DGP reviews situation in N.C. Hills

Guwahati: Assam Director-General of Police G.M. Srivastava on Tuesday visited the troubled North Cachar Hills district, where the State government is planning to relocate 50 Dimasa and Zeme Naga villages to identified clusters to undertake a full-scale counter-insurgency operations and protect villagers from militant attacks.

Meanwhile, suspected militants set ablaze several houses and injured one person in indiscriminate firing during an attack on a Dimasa village under the Mahur police station.

Kamakhya Temple In Assam Attracts Foreigners

Hundreds of mystics and seers, who claim to possess psychic powers, have gathered at a unique four-day festival at the Kamakhya temple here where thousands of devotees, including scores of foreigners, have come seeking blessings and fulfilment of wishes.

"One cannot deny miracles and the existence of mystical powers in this world. My blessings help childless couples conceive, besides treating patients with chronic ailments," Giri Baba told IANS even as he smoked a hookah filled with marijuana.

Giri Baba, an elderly Hindu seer with a paste of vermilion and ash smeared on his forehead, is among the many mystics at the famous Hindu temple of Mother Goddess Kamakhya in Assam's main city of Guwahati for the Ambubachi Mela that began Monday.

The Kamakhya temple has long been considered the highest seat of tantricism, a somewhat exotic rite-based channel in Hindu religious traditions that has been an integral part of India's folklore for centuries.

"Performing wonders is not difficult at all... I can make a childless couple conceive, find a distressed loner a spouse, or even cast an evil spell on others," boasted another mystic who identified himself as Kala Baba, a frail looking man sporting a flowing unkempt beard as he prepared for a fire ritual at the Kamakhya.

For many of the seers, the Ambubachi Mela is a meeting ground and an occasion to exhibit their psychic powers - from standing on one leg for hours to another burying his head in a pit and standing upright.

"There is something paranormal here at Kamakhya where most of the sadhus (seers) are capable of performing miracles... though most people would like to dismiss such claims as rubbish," said Pagala Baba, known as one of the most sought after mystics among devotees from far and wide.

Among the devotees making a beeline to meet the mystics were a few foreigners -- both men and women -- from Germany, France, Thailand and other countries.

"I am here for attaining peace and cleansing my soul. I find total peace of mind and really believe in the mystical powers of these learned seers," said a French man who refused to identify himself.

A German woman echoed the French man's views.

Blessings apart, many people approach the mystics for casting evil spells on their adversaries.

"A vast majority of the people come here to catch hold of a seer to harm their foes. It is possible to cast evil spells on adversaries, but then only a few would agree to do so," said Pagala Baba.

More than 500,000 devotees, including thousands of monks, have converged here for the ritual. The festival is being held to mark the menstruation period of the goddess during which the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine remains closed to worshippers. The temple gate would open Thursday.

