Rape and the ugly Indian

Anand Soondas

If only India's other stats - on economy, poverty alleviation, healthcare - grew at the rate crimes against women are climbing up in this country. At an increase of 31% it is exponential. It is also shocking, amazing and ridiculous. A 2006 report by the National Crime Records Bureau said in India a woman is raped every half hour and is killed every 75 minutes. And this is according to 2004 data. Factor in a one-third jump and do the math. Also, make space for the large number of women, perhaps larger than the ones reporting their violation, who keep quiet and bury their shame forever in their hearts for fear of another round of abuse, this time from family, society, police.

Such barbarism in a country that dreams to be a world power and demands every seat at every global high table should indeed be humiliating not only for its leaders but also its people. But few are moved by the plight of half the nation's population, still living in such dread, such suffocating coexistence. And this in 2009 - the 21st century.

Where do the perpetrators get such courage and confidence from that they stop a running bus, pull out a woman and leave her by the roadside after raping her, that they trap a foreign diplomat and rape her in a car, that they catch hold of a college student and violate her atop a building even as heavy traffic passes by a few feet below? How is it that a cop instead of protecting a young girl shuts her inside a police post and does the unthinkable?

The arrogance mostly comes from a knowledge that in a society like India's the victims will be silenced "naturally and culturally". It comes from the deadly and deeply ingrained dynamics of a feudal nation that treats women as second class citizens. And it comes from hundreds of years of brainwashing of the male mind after Manu said women were little better than cattle. Importantly, it derives an insidious power of its own by the silent suffering of women themselves, by their own reluctance to fight for the space they rightly deserve and are perpetually denied.

Top police officers say the number of rape cases reported may not even be a fraction of the one that's actually committed. Social activists echo this. For every woman who reports her violation, there are 10 who will not speak up. Somehow, the Indian male - and a predominantly male-dominated police and administration - continues to put the onus of the crime, rather incredibly, on the victims: you must have sent some signal; you must have been dolled-up and dressed provocatively; maybe you are crying rape because you have been caught; why did you have to answer nature's call when you know there could be thugs lurking around; what shame you have brought on us; why you.

This is enough to kill the spirit of most women and for those that can transcend this psychological brutality there is the crude questioning by cops and lawyers, something many victims say is like going through a second rape. Not surprising that they prefer to seal their lips and kill their sense of dignity and honour. And we are not even talking about the numerous others subjected to molestation, groping, eve teasing and degrees of verbal and physical abuse - at the movie hall, in the bus, in crowded bylanes, markets, trains, almost everywhere. As one female colleague who used to take the metro in Kolkata to commute said, "The first time I was groped, I created a ruckus. And fought like mad. But after a few times, it got hard. In any case, the stares you get after that is almost, like, killing. If you are a working woman in India not rich enough to take your own car to office, groping is a routine reality."

A group of informed citizens have started a cyber campaign against rape, clamoring for stricter laws, including death sentence if it involves minors and handicapped. It's already got robust support and, clearly, many think it's a step in the right direction. The courts will have to get stringent - many still persuade the rapist to marry his victim - but there is urgent need for another three-pronged effort. One, investigating agencies will have to be sensitized on how to deal with such cases. Two, society at large will have to change its attitude towards victims and make the leap from judgemental censure to empathy. Finally, women themselves will have to fight their demons and come out in the open about their various abuses.

India, as an article in TOI recently said, is now one of the most dangerous places for women to be in. We can do without this dubious distinction.

Gogoi asks for drought action plan

Guwahati, July 30 : The drought-like situation affecting the 27 districts of Assam will leave the state 20 per cent short in sali crop production, prompting the government to ask deputy commissioners to draw up an action plan to make good the loss in the coming rabi season.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said here this afternoon that he had made the deputy commissioners responsible for coming up with an action plan in consultation with the departments concerned and the farmers.
The government’s response is understandable, as the drought-like situation has affected 15,362 villages, 15.95 lakh families of farmers and 8.69 lakh hectare of crop area.
“I want to decentralise the planning process. It is no use planning for something in Titabor from Dispur,” Gogoi said.
“There has been 31 per cent deficit in rainfall between June 1 and July 28 despite the rain in the last few days. It will see a drop of 20 per cent in Sali crop. But we want to make up the loss of the farmers by coming up with an action plan for rabi cultivation. We have asked the DCs to come up with an action plan at the earliest and prove all kinds of assistance like seeds, diesel, water pumps, free tractors and repair of canals,” he added.
The government has budgeted Rs 128.49-crore assistance package for the farmers so far.
Gogoi has also directed the deputy commissioners to take advantage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme to improve irrigation and water harvesting system in the district.
The chief minister said he would do away with central purchase of seeds because the distributed seeds are mostly returned as the situation differs from district to district.

Mason Zeliang blames Dimasa militant chiefs for recent massacres

SILCHAR, July 26 : In a press release issued by Mason Zeliang, chief co-ordinator of the Citizen Rights Protection Volunteers (CRPV) yesterday strongly condemned Dilip Nunisa, chairman of the pro-talk faction of Dimasa militant outfit DHD for his baseless allegation that the Naga militant outfit NSCN (K) is involved in the recent ethnic clash in NC Hills.

Sources claimed that Mason Zeliang made this statement during his visit to 3 make-shift refugee camps of the Dimasas at Kumarcherra, Doloicherra and Joipur Shibasthan in Cachar recently. Mason made it clear that the CRPV received no help from any of the NSCN factions.

According to him, it was the DHD factions one led by Dilip Nunisa and his rival faction led by Jewel Garlosa which led to the Dimasa massacre, sources informed.

Tension Along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border

 Lakhimpur (Assam), July 26 : Tension prevailed in this district along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border following destruction of standing paddy crop of Assamese villagers allegedly by officials of the neighbouring state.

Assam police officials claimed today that a group of men led by some officials of Arunachal Pradesh raided Milonpur village under Narayanpur police station and destroyed the paddy crop yesterday.

The villagers reported the matter to the district officials and the Naraynpur Circle Officer Pankaj Deka immediately rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Police, CRPF and civil officials are camping in the village to prevent any untoward incident, sources added.

