Tardy work on railway bridge resented

BADARPUR, Dec 1 - Tardy progress in the construction of the railway bridge over the Barak river at Badarpur Ghat has been widely resented by the conscious section of taxpayers here.

Though the 11 pillars of the bridge have been completed, preliminary work for which began in October 2002, construction of the super structure is still pending. It has been gathered that the NF Railway authority had resolved to entrust the task to Rahi Construction Company and start work in January 2010. However, the reason behind the inordinate delay is yet to be officially ascertained.

Talking to this Correspondent, the deputy engineer of Silchar Railway Construction Department, MK Pande said, “work on the girders will start shortly”.

It may be pertinent to mention here that the 409.08 metre bridge, which on completion will be the longest span between the Lumding-Badarpur hill section, will be the main connecting line of entire Barak Valley, including Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. The foundation stone of this No. 572 Barak railway bridge was laid on May 19, 2002. During the first phase the railway authority sanctioned an amount of Rs 29.13 crores for the project.

On another front, progress of the broadgauge line construction work between Lumding-Badarpur hill section too has been unsatisfactory, except for a few culverts, bridges and a half-done tunnel. In the Silchar-Haflong section too, work on bridge No. 129 has not yet started due to non-receipt of official approval from the State Forest Department, deputy engineer Pande disclosed, while citing reasons for delay in completion of the projects.

Assam terror scam erupts

TIMES NOW has learnt of government money being channelised to terrorist organisations through government channels in Assam.

A Comptroller and Auditor General report available with TIMES NOW shows the state government released Rs. 274 crores extra between 2007 and 2009 through North Cachar Hills Council, that eventually reached terrorist outfit DHD, also known as Black Widows.

Even the CBI and NIA probing the money trail have shown a clear link chargesheeting former chief of the Hills Council, Mohit Hojai along with DHD chief Jewel Gorlosa.

Man said to be killed in Assam 'still alive'

JHAPA: Mahesh Ghimire whose name was listed among three Nepalis killed in Assam of India has not been murdered, according to his family members.

Mahesh of Mechinagar-1, who was kidnapped in the Indian city two months ago, is still alive, his wife told RSS after returning from Assam today. "The kidnappers have kept him in an unknown place, but he is in safe condition."

According to family members, the gang behind Mahesh's abduction has demanded IRs. 500,000 ransom for his release.

When asked what police are doing, Superintendent of Police Rabindra Sharma said, "Efforts to release him are underway in coordination with Indian police."

Amnesty to separatists: Asom Gana Parishad divided

Guwahati, Nov 30 (IANS) Assam's main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is bitterly divided on the issue of granting amnesty to jailed separatists as a party MP Tuesday opposed the proposal made by his colleague.

Former chief minister and senior AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has demanded a 'general amnesty' for all the jailed separatist leaders in Assam.

Mahanta told reporters Monday: 'The government should grant general amnesty to all jailed leaders and also to those who are outside with a view to bringing all of them to the negotiating table.'

On Tuesday, senior AGP leaders rejected Mahanta's proposal, saying such an act would be suicidal.

'If those militant leaders who were involved in the killing of innocent civilians are pardoned and general amnesty granted, it would be an insult to the families who lost their dear ones,' AGP MP in the Lok Sabha Joseph Toppo told journalists Tuesday.

Toppo questioned Mahanta's proposal, saying the jailed rebels should be tried in courts.

'Let the court decide whether the militant leaders were guilty or not and it would be totally unfair on the part of the government to grant general amnesty without proper trial,' Toppo said.

The jailed rebel leaders include chairman of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Arabinda Rajkhowa and chairman of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Ranjan Daimary.

The ULFA chief was accused of mass murder - related to killing of 14 people during a bombing at an Independence Day parade function in 2005, in Dhemaji town.

The NDFB chairman was charge-sheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation as the main accused in the Oct 30, 2008 serial bombings in Guwahati in which about 100 people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured.

'We want those involved in the killings to be punished. They should not be allowed to go scot free in the name of holding peace talks,' said a senior Congress leader who refused to be named.

Govt rules out revoking AFSPA in North East

New Delhi, Nov 30 (PTI): Government today ruled out revoking the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from "some" of the North-Eastern states in the wake of the security situation there.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran stated this in reply to a question in Lok Sabha.

The members of the House had asked whether the government was contemplating withdrawing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from North-Eastern states including Manipur.

"No, Madam. In view of security situation in some of the NE states, it is necessary that the Act continues to be in force," the Minister said.

There have been demands from various quarters in the North-East for the withdrawal of the Act.

Gogoi involved in NC Hills scam: KMSS

GUWAHATI, Nov 30 – Leading peasants’ organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) today claimed that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is involved in the multi-crore NC Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) scam. Besides, it has demanded resignation of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Gautam Roy for their involvement in the scam.

The Chief Minister is fully aware of the involvement of Himanta Biswa Sarma, Gautam Roy and Kharsingh Ingty in the scam. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had named Sarma and Roy in its initial report but that report has been hushed up. The Chief Minister is aware of all these things.

But, as, he has received a part of the money these three Ministers looted from the NCHAC funds, so, he is trying to cover up the issue, alleged the peasants’ organisation.

Addressing a press conference here today, KMSS secretary Akhil Gogoi argued that the Chief Minister himself admitted on September 25 last that he had received the copy of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG’s) report on the special audit of the NCHAC finance. But, later on, he started denying his receiving any such report.

