AGP-NDA rule darkest chapter in Assam’s history: Gogoi

BARPETA, March 31 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has termed the AGP rule in the State and the contemporary rule in Centre by BJP-led NDA as the darkest period of Assam history and urged the voters of the State to reject them during the ensuing Lok Sabha polls. Gogoi was addressing a huge election rally in Bhaktardaba near here on Saturday morning.

Addressing the first ever public meeting of this kind in the Barpeta Parliamentary constituency area, he termed BJP as the elder brother of AGP who did not show any affection to their younger brother and as a result the development of the State came to a halt. Rather both of them tried to annihilate the young generation of the State by way of secret killing. Referring to the communalism of BJP, Gogoi said that they want to introduce Hindu rule in this country and regard Hindus as the first class citizens of India. But, Gogoi said, “Congress follows the rajdharma – regards all people equally, sees all from the humanitarian aspect and wants to develop all classes.”

The Chief Minister claimed tremendous development during the last eight years of Congress rule and establishment of an environment of peace and faternity in the State. Of course he acknowledged that still there are a lot to do as many areas in the chars and gardens which are still not touched by development.

Lashing out at the BJP- AGP and AUDF, Gogoi said that if LK Advani becomes Prime Minister as projected by NDA it will be harmful for this great secular democracy as he was involved in the demolition of Babri Masjid. He expressed his astonishment and dismay over the support of the AUDF to such a party led by a person like Advani. Gogoi also claimed that Ajmal tried his level best to enter into an alliance with Congress which was rejected. As all of them have no issue at all they have resorted to politics of emotion based on caste, religion and regionalism.

Giving a clear indication that sanction of development schemes in future will depend upon the success of his party in the Lok Sabha poll, Gogoi clearly said that he would be inspired to sanction more development schemes to Barpeta if the Congress nominee for Parliament is voted to victory.

Earlier, Dr Tara Prasad Das in his welcome address eulogised the government led by Tarun Gogoi.

Ismail Hussain, the Congress nominee for Barpeta Lok Sabha seat informed that since independence he is the second man to have party nomination within the jurisdiction of this Lok Sabha area after Ismail Hussain Khan. He insisted that as Gogoi has nominated a local candidate his dream should be fulfilled by voting him (Ismail). However he desisted from disclosing his own agenda in the Parliament.

The meeting which was attended by more than ten thousand people was presided over by Abdul Hamid.

Blooming mustard fields in Kashmir

By Parvez Butt

Srinagar, Mar 31 : Hordes of tourists visiting Kashmir valley are fascinated by the mustard fields as the mustard crop has turned the whole picturesque Kashmir valley into golden.

According to mustard growers, following sufficient snowfall and rains this winter, the crop yields are much better than the previous year.

On the way to Pahalgam, 16 kilometres off Srinagar on the national highway, many tourists feast their eyes and minds with the scenic view of blooming mustard flowers.
Interestingly, the tourists initially get the glimpse of these mustard fields while arriving in the valley by flight since they are located in the region from the planes approach Srinagar prior to landing.

‘Luckily we were going to Pahalgam. So we went through this place. Driver told us that the plane has gone through this place only. So this is the same place which we had seen from our … (aircraft) had flown by. So we wanted to have a look here and we are extremely happy,’ said Puneet, a tourist.

Some tourists said that the place gives them a feel of being in Switzerland. They draw a parallel between the combination of green and yellow hues in the backdrop of snow capped mountains.

‘It somewhere resembles Switzerland. A combination of mountains and mustard fields and not found so easily. The smell and beauty of this place is awesome,’ said Rashmi, another tourist.
Reportedly, the tourism authorities haven’t laid their eyes on the development of these spots whereas the experts are of the view that these scenic spots can be a major attraction for the tourists.
‘These tourists enjoy the scenic beauty and click pictures. They feel the beauty of the place,’ said Mohammad Shafi, a tour operator.
The mustard crop is sown in September-October. As temperatures rise after winter, the rapeseed-mustard crop blossoms and the farm is harvested towards the end of May.
India, China, Canada, Poland, France and Pakistan are major rapeseed-mustard growing countries. India, according to a survey, has nearly 4.5 million hectares under mustard production.

Assam News Briefs

 Advani playing divisive politics: Moily

GUWAHATI, March 31: All India Congress Committee (AICC) media cell chairman M Verappa Moily today said in order to divide the nation on communal lines, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani is “preaching divisive politics during electioneering”. The Congress leader asked Advani as to what the BJP-led NDA had done on NRC update, border sealing and prevention of infiltration when it was at the helm of affairs in New Delhi. Moily was, however, evasive while replying to a number of reporters’ queries pertaining to Asom.
Talking to newsmen at Rajiv Bhavan in Guwahati today, Moily said: “Advani is poisoning the minds of the people of Asom by only talking about infiltration. He should be asked what the NDA Government had done to update the National Registrar of Citizen (NRC), Indo-Bangla border fencing and setting up foreigners tribunal to identify immigrants.”
“BJP’s communal stance can be judged by the party’s support to Varun Gandhi,” Moily said, and asserted that the Congress did not plan any political vendetta against Varun Gandhi.
Giving a list of achievements of the UPA Government in contrast to the previous NDA regime, the Congress leader said the GDP, per capita income, plan outlay and investment have gone up considerably in the past few years. He said the Centre provided Rs 40 crore for protection of Majuli and sanctioned 54 projects for flood control in Asom. When the reporters contradicted his claim that the 90:10 funding pattern was done during the UPA regime, Moily said: “It was declared by the HD Deve Gowda Government, but implemented by the UPA Government.” Exuding confidence that the Congress will win the Lok Sabha poll in Asom, Moily said the AGP has surrendered before the BJP. On the proposed prime ministerial debate, Moily said India being a non-presidential form of government, there should not be any such debate.
When asked as to why the Asom Government failed to arrest MLAs Jiten Gogoi and Kushal Duori, Moily was evasive. When the issue was repeatedly pursued, he only said that he would take up the matter with the Chief Minister. He also refused to reply a question whether the killing of journalist Anil Mazumdar was secret or open killing. He also avoided many other questions pertaining to Asom. After the press meet, Moily met the bereaved family of journalist Anil Mazumdar before winding up his Asom tour.

 New EC guidelines to affect students

GUWAHATI, March 31: Separation of education from politics is a popular demand that has many takers in the society, but the latest modifications made by the Election Commission of India in respect of holding of election meetings go against that principle.
In the latest modifications of its guidelines, the Commission said election rallies and meetings can also be held in the fields of educational institutions with due permission from the governing bodies of the institutions concerned and without affecting classes. Holding of election meetings or rallies in the fields of educational institutions was not allowed earlier by the Commission.
Problems may crop up now in remote and far-flung areas where district election officers (DEOs) cannot reach at ease to monitor violation of norms like holding election meetings affecting classes. Circles concerned are of the opinion that since those in governing bodies of educational institutions and teaching staff are generally loyal to political parties, they may go for understanding with principals or headmasters of the institutions to declare unofficial half-holidays for such poll rallies. In such violation of the guidelines, the rival political parties are not likely to move the Election Commission as they will also hold such meetings violating the guidelines.
In yet another modification in its guidelines, the Commission withdrew the usual 200-metre gaps after every three cars in the convoys of election candidates. This, according to circles concerned, will lead to chaos in traffic management as motorcycles will find spaces to enter the gaps. They feel that more security personnel will have to be deployed now to tackle traffic congestion when the new guidelines of election candidates’ convoys are put to practice .
Taking all these aspects in view, the circles concerned appealed to the Commission to review its new sets of guidelines for the greater interest of the student community and traffic management.