Near darkness after dawn in Assam

Guwahati, July 23 (IANS) For close to three minutes Wednesday, Assam witnessed near darkness after dawn as the moon completely hid the sun to form the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century.
At 6.28 a.m., millions watched with a sense of awe as the eclipsed sun cast a shadow, plunging most parts of Assam into darkness.
“It was like a dream…a phenomenon that can just be felt, an exciting moment with the morning turning into night for more than three minutes,” said R. Barman, a scientist.

Guwahati and several other parts of Assam and the northeast gave star gazers one of the best views of the complete eclipse with people able to witness the dramatic diamond ring.

“It was a momentous event, a strange darkness enveloping the morning as crickets and birds chirped and stars became visible for a fleeting few minutes,” said Arunim Das, an amateur astronomer.

Assam facing acute power crisis

 Guwahati Assam, reeling under heat wave conditions due to scanty rain, is facing acute power crisis with the actual generation capacity of Doyang Hydro and Kopili Hydro projects dipping to less than half of their total installed capacity leading to long hours of loadshedding.
Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB)sources said Doyang Hydro project is generating just 21 MW against the installed capacity of 75 MW, while Kopili Hydro project is generating only 119 MW against the installed capacity of 275 MW.
Moreover, Ranganadi, Loktak and Karbi Langpi projects are not generating any electricity causing a marked shortfall of power generation.
ASEB had raised its power generation from 808 million units in 2005 to 1629 million units, which, was, however, less than its present requirement of 2000 MW in the peak period.
The ASEB plants have been able to raise their plant load factor to 57 per cent in 2008 from 33 per cent in 2001.
The possibility of purchasing power from states which were surplus earlier was also remote as most of them are facing from power drought.
Assam is purchasing 70 MW to 100 MW of power in excess of the state's allocated quota but this was likely to become difficult in future, the sources added.

Over Rs 653 crore passed

Imphal, July 22 : The Manipur Legislative Assembly has today passed over Rs 653 crore budgets on Education, Panchayat, Art and Culture, and Tourism.

Moving the token cut motion during the day's business of the Assembly, Dr Ng Bijoy said that many government schools in the state are in shamble while saying that no parents would want their children to study in such pitiable school building condition.

Observing that the situation seems to lead back the people to olden days when classes were taken in open air, he asked who would not like to send their children where free meals and text books are provided to children.

Dr Bijoy said it is time to equip the children with electronic multi-media centres and to provide them scientific education.

He also said that the Manipur Film Development Corporation should be developed and the JN Manipur Dance Academy should be upgraded to college level.

MLA Dr I Ibohalbi, who also moved the motion, urged the concerned department to review matter relating to unreasonable down-gradation some schools.

He also enquired whether the rationalisation process is ended.

He said though NREGS is very popular in Manipur, the daily wage of the labourers is low.

He urged for the revision of labourers' wage and suggested to fix it at Rs 150.He said this will make the scheme more successful.

Among others, MLAs RK Anand, Morung Makunga, Dr Khasim Ruivah, N Mangi, and Nandakumar have also participated in the discussion.

Participating in the discussion, MLA Shyamkumar said that nothing, other than seeing it on signboards, has been known and felt about SSA in the state.

He also urged to give attention to the historical monuments in Andro constituency which have attracted foreign tourists too.

Clarifying the motions on Art and Culture, Chief Minister O Ibobi said that the government has been planning to convert art and culture into industry.

He said, to promote and preserve the cultures of the hills and the valley people, the government is sincerely making efforts to develop the Manipur Film Development Corporation.

The government is also planning to declare Manipur Film policy.

Education Minister, L Jayentakumar clarified that the government is planning to set up model primary schools to develop education in the state.

It is also going to start tele-education shortly.

The minister said awareness has been given to the people on SSA and midday meal.

The government has also provided training to several teachers so as to enable them to teach according to the demand of the time.

He said rationalisation process will be slower in hill areas due to the proposed district council elections.

Saying that the rationalisation process has been completed in zone 1, the cabinet will decide on the others.

Budgets relating to various demands including Rs 480, 14,07,000 for Education, Rs 41,68,85,000 for Panchayat, Rs 18,60,00,000 for Art and Culture, Rs 12,69,20,000 for Tourism were passed today.

Light of lexicon amid dark fury of violence

NGO endeavours to compile trilingual dictionary in association with Dimasa Sahitya Sabha
Guwahati, July 22 : The land of the Dimasas may be in a state of deep and perpetual turmoil, but that hasn’t stopped efforts to bring out the first trilingual dictionary on their language.
Once out, seeking the Assamese or English equivalent of Dimasa words would no longer be a tall order as the dictionary would be in Dimasa-Assamese-English versions.
The initiative has been taken by the Anundoram Barooah Institute of Language, Art and Culture, a city-based voluntary organisation, in association with Dimasa Sahitya Sabha, the apex literary body of the Dimasas.
“Though there had been a couple of word books on the Dimasa language, the need for a complete dictionary was felt for long. This is the first attempt to compile a comprehensive dictionary on the ethnic language,” the institute’s director, D.K. Kalita, said.
He said the Dimasa Sahitya Sabha has extended cooperation by nominating a panel of experts to help compile the dictionary. “It will take nearly a year to develop the dictionary and we have targeted around 20,000 words,” he added.
Kalita said the primary objective behind the project was “to boost the language spoken by around 75,000 Dimasas in the state since grammar and dictionary are the basic requirements for development of a language.”
“Moreover, we feel that such projects will promote amity among the ethnic communities of the state,” he added.
The institute also has Mising-Assamese-English and Rabha-Assamese-English dictionaries to its credit and is developing similar dictionaries on Bodo and Karbi languages.
Kalita said they would take the help of Bodo and Karbi sahitya sabhas for the compilation of Bodo-Assamese-English and Karbi-Assamese-English dictionaries.
For compilation of the proposed dictionaries, the institute is holding a workshop on lexicography at its headquarters at Rajaduar in north Guwahati. Nominees of Dimasa, Bodo and Karbi sahitya sabhas, former director of Mysore-based Central Institute of Indian Languages P.N. Dutta Baruah and head of the department of linguistics, Gauhati University, Jyoti Prakash Tamuli, will be resource persons. Renowned scholar T.R. Taid, eminent linguists Upen Rabha Hakacham, Madhu Ram Boro, Lilabati Saikia Bora and Malini Goswami, compiler of dictionaries Sumanta Chaliha and Asam Sahitya Sabha president Rongbong Terang are also participating in the workshop.
Kalita said the dictionaries would contain the head words, international phonetic alphabets, grammatical notes and meanings of the words in Assamese and English.

