Success in genetic research on tigers

GUWAHATI, Oct 1 – Aaranyak, a society for biodiversity conservation, has achieved significant success in genetic research on tigers of North East India. Wildlife Genetics Laboratory of Aaranyak, based in Guwahati has successfully used DNA based analysis techniques for population estimation by using faecal samples of tigers in Buxa Tiger Reserve, in northern West Bengal.

In a joint effort between Buxa Tiger Reserve Authority and Aaranyak, genetic profiling of tiger faecal samples collected from the area has been undertaken in order to understand the minimum number of tigers present.

This work was undertaken due to recent doubts on the status of tigers in Buxa Tiger Reserve, raised by some experts in the country. In a report submitted to the Buxa Tiger Reserve Authority, Wildlife Genetics Laboratory of Aaranyak has given sufficient scientific evidence about the presence of at least fifteen individual tigers in the study area.

This is for the first time that DNA based techniques of analysis of faecal samples have successfully been used for estimating the number of tigers in a protected area in Eastern and North East India.

This project team, led by Udayan Borthakur, head of Wildlife Genetics Programme of Aaranyak, comprised field and laboratory biologists of Aaranyak. A technical report on genetic assessment of Buxa tiger population will soon be published jointly by Aaranyak and Buxa Tiger Reserve authority.

Funds for Assam tiger reserves

Delhi releases first instalment, seeks use according to agreement

Guwahati, Oct 1 : The Centre has released the first instalment of conservation funds sanctioned for three tiger reserves in Assam with the rider that they utilise it according to the agreement signed with it and Dispur last year.

The Centre has released Rs 573.08 lakh for the current fiscal, of which Rs 272.72 lakh will go to Kaziranga, Rs 237.50 lakh to Manas and Rs 63.58 lakh to Nameri. The order for the fund release was passed on Tuesday.

The total amount sanctioned under Project Tiger for the three reserves for this fiscal is Rs 903.55 lakh, of which the lion’s share has gone to Kaziranga (Rs 448.15 lakh), followed by Manas (Rs 356.08 lakh) and Nameri (Rs 99.32 lakh).
The release order states that Dispur should make the funds available to the tiger reserves within two weeks of its receipt. It would also require to furnish regularly in its monthly report, both in physical and financial terms, the implementation of work as mentioned in the sanction letter. Dispur will have to submit its performance-cum-achievement report on or before March 31 next year.
The Centre, however, stressed the funds be utilised as per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the field directors of the three tiger reserves and the state government for implementing tiger conservation initiatives as proposed in the annual plan of preparations, with due compliance with normative guidelines and advisories.
The MoU includes the drawing up of a security plan in accordance with the reserves’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and to ensure intelligence-based protection for tigers and other wild animals as well as the habitat.
Sources said the chief wildlife warden and the principal chief conservator of forests have been asked to conduct field inspections from time to time to ensure that the field work is undertaken in accordance with the management plan and the annual plan of operation.
Manas has been given a deep freezer for preservation of tiger carcass. “As some time would be required for investigation of the death of a tiger by experts, the carcass should be kept in a deep freezer,” a Manas official said.
Kaziranga has been given sanction for procurement of GPS sets, standard type night vision device, solar lighting systems, life jacket and reward to informers and staff, among other things.
Nameri has been sanctioned money for the purchase of a projector for public awareness and meetings.
Manas has been categorised a “poor” tiger reserve by the Centre as it has a low density of the animal. Sources said the estimated number of tigers in Manas is 15-18.
Kaziranga, which recently claimed to have the highest density of tigers in the world, has been categorised as “good” while Nameri has been given “satisfactory” tag.

People of Assam will be homeless in next 10 yrs: Varun

Guwahati, Sept 30 : Firebrand Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi has said that people of Assam would be rendered homeless within a short period, if large-scale Bangladeshi infiltration is not controlled in the state.

During a mass meeting held at Nagaon in Assam on Wednesday, Varun said, “Infiltration is a national problem and it is a serious issue and threat to national security. In next ten years, the local people of Assam would have to leave their homes because of the large-scale infiltration from Bangladesh in the state.”

“It is duty for the state government to protect the locals,” Varun added.

Keeping an eye on the upcoming assembly election in Assam, the saffron party organized a mass gathering at Nehrubali in Nagaon District.

Apart from Varun, BJP National President Nitin Gadkari and National Secretary Bijoy Goel took part in the mass gathering.

Over 30 thousand party workers and supporters from Morigaon, Sonitpur, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts took part the mass rally.

Varun further said, “BJP would not take part in election just for playing a game. We will win.”

Mocking the symbols of rival parties, the BJP’s youth leader said that the people of Assam should 'drown' the Congress party 'hand' (symbol) in the Brahmaputra river and send Asom Gana Parishad's (AGP) 'elephant' (symbol) to Kaziranga National Park. He appealed to the people of Assam to 'accept' the 'lotus', which is a symbol of development for those who live below poverty line.

During the rally, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said his party will bring its own vision document for North-east 2025 as he has understood the fast need for development in the region.

The BJP national president further said, “People of Assam want to get rid of the Congress Government because of its failure to develop the State, provide employment to the youths. Besides, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who is probing the corruption cases of the Assam government, has become Congress bureau of investigation.”

The Nagaon rally is a part of state BJP’s election strategy to organize mass gathering in five districts of Assam.

Protesters damage 15 vehicles during Middle Assam bandh

Morigaon, Sept 30 : At least 15 vehicles were repotedly damaged by protesters in different parts of Nagaon and Morigaon districts during the 12-hour Middle Assam bandh on Thursday, called by All Assam Tiwa Students Union (AATSU), Tiwa Mahila Marcha, All Tiwa Yuba Chatra Parishad (ATYCP) for their various demands.