Akhil Gogoi cited newspaper report that the Chief Minister had received the CAG special audit report on August 23. The CAG conducted the special audit for a period of 26 months and 12 days, between 2007-08 fiscal and June 12, 2009. The special audit revealed that an amount of Rs 424.04 crore was released to the NCHAC, against an allocation of Rs 151.40 crore during the period.

Interestingly, there was no supplementary budget provision for this excess amount released to the Hills district council, Akhil Gogoi said referring to the observation made by the CAG in its report. This, he claimed hints to another Letter of Credit (LoC) scam.

He dared Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to make a public statement within the next seven days that NC Hills scamster RH Khan is not known to him, he has not received any amount of money from Khan through Himanta Biswa Sarma, he has not received the report of the CAG special audit and the names of Himanta Biswa Sarma and Gautam Roy did not feature in the NIA initial report.

AGP blames Gogoi for NC Hills scam

GUWAHATI, Nov 30 – The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) today asked Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to resign from his post taking moral responsibility of the unprecedented fund anomalies in the NC Hills district.

The AGP also alleged the involvement of the Chief Minister in the multi-crore-rupees scam.

The party leader Chandra Mohan Patowary presented before the media some parts of the special inspection report of the CAG covering 26 months from the year 2007-08 to June 12, 2009 in the hills district. The contents of the audit report shows that excess fund over budgetary provisions were released by the State Government to the autonomous council. Significantly, the audit report covers only eight out of the total 30 departments of the autonomous council.

According to the Finance Department of the State Government, Rs 151 crore, Rs 40 lakh and Rs 11 thousand were released to the Council’s eight departments within the 26 months. But the audit team has found that Rs 424 crore 4 lakh 43 thousand has been released by the State government, which is Rs 272 crore 64 lakh and 23 thousand more than the account presented by the Government.

“There was nothing on record to show whether any supplementary grant was provided or any re-appropriation was made. Reasons for release of excess fund by the State government over the budgetary provisions were fraught with the risk of mis-utilization/misappropriation of the fund,” the report mentioned.

“If such large-scale fund irregularity can take place within a short span in just eight departments, the magnitude of the scam would be certainly shocking from the year 2001 till date,” Patowary said.

“Moreover, if such audit of all the districts is done thoroughly, it would definitely bring forth the real face of the State Government, which propagates itself as a development-oriented government,” he added.

“Since Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is also in charge of the Finance Department of the State, such a big misappropriation cannot take place without his knowledge. Thus, there is every reason to conclude that he is also deeply involved in the whole episode,” he further added.

The AGP also alleged that despite having the report, the State Government neither replied to the CAG nor did it take up the matter with the council, which speaks volumes about its intent. The money to be spent for development of the State and its people was swindled by the government and its ministers.

“Though the Rs 1,000-crore scam in NC Hills district was widely publicized, the Government, especially the Chief Minister, insisted that such a big amount was never released for the Council. Now that there are definite proofs of the scam, Tarun Gogoi should resign immediately,” said Patowary.

Assam polls: Congress, ally in 'friendly contest'

Guwahati, Nov 29 (IANS) The ruling Congress party and its coalition partner Bodoland People's Front (BPF) would put up candidates against each other in next year's elections to the Assam assembly although it would be a 'friendly contest'.

'We would be fielding our candidates in the Bodo heartland and same time the BPF would also be putting up their own candidates, but then it would be a friendly contest and our intention is to win the elections jointly,' senior Congress leader and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told IANS.

The Congress and the BPF have been election allies for the past two terms of the assembly. Elections are due in Assam in the next three to four months.

The BPF has 10 legislators in the 126-member house. The party has a strong political hold in the Bodo-dominated areas in western and northern Assam.

'As a national political party, we have to put up candidates in the Bodoland area, but then we would see to it that either of our candidates wins the polls,' Sarma said.

The BPF too is not averse to the idea of 'friendly fights'.

'We have absolutely no problems and are sure there would be no clash of interests in so far as winning the seats is concerned,' BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary said.

At a time when the Congress is eyeing for a hattrick, the opposition continues to be fractured - the two main opposition parties, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have snapped ties and are fighting the polls on their own.

'In simple words, we are fighting both the AGP and the Congress party in the polls,' BJP Assam unit president Ranjit Dutta said.

The AGP had a seat sharing arrangement with the BJP in the 2009 parliamentary elections but the regional party managed to win just one of the 14 seats at stake, while the BJP grabbed four seats. The AGP, in fact, was down from two seats in 2004 to one seat in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

'The people of Assam are in favour of a regional party to rule Assam, considering the fact that the Congress government in the past two successive terms has unleashed a reign of corruption in the state,' AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary told IANS.

'We are talking with smaller regional parties for some kind of an understanding to fight the elections,' he added.

However, parties like the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) are playing the cat and mouse game.

'As of now, we are not talking of any alliance and are keen to go alone in the elections. But in politics, nothing is ruled out and we are ready to tie up with any secular party other then the BJP and the Congress,' AUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said.

'It is true that without opposition unity, the Congress party could be benefitted.'

The Congress seems unfazed.

'We are almost sure to win the elections for the third straight term as no combinations could challenge us since we worked during the last two terms for the welfare of the people,' Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

'Let the AGP and the BJP look for partners,' he added.

AASU vandalism invites condemnation

GUWAHATI, Nov 29 – The vandalism by AASU activists at several Vishal Mega Marts across the State on Thursday has not gone down well with the citizens who feel that the student body had no business to take the law into their own hands and create a situation of anarchy and chaos.

The reaction of the people interviewed by The Assam Tribune was one of unanimous resentment and condemnation. Public opinion was also found to be against the growing practice of seeking donations on the part of different organisations – often forcefully – from business houses.