Total solar eclipse in four places of Assam

Guwahati, Jul 21 : The total solar eclipse will be visible in four places of Assam tomorrow with Dibrugarh witnessing the total phase for over three minutes.

Regional Meteorological Centre's Assistant Meteorologist R K Goswami said here today that besides Dibrugarh, the eclipse would be visible at Guwahati, Sibsagar and Silchar.

In Dibrugarh, the eclipse would begin at 5.31 am and its greatest phase be observed at 6.32 am. It would end at 7.41 am.

In Guwahati, the eclipse would begin at 5.30 am. With its greatest phase at 6.29 am, the eclipse would end at 7.36 am.

Beginning at 5.31 am in Sibsagar, the greatest phase of the eclipse would be at 6.32 am. It would end at 7.40 am here.

In Silchar, the eclipse would begin at 5.30 am with its greatest phase be observed at 6.29 am. Here the eclipse would end at 7.37 am.

Assam MLA released after court cancels arrest warrants

Guwahati, July 18 (PTI) Independent MLA Jiten Gogoi, arrested yesterday on the charge of contempt of court, was released today after the Golaghat district court rejected the arrest warrant issued by a civil court.

The Golaghat district court rejected the warrant issued by the civil court, directing the arrest of Gogoi for not appearing before it in an assault case, and ordered that the MLA be released with immediate effect.

The civil court had issued several summons to the former ULFA militant-turned-MLA on previous occasions in connection with the assault of local Congress leader Akash Phukan and related violence.

The Independent MLA from Bokakhat was arrested earlier also on May 16 in connection with the assault of officials of Kaziranga National Park.

Miscreants attack Dimasa villager, houses torched in Cachar

As the ongoing ethnic clash between Dimasa and Zeme Naga community in Assam's North Cachar Hills district continued unabated, suspected miscreants today attacked a Dimasa- dominated village in neighbouring Cachar district, killing one, injuring three and torching 25 houses.
They also kidnapped two others during the raid.
Police said at 1100 hrs a group of armed miscreants raided Sonapur village near Harinagar under Lakhipur police station in Assam's Cachar district and set a number of houses on fire. When the scared villagers started fleeing, the miscreants started indiscriminate firing from automatic weapons, in which one Dimasa villager was killed and three were injured.
The miscreants kidnapped two others at the time of leaving the place. Soon after the incident a contingent of police and para-military forces, led by Superintendent of Police (Cachar) Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan, rushed to the place, 45-km from here, and started operation to nab the miscreants.
Police were yet to confirm the actual number of houses torched in the attack.
It was suspected that Zeme Naga miscreants were behind today's attack.
With this the toll in the ongoing ethnic clash between Dimasa and Zeme Naga tribes that started since March 19 this year rose to 66.
While more than 500 houses were torched, 12,000 people took shelter in different relief camps.
Earlier also Cachar district felt the heat of ethnic clash as on June 9 suspected Naga militants attacked Lower Lodhi village and set ablaze 32 houses belonging to Dimasas. Nearly 1000 Dimasa villagers had been living in relief camps in Cachar's Jaypur-Shivasthan area, officials said.

Concern over forest policy

NEW DELHI: The Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national platform of tribal and forest dwellers organisations, has expressed concern over the Union government’s recent decision to spend huge sums of money collected in the name of “compensatory afforestation.”
In a statement issued here on Thursday, the Campaign said such a policy would accelerate deforestation and result in destruction of wildlife. It would institutionalise a system that encouraged use of forests on payment. It would also displace more tribal people and forest dwellers.
When forests were cleared for changing land use, the locals were neither informed nor consulted. This would also be the case if funds were allocated for compensatory plantations, the statement said. “In both the cases — where forests are destroyed and where compensatory forests are developed — the people lose their land and livelihoods.”
The Campaign said the policy would increase violations of the Forest Rights Act through illegal eviction of cultivators, as the Forest Department would rush to access the huge funds coming in from plantations. Monoculture tree plantation would also cause environmental damage and biodiversity threats.
This would also deny the State governments and local bodies their rightful share of the money, the statement said. “A crucial opportunity to make India’s forest management system more environmentally sensitive, transparent, democratic, and accountable has now been lost.”
“Back door deals” The Campaign said the Ministry had acted in a blatantly unconstitutional manner, ignoring both Parliament and the State governments and proceeding through back door deals to ensure easy access and continued control over the enormous funds.
This would only fuel more deprivation, conflicts and violence in the forest areas, while accelerating the loss of some of the country’s precious resources, the statement said.

PCPIA demands peace in NC Hills

GUWAHATI, July 17 : The People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam (PCPIA) today staged a sit-in demonstration at Lakhidhar Bora Khetra in Guwahati to demand a pro-active role on the part of the Asom Government towards restoring peace in the violence-torn NC Hills.

Much blood has been shed and many lives have been lost in the ethnic clashes between the Dimasa and Zemei Naga tribes in NC Hills. There have been repeated demands that the Government should take up measures to re-establish law and order in the region and to ensure the safety of the people. PCPI has also added its voice to these demands. Zemei Council member Y Zemei said "Dimasas and Zemes have been living as brothers and sisters since time immemorial and would continue to live as brothers even in future. Militant groups operating in the district are responsible for instigating violence. All differences have to be sorted out amicably and the Government should broker peace and promote goodwill among the two communities."

Besides several members of Moran, Deori and Dimasa Students’ Union, AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharjee and general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi, PCPIA leaders Lacit Bordoloi and Dilip Patgiri and MASS chairman Bubumoni Goswami also took prt in the sit-in demonstration.

