One more ISI agent held along Tripura border

Agartala, Oct 31 (IANS) Another agent of Pakistan's intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) along the India- Bangladesh border in southern Tripura, police said here Saturday.

BSF troopers detained ISI agent Sheikh Mohammad Abu Bakkar Siddique, 27, from southern Tripura's Sabroom border, 140 km from here, Thursday night when he was crossing the border, a police spokesman told reporters. He was handed over to the Tripura Police.

Siddique is the third ISI agent to be arrested in Tripura since July. According to police, the ISI agents entered India from Bangladesh and visited other northeastern states as well.

'He told the police and intelligence interrogators that he was sent by an opposition party leader in Bangladesh to further strengthen the ISI network in northeast India,' the police official said.

The Tripura Police, central security force, Army and central intelligence officials have been interrogating Siddique.

Police also arrested two Indian youths for their links with Siddique, who told the intelligence officials that he was scheduled to visit Kolkata 'to execute some plans'.

Earlier, ISI spy Manir Khan alias Omar Ashraf, 30, and his six Indian associates were arrested July 3 by Tripura Police in Agartala. Also, BSF troopers detained ISI emissary Nayeem Ahmed Mamoon, 22, when he was crossing the border towards Bangladesh through Lankamura border on the outskirts of Agartala.

Assam:2 Kidnapped Train Drivers Rescued

Two train drivers of North-East Frontier Railway, kidnapped by militants of NDFB (anti-talk faction) a month ago, were rescued by police from north Assam's Sonitpur district.

The two drivers were rescued from a remote place five km away from Hugrajuli under Dhekiajuli police station, Additional Superintendent of Police P K Nath, who led the rescue operation, said.

The two were in good health and they claimed their kidnappers did not torture them, Nath said.

The clue to the location of the place where the two were kept in hiding was provided by a National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militant Gendha Basumatary alias Brisat Basumatary, who was nabbed by army intelligence and handed over to the police on Friday.

The two drivers, Ajit Chiring Phukan and Nirmal Chandra Buragohain, were abducted near Bhalukpung in the district bordering Arunachal Pradesh on August 29.A group of armed NDFB militants had stopped the Bhalukpung Passenger at a place between Gamani and Bhalukpung railway stations and taken them away.

Two other railway employees -- a guard and a clerk -- taken away with the train drivers to a nearby jungle, were, however, later let off.

Foreign firms to study dams

Guwahati, Oct 31 : The Assam government has asked the NHPC to hire two institutes of international repute in the multi-disciplinary committee to conduct a fresh survey on the dam in the Lower Subansiri hydel project.

Assam power minister Pradyut Bordoloi today said this, and added that the government has asked the NHPC to include the Hydro Project institute of Moscow and AF Colenco Ltd of Switzerland in the multi-disciplinary expert committee to study all the issues thoroughly.

Earlier this week, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi held a meeting with the chairman-cum-managing director of NHPC, S.K. Garg, on several vital issues related to the Lower Subansiri Dam project.

He urged the director to ensure that the NHPC addressed all issues raised by the people on the downstream impact of the dam on bio-diversity and the environment as a whole.

Bordoloi said, “These two international companies have done substantial work on dams and power resources in the Himalayan region. So the chief minister had written to the NHPC to consult these two companies so that all the issues are addressed properly.”

Almost all the political parties, including the state’s main Opposition party AGP and organisations like the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti have raised stiff opposition to the construction of the proposed mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh.

The power minister tactfully avoided the issue of halting the ongoing construction at the Lower Subansiri project until the proposed multi-disciplinary committee comes up with a confirmed and thorough study on it.

He also avoided the issue when asked about why the recent recommendations of the expert committee, formed by the state government, were not taken as the final ones and only said “there are contrasts among the experts”.

The expert committee on the mega dam, which submitted its report recently, recommended reducing of the dam height, attention to indigenous people’s rights, embankments of the river to be raised and strengthened and forestation of catchment areas.

The committee, which was formed by the state government, included experts from IIT Guwahati, Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University.

The minister also launched a scathing attack on the AGP and alleged that the party was trying to take political mileage out of the issue.

“The AGP government had always been supporting the large dams and wrote to the Centre several times when they were in power. However, they are now trying to politicise the issue by opposing the construction of dams,” he added.

ABSU raises statehood demand in Delhi

NEW DELHI, Oct 29 – Contending that alienation of the Bodo people is complete, All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) held the State Government responsible for failing to stop killings of innocent people by extremists.

The powerful Bodo students body staged a demonstration in the capital to press for creation of a separate State of Bodoland, besides other demands. The delegation also met Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office, Prithviraj Chavan.

President and general secretary of ABSU, Pramod Boro and Jiron Basumatary, respectively, claimed that as far as the demand for a separate State is concerned, all factions were united despite their differences.

“Though we are divided, the issue is important and demand for a separate State is a long-standing one,” said the general secretary.

Home Minister, P Chidambaram’s statement on creation of Telanagana State has led us to change our strategy and demand for a separate State, said Basumatary.

However, ABSU leaders were quick to add that they do not have faith in solution of their problems under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, as it has failed to deliver. The Government of India, Assam Government and BLT signed the Bodo Accord in 2003 paving the way for their entry into politics.

The leaders claimed that though they have revived the demand for a separate State, they are in no hurry to intensify their agitation, in the face of the violent atmosphere prevailing in the BTAD areas. “Ours would be a non-violent and democratic movement, the president and general secretary said.

The Bodo student leaders expressed dismay at the violence in BTAD areas, alleging that during 2008-2009, at least 150 people were killed in separate incidents. Those killed included people from various walks of life including teachers, students, lecturers, journalists, among others.

There is no sense of security, as the State Government is turning a blind eye to these incidents. No official has been suspended, and no proper inquiry conducted. The National Human Rights Commission is now conducting inquiries into the killings and violation of human rights.

Alleging gross apathy, the ABSU leaders stated that there was no development activities. They pointed out that at least 25 bills were passed by the BTC but the Governor is yet to give his consent to a single Bill. “Government of Assam is intentionally not working to solve our problems,” they alleged.

Since 2003-2004, only 27 Bodo medium schools were provincialised and till now the State Government has not created separate directorate for Bodo medium schools. There is no mid-day meal, no books for Bodo schools, while there is no initiative to set up State university, medical or engineering colleges.

Apart from the demand of a separate State, ABSU is demanding protection and propagation of Bodo language, inclusion of Bodo-Kacharis of Karbi Anglong district into the ST (Hill) list, special status for plains tribals of Assam living outside the Council areas, Bodo language promotion bureau, permanent solution to flood and erosion problem, among others.

Assam-Nagaland meet to resolve border row

NEW DELHI, Oct 29 – As part of the initiative of the Supreme Court to resolve the vexed inter-State boundary problem, the court-appointed mediators and top officials of Assam and Nagaland met to work out a feasibility report. The meeting is likely to continue tomorrow, as well.

The day-long meeting held in a hotel was in keeping with the direction of the Supreme Court that appointed two mediators to help resolve the border problem. The mediators with the help of the State Government officials and a representative of the Union Home Ministry, is to submit its feasibility report to the Apex Court, in the first week of December.

The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary of Assam, Naba Kumar Das, Home Commissioner, Jishnu Barua, while Nagaland Government was represented by State Chief Secretary, Lalthara.

The State Chief Secretary, when contacted declined to reveal anything stating that it was a confidential meeting.

The first of series of meeting was held on September 18, when the two sides reportedly managed to narrow down the differences. The Court has opted for mediation route rather then adjudication to resolve the over two-decades old problem.

In August, Division Bench of the Supreme Court of Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice TS Thakur appointed senior advocates Sriram Panchoo of Madras High Court and Niranjan Bhatt of Gujarat High Court to mediate between Assam and Nagaland.

The Supreme Court had said that the chief secretaries of the Assam and Nagaland should be associated with the process of mediation. If the mediators’ preliminary report is found “positive,” the Supreme Court will extend the tenure of the mediators.

Earlier in August, the Supreme Court had observed that “adjudication cannot resolve such differences that have become a routine affair” and had asked the two states to ‘sit across the table.’

The Supreme Court had stated the difficulties involved in adjudicating border disputes such as the one between Assam and Nagaland. “This matter is pending since 1988 and would go on for the next 25 years when you and I won’t be around,” the Bench had stated.

Rhino in Assam meets untimely death again – Poachers


Kaziranga, the National Park in the state of Assam, India is the home of the one horned Rhino. Poaching and killing of the animal has been declared to be illegal by the government but nothing seems to stop the people intent on disfiguring and murdering the hapless animals. The tough anti poaching laws implemented in the state which includes up to ten years of imprisonment has also not deterred the killing of the rhino, much in demand for its horn.
A similar incident occurred on Thursday, the 28th of October 2010 when a rhino was killed by a group of poachers in Burachapori which is located inside the Agratoli range of the National Park.
The forest guards, however, had been alert and rushed to the spot on hearing the sounds of gunfire. They managed to shoot at the poachers injuring one of persons in the poacher’s gang.

Ikramul Majid, the ranger of the forest reported the entire incident. The poacher who had been injured by the forest guards could not be detained as he made his escape along with another member of the gang.
Majid further reported the seizure of two SBBL guns along with a number of sharp weapons. Some camping equipment has also been recovered from the site of the incident
–Kornika Ganguly/

Assam orders probe into killing of elephant calf

Guwahati, Oct 29 (IANS) The Assam government Thursday ordered a probe into the death of a wild elephant calf clobbered to death by villagers two days ago after it strayed from the herd and entered a human settlement area.

The enquiry would be conducted by Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden P.K. Agarwal.