According to reports, the bandh supporters set fire on a motorcycle at Chabudhara in Nagaon district.

The protesters damaged six vehicles, including two private Tata Indica cars, at Kathiatoli area in Nagaon district on Thursday morning, said officials.

The mob also pelted stone at buses, private cars, trucks on National Highway (NH)-37 at Neli Palahguri and tryied to set ablaze a government vehicle in Morigaon district.

After the incident, all the passenger-carrying vehicles have reportedly stopped plying on NH-37.

Security forces arrested over 50 agitated protesters from different areas of the two districts, police said.

Gogoi appeals for peace

GUWAHATI, Sept 30 – With the Allahabad High Court scheduled to give its verdict on the Ayodhya case tomorrow, the Assam Government has directed all concerned to take adequate precautionary measures to prevent any untoward situation, while, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has appealed to all sections of people to maintain peace.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the State Home Department has issued instructions to the Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police of all districts to keep a close watch on the situation and to remain alert to prevent any untoward situation.

Sources said that the DCs and SPs have been directed to identify the sensitive areas to maintain close vigil in such areas. They have also been directed to constitute peace committees involving all sections of people in the areas considered sensitive. "We are not apprehending any trouble in the wake of the court verdict, but the Government is not willing to take any chance. That is why such instructions have been issued," sources added.

The Border Security Force (BSF) has also intensified vigil along the international border with Bangladesh. BSF sources said that all the troops deployed along the border have been alerted and vulnerable locations along the border have been identified so that extra precautions can be taken in such areas. Sources revealed that the BSF is also maintaining close liaison with police and other security agencies so that the troops can act on the basis of any input.

On the other hand, Army sources said that the troops would be deployed whenever the civil administration seeks the Army's help. The Army is not deployed to deal with law and order situation. But whenever the civil administration requisitions the help of the Army, the troops would move out to assist the administration, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has appealed to all sections of people of Assam to maintain peace and harmony. In a statement, Gogoi said that all sections of people of the state should keep strong vigil against any attempt by any unscrupulous element to create misunderstanding among different communities.

Gogoi said that if anyone is aggrieved by the verdict of the High Court, he or she can always approach the Supreme Court against seeking justice.

Assam Refuses to Ink Subansiri Project's MoU with NHPC

New Delhi, Sept. 29 : Concerned over protest over 2,000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power Project (SLHEPP), the State Government of Assam has refused to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). The SLHEPP project development is going under the state-run hydropower major NHPC.According to highly placed ministry sources, Assam's unwillingness to sign the MoU has led the NHPC -- concerned over escalation of project cost to some Rs 8,155 crore from original Rs 6,285 crore -- to seek the Union Power Ministry's intervention in the matter. The timing of Assam's reluctance could be more troublesome for NHPC as its board has recently decided to surrender two other vital hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

Buxa home to 15 big cats, claims Assam lab

KOLKATA: Even as big cats dwindle across most big reserves around the country, triggering serious concern, the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal can now claim to be an honourable exception. A DNA analysis of tiger faeces in the north Bengal forest reveals that it has 15 tigers. Carried out by the genetics laboratory of Aaranyak, a wildlife organization in Guwahati, the study says Buxa has nine females and three males. The gender of three others couldn't be identified from the samples.

The Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal has at least 15 tigers, a first-of-its-kind study by a wildlife body said on Tuesday. "Our study shows that there are nine females and three males in the forest. We are trying to ascertain the gender of the rest," said head of the wildlife genetics laboratory of Aaranyak, Udayan Borthakur. The researchers used DNA-based analysis to estimate the population from faecal samples of tigers in the reserve. Samples were also sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Hyderabad and its report is awaited. "We are waiting for the CFSL report but now it has been conclusively proved that tigers exist at Buxa. Sightings had happened in the recent past and we were confident that the DNA test would prove that. This certainly augurs well for the future of the tiger in India and the state," said Subhankar Sen Gupta, deputy director, Buxa Tiger Reserve.

Faecal samples collected by the Buxa authorities were handed over to Aranyak earlier this year. "We used genetic markers to identify tiger scat from other sympatric carnivores such as leopards," said Borthakur, who runs the society for conserving biodiversity in the northeast region.

"DNA-based techniques of identification of individual tigers might be considered as a practical and low-cost option for population estimation and long-term monitoring of this species in protected areas of the country," said Borthakur.

The DNA sampling technique is also being used at Sunderbans. "This is a scientific way of identifying the number of tigers. Let us hope our finding is corroborated by the CFSL," said Firoz Ahmed, wildlife biologist at Aaranyak.

Buxa Tiger Reserve is contiguous with the Manas Tiger Reserve of Assam and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan in terms of area. The discovery was greeted with cheer across wildlife circles. "This is indeed great news for conservation. Let us hope that the study has been done scientifically and is error-free. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the Sunderban report," said Joydip Kundu, wildlife activist.

Vinoba to walk to Assam

Indore, Sept. 29 : Acharya Vinoba Bhave will start tomorrow on a 1,500-mile journey on foot to Assam.

The Acharya is undertaking this strenuous journey for creating an atmosphere of mutual trust in Assam, which was recently the scene of linguistic riots, at the instance of the Prime Minister, Mr Nehru, and persistent requests from Assam and Bengal.

Addressing a prayer meeting at the Holkar College ground this evening, the Acharya said he had received a letter from Prime Minister Nehru about four days ago requesting him to visit Assam.

AIMSU for joint resistance with AASU against dams

Itanagar, Sept 28 (PTI) Welcoming the stand of All Assam Students Union on proposed mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh, All Idu Mishmi Students Union (AIMSU) today called for putting up joint resistance.