 Move court: AGP, BJP dare CM

GUWAHATI, March 31: The AGP and BJP today welcomed Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s statement that he would drag the two parties to the court for their allegations against him that he had taken Rs 21 crore from the Kolkata-based tea lobby.
In a joint press meet of the two parties at the AGP headquarters in Guwahati today, AGP chief spokesman Atul Bora said: “Since Gogoi denies the allegation that he took Rs 21 crore from the Kolkata-based tea lobby, let him disclose what exact amount he took and what understanding he reached with the lobby.” The AGP leader said over his term Gogoi failed to talk to the tea lobby for the welfare of tea labourers.
Reacting to AICC media cell chairman M Veerappa Moily’s statement that the credit for the 90:10 funding pattern for Asom should go to the UPA Government, Bora said: “The funding pattern was done when HD Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister and AGP’s Dinesh Goswami was a Cabinet minister. The AGP was in power at Dispur at that time.”
BJP’s Asom unit vice-president Dhruba Baishya expressed surprise over the fact that even as inflation came down, the prices of essential commodities remained the same. “The Congress leaders have bowed down before big capitalists,” Baishya added. 

 Was Gogoi’s Kolkata visit personal?

GUWAHATI, March 31: Asom Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Hemanta Narzary informed the Election Commission of India that Chief Minister’s Tarun Gogoi’s recent visit to Kolkata was personal, not official, sources said. The CEO had to cross-examine the tour schedule of the Chief Minister following a directive from the Commission. The CEO found that the March 14 tour of Gogoi to Kolkata was his personal tour during which only one official as required by protocol accompanied him, sources said, adding that the Chief Minister paid all expenditure, including lodging, at the Assam Bhavan during the tour.
This report from the CEO to the Commission has much to do for Gogoi to get a clean chit from the Commission on the charges of poll code violation brought against him by the AGP and BJP. The Opposition parties’ main allegation was that no political leader of the stature of Chief Minister of a State can collect party funds from businessmen. Though the CEO has reportedly given a clean chit to Gogoi on his Kolkata tour, some doubt still persists as Asom Government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma told the media a day after the AGP’s allegation against Gogoi that the Chief Minister did not take any funds from the tea lobby as he was on an official tour to Kolkata. After that the Chief Minister himself told the media that he had collected funds from the tea lobby as being done by all political parties. Gogoi, however, did not comment on the nature of his tour — whether personal or official.

 Centre okays M’laya Vote-on Account
: Staff Correspondent
SHILLONG, March 31: The Union Cabinet has approved two ordinances of Meghalaya — one for the supplementary demand for grants, 2008-09 and the other for the Vote on Account, 2009-10. The amount sought for the supplementary demands for the fiscal 2008-09 is Rs 215.26 crore to defray urgent, unavoidable and specific items of expenditure during the current financial year. The proposed Meghalaya Appropriation (Vote-on-Account) Ordinance, 2009 has been worked out for the period from April 1 to July 31, 2009. The amount covered under the Vote on Account is Rs 1540.87 crore. The Ordinances will be issued after receipt of the Presidential assent.

 India won’t sign CTBT in present form: Menon
: NEW DELHI, March 31: India today maintained that it would not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in its present form but would not stand in the way of the pact. “Our position is the same,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters here when asked whether India would be signing the CTBT considering the US’ fresh efforts to push the treaty that has been hanging fire for over a decade. India, which favours complete and verifiable disarmament, has held on to the position that the CTBT, in its present form, is faulty as it does not provide for dismantling of weapons of mass destruction truly in universal sense. PTI

 Kasab gets an advocate
: MUMBAI, March 30: Captured Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab today got a court-appointed government lawyer to defend him in the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai and the special court set April 6 as the date for the trial to start. Special Judge M L Tahilyani announced the name of Anjali Waghmare as the lawyer who will represent Kasab during the trial. IANS

 Osmani admitted to AIIMS
: From our Correspondent
NEW DELHI, March 31: Asom MP Golam Osmani has been under treatment in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for lung problem  since Thursday. He is under treatment in the Oncology Department of the premier medical institute.

 Varun gets bail but NSA keeps him in jail
: PILIBHIT, March 30: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi was today granted bail by a court here in two criminal cases against him, but he will remain behind bars as he also faces charges under the stringent National Security Act (NSA). Pilibhit Chief Judicial Magistrate Vipin Kumar granted him bail against two sureties of Rs 20,000 each besides a personal bond. Much drama preceded the bail order that was passed under the tightest security that this town has witnessed in recent years. A two-kilometre security net was laid around the court with armed cops of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) maintaining a strict vigil to prevent any recurrence of violence that rocked the town Saturday when Varun Gandhi arrived here to court arrest.
The BJP has announced Varun Gandhi, son of former central minister Maneka Gandhi, will be its candidate from Pilibhit. In sharp contrast to convergence of a large number of BJP supporters who resorted to violence leading to an almost riot-like situation on Saturday, not many turned out to rally for Varun Gandhi this time. IANS

 BDR chief in Delhi
: From our Correspondent
NEW DELHI, March 31: The new Director General of  Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) Brigadier Mainul Islam has arrived in New Delhi today on a three-day visit to discuss border issues between the two neighbouring countries. Brigadier Islam will meet his BSF counterpart ML Kumawat tomorrow. Sources further said the border guard chiefs of the two countries will hold talks on how to carry forward the issues that were left by former BDR DG Shakil Ahamed. BSF sources claim that talks have begun about fencing within the 150-yard area in 46 patches of the 256 unfenced patches. The two countries share a 4,200-km-long porous border.

 Suspend principal for ragging death: SC
: NEW DELHI, March 31: Terming the deaths of students due to ragging a “national tragedy”, the Supreme Court today ordered the suspension of the principal of a medical college in Himachal Pradesh for not averting the death of a first year student following harassment by seniors. A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Asok Kumar Ganguly said the principal of the Rajendra Prasad Medical College in Tanda town must be suspended since he failed to prevent Aman Kachru’s death although he had been alerted by the security guard that senior students were indulging in ragging. The bench also ordered the Andhra Pradesh police chief to urgently complete the ongoing probe into the suicide by a girl student of the State’s agricultural university following ragging by seniors.  IANS

 Exercise reduces migraine suffering
: LONDON: Certain exercise programmes can significantly decrease migraine intensity and frequency, the results of a Swedish study have indicated. While physical exercise has been shown to trigger migraine headaches among sufferers, this study describes an exercise programme based on indoor cycling that decreased the frequency of headaches and improved quality of life. For the study, a sample of migraine sufferers were examined before, during and after an aerobic exercise intervention. Indoor cycling was chosen because it is a continuous aerobic exercise. The exercise was designed to improve maximal oxygen uptake without worsening the patients’ migraines.
According to the researchers, there was no worsening of migraine at any time during the study. During the last month of treatment, there was a significant decrease in the number of migraine attacks, the number of days with migraine every month, headache intensity and the amount of headache medication used.
Individuals with headache and migraine typically are less physically active than those without migraine, the researchers remarked. Patients with migraine often avoid exercise, resulting in less aerobic endurance and flexibility. Therefore, the researchers believe that more studies of exercise in patients with migraine are imperative.
“While the optimal amount of exercise for patients with migraine remains unknown, our evaluated program can now be tested further to see if exercise can prevent migraine,” said Dr Emma Varkey of the Cephalea Headache Centre, co-author of the study. (Agencies)

