Devotees throng Assam’s Kamakhya temple for Kumari Puja

Guwahati, Sep 25 : Hundreds of devotees thronged revered Kamakhya temple in Assam state on Thursday for Kumari Puja organised during Hindu festival of Navratri, in which young girls are worshipped.

Kumari Puja is held at the Kamakhya temple every year prior to Durga Puja celebrations that began on Saturday and end on “Navami” (the ninth day of the Navratri festival). The tradition is as old as that of the origin of Kamakhya temple.

It is believed that the Goddess, although omnipresent, surely exists in the virgin. Reverence to female children as goddesses is an age-old custom of India.

The Kamakhya temple situated in Guwahati, main city of Assam, on the banks of river Brahmaputra, is dedicated to goddess Kamakhya, consort of Shiva, Hindu God of destruction.

It is believed that at Kamakhya, the Goddess appears in the form of a virgin. So some of the pilgrims worship the living virgin as Goddess in this temple.

Worship of a living woman as Goddess is of purely Tantric origin. It is stated that virgin worship is nothing but Shakti worship.

The virgin worship is performed along with Durga, Kali and other Mahavidyas. The salutation mantra of virgin worship is the same as vidya’s salutation mantra. Sometimes, it is also seen that the virgin is fed and clad and saluted without any mantra. The tantrics believe that the virgin is the Goddess incarnate.

“Her name is not Kamakhya but Kamakshi. People come here as their wishes are fulfilled here and that’s why we have come all the way from Bihar,” said Chandreshwar Pathak, a devotee from eastern Bihar.

Read more:

New silk industry brings in job opportunities for locals in Assam

But now, the Government has officially declared Chaygaon as an industrial area, and more and more industries are likely to set up their units here, which would provide an opportunity for the locals to engage themselves in factory work.

“There are many girls and boys who are sitting at home doing nothing. But, after this factory was inaugurated, we got employed and now we don’t have to sit at home and waste our time. Many local boys get involved in some insurgent groups but rather they should find some work in this factory. At least they will be in the mainstream and won’t join the militant groups,” said Archana Kalita, a woman trainee in the factory.

The setting up of the factory would go a long way in organizing the silk industry in Assam to continue in a systematic line to ensure sustained production of high quality yarn and in the process address the basic needs of employment and socio-economic upliftment of the region.

“This factory is although small in terms of quantity, but it is going to be instrumental in helping or contributing about 4000 families surrounding this village and also the whole of northeast,” said Dilip Bora, Managing Director of Fabric Plus.

Bora further said that the factory produces designer fabrics, customized goods, A to Z in silk and fashion fabrics, which are exclusive in the markets and are well appreciated by the customers.

Read more:

Assam Govt orders evacuation from tilted building

GUWAHATI, Sept 23 – Revenue Minister Dr Bhumidhar Barman today reviewed the earthquake preparedness of the State in a meeting with the senior officials of the departments concerned. According to official sources here, the Minister directed the departments concerned to evacuate the residents from Jagabandhu Apartment in Bhangagarh area of the city, which tilted under the impact of the earthquake yesterday.

He also asked the officials concerned to enquire into the matters relating to the permission of the building and also to fix responsibilities for the purpose. If needed, actions should be taken against those found guilty, directed the Minister.

It was also discussed in the meeting as to how the city would be able to cope with the impacts of the earthquakes of greater magnitudes, if an earthquake of 6.2 in the Richter scale can result in cracks and tilts in its buildings.

The departments concerned should also take steps to identify the roads that require widening keeping in view the required width, which is at least 7.5 metres. Steps should be taken expeditiously to widen the roads up to the required limit.

Moreover, the Minister directed that speedy steps should be taken to retrofit the already identified weaker buildings, which include also the lifeline ones. Actions should also be taken in the case of the school buildings, which have been found unsafe. Many school buildings have been found unsafe, said the sources.

In the meeting, it was also decided to strengthen the communication system, the fire brigade services and the Civil Defence Orgainsation, said the sources.

The Revenue Minister also visited some of the affected buildings this evening and he was accompanied by senior officials of the Revenue Department.

Meanwhile, senior officials of the district administration visited the Fancy Bazar building which developed cracks under the impact of the earthquake yesterday.

However, the cracks which developed in a Machkhowa FA Road building have been attributed to construction defects and the cracks in the building developed much before the earthquake, said district administration sources.