AASU has been campaigning against large dams in Arunachal Pradesh raising downstream concerns of Assam. Criticising the comments by Arunachal Pradesh MP Takam Sanjoy on the downstream impact of dams in Assam, AIMSU secretary Rajiv Mihu said "Almost all of Lower Dibang Valley district falls in the downstream area of Dibang Multipurpose Project.

"If Sanjoy is ignoring the downstream impact in Assam, then he is also ignoring the downstream impact in Arunachal, AIMSU Secretary Rajiv Mihu said in a statement.

Referring to the statements by many political leaders terming people opposing large dams as 'anti Arunachal' and anti-national, he said "If our leaders are serious about calling someone anti national then it is best applies to people who are involved in corruption."

Gogoi launches country's first model district health project

Sushanta Talukdar

Project aims at reducing infant, maternal mortality rates

Aims to scale healthcare services to all parts of the country by 2015

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday launched the Morigaon Model District Health Project, Health Department's ambitious project, in collaboration with The Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Morigaon becomes the first district in the country to have started the project and is among the five districts in the country (the rest being one each in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar) to have been selected under the model district health project.

Mr. Gogoi hoped that the project would aim at reducing infant and maternal mortality rates not only in Morigaon district but in other districts of the State as well by 2015.

Challenging task

Senior adviser at The Earth Institute Nirupam Bajpai said the project aimed at scaling the healthcare services from one district to that of the State, and subsequently to all parts of the country by 2015.

Dr. Bajpai said the task to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates was a challenging one and ‘there is need for inter-sectoral coordination among the different departments and agencies to provide better and effective health services, especially in the remote villages to achieve the objectives of Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Terming the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) the biggest public health programme in the world, Dr. Bajpai said the mission aimed at reaching out to 600 million people in the country through interventions in a better and effective way. ‘We have the resources, the political will, and if we can put it together, there is no reason why India cannot bring about a sea change in the health sector in the next five years or so.”

Mr. Gogoi underscored need for creating awareness through education about the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables to do away with malnutrition, one of the main causes of infant mortality.

Dibrugarh: 186 children take ill after mid-day meal

Dibrugarh (Assam): Altogether 186 children were on Monday admitted to hospital after having mid-day meal at their school in Assam's Dibrugarh district, official sources said.

The students of tea garden labourers were served the meal around 1 pm and immediately after 30 of them fainted and 156 others complained of dizziness. They were rushed to the Barbarua primary health centre where the doctors referred them to the Assam Medical College in Dibrugarh.

The condition of nearly 40 children was stated to be serious, the sources said.

Agitated tea garden labourers gheraoed the headmaster and teachers of the school and senior police and civil officials brought the situation under control.

The district authorities have ordered an inquiry into the incident and the samples of the meal have been sent for testing.

Mahanta reacts on Rahul’s big dams comment

Guwahati, Sept 27 : Former Assam Chief Minister and leader of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on Saturday reacted on AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s comment on big dams issue.

During a day-long visit in Assam on September 23, Gandhi comments as, “The construction of big dams in the North East is not ‘anti-people’ and the concern of the common man is being given top priority.”

Reacting to Gandhi's comment, Mahanta said, “Experts from IIT-Guwahati, Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University have already clearly said in their report that constructing dams in a vulnerable seismic zone like the foothills of Himalayas can be dangerous to the existence of the people living in that area. AGP, All Assam Students Union (AASU) and various organization have been protesting against the construction of big dams.”

“People of few districts in Assam faced flash floods every year from Ronganodi and Kopili projects and from this experience, the people of Assam are protesting against the construction of big dams,” Mahanta added.

“Rahul's comment is based on his theoretical experience. We need power generation, but not at the cost of people's lives,” the AGP leader said.

Two Assam parties likely to forge alliance

Guwahati, Sep 25 : Assam is bound to witness some major realignment of forces ahead of the 2011 assembly polls with the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) and the Bodo People’s Progressive Front (BPPF) sending strong signals for forging an alliance.

The AUDF, with 11 MLAs in the 126-member legislature, is considered an important player in Assam politics after the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) snapped their year-long electoral tie up last week.

“We are keeping our options open and not ruling out possibilities of allying with any secular parties, minus the Congress and the BJP,” AUDF president Badruddin Ajmal told IANS.

“But as things stands now, we are going alone, although anything is possible in politics.”

The AGP, after its break up with the BJP, is scouting for allies - potential among them being the AUDF, the BPPF, and the Left parties.

“We are trying to assess the political scene very closely and then only decide on allying with someone,” BPPF president Rabiram Narzary said.

“But we had friendly equations with the AUDF in the past.”

The AGP and the BJP have openly said teaming up with the BPPF was not ruled out - although the BPPF does not have a single MLA in the present assembly.

“We are already talking informally with the BPPF and maybe we can work out an understanding,” BJP Assam unit president Ranjit Dutta said.

The AGP and BJP fought the 2009 parliamentary elections together under a seat sharing arrangement. The regional party fared poorly - it won just one of the 14 Lok Sabha seats, down by one compared to the 2004 general elections.

The AGP in 2001 assembly elections had a tie up with the BJP but was routed by the Congress.

While the two main opposition parties - the AGP and the BJP - decided to sever ties, the cracks within the opposition has widened with the Congress camp naturally jubilant.

“The opposition parties must take a lesson from the past elections and hence the need to unite to challenge the Congress party,” said Dhrupad Borgohain, a former MP belonging to the Communist Party of India.

Amid the political rumblings, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the Congress party was all set for a hat-trick by winning the 2011 polls.