 What recession? Political parties are flush with funds
: NEW DELHI, March 31: It may be recession time for the world, but Indian political parties appear to be awash with money as they plunge into the world’s biggest electoral battle.
There is no official estimate how much money is being spent by political parties on the staggered April-May elections for which campaigning has already begun.
What everyone seems to admit, unofficially though, is that the Election Commission bar on the maximum amount a candidate can spend in his or her constituency is invariably breached. But few get hauled up.
According to unofficial estimates, the Congress, India’s oldest and now the ruling party, is set to splurge a whopping Rs 20 billion (Rs 2,000 crore/$400 million) in this election.
A senior Congress leader however told IANS: “We would be spending almost Rs 10 billion (Rs 1,000 crore) in the next three months.”
A high-level source in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said his party too had a similar budget. Under the law a candidate can spend between Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakh) and Rs 2.5 million (Rs 25 lakh) in a Lok Sabha battle.
The house has 543 elective seats.
But almost all political parties also shell out on advertisement and media blitz.  The Congress has roped in Percept, Crayons and James Walter Thompson (JWT), three leading ad agencies to prepare the party’s campaign strategy.
“These companies are behind the concept, ideas and execution of the Congress campaign,” former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, a member of the Congress publicity committee, told IANS.
The BJP has hired ad agencies Frank Simoes-Tag and Utopia.
“They have prepared the advertisements for the BJP which will be used on TV, FM radio and print media,” BJP spokesman Sidharth Singh said. With the Election Commission outlawing the traditionally popular – and cheaper – wall writings and graffiti, the major political parties have no option but to spend big money.
Even parties with limited influences but with national aspirations are not short of finances.
“I cannot tell you our budget but our party does not want to lag behind any other in the election campaign,” asserted Munqad Ali, a Rajya Sabha MP of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that rules Uttar Pradesh and is dreaming of winning at least half of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Film clips showing the achievements of the BSP government in Uttar Pradesh and its Chief Minister Mayawati, who has not hidden her prime ministerial ambitions, have been on the air for weeks.
The financially more prudent Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is not ready to reveal how much it spends on the election but insists that it never breaches the Election Commission rules.
The party hasn’t roped in any advertising agency. But it has plans to come up with CDs and audio and video cassettes featuring election songs in West Bengal in particular. So where is the money coming from – amid the financial downturn?  “Most major political parties get donations from big business houses,” Vinoj Abraham, associate professor of economics at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, told IANS.
“Since almost all major business houses are going through difficult times, they might cut down their campaign budget. However, this may in turn attract a larger share of unaccounted black money to support the political campaign,” he added. IANS

AGP moves EC against NREGA cards

GUWAHATI, March 28 – Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) today pleaded with the Election Commission of India that the documents prescribed for identification of the voters during the last Assembly elections in the State should be prescribed this time too by the Commission for the same purpose.

In a memorandum to the Election Commission, the AGP expressed the apprehension that the latest decision of the Commission to treat the NREGA job cards for identification of the voters might be misused by the Congress by issuing fake job cards in the name of ongoing projects.

It needs mention here that Election Commissioner Nabin B Chawla had announced at a press conference here on Tuesday that for identification of the voters, NREGA job cards would also be treated as valid documents.

Addressing a press conference here today, AGP general secretary and chief spokesman Atul Bora (Junior) told newsmen that the decision of the Election Commission might help the Congress prepare fake NREGA job cards. Moreover, the decision of the Commission that the members of a family should go together to the polling stations along with the head of their family might also debar the voters from exercising their franschise, he said.

The AGP in its memorandum has pleaded that the Commission should review the above decisions on identification of the voters, he said.

He also announced that the AGP would move the Election Commission against Congress nominee for Tezpur Lok Sabha seat Mani Kumar Subba for his distributing money among the voters. A local TV channel has already telecast the video footage depicting Subba’s misconduct of distributing money among the voters, Bora said.

The AGP is also not satisfied with the version of Election Commissioner Nabin Chawla that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are tamper-proof. Or else, why the Chief Minister is exuding so much confidence that the Congress would win more seats than the previous Lok Sabha elections, despite there being a strong non-incumbency wave in the State, wondered the AGP chief spokesman.

Foreigners’ Tribunals serve no purpose: HC

GUWAHATI, March 28 – Observing that no useful purpose has been served by the Foreigners Tribunals given the easy manner in which even the detected and deported illegal Bangladeshi migrants continue to migrate to Assam, the Gauhati High Court has asked the Centre, the State Government, the State DGP and the Superintendent of Police, Karbi Anglong to clarify their stands on the matter while delivering its judgement on a writ petition WP (C) 4,171/2008.

In the above case, the petitioner, Ananda Kundu of Hojai, Nagaon, after being declared to be a foreigner by a Foreigners Tribunal and subsequently deported to Bangladesh, came back to Assam easily and even invoked the writ jurisdiction of the high court.

“…The establishment of Foreigners’ Tribunals and their decisions, even after being upheld by this court, has not yielded the desired result. The illegal Bangladeshis could easily migrate to Assam without any valid documents and stay here at par with Indian citizens with all the rights, including the right of franchise. Even after passing of the orders by the Tribunal and upholding of the same by the writ court, the authority is not in a position to deport the foreign nationals,” Justice BK Sharma said in his order dated March 26, 2008 judgement.

“In most of the cases the foreigners do the vanishing act, which otherwise should be an alarming concern for the State and Central Governments,” it added.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s observations in the Sarbananda Sonowal case equating the unabated cross-border infiltration from Bangladesh with external aggression, the High Court said that unless “prompt and useful” action was taken by the Central and State governments what was in store for Assam “can well be imagined.”

BRPL merges with IOC

Assam based Bongaigaon Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd has merged with parent IndianOil with effect from March 25th 2009. With this IOC’s business consolidation process comes to a near end. The company is now left with the last major subsidiary of Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd.

Having started the consolidation process with the merger of Assam Oil in October 1981, IOC has merged its lube manufacturing facility Indian Oil Blending Ltd and petroleum product retailer IBP Ltd with itself in May 2006 and May 2007 respectively.

In a press communiqué issued today, IOC said that the merger was effected on March 25 at a swap ratio of 4 equity shares of INR 10 each of Indian Oil for every 37 equity shares of INR 10 each of BRPL. The Record Date for this purpose shall be notified in due course.

With merely six days left for the financial year 2008-09, sources say that the merger is unlikely to have any significant impact except proportionate growths in topline and profits on IOC’s balance-sheet for the year. However, beginning next fiscal the merger will have a positive impact on IOC’s bottomline by way of avoiding double taxation on product transfer from Assam to the plains in West Bengal. According to available estimates, the double taxation now makes the group poorer by INR 80 crore.

More importantly, IOC may now go for a capacity expansion of 2.35 million tonne in BRPL to take the advantage of tax breaks in the State by pumping imported crude through Paradip-Haldia- Barauni- Guwahati pipeline network.

Man Eating Lions, Tigers And Leopards

The Tsavo Man Eaters Were Maneless, Morguefile
On occasions, felines have been known to hunt men and women. There are many factors that can turn a big cat into a potential man eater.

These include, threats to the natural habitat, dead bodies left unburied following conflict, a severe wound rendering humans the easiest option available and cases of mistaken identity. If humans are sitting or crouched pantherines may confuse them with four legged mammals.

Man Eating Lions

Undoubtedly the most famous incident was in Tsavo, Kenya a little over a century ago when two mane less man eating lions brought the great Tsavo railway project to a halt as over a hundred coolies were savagely taken from their camp lodgings and devoured.
These two hunted cooperatively and evaded baits laced with poison, traps that Colonel James Patterson the project engineer devised and even pressed their way through ‘bomas’, thorn fences that were designed to keep the marauders out. Patterson was an excellent and capable hunter and tracked them himself. He spent long, tiresome nights waiting up in a ‘machan’, a platform erected in a tree at a suitable height in an attempt to shoot them whilst leaving life prey under the tree he was perched in.
Patterson eventually shot both lions and they can be viewed today at the Natural History Museum in Chicago. The absence of manes was a peculiar characteristic specific to the lions in the Tsavo region. Their motive appeared to be the accessibility and abundance of easy prey coupled with the fact that if the workers sat down or were crouched whilst digging they could easily be identified as lion fodder.