Public activist Prof Deven Dutta, while condemning the vandalism in the strongest terms, said that it was totally wrong to link the issue of Assamese self-respect or sense of respect to donation.

“The Assamese identity or its sense of respect is never in donation. It was unfortunate that the AASU dragged this unnecessarily and deliberately to the issue of donation. It will also set a bad precedent and embolden all the organi-sations to seek more donations, often coercing the donor,” Prof Dutta said, adding that that the vandalism apart, no sensible Assamese would support the subtle move of the AASU to associate ‘Assamese self-respect’ with donations that would only bring a bad name for the Assamese.

Stating that exploitation by business houses who hike prices as per their sweet will was also a fact, Prof Dutta said that the practice of donation to satisfy some organizations was further aggravating the situation with the traders using the situation to their advantage.

“A major section of the business community on one hand and many organisations operating in the name of the public on the other are in reality two extortionists of two different kinds – their common victim being the common man or the consumer,” Prof Dutta said, adding that the organisations should do transparent accounts of the huge sums of money that they collect for ‘public welfare.’ “It is highly questionable how much of the collections are actually utilized for public causes,” he said.

Author and former DGP Hare Krishna Deka was of the view that the vandalism indulged in by the AASU was untenable on any ground, as none had the right to take the law into their hands. “If they had any grievance against the business house they should have registered it through peaceful demonstrations,” he said.

Deka, however, felt that the Vishal management unnecessarily complicated the situation by politicizing it and that too at a sensitive time. “If Vishal had problems with donation and wanted to raise the issue, there were other proper platforms but instead they chose to politicize and sensationalize it. The AASU was understandably irked but even then it had no right to indulge in vandalism and destruction of property,” he said, adding that the volatile situation could have landed many of the customers inside the Vishal premises in serious trouble.

Many other citizens felt that vandalism and forceful donation should have no place in any civilized society.

“Whatever may be the AASU’s grievance against Vishal, vandalism at public place and destruction of property cannot be justified under any circumstances. Moreover, since the student body by its own admission finds nothing wrong in taking donations from business houses, why is it making such a fuss over it?” Hrishikesh Saikia, a citizen said, adding that taking recourse to the plea of Assamese self-respect was in bad taste. “It was sought to be a face-saving device by the AASU but that has obviously backfired as no sensible people will support such a stance,” he added.

People who witnessed the vandalism at Vishal stores by AASU members also questioned the role of the police and paramilitary forces in ensuring proper law and order. “It was shocking to see AASU activists enter the store and indulge in open vandalism before downing the shutters in full view of the police and other security forces. There was no intervention from the law-enforcing agencies and the mayhem continued,” an eyewitness to the vandalism said, adding that the shoppers too were given a torrid time during the vandalism.

Another citizen said that by allowing such vandalism the police and the administration were sending the wrong message to everyone and that the violators of the law ought to be booked and dealt with according to law. “What the AASU did was sheer nonsense and unlawful, and even more shocking was the fact that such lawlessness was allowed under the very nose of the police and the administration,” he said.

On the issue of ‘donations’ taken by the AASU from business houses, many felt that the line between donation and extortion was getting more and blurred with more and more organizations pressurizing business houses into ‘donating’ money.

“In order to be donation, it has to come willingly and in that case it cannot be an issue. But otherwise, it will amount to extortion and it is an open secret that various organizations do indulge in forceful donations,” a citizen said

People were also of the view that the widespread practice of donation was a major reason behind the abnormal price rise in the State. “It is the common man whose cause these organizations profess to espouse that end up bearing the brunt of unwarranted donations. The business community is hardly affected as it invariably passes on the burden of donations to the common man by hiking prices,” he said.

4 AASU members held, released

GUWAHATI, Nov 29 – Four members of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) were arrested by the City police for indulging in acts of vandalism in the Vishal Mega Marts located in Paltan Bazar area on Thursday though they were later released on bail by the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup.

The arrested AASU members include Kusha Rongpi, Tapan Biswas, Pradeep Deka and Hitesh Sarma.

The charges against the accused were framed under Sec 120(B), 147, 148, 447, 448, 395, 436, 325, 353, 336 and 427 of the Indian Penal Code.

The accused were represented by advocate Bijon Mahajan and several other lawyers in the court. Hundreds of AASU members also thronged the court premises.

Meanwhile, the AASU has condemned the arrest of its members.

Three Nepali nationals killed in Assam

UDALGURI, ASSAM, Nov 29 : Three Nepali nationals were killed in Assam allegedly by a group of surrendered cadres of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

According to police report, the police recovered a decomposed body on the bank of Kekrajuli river near Dhekiajuli under Dhekiajuli police station on November 26. The deceased was later identified as Mahesh Ghimirey of Nepal.

On the other hand, two other companions of the deceased were also killed by the NDFB cadres. They were identified as Anil Pokhrel and Jhalak Shrawan Subedi, but till the filing of this report, the police have not been able to recover the bodies of the other two Nepali nationals. According to police report, the trio went missing on their way to Guwahati from Nepal.

The police during an investigation, apprehended one Bhagya Basumatary, the driver of an Indica car in which the three Nepali nationals were traveling. The police arrested another Dhaneswar Basumatary, a surrendered cadre of insurgent group, NDFB.

During the interrogation, Dhaneswar confessed the crime and said that he kidnapped the three Nepali nationals with the help of some surrendered NDFB cadres on October 28 last and killed them at Shantipur village under Dhekiajuli police station and buried them on the bank of the Kekrajuli river.