Geologist D K Barman of the Directorate of Geology and Mining attributes the tilt in the Bhangagarh building to the carelessness or ignorance of the builders about the existence of a thick layer of plastic clay up to the extent of about 300 feet below the surface.

However, the cracks that developed in some of the city buildings under the impact of yesterday’s earthquake were due to faulty construction, he said.

Another tremor jolts Assam

A tremor of 5.7 magnitude was recorded at 1.09 a.m. on Tuesday woke up people in Assam, who had gone to bed in panic after experiencing a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Monday afternoon.

Monday’s afternoon’s tremor quickly followed by the sixth tremor in past 42 days prompted the State Disaster Management Authority (SDM) on Tuesday to ask the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) and Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) to deploy engineers to identify all vulnerable buildings in the city and instructed the Kamrup (Metropolitan) district administration to take necessary steps to ensure safety of the occupants of such buildings accordingly. Panic gripped residents of multi-storeyed buildings in the city following cracks in some building after Monday’s earthquake.

The SDM also asked all government departments to gear up and activate their contingency plan. The instructions were issued after a review meeting taken by State Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman. Although no casualty or injury was reported in Assam, Monday’s earthquake claimed 11 lives in Bhutan including four road construction workers from lower Assam.

V.K. Pipersenia, Principal Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management, told The Hindu that all government departments were directed to activate their contingency

Serve rural area for 1 yr to get job: Assam govt to medical graduates

In a major move to boost the rural healthcare sector in the state, the government of Assam on Wednesday appointed over 700 doctors.

However, the job is given under one condition. As per the state government, all MBBS graduates will have to serve for a minimum of one year in rural health centres.

The Assam government had also declared that those who are not interested to serve in the rural areas would have to pay Rs 5.34 lakh as compensation.

Speaking on this, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “On appointment, they have to serve the first year in rural areas. That is the least they can do for the people and the government, which spends so much to train a doctor.”

The minister believes that such a proposal could completely change the whole scenario of the rural healthcare sector of Assam.

Sarma also added that Rs 25,000 per month will be given as salary to the doctors posted in the rural areas.

Apart from this, these doctors will also be given bonus marks in the PG exams for serving in rural and difficult areas.

Poachers trying to poison rhinos in Assam’s national park

Kaziranga (Assam), Sep 18 (IANS) Forest authorities in India’s northeastern state of Assam have intensified patrol at a famed national park as there are fears that poacher gangs might try and kill animals by poisoning the grass instead of gunning down the wildlife.

A forest department spokesperson said an alert was sounded at the Kaziranga National Park after they found at least half-a-dozen cattle dead reportedly after grazing on poisoned grass in the fringes of the sanctuary.

“Although forensic test reports were yet to come, we suspect the cattle died after grazing on poisoned grass — some toxic chemicals laced with salt might have been sprinkled on a patch of grassland,” Kaziranga park director S.N. Buragohain told IANS.

Park wardens and rangers said poacher gangs were probably changing their tactics of killing rhinos and other animals using the conventional method of gunning down the wildlife or by digging pits to trap them.

“We have already sent a senior official to the park to investigate the matter. Patrols have been stepped up and efforts on to fence certain stretches in the fringe areas as well to avoid any kind of threat,” Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain told IANS.

“We are taking the reports very seriously, although we would be sure only when we get the forensic report.”

The risk is manifold — tigers could prey on the dead cattle and then themselves become a victim, while rhinos and deer could also stray out of the park to the fringe areas to graze on the poisoned grass.

“Preliminary reports indicate that the poison was laced with salt and then sprinkled on the grassland. And some of the animals have a great penchant for salt and this could be a new modus operandi of poachers to target rhinos,” a forest guard said.

As per the latest rhino census figures of April 2009, some 2,048 of the world’s estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos lumber around the wilds of the 430 sq km Kaziranga — their numbers ironically making the giant mammals a favourite target for poaching.

Last year 18 rhinos were killed by poachers, the first time in a decade that the number of rhinos killed in a year has touched a double digit figure in the park.

Poacher gangs kill rhinos for their horns, which many believe contain aphrodisiac qualities, besides being used as medicines for curing fever, stomach ailments and other diseases in parts of Asia.

Rhino horn is also fancied by buyers from the Middle East who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers, while elephant ivory tusks are primarily used for making ornaments and decorative items.

Profits in the illegal rhino horn trade are staggering — rhino horn sells for up to Rs.1.5 million per kilogram in the international market after they are smuggled to China or sold in other clandestine Asian markets.