“The AGP is down and out and there is no way the party can bounce back. Moreover, the AUDF and the BJP are parties with communal overtones, and the people of Assam are going to reject them,” a senior Congress party leader said.

“There could be a realignment of forces, but we are not worried.”

150 openbill storks die in Assam

Guwahati, Sept. 25 : Over 150 endangered Asian openbill storks, most of them chicks, died and several were injured, as strong winds damaged their nests and blew them off trees at remote Banglung Shyam village in Karbi Anglong district of Assam last night.

Over 800 storks had died in the village in September two years ago when a banyan tree where the birds nested in large numbers collapsed because of continuous rain and strong winds.

Sushen Shyam, an employee attached to Karbi Anglong (east) forest division, said over phone that the tragedy could have taken place around 10.30 last night when the winds were extremely strong.

“We came to know about the incident only this morning when we saw the entire area littered with bird nests and dying chicks,” Shyam, who hails from the village, said.

He said the villagers had launched a rescue operation to save the surviving birds. “We put back at least 60 chicks on the tree. We have no idea whether these will survive. But we noticed a few chicks being attended to by their parents,” he added. The villagers also buried the dead birds.

The Banglung Shyam village has one of the largest colonies of Asian openbill storks in eastern Assam after the river island of Majuli and Kaziranga National Park. The birds arrive in the area every year in June to breed in three banyan trees clustered near a Buddhist temple. Since one of the trees collapsed in 2008 under the weight of the nesting birds during a storm, storks have been nesting on the other two.

Birds have been nesting in these trees for over 50 years and their number has been growing each year because the villagers, who are Buddhists, never harm them. Such has been the villagers’ respect for the birds that they held a prayer meeting to condole their death in 2008. An NGO had even promised to install a memorial in the area to commemorate the “biggest such tragedy in the state”.

The Asian openbill stork, Anastomus oscitans, is found mainly in India, Sri Lanka and some Southeast Asian countries.

These birds breed near wetlands, build nests on big trees, and feed on snails, frogs and large insects.

Honorary wildlife warden Arup Ballab Goswami said over phone from Golaghat that the village was located in a remote place, about 40km from the town, and news from these areas travelled slowly.

“We came to know about the incident only this afternoon,” he said.

A team of veterinarians from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conversation rushed to the area after receiving the information around noon.

“Our team will reach the place only in the evening. We will be able to provide treatment to the injured birds only tomorrow,” an official at CWRC said.

The centre had rescued several birds in 2008 too, given them treatment at the centre and then released them.

Rs.28.34 lakh spent on Assam monuments till June 2010

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) The Archaeological Survey of India has spent Rs.28.34 lakh up to June 2010 for the conservation of 55 sites and monuments of national importance in Assam.
In 2009-2010, the department spent Rs.122.64 lakh. India has 3,675 monuments of national importance, a statement released by the culture ministry said.

In 2008-2009, the ASI spent Rs.118.83 lakh for maintenance of monuments.

Some of the monuments under the protection of ASI in Assam include Cachari ruins in Cachar Hills, Idgah in Dhubri, Rangamati mosque in Dhubri, Kamrup sculpture of Vishnu Janardan in Kamrup, Sri Ganesh temple in Hajo, Kameswar temple in Kamrup and Suryapahar temple in Goalpara.

Pholongoni incident: Asst Commandant of NAP suspended

Kohima, Sep 24 : The Nagaland government has suspended the Assistant Commandant of the 'B' Company of 12th Nagaland Armed Police (NAP) for his alleged involvement in the Pholongoni incident.

In the September 15 incident, at least 22 protesters, mostly AASU activists, were injured in assault and firing allegedly by Nagaland police in Golaghat district.

The 'B' Company of the 12th NAP battalion, which was passing through Golaghat district, had allegedly baton charged All Assam Students Union (AASU) demonstrators who had blocked the NH-39 demanding improvement of a link road near Rangajan Tinali.

Sources said I Kakheto Sumi, the Assistant Commandant concerned, has been suspended in order to facilitate an impartial inquiry into the entire incident.

A high-level committee led by Commissioner and Secretary for Law and Justice Jane Alam, Commissioner and Secretary for Personnel and Administrative Reform Amardeep Bhatia and Secretary for Law and Justice Nihoto Chishi is inquiring into the incident.

The committee was constituted on September 18 to inquire into the Pholongoni incident and it will submit its report within 15 days from the date of the issuance of order.

The committee members have already visited the Golaghat town, met AASU leaders, eyewitnesses and the injured students and paid Rs 5 lakh for the treatment of the injured.

India aims to raise enrolment in higher education: President

Aizawl, Sep 24 : President Pratibha Patil Friday said India intended to increase enrolment in higher education from the present 14 million to about 40 million.

"Higher education has been accorded priority in our country. It is our aim to increase gross enrolment ratio in higher education to 30 percent by the year 2020, which means almost tripling the enrolment from the present 14 million to about 40 million," Patil said here at the the sixth convocation of the Mizoram University.

"Universities of the country, existing and the new ones, will be responsible for achieving this target," she added.

The president said: "Periodic short-term courses for the local community on issues relevant to them like floriculture, mushroom cultivation and medicinal plants can be organised by Mizoram University where students also would participate."

Bamboo flowering and "Jhum" (slash and burn method) cultivation, which had caused setbacks to agriculture in the state, need to be studied in-depth, with the aim to deal with them on a scientific basis, she said.

Mautam (a local name meaning famine) broke out in 1959 after the mountainous northeastern state of Mizoram witnessed the rare phenomenon of bamboo flowering and subsequent increase in rodent numbers that started emptying granaries and destroying paddy fields.