“I have asked for a detailed enquiry into the incident and I assure you that whosoever is found guilty would face action as per law,” Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain told journalists.

More than 200 villagers armed with sticks, bamboo poles and ropes, went berserk Tuesday charging the baby elephant along a paddy field in Gubah village in Morigaon district, about 60 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

The incident took place in front of at least two armed personnel - a forest ranger and a policeman - with the more than hour-long gory drama filmed by an amateur videographer.

The incident triggered outrage among wildlife conservationists and lovers with both local and national TV channels beaming the gory images in vivid details - villagers surrounding the calf from all sides and people clobbering the elephant with sticks and bamboo poles.

“The enquiry would be completed soon and action taken thereafter,” the minister said.

The calf finally gave up its fight to escape with the villagers tying its legs with a nylon rope. After a few hours baby died.

Assam zoo to plant more endangered plant species

Guwahati, Oct 28 : As several species face threat of extinction, the Assam state Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden has come up with a scheme for protection of the endangered flora.

The state zoo, which houses over 600 species of both indigenous and introduced plants, will plant threatened and endangered trees and plants of the North East under the scheme.

Informing about the new scheme, botanist Nagen Das said it will be implemented soon.

''The Zoo, which has a wide variety of flora and fauna, is now making arrangements for plantation of trees in the remaining wild area,'' Mr Das said.

The plantation will comprise medicinal plants, fodder and other species which were gradually becoming extinct, he added.

The botanical garden attached to the state zoo boosts of more than 600 species spread over 130 hectares of land on the Japorigog hill in the city.

The species include a large variety of timber yielding plants, nutritious fodder and rare trees, like Andaman red wood.

Marijuana growers arrested

Guwahati, Oct. 28 : Police have found that marijuana, illegally grown in the char (riverine) areas of Assam, are being smuggled to Bangladesh through river routes.

The police said farmers in the char areas, who earlier used to grow vegetables, were being lured into cultivating marijuana by an “international” racket.

The number of farmers taking up marijuana cultivation is on the rise as it yields a handsome income and also the crop requires little attention.

The police have destroyed marijuana cultivation at 11 locations under the Chaygaon police station area in Kamrup district since yesterday and arrested three farmers. The approximate value of the destroyed cannabis will be Rs 25 lakh. A kilogram of marijuana sells for about Rs 5,000.

A police source said they conducted raids at Jorsimalu, Haspara and Mahabirpathar villages in the district and destroyed hemp plants cultivated illegally in the area last evening. The operation was still on. “We found illegal cultivation of ganja (marijuana), uprooted thousands of hemp plants and burnt them down in presence of an executive magistrate,” he said.

Cannabis cultivation is banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. A case has been registered against the accused at Chaygaon police station under the act.

The source said efforts were on to arrest few other farmers, who managed to escape.

The police had earlier destroyed around 2,000kg of cannabis in the Chaygaon police station area of Kamrup district in January this year.

According to the source, a well-organised racket was smuggling marijuana to Bangladesh by concealing it under jute, garlic and vegetables in gunny bags by boats through the border.

There is a huge demand for cannabis in Bangladesh, where its abuse is said to be rampant.

The police suspect that illegal migrants from the neighbouring country were behind the cannabis cultivation as most of these char areas are inhabited by suspected illegal settlers.

The vast tracks of char land in the state are believed to be used for marijuana as well as poppy cultivation.

The source attributed this to slack vigilance, as most of the char areas were inaccessible and have thin police presence.

“We are trying our best to bust this racket and destroy the marijuana cultivation. The recent successes are result of our intensified efforts,” he said.

The source, however, admitted that it was not easy to arrest the drug lords as they mostly operate from Bangladesh through their agents here.

There have been reports about these drug trafficking rackets encouraging farmers to go for poppy cultivation in the state.

According to information available with the enforcement agencies, these cartels were providing money as well as poppy seeds to farmers for cultivation in char areas in Darrang and Barpeta.

Cobra chief held for extortion

Kokrajhar, Oct. 28 : Kokrajhar police have arrested the commander-in-chief of Adivasi Cobra Militant of Assam, Kanhu Murmu, for forcing tribals to give up a part of their rehabilitation grant towards the outfit’s coffers.

The outfit, which claims to fight for the cause of Adivasis, collected money from the poor tribals living in Joypur relief camp.

Sunil Bhagat, the secretary of relief camp committee, who was also arrested, admitted that the Cobra militants had collected money from the camp inmates.

Bhagat said a meeting was held on October 21 under the chairmanship of the Cobra commander-in-chief where the outfit asked the relief beneficiaries to donate Rs 10,000 from the Rs 50,000 they received as rehabilitating grant, of which Rs 6,000 would go to Cobra militants and Rs 4,000 was meant for a private school.

The police also arrested six other persons, including government official, Uday Kumar Roy, who is in-charge of Joypur relief camp, when they were withdrawing the collected money from Kokrajhar Assam Gramin Vikash Bank in Kokrajhar town.

Cobra militant Lakhiram Tudu and four others, Daniel Hasda, Basu Baskey, Baburam Murmu, Baburam Murmu, were among those arrested from the bank.

Assam agriculture minister Pramila Rani Brahma and Kokrajhar deputy commissioner Carol Narzary recently distributed the rehabilitation grant in-aid cheques for Rs 50,000 each to 263 families affected in the ethnic violence in 1996 and 1998 in Kokrajhar.

“We had received information of the Cobra militants asking the relief inmates to donate money. So our team in plain clothes went to the bank and caught them red-handed while withdrawing the money — Rs 180,000 was recovered from them,” a police source said.

The Cobra commander-in-chief refuted the allegation, saying it was baseless and politically motivated.

Bodos to march in Delhi -- for separate state

New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) About 3,000 Bodo people will take out a rally in the capital Thursday demanding a separate state to be carved out of Assam, an activist said.

Organised by the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), the rally will start from Ram Lila Maidan in central Delhi and reach Parliament Street in the city centre.

The ABSU plans to submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding a separate state for Bodo tribals.

Outrage over baby elephant’s killing in Assam

Guwahati, Oct 27 (IANS) Wildlife experts and conservationists Wednesday were outraged over the brutal killing of a wild elephant calf that was clobbered to death by irate villagers after it entered a human settlement area of Assam.

More than 200 villagers, armed with sticks, bamboo poles, and ropes went berserk charging the baby elephant along a paddy field in Morigaon district’s Gubah village, about 60 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati in India’s northeast.

The incident took place Tuesday in front of at least two armed personnel, a forest ranger and a policeman, with the more than hour long gory drama filmed by an amateur videographer.

“This is an outrageous incident, it is purely barbaric to find villagers literally torturing the helpless elephant to death and that too in front of two security people,” Kushal Konwar Sarma, a noted elephant expert who also teaches at the College of Veterinary Science in Guwahati, told IANS.

Images beaming on both local and national TV channels were disturbing - villagers surrounding the calf from all sides and people literally pulling the tail and others attacking the elephant with sticks. The calf finally gave up on its fight to escape with the villagers tying its legs with a nylon rope.

“This was an inhuman act and need to be condemned in the strongest possible term. The government should hold an enquiry into the matter and punish all those involved in the act,” Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak - a frontline wildlife conservation group, said.

State Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain said he would visit the area to personally investigate the matter.

“I would visit the spot and find out how it all happened,” the minister said.

Human-elephant conflict in Assam has reached alarming proportions. Only a fortnight ago, villagers poisoned to death at least four wild Asiatic elephants by lacing toxic chemicals in homemade moonshine.

In 2009, four elephants were poisoned to death by angry villagers after the pachyderms went on a rampage feasting on paddy fields and entering human settlement areas, tearing apart homes and killing at least two people.

Experts say wild elephants have been moving out of the jungles with people encroaching upon animal corridors leading to an increasing number of elephant attacks on villages.

“A shrinking forest cover and encroachment of elephant corridors have forced the pachyderms to stray out of their habitats into human settlement areas,” Sharma said.

In 2001, close to 40 elephants were poisoned to death allegedly by the villagers.

A recent report by the wildlife department said wild Asiatic elephants have killed about 279 people in Assam since 2001 while 289 elephants have died during the same period — many of them victims of retaliation by angry humans.

The last elephant census carried out by wildlife authorities recorded about 5,500 elephants in Assam, more than half of India’s count of 10,000.

Assam BJP agitation against mega dams

GUWAHATI: The Assam unit of the BJP today announced that it would launch a massive state-wide agitation in December against construction of mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh.

"The projects will have adverse downstream impact in Assam and the state government is apparently supporting it. BJP is opposing the construction and organise the agitation throughout the state" BJP state president, Ranjit Dutta said.

Stating that the Congress is in power at the Centre, Assam and in Arunachal Pradesh, Dutta said if they wanted they could have stopped construction of the dams which were facing strong opposition from the local people.

On the border problems with other north eastern states, the BJP leader alleged that the state government had totally failed to solve the issue.

"The government has failed to solve the border as well as infiltration problems and BJP is going to highlight the issues in next year's assembly election", he said.

AGP alleges Congress not in favour of solving ULFA problem

Guwahati, Oct 24 (PTI) Asom Gana Parishad president Chandra Mohan Patowary today alleged that the ruling Congress in Assam does not want a permanent solution to the ULFA problem in the state.

"They do not want a solution to the ULFA problem but was trying to deal with it in a political manner," Patowary told reporters here.The Congress is playing a "political game" in the issue of holding talks with the outfit and wasn't taking any concrete steps in taking the talks process forward, he said."Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi himself said that he had no problem if the five top ULFA leaders, including chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, were released from the Guwahati Central Jail.