Dhaneswar also confessed during the interrogation that they looted about eight hundred thousand rupees (Rs 800,000) from the deceased and killed them by hitting on the head with an axe.

The apprehended surrendered NDFB cadre also disclosed that they were helped by some Nepali speaking villagers of Gangapur village near Dhekijuli in the kidnapping activity. The police have not identified the address of the Nepali nationals but it suspected that the nepali nationals came to Assam to buy horns of rhino. The police are still investigating into the murder.

Congress keen on talks with ULFA

Manan Kumar

NEW DELHI: Peace talks with the top leaders of banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) is on the cards and may begin in the month of January, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said here on Saturday.

Assam’s Congress-led government is keen to have peace talks with Ulfa as it is expected to favour them during the Assembly elections due next year. “I think the talks with Ulfa will start by January.

Things are going on in a positive direction,” said Gogoi adding that Centre’s interlocutor P C Haldar is on the final stages of inking modalities for talks before initiating the process.

Gogoi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P Chidambaram to brief them about the prevailing situation in Assam and the proposed talks.

To facilitate their participation in the peace talks, the Assam government has already decided not to oppose the bail pleas of top Ulfa leaders, including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who are currently lodged in jail.

“Release of Ulfa leaders are not in our hands but in courts.

But we will not oppose their bail applications,” Gogoi said.

To instil faith in the Ulfa leadership and make the atmosphere conducive, the government did not oppose the bail plea of Ulfa’s Deputy Commander- in-Chief Raju Baruah who was released from the central jail on Saturday in Guwahati.

Raju was under arrest on account of two TADA cases and a CBI case.

“A positive atmosphere has already been created with the government not opposing our bail and we hope a respectable solution will be soon found,” Baruah said in Assam while arriving to his home in Charia in Nalbari district.

He added that Ulfa believes if the people are not involved in the talk process, there can be no permanent solution to the problem.

Pangolin scales, tortoises seized from airport, station

KOLKATA/HOWRAH: Raids carried out at the city airport and at Howrah railway station on Saturday led to the seizure of Pangolin scales and live tortoises. While the Pangolin scales were being sent to Manipur for being smuggled across the international border into Myanmar for transit to China, the live tortoises were headed for Burdwan.

During the day, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) sleuths raided the cargo complex of a private airline at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport and seized six white boxes containing 501kg of Pangolin scales. The consignment had apparently arrived from Chennai and was marked for Imphal in Manipur.

The Pangolin is a species of anteater found in forests across the country. In the absence of any census, it has not been known exactly how this illegal trade in their scales has impacted the population of the species in India. Conservationists, however, claimed that akin to other endangered species, Pangolins are also vanishing from Indian forests.

According to wildlife experts, Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine and fetch a price of `60,000 per kg in the international market. However, international trade of Pangolin scales is banned as it is included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Pangolins are also listed as "near-threatened" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

In the last couple of years, several hundred kgs of Pangolin scales have been seized from

various places in the North-East. Though trading in Pangolin scales can land a person behind bars for upto five years, the

perpetrators of the crime are hardly ever arrested. Even on Saturday, an investigation by the DRI revealed that the addresses of the consignor and consignee are fake. Efforts are now on to trace the courier firm that was involved in sending the consignment.

In the second case, Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel raided the S-12 coach of the Down New Delhi-Howrah Poorva Express and seized 31 live tortoises. The tortoises were being brought to Howrah by a 60-year-old woman who has been identified as Puri Tanti.

"During interrogation, she said that she was to take the tortoises to Burdwan. We suspect that she was simply a courier and that there are others involved in the racket. The consignment seems to have been loaded on the train at Mughalsarai. We have contacted the West Bengal forest department to take charge of the tortoises," a senior RPF officer said.

While trade, traffic and consumption of tortoises are strictly banned in India, these animals continue to be openly sold at markets, primarily as a delicacy. Some of them are collected by owners of private aquariums.

Assam AU to produce hybrid compost from next year

NALBARI, Nov 28 – In order to encourage the organic cultivation and to reduce the ill-effects of chemical fertilisers, the Assam Agriculture University (AAU), Jorhat has decided to produce hybrid compost from next year.

This was disclosed by the Vice-Chancellor, of the Assam Agriculture University, Jorhat Dr Kamal Malla Bujarbaruah while addressing the scientific advisory committee meeting held at Nalbari Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) on Monday. Dr Buzarbaruah said, “We need 4350 metric tonnes compost to cover only 25 per cent crops area in the State. Unfortunately, at present we are producing only 7.5 tonnes including vermi-compost. The VC further added that the AAU has fixed the target of producing 1,500 metric tonnes hybrid compost this year. For that the AAU has decided to set up five hybrid compost-producing projects under each Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK). Besides, 10 projects will be set up under the guidance of self-help groups (SHG) preferably woman SGHs in the State. The VC said that if the women SHGs come forward to produce hybrid compost, then the AAU will provide all kind of support.

Dr Bujarbaruah also said that the AAU will conduct a demonstration on home science at Nalbri KVK shortly. He called upon the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) to work for the awareness on climate change, disaster management and post-harvest management among the farmers. The Vice-Chancellor requested the NABARD officials to hold awareness meeting on the rain water harvesting through the ‘Jal-kund’ scheme.

The scientific advisory committee meeting was addressed among others by Dr Bhupendra Chandra Bhowmick, DEE, AAU, Dr Nitya Nanda Sarma, director, research (Agri); AAU, Dr Apurba Chakravarty director, Research (Veterinary); AAU, Puro Gupta, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Nalbari, Niva Baruah, chairman, Nalbari Zilla Parisad.