Once extracted, the rhino horn is routed to smugglers in places like Dimapur in Nagaland, Imphal in Manipur and Siliguri in West Bengal.

Fake currency seized in Tripura, two held

Agartala, Sep 8 (IANS) Fake currency with the nominal value of Rs.500,000 was seized from a Tripura village bordering Bangladesh and two men were arrested, officials said here Tuesday.
The seizure and arrests were made during searches in Sobhapur village along the India-Bangladesh border, 60 km west of Agartala, Monday night by a joint team of Assam Rifles troopers and Tripura Police.
“Acting on a tip-off, the counterfeit notes in Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 denominations were recovered Monday night from Sobhapur,” said Tripura police spokesman Nepal Das.
The forged notes were concealed in a bag that was hidden in the bush.
Senior police officials, who were interrogating the arrested duo, suspect that the fake currency might have been supplied from across the border through a clandestine channel.
The police in Mizoram and Tripura in August and November last year busted an international fake currency racket and arrested six people, including a Myanmar national and a local bank manager.
The six were arrested from Mamit district of Mizoram and North Tripura district, and fake currency notes with the nominal value of Rs.1 million in Rs.100 and Rs.500 denomination was recovered.
A senior Tripura police official said Tuesday: “Security forces in the northeast India are on the alert for fake currency notes being circulated – strongly believed to be the handiwork of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.”
He said that the matter came up for serious discussion at the recent high-level meetings of the region’s police chiefs held in Guwahati and New Delhi.
“ISI was pumping fake currency notes into the region (to destabilize the economy) along with guns, ammunition and other contraband items, often with the help of various insurgent groups,” the official added.
Fake currency in Rs.100, Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 denominations are mostly in circulation in the northeast region.
Nationalised banks and various other financial institutions in northeast India have taken a series of measures, including installation of fake note detection machines to identify fake currency.

Assam Company Board recommends 15% Dividend for 2008-09

Assam Company Ltd has announced that the Board of Directors of the Company at its adjourned meeting held on September 07, 2009, inter alia, has recommended payment of Dividend @ 15% (Fifteen percent only) per Equity Share of Re 1/- each for the approval of the shareholders at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The stock was trading at Rs.20.05, down by Rs.0.15 or 0.74%. The stock hit an intraday high of Rs.20.70 and low of Rs.19.95.

The total traded quantity was 470548 compared to 2 week average of 2083667.

Assamese shine at the 55th National Film Awards


Assamese film-makers and musicians shone bright at the recently announced 55th National Film Awards for 2007. Musician Zubeen Garg received his first national award as best music director for his work on Echoes of Silence, a film on the Tai Phake people of Assam. The film was awarded the best in the Anthropological/Ethnographic film category.
Merajur Rahman Baruah, a Delhi based film-maker originally from Lakhimpur, bagged the Best Film on Social Issues (Non-feature) award. His film Shifting Prophecy talks about struggles of rural Muslim women in Tamil Nadu against patriarchal social and religious diktat.
Bombay based Nilanjan Dutta from Nagaon was awarded the best film in the scientific category. His film Bhanga Ghara is on water issues in the Malda district of West Bengal.
It can be mentioned that noted film-maker Manju Borah was a member of the jury in the Awards that saw several entries from Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland. There were, however, no entries from Assam in the feature category.

Assam student killed by friends over T-shirt

Guwahati, Sep 8 (IANS) A college student was burnt to death by three of his friends after they had an altercation over a T-shirt, police said here Tuesday.

Nitumoni Das, a first-year student of Dimoria College, was set ablaze by his friends at a private accommodation Monday in Sonapur, a township on the outskirts of Assam’s largest city Guwahati. He was staying in a rented accommodation near the college.

“According to preliminary investigations, three of Nitumoni’s friends came to his room around 3 p.m. Monday and had an altercation over a T-shirt. After a while, the friends poured kerosene oil on Nitumoni and set him on fire,” a senior police officer said.

Nitumoni succumbed to burn injuries late Monday at a private hospital here. The three accused are absconding.

“After setting my son on fire, one of his friends involved in the crime telephoned me and informed that Nitumoni met with an accident and was admitted to a hospital in Guwahati,” the victim’s father Anil Das told IANS.

“Before he expired, Nitumoni narrated the incident and said three of his friends set him on fire after he refused to give them his T-shirt,” the distraught father said.