Why are the leaders then not being released?," he said.The opposition leader also demanded that the construction of mega dams should be stopped immediately and the Congress should refrain from making it another political issue."All scientific studies by experts have shown the adverse effect of mega dams on biodiversity and it should be immediately stopped," he added.

Gogoi’s version of report distorted: AASU

GUWAHATI, Oct 24 – Countering Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s stand on the construction of big dams, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) today alleged that the former, on Friday, has deliberately presented a distorted version of the expert committee report to mislead the people of the State.

Dr Samujjal Bhattacharya, adviser, AASU, said that the Chief Minister had deliberately skipped the first two recommendations of the expert committee where the experts had categorically voiced concern against construction of big dams citing their hazardous impact on the life and property of the people.

“Such an attitude on the part of the Chief Minister reflects his inefficiency,” alleged Dr Bhattacharya.

Gogoi, on Friday, supported construction of mega dams as a way to solve the flood and erosion problem.

The recommendations given by the committee, comprising experts from the Indian Institute of Technology, Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University, in its first two recommendations stood against construction of the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project and any mega hydropower project in the Himalayan foothills, south of MBT on the strength of geological, tectonic and seismological grounds.

However, in the third point of the recommendations of the feasibility and safety of the dam, the expert committee had recommended redesigning of the project by sufficiently reducing the dam height and production capacity (micro dam).

Asked on their stand on the construction of micro dam, Dr Bhattacharya said, “ We are not against development but the recommendations of experts has to be taken into consideration before going ahead with any project.”

Members of the AASU today hanged effigies of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the Members of Parliament (MPs) representing Assam at Delhi in all the district headquarters of the State. In Guwahati, the effigies were hanged at Panbazar and Dispur Last Gate areas.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), while echoing similar concern, stated that the Chief Minister is misleading public on flood moderation by Lower Subansiri as going by NHPC’s own claim, the flood moderation component in Lower Subansiri is negligible.

“This was admitted by NHPC before the members of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife in December 2008 when the project was being examined by them for clearance,” a press release stated.

Our Dibrugarh Staff Correspondent adds: The district unit of the AASU today hanged effigies of the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and of 10 MPs of the State in different parts of the city in protest against their position with respect to the upcoming mega hydel project and construction of dams.

Our Silapathar Correspondent adds: Activists of AASU and Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) blocked the main road of Silapathar town at 11 pm today in protest against construction of mega dams.

The activists also burnt the effigies of the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and Members of Parliament of Assam for their stand on big dams construction.

Our Tinsukia Correspondent adds: The Tinsukia district AASU unit too hanged the effigies of the Chief Minister, Prime Minister and 10 other Congress Members of Parliament from Assam at Zero Point in Tinsukia today.

Three injured in police firing on students in Assam

Rangiya: Three persons were injured today when the police fired on rampaging student members of the All Bodoland Minority Students Union in lower Assam's Kamrup (rural) district tonight.

About 150 supporters of the union, returning after attending a convention, attacked shops at Rangiya Tiniali and pelted stones at locals, police said.

As the situation turned violent and uncontrollable, police fired in the air to disperse them, but as the violence continued, police fired towards them injuring three with bullets, they said.

The students who had gathered from different parts of Assam, had ransacked shops and a 'dhaba' after disputes at various places in the district.

In the ensuing fisticuff between the two sides, seven students and a 'dhaba' owner were injured, police said.

The three injured in police firing were sent to the Gauhati Medical College Hospital.

Assam: A boy playing with a grenade throws it out, no casualties

Dhubri: An explosion occurred in Kokrajhar district today when a 14-year old boy threw a grenade, that was believed to be a toy by his mother who brought it inside their house, police said here. There were no casualties, they said.

According to the police, 40-year-old Zohora Bibi had picked up a hand grenade yesterday from a paddy field at Khorkhori area mistaking it to be a toy, they said. She brought it to her home and kept it inside an almirah. Her son, a student of Class 7, took it out to play with this morning.

When Zohora saw the safety pin in the grenade, she suspected it to be an explosive and told her son to throw it away. Once the boy hurled the grenade towards an unpopulated area, it exploded, created a crater and burnt nearby trees.

On Thursday, three motorcycle-borne suspected NDFB militants met with a minor accident in the area and the device may have been left behind by them, locals said.

Bhutanese check gate at Daifam objected

KALAIGAON, Oct 23 – The construction of a Bhutan border check gate along the Indo-Bhutan international border at Daifam near Bhairabkunda has been temporarily suspended following an objection raised by the Udalguri district administration.

In a press release, SS Meenakshi Sundaram, Deputy Commissioner, Udalguri district, said that Bhairabkunda on the Indian side has been the tri-junction of Bhutan-Arunachal Pradesh-Assam. The place has been a key strategic location, as shown in Google Earth. It has been depicted as the last point of the illegal Chinese claim on Indian territory on this side.

The Daifam town is the headquarters of the Daifam subdivision in Samdrup Jonkhar district of Bhutan. It needs mention that Bhairabkunda on the Indian side with a small population of a few thousand people has been a small business and trade village with a police outpost. Further, there is a major site of the Dhansiri irrigation project.

The Bhutanese authorities visited Daifam on a few occasions. Karma Namgyal, Director, Home, Royal Government of Bhutan, while visiting Daifam, told the Deputy Commissioner of Udalguri about the plan of the Royal Government of Bhutan to build a full-fledged border check post along Namgyal. The Director of Home explained the general proposal to advance the Bhutanese gate from its then position to a point which he explained was within Bhutanese territory, but requested the DC of Udalguri to clear certain encroachments purportedly on Bhutanese territory. The DC of Udalguri agreed to verify and said that if any encroachment on settlement was found on the Bhutanese side, it would be speedily evicted as per norms. The Circle Officer, Udalguri was asked to send a communication so as to formally take up the matter with the authorities on the Indian side.

Later, the Bhutanese authorities initiated construction of an arch close to 100 metres south of the existing gate. The I/C of 23 BN SSB informed that Bhutanese construction had entered Indian territory. The DC, Udalguri conducted a verification through the Circle Officer, Udalguri Revenue Circle who informed that Bhutanese construction had been made at an angle to the international line and that it may have intruded into Indian territories.

Accordingly, a copy of the report and all relevant papers were sent to the Government of Assam and BTC administration. Subsequently, the SDO of Daifam subdivision of Samdrup district informed that the Bhutanese authorities had unilaterally withdrawn the construction about a metre inside from the earlier location. But even then it would be on no-man’s land. Hence, the Government of Assam decided to take up the matter with the Government of India for joint verification and finalisation by Indian and Bhutanese survey departments. Further, it was also submitted that pending the verification, the construction activities may be stopped.

Will accommodate insurgents as far as possible: Gogoi on ULFA talks

Guwahati, Oct 22 : Reiterating that his government wanted the proposed talks with the ULFA to start by December, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the government would ''accommodate as far as possible'' the demands of the banned outfit.

''The Centre's interlocutor PC Haldar is holding discussions with the jailed leaders. He will have to come to me and the Union Home Ministry after that. We will have to frame the modalities. The process takes some time,'' Mr Gogoi said.

''Before the talks start, we must see what they (ULFA) want and what we want. But we will accommodate as far as possible,'' he said.

Claiming that the granting of bail to the jailed ULFA leaders was not in the hands of the state government but was up to the jurisdiction of the court, Mr Gogoi said, ''We can oppose the bail or otherwise, but ultimately it is for the court to decide whether to grant them bail or not.'' His statement came in the wake of the jailed ULFA leaders insisting on their release to carry forward the peace process.

Assam Tourism gets boost withFive-decker cruise liner

MV Charaidew. Picture by Eastern Projections

Guwahati, Oct. 22 : A five-decker luxury vessel with a spa, hair salon and luxury cabins will set sail on the Brahmaputra early next year, with the Assam tourism department tying up with the Faridabad based-Far Horizon Tours, in a bid to revamp river tourism in the state.

“The luxury vessel is expected to elevate the standard of river cruise tourism in the region,” a tourism department official told The Telegraph.
Two luxury cruise vessels — MV Manashputra and MV Charaidew — ply on the Brahmaputra but the new liner, MV Mahabahu, will be “world class,” having almost five-star facilities.
The vessel will travel from Guwahati to Dibrugarh, covering Kaziranga and Orang National Parks and the historic towns of Tezpur and Sivasagar during a seven-day itinerary.
There will be no night cruising. However, night excursions will be organised for tourists at some of the destinations like Kaziranga and Orang.
Far Horizon Tours, having the experience of operating cruises on the backwaters of Kerala, is one of the top tour operators in Asia and its maiden venture on the Brahmaputra is set to be a major attraction for tourists, especially foreigners.
The cruise vessel was bought through public-private partnership at an estimated cost of Rs 15 crore, of which the tourism department will contribute Rs 4 crore.
The official said the new luxury vessel would have five-star facilities, including international telephone services on board via satellite, apart from internet and cable TV. The 28-member crew will include two masters, a cruise director, eight navigators and 17 hospitality staff.
The new liner will be 55 metres in length and 10 metres in breadth with five decks, including one inside the hull and the top one as an open sun deck.
“There will be 29 individually-designed twin and double bedrooms, including suites, nine luxury cabins, 12 deluxe cabins and six standard cabins. Suites and luxury cabins will have private balconies as well as bathtubs and showers,” the official said.
He said all necessary steps have been taken to make the new cruise liner top-class. Austrian Klaus Rom, having 25 years of experience in international luxury river cruising, has already been appointed as cruise director.
The Assam tourism policy has stressed abundant water resources and unique waterways of the state. It emphasises harnessing the potential to provide a unique experience of river tourism on the Brahmaputra and its many tributaries. The state government has been planning to take up a riverfront beautification project in Guwahati to develop the bank of the Brahmaputra here to attract tourists. Plans are on to shift the government establishments from the riverbank to other locations.