The famine in 1959 ultimately triggered insurgency by the militant outfit Mizo National Front (MNF), which later turned into a regional mainstream political party.

Underlining the need for undertaking a programme for proper documentation of the states rich biodiversity, the president said: "It is also important that the university creates certain awareness of the adverse impact of climate change and encourages people to adopt energy efficient and eco-friendly measures."

Terming the faculty members the universitys lifeblood, Patil said they must, like a friend, always be ready to give advice and guidance to their students on how best they can be ready to face the world.

Expressing her anguish against ragging in campuses, she said: "It is nothing but suppression of new entrants to the campus. I am glad to learn that Mizoram University is free from ragging and hope that it will continue to be so."

"This (absence of ragging) is also a tribute to the Mizo moral code of Tlawmngaihna which imposes an obligation on all members of society to be hospitable, kind, unselfish, and helpful to others," the president said.

The Mizoram University, which turned into a central university in 2001, was set up in April 25, 2000.

Assam: 3 Girls Washed Away as Flood Situation Eases

Assam: 3 Girls Washed Away as Flood Situation Eases
Guwahati | Sep 16, 2010
Three minor girls were washed away even as the flood situation in Assam eased today with the water level of Brahmaputra maintaining a falling trend along its course in 11 affected districts though Barak river was rising.

Jamila Khatun (3), Basiram Begum (5) and Nilima Khatun (8) were playing by a swollen tributary of the Brahmaputra at Tilardia in Nalbari district yesterday when they were swept away by the surging waters, official sources said today.

The current wave of floods has so far claimed five lives due to drowning this week in three separate places.

Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman today visited the flood-affected people in Nalbari district where 25,000 people in 29 villages of Borkhetri circle alone were displaced by the flood.

The Brahmaputra was flowing above the danger level at some places but it was recording a falling trend due to lesser intensity of rains in the last few days, the sources said.

However, Brahmaputra is still flowing above the danger level at Dibrugarh, Numaligarh in Golaghat, Guwahati, Nimatighat in Jorhat, Dharamtul in Morigaon and Asia's largest human inhabited river island Majuli, the Central Water Commission said.

In Jorhat district, the river was flowing steadily above the danger level at Nimatighat, the river port of Majuli island and at Dharamtul in Morigaon district, the CWC said.

The Brahmaputra is moving below the danger level with a falling trend at Goalpara, Dhubri, Naharkatia, Bodotighat, Sibsagar, Golaghat and Manas, the Commission added.

River Barak was flowing above the danger level and was rising at Karimganj.

Assam Records Significant Increase in Total Electorate

Assam has recorded a significant 3.29 per cent increase in the total electorate with minority dominated district Dhubri recording the highest growth rate.

According to the final electoral roll, the total number of voters in the state for the next assembly polls, scheduled next year, was 1,79,53,112 marking an increase of 4,84,154 voters from 1,74,68,958 recorded last year, Chief Electoral Officer Hemanta Narzary said here today.

Dhubri, with a dominant minority population, registered the highest growth of 6.81 per cent followed by Bongaigaon at 6.79 per cent while the lowest growth rate was Jorhat's at .32 per cent.

Cachar was the only district in the state with a negative growth percentage of -1.15 per cent, Narzary said.

The districts with a significant increase in the total electorate was Kamrup (Metro) with 5.2 per cent, Goalpara with 4.83 per cent, Dhemaji with 4.5 per cent, Hailakandi with 4.56 per cent, Darrang with 4.41 per cent, Barpeta with 4.07 per cent, Nagaon with 3.96 per cent, Udalguri with 3.9 per cent, Kamrup (Rural) with 3.73 per cent, Karimganj with 3.58 per cent, Nalbari with 3.13 per cent and Kokrajhar with 3.13 per cent.

Besides Jorhat, those recording a minimal increase include NC Hills with .61 per cent, Sibsagar with 1.19 per cent, Morigaon with 1.51 per cent, Golaghat with 1.64 per cent, Dibrugarh with 1.79 per cent, Tinsukia with 1.8 per cent and Lakhimpur with 1.88 per cent.

Assam: 'Most wanted' car lifter gang arrested

Guwahati, Sept 17 : A 'most wanted' car lifter gang was arrested by police in Assam's Nagaon district on Thursday evening, police said on Friday.

Acting on a tip-off, a joint team of Assam police and Nagaland police launched a massive operation at Raha in the district on Thursday evening and nabbed the car lifter gang.

The arrested car lifter gang members were identified as Raju Barman alias Bishal Das alias Ajit Das alias Subrata (40) hailing from Kokrajhar district and Babul Choudhury (38) of Pathori Arjuntal in Nagaon district.

During police interrogation, gang leader Raju Barman revealed that they had been selling hired vehicles at Dimapur and other places in Nagaland through their agent.

''The inter-state 'most wanted' car lifter gang had been selling hired vehicles after killing the drivers,'' a senior police official said.

A police official of Dimapur told IBNS, ''We have got some vital clues after body of Mohibul Ali of Jorhat district was recovered from a hotel on August 1. The family members of Ali alleged that an unidentified person hired their Maruti Van and drove to Dimapur with him on July 30. The next day the family members filed a missing report to find Ali.''

''On August 1, we found an unknown person's body inside a hotel room in Dimapur. Later the body was identified. But the hired vehicle was missing and a case was registered at Dimapur East police station,'' the officer added.

Encroachment threatens Assam''s sattras

Guwahati, Sept 17 (PTI) The existence of several ''sattras'' or Vaishnav monasteries across Assam has been threatened by encroachment by illegal migrants mostly from Bangladesh.