Tea production down marginally in July

Export volume, value increase.
C.J. Punnathara

Kochi, Sept. 7 With the country facing a major shortfall in tea production this year, much will depend on the coming North-East monsoon. Depending on the intensity and spread of the coming rains, the shortfall can either be mitigated or worsened, Mr N. Dharmaraj, Vice-President for Tea, Harrisons Malayalam, said.
But however good be the coming monsoon, sources in the industry were united in stating that the shortfall is quite unlikely to be fully bridged this year.
Indian tea production registered a 15.7-million kg shortfall during January-July against the corresponding period last year.
Production during July was more or less stable, registering a shortfall of 0.3 million kg.
While acknowledging that some of the production deficit during January-April period could be made up, sources in UPASI warned that the lower intensity and lesser reach of the South-West monsoon this year is likely to lead to increased soil moisture stress in the coming months and the shortfall is expected to widen.
The coming N-E monsoon, which brings extensive rains to the tea-growing regions of North-East and South India, holds the key to tea production this year.
India’s tea exports have registered a fall of 15 million kg during the January-July period over last year.
During July it was up nearly a million kg to 19.47 million kg.
Tea production for the first seven months of the current year was 460.88 million kg as against 476.63 million kg last year. July production fell to 126.98 million kg as against 130.95 million kg last year.
South India seems to have accounted for the bulk of the shortfall at 8.95 million kg till July while North India, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the total Indian production, fell by 6.79 million kg.
The difference between South and North Indian production is expected to widen as heavy rains lashed North-East India in the first week of September.
But the rains in late July could result in lower deficit in August in the South Indian tea plantations.
However, the fall in exports has been more than made up by increased unit value realisation, which resulted in the total value realisation from tea exports spurting up. While the volume of tea exports fell, average unit value realisation went up to Rs 133 a kg, up from Rs 106 a kg last year. With a global deficit expected to grow this year, the demand-supply mismatch could widen, and prices are expected to remain firm in the domestic and international markets.

Assam Police team to reassess 50,000 cases

GUWAHATI, Sept 3 – Status of around 50,000 pending criminal cases gathering dust in police stations across the State would be reassessed by a special team of Assam Police. The special team, as per the module presently being prepared by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) would comprise 200 sub-inspectors undergoing probationary period, who would operate under a senior police inspector to ensure speedy disposal of cases.

Of the total number of pending cases, 30 per cent of them are reported in Guwahati itself.

“The drive would begin from Guwahati and later would be replicated in all the districts of the State,” a source in the police department told The Assam Tribune.

“An overview of the nature of the pending cases showed that most of the pending cases are petty, which could be closed taking into consideration the legalities attached to it. The idea behind carrying out the drive is to reassess the status of the high-profile criminal cases,” the sources stated.

“Taking into account the nature of the crime committed, the cases would either be closed or a fresh investigation would be carried out to bring the culprits to book,” he pointed out.

The source further informed the module would make setting up of a separate unit of police officials in each police station exclusively to study the nature of the pending cases.

Meanwhile, the police department has also been asked to prepare a road map to form separate units for law-and-order and investigation.

One aspect of Assam Police administration including that of others states in the country is the invariably first routine question that an SP, DIG or IGP during tour of districts, ranges and state police station is the number of cases chargesheeted. Any police station or outpost or petrol post incharge thus is focused on chargesheeting cases speedily irrespective of the merits of the case resulting in overlaping of the cases.

Assam records highest rice output in 57 yrs

The Assam could record the highest rice production in 2008-09 fiscal, for a period of 57 years since 1951. This has also helped it attain a surplus of 1.78 lakh MT in matters of rice, against a requirement of 38.92 lakh MT, in that fiscal. The field data of this record rice production have been compiled only recently by the official circles.

Official circles here said that the State produced a total of 40, 69, 986 MT of rice during the said fiscal. This included 3, 74,010 MT of autumn rice, 29, 24, 223 MT of winter rice and 7, 71,753 MT of summer rice.

Significantly, this amount of rice produced by the State last fiscal, was grown on an area of 24.84 lakh hectares of paddy field, against the 39.98 lakh MT of rice grown in an area of 26.46 lakh hectare of paddy field in 2000-2001.

Till the other day, the total quantity of rice produced in 2000-2001 by the State was regarded to be its highest record of rice production in a period of 50 years, since 1951-52.

The area covered to produce 40.70 lakh MT of rice by the State in 2008-09 is also remarkable. It signifies the growing productivity of the paddy fields for various reasons, said the sources.