Barak: a bridge that begs for attention

July 16: A scenic bridge across the mighty Barak river on the eastern fringe of Silchar, which connects the town with the lone airport in south Assam, Lakhipur subdivision in Cachar district and the adjacent state of Manipur, is tottering at the edges.
The landmark bridge, according to the civil engineers in the PWD department, is now gasping for stability, having developed considerable weakness in its middle, where the two ends of the cantilever meet.
This 472-metre-long bridge has a width of 7.5metres and was constructed by Gammon India Ltd and Sharma and Sons. It was opened to traffic during the devastating floods that swept through Cachar in 1966.
On an average, over 500 vehicles of different kinds ply on the bridge every hour. But this mammoth structure, certified to last for 100 years by its builders, suddenly started experiencing “fatigue” in 1999.
Engineers in the national highway division of the state PWD found, much to their consternation, that the two ends had developed considerable weakness, thus making the bridge hazardous for vehicular movement.
An expert team of engineers of the Union ministry of national highways and transport flew down to Silchar for a spot inspection of the bridge in June 2000.
After a series of parleys with the local PWD engineers, it decided to install a flyover made of steel and timber below the surface of the bridge in its middle to give it balance and add to its strength and resilience.
“We have already sent an alert to the Union national highways ministry. The ball is now in their court. However, there is no chance of the bridge collapsing and falling down,” Matiur Rahaman Lasker, the executive engineer in-charge of the national highway division of the Barak bridge, said.
The flyover has so far endured the slow hammering action on the hinge joints of the cantilever.
The cantilever method is a long projecting beam, which remains fixed at its ends. As soon as passing vehicles exert pressure on the cantilever system of the bridge, its two ends expand and get hooked to provide the required balance.
During repairs, a device named Exjomet C-160 was also used in the middle of the bridge where the flyover was set up with a view to replacing the distressed old conventional joints.
But as the convulsions intensified, the engineers mooted the idea of yet another round of joint survey of this bridge.
The bridge has also lost its sheen. The macadamised portions have become worn out, and hence motorists and commuters are now required to negotiate the travails of travel whenever they venture on this bridge.

10 buses to ferry 1000 passengers

Siliguri, July 17 : Nearly 1,000 people and just 10 buses to take them to Sikkim.

That was the situation today at the Sikkim Nationalised Transport bus terminus off Hill Cart Road here during the hours of relaxation. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has granted the relief to take the stranded people of the Himalayan state back home.

Patients, students, tourists, traders and the common people of Sikkim formed the major part of the crowd that swarmed the terminus campus, either standing in a queue in front of the closed counters or squatting inside the shed since dawn, hoping for tickets.

They got ecstatic when the ticket counters opened around 12.30pm, nearly seven hours after standing in the queue in the heat.

“I have been standing here since 5am to get tickets for myself and my ailing daughter,” said D.M. Gautam of Rabong, the first woman in the queue at the counter.

“I had taken her to Calcutta for treatment but got stuck here on the return.”

The situation is not unique today. The stranded people have been thronging the terminus since Tuesday when the Morcha began its indefinite strike, blocking NH31A, Sikkim’s lifeline with rest of the country.

A group of eight students from Nepal, who arrived in Siliguri yesterday, were among the stranded passengers. But they are afraid of missing the admission deadline at Sikkim Manipal University. “We have come all the way from Dharan to get admitted to SMU. It will be bad if we get stuck here and miss the deadline,” Ranjeeta Limbu said.

Two students of Sikkim Government College, Tadong were desperate to reach home as the institution will reopen tomorrow after a vacation. “We have to reach Gangtok today because God knows when they will give the next relaxation. It’s a matter of attendance. If we run short of it, there will be a problem during the exams,” one of them said.

Many have lamented that Sikkim suffers unnecessarily every time the Morcha calls a strike.

“We have moral support for their demand but there is no logic in closing NH31A which happens to be our only link with the rest of India. Moreover, they stone and damage our vehicles if we try to pass through the highway, which is bad,” said Tenzing Lama, a social worker from Singtam.

“The Morcha should give relaxation at least twice or thrice a week. Some of us need to travel to Siliguri and other places on a regular basis. Strikes like this cause a lot of inconveniences,” said L.P. Chhetri, also from Singtam.

For Vicky Grove and two of her friends from the UK, the strike has spoiled their plans to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim. “We could not visit Darjeeling but hope to visit Sikkim if we get the tickets,” Vicky said.

However, with 10 buses with a seating capacity of 30 each, SNT officials are finding it hard to accommodate all the stranded people in Siliguri. “We can accommodate a maximum of 35 people in a bus. We are giving preference to students, patients and residents of the state. As for the tourists, we are not taking them as it will be a problem for them to leave Sikkim when they want,” said Buddha Rai, the public relations officer of the SNT.

Today’s relaxation was granted after senior officials of the SNT approached the Morcha leadership, he added.

Road blockade hits life in Assam

Guwahati: Normal life in Assam was hit on Monday as trucks and other commercial vehicles went off the roads in response to a 12-hour “chakka jam” programme.

The “chakka jam” call was issued by the State unit of the All-India Road Transport Workers’ Federation to protest the killing of a truck driver and a helper at Lokhra Chariali here on Thursday night, allegedly by a Personal Security Officer (PSO) of the Superintendent of Police (CID).

Even as the protest was on, another incident of alleged police highhandedness was reported. A 64-year-old resident of Dhola, under the Mangaldoi sub-division in northern Assam’s Darrang district, was allegedly beaten to death by the police on Saturday night after he expressed inability to pay the money they demanded to close a petty crime case.

The government announced an ex gratia of Rs.3 lakh to next of kin of all the three victims.

Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the Assembly that the government had suspended SP (CID) Mridualananda Sarma and arrested PSO Godadhor Rai in connection with the killing of the truck driver and helper. The government had also ordered a probe by Principal Secretary, Transport, Alok Kumar.

Police said Rai fired 30 rounds from his AK-47 rifle killing on the spot the driver hailing from Tripura. The helper hailing from Meghalaya died at the hospital.

The PSO chased the truck on a motorbike after it hit the SP (CID)’s vehicle near the National Games village here. He later surrendered at the Basistha police station and was arrested.

No ‘Islamic’ prefix before ‘fundamentalist’ in Assam House

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Assam Assembly Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai has ruled that the words “Islamic fundamentalist” be expunged from the proceedings of the House.

