Assam celebrates Bihu with traditional extravaganza

By Peter Alex Todd

Guwahati, Apr 26 (ANI): The hills and valleys of Assam come alive with the sound of Bihu thrice a year, which is much more than just a festival for the people of the state.

Rongali Bihu celebrations mark the onset of the New Year.

It is the time when farmers sow new seeds and offer prayers for a prosperous year ahead.

The Assamese people dress up in bright clothes and sing and dance in joy during Bihu, a festival which brings them close to their cultural roots.

And the gradual return of peace and normalcy has certainly given a boost to the festive spirit.

“Through Bihu we are trying to spread the message of peace and unity among all residing states of the Country. That’s why we have invited cultural groups of all seven states of northeast. The vibrant dance not just enthralls locals, but foreign tourists as well,” said

Dilip Das. organizer, Bihu celebration

“In the month of Chaitre and Bahar, we celebrate Assamese Bihu from the month of April. And we celebrate Rongali Bihu, in the last day of the month of Chaitra. We welcome this New Year, with traditional and cultural fun and fare,” said Sanjiv Lahkar, Assam.

The first day of Rongali Bihu is known as Garu Bihu. During the festival farmers wash, feed and worship their bulls and cows as a sign of respect and gratitude for the service provided by the cattle.

On the second day of Bihu, better known as Manush Bihu, people wear new clothes and feast at relatives or friends place and visitors are served rice beer.

The festival continues for 7 days.

“Since the time of our forefathers, we have been following this practice. We offer groundnuts, brinjal, cucumber, and turmeric to the cows and bulls. We pray for their good health and long life. We (villagers) give the cattle a bath as a sign of respect and gratitude for their service to us,” said Prabha Chandra Saikia, a farmer.

“Bihu is one of the biggest festivals for us (Assamese). We are enjoying Bihu by playing drums and other instruments,” said Ankur Bora, Assam.

Foreigners also enjoyed participating in the Bihu celebrations.

“I have come here today so that I would learn more about Assam, so that we build friendship much closer to Assam and I have discovered a wonderful celebration and a wonderful people. Hope next year more Americans will come and help you in celebrating Bihu,” said Beth A. Payne, a visitor from USA.

Bihu promotes brotherhood and spreads the message of peace and harmony among all.

Four juvenile undertrials escape from jail

Jorhat (Assam), Apr 19 (PTI) Four juvenile undertrials today escaped from jail in upper Assam's Jorhat district, police said.

The four, lodged in the Jorhat Observation Camp at Lichubari area here, managed to escape this morning taking advantage of the few staff there.

Most of the staff of the camp had gone on holiday for Bihu festival, sources said.

The camp is maintained by the state's social welfare department and is the only such facility in upper Assam.

A search has been launched to take them back in custody.

Assam Governor for more courts at lower level

Guwahati, Apr 19 (PTI) Voicing concern at the huge backlog of cases pending in courts, Assam governor Janaki Ballav Patnaik today called for more courts at the lower level for their timely disposal.

Speaking at the launching of 'North Eastern region access to Justice and socio-economic development programmes' here, Patnaik said there should be more courts at the district and sub divisional levels.

"Lok Adalats at the village level should be empowered with judicial powers to dispose of petty cases. Vacancies in the high courts and other courts should be filled up and retired judges should be temporarily appointed to function in specially constituted courts to dispose off the huge backlog of cases pending up to a particular period," he said.

'With healthcare for all, Assam set to be a model state'

Guwahati, April 17

Assam is set to become a model state in healthcare in India with one of the best performances under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and passing a bill guaranteeing the right to healthcare for all, says Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

"Just like the Right to Education (RTE) Act makes education a right, the government in Assam will now be compelled to provide healthcare as a right to every individual here and not merely as a token of welfare," Sarma told

IANS in an interview.

"With the NRHM adjudging us as one of the best performing states and the unique health bill set to change the healthcare scenario here, Assam is all set to be a model state in the country," he added.

The Assam Public Health Bill, 2010, passed by the state assembly April 1, is a watershed legislative measure in the country guaranteeing the right to healthcare sans any financial constraint.

"One of the features of the bill is the right to free trauma care, including tests like CT scan and MRIs, within the first 24 hours of any emergency in private hospitals. So whether it's a road accident victim or someone who has suffered a heart attack, they can be rushed to any hospital and not necessarily a government one for fear of expensive bills," the minister said.

Just like an impact assessment on the environment is done by any development activity like industry, the bill also mandates a health impact assessment test for new development projects.

"Once the Act is implemented, a standing committee will be formed which will look at a health impact assessment on any new industry that comes up in the state," Sarma said.

"We are also looking at some kind of reservation for people of economically backward classes in private nursing homes. We will also make it mandatory for all hospitals to make necessary upgradations so as to meet Indian Public Heath Standards," he added.

Recognising the gap in the number of healthcare centres in rural areas, Sarma said the bill also proposes the setting up of an additional 400 hospitals in the state. Not just that, the bill also proposes that if a person doesn't find a

Doctor in a government hospital, he can seek reimbursement of his transportation costs.

If all goes well, the Rs.50-60 billion project will be implemented Jan 1, 2011, for an initial period of five years.

"In the first year we will make some provisions in the budget and invest Rs.15 billion for the scheme. But we realise that it is a mammoth of a project and we need the centre's help in that. We have approached the central government to take Assam as a model state and channelise some central funds for implementation of the same with state support," Sarma said.

The state had been in the news for having the highest maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the country. According to the Sample Registration Services (SRS) 2004-2006, Assam's MMR was 480 per 100,000 live births. India's MMR was 254.

On this, Sarma said: "I agree that Assam fared poorly in that MMR data, but things have improved now. Every maternal death is accounted for. Our own data over the past two years shows that the infant mortality rate (IMR) and the MMR have gone down, with 75 percent institutional deliveries. We have written to the health ministry to conduct a survey and see the results for themselves."

Unicef said last month that Assam was doing much better than the rest of India in exclusive breast feeding to infants and has saved 1.7 million kids from slipping into under-nourishment.

"My focus now is the health bill. I am determined to see it implemented - if the state elections coincide with the implementation date, then we will prepone it by two months," Sarma said.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at