Central team to visit Assam's Bodo areas; to review security

, January 31, 2010

In the wake of unabated violence, a high-level Central team will visit Bodo-dominated areas in Assam on February 10 and review the prevailing law- and-order situation there.
The team, headed by Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai, will visit Kokrajhar and hold a meeting with top officials of Assam government, paramilitary forces and others and review the steps taken to stop violence in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) areas.
Sources said violence in BTC areas has increased abruptly -- 74 per cent -- in 2009 compared to the previous year, primarily due to the fratricidal clashes among different Bodo groups.
In 2008, 110 people were killed in Assam due to insurgency-related violence but in 2009, 194 people -- mostly in BTC area -- lost their lives due to different violence.
"It is a serious situation in Bodo-dominated areas.
Violence has to be put to an end urgently," an official said.
The Centre is particularly worried over the fact that despite a large number of militants belonging to NDFB and almost all members of erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tigers surrendering their arms, violence continued unabated there.

APCR holds Para-Legal Social Workers’ Workshops in Assam

Guwahati: Aiming at building of a nationwide network of grassroot legal social workers dedicated to using the legal system to defend rights of the underprivileged sections of the society, Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) organized two training workshops in Assam during 26-27 and 29-30 December 09 at Guwahati and Badarpur respectively. Inaugurating a two days workshop here in Guwahati on 26th December 09, Dr. Shakeel Ahmed, Director, APCR urged that- “there is an urgent need to act beyond celebration of victimhood.” Until, we start using legal mechanism not only defend the underprivileged and oppressed sections of the society but also to bring culprits to the book of law, situation is not going to change, he added. Explaining the rationale of training of para-legal social workers, he argued- this is required for because of three reasons: Firstly, the increasing human rights violations demand enhanced efforts in the field, a group of activist at every level. Secondly, the existing human and civil rights groups are facing dearth of workers, especially the youths. And finally the suffering people need trained facilitators and crisis managers from their own locality and communities to avoid the over dependence on outside initiatives, which very often are not available in critical circumstances. This workshop is the first step to achieve the above mentioned target. Speaking in the workshop, Dr. Shyam Bhadar Mehadi, senior human rights educator and former representative of NHRC in Assam emphasized on the need of human rights education among general masses and asked the participants to carry forward this massage to remotest areas of Assam. A brief overview on Situation of Human Rights in India and how deal with it was presentation by Mahtab Alam, Coordinator, APCR. In his presentation, he informed the participants about various existing mechanism and its optimum utilization. A session on criminal justice system in India dealing with important issues and information relating to First Information Report (FIR), Arrest and Cases, etc. also held, in which Adv. Shanatanu Sarkar of Guwahati High Court, Mr. Ataur Rahman, former IGP of Meghalaya and Mrs. Baharun Saikia, member, Law Commission, Assam interacted with the participants respectively. This session was chaired by Mr. Rohini Kumar Das, Senior Advocate, Guwahati High Court. The workshop dealt with number of conceptual as well as practical aspects of human rights, judicial system, criminal justice, rights of detainees, Extra- ordinary laws and right to information, etc. Others who made their presentations at the workshop include Mr. Waliullah Laskar of Barak Velly Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), I H Borbora, RTI activist. A similar two days workshop held in Badarpur of Barak Velly as well during 29-30th December 09. In both the workshops, more than seventy grassroots workers participated from far flung areas of Assam. Participants have been assigned a ten point follow up program for another six month which deals with conceptual as well as practical works. An ad hoc network of para-legal social workers has been also formed for the period six month.

Assam govt to talk with FCI, railways on food supply

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said that he would hold talks with the chairman of the food corporation of India (FCI) and officials of the railway board to ensure availability of the essential commodities in the state.

An official release said that the chief minister held a meeting on January 25 with the chief secretary and officials of the Food and Civil Supplies Department, FCI, Railways, Oil India and other concerned departments to assess availability of the essential items in the state.

Currently, one of the key issues in the state is availability of sugar. The CM asked the officials of the FCI and railways to take required steps to ensure availability of sugar.

Shortage of rakes for transporting essentials to the state was also raised at the meeting and it was decided that the state government would inform the Centre about the problems faced by Assam.

The issue of availability of kerosene and LPG was also discussed, a press release issued after the meeting said.