Prabin Kumar Gogoi of the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had wanted to know how many Islamic fundamentalist groups were active in the state, what were their names and strength.

Even as state Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain stood up to reply to the question on behalf of CM Tarun Gogoi (who holds the Home portfolio), several members of the Assam United Democratic Front — a party floated by Mumbai-based perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal — objected to the use of the term “Islamic” as a prefix to “fundamentalist” and created a ruckus. A written copy of the official reply to the question, however, did contain the words “Islamic” and “fundamentalist” in addition to the names of the outfits.

Members of several other Opposition parties too joined the fray, with some like Ranjit Dutta (BJP) pressing for use of the two words together and some like Abdul Aziz (AGP) siding with the AUDF members against using the prefix while referring to fundamentalist groups.

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Gogoi too intervened, making his stand clear that he was also opposed to referring to fundamental groups through their religious identities. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bharat Chandra Narah said the word “Islamic” be dropped from the proceedings, to which the Speaker agreed.

Opposition leader and AGP chief Chandra Mohan Patowari tried to make a point that there was no harm in calling them “Islamic fundamentalists” because the US too refer to them as such.

Floods continue to wreak havoc in Assam

Sivasagar (Assam), July 13 (ANI): Flood situation remained grim in Assam’s Sivasagar district, forcing 20,000 people to seek shelter in relief camps.

More than 20,000 people in Sonari and Nazira areas were forced into relief camps as overflowing Dikhow and Desang rivers inundated more than 100 villages.

S.Dhiren, an official of Krishna Guru Seva Ashram, a voluntary group, said that food and other essentials were being distributed in the relief camps.

“We are distributing rice and cereals for the people affected by the flood waters besides other relief material,” said Dhiren.

Water Resource Department officials say the water level of overflowing rivers has reached 95.13 metres, 10 centimetres less than the June 1998 flood level.

Every year, the monsoon causes the river to flood in Assam.

Attack on people of Assam

GUWAHATI, July 13 : The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has expressed grave concern at the recent attacks on Asomiya people in Manipur.

In the past couple of days Manipuri militants had attacked several non-Manipuri people, which included two Asomiya persons – Uttam Kalita and Mohammad Kamaluddin.

Condemning the attacks, AASU president Sankar Prasad Rai said, " Attacks on Asomiya people be it in any part of the country or any part of the world, will not be tolerated. We demand that these attacks should be stopped immediately."

He also said that AASU would take up this matter with the Northeast Students Organization (NESO).

Asom Jatiyabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) general secretary Manoj Barua also condemned the attacks and appealed to the Manipur Government to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of non-Manipuri people.

He said that if the attacks continued, it would have serious repercussions.

Floods Hit India's Assam State

But there are parts of India that are certainly not having a dry spell. In India's northeastern sate of Assam flooding is causing havoc. Many villages and vast areas of farmland are under water.
This is the Brahmaputra River. Beginning in Tibet it crosses India and Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

But when monsoons arrive this river often floods.

In the Lakhimpur district the river broke through a stop bank leaving the surrounding villages and farm land under water.

India’s national disaster management agency is carrying out rescue and relief work in the region.

But the homeless villagers aren’t happy with the rescue efforts. With no adequate shelter they are forced to spend their lives in boats and on the streets.

[Flood Victim]:
"The day the Matmora stop bank was washed away, we have been living like this. We haven't got any help from the government.”

Water levels in the river remain dangerously high across much of the state.

2 Assam Rifles men beat up youth, land in custody

JORHAT: A major and a rifleman of Assam Rifles have been arrested in Golaghat district for allegedly kidnapping and torturing a class-XII student for being in touch with a girl on the Net.

The duo was identified as Major E S Vinod and rifleman W K Ramesh Singh from 3rd Assam Rifles based in Churanchandpur, Manipur. The major reportedly had an affair with the girl.

On Thursday, the Jorhat magistrate sent the two to judicial custody. Police said they found in their possession a 9mm pistol, a .32 revolver and a handcuff.

Additional SP (Jorhat) Subudh Sonowal said the major had got into a relationship with a local girl whille he was posted at Sadiya in Tinsukia district. "Later, he came to know that Debabrata Bordoloi, a Plus II science student, was sending e-mails to and chatting with the girl on the Net. He asked the student to stay away," he added.

Sources said the two Assam Rifles personnel came to Titabar in a car around 8 p.m. on Wednesday. In their civvies, they forced a youth called Bhargav Khound to get into their car and then asked him to call Debabrata, a native of Sivasagar district, from his hostel.

"When Debabrata came out of the hostel located in the Amgurikhat area, the two Assam Rifles men dragged him inside the car and beat him and Bhargav. But the moment they saw Debabrata collapse, they dropped him and Bhargav near Kakadonga bridge at Dhodar Ali on the outskirts of the town," a source said. The two youths were later rescued by some locals and taken to hospital.

The additional SP said police arrested the accused around 11 pm from the Kamarbandha area in Golaghat.

Assam Rifles sources said the army would request the Jorhat magistrate to transfer the case from the civil court to an army court.

BSF, villagers clash at Dawki

Shillong, July 10 : Tension prevailed at Bakur village in Dawki after a confrontation between the BSF and the residents last night.

A group of residents, led by the village headman of Bakur village headman, Markos Khonglah, allegedly hit a BSF constable with a blunt object, injuring him.

The Jaintia Hills superintendent of police, M.K. Singh, said according to the complaint lodged by the BSF around 11.30pm yesterday, there was a confrontation between the BSF and the local residents.

The police arrested the headman on the basis of the complaint but he was later released, as the offence was bailable under Sections 325 353 and 34 of the IPC.

On their part, the villagers claimed that the BSF personnel on duty were drunk.

They said one of the jawans was injured when he allegedly tried to scale the wall of the residence of the headman, who had objected to the constables drinking in the village.

In his complaint, the headman said that he had asked three BSF constables, who sat drinking on a footpath in Bakur village last night, not to do so in a public place.

When he returned home, one of the BSF personnel tried to force their way into his residence and in the confrontation, the headman hit the constable.

The BSF, in an FIR filed at Dawki police station said three local residents, including the village headman, were drunk and beat up the constable besides hitting him with a blunt object.

A counter complaint filed by the headman, however, alleged that the constable was at fault.