Locals help to restore KNP’s animal corridors

GUWAHATI, Oct 22 – In a novel initiative, the local tribal community has joined hands with WWF-India and the Forest Department for restoration of degraded animal corridors linking Kaziranga National Park with the Karbi Anglong hills.

The restoration drive seeks to secure lost habitat comprising degraded forests through afforestaion, and the Panbari-Dolamora corridor critical to elephant movement from Kaziranga has been taken up under the project.

The first phase of the drive saw a community plantation at Longdili-Bijuli, a degraded hill of five hectares owned by the local Karbi community. The plantation sites are located at the south-eastern end of the Panbari-Dolamara corridor on the Karbi Anglong foothills covering jhum (slash-and-burn agriculture) fallow land requiring restoration.

“It is encouraging that the people are lending a helping hand to conservation. It is through a participatory model that long-term success of conservation can be ensured,” Hemari Teron, executive member (Forest), Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC), said.

Sounding upbeat over the development, PJ Bora of WWF-India who is engaged with its Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Conservation Programme, said that several animal corridors in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape needed urgent restoration, and community participation could hold the key to brining in the desired changes.

“We have been interacting with the local people and they are ready to be stakeholders in conservation through participation. This will benefit both people and wildlife. The importance of the Panbari-Dolamora corridor can hardly be overemphasized as it is intrinsically linked to elephant movement,” Bora said, adding that restoration of corridors would minimize the man-elephant conflict in the area.

Most of the animal corridors in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape have been facing tremendous anthropogenic pressures leading to habitat degradation and disrupting the much-needed connectivity between the national park and the Karbi Anglong hills. A direct visible consequence of the development has been the escalating man-elephant conflict in the areas bordering Kaziranga.

“Kaziranga’s southern boundary borders the foothills of Karbi Anglong, with a number of wildlife corridors connecting it with the national park. The animals of Kaziranga frequently use these corridors for crossing over to Karbi Anglong in search of food and shelter or for establishing a new home range apart from escaping from the annual floods that inundate Kaziranga,” Bora said.

Joysing Bey, DFO, Karbi Anglong East Division, underscored the need to make the community active participants in conservation, and said that the Forest Department together with NGOs like WWF-India had been trying to generate awareness on protection of wildlife and their habitat among the villagers.

“The community plantation drive at Longdili-Bijuli is an outcome of our joint efforts. The local people are coming forward as it is a win-win situation for both wildlife and the community. The people stand to gain from the plantation as it is on community-owned land,” Bey said.

The National Forest Policy recommends 60 per cent forest cover in the hilly areas for retaining and maintaining ecological integrity. As per Forest Department’s data, Karbi Anglong requires another 14 per cent forest cover to meet the criterion.

Bora said that ensuring alternative livelihood options for the local community which had traditionally been dependent on forest resources should form part of a holistic strategy to preserve forests.

“Along with restoring wildlife habitat and corridors, promoting possibilities of eco-tourism and community-based tourism, and securing alternative livelihoods through community conservation, assume significance under the circumstances,” he said.

Assam govt impanels Asian Heart Institute in state healthcare

Mumbai, Oct 21 (PTI) Assam government has empanelled the city-based Asian Heart Institute (AHI) for providing healthcare services to the people of that state.

"This new liaison is sure to benefit the people of Assam through quality health services, proper consulting. The serving and retired employees of State Government of Assam, along with eligible dependent family members who reside within and outside Assam are eligible for reimbursement," an AHI release said here today.

Eminent heart specialist and AHI CEO Dr Ramakant Panda expressed his willingness to share his expertise and offered to extend medical care to the people of Assam.

"The doctors at AHI are ready to collaborate with the medical colleges in Assam to share their expertise," he said.

"We are ready to extend all possible financial support and arrange treatment to patients from poor families as we have some trusts working for the benefit of underprivileged sections," he added.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had undergone a bypass and valve replacement surgery at Asian Heart Institute in August.

WWF to aid Manas

Guwahati, Oct 21 : The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has evinced interest in the long-term management of Manas National Park.

This was conveyed by Carlos Drews, the director of species programme, WWF International, to A. Swargiari, the field director of Manas National Park, at Manas yesterday.

This is the first time Drews is visiting Assam.

The WWF International, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, has been assisting the state forest department in a number of ways.

It works with local communities and turns them into agents of change in Assam.

One of the biggest programmes in which it is involved is India Rhino Vision 2020.

The second phase of the programme is yet to begin, because of some delays.

“Drews asked me if the WWF can be involved in future long-term management of Manas,” Swargiari told The Telegraph today.

Manas is a World Heritage Site in Danger at present.

Drews discussed a variety of issues with Swargiari and other officials. The topics included the role of WWF, its future interventions and on the trans-boundary initiatives with Manas Bhutan.

“Goodwill cannot be purchased by money, you have to show sincerity and devotion,” Swargiari quoted Drews.

WWF-India is aiming at securing the elephant and tiger population of the North Bank Landscape.

Some of its current activities are supporting protected areas, research, resolving human-elephant conflict, critical elephant corridors and study tiger habitats.

The North Bank Landscape is the area between the northern bank of the Brahmaputra in the south to the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in the north and the River Manas in the west to the Dibang river in the east.

The total size of the landscape is approximately 40,000 square km and includes parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The area comprises a major part of the Himalaya bio-diversity hotspot and is also one of WWF’s Global 200 eco-regions.

Drews visited the Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary and Nameri today and will be in Kaziranga for two days.

He came to Assam on October 18 and was in Manas for two days.

Raids on eateries reveal leakages in public distribution system

Guwahati, Oct 21 : Barely a week after food and civil supplies minister Nazrul Islam admitted to leakages in the public distribution system (PDS) in Assam, food grains subsidised for the poor are popping up in eateries. Since Monday night, police in eastern Assam raided a couple of dhabas or roadside eateries and seized 250 quintals of rice, 28 quintals of wheat and six quintals of sugar. These commodities earmarked for fair price shops under PDS were diverted from FCI warehouses.

“We caught one Sanjib Barua for hoarding the PDS possibly for sale and use in the dhaba,” said Debasish Sarma, additional superintendent of police, Dibrugarh district.

He did not rule out more raids on eateries and other illegal users of PDS commodities.

Following these raids, officials in districts bordering Bangladesh have also been asked to step up vigil. PDS kerosene, rice and sugar besides other essentials are reportedly smuggled out to Bangladesh in country boats on a regular basis.

The “dhaba discovery” has left food and civil supplies minister Nazrul Islam red-faced. Islam has been under fire from the Opposition for “turning a blind eye” to an alleged “Congress-sanctioned” PDS scam in Assam.

The allegations are based on a 2008 report by the National Council of Applied Economic Research.

According to that report, Assam topped the list of states guilty of diverting PDS commodities for sale in the open market. The diversion in Assam was worth over Rs10,000 crore, it added.

“There are 33,500 fair price shops in Assam, and it is not possible to keep tabs on all of them. There has been a diversion of 15-25 per cent PDS items,” Islam said, adding the government was trying to computerise the PDS network to plug leakages.

Amendment in Wildlife Act to empower Assam

Gauhati: In response to Assam government seeking changes in the Wildlife Protection Act the Centre recently gave its assent. Amendments in the Wildlife Protection Act will now add more teeth to wildlife crime control efforts in the state. Assam’s Minister for Forest and Environment Rockybul Hussain informed that with the new amendments coming into force punishment for various wildlife crimes would become more stringent. He said henceforth all offence under the Act would be non-bailable and prison terms for various offences would become more stringent.

“Wildlife offences that earlier involved jail terms between three to seven years, will now draw extended prison term for the accused between seven to ten years. Maximum amount of fine for various crimes too has been increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000,” the minister said adding that these amendments will be applicable in Assam. Earlier, a person convicted for a second time under Wildlife Act in Assam had to serve jail term between three to seven years. Now, because of the amended provisions of the Act such offenders would be jailed for at least ten years or even life imprisonment. The fine amount for such cases too has been increased from Rs 25,000 to Rs 75,000.

In the light of the amendments, all wildlife cases committed in Assam will now be first heard in a court not below the Court of District and Sessions Judge. Earlier, these cases were first heard in lower courts. “We are happy that the Centre has given assent to the amendments requested by Assam government. The amendments which are being put into force will act as deterrent to poachers,” Hussain said.

Forest and Wildlife authority in Assam as well as various NGOs working in the sector have been calling for the need to have stringent penal provisions under the Wildlife Act given that accused usually get away with light punishment under the existing law provisions.

Assam Assembly had passed the Wildlife Protection (Assam Amendment) Bill 2009 last year and it was referred to the Centre for Presidential approval. Before tabling the amendment Bill in the Assembly, Assam Forest department consulted different departments of the state, wildlife experts, NGOs and members of the judiciary.

Assam CM not against big dams in North East India

Two time Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi has clarified that, he is not against big dams in North East India, but only against the problems pointed out by the expert panel and demanded that they should be addressed.

Tarun Gogoi has also accused that AGP ( Assam Gana Parishad) had supported big dams in North East India during their tenure in 1996 to 2001 and now that they are in opposition, they have changed their stand.

Recently, AGP had accused Congress Government in Assam of not heeding to popular sentiment by people of Assam against construction of big dams in Arunachal Pradesh. Incidentally, Akhil Gogoi, secretary of KMSS ( Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti) spearheads the ant dam movement in Assam and routinely accused by Congress leaders of wrking under influence of Prafull Kumar Mahanta, ex-chief minister of Assam.