More than 7,000 bighas of land belonging to 39 sattras are in the grip of encroachers with at least 85 per cent of the encroached land being occupied by illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, the advisor of the Asom Sattra Mahasabha, Bhadra Krishna Goswami, claimed.

He said the encroachment came to light when a survey was conducted by the Mahasabha, the apex body of about 900 Vaishnavaite sattras of the state.

Assam Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman had mentioned in the last Assembly session that the government had no documents related to encroachment of sattra land but had constituted a committee to look into the issue.
The Gauhati High Court had also directed the state government to free sattra land from encroachment and the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police of the districts, under which the sattras fall, have been asked to evict encroachers.
A delegation of the Mahasabha also met Governor J B Patnaik who assured them that he would urge the government to take necessary steps in this direction at the earliest.

Flood situation eases in Assam

Guwahati, Sep 16 : The flood situation in Assam has eased today with the mighty Brahmaputra maintaining a falling trend along its course in the 11 affected districts in the valley, even as the Barak valley’s water level is rising displacing over five lakh people.

Though it was flowing over the danger level at some places, Brahmaputra with its tributaries was recording a falling trend due to declining rain in the last few days, official sources said.

The flood waters were ebbing from human habitation and farm lands in the affected districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Morigaon, Sonitpur, Dhubri, Goalpara and Barpeta, the sources said.

The Central Water Commission said the Brahmaputra was flowing with a falling trend, though above the danger level, at Dibrugarh town in Dibrugarh district, Numaligarh in Golaghat district and Guwahati.

In Jorhat district the river was flowing steadily above the danger level at Nimatighat, the river port to Asia’s largest river island Majuli in the state, and at Dharamtul in Morigaon district, the CWC said.

Tributaries Jiabhorali at N T Road Crossing in Sonitpur district and Pagladia in Barpeta district flowing above the danger mark were, however, rising.

The Brahmaputra is moving below the danger level with a falling trend at Goalpara, Dhubri, Naharkatia, Bodotighat, Sibsagar, Golaghat and Manas, the Commission added.

River Barak was flowing above the danger level was rising at Karimganj, while it was falling at Sonamura and steady at Koilachar.

The current wave of floods has so far claimed two lives due to drowning this week in two separate places of lower Assam.

Flood fury in Assam affects 18 lakh people

Lahorighat, Assam: Lakhs of people have been moved to safer places in Assam as the Brahmaputra river continues to rise. The river is threatening many more areas as it swells.

This is 8th wave of flood in the last three months and not a single morsel has been distributed as relief in Buragaon revenue circle where 1.2 lakh people have been affected. 104 villages have already been evacuated in this area which is one of the worst affected in Morigaon district.

More than eighteen lakh people across the state need help.

Most families in the Natgaon area have been rescued. For the remaining few, the river is going to engulf them anytime but their suffering has not amplified because floods have becomes such an annual feature in Assam.

The local disaster management team is also stretched with ten people looking after a population of one and a half lakhs.

Pushpa, a part of this team said, "Of course we need more people. We are focussing on women because they are the ones left at home. So they need to be trained first."

20 students beaten up by Naga police

Guwahati, Sept 16 : At least 20 students, including 3 girls, were injured in Assam's Golaghat district on Wednesday, sources said.

The incident took place at Thuramukh, some 14 kms from Golaghat town when over thousands of local people and students, led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) Phalangoni anchalik wing, put up a road blockade near NH-39 to protest the encroachment in Assam land by Naga people demanding protection for the Assamese people in the tense
border area.

The road blockade programme started at around 10 am.

During the blockade, hundreds of vehicles stopped at the NH-39 in both the directions.

When a convoy of Nagaland police reached the spot on the way to Dimapur, they started beating up the protesters, in which at least 20 students were injured.

The injured were rushed to the Golaghat civil hospital.

The security forces and civil officials rushed to the spot.

The injured girls were referred to the Dibrugarh Medical College and hospital.

Assam to hand over afforestation case to CBI

Samudra Gupta Kashyap

While the CBI probe into a multi-crore scandal in the Dima Hasao district has led to the arrest of several persons including a government officer, a top politician and two militant leaders, the Gauhati HC has directed the Assam government to hand over to the CBI another scandal in the same district, related to funds given by the NHAI for compensatory afforestation.

The HC order was passed by a division bench comprising chief justice MB Lokur and justice AB Paul on Monday, in connection with a PIL filed by an NGO called Assam Enviro-Legal Protection Society, which alleged that a sum of Rs 12.16 crore given by the NHAI to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) was grossly misused by the authorities.

The NGO in its petition not only named former NCHAC chief executive member Depolal Hojai of being involved, but alleged that former state governor Ajai Singh too had a hand in it.

The NHAI, whose East-West Corridor passes through the hill district, had paid an amount of Rs 12.16 crore to the NCAC in 2008 for an afforestation programme to compensate the losses caused due to felling of trees for the highway.