Assam stares at power crisis

- Vanished rains hit hydel projects
Guwahati, June 23c: The Assam State Electricity Board today warned of an unprecedented power crisis if the rainless climate continued and pleaded with the people to conserve energy to help tide over the crunch.
The peak hour demand has touched 900MW because of the humid weather, said ASEB chairman A.K. Sachan. The power board has been able to supply only 750MW to 800 MW.
Even at night, the power demand is 650MW, compared to 450MW last year.
“Availability of power outside Assam is limited because the prevailing weather conditions are similar in other states too. The power generation capacity of hydel power stations in other northeastern states has gone down because of inadequate rainfall. A drastic reduction in the water level of rivers has resulted in Ranganadi (in Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh) producing only 193 million units from March to May as compared to 282 million units during the same period in 2008.
“The situation worsened this month as the daily power generation of the Ranganadi project has gone down to 3 million units against last year’s figure of 7 million units. The installed capacity of Ranganadi is 400MW and Assam gets 200MW of this under normal circumstances,” Sachan said.
He said the situation is similar in other hydel power projects like Loktak hydel power project in Manipur and Doyang project in Nagaland.
“Assam shares 50 per cent of the power generated by hydel power projects outside the state and adequate rainfall in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland is a must. We normally purchase power from different parts of country. But many of the states, including power surplus states like West Bengal and Orissa, are facing power shortage because of inadequate rainfall this year. If rainfall is insufficient, the situation may go beyond our control,” Sachan said.
According to the rainfall data available with the Regional Meteorological Centre, Guwahati, Assam has recorded 31 per cent deficit, Arunachal Pradesh 35 per cent, Manipur 38 per cent, Mizoram 36 per cent and Tripura 21 per cent between May 25 and June 19.
The meteorological centre has said if the region receives abundant rainfall in July, it will be able to make up for the deficit. “Otherwise, certain parts of the region will experience a drought-like situation,” said the director of the Regional Meteorological Centre, B.K. Handique.
Sachan said even though the ASEB is procuring power from all possible sources, including from the energy exchange programme, people must also co-operate and adopt energy conservation practices.
ASEB even suggested a few tips to conserve power: reduce air-conditioning energy by 40 per cent by covering the windows, switch off lights and fans when not in use, use fluorescent tubelights and CFL, keep refrigerators away from all sources of heat and turn off office equipment and computers when not in use.
The board yesterday bought 14 lakh units of power under the energy exchange programme. Each unit costs Rs 10.45.
The board also plans to purchase more power from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu shortly.

Baudi asks PM for intervention in NC Hills

IMPHAL, Jun 22 : As a direct consequence of a proposal nomenclature change of the NC Hills district to"Dima Hasao Raji" meaning" Dimasa`s kingdom" with 80 percent reservation of government jobs for Dimasas, transfer of land to Dimasa people, and issue of Inner Line Permit (ILP) to all non-Dimasa tribes, and resultant ethnic reign of terror, have forced more than 6,000 Zeliangrongs to flee to different relief camps in Manipur, Assam and Nagaland, said a statement released by the Zeliangrong Baudi (Assam, Manipur and Nagaland).

The release further said that at Manipur’s Tousem sub-division about 800 refugees are taking shelter while in Jaluke town in Nagaland there are 200, and in Laison village in the NC Hills district of Assam more than 5,000 refugees are present.

The release further thanked the chief minister of Manipur for generously donating more than Rs. 4 lakhs worth relief materials to the victims of the ethnic violence now staying at relief camps in Tamenglong district.

The statement further said the government of Manipur had been considerate in providing NREGS job facilities to the victims.

In the meantime, the Zeliangrong Baudi on June 19, sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and to the home minister, P Chidambaram through fax demanding immediate assistance for the victims and restoration of peace and harmony in the NC Hills.

G Nigtangpou, president of the Zeliangrong Baudi further said there are 82 Zeliangrong Naga villages in NC Hills and all of them are affected with the inhabitants denied the opportunity to earn their daily wages. The DHD(J) and DHD(D) are freely roaming the area threatening, burning houses and killing the people, he added while also stating that the NC Hills have been devastated by bamboo flowering and rodent menace.

He called for immediate assistance and relief along with restoration of peace and harmony by the Central government, failing which there would be a big calamity causing food scarcity, malnutrition and death.

It may be mentioned that since April, 2004 around 32 people have been killed in ethnic violence and nine injured. Further, from May 2009 till June 2009, 247 houses have been burnt down.

Suspected Zemi Naga men set ablaze 21 Dimasa houses in Assam

North Cachar Hills (Assam), June 20 (ANI): Suspected Zemi Naga men fired at a group of Dimasa tribe and set ablaze 21 houses in Assam’s strife-torn North Cachar Hills district on Saturday. The latest incident took place five days after the killing of 15 people in the district. According to the police, the incident took
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Suspected Zemi Naga men set ablaze 21 Dimasa houses in Assam

Gogoi moots Assam rural civil service

Guwahati, June 20 : Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday said his government is planning to set up a state rural civil service to ensure that officers are posted in villages for development of remote areas.