It is interesting to note that, CM Tarun Gogoi has made his stand clear about not opposing construction of big dams in Arunachal Pradesh, in the process he seems to have been inspired by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. Since Prafulla Kumar Mahanta too supported big dams in North East India, so, it is natural that CM Tarun Gogoi is also supporting it!

Most probably, the chief minister has forgotten that he is not talking about Cadbury’s Chocolate, if my predecessor ca have one, I would also have one! The big dams is about people of Assam who are facing danger, flora and fauna of various reserved forest who are facing extinction.

While electricity is essential for modern lifestyle as well as glitzy malls in metros, but one should not forget about the damages it does while producing electricity.

Milk production training for poor women in Assam

Jana Kalyan Sanstha, a social organisation of Dhupguri in Nagaon district, has recently started training on milk production under the Diary Project (STEP – Support to Training and Employment Programme for women) where 504 poor women were enrolled.

STEP is a policy under the Government of India’s department of women and child development, the project aims at improving the economic status of rural women through efficient and modern dairy management.

The programme was inaugurated at Dhupguri by the president of the organization, Ahmed Ali.

Jana Kalyan Sanstha is the very first kind of programme which has been started in the north-west part of Nagaon district. The local people, and also various panchayats, have largely appreciated the organisation for the STEP and wished for the overall success of the scheme in their area.

A Delhi restaurant that offers joy of Assam

'Jakoi traditional Assamese restaurant', located in Delhi's Assam Bhavan, makes visitors feel being in the northeast while relishing a lip-smacking and rich Assamese cuisine.

At this special restaurant, delicately spiced and cooked with an exquisite use of herbs, the delicacies include Maasor Tenga (tangy fish curry) and Kharisa, a fermented bamboo shoots seasoned with red chillies.

The food is served in ethnic bell-metal platters and bowls.

The visitors come here not just to relish Assam's delicious cuisine but also to enjoy spending time in an ambience that offers a feel of Assam's rich culture and tradition as well.

"Food can unite cultures. Lots of North-eastern foods are popular in Delhi. Lots of people relish these food items. It is not very spicy and so palatable to all people. It is also a good exposure to people to have north-eastern food," said Sushant Balika, one of the visitors.

"It reminds us something from back home. We are so far away from home. Traditional cooking, this is something which keeps us together, whether it is food or culture. This will be quite helpful and makes everyone happy too," said Shareen Sangma, another visitor.

However, there is more than just Assamese food on offer at this restaurant.

Traditional music instruments, books written by famous Assamese authors and photographs of personalities from the region have also been put on display.

"If I can do something for the people of Assam, it is good. That is why they have given me this restaurant to run for a period of time. I'm very grateful to the Assamese Government for giving me this opportunity to serve the people of Delhi and the entire Northeast," says Paparee Bezbaruah, the restaurant owner.

By Karam Roniya(ANI)

Assam: Kaziranga National Park to be extended soon

Bokakhat, Oct 19: The Assam government is about to complete all its legal process necessary for the extension of Kaziranga National Park (KNP), which is located at Bokakhat, Assam's Golaghat district, 238 km from Guwahati.

Rockybul Hussain, State’s forest and tourism minister, said the government is trying to settle all the legal process related to the extension of the Part, so that animals were better protected including one-horned rhinos.

A World Heritage site since 1985, Assam's Kaziranga National Park, is home to the world’s largest population of Indian rhinos and also for animals like Tiger, Swamp Deer, Wild Bufalo, Elephant and many other.

At present the Park is about 430 square kilometers, and the extension of the KNP was not legally sanctioned and thus preventing the authorities from removing villagers from the area.

There are around 184 villages situated with in the zone of the park.

Hussain said, "soon we will have the legal formalities completed for the KNP expansion and various measures is also been taken by the authorities to plant saplings in 20,000 hectares."

"In order encourage Assam's tourism sector the government is also constructing various public toilets under Sulabh International scheme," he added.

Assam cops opt for water cannon

Guwahati, Oct 19 : Assam police are ready to let loose water cannons on unruly and restive protesters.

For the first time in its history, the state police, having faced flak for resorting to lathicharge to control mob violence, have acquired four sophisticated water cannons. These come with a tank specially designed to store an indelible coloured dye. If the police decide that they want to “tag” protesters with the dye, they can press a button to inject it into the main water stream.

Once the water cannon is trained on a crowd, anyone hit by the spray will be easily recognisable. The police said the dye would help them identify the trouble-mongers even if they manage to mingle with the crowd.

“So far we only had the option of the baton to control unruly crowds, sometimes causing serious injuries to the protesters. With the procurement of these water canons, we have an effective but non-lethal weapon to take on such protesters,” a police official said. The police have often come under the scanner of human rights groups for resorting to lathicharge, bursting teargas shells and firing in the air to disperse unlawful assembly of people. These vehicle-mounted water cannons also come with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at both ends of the vehicle to track and record crowd behaviour. “We will be able to see the CCTV feed later, which will help us spot and identify those involved in inciting the crowd,” the official said.

In the first phase, the police have procured four water cannons, approved by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), for nearly Rs 50 lakh each from the Mumbai-based Vijay Fire Vehicles and Pumps Limited. “These four water cannons are for Guwahati. We intend to procure more such cannons, preferably one for each district, in the next phase,” he said. These have been procured under the Assam police modernisation scheme.

The capacity of the water tank is around 5,000 litres while the capacity of the tank containing indelible ink is around 250 litres. “The water cannon can traverse 270 degrees on the horizontal plane and 75 degrees on vertical plane. It will have a discharge rate of 1,400 litres per minute (LPM) to 3,800 LPM with a span of 55 to 70 metres. The cannon can be controlled from the cabin by a joystick. The water jet can be a continuous discharge or pulsating,” he said.

Some of its additional features are amplifier or public address system, electric siren, searchlight, fog lamps and the like. He said there had been past instances of state police using fire tenders to disperse the crowd in certain emergencies but that was not very much effective.

“The problem with fire tenders is that they are specifically designed for fire-fighting and not for crowd control. Moreover, in using fire engines in case of mob violence, there is the danger of the fire tenders being damaged and firemen being injured as they are not trained to deal with such situations,” the source said.

“But the water cannons will be used by policemen who have requisite experience to handle the law and order situation. Moreover, the vehicles mounted with water cannons have iron netting on windows to protect them in case of a mob attack or stone throwing,” he added.

Floating base for quick rescue

Guwahati, Oct 19 : The National Disaster Response Force has set up its first “floating response base” in the country here to rescue and resuscitate accident victims. The move comes in the wake of increasing incidents of drowning in the Brahmaputra.

The base, which was set up on a vessel provided by the state inland water transport department, will immediately respond to accidents such as boat capsize and drownings.

Altogether 45 trained divers of the Guwahati-based 1st battalion of the force will be stationed at the base and serve as lifeguards.

The move is expected to go a long way in saving lives as 34 people drowned in the Brahmaputra in and around the city in the last two years.

The base was inaugurated by NDRF director-general Rajeev at Fancy Bazar riverfront this evening.

“Every year, several drownings take place. It was a long-felt need to establish a base of operation here so that casualties could be minimised,” he said.

Rajeev said the response base would be equipped with state-of-the-art search and rescue equipment, including 12 fibre reinforced plastic boats, four rubberboats, deep diving equipment, floating aids, victim locating cameras, load-lifting tools (used to rescue victims trapped under debris) and first-aid kits.

The NDRF, which was raised by the Centre in 2005 to handle all types of disasters, is a multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and high-tech force capable of effectively responding to all types of disasters.

The base will be on standby round-the-clock to handle any emergency situation. It is a first-of-its-kind initiative by the force.

Commandant of the force’s 1st battalion C.P. Saxena said setting up base would reduce the response time.

“Earlier, it took more than an hour for our rescue teams to reach the accident spots from our base located near the airport,” he said.

“We are also chalking out a coordination plan with all the stakeholders like inland water transport department, river police, Mritunjoy 108 ambulance service and the district administration, among others, so that the rescued victims can be immediately transported to hospitals,” Saxena added.

The director-general told reporters that it had been agreed in principle to equip the Guwahati-based 1st battalion to combat nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) disasters.

“Out of eight battalions of the NDRF, four have already been equipped to effectively handle NBC disasters and the remaining battalions, including the first one, will be equipped in a phased manner, possibly within the next couple of years,” he said.

AGP tells CM to clarify stand on mega dams

GUWAHATI, Oct 19 – The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) today demanded that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi should clarify the stand of the State Government on the issue of construction of mega dams.

AGP spokesman Atul Bora alleged that the Chief Minister failed to take a bold stand on the issue and in fact, on some occasions, Gogoi maintained double standard on the issue. He said that Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister managed to put pressure on the Centre in support of the

construction mega dams, while, the Assam Chief Minister kept quiet on the issue, which exposed his weakness.

The AGP also criticized Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for cancelling the proposed inter-ministerial meeting on the issue. Bora said that being a representative of Assam, the Prime Minister should have kept the interests of the people of the State in mind, but he miserably failed to do so.

NE rail link restored in record time

Guwahati: The Assam Hill Section railway track, connecting Lumding in the Brahmaputra Valley to Badarpur in Barak Valley, that suffered more than 30 breaches because of massive landslips on October 7 has been restored in record time.

The Railways resumed traffic on the route, which passes through Dima Hasao district, on Sunday night with a goods train. On Monday, passenger train Barak Valley Express travelled from Lumding to Silchar via Haflong.

Northeast Frontier Railway PRO Jayanta Kumar Sarma said the rail link was restored with workmen working round the clock despite the Puja holidays. The maximum damage had occurred between Migrendisa and Mahur stations where landslips had caused a 30-metre deep crater, leaving 50 metres of the railway track hanging in the air.