The villagers said the BSF had no right to trespass into the house of village headman and instead, should have contacted the police.

The BSF public relations officer, Ravi Gandhi, said for the last seven days, the BSF had intensified night patrols in the area to check smuggling and the incident may be the result of some misunderstanding.

The injured constable, with five stitches on his head, was brought to Shil- long where his condition was stated to be stable, Gandhi added.

Spurt in crime against women in city

GUWAHATI, July 9 – Violence against women continues to remain a major concern for the police as reports of such crimes have come in from different parts of Guwahati. Significantly, many of the cases registered with the police relate to victims from weaker sections of society living in slum areas. Police acquainted with recent trends in crime against woman say that in and around Guwahati, many incidents have taken place in Hatigaon, Athgaon, Fatasil Ambari and tracts parallel to the railway tracks. Some of the violence starts with domestic disputes, and perpetrators include husbands in inebriated condition.

Interestingly, violence against women have also been reported from families which are economically well-off. “Earlier not many cases were reported to the police, but with the Supreme Court making its stand clear, women who are aware of their rights approach the police more often,” said a police personnel based in Guwahati.

In the only all women police station at Pan Bazar, eight cases have been registered till in the first week of July, while 13 cases were filed in June. May saw a high of 18 cases, and in April seven cases were lodged. Most of these cases related to violence against women, and the victims hailed from different parts of the city.

Here it needs to be mentioned that the actual figures for the city would increase because many cases do not get registered in the Women Police Station as they are registered in local police station. Actual numbers would also be higher because some cases do not get registered at all.

According to police sources, although much has been focused on dowry related violence, occurrence is relatively low among local communities in Guwahati. Among a few other communities, dowry related violence, however, is comparatively higher.

Significantly, it has also been revealed by sources that some of the cases registered as crime against woman actually could be motivated, and at times have caused undue harassment on the accused. “Yes, there are genuine cases, but from time to time cases have been filed which actually have little factual basis making it difficult for us to proceed,” said the official.

Woman, child killed in ethnic violence in Assam

Haflong , July 6 A Dimasa woman and her child were killed today by suspected Zemi Nagas tribals in continued ethnic violence in Assam&aposs trouble-torn North Cachar Hills district.

Official sources said the woman and child were killed while they were returning from their jhum fields in Natunwari village under Haflong police station this afternoon during the day-long bandh called by several public organisations to protest against the ongoing clashes between the two groups.

The district has been rocked by violence since March with the militant group Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) striking in a big way in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls as they targeted railway and security personnel and property.

Ethnic clashes broke out between the two warring tribes -- Dimasas and Zemi Nagas -- resulting in the killing of over 32 people and razing to ground more than 200 houses.

State Budget anti-people: Opp

GUWAHATI, July 5 – Opposition members today came down heavily on the State Budget, terming it as anti-people and lacking focus on many of the burning issues of the State. Taking part in the general discussion on the budget, Bhuban Pegu (independent) said that the perennial problem of flood was unlikely to be contained unless there was a shift in policy. He said that to be effective, the practice of launching flood- and erosion-control measures in April/May had to be discarded and replaced with a time-bound programme beginning in November/December.

“All these years huge sums of money have virtually been washed away due to shoddy and half-done anti-flood works that begin just before the flood season. The common excuse resorted to by the Government about a so-called long-drawn process for financial clearance is ridiculous and must be changed forthright if we are to have an effective flood-control mechanism and prevent recurring damage worth thousands of crores every year,” Pegu said.

Drupad Bargohain (CPI) criticized the budget, saying that the dangers of a deficit budget were already manifesting in the form of price rise. “To meet the deficit the Government has to go for either large-scale borrowing or enhanced taxation, which invariably impacts the common people hard,” he said.

Urging the ministers to visit the markets, Bargohain said that they did not know the ground situation vis-à-vis price rise as they never visited any market.

Bargohain also questioned the implementation of many Centrally-sponsored projects which he said were tardy and corruption-riddled. “Lots of instances are there when newly-constructed roads failed to last even a year,” he said.

Jagat Sing Ingti (Congress), while welcoming the provisons for setting up new institutes of higher learning in different parts of the State, appealed to the Government to ensure timely completion of the announced projects. “The Diphu Polytechnique took 25 years for completion but classes are yet to start,” he said.

Regretting that the House saw little deliberations on the volatile situation in NC Hills, Ingti said that people were getting killed and property being destroyed every day but such a crucial issue stood neglected. “We do not even know what steps the Government is taking to contain the situation,” he said.

Accusing the State Government of following double standards in engaging militant outfits in talks, Ingti said that if the Government could initiate dialogues with the NSCN (I-M), DHD (Nunisa), UPDS, etc., there was no reason why the same could not be done in the case of the DHD (J) and KLNLF. “Is it that the Government waits till an outfit attains a ‘stature’ before it can be invited for talks?” he asked.

Disapproving the Government’s dissolving the NC Hills Autonomous Council following the arrest of its CEM Mohit Hojai, Ingti said that the act was tantamount to “murder of democratic norms” as there was always the option to select a new CEM from among the members.

Ingti was also critical of the move to replace the customary laws of the Karbi and Dimasa people, saying that it hinted at a conspiracy to marginalize the two indigenous communities.

Anwarul Haq (AUDF) termed the budget as ‘frustrating’, and said that it had little for the people of the Barak Valley. He charged the Government with failing in its basic responsibility of providing security to the personnel engaged in the East-West Corridor and railway, resulting in virtual abandonment of the highway project in NC Hills and prolonged disruption in the Lumding-Badarpur railway tract following heightened militant activities.

Haq said that the Government had done little to uplift the 5 lakh-odd members of a fishing community of Barak Valley who had been languishing for decades.

Haq also said that along with enhancing salary and perks of the employees, the Government ought to ensure a better work culture in its offices.

Maneswar Brahma (BPF) described the budget as a realistic one but added that some long-standing needs of the BTC area on fronts like education and health still awaited priority status. He also called for expediting process of withdrawal of police cases against former BLT members as per provisions of the BTC agreement.