Group language lessons for teachers in India

Partha Sarathi Misra is helping teachers in state primary schools in India to overcome their frustrations as they struggle to speak English
Partha Sarathi Misra

Indian school children Schoolchildren carry umbrellas as they walk home through a monsoon in Dadara, Assam. Photograph: STRDEL/AFP/Getty What keeps you motivated? I have been teaching English to teachers in state primary schools in Assam, India, since 1994. Their first language is Assamese, they can read and write English with varying degrees of proficiency, but most lack listening and speaking skills. The magnitude of the problem keeps me motivated.
Best teaching moment? When trainees communicate in English independently. The training starts with a week of frustration as participants struggle to express anything in English. Ice starts melting from the second week. In the third, they manage isolated expressions. By the fourth they are speaking among themselves. When these adults experiment with English, just as children do with new toys, I feel happy.
And worst? De-culturalising ELT textbooks. Some teachers like to discuss the meaning of words such as "Boxing Day" or "hamburger" – in their first language.
What have you learned? Keep the teacher-trainer interference to a minimum. Trainees learn best when there is group solidarity.
Biggest challenge? The number of teachers who are yet to be trained. I am sceptical about the cascade model of teacher training – the transmission loss is too high. India's vast numbers of teachers will all need to be re-taught English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Two- or three-day training programmes in ELT for thousands of teachers may have publicity value, but pedagogically they are irrelevant. Primary teachers are asked to teach a language that they themselves did not learn well. Teach them English, don't train them as if they are robots.
What's next? The positive attitude of the younger generation of teachers in Assam makes me hopeful. They have started organising "English speaking clubs" to improve their skills, which I am helping to promote.
Top tip? Make exposure to the target language as unobtrusive as possible. We learn a language when we are not aware that we are learning it.
Dr Partha Sarathi Misra, 60, is director of the English Language Teaching Institute, Assam

KMSS seeks CBI probe into all NC Hills depts

GUWAHATI, Sept 14 – Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) secretary Akhil Gogoi today alleged that the State Government is involved in the multi-crore NC Hills scam and Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is the kingpin of this scam. He was addressing a press conference at the Press Club here this morning.

Gogoi said that to free itself from the accusation of being involved in the scam, the State Government should allow CBI probe into all the departments of the NC Hills district autonomous council. In this connection with effect from 2001. Moreover, the Central investigation agency should be allowed to bring the autonomous council of Karbi Anglong district, too, under the jurisdiction of this investigation, Gogoi said.

This is needed to disprove the allegation that the ten-year tenure of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is a black period in the State’s history, said the KMSS secretary.

He said that without Government’s involvement in the scam, the then Deputy Commissioner of the Hills district AK Baruah, by dint of his power as the Principal Secretary of the NC Hills Autonomous Council, would not have been able to entrust RH Khan to liaise with all State Government departments. Khan, now in judicial custody, was the Deputy Director, Social Welfare, NC Hills.

“Khan, was entrusted on top of his official duty, to liaise in matters of following up ‘all the sanctions and release of funds, acknowledge receipt of funds released, vide release orders on behalf of the council and furnish utilization certificates department-wise on behalf of the council to the State Government,” said the KMSS secretary.

The KMSS secretary also alleged that a youth minister of the State has obtained a share of Rs 2 crore from the loot of Rs 12 crore 16 lakh plundered by a circle in the name of compensatory afforestation in NC Hills district. The amount was released by the National Highway Authority of India, said the KMSS secretary.

He dared the Chief Minister to tell the people whether he is scared of initiating any step against Himanta Biswa Sarma despite there being a lot of evidence provided by the KMSS to prove corruption of the Minister.

The Chief Minister should also tell the people as to whether he has been admitting indirectly his involvement in the NC Hills scam by keeping Himanta Biswa Sarma and other departments like Health, Forest, Planning and Development, Rural Development, etc., outside the purview of the CBI investigation.

Fresh charges: The KMSS will wait till September 29 for the Chief Minister’s response to the demand for handing over the matters related to Himanta Biswa Sarma to the CBI. Or else, it will start making new exposures on the corruption of the Minister from September 30, warned the KMSS secretary.

Help: The KMSS needs financial help from the people to file a case with the Supreme Court of India in connection with the TADA cases registered against Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma by the Panbazar and Chandmari Police Stations.

Interested people may deposit their donations to KMSS’ Union Bank of India, Chandmari Branch, Guwahati, account (No – 380602011002099) to enable it to file the case during the end part of the current month or in the early part of the next month, Gogoi said.

Gogoi orders probe into food security anomaly

Guwahati, Sep 13 : Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, back in office on Monday after a 50-day absence due to cardiac complications, has ordered a probe into the controversial selection of BPL families under a populist food security scheme. The scheme -- Mukhya Mantrir Anna Suraksha Yojana -- targeted at 13 lakh BPL families across Assam, is scheduled to start in October and end in March before the 2011 Assembly elections.

Gogoi had in March this year announced the Rs 150 crore food security scheme entailing 10 kg of rice per BPL family per month at Rs 6 per kg. The process of selecting the beneficiaries began a couple of months ago.

According to the guideline, the beneficiaries were to be selected by the Gram Sabhas in each block. The government, mysteriously, transferred the responsibility to a panel of block-level social workers who were allegedly Congress workers. Protests and violence engulfed rural Assam after the list of beneficiaries was pasted outside the office of each block development officer on September 4.

"We have asked the district authorities to enquire into the alleged anomaly and address the problem of the rural masses," Gogoi said.

Bandh affects life in parts of Assam

Guwahati, Sep 6 : Life was affected in several parts of Assam, particularly western districts, during a 36-hour statewide bandh that ends today, called by the All Koch-Rajbonshi Students Union (AKRSU).

Sporadic incidents were reported from various parts of western Assam districts since yesterday.

Early this morning, as the bandh entered the second day, a coal-laden truck was torched by miscreants on national highway 31 in Golakganj in Dhubri district.

Yesterday, bandh supporters had burnt tyres on the national highway, crippling vehicular traffic severely.

Security forces have been deployed in large numbers to ensure no untoward incident.

The bandh was called in protest against allegations of AKRSU's hand in the death of Monser Ali on Thursday that triggered a flare-up between two communities in the Chautara Milanbazar area under Gossaigaon subdivision in Kokrajhar district.