Dr Monoranjan Neog, programme co-ordinator of Nalbari KVK presented the annual report and action plan for next session. Scientist Dr Ramani Thakuria and Dr Mridul Deka offered vote of thanks to the participants.

Forum alleges mafia raj by AASU

Former GU students threaten to disclose more

Guwahati, Nov. 27 : This may not be the last that one has heard about “donations to AASU” which had led to a faceoff between the students’ union and Vishal Mega Mart since Wednesday.

The forum of former general secretaries of the Post-Graduate Students’ Union of Gauhati University today threatened to reveal more about the union’s alleged wrongdoings.

The forum, which had triggered the controversy by distributing an audiotape that had AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya asking for money in the form of donations to the union from the retail outlet, today termed him a “mafia” and appealed to him to stop such activities.

The convenor of the forum, Niren Deka, said they would be forced to expose Bhattacharyya further if he did not stop his activities like demanding money from businessmen and business houses.

“The act of vandalism carried out by activists of the students’ union yesterday at the Vishal outlets across the state is a clear pointer to the mafia raj of Bhattacharyya,” Deka said and claimed that they had several documents to prove it.

Deka also alleged that he had received threats to his life and those of his family members since the standoff with the AASU and said the same “mafia” could be behind it.

A few days back, the forum had attacked AASU and its adviser over the latter’s opposition to mega dams in the state and subsequently distributed an audio recording of a telephonic conversation of Bhattacharyya with an official of the retail chain over payment of money to AASU. The forum also accused Bhattacharyya of taking “protection money” from business houses operating in the state.

A day after this, Bhattacharyya admitted to AASU having received donations from business houses to run its various academic and socio-cultural activities.

The students’ union also demanded an unconditional apology from Vishal for leaking the audiotape.

Yesterday, AASU supporters vandalised at least four outlets of the retail chain across the state for opening the outlets without tendering an apology.

Another member of the forum, Pranjit Choudhury, dared the students’ union to make public its financial dealings and where they spent those.

“We also appeal to the government to take legal action against Bhattacharyya for his involvement in mafia raj,” he said.

In the meantime, the AASU activists who were arrested for vandalising the Vishal outlet on AT Road here were released on bail by the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Kamrup, today. Vishal outlets across the state remained closed today.

Although sources said some top brass of the retail chain had arrived here to hold negotiations with AASU, the imbroglio is yet to end.

Bhattacharyya declined comment.

Assam help on family planning

GMCH doc trains Meghalaya medics

Guwahati, Nov. 27 : Assam has extended a helping hand to Meghalaya to arrest the population explosion in the neighbouring state.

Meghalaya has recorded the highest population growth among the northeastern states with a decadal growth rate of 30.65 per cent against the national average of 21.54 per cent. Its fertility rate is also the highest in the region at 3.8 per cent.
Dr Ilias Ali, the trainer-cum-nodal officer of the male and female sterilisation programmes in Assam, told this correspondent that he had trained two doctors from Shillong Civil Hospital and a primary health centre at Jowai in Jaintia Hills district to conduct sterilisation surgeries in Meghalaya.
“A team of surgeons from Assam will train more than 100 doctors from Meghalaya to perform no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) and tubectomy for sterilisation of men and women respectively. The Meghalaya health department has assured us of all possible logistic support for the training. It will conduct and motivate the masses to join family planning programmes,” he said.
A scientific seminar-cum-awareness programme on NSV was held at the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences in Shillong on November 16 under the banner of National Rural Health Mission, Meghalaya.
Ali, who attended the seminar as the resource person at the invitation of the Meghalaya government, said it was high time the hill state overcame its taboos and prejudices associated with the adoption of family planning methods.
“If the population growth rate in Meghalaya is not curbed, it will spell a disaster. There will be tremendous pressure on its land and other natural resources and its scenic beauty would be destroyed. The state government must facilitate speedy promotion of population control programmes,” he said.
Ali, a professor of surgery at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, also gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Iran model that Assam has adopted to make family planning successful among the Muslim populace in the state. He said this model had worked though the orthodox section of the community still considered family planning programmes as a western influence that were anti-Islamic.
“Assam will guide and provide all logistic support to Meghalaya to implement another model in the line of the Iran model to popularise family planning among the tribals who are reluctant to adopt such methods,” he added.
Rowell Lyngdoh, the deputy chief minister of Meghalaya in charge of health and family welfare, thanked Ali for his endeavour to popularise NSV in Meghalaya and urged doctors and health officials to promote it in the greater interest of the state.
Dr S.T. Sailo, the associate professor of urology at NEIGRIHMS, said men in Meghalaya were not keen on NSV and creating awareness was the need of the hour.

Eye on polls, Gogoi to seek PM's help on dam politics

Zia Haq

New Delhi, Nov 26 : Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi will ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a fresh safety review of a series of dams coming up in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, as he works aggressively to prevent anti-dam protests in his state from escalating into an electoral issue. Gogoi faces Assembly elections next April. Arunachal is pushing for 85 power-generating projects, which Assam fears could cause flooding and quakes in its floodplains.

However, safety evaluations for existing projects have found no specific threat. "Nonetheless, I will request the Prime Minister for a second round of expert study as a measure of abundant precaution," Gogoi told HT on Thursday. He will also meet home minister P Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Minister of state for water resources, Vincent H Pala, also told Parliament on Thursday that there was "no specific information" regarding threats to indigenous people from proposed mega dams.

Gogoi has delivered largely scam-free governance and the Congress's main opponent, the Asom Gana Parishad, lies in a mess. Yet, Gogoi's political anxiety is palpable. Word of catastrophe from dams, being spread around by hostile NGOs, could be politically damaging.