Man Eating Tigers

The most notorious region for man eating tigers is in the Sundarbarns in North East India. Traditionally this was a swampland and tiger paradise. Forest workers now often wear masks on the back of the head to give the impression that they are aware of the tigers movements despite the fact that they themselves probably wouldn’t see a tiger until it is too late. More recently biologists have started experimenting with packs of trained dogs to collectively prevent tigers from encroaching into villages. This is similar to how hounds tree Pumas in the United States.
Certain injuries also greatly increase the likelihood of tigers altering their diet. Porcupine quills are curved and are extremely difficult to completely remove. If a tiger sustains one in its paw then its running capabilities are severely reduced making humans the easiest target. Broken canines are painful too making it difficult to subdue a large creature such as a buffalo. Humans are therefore again an easier option.

Man Eating Leopards

The legendary Jim Corbett is the most renowned hunter turned big cat conservationist and ended his years shooting with a camera instead of his trusty rifles. His most celebrated success was stopping the man eating leopard of Rudraprayag which was responsible for the deaths of over one hundred individuals.
Though about a third the size of the tiger, leopards are more adept in trees, have greater agility and a savage temper if provoked. Often people jest in a dry manner that no one spots a man eating leopard until it is hanging on their back and rendering it too late to take action. Unfortunately in view of their size difference a human makes a more substantial meal for leopard than for a lion or tiger.

Shooting with Cameras or Guns?

On a final note it should be remembered that apart from a few noteworthy exceptions big cats that prey on humans are non-representative of their kind. Consider that around 1900 there were 100,000 tigers in India alone and by the close of the century they were reduced to approximately 2,000. Neither are humans the natural prey as attacks usually occur when these creatures are injured, have their natural environment encroached on or mistake humans for animal life. Why not join Jim Corbett and shoot them with a camera which also requires skill and patience?

The copyright of the article Man Eating Lions, Tigers And Leopards in Mammals is owned by Jonathan Taylor. Permission to republish Man Eating Lions, Tigers And Leopards in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Rongali or Bohag Bihu 2009 – Assam New Year 2009

Bohag Bihu, also known as Rongali Bihu, is the Assamese New Year and is observed for three days as per the traditional Assamese Calendar. The New Year is observed on the first day of Bohag month. The Hindu New Year celebrations in Assam begins on the last day of the Assamese month ‘Chait.’ In 2009, the date of Bohag Bihu is April 15. The first day of celebration is dedicated to cattle and is April 14, 2009.
The first day of the Rongali Bihu New Year celebrations which falls on the last day of Assamese month ‘Chait’ is known as ‘Goru Bihu’ (the festival of cow). In 2009, the date of Goru Bihu is April 14.
The second day of Bohag Bihu celebrations is known as ‘Manuh bihu’ (the festival for the people). It is popularly known as the traditional Assamese New Year – Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu. It is observed on the first of Bohag month. In 2009, the date of Bohag Bihu is April 15.
The third day of Assamese New Year Bihu celeberations is known as ‘Gosain bihu (God’s bihu). In 2009, the date of Gosain Bihu is April 16.
You can find more details about the Assamese New Year celebrations in this article.

Govt law college crisis deepens

March 25 : The uncertainty over the future of the 95-year-old Bishnu Ram Medhi Government Law College has deepened with the Bar Council representing the Northeast states opposing immediate lifting of the ban on admission into its three-year law course.
The college has already lost a year as it could not conduct admission for the academic session 2008-09.
Many poor students had to take admission in other colleges by paying hefty fees.
Last year, the Bar Council of India (BCI) imposed a ban on the college against admitting students for the year 2008-09 as the institution failed to fulfil certain basic conditions like a permanent campus, permanent teachers and a standard library.
The chairman of the Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, G.N. Sahewalla, told this correspondent that the college was yet to fulfil some basic criteria and another fresh investigation must be conducted before lifting the ban.
“Following instructions of the BCI, I made an inspection of the college recently and examined the present status of the institution. Though the college has made some progress in infrastructure and other facilities, the basic criterion like appointment of permanent teachers has not been fulfilled yet. The preliminary process of appointment of the teachers has not started. Appointment of permanent and qualified teachers is very important to become a standard law institution,” he added.
He said under these circumstances, lifting of the ban on admission into the three-year law course would not be appropriate.
According to him, the BCI must conduct a fresh inquiry and the college should be given a specific time frame to fulfil basic criteria like appointment of permanent teachers.
“I have submitted my report to the BCI and it is up to the council to take the final decision,” Sahewalla said.
Sources said with the model code conduct in force ahead of the parliamentary elections, the law college could not start the appointment process immediately.
“There is no chance of starting the preliminary process of appointment before June. The admission for the 2009-10 academic session should start by August. Given the present circumstances, the college will fail to start the admission in time,” a source said.
Principal H. Munir, while admitting that the process of appointment of permanent teachers was yet to start, said certain other conditions like the construction of a permanent campus had been met.

River port faces uncertain future

March 25: Tardy progress of work for the revival of Dhubri port has cast serious doubts among local residents about the fate of the project.
Mounting pressure from the Dhubri International River Port Demand Committee (DIRPDC) had forced the Centre to chalk out a plan to revive the river port by March 2010.
However, the plan, as of now, remains on paper only with very little progress of works on the ground.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), an autonomous body under the Union ministry of shipping, road transport and highways, is undertaking various development schemes along the national waterway, which includes construction of a terminal at Dhubri.
The Brahmaputra (891km) has already been declared a national waterway from Dhubri to Sadiya.
Under an action plan to make the national waterway fully functional by March 2010, a floating terminal with open storage facility and road connectivity for movement of loaded trucks was proposed at Dhubri at an estimated cost of Rs 2.06 crore, sources said.
Moreover, the waterway authorities had already provided a floating terminal with a crane for mechanical handling of cargo at the Free India ghat at Dhubri after acquiring land from the state government.
Union minister of shipping, road transport and highways, T.R. Baalu, told Dhubri MP, Anowar Hussain that the government had granted approval for acquisition of two hectares of land at Dhubri (Free India ghat) for Rs 3.13 crore in October 2008 to set up the terminal. After the land was handed over by the state government, work on a floating terminal at Dhubri was to be taken up by the IWAI.
However, a member of DIRPDC, Tripath Nath Chakraborty, refuted the Union minister’s claim.
Chakraborty said though a part of the funds, amounting to Rs 1.51 crore, had been released for acquisition of two hectares of land at Free India Ghat in October last year, there had been no progress till date. 
Moreover, as claimed by the ministry that the national waterway would be fully functional by March 2010 and road connectivity for movement of loaded trucks completed at Dhubri at a cost of Rs 2.06 crore, nothing has been done, he alleged.
Baalu had also claimed that regular cargo movement by a large fleet was already taking place at Dhubri.
The inland water transport (IWT) department, Assam, has been transporting cargo on a commercial basis through these small craft. Private operators are also operating. Under the protocol on inland water transit and trade between India and Bangladesh, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd has been sending diesel through this waterway. All the vessels to and from Haldia on the national waterway pass through Dhubri. 
The Union minister has asked the industries, trade and commerce associations at Dhubri to opt for the inland water transport mode for successful implementation of the project.

Newspaper editor shot dead in Assam

 Guwahati, Mar 25 : Unidentified gunmen tonight shot dead Anil Majumder, the Editor-in-Chief of a local Assamese daily 'Aji', who had been writing in favour of ULFA coming for talks with the government.

Majumder, in his late 30s, was shot dead by youths near his residence on Rajgarh Road, police sources said.

Majumder was accosted by a seven-member unidentified group while opening the gate of his residence on return from office and fired at from point blank range.

Surrendered ULFA rebels wants to participate in general elections

surrendered-ulfa-rebels-wants-to-participate-in-general-electionsGuwahati, Mar 25 : Surrendered rebels of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) express their desire to participate in upcoming general elections.

A splinter faction of Assam’’s main rebel group, the ULFA, which prefers to have talks with the Central Government for a negotiated settlement to the separatist issue, said they want to cast their vote in the elections, which will be between April 16 and May 13.