Ali, 28, a resident of Kachukata Part I, was allegedly killed by youths from another community over a love affair. A communal clash erupted in which at least 10 houses were torched, forcing the district administration to deploy soldiers.

‘Star’ grades for hospitals

Guwahati, Sep 6 : Assam hospitals, both public and private, will be graded with five, four and three stars from next year to ensure that patients are not duped into choosing a healthcare centre based on false promises.

The initiative, which is part of the Right to Health Act, aims at arresting the erosion of people’s confidence in medical professionals and also making hospitals accountable to deliver facilities and services that they claim to offer.

“One of the major concerns in Assam is that there is no assurance that the hospitals, whether private or public, are equipped to provide the facilities and services they claim to have. Many patients realise after only being admitted that the hospitals are not equipped to provide what they have claimed. It causes a great deal of annoyance and dissatisfaction which goes against the very basic spirit of the Right to Health Act,” a source said.

An international agency, global tenders for which will be floated shortly, will asses hospitals based on their performance and ability to use infrastructure and accordingly award the grades.

Health and family welfare minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, a source said, has emphasised on the need to follow the hospital grading model on the lines of the system used in the UK and the US.

At present, Assam has three large public and nearly 500 private hospitals.

Every aspect of healthcare service would be addressed or scrutinised while awarding the grades.

The highest priorities will be given to technological expertise and availability of doctors, nurses and paramedics round the clock.

“The relationship between doctors and patients will play a crucial role in determining the grade status of a particular hospital,” the source said.

The five star status would be awarded to those hospitals which have been successful in making 100 per cent utilisation of their existing infrastructure, facilities and manpower to deliver the best healthcare to patients.

Four star status will be accorded to those which have utilised more than 90 per cent of their infrastructure and manpower to serve the people effectively.

Performance of three stars hospitals would be considered satisfactory but would have scope for improvement.

The hospitals that would not be included under the grades would need to pull up their socks and take drastic steps to improve their service delivery system.

The grading system would also influence standardisation of tariffs in private hospitals in Assam.

The Gauhati Medical College Teachers’ Association has welcomed the government’s decision.

“There has been a deterioration in the doctor-patient relationship over the years. It is high time that the doctors take a proactive step to meet the expectations of the society,” said N.N. Ganguly, general secretary of the association.

Senior Journalists killed in Assam

Guwahati, Sep 5 : A senior journalist was killed by miscreants in Assam's Nagaon district on Saturday evening, police said.

According to police, a senior journalist Bimala Prasad Talukdar (68) was killed by the miscreants and his body found at Rampur area near Hojai in the district on Saturday evening around 9 pm.

"We found some cut marks in his body. The criminals probably used a knife to conduct the brutal murder," a police official said.

A search operation was on to nab the culprits, police added.

Karbis attack Dimapur & Imphal buses in Assam

Dimapur, Sep 4 : The bandh carried out by Karbi bodies on Sep 1 alone the NH-36 and NH-39 was marked by wide scale hostility.

Night buses bound from Dimapur and Imphal were under attack injuring severely to many passengers and drivers as well.

Incidents of stone pelting and arson occurred in several places at around when a large mob came between Gorampani and Nambo.

One of the victims told the sources that his bus driver did not stop on the way even though he was injured , “He kept on pulling the bus amidst rain of stone and other flying missiles, amid shuttered windshield until he reach Dimapur.

Similar incident of attack on passenger buses and public carriers took place in Dengaon, locality of Diphu subdivision in NH-36. Protesters threw stone on number of vehicles inflicting injury on the commuters.

As of now, no buses are plying between those areas due to fear of more attacks, says travel department of Nagaland.

Truck with pigs set ablaze in Assam

Guwahati, Sept 2 : A truck was set on fire by bandh supporters on NH-39 in Assam’s Karbi angling district during the 72-hours Karbi Anglong bandh on Wednesday, officials said.

A truck was reportedly burnt down by bandh supporters during the 72-hours Karbi Anglong bandh on NH-39 at Deopani area in the hilly district. The vehicle was carrying 70 pigs from Haryana to Dimapur in Nagaland.

“The 10-wheeler truck was fully damaged and 56 pigs died in the fire,” a fire official said.

Karbi Anglong Students Union and other few organizations called a 72-hour bandh in demand of separate state under 244(A) article and to protest against land encroachment in Assam by Naga and Arunachali people.

The bandh supporters blockaded the National Highway (NH)-39 with over 100 uprooted trees near Nambor Reserve Forest area.

Two kidnapped Assam businessmen rescued after three days

Two businessmen kidnapped at gunpoint over the weekend from Assam's main city Guwahati were rescued by security forces early Wednesday, officials said.

A police spokesperson said Bishnu Kedia and Sanjay Agarwal, both abducted Sunday, were rescued from Sonapur on the outskirts of Guwahati.

'Due to intense security operations, the kidnappers probably felt the heat and abandoned the duo for fear of being captured,' a senior police official said.

Kedia and Agarwal, who run a dairy business in Guwahati, were kidnapped by at least four people midnight Sunday from near their factory in the Sasal area.

'Last three days we were made to shift locations frequently and we presumed it was a hilly area. We didn't know much about the locations as we were blindfolded,' Agarwal told IANS.

'We didn't know why we were kidnapped, but the abductors never misbehaved with us,' he said.

The captors called up the family members of the hostages twice and asked them to wait until further communication.

'The kidnappers probably wanted to first shift them to some safe place before bargaining with their families for ransom. But with intense security operations, the captors realised it would be futile to hold them hostage and so decided to release them,' the official said.

The identity of the abductors is yet to be ascertained.

'We are sure the kidnapping was done for money, but the kidnappers could be either militants or criminals who knew them,' the official said.