“This is resulting in undue harassment to the former BLT cadres. In addition, the Relief and Rehabilitation Department should also be handed over to the BTC administration,” he said, and pleaded for bestowing of legal status on the village council development committees (VCDCs) as panchayati raj institutions were not required in a Sixth Schedule area like the BTC.

Brahma further urged the Government to create a separate directorate for Bodo-medium educational institutions besides filling up the vacancies of posts of teachers.

Durga Bhumij (Congress), while hailing the budget as pro-people, underscored the need for implementation of development schemes for the tea-tribes populace. “Even a basic amenity like drinking water eludes a vast majority of the tea-tribes,” he said. He also stressed proper management of the 15 ailing tea gardens of the Assam Tea Corporation (ATC), saying that the labourers were enduring tremendous hardships in those gardens. “If necessary, the gardens should be given out on long-term lease for revival,” he added.

Earlier, initiating the budget discussion, Rana Goswami (Congress) defended various steps spelt out in the budget, terming those as the correct exercise under the prevailing circumstances.

“Education has been given top priority with stress on creating adequate educational infrastructure across the State and relating education to industry and enterprise,” he said. He also claimed that work on Indo-Bangladesh border fencing was progressing satisfactorily.

Goswami also accused the AGP of doing precious little to improve the power situation while the party was in power. “Rather, the AGP closed down the thermal power stations at Bongaigaon and Chandrapur besides stalling the Karbi Langpi hydel project,” he said.

Kamal Singh Narzary (BFP), Dr Alaka Sarma (AGP), Raju Sahu (Congress), Chandi Basumatary (Ined), Motiur Rahman Mandal (Congress), Praneswar Basumatary (BPF), Rajiv Lochan Pegu (Congress), Mohibul Haq (Ind), Bhupen Bora (Congress), and Bithika Deb (Congress) also participated in the debate.

Red alert in Majuli as Assam flood situation turns grim

The flood situation on Thursday turned grave in Assam following heavy rainfall in the catchment areas as red alert was sounded in Majuli, the world's largest river island, and Lakhimpur.
Official sources said more than two lakh people of nearly 300 villages have been affected due to breach in embankments at Majuli and Lakhimpur.
In Majuli, an embankment was breached on Thursday morning at Nayabazaar inundating Jengraimukh, Fuloni, Halodiati, Kherkotamukh and Nayabazaar.
In Lakhimpur, a 100-metre stretch of the "geo-fabric" embankment, constructed by a Malaysian company at a cost of Rs 140 crore, was breached on Wednesday at Matmora affecting nearly 200 villages.
East Dhakuakhana, Matmora, Kherkota, Dangdhara, Dimoruguri, Kekuri and Dholpata were among the areas which got submerged.
Heavy rainfall in the catchment areas in the foothills of the Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh resulted in floods in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Sonitpur and Jorhat.
A red alert has been sounded in these areas and personnel of National Disaster Rescue Force were engaged in rescuing the marooned people.
Water level of the mighty Brahmaputra was flowing close to the danger level at Guwahati.

Gogoi under pressure to drop non-performing ministers

GUWAHATI - Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is facing a rebellion of sorts from within his ruling Congress party with legislators seeking a reshuffle in the cabinet and dropping of “non-performing” ministers.

A group of 27 legislators submitted a signed memorandum to the chief minister requesting him to effect a cabinet reshuffle by dropping inefficient ministers and inducting new faces, Raju Sahu, a Congress legislator representing the Chabua assembly constituency in eastern Assam, told IANS Thursday.
This is the first time in the past eight years that the chief minister is facing an open revolt. Gogoi has been heading the state government since 2001.
If we are to win the 2011 assembly elections for the third term then it is a must for the chief minister to have a very good team with him and hence the need to reshuffle the cabinet, Sahu said.
Murmurs of dissent were palpable with other legislators too joining the revolt bandwagon.
Those ministers who were not able to deliver the goods should be dropped and new faces inducted. I am the legislator from the prestigious Guwahati East constituency and still I am not a minister, nor do I have any power, said Robin Bordoloi.
There is a lobby stepping up its ante against the chief minister, the coterie becoming more vocal after the Congress won just seven of the 14 seats in the recently concluded parliamentary elections. The party had won nine seats in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
This is not a demand but yes there is a feeling for a reshuffle. We are a democratic party and these are our internal matters, said another Congress legislator Bhupen Bora.
The chief minister admitted there was a demand from within the party legislators for a reshuffle.
It is true there is a demand for a reshuffle. I never said there would be no reshuffle in the cabinet, although right now we have not decided anything on this, Gogoi said.
Considering the belligerent mood of the legislators, the chief minister might axe at least two to three ministers and induct a couple of new faces to stem any further dissidence in the party.

Floods wreck Indian villages

The situation turned grim on Thursday after the surging waters of the Brahmaputra breached a 100-metre stretch of a newly built embankment in Lakhimpur district in Assam state. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GAUHATI (India) - AT LEAST three days of nonstop monsoon rains have caused flooding in hundreds of villages in India's remote northeast, affecting around 200,000 people, officials said on Friday.
The situation turned grim on Thursday after the surging waters of the Brahmaputra, one of Asia's largest rivers, breached a 100-metre stretch of a newly built embankment in Lakhimpur district in Assam state.
At least 300 villages in the district, about 350 kilometres north of the state capital Gauhati, have been flooded after the breach, Assam Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman said.
While some people have left for higher ground, the majority are still in their homes, even though flood waters have entered most houses.
'We have sounded a maximum alert and have deployed paramilitary disaster response teams for rescue operations,' said Ataul Karim, the district police chief.
Monsoon floods are routine in Assam, a state of 26 million people, with heavy rains swelling the Brahmaputra and its innumerable tributaries that crisscross the state. Last year, millions of people were forced to temporarily abandon their homes.
The monsoon rains usually hit India from June to September.
The rains are crucial for farmers whose crops feed hundreds of millions of people, but they also bring massive destruction across the country. Every year, thousands of people are killed by flooding, collapsing houses and other rain-related incidents.

5 killed in NC hills violence

Violence in North Cachar hills distirct refuses to halt as 5 persons were killed in yet another strike by miscreants on Wednesday night even as the Centre is determined to stem violence in the north eastern region.