Much of the fury is directed against one specific dam in Arunachal — the Subansiri Dam (Part I). "Only 10 of the overflow from the Subansiri dam will enter Assam," Assam health minister Himanta B Sharma said.

Assam is a power-starved state and 12% free power, it is likely to demand from Subansiri, could spur growth.

Gogoi said the Subansiri project would displace people within just a kilometre radius and they were being adequately compensated.

Ex-Assam CM allege massive corruption by Congress govt

Guwahati, Nov 25 : Former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today challenged the findings of Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) on North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao) scam amounting to Rupees 1,000 crore.

He alleged that corruption had been rampant in various departments of the state government during the present Tarun Gogoi-led Congress regime and in order to divert attention from the charges of swindling government funds as well as the construction of mega dams, Mr Gogoi had raised the issue of 'Bodoland'.

Mahanta accused the present government of indulging in corrupt practises in respect of payment of compensation for land acquired and number of trees felled for construction of East-West corridor road project.

He also demanded to make public all the facts on the funds received from the Centre on account of payment to affected farmers and plantation of trees to make good the loss to vegetation for the said road project.

The Leader of Opposition in state Assembly pointed out that Mr Gogoi had concealed facts on mega dam issue and asserted that contrary to Gogoi's claim, the pollution control board of Assam had issued NOC to National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) for construction of mega dam on the upstream of Subansiri, a tributary of the Brahmaputra.

The Chief Minister had been talking 'reckless' and concealing facts to gain political mileage, Mahanta alleged.

He dubbed the Congress as patron to division of Assam and cited the instances of curving out different districts from erstwhile Assam to form the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

'' Now also Congress is all out to further divide the state by inciting the party's allies to revive 'Bodoland' issue for their political advantage,'' he added.

Riverine border fence shows tardy progress

Dhubri, Nov. 24 : The construction of a 9.3km barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangla international riverine border in Moslabari Char of Dhubri district has made little progress since it was started in 2006.

The fencing, being done under the pilot project, if proved to be feasible and successful, would be extended to the remaining 35km of the riverine border.

However, only 60 per cent of the work has been completed in the past four years.

Moslabari Char was under constant pressure from the All Assam Students Union (AASU) when then Union home minister Shivraj Patil came to visit the area on January 2, 2006, and decided to fence the border.

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya, who had accompanied Patil, had been able to prove his point about the fencing along the border that hitherto remained detrimental to national interest.

The border areas were open and Bangladeshis had free access to the areas. This encouraged trans-border smugglers to use this porous area for infiltration and rampant smuggling of cattle and other materials.

After a series of meetings, it was finally decided to go ahead with the fencing project along the riverine border, named pilot project. Nearly Rs 25 crore was sanctioned for the project.

If this fencing withstood the natural calamities, particularly flood and erosion, then it would be extended along the rest of the riverine border as well.

The fencing currently extends from Mantrirchar (border post 1039) to Moslabari (border post No. 1040/2S). This stretch is prone to smuggling and infiltration.

Officials from the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) said they had understood it was going to be an uphill task for them to implement the project as everything, from material to machinery, had to be transported to the char by boat.

South Salmara-Mancachar sub-divisional officer Swami Biswanathan said 60 per cent of the total work had been completed since 2006 and the rest of the construction would be completed by January next year.

“I shall, however, have to visit the site to assess the progress of the project and within a couple of days, I shall be able to speak about the present status of this project,” Biswanathan said.

An intelligence source said since the beginning of the fencing work in 2007, clashes between BSF jawans and cattle smugglers have been on the rise. Six separate clashes took place last year.

“On many occasions, the BSF had to fire to stop the cattle smugglers from transporting cattle to Bangladesh or to disperse village mobs which often came out to defend the smugglers,” the source said.

“Besides Moslabari, Mantrir Char, Bhogdohar and Mahamaya Char border fronts also have been identified as very sensitive for the same reasons. Hundreds of Bangladeshis often gather at night on the other side of the border with public announcement systems and abuse the BSF personnel for hours together and attempt to instigate BSF,” the source added.

Tiger shot dead in Assam after it kills woman, injures policeman

Morigaon (Assam) : A Royal Bengal tiger was shot dead by police after it killed a woman and injured a policeman at Nagabandha in Morigaon district of Assam today.

The adult tiger had come out from Orang National Park in Udalguri district and swam across the Brahmaputra to take shelter at Kandhulimari between Morigaon and Nagaon districts, police said.

The tiger had let loose a reign of terror for over a week at Lahorighat, Habiborongabari and Nagabandha areas. The big cat last Monday attacked two persons injuring them and had killed a bull.

Early this morning, the tiger killed a 38-year woman at Nagabandha. When police subinspector Tilak Chandra Bora from Borsola along with his team went to the area to nab the tiger, the animal pounced on him in a paddy field critically injuring him, the police said.

Unable to escape from its clutches, the police shot dead the wild cat, the police said.

Forest officials, veterinary experts and prominent animal rights NGO Aranyaak arrived at the site and were conducting investigations.

Siang body opposes hydro power projects

NEW DELHI, Nov 24 – A day after Centre announced firming up of proposals to execute the proposed Siang (Upper) and (Lower) hydro power projects, the Forum for Siang Dialogue (FSD) opposed the projects citing submergence of thousands of hectares of land and threat to indigenous tribes.

The Forum has joined Sangharsh that includes a host of organisations including National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) and has organised a week-long ‘national action against displacement and land acquisition’. The Parliament gherao programme is also joined by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).

