalpataru scheme. The Government has taken steps to fill up to 64,800 posts of different categories in the Government sector.

The State Government’s efforts in education found place in his speech to some extent. Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, he noted, aims at providing 10,758 additional class rooms and 2,799 girls’ toilets for elementary schools in the State. While new job-oriented courses will be introduced, infrastructure of universities and colleges is being improved, Mathur claimed.

On the area of environment and forests, the State Governor said, “Forest and wildlife are our precious heritage. The population of rhinos in the State has risen consistently to around 2,000 making this a conservation success. We are committed to protect and preserve our natural heritage.”

He informed that the Government has taken measures to improve the power scenario, which include the proposed commissioning of the 37 MW Lakwa Waste Heat Recovery Project this year. Two new thermal power plants of 250 MW capacity each are in the proposal stages, he added.

Commenting that health and welfare of women and children were among the priorities, Mathur said, “institutional delivery and immunisation programmes are our thrust areas”. Over 26,000 Accredited Social Activists (ASHA) have been mobilised towards this end. For the welfare of children, the number of Anganbadi centres in the State will be increased to 50,000.

Regarding the welfare of ST and other backward classes, he revealed that six new development councils for Ahoms, Muttucks, Morans, Koch Rajbongshis, Chutias and Adivasis are being set up, and another for the Gorkhas would follow.

Earlier at 9 am on a cold, cloud-covered day, the Governor unfurled the Tricolour in the presence of dignitaries including Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, and senior police and Army officials. He took the salute from several contingents of Assam Police, CRPF, NCC, scouts and guides. Ganesh Thapa, a deputy superintendent of the Assam Police commanded the Republic day parade.

AIR workshop in Assam

Jan 27,
        The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is holding a two-day workshop on the Regional Consultation on Community Radio Awareness at Guwahati in Assam from Wednesday. The programme has been organized in association with Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University and Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia. It will be inaugurated by the Assam Chief Minister Mr. Tarun Gogoi. The Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Mr. Anand Sharma is likely to attend the workshop as the chief guest.
          AIR Guwahati Correspondent reports that the Sixth Regional Consultation will focus mainly on educational institutions and civil society organization based in the north eastern part of the country.
          Community radio has achieved desired result in empowering the society through its stereo-type knowledge-based programmes. At present, 37 community radio stations licensed to educational institutions are functioning across the country. According to official sources, more such radio stations are coming up in the country very soon.

India hopeful of getting transit with Bangladesh: Aiyar

New Delhi, Jan 28 India is hopeful of resolvinig the problems of transit and access in North East after the taking over of a new government in Bangladesh headed by Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said today.

"As the new government in Bangladesh has won with a landslide victory, we hope some of these problems of transit, trade and access will be substantially resolved,"Aiyar, Minister Development of North- Eastern Region (DONER), said.

" That will alter the whole scenario of economic development in the North-East,"he added while inaugurating the 6th North East Trade Expo-2009 today organized jointly by DONER and National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC).

The 11-day exhibition ( From January 27 to February 6) is showcasing products like handicraft, cane and bamboo materials, floriculture and agro processing items from all the eight states of North-East.

Emphasizing the central government&aposs seriousness for ushering in a new era of development in the North Eastern states, the minister said the central government plans to spend Rs 14 lakh crore in public sector in these states to bring North East at par with rest of India.

To a poser whether the central government gives more attention to Kashmir than North East, the minister quipped"had it been so, I would have been made the minister for Kashmir.

Defunct water supply schemes

PATHSALA, Jan 27 – Several water supply schemes under the PHE Department, Pathsala sub-division have remained inoperative resulting in deprivation of drinking water to the users.

Pub-Khagrabari, Saru Manikpur, Bar Manikpur, Akaya, Saderi, Hudukhata, Bhebla, Jalah, Tukurakuchi and Karhana water supply schemes have allegedly failed to provide drinking water to the villagers.

Nylon bag replaces bamboo basket in tea gardens

JORHAT, Jan 26 : The one enduring image which unfolds in the mind’s eye when one thinks of a tea garden is of a woman carrying a basket on her back with leave-picking hands.

This image is slowly but surely being replaced by the image of women now carrying nylon mesh bags or cloth bags.

The tea planters in the State today prefer the cheaper and long-lasting nylon mesh bags to bamboo baskets.
“Bamboos are costly and the baskets of specific size are not always available when required. Moreover, bamboos too have become a scarce commodity,” said a planter in the district.

“A nylon bag usually lasts a season and sometimes two, whereas the bamboo baskets usually get damaged before that and the bamboos sometimes dry and shrink,” the planter further said.
A source said that the scarcity of bamboo baskets first arose after people of the Hindi-speaking community fled the State in large numbers after being targeted and killed by militants.
“These migrant labourers were mostly engaged in weaving the baskets and after they left we have not been able to keep the supply line going”, the source stated.
He also confirmed that the baskets were costlier by three to four times than that of the nylon bags.
“A nylon bag costs anything between Rs 25 to  Rs 35, but a bamboo basket ranges between Rs 150 to Rs 300, he further said.
Whatever the reason, nylon has won over the eco-friendly bamboo and the image of the tea garden worker carrying her basket will soon be relegated to the realms of memory and history.

Bank to recruit 2,000 employees from assam

DIBRUGARH, Jan 26 : Despite the pressure of global recession, the nationalized Allahabad Bank intends to make fresh appointments of around 2,000 people in the region mostly in the clerical and managerial jobs. This was stated by KK Agarwall, executive director of the bank, at a press meet held recently.

Agarwall stated that all the proposed appointees would be hailing from this State only and justified the bank’s position that such a step will result in better coordination and interaction between the bank employees and the people of the areas surrounding the bank branches. As a banker, he stated, it is good banking sense that such interaction will increase the profit of the bank as well as developed the areas.