Assam records high accident death rate

Prabal Kr Das

GUWAHATI, Oct 18 – Authorities who maintain roads and those who use them need to take note, with credible data raising concerns over road accidents in Northeast India. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya are among the States which have high rates of accidents and deaths in relation to number of vehicles on the road, according to National Crime Records Bureau.

In a report, the bureau reveals that rate of accidental deaths per thousand vehicles was quite high in Assam. In 2008, the figure stood at 1.9, whereas it was 0.7 in the case of Gujarat and 0.6 in Goa.

During the same year in Assam, 4,262 road accidents took place, and 1,721 people lost their lives. The number was among the highest the State recorded in recent years.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the number of deaths per cars that year was more alarming. The rate of accidental deaths per cars stood at 5.7, the highest in the entire country.

Sikkim is another State with high road accident deaths. In 2008, the all India percentage share was 37.1, but it hovered at 72.5 in the State. Manipur and Tripura also had rates higher than the all India percentage share.

Significantly, Assam is one of the States identified as “high prone areas on the basis of percentage share of deaths due to unnatural causes (rail road and railways accidents)”. While the all India share stood at 8.3 per cent, Assam was seventh in the list with 11.7 per cent.

According to experts, a number of factors are responsible for the high rates of accident, of which careless driving over difficult terrain continues to reap a deadly toll every year.

Dr Akhilesh Kumar Maurya, of IIT Guwahati’s Civil Engineering Department told The Assam Tribune that poor quality of roads was a major challenge to drivers in many parts of the Northeast. “Improvements in road design can enhance safety as well as comfort levels,” he noted.

It has also been said that road accidents in Assam and neighboring States shoot up during the monsoon and winter period. Such accidents have continued to rise as problems like poor visibility over roads have gone unaddressed.

The NCRB report identified trucks and lorries as the biggest causes of road accidents in India. In 2008, at least 25,135 people were killed by such vehicles across the country.

Accidents involving two-wheelers was the second biggest threat to road users, as they were involved in the death of 23,552 people.

Cars, both private and government owned, were major factor in road accident deaths. In 2008, 10,222 lives were lost in accidents involving cars.

A break-up of various causes of accidental deaths in 2008 in India showed that the 34.5 per cent of those were due to road accidents and rail-road and railway accidents were responsible for 7.6 per cent.

Four elephants Killed by poisoning in Assam

Guwahati, Oct 15 Four elephants, including two calves, died because of suspected poisoing near Assam's Kaziranga National Park over the past one week, sending out an alarm to the Centre and prompting the state authorities to act.

Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said in a statement on Thursday that an inquiry into the incident was on and 'strict action' would be taken against the culprits.

The statement was issued after Union Forest and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh took up the issue with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi caling for an immediate probe and action against the culprits.

Two elephants calves died of suspected poisoining at Difolu tea estate on October seven.

Bodies of two adult pachyderms, one of them pregnant, were also found inside and outside Panbari reserve forest respectively on October 11 and 12.

In all the cases, the tongues and eyes of the animals turned blue, indicating use of poison, the park authorities said.

''We suspect poison was used to kill the elephants. But it will be confirmed only after getting the forensic reports," a park official said.

However, a villager of Bokakhat in Golaghat district said it was improbable for the locals to poison elephants.

''We can't believe it. We offer prayers to elephants as god," he said.

According to reports, more than 700 people have been killed by wild elephants in Assam over the past one decade, while 300 elephants died durig this period.

Assam is the land of elephants with about 5500 pachyderms having habitat in the state, according to the last animal census report.

Assam Students for subsidies to gas-based industries

GUWAHATI, Oct 15 – As huge amount of natural gas is flared up in the oil fields of Assam every day, the gas-based industries should be given gas at subsidized rate, demanded the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). The students’ body also demanded that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, should take personal initiative to ensure survival of the gas-based industries in the State.

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said that a team of the students’ body recently visited Namrup to take stock of the gas-based industries and found that the sudden increase in the price of natural gas has seriously affected the industries like the Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation, Namrup Thermal Power Station and the Assam Petrochemicals Limited. The AASU demanded that the Prime Minister must take initiative to provide gas at subsidized rates to these units to ensure their survival and the State Government, on its part, should also put pressure on the Centre in this regard. As a gas-producing State, the industrial units of Assam must get gas at reduced rates, he asserted.

The AASU demanded that the Namrup Fertilizer unit must be revived immediately and the Centre should play the key role in this regard. Bhattacharya said that the first unit of the plat is defunct, while the second and third units need to be revamped immediately. There is need for setting up a new unit of the plant to make it economically viable. There is no shortage of market for fertilizer but setting up of a new unit and revamp of the existing ones are required to make the plant viable under the present circumstances.

During the visit, the AASU delegation held discussions with the senior officials of the fertilizer plant on the problems faced by the workers. Bhattacharya said that there is need for improving the condition of the school run by the corporation and at present, only 39 teachers are working against 100 posts.

The process of revamping the Namrup Thermal Power Station is also very slow and the recent increase in gas price will also seriously affect the plant in the days to come. The Government of India must provide gas to the power plant at subsidized rates for improving power generation in the State, the AASU demanded.

Oil tanker rams down four students in Assam

Guwahati, Oct 13 : Four students were killed, when an oil tanker rammed them down in Assam's Sonitpur district on Tuesday, police said.

The incident took place at Hawajan under Gohpur sub division in the district, when the four school students of Na-Kumua village went for a morning walk at National Highway (NH)-52 around 4:45 am. A speeding oil tanker, travelling to Lakhimpur from Guwahati, mowed them down.

The students were identified as Mukut Sarmah (14), Haren Bora (11), Bonamali Bora (10) and Pankaj Sarmah (14).

After the tragic incident All Assam Students' Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyatabai Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and local school students blocked the NH-52 demanding adequate compensation to families of victims, besides taking steps to limit speed of the vehicles at the National Highway.

Besides, Lakhimpur district police seized the oil tanker and arrested the driver named Bharat Ram at Lakhimpur.

Battle for the minority, tea garden vote begins in Assam

Guwahati, Oct 12 (IANS) With assembly elections in Assam due next year, political parties have already started wooing minority Muslims and tea garden workers for their prized votes.

The state's main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), for instance, held a crucial meeting of its minority cell chaired by party president Chandra Mohan Patowary.

The party, making a desperate attempt to win the polls after facing humiliating defeats at the hands of the Congress party in the past two assembly elections in 2001 and 2006, discussed how to attract Muslims, tea garden workers, Nepali speaking settlers, besides smaller ethnic groups.

'The minorities in Assam have faced discrimination and remained a neglected lot at the hands of successive Congress governments and it is time to reverse the trend with the AGP making a firm commitment to work towards the overall development of these communities,' senior AGP leader and party general secretary Atul Bora told IANS.

Muslims account for about 30 percent of Assam's 30 million people and hold the key to winning or losing an election in about 40 constituencies.

The tea garden workers' community, fighting to be accorded the status of a Scheduled Tribe which will give them reservation benefits in jobs and educational institutions, makes up about six million people. Most of these work in the state's 800-odd tea plantations.

The four million strong tea garden voters hold the key to winning any elections in about 32 of Assam's 126 assembly constituencies.

Muslims and tea garden workers are traditionally believed to be supporters of the Congress in the state.

'The Congress party had duped the minorities for long years and it is time they realise and give us a chance to ensure a comprehensive growth for them,' the AGP leader said.

The Congress party termed the AGP's pledge a pre-poll gimmick.

'All of a sudden from nowhere the AGP is trying to become the messiah of the minorities. People of Assam are not fools and know very well their designs,' Congress leader Abdul Khaleq said.

'For long, the tea communities were with the Congress as we are the only party to have always espoused their causes and taken care of their welfare,' Bhagirath Karan, a tea community leader and head of the party's tea garden cell, told IANS.

But the presence of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, that won 11 seats in its first outing in 2006, is surely pose a problem for the Congress to keep its minority base intact.

The AUDF claims to espouse the cause of the minority Muslims.

'The Congress always plays the vote bank politics by trying to woo the Muslim and tea garden community votes, but this time we are surely going to cut into their traditional base by getting the support of the tea garden votes,' Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kamakhya Prasad Tassa said.

Elections to the 126-member assembly are scheduled for early next year in Assam.

Assam loses 55 tigers in a decade

Prabal Kr Das

GUWAHATI, Oct 12 – The truth or the lie, depending on the perspective, is finally out. Assam has lost at least 55 tigers between 2000 and 2010. Data provided by the Assam Forest Department, under the RTI Act, indicate that tigers have died due to various reasons, including poisoning and gunshot wounds in some cases.

A senior forest official, who wished anonymity, told this correspondent that the number would actually be higher, because some deaths are not known, and therefore go unreported.

The highest toll was reported in 2006, during which 10 tigers were found dead. Four deaths took place at sites under the Eastern Assam Wildlife Division, while six animals died in spots under the jurisdiction of Mangaldoi Wildlife Division.

Significantly, the loss of four tigers that year was attributed to poisoning. All the four poisoning cases, which included three cubs, were reported by the DFO, Mangaldoi Wildlife Division.

Another appalling year for the highly endangered animal was 2002 during which nine tigers died, most of them in the Eastern Assam Wildlife Division. Four of those, according to the Forest Department, died due to old age, and one was killed by CRPF personnel. One was a victim in a hit-and-run case, another died due to infighting. The cause of death of one could not be ascertained.

Another major decline in tiger population was noticed in 2008 when eight deaths were reported mainly from the Eastern Assam Wildlife Division. Most of the deaths were reported between autumn and winter with four deaths taking place within 48 hours on December 23 and 24.

