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