On being asked about the effects of the global recession on the bank, Agarwall stated that the effects are minimal. Otherwise, he countered, how is it then the Allahabad Bank is to make 2,000 fresh appointments in these regions. However, he admitted that the volume of foreign business has come down little. He sought to alley the fears of the public stating that the Indian banking system is closely monitored by the Reserve Bank of India.
Agarwall also apprised the mediapersons that the Allahabad Bank will also issue ATM cards to its account holders. Such card holders will be able to have their money in any ATM of other banks without paying any levy. He disclosed that as per RBI instruction no levy will be charged from any transaction made through ATM cards when used in other banks and this will come into effect from February 1 this year.

As for the CBS branches often staying in inoperative because of link failure, Agarwall stated these are but minor trouble and are expected to go away as soon as the system stabilizes.

Assistant  general manager Surajit Chowdhury, chief manager KG Tewari and branch manager Abdul Khaleque were present during the press meet.

Nagaland MP’s house gutted

 KOHIMA, Jan 26 – The private residence of Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland, W Wangyuh and three other houses were completely gutted in a fire that broke out on Wednesday in Chenwetnyu village under Mon district, some 300 km from here.

A delayed report reaching here today said that properties could not be saved from the inferno because the villagers were busy sowing seeds in the field during the incident.

The incident of the fire is reported to be caused by kids playing around with fire. No casualty was reported. The inferno was finally extinguished by the neighbouring villagers who rushed to the spot.

Cattle seized along Indo-Bangla border

 SHILLONG, Jan 26 Border Security Force (BSF) today apprehended a cattle smuggler and seized cattle that were being smuggled into Bangladesh from Assam and Meghalaya, sources said.

Around 73 cattle worth Rs 12 lakh were seized along the border in Assam’s Dhubri district while another 25 cattle were seized in the Dona area of Jaintia Hills district in Meghalaya.

Has freedom served its purpose?

GUWAHATI, Jan 26 As the clock strikes seven in the morning of January 26, Kamakhya Das would celebrate Republic Day, and recall ‘Swadhinata Diwas’ at the same time. The freedom fighter, aged 91, had after all observed it as Independence Day, before India achieved her sovereignty in 1947. Speaking to The Assam Tribune today at his residence, Das revealed that from the time of the Lahore Congress in 1929, those involved in the freedom struggle had strengthened their resolve every year on January 26. It was only after India became independent on August 15 and adopted the Constitution that January 26 became designated as Republic Day.

The freedom fighter who had met Mahatma Gandhi on several occasions, however, is enveloped in sadness when he ponders over the gains of freedom. On the eve of Republic Day, he thinks aloud: “Does the present situation in the state justify the great sacrifice scores of people made for a greater destiny?”

Still, Republic Day is a special occasion for him, as it provides an opportunity to relive a fantastic slice of history. A time to think of brave people and their selfless deeds.

In his view, present circumstances in Assam and in some other parts of the country are a far cry from what their generation had aspired for. “It is certainly a deviation from Gandhiji’s dreams.”

Mahatma Gandhi had strived for emancipation of Indians in a unique way; he wanted gram swaraj, empowerment of women, non-violence, and morality in politics, among others. Have any one of those been achieved?

Instead, violence, corruption and intolerance have become synonymous with India. Noble ideals have gradually been sidelined.

In the case of Assam, there was a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was not that marked. Today, it is just the opposite. The self-sufficiency of the Assamese village is merely a distant memory.

Yet, the president of All India Freedom Fighters’ Association remains a believer in change and progress. And he believes that change must come from the youth. “I have great faith in young men and women that they would overcome fear and hatred, and strive to set society free from the evils which confront us today,” he mentioned.

He hoped that peace would return to the land that was known for harmony and tolerance till only a few decades ago. “I am sure that in the not too distant future Gandhiji’s ideals would find favour in our region, a place that he loved and held in high regard...”

Border row over river project

Silchar, Jan 26 : Work on a construction project on the bank of Kushiara in Karimganj that was stalled by a posse of Bangladesh Rifles personnel yesterday, resumed today following intervention by the BSF.
The district headquarters town of Karimganj, in fact, is located opposite the Bangladesh subdivisional town of Jakiganj.
Trouble began around noon yesterday when the BDR men arrived on Bangladesh’s side of the Kushiara in a speedboat and raised objections regarding the construction on the Indian side, taken up by the Karimganj municipality.
BSF personnel promptly reached the Kushiara bank and asked their counterparts in the BDR not to whip up tension with their “unnecessary and uncalled for interference”.
A BDR team arrived midstream again after two hours and began protesting against the riverbank construction, triggering a round of altercation with the BSF.
After some time, the Indian forces pulled out, unwilling to take the dispute any further.
But tension was finally defused after a senior BSF commander warned his Bangladesh counterparts over loudspeakers in late afternoon that Indian authorities would not brook any interference regarding constructions on the Indian side.
A source said the “threat” worked and the BDR men walked back to their barracks.
The BDR’s objections regarding the construction along Kushiara were based on fears that any riverbank fortification in India could lead to erosion on the Bangladesh side near Jakiganj town. The Rs 24-lakh project aims at preventing erosion in Karimganj.
BSF sources today said the personnel were keeping a watch and would not allow any interference with work on Indian soil.

IAS official suspended for remaining absent from duty in Manipur

Imphal , Jan 26 The Manipur government has suspended Deputy Commissioner of Tamenlong district Devesh Deval for"frequently remaining absent"from duty.

In the suspension order on January 24, the authorities cited"indiscipline and frequent absenteeism from duty"without securing proper leave as the factors behind the decision, official sources said today.

Deval was not in the station when the suspension order was issued.