Tiger deaths were reported throughout 2009, a period where a number of animals died due to infighting. Of the seven that perished, four were killed in infighting, one died of old age, and one died due to a buffalo attack. The cause of death of another animal could not be ascertained.

This year, tiger deaths have also been reported from Kaziranga National Park. On February 2, a male tiger aged between three and four died, and another was found dead on February 18. The cause of death of both was stated as unknown.

The data makes it clear that the Eastern Assam Wildlife Division has witnessed the largest number of tiger deaths in the last decade. Serious threats have also been seen in areas under Mangaldoi Wildlife Division, where animals have been poisoned.

Interestingly, in a number of cases the Forest Department could not state the nature of deaths. In its response to the RTI application, the office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Basistha mentioned, “…the information being furnished is incomplete. Therefore, your application has already been transferred under Sec. 6 (3) c of the RTI Act, 2005.” It is now clear that the office does not yet have crucial data in its possession at a time when the issue of tiger conservation has come into sharp focus.

Assam bandh: 15 injured in petrol bomb

Guwahati, Oct 12 : At least 15 people were injured when the bandh supporters threw petrol bomb at a bus during a 12-hour Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) shutdown called by the All Assam Adivasi Students Association (AAASA) in Assam’s Udalguri district on Monday, police said.

The incident took place at Lalbagh under Orang police station in the district, when the bandh supporters throw petrol bomb at a passenger bus that was travelling from Biswanath Chariali to Guwahati.

"At least 15 people were injured; out of which eight are critical. Six people have been rushed to Guwahati Medical College Hospital and two to Tezpur Kanaklata Civil Hospital," a senior police official said.

Meanwhile, Udalguri Additional Superintendent of Police Satyajit Nath said, one of the main culprits, Santosh Mahatoo, has been apprehended.

The bandh has been called in demand of scheduled tribe status for Adivasis in Assam and rehabilitation of adivasis (tribals) evicted from forest lands in Saralpara village of Kokrajhar district.

Designer sisters stress on ethnicity

A model displays an outfit designed by the sisters.

Jorhat, Oct 11 : Ethnic vibrancy marked the fashion show of twin designer sisters Ravina and Srijana Baruah who showcased their pre-Puja collection here today.

Though the cuts and lines were simple, the dresses, in earthly colours, had flowery patterns, resembling a jungle canopy. Srijana said she always felt that patterns symbolising Northeast’s culture were missing in the dresses and designs here, especially for women during the Pujas.

“Both of us worked together on the concept, which was liberally inspired by images of a vibrant jungle and would also be representative of this region, so full of flowers and greenery,” Srijana said.
“In order to represent the simplicity and innocence of the people here we kept the lines clean,” she added.
Ravina said they would also explore the huge ethnic varieties that the seven states had to offer. “Mising, Bodo, Deori and the tribes of Arunachal, Nagaland and Manipur, each has designs and motifs in bold coloured embroidery. These are some of the aspects which we will try to incorporate in our designs later,” Ravina said.
Srijana and Ravina, who completed their three-year course in fashion designing from Delhi this year, returned to their hometown to fulfil their dreams.
“This is the place where we were born and we would like the people of Jorhat, who have a keen sense of fashion, to judge us before we start our own brand,” one of the sisters said.
Pranjit Chetia who runs a model-training institute said the dresses and gowns had an ethnic touch — simple, clean, clear and extremely wearable.
The creations of the twin sisters stood trends apart. While Ravina drew her inspiration from Manipuri dance dress designs, Srijana’s patterns derived from Tankha art of Tibet.

Trenches spoil jumbo party at Assam’s tea gardens

Guwahati, Oct 11 :

Killer trenches are increasingly spoiling the jumbo tea party in Assam. Tea planters are digging trenches — at least five feet deep — around their estates to keep elephants at bay. At least five elephants, under 15 years, have died after falling into trenches dotting eastern Assam’s tea gardens
since August.

This “disturbing trend” has shocked many wildlife experts.

“I was appalled to learn that the elephants allegedly died after falling into deep drains constructed by the estates. The tea garden authorities must take responsibility for these deaths and cases should be registered by the forest department,” says Belinda Wright, executive director ofWildlife Protection Society of India.

Officials are trying their best to address the growing problem of human-elephant conflict in the state.

“We are dispatching letters to proprietors and executives of estates adjoining protected areas and near elephant habitats to dissuade them from digging trenches or asking them to make them shallow,” says Suresh Chand, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife).

Forest officials say this a relatively new phenomenon in areas on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. But reports say that at least seven tea estates in Sonitpur district on the northern bank have had trenches since 2004.

“The trenches are usually so narrow that elephants have no room to maneouvre once they fall. They get asphyxiated when the sides cave in under pressure of accompanying adults trying to save them,” says Anupam Sarmah of WWF-India.

Wildlife authorities are also educating planters that such short-term measures do not help mitigate. They are being encouraged to adopt measures that will help restore elephant corridors.

Rains spoil pre-Durga Puja mood in northeast

Agartala/Guwahati, Oct 11 (IANS) Medium to heavy rains over the past three days have badly affected life in most parts of the northeastern region in the run-up to the Durga Puja festival, beginning next week.

According to the Regional Meteorological Centre officials in Guwahati, a depression formed over west central and adjoining northwest Bay of Bengal earlier this week had moved to northeast India and Bangladesh Friday.

“Under its impact, rain and thundershowers occurred at most places in northeast India during the past two days,” the officials said, adding that the depression was expected to be dissolved by Saturday evening.

Preparations for the Durga Puja celebrations have been adversely affected due to the rainfall and most puja organisers, businessmen and revellers are worried over the late monsoon rain.

“Our pre-puja business is tremendously affected due to the heavy rains as most people remained indoors due to the showers,” said Sadip Saha, a cloth trader in Agartala.

The agriculturists also foresee adverse effect on the winter crops due to the heavy rains.

“Large quantities of crops ready for harvesting were submerged in most parts of the plains and low lands in Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya due to the rains,” said an official of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR).

In Mizoram, incessant rains have created cracks on the surface leading to damage in many houses in Mamit township on the Mizoram-Tripura border and Ngopa village on the Mizoram-Manipur border in western Mizoram.

“Many families have been displaced and more than 60 houses and churches have been damaged due to the cracks,” Mizoram relief and revenue department officials told reporters in Aizawl.

The government was making arrangements for alternative land for construction of houses for the displaced families.

Reports from different places of the mountainous state said that the downpour has also led to massive landslides in many places.

One dead, road and rail communication disrupted due to rains in Assam

Haflong : One person has died and both road and railway links between Assam's North Cachar Hills district and the rest of the country has been completely cut-off following continuous heavy rainfall for the last two days, official sources said here today.

One person, identified as 45-year old Isak Indu, died last night when his house was washed away by mudslides in Haflong town.

Meanwhile, rail communication has been disrupted with landslides affecting railway tracks at 28 places between Mahur and Maigrandisa in the Lumding-Silchar section with 40metres of track completely washed away.

NF railways have suspended rail services in the section till the tracks can be repaired and restored.

Road communication, too, has been disrupted in the district with the road connecting Haflong and Lanka severely damaged, sources said.

The water level of river Duyang has also been rising following heavy rainfall with several houses and animals washed away along with damage to paddy fields at Tahizubari area of the district.

50-year journey of Jorhat Engineering College


The Jorhat Engineering College (JEC) came into existence on October 10, 1960 in the Garamur area of Jorhat town. It started its journey with the Civil Engineering department and, that too, with an intake capacity of only 60 students. In the meantime, Assam had got its first engineering college at Jalukbari with three branches, namely Civil, Electrical and Mechanical with an intake capacity of 60 students per branch. RJ Thacker, who was a professor at the Assam Engineering College (AEC), was transferred to the JEC and posted as its principal. He continued till Prof PC Dutta joined as a regular principal in April, 1961.

The JEC was set up with some kind of speciality. In the minds of alumni, teachers, employees and well-wishers the college is unique. Starting with the Civil Engineering department, it soon expanded itself and students in the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering departments were admitted. Like the AEC, the JEC also tried to contribute to the development of this forlorn region. In union with the former, the JEC tried its best to carry the torch of technical education to all the corners of the region. It started its journey under the able leadership of Prof PC Dutta who was a product of the Benaras Hindu University (BHU). He was instrumental in establishing the JEC at the proper forum. He carried the images of his alma mater, the BHU, in his mind. He desired to model the JEC on the BHU. He was the planner. The college and hostel buildings got the touch of his imagination with roots in the BHU. There was a good amount of effort on the part of Lokanayak Debeswar Sarma, HP Baruah and others also.

Debeswar Sarma was instrumental in establishing other institutions like the Assam Agricultural University and the Regional Research Laboratory, (now called the North East Institute of Science & Technology) in Jorhat. HP Baruah was a man of a different class. In 1915 he had topped the merit list of the Civil Engineering discipline at the Calcutta University. His dream project was the AEC and he became its founder principal.

Initially, the classes for the first batch of the Civil Engineering students at the JEC were held in the dining hall of Hostel No. 2. Students resided in Hostel No. 1. Prof Hemen Borthakur was the hostel superintendent. Bhaba Chetia was the monitor. The teaching staff initially comprised Debajit Chaliha (Electrical Engineering), Sashi Sarma (Mechanical Engineering), Hemen Borthakur (Civil Engineering), SD Phukan (Civil Engineering), Nirupoma Buragohain (Mathematics), Hamidur Rahman (Physics) and Kamruz Zaman (Chemistry).