Talking to reporters at the “Khotra Shatra”, a designated camp of surrendered rebels in Nalbari District on Monday, Raju, a surrendered rebel said, “I am thinking hard to cast my vote in the upcoming elections.”

The ”pro-talks” group, which walked out of the ULFA, declared unilateral ceasefire last year expecting reciprocal gesture from the Central Government to restore peace in the region.

“We are hoping that peace process will progress further after elections. Whichever party comes to power after elections we will provide our full support,” said Bhaskar Rajbonshi, another surrendered rebel.

ULFA has been demanding independence for Assam since 1979 and accuses New Delhi of exploiting the state’’s resources and doing little to develop the province.

The outfit has also accused non-Assamese people of plundering the state’’s resources and spoiling its culture.

NGO staff fishes in park to make point

Guwahati, March 22 : A member of an NGO today went fishing inside Kaziranga National Park, apparently to protest against the delay in arresting two legislators who invaded the sanctuary and assaulted a forest guard.
Sanjeeb Baruah, secretary of the Upper Assam unit of Seven Sisters, the NGO, was apprehended near the Kathpora beel under Kohora range of the park around noon. A fishing net was recovered from his possession.
Baruah, when contacted on his cellphone, told The Telegraph from the forest range office at Kohora that the forest department “has no right” to arrest him since they had failed to arrest the two MLAs — Jiten Gogoi and Kushal Duari — who were caught red-handed fishing in the park.
“The law of the land is the same for everyone. How can they arrest me when they failed to arrest the two MLAs?” Baruah asked. Seven Sisters has been working in educational institutions near Kaziranga to spread awareness on protecting animals for several years.
The two MLAs are still absconding, though the police have sounded a red alert throughout the state. A tourism department employee who had accompanied the two MLAs has been placed under suspension. He, too, is absconding.
The Assam Forest Employees’ Association has set a 10-day deadline for the arrest of the MLAs and threatened to launch an agitation.
The park’s director, S.N. Buragohain, said since Baruah had been caught with a fishing net inside the national park, a case had to be registered against him.
“I understand Baruah’s action but this is not the way to protest. Fishing inside Kaziranga is banned,” Buragohain said. He added that the law would take its own course.
The All Assam Students’ Union today demanded the immediate arrest of the duo.
According to UNI, the absconding MLA Jiten Gogoi, however, told a local TV channel over phone: “I am in Guwahati. I had never gone underground but the police have not come to search for me.”

Murderers to keep Assam safe?

Seldom has the act of giving the sanction to do their job created such fears among the public or given rise to such speculation as in this case in Assam, where donning the cap of the “Special Police Officer” now are 700 former militants, people who till only recently had held the country to ransom, waging at will their war against “occupational rule”. Yet that is the way how things are in this northeastern state.

The recipients of the government largesse this time, though, go beyond once renegade ULFA members; they include former members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) and the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF), all dreaded former militants with much blood on their hands.

With elections round the corner, political groups aren’t the questions that lurk in the minds of everybody, especially the public: Why should these officers be “special”? What if they return to the jungles having received specialised training? “Rehabilitation of these militants would be a good thing, but most of the time the Tarun Gogoi government is lying,” said Chandramohan Patowary, leader of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the main opposition party in the state.

As for justifying the induction, says Mrinal Hazarika, leader of a group of former ULFA militants: “These boys are trained the same way as policemen are. Hence, it is easier to place them in the force.” The statement of the police, though, is telling: “We have taken these boys after screening them three times,” Khagen Sarma, Additional Director General of Police and spokesperson for Assam Police told TSI. “And don’t forget only former militants can fight militants. A thousand former members of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) have already joined the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).”

The inherent danger of such a strategy is only too obvious: that if such an operation were to veer out of control, it could once again bring about a spate of secret killings (in which families of ULFA members were slaughtered during Mahanta’s time), only this time with full-fledged government sanction. Sarma though says: “The appointments are six-month periods after which they will again be screened.”

For now, though, the newly recruited “Special Police Officers” are busy with the mundane, such as protesting that while the government had promised them a pay package of Rs 4,000 each, they had scaled down the figure to Rs 3,000. Surrenders, meanwhile, continue to be a thriving industry in the state with reports of former militants raising “goonda tax”, threatening their way into government contracts, and indulging in other nefarious activities now routine. And now, of course, there is the job of the “Special Police Officer” that is always waiting for Assam’s supposedly reformed militant.

EC permits Finmin to announce Rs 7,000 cr projects

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission (EC) has given a special permission to the ministry of finance to announce four infrastructure projects worth Rs 7,000 crore even while the general elections are on.

The permission has, however, come with a rider that no politician would be allowed to announce any one of those projects, sources close to the development told SundayET. The projects, which are funded by Japan's official development assistance (ODA), will benefit states of Delhi, Karnataka, Assam and Kerala. Whereas Delhi and Assam are Congress-ruled states, Karnataka and Kerala are ruled by the BJP and the Left respectively.

SundayET has learnt that the projects include the Rs 4,100 cr Delhi Metro (phase-2), a Rs 1,500 crore Guwahati water supply project, a Rs 910 crore Hogenakkal water supply and irrigation project (Phase - 2) and a Rs 680 crore Kerala water supply project.

"Initially, it was planned that political leaders would also be present during the function as some they were considered to be important projects, but the EC has made it clear that it won't allow any politician to take part in that function," a Finmin official, who did not want to be identified, said.

All the projects will now be jointly announced by the ambassador of Japan to India Hideaki Domichi and joint secretary of department of economic affairs (DEA) Kumar Sanjay Krishna, in New Delhi next week. There will be a formal signing ceremony as well, as projects are funded by another country.

Former industry secretary Ajay Dua told SundayET that he was not surprised by the fact that EC had given permission to formally launch a few projects during the poll process. "The government does not come to a halt during an election process. There could be new projects where commitment of fund must have come from external aid agencies or financial institutions. Those are not today's projects, but they were on the cards for quite sometime. But those can't wait for various reasons. Prior permission from EC ensures that the announcement cannot sway the voters as it's election time," he said.

Dry spell hits Assam Tea Estates

Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, March 22 – State’s tea plantations are under severe moisture stress during the current season due to prolonged dry spell. This moisture stress is of ‘unprecedented magnitude’ in the recent period, said renowned consultant tea scientist Prafulla Bordoloi of the P Bordoloi and Associates.

Bordoloi, who was speaking to The Assam Tribune, said that rainfall during November to March is very crucial for tea bushes. During this period, the consumptive use of water is estimated to be in the range of 420 mm to 450 mm. But, normally, the rainfall is about 250 mm in Upper Assam, 170mm in Middle Assam, 115 mm in North Bank and 240 mm in Cachar.

Ideally, tea plantations should receive about 210mm of rainfall between November and March in the quantum of 20mm in November, 10mm in December, 15 mm in January, 65 mm in February and 100 mm in March.

But, in the current season, the rainfall during this crucial period is infinitesimally low and the deficit has resulted in great moisture stress and this has adversely affected the growth of tea. The rainfall received by Nazira-Geleki area this time, for instance, is around 70 mm, against the ten years’ normal of 180 mm to 190 mm, said the tea scientist.

However, the situation is a little bit different beyond Tinsukia in Upper Assam with the area receiving about 75 per cent of the normal rainfall, he said.

Chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association Manoj Jalan has described the situation this time as worse than that in 1999, for the tea industry.

Chairman of the Assam Tea Planters’ Association Abhijit Sarma said that during the past 30 years, such a situation was not confronted. Tea planters with marginal and medium plantations will have to go for irrigation to overcome such situations considering the present climatic condition, he said, adding, “We will move the Tea Board of India in this connection.”

Bordoloi has estimated a loss of crop to the tune of five per cent of the total crop this year due to the situation. This would constitute half of the total first flush crop during March and April.

If the drought is prolonged, it will reduce the premium second flush crop and affect its quality also. The period of the second flush of tea is between May and June and the produce of this flush is considered to be the best in quality.