Addressing a function held on the occasion of three years of completion of the Congress-led government, Gogoi said there are plans to set up such a service very soon.

"This will ensure that officers who are normally reluctant to go to the remote villages are posted there to ensure allround development of the rural areas," he said.

Gogoi regretted that government officers are not willing to be posted even in major towns outside Guwahati which was a very "sorry trend".

The rural civil service will ensure that officers are posted in villages on a regular basis, he said.

Gogoi announced that his government was taking steps to ensure that state employees get salaries on a par with central government employees.

DONER Minister Bijoy Krishna Handique, newly elected MPs Deep Gogoi, Paban Singh Ghatowar and L M Suklabaidya and state Congress chief Bhubaneswar Kalita participated in the meet.

Mamata seeks report on Rlys in Assam

NEW DELHI, June 14 – Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee has asked Minister of State for Railways, E Ahmed to review the progress of railway works in Assam and submit a report. The responsibility is part of the work allocation distributed to the two Minister of State (MoS).

E Ahmed would now take stock of progress of works in seven States including Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttranchal. His responsibilities also include passenger amenities and public grievances, among others.

The dismal train services in the North-East including passenger amenities and the slow progress of work in North Cachar Hills, where the Broad Gauge Conversion work has almost come to a halt, the slack progress of work on the Bogibeel-rail-cum-road project is some of the major issues that is likely to keep the new minister busy.

Rice production in Assam declining

GUWAHATI, June 14 – The Agriculture Department is embarking on a long-term initiative with thrust on technological intervention, irrigation, and storage and market linkage to boost the State’s agriculture sector.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma today said that the dwindling trend of rice production since 2000-01 made it imperative to resort to technological interventions in the form of high-yielding and hybrid seeds, water supply through power pumps and soil health mapping besides facilitating storage and market linkage.

Total rice production (ahu, sali and summer paddies) in the State plummeted to 29.16 lakh MT in 2006-07 and marginally increased to 33.19 lakh MT in 2007-08. It was 39.98 lakh MT (2000-01), 38.54 lakh MT (2001-02), 37.38 lakh MT (2002-03), 38.81 lakh MT (2003-04), 34.70 lakh MT (2004-05) and 35.52 lakh MT (2005-06). The anticipated yield for 2008-09 is 41 lakh MT.

“We are trying to popularise high-yielding and hybrid varieties – the latter for the first time – among the farmers through filed demonstrations. Arize-6444, PAC-832 and KRH are three of the hybrid seeds being demonstrated covering an area of 5,920 hectares,” Brahma said, adding that crop diversification was another thrust area.

Rainfall, on which the State’s agriculture is largely dependent, has shown a continuous deficit trend since 2005 (-6.7 per cent), followed by 2006 (-28 pc), 2007 (-14.6 pc) and 2008 (-15.8 pc).

“We fear that there could be 22 per cent to 30 per cent decrease in summer paddy yield this year owing to water scarcity. The diesel-operated water pumps have not been cost-effective and so we are going to introduce power pumps, with 4,000 sets to be distributed soon under the National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikash Yojana,” she said.

Brahma said that the situation had been complicated by poor coverage of cropland under irrigation schemes. Officially a meagre 28 per cent of the State’s agricultural land is stated to be under irrigation and the actual coverage could be much less with many irrigation schemes remaining defunct.

Reasoning that the Agriculture Department alone would not be able to mitigate the water woes, Brahma said that the department was keen to bring more areas under water supply by utilizing the available sources of surface water in coordination with the Irrigation Department.

“Assam has a large network of water bodies including rivers, rivulets, lakes, etc., and rather than depending on a depleting ground water level, we should go for utilizing the available surface water,” she said.