The State could produce 5.58 lakh MT of autumn rice on an area of 5.40 lakh hectare in 2000-2001. The same year, it could produce 27.60 Lakh MT of winter rice on an area of 17.77 lakh hectare, while the area required by it during that year to produce 6.80 lakh MT of summer rice, was 3.29 lakh hectare.

But, last year, the State used 3.51 lakh hectare of paddy field to produce 3.74 lakh MT of autumn rice, 17.73 lakh hectare of farmland to produce 29.24 lakh MTS of winter rice and 3.60 lakh hectares of farmland to produce 7.72 lakh MT of summer rice.

Here, it is pertinent to mention that a change is taking place in the approach of the State Government towards autumn rice. Since the quantity of autumn rice produced by the farmers is not encouraging, the State Government has now laid more emphasis on using the autumn rice areas for growing summer rice and vegetables. For, summer rice and vegetables are economically more beneficial, said the sources.

From the point of productivity also, summer rice is more productive. The normal productivity of autumn rice in the State is 896 kg per hectare, while it is 1,482 kg per hectare in the case of winter rice. But, in the case of summer rice, the State has attained a normal productivity rate of 1,965 kg per hectare, as per the official data compiled on the basis of the achievements made between 2005-06 and 2007-08.

Then again, the normal productivity average recorded by the State in the case of vegetables is 16,482 kg per hectare, said the sources.

No doubt, the State could raise the all time high productivity rate of autumn rice to 1,084 kg per hectare in 2008-09 from 1,000 kg in 1997-98. Similarly, the productivity of winter rice was also raised from 1,439 kg per hectare in 1997-98 to an all time high of 1,674 kg in 2008-09 and the productivity of summer rice could also be raised to 2,142 kgs per hectare in 2008-09, from 1,797 kg in 1997-98.

The efforts taken under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) has thus paid off. However, the Central Government granted the Mission initiatives only for 13 districts of the State, that too on rice. The State is trying to prevail upon the Central Government to extend the Mission initiatives to the remaining 14 districts also.

Girl trafficking cases up in assam

GUWAHATI, Sept 5 – Trafficking of young girls from Assam has gone up in recent months, with essential interventions from the State Government still not in place. As there has been little effort to implement the Supreme Court directive to constitute committees involving all stakeholders to curb trafficking, criminals are still able to target vulnerable girls in a number of areas.

In the last three months alone, there have been a number of rescues of young girls from Assam in different cities of the country; one organisation in Assam working with partner groups could rescue and repatriate 13 girls during this period. The number of missing girls from Guwahati has also gone up. Tragically, most of the girls trafficked are not adults as traffickers prefer them in the age group of 14 to 16 years, a fact established by the age of those who have been rescued.

Speaking to The Assam Tribune, Digambar Narzary, director of Nedan Foundation, a Kokrajhar-based NGO, underlined the urgent need to abide by the Supreme Court directive. “Forming committees with stakeholders from various levels is crucial to check the menace of trafficking in Assam, where many cases happen because there were no one to notice or report the activities,” Narzary remarked.

Narzary, whose organisation has been responsible for rescue and repatriation of young women from various parts of the country, said trafficking has connections with the process of migration and therefore an effective monitoring mechanism should be in place. The nodal officers in the districts should be fed with more information by local communities, information which should include names of destinations to which young women are migrating for work.

Data generated by Nedan Foundation indicate that eleven districts of Lower Assam have emerged as particularly vulnerable with more women being trafficked than before. Some of them have been located in areas such as Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore and New Delhi. Significantly, the eleven districts have witnessed conflict situations and poverty, reasons which have been found responsible for rise in trafficking. Recurring floods in the state have lead to displacement of a large population, and those involved in trafficking have also targeted girls from such groups.

Narzary and others well acquainted with the issue of trafficking of girls in Assam believe that monitoring should be strengthened in the trains moving out from the State, because in recent times those have been the preferred mode of transport for traffickers.

They further favour State-specific Anti-Trafficking Laws in Assam, which recognise the problems endemic to the region. However, despite repeated efforts, such legislation has still not been formed.

The need to have a rethink on the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act is another issue highlighted by groups studying trafficking of girls. Anurita Pathak Hazarika of North East Network (NEN) said, “The Act stigmatises woman and even the word immorality is debatable.” She added that in Assam post-conflict situations in some areas were also responsible for making young women more vulnerable to trafficking.