Bordoloi has said that the season this time has become almost like the 1999 season, when the industry had to suffer maximum due to drought. The tea industry in the State also experienced drought earlier in the corresponding period during 1960, 1962 and 1986, besides 1999.

In 1960, the rainfall received by the tea plantations in the corresponding period was 85 mm, while the rainfall received by the plantations in 1962 was 96 mm and the amount was 78 mm in 1986.The lowest amount of rainfall received by the plantations in the recent period was recorded to be 51 mm and the year was 1999.

Over five per cent of the total crop was lost in 1999 and the first flush of the crop was almost absent that year, said the scientist.

This time, the impact of the drought is felt in Dibrugarh, Moran, Sonari, Jorhat, Golaghat and Nagaon circles and in the North Bank, he said.

It needs mention here that the State could produce 487.497 million kg of tea in 2008 and to this, the contribution of Assam Valley (Brahmaputra Valley) was 432.346 million kg.

Rio’s statement ‘anti-constitutional’: NPCC

Dimapur, March 22 : The Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) has taken serious note of the Chief Minister’s press statement, terming it “highly anti-constitutional”. “By stating that Nagaland cannot compete with the mighty India, he makes no secret of his strong anti-Centre govt. and design to alienate the Nagas from the mainstream politics. He may be rightly branded as the ‘Varun Gandhi’ of the east for his bizarre anti-constitutional statement,” stated a press note issued by the NPCC Media Cell.

The NPCC also reiterated on what it described as the “fear expressed by Chief Minister N. Rio that the Congress party would impose monetary and military power in the ensuing elections” pointing out that this is Rio’s pre-conceived self-confessional statement. “Because the people of Nagaland know very well that the DAN govt. did exactly that in 2003 and 2008 elections. With all the State machinery under its control it is totally absurd to even imagine that the State Congress party has the means to take over the State machinery,” the press note issued by Media Cell Member Dr. K Hoshi stated.

On the recent development in Meghalaya, the NPCC observed that it was not surprising to learn about the comments made by Rio supporting the action of the Meghalaya Assembly Speaker’s action. The NPCC stated that Rio was the “tutor”. “There’s no doubt that the Meghalaya Speaker had taken the precedence of his counterpart in Nagaland. What happened in Meghalaya is a copycat of 13 December 2007 episode in Nagaland,” the NPCC stated. Pointing out that Rio’s “open support for Meghalaya Speaker’s action” amounted to “contempt of Court” as the Gauhati High Court had given its ruling condemning the Nagaland Speaker’s action as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’.

On the development front, the NPCC stated that the DAN government had nothing more to claim as all development activities had come to a “standstill” with the government unable to pay its employees for the month of February till date. “The corruption charges of the State’s Congress against the DAN govt. have been vindicated by the CAG report in local dailies day after day and scam after scams that are plaguing the DAN Govt,” the NPCC alleged.

The NPCC also stated that the press statement issued by Shilumar Ao, Associate Press Secretary of NPF, was not only “irresponsible and childish” but also an attempt to divert the people from the real issue of public importance raised by NPCC in its response to the statement of the Chief Minister. “The NPF has the compulsive habit of venting its anger and frustration through character assassination,” the NPCC added.

Steps to ensure quality tea output

Dibrugarh, March 22 : Assam industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi today told bought leaf tea manufacturers to ensure quality control or face penal action as the government is all set to frame laws to protect the good name of Assam tea.
Voicing concern over the ever deteriorating quality of tea produced in Assam, Bordoloi, without mincing words, said the state government would not sit idle any longer and legal steps would be initiated against anybody found compromising on the quality of tea. 
“I am sorry to say but it is a fact that many of you never cared to ensure that tea produced in your factories adheres to the quality standards. Rather, many of you are indulging in unscrupulous activities to boost production,” Bordoloi said while speaking as chief guest at the first ever annual general meeting of the Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association at the Bharatiya Cha Parishad hall here today.
He said from now on all factories, “be it in the organised or the unorganised sector,” would be subject to quality certification so that tea produced in Assam gets back its lost glory.
The state government has decided to introduce a legislation in the next Assembly session so that those entrusted with the job of ensuring quality benchmarks are equipped to crack the whip on erring tea producers and bought leaf factory owners. “Highly professional and reputed independent agencies will be involved in this venture and the state government has worked out a detailed plan in collaboration with the Tea Board of India,” Bordoloi said.

Upset with seats, Cong tea cell to plough on

Guwahati, March 21 : Shrugging off its disappointment over the tea community not getting its share of tickets, the Congress tea cell is now working overtime to offset the impact of a newly floated party backed by the Adivasi/tea tribes organisations on the Congress support base in the garden areas.
The tea community has the largest presence in Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Koliabor and Tezpur parliamentary seats and the tea cell was hoping for at least two nominations from these constituencies. But the party has given the ticket only to Pawan Singh Ghatowar from Dibrugarh. 
Stating that it was unfortunate that the community did not get more than one seat, the cell’s chairman, Bhagirat Karan, said his organisation was not allowing the disappointment to hamper its work. “The challenge before us now is to retain the party’s traditional vote base among the tea community and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that.”
The cell has also offered an olive branch to the disgruntled students’ body — the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association — which has threatened to prevent the entry of some Congress leaders and candidates in the tea garden areas. “We don’t want any confrontation with ATTSA. We will definitely try to address the issues raised by the students,” Karan said. “It is true that we could not solve all the problems, but we are sincere and committed to solving the problems, unlike other parties which are shedding crocodile tears for the community only for political mileage.”
Karan said other than the Congress, no other party has any agenda or programmes for the tea communities. Nor do they have any organisations in the tea belts. In the absence of any programmes and organisations, not a single party, including the recently floated National People’s Party, backed by some tea organisations, would be able to cut into the Congress’s vote base, Karan claimed. 
At the same time, he said, the cell has intensified its campaign in the tea garden areas so that the voters were not misguided by propaganda. “Merely nominating candidates from the tea tribes would not bring votes. Let the Opposition parties tell the people what their agenda is for the community. We are going to the people with the list of programmes the Congress government has undertaken and implemented for the welfare of the tea community,” he said. 
Karan was hopeful that the tea voters would not be swayed by the “propaganda” of the other political parties. Some tea organisations were politically “mature” and well aware as to which party would serve their interests.