Another new initiative of the department is the Rs 2-crore soil health mapping project undertaken by the National Bureau of Soil Survey covering 13 districts. “Once we know the nutrient status of different croplands, we can opt for crops which are best suited for a particular area,” she said, adding that soil-testing kits had also been distributed among the farmers.

Revealing that 19 cold storages had been set up with a total capacity of 80,000 MT, Brahma said that 50 per cent transport subsidy was also being provided to farmers in interior areas. She claimed that there had been no distress sale of vegetables this year.

For the first time, the minister said, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has procured 4,100 MT rice from the State, which it would be supplying to BPL families under government schemes. “This marks a new beginning, as the FCI had earlier been reluctant to procure our rice due to its high moisture content,” she added.

Achievements of Asomiya Science litterateur

JORHAT, June 14 : “Nature’s Revenge”, a book on Ecology composed by Amulya Kumar Hazarika, a prominent Asomiya Science litterateur to be published by National Book Trust of India (NBT), New Delhi and it will be translated to other thirty regional languages across the country. It may be mentioned here that, “Nature’s Revenge” is the first book in Environmental Science on Ecology by an Asomiya author to be published at National level in India.

Born in 1937 at Golaghat, Hazarika was a senior scientist in North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST), formerly known as Regional Research Laboratory, Jorhat. He has a unique contribution in the realm of Science literature. “Dhansamukhi Prithivi”, a book on Environmental Pollution published in 1972, was the first book of Hazarika and it was the first book of its kind in Asomiya language. He was also awarded by Axom Xahitya Xabha at Dumduma for his book “Prakriti Param Bandhu”, a book on Environment in 1987. He has also written “Chaka Kenekai Ghure”, “Mahakasar Rahasya”, “Yantrik Yantrik Manab”, “Prakriti”, “Parives Aru Vijnan Jagat”, “Patanga Srestha Pipilika” and “Parives Aru Pradushan” on popular Science.

“Sandhan” and “Akraman” are the two Sci-Fics books of Hazarika which are well read and well talked about by the books lovers. “Stiphen Hoking – Samayar Ithisas Rachota Sei Bikolanga Vigyani Jon” is the first biography on Hoking in Asomiya as the best book for children of upper age written by him. His “Mahanagarir Mahagun”, a witty-satirical travelogue is a book which could win the hearts of thousands of children and grown-ups alike. In the area of fictions, “Bisakanyar Paras” is unique in its bold and novel style of writing and unconventional approach to the theme which can be compared only to Khuswant Singh’s “New Delhi”. “Samrat Tutenkhamenar Rahasyabrita Samadhi”, is an excellent reading material in the area of archaeological story written by Amulya Hazarika.

He has also outshined in the fields of translation. Some of his translated paperbacks are “O Henrir Galpa” (1962), “Kabulivalar Bangali Stri” (1999, 2003), “Byasta Dalalor Prem” (2003) and “Taliban Afgan aru Moi” (2003).

Hazarika had his basic education and professional training in Birla College of Science and Technology in Pilani, University of Calcutta, Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi and David Livingston Institute for Overseas Development Studies, University of Strathelyde, Glasgow (UK). He started his professional carrier in the National Library, Calcutta as a sub-editor of Indian National Bibliography under the tutelage of Padmashree BS Kesavan, former Director of National Library and INSDOC, New Delhi. He joined RRL, Jorhat (CSIR) in 1964 and served in various high positions as head, Information and Industrial Liaison and joined COSTED at Chennai in 1995 as consultant information. After retiring from that post he settled at Jorhat and concentrated writing.

40 houses set ablaze in NC Hills

A boy and woman stand in the midst of their burnt house at Maibong in NC Hills on June 8. (Hemanta Kumar Nath Photo)

Haflong, June 9: Unabated violence continued in strife-torn North Cachar Hills district of Assam where 40 houses in a Dimasa tribal village were set ablaze today despite stepped-up security. Suspected Zemi Naga tribals fired and hurled hand grenades on Didiupi village and set ablaze the houses, police said.
There was no report of any casualty. Security have been stepped up in the trouble-torn district particularly after the arrest of DHD(J) chief Jewel Garlosa, who is currently in the custody of the National Investigating Agency.