Yesterday, demonstrators undertook a symbolic march to the Parliament against dams especially in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh. The demonstrators that comprised over 300 persons from Assam, plans to march to the Parliament on Wednesday.

At a rally held at Jantar Mantar, Bijoy Taram of FSD said that a number of memorandum of agreements and understandings have been signed by Arunachal Pradesh Government with big corporate houses including those which have no experience in construction of hydro power projects. In 2006, at least 136 such MoAs and MoUs for dam projects were signed, he alleged.

Taram alleged that local people of the area have not been consulted by the State Government before signing of the agreements and only now meetings have been convened.

He said they fear that about 1.5 lakh hectares of land may be inundated by water because of the projects. He also warned that there may be an invasion by the outsiders, as over 30,000 labourers may have the State to be imported from outside to work on the projects. These labours, with their family, would far outnumber the local people, who belong to smaller tribes, he argued.

Addressing the rally, Akhil Gogoi said that rights of the Adivasis living in forest areas in BTAD area has been hit in Assam, as they were served eviction notices. People living in at least 40 villages have been served eviction notices in total violation of the Forests Right Act. He held both the Government of Assam and BTAD authorities responsible for the act.

He further alleged that the Forests Rights Act has not been implemented in Assam. The Government of Assam is not even aware about the Act and its implications, he further alleged.

Addressing the rally, Medha Patkar said that Government of India is not even prepared to listen to the voices of the people of Assam and North-east.

She demanded implementation of Forests Rights Act in all forest areas of the country and any change in the land use in any forest area and any land acquisition be subject to settlement of claims and entitlements under the Act.

Patkar said their struggle is not just about resisting displacement or implementing people’s forest or other resources rights. It is also about the very right to struggle.

The nine-point charter of demands also includes issues of a White Paper on all the land acquisition, displacement caused and rehabilitation completed since independence. The White Paper must also make public the extent of land utilised, unutilised and land acquired for public purpose but remains occupied by sick and non-functional industries and other infrastructure projects.

Assam takes up major erosion control projects

It will spend Rs 238 crore for three major projects to control erosion of river Brahmaputra that is posing threat to important places of the state

Guwahati: Assam government is pumping in Rs 238 crore for three major projects to control erosion of river Brahmaputra which is posing threats to some important places of the state.

The water resource department of the state will start work for four erosion control projects in Dibrugarh, Palashbari and Rohomoria and near Kaziranga.

A government official statement said Rs. 96 crore will be spent for the erosion control project in Dibrugarh while another Rs. 82 crore has been earmarked to control erosion from Brahmaputra at Palashbari in Kamrup district.

Similarly another project costing Rs. 60 crore is being implemented for Rohomoria which has already seen large scale erosion.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi recently held a review meeting of the department and asked the water resource department to step up the process for starting works in the projects.

“Flood and erosion are the two major problems of our state and hence government is taking measures to control the erosion. Because erosion from river Brahmaputra is posing threats to our villages and towns,” said a source.

The state water resource department minister Prithvi Majhi informed the CM that works in the projects will start soon, said the source.

The river Brahmaputra is creating havoc every rainy season and has been washing away many areas.

The government is also taking measures to revamp the irrigation projects which have been lying non-functional due to lack of renovation. The chief minister recently asked the department officials to take up new projects to ensure that farmers of the state gets advantage of irrigation facilities and help improving agricultural productivity.

Assam plans more ITIs

It has decided to set up Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in each sub-division across the state

Guwahati: Industrially backward Assam has decided to set up Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in each sub-division across the state with an aim to develop a pool of skilled manpower for industrial development.

Official sources said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has instructed the Labour and Employment Department to gear up and indentify the places for setting up of the ITIs and start work soon.

Gogoi, recently held a meeting with the concerned officials and said works in five ITIs in Boko, Ghilamora, North Karimganj, Lidu and Titabor will start soon and proposals for setting up another 10 new ITIs are under consideration. Gogoi, said the state government plans to set up one ITI in each district sub-division and a skill development centre in each development block across the state.

“The Chief Minister is strongly emphasising on industrial development of the state and for that there is a need of skilled manpower. So the new ITIs being planned keeping in mind to improve the industrial skills of youths of the state and generate employment in the state,” said government officials here.

The sources said the state government was willing to set up ITIs in public-private-partnership mode and there was a scope in this regard in order to provide with skills for self-employment and economic development.

Assam, at present has few ITIs but those are situated in big towns including the capital city of Guwahati. Hundreds of students and youths in small towns and rural areas are looking for quality training institutes at affordable fees.

“As industrial and business activity is gradually increasing in the state there is a huge demand for technical education. Many youths are going outside for technical education as there is less number of quality training organisations particularly in small towns. Keeping this in mind, the government is planning more ITIs to offer the youths with education and skill development opportunities,” said the government source.