Dispur readies poll security shield

Guwahati, March 21 : A jittery Dispur today finalised a security blueprint on how to tackle the threat from trouble-makers and militants alike during the election process with special emphasis on the two hill districts, the BTAD and the inter-state and international border areas.
A meeting convened by chief electoral officer Hemanta Narzary and chaired by chief secretary P.C. Sharma this evening thoroughly assessed the situation with senior civil and police officials and finalised the blueprint, including sending a fresh proposal to the Centre to look into the state’s requirement for additional central security forces.
The meeting comes in the wake of sporadic incidents of violence that have of late rocked the hills, particularly Karbi Anglong district and the BTAD area, even before the start of electioneering. 
“Besides, there have been some fresh inputs which suggest that certain armed groups are likely to disrupt the poll process... we are taking these inputs seriously,” an official who attended the meeting said. 
The “zero tolerance” stand the government had taken post-October 30 serial blasts could see armed groups flexing their muscles, the official added. 
Reports emanating from Dispur suggest that the Centre has expressed its inability to meet the government’s requirement for additional forces as the overall security scene elsewhere in the country is similar after the Mumbai terror attack. 
“Against the additional requirement of 120 companies, the ministry of home affairs is keen to spare only 80 companies since it had previously allowed Dispur to retain over 21 companies despatched earlier. Though we have a plan ready, we will continue to fine-tune it, depending on field reports,” a source said. 
Around 2,000 polling booths have been identified as highly sensitive and nearly 7,000 as sensitive for these elections.
Assam will have two-phase elections on April 16 and 23 with three seats going to the polls in the first phase and 11 in the second.
Sources said Dispur has decided to sanitise areas which are being used by militants before the day of polling by launching special operations.
“These areas are North Cachar Hills, Karbi Anglong, BTAD, particularly Baksa, along with areas bordering Bangladesh and Bhutan. We have moved the Election Commission through the chief electoral officer to provide us with two helicopters and 20 satellite phones to carry out the operations. This will help us respond swiftly,” the source said.
Police sources in Kokrajhar said a tight vigil would be maintained on NDFB militants in ceasefire as there have been occasions when some of them have indulged in unlawful activities. 
Already there are certain procedures in place to monitor their movement outside the designated camps and these have to be strictly adhered to,” the source said. “But, at the same time, we cannot take away their voting rights. If they choose to vote or campaign, we cannot really stop them.” 
There have already been some skirmishes between supporters of the two leading parties in the BTAD, the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) and the Bodoland Peoples Progressive Front (BPPF). 
Yesterday, Kokrajhar district superintendent of police P.K. Dutta said a group of Ulfa militants had sneaked in and has plans to carry out subversive activities during the elections. 
Congress leaders have also started voicing concern over security threats from militants in certain areas. 
“We might have some tough times in Karbi Anglong and NC Hills, going by recent incidents. Already we are told that KLNLF has said that it would allow only a couple of parties to campaign in Karbi Anglong and the Congress, unfortunately, does not figure in the group’s list. Then there is always the threat from DHD (Jewel Gorlosa) in NC Hills, especially since the government has spurned its ceasefire offer,” a senior leader said.

In just 11 weeks of ’09, tiger count down by 17

NEW DELHI: India’s tiger count has dropped by at least 17 in the last 11 weeks since January 1. Poaching, poisoning, old age and infighting are the key reasons behind their deaths, say wildlife activists and forest officials.

The incidents have occurred all over India: from Manipur to Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh. But statistics provided by NGO, Wildlife Protection Society of India, show that a majority of the deaths have taken place in Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh and Kaziranga National Park, Assam. In fact, officers from Wildlife Crime Control Bureau have already been dispatched to these reserves to carry out investigations.

Two big cats were found dead in Dhela range of Corbett Tiger Reserve on March 10 and 17 respectively. Forest officer MS Kunwar of Kalagarh says that the second incident was a result of territorial infighting. “Some portions of the dead tiger were eaten away by the tiger who had killed it. The other tiger died a week ago of old age,” he says.

Nonetheless, the confiscation of tiger body parts including 16 kgs of bones, two skulls and two paws by Army officials on the Myanmar border in February and the seizure of a fresh tiger skin in Katni the month before clearly shows that poachers continue to be active. Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India says tigers are being killed because they are valued more dead, than alive. “Poachers make a lot of money by killing a tiger and selling its parts. Tiger parts are traded illegally, largely to feed the demand of a market in China,” she says.

Wildlife activists also feel that forest officials occasionally cover-up a tiger’s unnatural death by attributing it to a territorial fight. “There should be total transparency as a first step when tigers are killed,” says carnivore biologist Advait Edgaonkar. He believes that hiring and training more forest guards as well as involving locals in the protection of parks would go a long way in protecting the tiger.

AGP, BJP form joint poll panels

Students’ union demands fulfilment of promises after Lok Sabha elections
Guwahati, March 21 : Once bitten twice shy, the AGP and the BJP today put in place a joint mechanism to bind their electoral alliance from the grassroots level to prevent a repeat of their experience in 2001 when the alliance was marred by a lack of co-ordination and infighting.
Following a meeting last night, the two parties today formed joint co-ordination committees for the Lok Sabha seats and a similar committee at the state level for election management.
The 14-member state-level committee will be jointly headed by Padma Hazarika of the AGP and Indramoni Bora of the BJP as conveners.
The AGP will be contesting in six parliamentary seats and the BJP in eight. The last time the two parties forged an alliance was in the 2001 Assembly elections.
Addressing the first joint news conference of the alliance today, AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary said: “This time we are a well-tuned unit and will be devoting our energies and resources equally in all the 14 constituencies. In 2001, the alliance did not have the desired impact as our votes were not properly transferred. But this time we have taken steps so that the BJP’s votes can be transferred to our candidates and vice versa.” Patowary said the alliance was revived on certain common core issues.
He said the two parties agreed that if the NDA came to power, priority would be given to stop unabated infiltration from across the border by sealing the Indo-Bangladesh border. The NDA government will also get back Assam’s land that is under Bangladesh’s occupation, Patowary added.
Issuance of photo identity cards to all the citizens of the state after upgrading the National Register of Citizens and declaration of flood and erosion in Assam as a national problem are the other common issues.
Patowary said peaceful resolution of the militancy problem through dialogue and according ST status to the Koch Rajbongshis, Motaks, Morans, Tea Tribes, Tai Ahoms and Chutias were the other issues on which the two parties shared a common stand.
“Based on these common issues, we have decided to go to the electorate to root out the Congress,” Patowary said, claiming that the ruling party had failed to address these issues.
He, however, said the AGP had not yet decided whether it would join the government if the NDA came to power.
As of now, the priority before the AGP is to elect as many AGP-BJP MPs from the state as possible so that the Congress could not form a government at the Centre, he said.
“Assam has witnessed development whenever a non-Congress government came to power at the Centre. It was during the NDA regime that a separate ministry for the development of the Northeast was created, besides initiating steps for several development schemes for the state,” Patowary claimed.
The AGP leader, however, expressed concern that the Election Commission has entrusted the state government-owned Amtron to operate the electronic voting machines in the state.

Nominee slams Centre

Itanagar, March 20 : The Congress candidate for Arunachal West parliamentary constituency, Takam Sanjoy, today blamed the Centre’s “flip-flop” policies for the region’s woes.
He told reporters here today, “I must admit that our government at the Centre has been instrumental in developing the other parts of the country but has neglected the Northeast.” He said as a result, militants had gained ground.
He said the Northeast’s 50-year-old history of insurgency had badly hit development in the region.
Besides, the Congress governments at the Centre had been neglecting “a frontier state like Arunachal Pradesh” while distributing doles “till Prime Minister Manmohan announced a Rs 24-crore package for the all-round development of the state”.
He also said the people of the state that shared a border with China always lived in fear of aggression from the neighbouring country besides bearing the brunt of insurgency in Tirap and Changlang district that bordered Myanmar, Nagaland and Assam.
“Blame it on the flip-flop policy of the Centre in tackling security matters,” Sanjoy said.
He said militants had gained ground in the region because of the weak mechanism of the Centre and added that initiating development projects was the only way to bring the misguided youths back to the mainstream.
He promised to strive to solve the Chakma-Hajong issue if elected. “The Chakma and Hajong issue has been put on the backburner. But I will work earnestly to find a solution to the imbroglio by initiating a dialogue among the Centre, state government, Chakma leaders and the representatives of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union,” he added.