Windfall for Assam staff

Dispur appeases restive employees
Guwahati, Jan. 29: Dispur today conceded the key demands of its restive employees, agreeing to the three per cent annual increment based on basic pay and house rent irrespective of the fact if the beneficiaries live in rented accommodation or their own house.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi announced this afternoon that employees would be getting an annual increment at the rate of three per cent of basic pay with retrospective effect.
The revised pay will be fixed notionally with effect from January 1, 2006, and there shall be no increment based on performance, the main bone of contention between Dispur and the employees.
The house rent allowance will be given at the rate of 15 per cent of basic pay in Guwahati city, 12 per cent in districts and subdivisional headquarters and 10 per cent in all other places in Assam without any distinction between rented accommodation and one’s own house.
Even casual workers benefited today.
Gogoi enhanced the fixed pay of the casual and ad hoc employees from Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500 per month. He directed the finance department to take expeditious action to prepare revision of pay rules and other necessary government orders accordingly.
The Sadou Asom Karmachari Parishad, the apex body of employees which had been agitating against alleged anomalies in the revised payscales and wanted it to be on a par with central government payscales as promised by the chief minister, welcomed the announcements.
“Today, we will discuss the gains. We are thankful to the chief minister and the chief secretary for acting on our justified and key demands on increment, house rent allowance and arrears. The remaining demands will be handed by the anomaly committee that has been set up by the government,” Sadou Asom Karmachari Parishad secretary general Basab Kalita said.
The remaining demands include complete medical care reimbursement or Rs 1,000 a month and timescale promotion.
A source said the January 19 talks between the employees’ organisation and chief secretary Sharma, who was entrusted by Gogoi on January 16 to resolve the issue amicably and swiftly after the employees threatened to go on strike, hastened today’s announcements.
“The decisions were taken in that meeting which was cordial and productive. The chief secretary played a vital role in the resolution of the problem,” a source said.
Government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma said Dispur would be able to sustain the pay hike, which would cost the state exchequer between Rs 4,700 crore and Rs 5,000 crore a year.
“It will go on increasing every year given the three per cent annual increment. Problems will be there for the first three-four months. We will be able to sustain it given the present health of the economy, as we are sure our own revenue generation will also increase with each passing year. So far, we have not taken any overdraft,” Sarma said.
“It is for their good work that the state is progressing. But a section blames them of petty corruption. The onus is now on them to find out a way to change this perception and improve the work culture,” he said.

Rhino found dead in Kaziranga

GUWAHATI: An endangered one-horned rhinoceros was found dead with its horn gouged out at the famous Kaziranga National Park in Assam, in the
fourth such incident in the past one month, officials said Thursday.

A wildlife official said the latest killing was reported late Wednesday from inside the sanctuary, 220 km east of Guwahati.

"The rhino carcass was found from near a sandbar on the fringe of the park. Its horn had been gouged out. Poachers used automatic weapons to kill the rhino," a park ranger said over telephone from Kaziranga.

On Monday, poachers at the Orang National Park in northern Assam gouged out the horn of another rhino. The horn was extracted while the animal was still alive. It later succumbed to the wounds.

"We are indeed worried about the spurt in incidents of rhino poaching inside Kaziranga and elsewhere," a senior wildlife official said, requesting anonymity.

At least 18 rhinos were killed in 2008 and 14 in 2009.

Between 1980 and 1997, some 550 rhinos were killed by poachers in the wilds of Kaziranga, the highest being 48 in 1992.

As per the 2009 census report, some 2,048 of the world's estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos lumber around the swamps and grasslands of Kaziranga, their concentration here ironically making the giant mammals a favourite target of poachers.

Forest rangers complain about poor infrastructure and obsolete weapons compared to the poachers armed with sophisticated assault rifles.

"First of all, the number of forest guards in Kaziranga is far less than what is actually required to protect the wildlife, then you have World War II weapons compared to AK series rifles and carbines used by the poachers," a senior forest guard working in Kaziranga for more than 15 years said.

Poachers 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 much 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, A rhino horn sells for up to Rs.1.5 million per kilogram in the international market after the horns are smuggled to clandestine Asian markets.

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

A possible route of rhino horn smuggling is to Kathmandu via Siliguri and then from Nepal to China and the Middle East. The other possible route is from Imphal to Moreh on the Manipur border with Myanmar and then via Myanmar to Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and China.

KLO man held near Assam border

JALPAIGURI: Police on Wednesday arrested an alleged KLO member and a suspected linkman from Volka village in Cooch Behar's Tufanganj close to the

The alleged KLO man Amar Singha alias Avijit is believed to be close to the outfit's chairman Jeeban Singha. A resident of Darjeeling, Amar is said to be a militant trained in Chittagong.