Bangladeshi Aliens deported, but no decision on divided family

New Delhi, Jan 14 At least 82 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were deported by authorities even as there was no decision on a Bangladeshi woman who faces a cruel separation from her Indian husband and elder son.
According to the highly placed sources in the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO), which keeps an eye over illegal immigrants, 82 such aliens from Bangladesh were put on the Brahamputra Express to Malda in West Bengal Tuesday 8.30 p.m. before being pushed across the border.
However, the train did not carry Bangladeshi national Salma and her three-year-old son Bismillah, who was born in India but according to the Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 is not an Indian citizen, who now faces separation from her Indian husband Mohammad Khalid and their elder son Yasin.

Yasin, 5, is an Indian citizen. According to the Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 those born in India on or after 2003 are recognised Indian citizens only if one of the parents is an Indian citizen and the other parent should not be an “illegal migrant”.

“We have not put Seema and her son on the train. The matter is still being investigated,” a senior FRRO official told IANS.

Auto rickshaw driver Khalid his wife Seema along with their neighbour Malti Patra were picked up by the northeast Delhi Police from their Faridabad, a satellite town on the outskirts of the national capital, house Jan 6.

Patra was released later after she was found to be an Indian citizen. The police also released Khalid, allegedly to arrange for bribe money to have his family released.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (northeast Delhi) S.S. Yadav said they have launched an investigation into Khalid’s allegations. Khalid and his elder son Yasin were also let off later after he managed to produce evidence of being an Indian citizen.

But Delhi Police then handed over his wife and younger son to FRRO for their deportation.

Khalid has not been allowed to meet his family. With all doors being slammed on him, Khalid has now decided to go to Kolkata to unite with his family.

“They have not informed me when my wife and son would be deported. So I am going there in advance to check whether they have arrived in Kolkata,” he told a newspaper.

According to FFRO officials, inquiry in their case is still pending and deportation of illegal aliens was done only in batches of at least 60 people.

“Usually Bangladeshis are sent in a week or two week time from Delhi to West Bengal,” said the officer.

Government sends additional 22 CRPF Companies to Assam

New Delhi, Jan 14 : The Centre today sent over 2000 additional CRPF personnel to Assam in view of the sensitive security situation prevailing in the state, especially in the run-up to the Republic Day celebrations.

" Twenty-two additional companies of the CRPF are being sent to Assam in view of the security situation during Republic Day celebrations in the state,"a home ministry official said.

With this, the presence of the force in the state would increase to 142 Companies (approx. 14,200 personnel), the official said.

The security situation in Assam has been declared as"sensitive"by central security agencies as the state in the last few months witnessed a series of blasts.

Serial blasts rocked the state on October 30 last year, killing 80 people.

Five persons were killed and fifty injured when three bomb blasts shook the state on January one.

The blasts occurred hours before Home Minister P Chidambaram arrived to review the security situation in the state.

The state witnessed the next horror on January 9 when a blast in Maligaon left three persons dead and seven others injured.

Chargesheet filed against Australian doc in paedophilia case Bhubaneswar, Mon, 12 Jan 2009 NI Wire Two months after a paedophilia case hogged the limelight in Puri district; Orissa police has filed a charge sheet against the accused — a 65-year-old Australian doctor, officials said on Monday. The doctor was arrested on accusation of alleged sexual harassment of 11 boys of an orphanage and had been sent to a judicial custody. * E-mail Article * Printer Friendly * Text-Size Alan Herbert Rose alias Paul Allen, an eye surgeon, was arrested on Nov 12 last year after the founder of the orphanage, Mary Ellen, lodged a complaint against the accused on Nov 5. The local court had rejected the bail plea of the doctor. According to local police, they have enough evidence against the doctor who was working as custodian of the children living in an orphanage run by Mary Ellen Gerber Foundation, a non-government organization. With allegation that Paul Allen was sexually abusing the orphans, Debi Prasad Dash, the inspector in-charge of Puri Sadar police station, told IANS, ‘A charge-sheet was filed in the court of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate on Saturday against the Australian who had been continuously assaulting the boys aged 14-18 over the past five years.’ The non-profit foundation runs a number of orphanages in India and abroad. For the doctor’s identity, it has been discovered that he belongs to Bunbury in West Australia, and was working in the orphanage since its inception in 2002. Local police also informed that Paul Allen didn’t have valid legal documents for his stay in India. He has been charged under various acts for sexually assault and harassment of minor, criminal conspiracy, and violating the Foreigners' Act. As per a report published on November 14, 2008, the accused is also facing similar charges in the neighbouring state, Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, the doctor lodged in Puri district jail is moving to Orissa High Court for bail but the police are trying to furnish all details to corroborate the sexual charges against the doctor. If convicted, the doctor will have to serve up to 10 years in prison.

Bhubaneswar, Jan 14: Two months after a paedophilia case hogged the limelight in Puri district; Orissa police has filed a charge sheet against the accused — a 65-year-old Australian doctor, officials said on Monday. The doctor was arrested on accusation of alleged sexual harassment of 11 boys of an orphanage and had been sent to a judicial custody.
Alan Herbert Rose alias Paul Allen, an eye surgeon, was arrested on Nov 12 last year after the founder of the orphanage, Mary Ellen, lodged a complaint against the accused on Nov 5. The local court had rejected the bail plea of the doctor.

According to local police, they have enough evidence against the doctor who was working as custodian of the children living in an orphanage run by Mary Ellen Gerber Foundation, a non-government organization.

With allegation that Paul Allen was sexually abusing the orphans, Debi Prasad Dash, the inspector in-charge of Puri Sadar police station, told IANS, ‘A charge-sheet was filed in the court of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate on Saturday against the Australian who had been continuously assaulting the boys aged 14-18 over the past five years.’

The non-profit foundation runs a number of orphanages in India and abroad. For the doctor’s identity, it has been discovered that he belongs to Bunbury in West Australia, and was working in the orphanage since its inception in 2002.