Ranganadi hydel project Govt panel to study downstream impact

GUWAHATI, June 8 – In view of increasing complaints from different quarters about dam-induced flood in the Ranganadi and Dikrong rivers, the State Government has constituted a high-level committee headed by the chairman of the Pollution Control Board, Assam and former Commissioner of Water Resources department, Arun Dutta, to look into the downstream impacts of the Ranganadi hydro-electric project run by the NEEPCO. The committee will submit its findings to the State Government soon after a thorough investigation.

An official release said that the Ranganadi project apart, the committee would also study the possible adverse impacts by different hydel projects in the downstream areas.

The committee was constituted at the initiative of Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi after several recent floods in the Ranganadi and Dikrong were attributed to the release of excess water by the NEEPCO-run hydel projects although the corporation always sought to refute the charges.

The State Government, besides taking up the matter with the Centre, has also been urging the NEEPCO authorities to ensure a mechanism to prevent such floods.

“The State Government constituted the committee following a decision taken by Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi to that effect so that the team of expert makes an in-depth on-the-spot investigation and gets to the roots of the problem. Once the committee submits its report, the State Government will act upon the recommendations,” the release said.

The two other members of the committee are R Baruah, general manager (Hydrology), Assam Power Generation Company, and Atul Baruah, superintending engineer (Civil Design) of Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB).

Mahanta, Sahidul to approach SC

SILCHAR, June 6 : Prafulla Mahanta and Sahidul Alom Choudhury are planning to file a PIL with the Supreme Court seeking the Apex court’s vigil on the functioning of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the NC Hills Autonomous Council case. Confirming the news, Sahidul Alam, a former Minister in Mahanta’s AGP government, told The Sentinel that they would approaching the Apex court on their personnel capacity.

Sahidul said, neutrality of the NIA indicates immense possibility of some big names in the ruling party getting involved in the case. Sahidul said they had been preparing papers for the case and had collected sufficient documents to prove that some heavy-weight ministers in the Gogoi Cabinet had roles in the NC Hills scan and nexus with the ministry. Sahidul said, they were apprehensive whether the NIA would be given free hand by the Congress UPA government when the names of the ministers in the state would come up. Sahidul also said, it was he who had taken the initiative to approach the Supreme Court seeking its overall monitoring over the functioning of the NIA. However, a source said that Mahanta wanted to settle a score with a minister in the Gogoi Cabinet over a piece of land belonging Sarvamanglam, an NGO headed by Mahanta’s wife. RH Khan, the controversial social welfare official who had also been arrested with Mohit Hojai, had reportedly in his confession mentioned the name of that minister.

Rebels in India's northeast kill 5 in fresh attack

Suspected separatist rebels killed five people in a spray of gunfire before setting a village ablaze in India's remote northeast, police said Thursday. Meanwhile, police arrested the insurgents' suspected leader at a southern hotel.Authorities said the violence was part of a recent wave of attacks by Dimasa rebels fighting for a separate homeland in southern Assam state. At least 31 people have died since March, said senior police official Dipak Kumar.
The rebel group, the Dima Halam Daogah, has attacked trains, soldiers and members of other ethnic groups, said senior police official Dipak Kumar. The victims of the latest attack were all members of a Naga tribe called the Zemes, he said.
The latest attack occurred in the remote and mountainous Boro-Chenam village.
The suspected leader of the DHD, Jewel Garlosa, was arrested on Thursday at a hotel in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, said G.M. Srivastava, a senior Assam police official.
Earlier this week, police arrested a senior elected official, Mohit Hojai, on charges of funneling money to the DHD rebels to buy arms.
Authorities are still interrogating Hojai, who has denied the charges, according to senior police official Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta.