The alleged linkman Indra Roy is a resident of Dhubri. He was entrusted with the job of escorting Amar in distributing leaflets among the Rajbanshi population in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri, urging them to join KLO. Some leaflets, Indian SIM cards and a few Bangladeshi phone numbers have been recovered.

PMO boost to salvage Rohmoria

Guwahati, Jan. 27: With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise to save erosion-hit Rohmoria in Dibrugarh Lok Sabha constituency four years ago making no headway, the Centre has ticked off the Brahmaputra Board and Dispur after a review last week found no “visible” progress.

This was underlined by the findings and decisions after the review conducted by the DoNER ministry, monitoring the anti-erosion protection works as part of the delivery monitoring units set up by the Prime Minister’s Office, highly-placed official sources here said.

DoNER minister B.K. Handique carried out the review with officials of the board and the state water resources department in Dibrugarh last week.

The mandate of the Brahmaputra Board, a statutory body set up in 1980 by the Centre after recognising the magnitude of floods and its consequences in the Northeast, is to, among others, carry out surveys and investigations in the Brahmaputra valley. Its mandate also includes preparing the masterplan for control of floods, bank erosion and improvement of drainage.

The review has found that neither the board nor Dispur had a clear and comprehensive roadmap to resolve the issue. They appeared to be taking only ad hoc steps and lacked co-ordination.

The minister is understood to have been very unhappy over the prevailing state of affairs since due importance was not being given to the Prime Minister’s promise after his visit there in 2006.

“It was pointed out during the review that despite the lapse of four years after the Prime Minister’s visit, no visible work is seen at the project site,” the source said.

Unhappy with the progress, the meeting decided to ask the board to prepare a time-bound, comprehensive and clear roadmap for completion of the entire project, including the works to be completed by 2011 and 2012, and submit the same to all, including the DoNER ministry.

The DoNER ministry, on its part, has proposed to hold a meeting with the water resources minister at the earliest to give a much-needed boost to the project.

Worried by the growing resentment among the residents, the Centre wants the action plan as soon as possible so that it can go to the people and explain the concrete steps being taken to complete the project. Erosion has dealt a severe blow to the people of the area for over 20 years. The Flood and Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum, Dibrugarh and the Rohmoria Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum are spearheading the movement.

Assamese film lovers happy as Mon Jai, Aai Kot Nai bag awards

Two Assamese movies Mon Jai by M Maniram and Aai Kot Nai by Manju Bora have made their presence felt at the National Film Awards, India's top movie awards announced on January 23, 2010.The movie fraternity of Assam, is all agog with the announcement.

THE FILM fraternity of Assam, the northeastern state of India, is all agog with the announcement of National Film Awards, India's top movie awards in national capital New Delhi.

Two of the best movies that reflected better cinema in the state bagged honours at the awards. Debutant director M Maniram's Mon Jai has bagged the best regional movie. A Rajal Kamal is indeed a double treat for this young promising director. Mon Jai, M Maniram's directorial debut had earlier made its entry into the prestigious Indian Panorama package. The movie invited critical acclaim when it was screened at the International Film Festival of India.

Talking about Mon Jai, the movie dwelt with youth unrest at present times - an upsurge resulting from ever-widening economic divide in this society governed by favouritism. Four unemployed youths driven by desperation and treading the shortcut way to make some quick bucks is something we regularly come across in newspapers. But the treatment by the filmmaker of the whole predicament and its pathetic fallout was commendable of a first-time director. The youths carry on with their life but not without the sense of guilt that remain to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Flawless emoting by a not so regular actor Zubeen Garg and company coupled with effortless handling of the goings-on by director. M Maniram had gone a long way to touch the hearts of both young and old.

Acclaimed director Manju Bora's emotional celluloid journey Aai Kot Nai was selected for the Nargis Dutt Award for the best movie on national integration. Manju Bora’s latest film Aai Kot Nai shows the misery of people displaced by the Assam-Nagaland border clashes. She uses the rains to highlight their helplessness and despair, heighten the mood of melancholy and show the agony of a mother separated from her suckling infant.