Local police also informed that Paul Allen didn’t have valid legal documents for his stay in India. He has been charged under various acts for sexually assault and harassment of minor, criminal conspiracy, and violating the Foreigners' Act.

As per a report published on November 14, 2008, the accused is also facing similar charges in the neighbouring state, Andhra Pradesh.

Meanwhile, the doctor lodged in Puri district jail is moving to Orissa High Court for bail but the police are trying to furnish all details to corroborate the sexual charges against the doctor. If convicted, the doctor will have to serve up to 10 years in prison.

Housing scam: plot thickens

The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police today said the contentious application forms of the Jhunjhunu residents for DDA's housing scheme 2008 were "channeled through a particular branch of a private bank". Investigations have revealed accused Deepak Kumar (arrested) along with Suresh Kumar Meena (absconding) had filled forms of at least 700 people, mostly from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan and also from northeast India.
A bank in northwest Delhi processed all the forms, police said. EOW said they would also probe general category allottees.

A senior police officer confirmed the fraud could not have taken place without the connivance of DDA officials. "The idea to apply in the reserved category could have been floated only by insiders, i.
e., DDA officials," said the officer.

Police said Meena had pumped in Rs 35 lakh for filling forms on behalf of Jhunjhunu residents . "We would be interrogating the bank's loan official who processed the forms and cannot rule out their involvement," said the officer.

Police conducted searches at Meena's office and residence but could not trace him. Deepak Kumar, the whistleblower, arrested on Sunday, named a DDA official during interrogation.

An EOW team visited DDA headquarters to collect records of present and former employees. "We searched Kumar's Janakpuri office and recovered certain documents, which are being verified.

Kumar will be taken to Jhunjhunu to identify others involved," said the officer. Police said they were also examining call records of Laxmi Narayan Meena, a former bank employee and local politician who's already been arrested, and Kumar to check whether they had been in touch with DDA officials.

Mahindra and Mahindra Limited launches 'The Xylo'

Chennai, Jan 14  India's top utility vehicle maker, Mahindra and Mahindra Limited unveiled its latest model of multi-purpose vehicle, named Xylo in Chennai on Tuesday.

At a well-attended function, it was launched with an introductory price tag of 6,24,500 rupees. The Xylo would target customers from entry level to upper segment of the cars. The vehicle manufacturers hope that the ongoing global recession would not have any impact on the sale of the product.

Some like it loud, some quiet

Uruka in full swing in towns and villages
Guwahati/Dibrugarh, Jan 14 : Flames from bonfires leapt into the skies as Magh Bihu festivities began across the state tonight with traditional community feasts and singing and dancing to Bollywood tunes.
Though a large number of towering mejis and elegant bhelaghars no longer dot the city in a manner they did a decade back, the younger generation tried to organise community feasts. Some bhelaghars were built on the outskirts such as Sonapur, Chandrapur, Jalukbari and Garigaon.
Rows and rows of mejis were also lit along the banks of the Brahmaputra in Uzan Bazar and Kharghuli in Guwahati. But there were many who preferred to celebrate the night indoors in the company of friends and family.
Pranjal Mahanta, a city-based orthopaedic, said he stayed home as he was on call.
Governor Shiv Charan Mathur and chief minister Tarun Gogoi wished the people on the occasion but did not forget to remind them about being vigilant. Gogoi in his Bihu greetings said: “This is a time for reflecting on how violence has affected this peaceful state and our lives. I appeal to you all to please cooperate and help make Assam a peaceful and safe state.”
Mathur, on the other hand, wished that with the strength of character and infallible will, “we shall acquire the three facets of success — purity of mind, patience and perseverance”.
The revelry began quite early in the day. With markets chock-a-block with last-minute shoppers, prices of all items — fish, chicken, mutton, duck, pork — that make the feasts, soared. The riverside fish market at Uzan Bazar looked like a mela with hundreds of Guwahatians thronging to buy the freshest.
The rush was such that policemen had to be deployed to maintain order. The prices of fish such as rohu, borali, chital and bhokua soared. The situation was similar at Ulubari, Beltola and Ganeshguri.
“I purchased a chitol (fish) at Rs 550 a kg but did not mind paying so much since uruka comes only once a year. I then bought a duck,” said Prasanta Dowerah, a government employee, at the riverside fish market.
Traffic ground to a halt on the stretch of GNB Road at Ambari since morning as a large number of people dropped in at NEDFi Haat to buy Bihu delicacies.
“Being the last day of pre-Bhogali mela at NEDFi Haat, the rush was more. The footfall since Saturday was around one lakh,” a NEDFi official said.
In Upper Assam, villagers in Tinsukia district’s Kakopathar celebrated Bihu in a traditional manner. While the men fetched firewood to light the sacred meji, the women made pitha, pona and other traditional delicacies.
“My friends and I made the meji and prepared a feast for 60 people. The menu included duck, mutton and borali fish,” said Mineswar Tamuli, a youth of 1 Dirak village.
In other towns, people preferred to spend the night with family and friends. “We made the delicacies ourselves and did not buy from outside,” said Paromita Kalita, a housewife in Sivasagar town.

Japan Bank gives Rs 1,200-cr loan for GMDA scheme

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The State is receiving a loan of around Rs 1,200 crore from the Japan Bank for a drinking water scheme for the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Area. The State will have to repay only Rs 180 crore of the loan from a Japan Bank, while the Central Government will bear the burden of Rs 1,080 crore of the loan. The total amount the State will get for the purpose will stand at around Rs 1,500 crore, if the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) allocation for the purpose is also taken into account.

The conditions for getting the JNNURM and Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which is now known as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan are—there should be a single authority to manage the scheme, the board of the authority – Guwahati Metropolitan Drinking Water and Sewerage Board – should be run by an IAS officer as the managing director – the functional head of the Board.