Karbi outfit claims truce breach

Nagaon, June 2 : The United Peoples Democratic Solidarity UPDS), which is under a ceasefire with the government, today claimed that two cadres were killed and three others taken away by security forces after a raid on one of its camps.
Police, however, said they recovered the body of only one militant. His identity and the group to which he belonged was yet to be ascertained.
District administration sources said based on a tip-off, a joint team of the army and police raided a camp of the militants in the Upper Deupani area under Shantipur police station around 3.30am today. The troops retaliated after the militants opened fire.
A cadre’s body was later recovered from the camp.
The team also recovered three weapons, including two AK series rifles and a G-3 rifle, a 40mm grenade launcher and 72 live rounds of ammunition.
The UPDS said the attack was on one of their notified camps where there were 35 cadres, including 10 women. Not one but two of the outfit’s cadres were killed, the Karbi outfit claimed.
“The two killed include Bhengkur Engti and P.T. Weljhon Terang. The three cadres taken away from the camp are Ningkhai Terang, Angtong Ranghang and Swahid Timung,” said UPDS publicity secretary Tong-Eh-Nongloda.
“Today’s incident was a pre-planned attack by the army. We will not tolerate such incidents, as we are sincerely adhering to the ceasefire ground rules. If the situation arises, we would be compelled to do anything,” said the outfit’s defence secretary, Lengbard Engleng.
Karbi Anglong superintendent of police, K.K. Sarma, however, said the slain cadre was yet to be identified.
“We are yet to verify whether the slain cadre belonged to the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front or to UPDS,” he said.
Sarma also asserted that no one was taken away from the camp.
“The incident took place inside a deep jungle. Some arms and ammunition were recovered from the camp and we later handed them over to the Bokajan police,” said an army source.

Sukhoi set for Assam landing

New Delhi, June 2 : Four Sukhoi 30 Mki will land in Tezpur on June 15 to turn the tea-town base in Assam the third in the country to host a squadron of the frontline combat aircraft.
The basing of a squadron of the Sukhoi in Tezpur means that the Indian Air Force is moving some of its most powerful assets closer to the border with China in India’s Northeast.
The basing of Sukhoi aircraft in Tezpur — a second Sukhoi squadron is to be based in Chhabua, also in Assam — is in keeping with a policy in which India’s military has been beefing up assets near its borders with China. It began in Ladakh, where the western air command, revived two airfields, Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul, and has continued in the Northeast.
“Our assessment is not threat-centric but capability-based,” said Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, who retired yesterday, in his last meeting with the media. (Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik has taken over).
Referring to China, he said: “There is no escalation in threat perception. We know very little about the capabilities of that country.”
An IAF source said modernisation projects had been taken up in five airfields in the eastern and north-eastern regions: Tezpur, Chhabua and Jorhat in Assam, Purnea in Bihar and Panagarh in Bengal.
Runways were being extended from 9,000 to 11,000ft. The Sukhoi base in Tezpur will be raised over two months. The chief of the eastern air command, Air Marshal S.K. Bhan, will preside over a simple ceremony to welcome the four Sukhois that will fly out from their original home in Lohegaon, Pune.
Pune currently has three squadrons of the Sukhoi, one of which is moving to Tezpur. Two squadrons are based in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.
A squadron in the IAF usually has between 18 to 20 aircraft.
An air force source said there were currently five squadrons of Sukhoi 30 Mki aircraft, one of which was yet to be fully raised. In five years, the air force is expected to have more than 200 Sukhoi 320 Mki in its fleet.
Two more IAF bases in Halwara, near Ludhiana, in Punjab and Jodhpur in Rajasthan are to be converted for the Sukhoi in two years.
Tezpur was the home of the MiG operational flying training unit that shut down. The units were moved to Bagdogra in north Bengal and Chhabua. With the MiG 21s — currently the mainstay of the IAF’s fighting fleet — due to be phased out in another two to three years, the training units will be shut down.