‘Mismanagement’ pushing Purabi Dairy to brink

GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – Alleging mismanagement and lack of transparency in running of the West Assam Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union Ltd (WAMUL), popularly known as Purabi Dairy, the employees’ union today said that they were being pushed to the brink after handing over of the cooperative’s management to the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) following a tripartite agreement between the State Government, NDDB and WAMUL on April 2, 2008. “WAMUL recruited employees from different sectors, including from State Government departments and as per its policy decision, pending formulation of its own rules with regard to salary and other benefits viz. house rent, medical allowance, TA & DA, bonus etc., the same were fixed at par with the employees of the State Government. But surprisingly, the WAMUL management has failed to formulate its rules over a period of 33 years (1976-77 to 2009-10), depriving its employees of the financial benefits,” theunion said.

The employees who held a public meeting highlighting their grievances today, rued that even the Government employees who had joined WAMUL after resigning from their parent departments were currently getting only 50 per cent of salary, and about 70 per cent employees were drawing Rs 4,000 as take-home salary. “Ironically, the members of themanagement are always financially secure and not accountable to anyone as being nominated by the Government and belonging to a special category,” it said.

The union said that taking advantage a ‘flawed’ agreement that left none to represent WAMUL, the employees were forced to work under tremendous financial pressure and the “most astonishing part of this agreement is that in spite of recommendations made by different committees and individual officials of the Government of Assam, views of milk cooperatives and WAMUL employees on the handing over process were not taken prior to finalisation of the agreement.”

Stating that the employees of WAMUL had full confidence in the NDDB for its professional style of functioning, the union said that it always avoided any dispute with the present management since the beginning and refrained from any agitation. “The functioning of the NDDB during the past 20 months (one-third of the contractual period of five years) makes it clear that the focus has been primarily on milk marketing with the fund received from State and Central governments.

Although regular supply of milk and a few products have been resumed to establish a permanent market for milk producers, this approach does not seem to be in line with takeovers of other dairies like Mother Dairies or defunct dairies of Gujarat DairyDevelopment Corporation (GDDC) in Saurashtra,” it said, adding that the milk producers were kept in the dark as to the roadmap for sustainabledevelopment of the producers and the support structure to achieve the desired goal.

Today’s meeting involving leading citizens and media persons convened by the Pachim Asom Dugdha Utpadak Samabai Sangha Sramik KarmachariUnion (Sramik Union) urged the State Government and the present management committee to resolve the WAMUL employees’ issues at the earliest.

Noted film producer Sailadhar Baruah dead

GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – Eminent film producer Sailadhar Baruah passed away at the International Hospital around 3-20 pm today. He was 69, and had been suffering from diabetes and heart ailments. He was hospitalised on January 1.

Producer of a host of popular as well as critically-acclaimed films, Baruah had a long and memorable association with eminent director Jahnu Baruah. The duo gave the Assamese film industry gems such as 'Papori', 'Halodhia Choraye Bao Dhan Khay', 'Firingoti', 'Kanikar Ramdhenu', 'Kukhal Konwar', 'Pokhi' and 'Tora'.

Born in one of Assam’s oldest business houses at North Guwahati in December 1941, Baruah did his schooling from Cotton Collegiate Higher Secondary School and graduated in Science from Pragjyotish College.

Baruah’s inclination towards films began at an early stage. He was also a keen sportsman and cultural activist. He along with a few friends founded the Kristhi Vikas Sangha, a socio-cultural club, in 1958 – which to its credit organized the State’s first inter-college magazine competition. He was also the founder chairman and current director of the Assam Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research at Uzanbazar.

Baruah’s films reflect his passion of representing his land, people and their cultural ethos before a global audience. Several of his films won national as well as international acclaims. 'Halodhia Choraye Bao Dhan Khay' won the national award for the best film (Golden Lotus), the Grand Prix Leopard and World Ecumenical Award at the Locarno International Film Festival, and Best of Asia at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Indra Bania, the protagonist in the role of a struggling villager, went on to win the best actor award at the Locarno Film Festival.

'Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door', which deals with the story of a poor boatman whose only means of survival comes under threat with the construction of a bridge, was screened in 33 international film festivals. The film fetched Jahnu Baruah the national award for bestdirector. Bishnu Khargoria, actor in the role of the protagonist, received the best actor jury award.

Baruah also did a commissioned programme for Doordarshan titled 'Shruti Madhur' in 2005.

A bachelor, Baruah leaves behind two brothers and a sister.

His last rites will be performed at the Navagraha crematorium tomorrow. Before that, his body will be taken to his Panbazar office (Baruah Medicos), Assam Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research, Uzanbazar, and Ravindra Bhavan.