The State would have to pay interest at the rate of 1.2 per cent on its loan share, said Guwahati Development Department (GDD) Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the State Assembly today. He was replying to a debate on The Guwahati Metropolitan Drinking Water and Sewerage Board Bill, 2009.

He also informed the House that the State Government had also proposed to earmark an amount of Rs 16 crore to acquire the land in and outside the Ramsar site wetland Deepor Beel to free it from pollution.

The Government is also going for a sewage treatment plant for the city. This will help recycling most of the used water for various purposes. Sewage generated by the city will not be released to the wetlands and other water bodies of the city where even the ground water is facing the threat of contamination. The Government has prepared a detailed project report (DPR) for the purpose and the Japan Bank has shown interest to finance this project too, he said.

Opposing the suggestion of the Opposition members like Dr Alaka Sarma (AGP), Dr Aditya Langthasa (AUDF) and Uddhav Barman (CPI-M) to send the bill to the select committee, he said that it would delay the entire process of securing the Japan Bank loan. Many states are hankering after the loan. If the bill is sent to the select committee, this may send a wrong signal to the Government and this will finally deprive the State of the said loan, said the Minister.

Agencies like the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), North Guwahati Municipality and Panchayats of the Azara-Dharapur areas are sought to be amalgamated to create the new authority for running the scheme, as per the suggestions of the MLAs of the Greater Guwahati area, he said.

He, however, accepted a suggestion of Dr Sarma to induct a representative from the State Pollution Control Board in the authority, but, in a later phase.

Commenting on the water tax proposed in the bill, the Minister said that the amount of tax would be determined by the board proposed to run the scheme as per the approval of a regulatory body—Guwahati Water Regulatory Authority. This body will include a representative from the consumers. If more representatives of the consumers are required to be inducted into this authority that would also be done with the approval of the Finance Department, he said.

To enter into any contracts with any agency on water supply etc, he said, only the board had been authorised, he said.

Pranab Kalita (Independent) also took part in the discussion suggesting several amendments. But Dr Sarma and Kalita withdrew their suggestions and the House passed the bill through a voice vote.

Centre to step up anti-ULFA operations

NEW DELHI, Jan 13 – Angered by the growing belligerence of outlawed ULFA, the Centre today decided to further intensify operations against the outfit, shoving the peace talk process into the cold storage for now.

The Centre has firmed up plans to go after the ULFA, at a high-level security review meeting on Assam chaired by Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram here today.

The meeting attended by National Security Adviser, MK Narayanan, Union Home Secretary, Madhukar Gupta, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Director, Intelligence Bureau, Directors General of Border Security Force (BSF), Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) and CRPF, among others.

Besides, Inspectors General (IGs) of various Central Forces operating in Assam, including chief of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps also joined the meeting. DGP, Assam Police, GM Srivastava, secretary, Home, Rajiv Bora and IGP Special Branch, Khagen Sarma represented Assam Government.

Stung by the series of blasts in Assam, Chidambaram left none in doubt that gone are the days of soft approach to ULFA. The militant outfit is now likely to face renewed heat from security forces. The officials were told that violence in Assam leading to losses of life and property was totally unacceptable.

After lying low for a while after the surrender by its crack 28th Battalion, ULFA has unleashed fresh round of violence including the serial blasts in Assam on October 31 and January1 before rounding it up by another blast last week in Guwahati.

Unhappy as it is with the lack of initiative with the Assam Police, the Home Ministry has also prodded it to swing into action to take on ULFA head on. The swift action to neutralise the perpetrators of the recent blasts by the local police was also noted.

Apart from sustained operations against ULFA, whose lower Assam-based 709 Battalion is now likely to come on cross-hair of the security agency, the meeting today decided to plug the gaps and escape routes.

Security Forces particularly BSF and SSB have been asked to step up vigil along the international border with Bangladesh and Bhutan to seal the escape routes, sources said.

Sources said that the meeting discussed the entire gamut of security issues ranging from militancy in Brahmaputra Valley to stalling of the national projects in North Cachar Hills.

Another significant decision was that the security forces have been asked to crack down on extortions. Assam Police has been asked to beef up intelligence gathering and mount anti-extortion drives in the State.

This came after Centre received reports of massive extortions in the State by not only ULFA but also those outfits with which the government has ceasefire pacts.

The security forces are also expected to mount special operations in NC Hills where a number of development projects including the gauge-conversion project, East-West corridor have been hit.

The Centre is also yet to take a final decision on the plea of the DHD (J) to sign a ceasefire pact. Though Assam Government is keen on signing such an agreement, the Centre is reluctant and has instead advised the State Government to crack down on the militants with the high level of forces deployed in the Hill district.

Meanwhile, the meeting also deliberated on the reports of influx of jehadi elements from Bangladesh. With the Home Minister yesterday seeking to send a tough message on illegal influx, the BSF is now likely to step up vigil along the international border.

Sources said that today’s meeting was follow up action of the review meeting at Guwahati, which was chaired by the Home Minister.

Assam has become a focus area for the new Home Minister and the spate of blasts in the State has opened Centre’s eye, said sources.

The Home Ministry has already announced plans to set up a regional security coordination centre at Guwahati for the North-east to boost intelligence sharing mechanism among the North Eastern States.

Sources said that the entire North-east has been accorded top priority, with the Home Minister proposing to visit all the States in the Region to understand the problems of each of the eight States.

ULFA, NDFB active in State: Govt

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) are carrying out subversive activities in Assam under the influence of foreign powers and the top leaders of the outfit are staying abroad, said Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain, who was replying to questions by Chandra Mohan Patowary and Keshab Mahanta of the AGP in the state Assembly today.

Hussain, who was replying on behalf of the Chief Minister, said the Government has already entrusted the job of investigating into the serial blasts in the state on October 30 to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). He said that the investigations by the police found involvement of NDFB chairman Ranjan Daimary and a few other members of the outfit.