According to information, five persons including a teenagerswere killed and three others wounded as armed miscreants attacked a tiny Dimasa village under Mahur police station on Wednesday. Armed miscreants attacked the hamlet killing five people - four children and a woman - and injured three more. The militants opened indiscriminate fire on a group of people resulting in the grusome incident. The injured, a woman and two children, were admitted to a local hospital with multiple bullet injuries.

The victims were all from the Dimasa tribe and it appears to be a retaliation to the killing of three Zemi Naga women earlier this week. On the other hand, Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said the Centre is determined to put down violence perpetrated by insurgent groups in the Northeast. He said paramilitary forces and state police are vigilant. But despite their best efforts, incidents like this (killing of Hindi-speaking people) happened. Reacting to the reports of fresh violence in Assam, he described the killing of non-Assamese there as a matter of concern while expressing regret.

India to view longest solar eclipse on July 22

New Delhi (IANS): India will view 21st century's longest solar eclipse on July 22 which will provide a life time opportunity to scientists and sky gazers to study this grand spectacle of nature.

The total eclipse is expected to last 6 minutes and 44 seconds, making it the longest eclipse till 2132.

"The eclipse begins at 5.28 a.m. (IST) when the shadow of the moon touches the earth at local sunrise point in the Arabian Sea, close to the western coast of India. The eclipse ends at 10.42 a.m. (IST) when the moon's shadow finally leaves the earth at local sunset point in the South Pacific Ocean," said an official at the Ministry of Science and Technology here on Tuesday.

N. Rathnasree, Director, Nehru Planetarium said: "This eclipse is of special interest for the scientists and general public of India as its path of totality passes through thickly populated regions of west, central, east and north-east India."

People in parts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and northeastern States will be able to watch the total eclipse while other parts of the country will witness a partial eclipse.

The next solar eclipse will occur on Jan 15, 2010.

Opp walkout over NC Hills violence

GUWAHATI, Jul 1 : The Budget Session of the Assam Legislative Assembly today started on a stormy note with the members of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) staging a walk out in protest against the refusal of the Speaker to admit an adjournment motion of the-law-and order situation in North Cachar Hills. Immediately after the Question Hour, the members of AGP, BJP and AUDF wanted to move an adjournment motion on the situation in NC Hills, but the Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai said that as the State’s Budget for the current financial year would be presented today, he would allow the movers of the motion to speak on its admissibility on July 1. Leader of the Opposition Chandra Mohan Patowary said that no rule disallows moving of an adjournment motion on the day of presentation of the Budget.

The members of AGP, BJP and AUDF then rushed to the well of the House to protest the Speaker’s decision and later they staged a walk-out.

Meanwhile, in a written reply to a question by Girindra Kumar Baruah (AGP), the Forest Minister, Rockybul Hussain, who was replying on behalf of the Chief Minister, said that altogether 206 persons including 159 civilians and 47 security personnel were killed by the militants in NC Hills during the period from January, 1995 to May 30 this year. During the same period, 43 militants were killed and 376 were arrested, while, three militants managed to escape from jail. He said that 215 houses were burnt down during that time.

Hussain informed the House that at present, militants belonging to the DHD(J) and NSCN are active in the hill district. On the steps taken by the Government to bring the situation in NC Hills under control, he said that 22 companies of Army and 59 companies of Assam police battalion and paramilitary force personnel have been deployed in the district, while, the IGP in charge of the Special Task Force is camping in the district. The Government has initiated steps for upgrading four police outposts to police stations and to create eight new police outposts, while, the forces in the district have launched operations under the Unified Command structure. Senior officers of the State Government and Assam Police are frequently visiting the hill district to take stock of the situation, while, officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs also paid several visits to the area.

Gogoi to table State Budget today

GUWAHATI, Jul 1 : The Budget Session of the Assam Legislative Assembly will begin tomorrow with the presentation of the State’s Budget for the year 2009-10 by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who is also in charge of the Finance department. Meanwhile, the Opposition parties are gearing up to put the Government on the back foot during the session. The session, which will continue up to July 21, will have 13 working days. Normally the State’s Budget is presented in the month of March, but this year because of the Lok Sabha polls, only vote-on-account for four months was presented in March and the full Budget will be presented tomorrow.

The Speaker of the State Assembly, Tanka Bahadur Rai, today held a meeting of the leaders of the legislature parties and groups to seek their cooperation for smooth conduct of the session.

The major Opposition parties have joined hands to raise the common issues concerning the people of the State together on the floor of the House. They are also likely to move an adjournment motion in the House on the incidents of violence in the North Cachar Hills district.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, the leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, Chandra Mohan Patowary said that the major Opposition parties would maintain floor coordination to raise the major issues concerning the common people forcefully in the House. He said that he already held talks with the leaders of other parties including BJP and AUDF in this regard.

Patowary said that law-and-order situation in the State, particularly in NC Hills and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) areas would be one of the main issues for the Opposition. He alleged that since assuming office in 2001, the Congress-led Government in the State had totally failed to protect the life and property of the people and the situation in NC Hills deteriorated day by day because of the failure of the government to act on time. He alleged that the government delayed the arrest of former Chief Executive Member of the NC Hills Autonomous Council, Mohit Hojai, only because of the elections. He also said that the Government was not keen on solving the problem of militancy through political talks and no progress has been made in the process of talks with the militant groups, which signed cease-fire agreements to express their desire to solve the problems peacefully.

The Opposition leader said that the power situation would be another major issue as the government has totally failed to improve the situation and is now claiming that the situation would improve only after sufficient rainfall. Over the years, the government had failed to take steps to increase thermal power generation and no step was taken to set up the proposed Amguri power project, he alleged. He further said that the Government cannot expect to bring in investments to the State without improving the power scenario.

On the drought like situation, Patowary said that the rural economy would be badly affected this year because of the weather condition. He said that the failure of the government to provide irrigation facilities to the farmers would seriously hit agriculture production. He alleged that less than five percent of the cultivable land in the State is provided with irrigation facilities.

Patowary also alleged that though the Government of India has been claiming that the rate of inflation is coming down, the prices of all the essential commodities are increasing, making life miserable for the common people. He said that the Public Distribution System is also not functioning properly in the State.

The Opposition parties are also planning to accuse the government of misusing funds earmarked for rural development.