Bhaba Chetia, a member of the first batch, said that new faculty members gradually came in. They included Sakti Pada Bhattacharyya, SK De Purkayastha, Sashi Mahanta and others in the Electrical Engineering department, Moheswar Changmai (Civil Engineering), Dilip Borthakur (Sociology), Dugdha Sarma (part-time teacher in English) and others.

Prof PC Dutta left the college on the expiry of his contract. Prof RJ Thacker again took over. Then Prof D Chaliha was appointed as the regular principal and he continued up to 1977 till he was appointed as the Director of Technical Education of Assam. After D Chaliha left, several principals guided the JEC through various ups and downs. The sequence is as follows: SK De Purkayastha, Sahsi Sarma, SD Phukan, U Miri, RN Chowdhury, Amal Sarma, HK Das, TK Bhattacharyya and A Bora. Prof D Chaliha had been the principal for the longest period.

During the last 50 years, the JEC has produced many engineers. India has a four-tier system of technical colleges – IITs, NITs, State Government engineering colleges and private engineering colleges. The total number of such colleges may be around 1,500. These produce several lakhs of engineers every year.

In the recent times, engineers have been forced to seek even clerical jobs at banks, etc. In spite of all these odds, new colleges are coming up with newer branches. The JEC is also offering a postgraduate course in Computer Applications and Mechanical Engineering. Besides, it offers the BE course in Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Computer Science and Instrumentation. It has eight boys’ hostels and one girls’ hostel.

The JEC still remembers its first batch of students including Bhaba Chetia, Alok Sarma, Nani Gogoi, Sunni Phukan, Pramod Bora, Mridul Bhattacharyya and others. The college also remembers its various faculty members who served the college at different periods. They include AM Peters, B Sarma, M Borgohain, MC Bora, PK Bordoloi, DK Mahanta, GC Kakoti, A Deb, NB Deb, D Deka, MM Das, S Das, L Bhuyan, B Bora, DPS Thakur, M Deb and others.

The JEC products are serving in different parts of the world, making the institution proud. The education system is changing with the passage of time. But in the case technical education, the campus and classroom system is the best. The JEC is an example of this fruitful system. However, it is also the right time for the college to respond to the changing curricula and changing system quickly.

Technology itself is everchanging. It has both good and evil effects on the society and civilization. Keeping all these things in mind, the JEC should be able to do a lot in association with other similar institutions. A creative profession like engineering can flourish with a proper amount of timely inputs. At the same time, the service of an engineer has a direct bearing on the welfare and safety of the society. So, it is the right time for the JEC to prepare a suitable action plan for a better future on the strength of unity.

PGCIL and Assam Forest department initiate plantation drive

Tezpur (Assam), Oct 8 (PTI) Power Grid Corporation of India Limited and Assam Forest department have jontly a launched a scheme of planting 5,500 trees in Sonitpur district''s Balipara Reserve Forest.

They would plant trees in an area of five hectares near Dharikhati area, PGCIL''s Deputy General Manager Supratim Das said here today.

PGCIL had taken up the initiative under its corporate social responsibility scheme and will spend Rs three crore in implementing various schemes in the state, he said.

Four rubber boats will also be provided for utilisitaion by members of the Joint Forest Menagement Committee under Balipara Reserve Forest on the river Jia Bhorali, a major tributary of river Brahmaputra.

Were elephants at tea garden poisoned?

Guwahati: Two elephant calves died of suspected poisoning in a tea estate near Kaziranga National Park in Assam's Golaghat district, officials said on Thursday.

The carcass of the calves, a male and female were found in Diffloo Tea Estate on Wednesday and forest officials suspected this to be a case of poisoning as the tongues and eyes of both the animals had turned blue, they said.

Pesticides were sprayed inside the tea garden and this could have poisoned the elephants.

The viscera of both the calves have been sent to the forensic laboratory for tests, the Estate manager Rajshekhar Dutta said.

However, Dutta denied that the elephants had died due to pesticide poisoning saying "we have been using the pesticide for a long time. If it was a case of pesticide poisoning, elephants who regularly visit our gardens and other cattle would have died earlier but no such cases have been reported."

He said that an enquiry would be conducted to ascertain the cause of the death of the elephants.

Guwahati to get world class university

Guwahati, Oct 7: The Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD) has fulfilled the demand of All Assam Students' Union (AASU), including Guwahati as one of the 14 world-class universities to be set up across the country.

Earlier the students' body had expressed strong resentment when there was no inclusion for Guwahati during a MHRD meeting on Sep 28.

"The Prime Minister had assured that one of the 14 universities would be set up in Guwahati but surprisingly the same did not materialize during the MHRD meeting. We opposed the discriminatory attitude and finally after putting a lot of pressure on the Centre, Guwahati was allotted the university," said Dr Samujjal Bhattacharya adviser of the students' body.

The AASU has further urged the state government to initiate necessary steps to facilitate the process.

Assam militants hiring students to spread terror

Guwahati, Oct 7 (IANS) Separatist groups in Assam are outsourcing terror by hiring students to carry out kidnappings and seek ransom to fund militant activities, police said.

Assam has, of late, witnessed a series of abductions - most of them blamed on militant groups like the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

The disturbing trend is that most abductions were carried out by youths, some of them just of out of their teens and studying in colleges. Clearly, they have been engaged by militants with promises of big money.

“It is true there are instances of militant groups contacting youths to carry out kidnappings and then hand over the captor to the outfit,” police Inspector General Pallab Bhattacharya said.

On Monday, Rohan Dutta, a 20-year-old management student and son of a doctor in Guwahati, was kidnapped by about six armed men.

The gang entered Rohan’s home, tied the family members, looted the house and took the victim away at gunpoint.

After 36 hours in captivity, police commandos rescued Rohan from Dhekiajuli in northern Assam and arrested nine young men, including two college students.

“The arrested youths were in the age group of 19 to 23 and two of them are college students,” the police officer said.

One of then, Parashar Das, is a second year bio-chemistry student at a city college.

“Consumerism coupled with the lure for easy money could be reasons for youths getting trapped in criminal activities,” Bhattacharya said.

“The need of the hour is proper parenting. The society at large should respond to such evil designs.”

Victim Rohan told IANS: “I think I was kidnapped purely for money. I am still unable to reconcile to the fact that I almost escaped death.”

There were instances in the past when groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) hired students to carry out bombings - in some cases they were paid mobile phones or even second hand motorcycles as reward.

“Using vulnerable youths to execute terror designs seem to be the latest modus operandi of militant groups,” another police officer said.

As most bombers and shooters from the rebel groups are known to police, the outfits are now hiring unknown faces to avoid being caught or easily identified by security forces.

Two elephant calves die in Assam tea garden

Guwahati, Oct 7 (PTI) Two elephant calves have died of suspected poisoning in a Tea Estate near Kaziranga National Park in Assam''s Golaghat district, official sources said today.

The carcass of the calves, a male and female, were found in Diffloo Tea Estate yesterday and forest officials suspected this a case of poisoning as the tongues and eyes of both the animals had turned blue, they said.Pesticides were used inside the tea garden and this could have poisoned the elephants.

The viscera of both the calves had been sent to the forensic laboratory for tests, the sources said.

Estate manager Rajshekhar Dutta, however, denied that the elephants had died due to pesticide poisoning saying "we have been using the pesticide for a long time.

If it was a case of pesticide poisoning, elephants who regularly visit our gardens and other cattle would have died earlier but no such cases have been reported." He said that an enquiry would be conducted to ascertain the cause of the death of the elephants.

Guwahati among innovation cities

Guwahati, Oct. 7 : Assam can finally breathe a sigh of relief with the human resource development (HRD) ministry including Guwahati in the innovation university map, along with 13 other centres across the country.

The university is expected to bring about a sea change in the field of education in the state.
The All Assam Students’ Union was formally informed about the development by the HRD ministry last evening.
AASU advisor Sammujjal Bhattacharyya told reporters here today that a meeting of the HRD ministry, held on August 28, shortlisted 11 places in the country for setting up innovation universities. But Guwahati was excluded from the list. AASU strongly opposed this and sent a letter to the HRD ministry on August 31 demanding inclusion of Guwahati in the list.
“AASU was shocked to see exclusion of Guwahati from the list, even after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement in 2008 that the city would be one of the 14 innovation university locations. We were apprehensive that if the HRD ministry was not pressured, the city would miss the bus. Since the Assam government was not active, AASU thought it proper to intensify its lobbying in the central ministry to get Guwahati included in the very first phase of setting up the proposed innovation universities,” Bhattacharyya said.
The HRD ministry, in a letter dated October 4, informed AASU that the Centre had decided to set up an innovation university in Guwahati along with Amritsar, Greater Noida, Jaipur, Patna, Calcutta, Bhopal, Kochi, Gandhinagar, Coimbatore, Mysore, Pune, Vishakhapatnam and Bhubaneswar, he added.
The letter, written by one of the directors of the HRD ministry, R.P. Sisodia, mentioned that a legislative proposal was being drafted for inter-ministerial consultations.
Bhattacharyya said the university is expected to set benchmarks of excellence for other institutions of higher learning through “path-breaking research and synergy promotion between teaching and research.”
He said the proposed university, according to the Centre’s plan, would provide society with competent men and women to meet the knowledge needs of the country, perform service to the nation and humanity and cultivate the right moral and intellectual values.
AASU general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi said the ball is now in Dispur’s court, and it must immediately provide a suitable plot of land to set up the university.
Bhattacharyya also said that apart from an innovation university, the Centre must set up other national-level institutes like Indian Institute of Management in the state, as per clause 7 of the Assam Accord.
“For promotion of science and creation of scientific temperament among the young generation in the region, the government must set up an Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Assam. AASU has already met the scientific advisor to the Prime minister, C.N.R. Rao, and placed the demand,” the AASU advisor said.