“As Ranjan is in Bangladesh and is maintaining close links with ULFA commander in chief Paresh Baruah and Islamic militant outfits like the HUJI, the police suspects involvement of those outfits in the blasts,” he added.

Hussain said that the Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to deal with insurgents. He said that sustained operations against the insurgents are continuing while, the Government has also kept its doors open for talks. He said that efforts are also on to bring back the militants to the mainstream and to rehabilitate them.

The Minister informed the House that steps have been taken to prevent movement of militants to Bangladesh and Bhutan with deployment of BSF and SSB along the borders with the countries. He revealed that the counter-insurgency operations paid dividends as last year 124 militants were killed and more than 1300 were nabbed. The security forces also recovered 203 bombs and 202 grenades.

Hussain said that eight militant groups are active in the state. These are- ULFA, KLNLF, DHD(J), AANLA, KRA, HUM, MULTA and HMC(D). He said that activities of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were also noticed in the State and 11 suspected ISI operatives and agents were arrested. However, of them, eight were released and two are in jail, while, one managed to escape from West Bengal. One Harkat ul Mujaahideen activist Nurul Amin managed to escape from Guwahati medical college hospital.

In reply to a question by Ramendra Narayan Kalita (AGP), the Minister said that during the period from 2001 to 2008, as many as 406 persons were killed and 3248 were injured in bomb blasts in the State. He said that as many as 1345 persons were killed by militants and 355 were abducted.

Giving an account of the crime graph, Hussain said that during the same period, the state recorded 48630 theft, 2978 dacoity and 8452 vehicle theft cases. He said that 637 dowry death cases were reported during the same period, while, 317 persons lost their lives in ethnic clashes.

Kokrajhar varsity Bill passed

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The State Assembly today passed the Bodoland University Bill, 2009 which is meant to set up a teaching and affiliating university at Kokrajhar in the Bodoland Territorial Administrative District (BTAD) area.

The statement of objects of the bill stated that the State Government decided in principle to upgrade the campus Gauhati University at Kokrajhar into a full-fledged separate university.

Replying to the debate on the bill, Education Minister Gautam Bora said that the bill was drafted in line with the legislations prepared for the universities of Gauhati University and Dibrugarh.

The academic council of the university will determine the area of its academic focus, said the Minister.

The Assembly also passed The Assam Entry Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Assam Taxation (Liquidation of Arrear Dues) (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Assam Professions, Trades, Callings and Employments Taxation (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Assam Taxation (On Specified Lands) (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Assam Agricultural Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Assam Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Assam Amusements and Betting Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Registration (Assam Amendment) Bill, 2009.

Floodlights along border fencing, BOPs increased

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The threat posed to the security of the nation by illegal migration from Bangladesh dominated the proceedings of the Question Hour in the State Assembly today and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi sought the cooperation of all sections of people including the political parties to deal with the problem. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Chandra Mohan Patowary pointed out to news reports that Bangladesh Government was spending huge sums of money to teach Assamese language to students in a bid to encourage fresh infiltration to Assam.

The question was raised by independent legislator Pranab Kalita and legislators of both ruling and opposition parties took part in the discussions that followed. The Chief Minister admitted that illegal migration is a matter of serious concern and said that the Government was taking all possible measures to check the menace. He said that cooperation of all sections of people including the political parties is required to deal with the problem. He said that all the legislators should help the Government in identifying suspected illegal migrants in their respective constituencies. However, at the same time, he lamented that most people preferred to stay away from the district and police station-level committees constituted by the Government for detection of foreigners.

The Chief Minister said that the Government is planning to make birth and death registration mandatory, while, process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951 is on. He sought the opinion of the House on whether identity cards could be given to the citizens of Assam even before the process of updating the NRC is completed to reduce fresh infiltration. However, this suggestion was turned down by the Opposition members.

Gogoi further alleged that the AGP Government did not take any positive step to seal the Indo-Bangla border and only the present Government took up the issue seriously with the Centre. He said that the number of tribunals has been increased to expedite the process of identification of foreigners.

Earlier, raising the question, Pranab Kalita alleged that the Government was protecting the Bangladeshi nationals and certain of his remarks, which were expunged by the Speaker brought angry reactions from the ruling party members.

Chandra Mohan Patowary assured that the AGP would extend all support to the Government to deal with the problem of illegal migration. He said that according to reports, the Government of Bangladesh is spending 15 million Dollars to teach Assamese to students to encourage infiltration to Assam and a reward is given to anyone who helps Bangladeshi nationals to sneak into India. He said that during the tenure of the AGP Government in the State, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act was a major hurdle in the way of detection and deportation of foreigners, but the Act was scrapped by the Supreme Court following a case filed by AGP MP Sarbananda Sonowal.

Jiten Gogoi (Ind) said that even after spending crores of Rupees, the border with Bangladesh has not been sealed.

Girindra Kumar Baruah (AGP) pointed out that even the Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram admitted the threat posed by illegal migration. He said that a small country like Bhutan disfranchised more than one lakh Nepali citizens and started the process of deporting them. It is unfortunate that a country like India has not been able to deport the foreigners living illegally in the country.

Drupab Borgohain (CPI) said that identity cards to the citizens should be given only after updating the NRC.

The Forest Minister, Rockybul Hussain informed the State Assembly that from time to time, the State Government has been taking up the issue with the Centre and central teams visited Indo-Bangla border 14 times during the period from 2001 to 2008. The Chief Minister and Union Home Minister visited the border in 2006 to assess the situation on the ground and the State Government would welcome a visit by the Prime Minister. He also said that during January to November last year, as many as 2870 Bangladeshi nationals were nabbed by the police.