Delhi keeps Ulfa talks door open

Guwahati, March 20 : The Congress today set the tone for the party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in Assam with Union minister of state for industry, Ashwani Kumar, emphasising that the doors for talks with the proscribed Ulfa would remain open.
However, Kumar said there would be zero-tolerance towards those rebels indulging in acts of terrorism.
The minister stressed security and economic development as the party’s key poll planks.
“Terrorism has a local resonance in Assam and we would inflict crushing blows to those waging war against the state. Doors for talks with Ulfa would remain open but we would not compromise on security,” he told reporters here today.
Kumar’s assertion that there would be no let-up in tracking down those behind the October 30 serial blasts in Guwahati also indicated that the counter-insurgency operations in the state would be on.
“I assure you that those behind these acts would be taken to task. It is not that we are only responding to the Mumbai attacks and not to the one in Guwahati. Whether it is Bangladesh or Pakistan, there would be no let-up in isolating countries, which wage war against our country,” he said.
“This is going to be a watershed election because we are going to the polls under extraordinary circumstances. Never before in our history have we suffered anything like the Mumbai terror attack, which needs a resolute national and international response. Then there is the global economic crisis. Therefore, the thrust of our campaign is security and inclusive economic development. And these issues are of equal importance to Assam,” Kumar said.
The minister of state, however, did not mince words to take digs at the AGP-BJP combine, the AUDF or the “stillborn” third front.
“The choice is between a secular and communal polity. The AGP-BJP combination lurks in the past and has no agenda. The AUDF would be a spoiler to some extent. The people of Assam, I am sure, are wise enough not to waste their votes,” he said.
Besides dwelling on how the gas cracker project would generate direct and indirect jobs to one lakh “Assamese youths”, he also informed that the per capita income had increased from Rs 10,467 in 2001 to Rs 22,081 after seven years of Congress rule in Assam.
“These figures tell their own story. Congress holds out hope for the youths of the state. Instead of a divisive agenda, we have a unifying agenda,” he said. The minister also said the Congress candidates for Dhubri and Lakhimpur would be announced “in a day or two”.

Assam legislators carry AK-47s into Kaziranga, assault official

GUWAHATI, Mar 19 : The Kaziranga National Park, also a Unesco world heritage site, was closed to tourists on Wednesday as forest staff and jeep and elephant safari operators ceased work in protest against the alleged assault of a forest officer by two former Ulfa rebels-turned-legislators carrying AK-47s on Tuesday.

One of the legislators, Jiten Gogoi, who represents Bokakhat assembly seat, denied going to the park for fishing. Instead, he alleged that forest ranger Dharanidhar Boro quarrelled with him when he inquired about the whereabouts of rhino horns that have been either seized from poachers or recovered from dead rhinos. Jiten was accompanied by Thowra legislator Kushal Duori.

The MLA’s allegations against the park authorities came soon after chief minister Tarun Gogoi called for a report from forest minister Rockybul Hussain on the incident. The CM also assured that whoever tries to violate the law inside the park would be taken to task. Gogoi added that no one can enter the national park with firearms.

The two MLAs had allegedly brandished AK-47s while threatening the forest officials. Hussain said a park official, who is believed to have helped the MLAs, has been suspended and an inquiry has been instituted against him. ‘‘We have filed a case against them (the two MLAs) under the Wildlife Protection Act. Stern action will be taken against the culprits,’’ he added.

Jiten told TOI, ‘‘No one knows exactly what happens to the huge number of rhino horns recovered from dead animals or seized from poachers. I was inquiring about these horns from the forest officials and they filed the case against me.’’

About a year back, an environment activist group, Nature’s Beckon, had demanded a CBI inquiry into wildlife stocks after suspecting that several recovered rhino horns had gone missing. The group had filed two RTIs last year on wildlife stocks, to which the forest department had replied that there are 1,498 rhino horns, both seized and recovered from natural rhino deaths in its custody.

However, the group claims that 1,509 rhinos had died between 1980 and 1995 alone, adding that the figure revealed by the forest department was very small, and did not match with the number of rhino deaths.

Assam to move EC for relief to farmers

Sushanta Talukdar

Code of conduct debars it from initiating steps

“The dry spell will not affect the performance of the party”
The government has enacted laws to curb blasting of hills in the city

Guwahati: The Assam government has decided to move the Election Commission to allow it to initiate relief measures for farmers affected by the long dry spell.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists here that the government would seek relaxation from the Commission as the model code of conduct debarred it from initiating such measures.
The dry spell has led to the drying up of ground water sources and consequent shortage of drinking water. It has also affected the farmers as there is shortage of water for cultivation, Mr.Gogoi said.
The government has sought reports from the Deputy Commissioners about damage to the crop due to the dry spell. He also said that weather predictions by the Meteorological Centre were not encouraging.
The Chief Minister, however, felt that dry spell would not have any impact on performance of his party in the Lok Sabha or the turnout of voters. The people were intelligent enough to know that it was a natural calamity and hence they would not link it to the polls, he said.
Mr. Gogoi attributed the dry spell to deforestation and global climate change. He admitted that unabated blasting of hills and felling of trees had compounded the problem in the city. The government had enacted laws to curb blasting of hills in the city, he said.
Severe dust storms had disrupted flight schedules and led to cancellation of some of them at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi International Airport here for the past three days.

Assam tense as 26 hurt in grenade attack

KARBI ANGLONG—The situation in Assam is turning from bad to worse, where insurgency is already in its peak In a latest incident, at least 24 people were injured when suspected NDFB insurgents hurled a grenade at a computer shop in Uttarborbeel market at Howraghat in Karbi Anglong district. Police said the injured were taken to nearby Nagaon Civil Hospital where the condition of seven was stated to be very critical.

Meanwhile a police officer at Howraghat police station disclosed that such kinds of attacks by insurgents have become a matter of routine and they are helpless to stop them.

While expressing their inability to handle the situation, he pointed out that at many occasions cases were taken up with government to dispatch additional troops to handle the situation but no action has yet been taken.

Assam to seek EC permission on water projects

In view of the current dry spell, the state urgently needs to address the drinking water problem particularly in Guwahati

Guwahati, Mar 19 : The Assam government will seek Election Commission’s permission for sanctioning money for drinking water projects in view of the acute dry spell in the state.

“As the Lok Sabha poll dates have been announced, we will ask the Election Commission to allow us to sanction money for drinking water projects as there is tremendous water scarcity in the state,” said chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

“We have in the meantime asked district deputy commissioners to identify the projects and the money to be required,” Gogoi said.

Drinking water situation in Guwahati was very bad, he said, adding a Rs1,700 crore project for providing drinking water was already on. “I have also ordered for a census of the people illegally living in the hills of Guwahati to know the drinking water requirement in the city,” Gogoi said.

“We are very worried about the dry spell. Yes, deforestation is a cause of it. That is why we are giving emphasis on afforestation,” he said.

Export ban on pulses extended by one year

New Delhi March 18, 2009, 19:47 IST
In order to increase the supply of pulses in the domestic market, the government today extended the ban on exports and continuation of import duty exemption till March-2010.

"The decision today is to extend zero duty on import of pulses for one more year beyond March 31, 2009," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. The Union Cabinet has also decided to extend the ban on exporting all varieties of pulses except kabuli chana for one more year, effective from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010.
The government is hoping to control the prices of pulses through the combination of duty-free import and ban on export. As per latest numbers, inflation rate for pulses were at 13.09 per cent for the week ended February 28 this year, even as overall inflation has dropped below 3 per cent level.
A decision was also taken to distribute imported pulses through the public distribution system for six more months in the Cabinet meeting today chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Among other decisions, the government gave its approval for issuing notifications for the commencement of general elections to the Lok Sabha, which would take place in five phases starting from April 16.
The notifications would be issued on March 23, March 28, April 2, April 7 and April 17, Chidambaram told reporters. The Election Commission had announced the schedule for General Elections as well as to the Legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim to be held on April 16, April 23, April 30, May 7 and May 13.
The Cabinet approved the proposal to continue India's participation in the Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO) beyond April 2008.BOBP-IGO has been functioning in India since April 2003 to develop fisheries in the Bay of Bengal region with its head office in Chennai. The other members of BOBP-IGO are - Bangadesh, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. India would continue to contribute US $ 60,000 for this
A decision to impose the President's Rule in Meghalaya was also taken in the Cabinet meeting. The Centre had received a report from Governor R S Moosahary about breakdown of the Constitutional machinery in the state and recommended President's rule.     "After taking note of what happened in the Meghalaya state assembly yesterday, the governor has reported that there is a breakdown of Constitutional machinery and recommended imposition of President's Rule and keeping the assembly in suspended animation," Home Minister P Chidambaram said and added that the governor's report was accepted by the Cabinet and a suitable recommendation was being sent to the President.