Hussain said that because of the efforts of the State Government, the fencing constructed along the international border in the first phase is being replaced with better quality fencing and the Centre also agreed to install floodlights along the fencing. The number of border outposts of the BSF has also been increased, he added.

Indo-Kazakh trade, IT ties set to get major boost during Nazarbayev’s state visit

By Ashok Dixit

With just about a fortnight left for the state visit to India of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, bilateral ties between the two countries is being firmed up not only in the crucial energy sector, but also in non-energy sectors.

Disclosing this in an exclusive interview to ANI Thursday evening, Zhanar S. Aitzhanova, Kazakhstan’s Vice Minister of Industry and Trade and her country’s chief negotiator at World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession negotiations, confirmed that Kazakhstan has sought India’s assistance in setting up of industrial clusters in textiles, besides cooperation in areas of hi-technology and financial services.

Aitzhanova, who arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday and is returning to Astana today, revealed that her talks with Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh and Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai on Thursday had been “very positive” on the above issues, as also on the issue of raising the level of cooperation in the energy sector.

She also said that in the wake of India getting clearance from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to conduct civilian nuclear commerce with other countries, Kazakhstan, which possesses the second largest uranium reserves in the world after Australia, is actively considering a proposal to offer uranium to India.

When asked whether there were any obstacles from the Indian side to Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO, Aitzhanova told ANI: “We (Kazakhstan) have completed bilateral (WTO-related) talks with 22 countries so far.

We have four countries left - India, the United States, the European Union (which has 27 member states) and Saudi Arabia (which is a new entrant).

India has been very positive and fully supports our endeavor for accession to the WTO. We are very much looking forward to bilateral relations between India and Kazakhstan being further strengthened during the forthcoming visit of our President Nursultan Nazarbayev (between January 23 and 26).”

While accepting India’s need for energy security, and the significant role that Kazakhstan could and is playing in this regard, Minister Aitzhanova said a “key long-term” goal of her country’s bid for accession to the WTO was “diversification of the economy” and introduction of a “liberal regulatory framework” in the services sector.

She revealed that the Kazakhstan Government is actively reforming its economic policies as per existing WTO guidelines, and has “intensified negotiations with other countries in the last three to four years.”

The country, she said, is enjoying an annual GDP growth of between nine to ten percent (aggregate GDP pegged at 135 billion USD), and has so far attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) of 72 billion US dollars.

To emphasize how this robust growth is benefiting the people of Kazakhstan, Aitzhanova said that among the 15 former Soviet states (Now known as CIS), “Kazakhstan enjoys the highest FDI per capita (about 8000 USD)”, and added that 80 percent of the FDI attraction is due to the country’s “open economic policies and its decision to explore external economic interaction beyond CIS boundaries”.

In the context of trade ties with India, she told ANI that a sign of progress could be seen in the fact that in 2004, trade between the two countries was valued at 80 million dollars, and by the first ten months of 2008, this had gone up to a mammoth 232 million dollars. Of this, she said oil and allied exports have contributed 100 million dollars, asbestos has contributed 15 million dollars and metal exports have contributed 20 million dollars.

Talks between the two governments were now focused on cooperation in the agricultural/dairy sector, medicine and health-related accessories, meat products, textiles and information technology-related skills and services, Aitzhanova added.

She said that during the forthcoming visit of President Nazarbayev, India and Kazakstan would be signing three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), including one on bilateral cooperation on technical standards and services, an agreement for the protection of intellectual property rights and geographical indications (GI) for products such as Basmati Rice, Alphonso Mangoes and Darjeeling Tea.

“We have had very fruitful, constructive and mutually beneficial discussions today (Thursday). No problems between the two countries on terms of trade and economic cooperation We are discussing terms under which qualified specialists from India will be providing services in Kazakhstan. Both countries and their respective governments are in agreement over recognizing safety standards on technical regulations for products that are imported from India to Kazakhstan and from Kazakhstan to India,” said Aitzhanova

“We have agreed on future cooperation in various fields like textile products, textile companies to visit India. We also have talked about cooperation in the IT sector, and we have agreed to an Indian proposal to set up an IT training school in Kazakstan, as we believe that foundations and skills have to be taught first before they can applied to larger schemes. We will also be signing an agreement on concession on services, where we will be stipulating very clearly terms under which Indian companies can provide their services, particularly in interesting spheres like IT, construction and architecture. We hope and look forward to concrete outcomes of these negotiations, and they are taking place these days, and will continue during the visit,” she added.

She concluded by saying that Kazakhstan is keen to give Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, as it sees New Delhi as a close ally and an emerging economic giant. (ANI)

Railway peon hangs self

Maligaon blast trauma may have prompted rail worker to commit suicide
Guwahati, Jan 11 : The death of railway employee Dhiren Kumar Kakoty in last evening’s blast was followed by a suicide at the Northeast Frontier Railway headquarters at Maligaon.
There was no suicide note, but those who knew Manoj Prashad Rai, 25, a bungalow peon at the residence of railway doctor Anjan Saikia, feel a visit to the blast site could have traumatised him into taking his own life.
Manoj returned to the outhouse — where he used to stay — around 8pm yesterday. Half an hour later he was found hanging by Saikia’s young sons, Ronnie, 8 and Bonnie, 9.
“I cannot say if Manoj committed suicide because of the shock he went through after visiting the blast site. But he was a very caring and gentle soul who always avoided violence. He did not watch TV channels when there were news of blasts and killings,” Saikia said.
He said that Rai hanged himself with a dog’s leash from the ceiling of the outhouse. The Saikias have three pet dogs.
The youngest of six siblings, Manoj was recently appointed as a regular railway employee.
“His father, Phulen Prashad Rai, was a gardener at my residence and Manoj had lived with me since childhood,” Saikia said.
Yesterday, Manoj drove Saikia’s wife from Railway Officers’ Club to the bungalow when the blast took place about 200 metres from the doctor’s official residence.
“He parked the car in the garage and then went to the blast site. He returned an hour- and-a-half later and immediately went to his room,” Saikia said.
Manoj was popular with the teachers and the students of Skylark Public School owned by the Saikias in Maligaon.
Manoj’s elder brother, Gopal, said he was happy with his job.
A police officer at Jalukbari said preliminary investigations had revealed that it was a case of suicide. “We have registered a case of unnatural death. Investigations are on,” he added.

Assam gets more teeth to curb terror

GUWAHATI: Stung by frequent terror attacks, the assembly on Saturday passed the Assam Preventive Detention (Amendment) Bill, 2009, allowing the government to detain any person for two years if he or she poses a threat to security.

The amendment was made to the Section 13 of the Act framed in 1980. The Act until now allowed preventive detention of a person for only six months. The Bill will be sent to President Pratibha Patil for assent.

Forest minister Rockybul Hussain moved the motion on behalf of chief minister Tarun Gogoi. He said though security forces arrest insurgents, they "manage to get bail and continue with their subversive activities''.

Hussain said the two-year detention period would help police gather evidence against an arrested person. He added that there were enough safeguards in the Bill to prevent human rights violations.

Assam United Democratic Front legislator Athahur Rahman Majar Bhuyan opposed the passage of the Bill saying the six-month detention period was "good enough'' and there was no need for the amendment.

He, however, withdrew his opposition after the state government said the Act would not be misused.

Taking part in the debate, AGP legislator Keshav Mahanta and BJP leader Mission Ranjan Das asked the government to assure the House that there would be no misuse of the Act.

Indira Gandhi museum turns an educational centre

MYSORE: The renowned national museum— the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) in Mysore— dedicated to propagating Indian art and culture, after seven years, has literally transformed into an educational centre for India's traditions, with numerous art works on display.

Set up in October 2001 by the ministry of tourism and culture, with a mission to preserve traditional paintings and art forms, folk arts, tribal art and craft, IGRMS, which is the Southern region centre located at Wellington House on Irwin Road, is realizing its dream by holding various workshops, seminars, cultural and education programmes, to introduce and promote the richness of Indian culture among the locals.

Several education programmes like embroidery works of Gujarat, Madhubani painting of Bihar, Nimadi painting of Madhya Pradesh, Patachitra of Orissa and Zardosi works of Madhya Pradesh, were held, covering all the Indian states, in 2008. Over 300 persons here have benefited from the 10-day education programmes.

In the previous year, an open air exhibition— "Janapada Kathe"— on folk beliefs of India, was organized in which artists from different states worked on their folk stories and displayed their works permanently at the Wellington premises. The outdoor exhibition is an added attraction to the museum as it is drawing visitors, including foreigners every day.

The display of art works, such as, iron and other murals, paintings, terracotta works, stone sculptures and photographs, tells the story of local traditions and rituals practised by people in a particular area, including the tribals. With all these, IGRMS is turning out to be an educational centre on Indian society.

"Ghotul" or the youth dormitory of the Muria tribal people (Bastar, Chattisgarh), a traditional institution for learning music, dance, and games, is depicted in the iron mural. Lillari Kothi of Madhya Pradesh has an interesting story. Inspired by an anthill, the Gond tribal women made the Kothi (mud granary) to store the grain safely. The depiction of snakes in the Kothi, indicates that snakes are allowed to stay inside the granary as it brings health and prosperity to the family and also prevents rats. Almost every member of the Gond community has a granary. There are also terracotta works from Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar, displayed at the out-door expo.

IGRMS in-charge officer Vijaymohan told this correspondent that they conduct workshops, seminars and cultural events, regularly to preserve and revitalize India's rich cultural traditions. IGRMS was conceived as a museum to highlight India ancient and rich heritage through its initiatives, such as, education programmes under the "Do and Learn" series, cultural performances and exhibitions on various indigenous ways of life and practices and educate people.

"Our goal is to create a general awareness among the people on the validity of different local art forms across India. This also boosts the morale of traditional artisans in the country," he added.

Amguri thermal plant to be functional by ’11

GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – Industry and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bardoloi today told the Assembly that the State Government was committed to make the 750-MW Amguri thermal plant functional by 2011.

prepare a DPR, agreement would be made with OIL and ONGC for supply of gas. Citing gas linkage as a constraint, Bardoloi said that the problem should ease with the discovery of a new gas field of OIL near the site and that a gas pricing negotiating committee had been formed for ensuring that the project did not lose its cost-effectiveness following the escalation in the prices of gas.

Earlier, AGP legislator Pradip Hazarika said that the project, conceived under the Assam Accord of 1985, was languishing even after the Centre had cleared the decks due to the apathy of the State Government.

No OIL survey in Brahmaputra

GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – Forest and Tourism Minister Rockybul Hussain today said that Oil India Ltd (OIL) had not conducted any drilling or survey so far in and around the Brahmaputra river, and therefore, there was no question of any damage caused to the river ecology or the environment.

Replying to a question from AGP legislator Girindra Baruah at the Assembly, Hussain said that OIL wanted to explore the prospects of oil and natural gas on the Brahmaputra and adjoining areas but drilling was not on its agenda.

He said that no new NoC was given to OIL by the Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) after it had sought for a second NoC as it could not start its work on time after getting the first NoC on February 2, 2000. When it sought the new NoC, the PCBA conducted a public hearing in Dibrugarh on October 30, 2006 after obtaining a report from OIL on the possible adverse effects from the proposed exploration.

Besides, the Minister said, the Gauhati High Court had asked OIL to abide by the recommendations of the Multi-Disciplinary Advisory Group formed under the advice of the Wildlife Institute of India. A monitoring committee was also formed by the high court to ensure that the survey did not cause any environmental problem.