Using music and icons to cement brand promotions


Pic by Deepak Dhuri
MUMBAI: One of the largest cement manufacturing companies of north-east India is planning to use music and icons of the north east, led by the legendary Dr Bhupen Hazarika, to cement its brand profile throughout all the states of the north east.
On Saturday, Cement Manufacturing Company Limited, launched a music video, “Our North- East, Our Star’, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury of Antaheen fame, and featuring Dr Bhupen Hazarika in his first music video composed by acclaimed music composer Shantanu Moitra with lyrics by Swanand Kirkire.
The video was released at an event where Dr. Hazarika was presented with a memento by Sanjay Agrawal, Director Cement Manufacturing Company Limited, and Shantanu Moitra.  Dr. Hazarika was also honored with a Gamusa, a tradition much followed and honored in the North East.
The music video, with the Hindi baseline, Sapne Sach Kare, will use TV, local cable channels, Radio, You Tube and all digital platforms for playout. It will hit the air in December and the makers hope that it ends us being an anthem of sorts for the north-east. Film theatres across the north-east are also expected to air the music album before screening movies.
Shantanu Moitra, the award-winning composer of films like Lage Raho Munnabhai and  3 Idiots, told RadioAndMusic.com, “This music video features four of the biggest starts from the north east: There’s Mami Varte, who is a huge star in Mizoram; Lou Majaw  who is very big in Meghalaya, and Sourabhee Debburma who is equally popular in Tripura. All three are huge in their states, but it is the fourth star, Dr Bhupen Hazarika – the legendary music composer, filmmaker, Dadasaheb Phalke award winner and brilliant singer – who actually transcends all states and is a true national icon for every Indian.”
Together, the four stars have been signed up by CMCL to give a voice to the North East. Says Moitra, “They have come together to give a voice to one sound from the north east, developed by me, and written by Swanand Kirkire.”
Moitra says that while the CMCL music video is a marketing tool for its cement brand, it is nevertheless an extremely sensitive way of “using music with the larger good in mind. It is a lot like responsible branding, more like nationalistic CSR through Music.”
Explaining, Moitra  says, “Today, nobody knows much about the North East – there is ignorance, and

Security meet over killings

Another conference tomorrow

Security personnel keep vigil in Guwahati. File picture
Guwahati, Nov. 23 : Delhi is keeping close tabs on the law and order situation in Assam after the anti-talks NDFB killed 23 people early this month.

The Centre’s concern was reflected in the participation of senior officials Sambhu Singh (ministry of home affairs) and R.K. Shukla (Sashastra Seema Bal) at a meeting of senior paramilitary, intelligence, police, army and home officials here today.
The meeting was held to review the situation in the state and tie loose ends within a fortnight of home minister P. Chidambaram’s visit here.
Representatives of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh police also attended the meeting chaired by Assam chief secretary N.K. Das.
“The Centre is concerned that those killed were soft targets. It (the killings) was carried out after the outfit’s November 1 warning that 20 or more Indians would be killed for every NDFB/innocent Bodo killed by security personnel. There was no pattern to the killing, the victims were unarmed and belonged to Bihari, Nepali, Bengali and Muslim communities. We need to prevent a repeat. The Centre has promised all help,” a source said.
The meeting deliberated on how to make do with existing security personnel, finetune operational strategies by overcoming hurdles, beef up intelligence and coordinate closely with neighbouring states as the anti-talks NDFB cadres often escape to Arunachal Pradesh after carrying out their strikes, primarily in Sonitpur district, which is adjacent to the Bodo belt and has emerged as a main area of concern.
Arunachal Pradesh director-general of police Kanwaljt Deol is understood to have extended all possible help, suggesting regular ground-level meetings between the police and villagers of the two states and exchange of intelligence.
“The meeting assumed significance because it was a follow-up of the home minister’s visit. The ministry of home affairs is holding another round of reviews on Wednesday where issues such as additional forces will be discussed. As things stand today, there will be no let up in operations, even in Upper Assam which is relatively peaceful since Ulfa’s A and C companies came overground,” another source said.
Investigators have sent a report to the Centre, identifying some of those involved in the killings that followed the anti-talks NDFB’s warning.
“The killings were carried out by the NDFB’s armed wing — the Boroland Army — which has fallen out with incarcerated Ranjan Daimary. It is headed by I.K. Songbit and B. Jwngkang and has around four commanders, including Sagrit who was involved in the Kokrajhar killings. He carries a reward of Rs 1 lakh on his head. This group has around 50 armed cadres and is concentrating in some Sonitpur areas which they claim as their historical land and right. They also lay a claim on Dhemaji and Lakhimpur, making the three north bank districts vulnerable, ” a source said.
The first meeting lasted over two hours and was followed by another of the Unified Command’s operational group, indicating the seriousness with which Dispur is taking the situation.

Web tool to tackle local disaster

Guwahati, Nov. 23 : IIT Guwahati has developed an emergency management information system for Assam, a web-based tool to aid the disaster management authorities at the block level by equipping them with all kinds of information for rescue and relief.

This was revealed today by the head of the Centre for Environment, IIT Guwahati, Chandan Mahanta, at a programme on Media Orientation Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction. It was organised jointly by Bamboo Development Agency of Assam and InWEnt-Capacity Building International Germany.

The German firm is an international development organisation headquartered in Bonn with worldwide operations dedicated to sustainable development through human-resource and organisational development, advanced training, dialogue, networking and advisory services.

It is carrying out a capacity-building programme on Environmental Planning and Disaster Risk Management in India, which focuses on various aspects of disaster management.

Mahanta said all relevant information at the block level, right from the telephone numbers of the officials, school infrastructure, the nearest helipad available, blood bank facilities and safe drinking water sources were included in the emergency management information system. He said the system had now been handed over to National Informatics Centre for uploading and security checks were now on before the system is opened to the public.

Jayanta Pathak of Assam Engineering College, Guwahati, spoke on the microzonation plan of Guwahati and the need to quickly implement it . The report has marked the city’s western part as a high-risk zone. The areas that fall under this zone are Beharbari, Azara, Lachitpur, Teteliya, Mirzapur and Dekapara.

Sources said the Indian Space Research Organisation was also equipping the State Disaster Management Authority, Assam, with the technology for getting real-time update on the deluge and making an appropriate management plan.

The team from Isro’s National Remote Sensing Centre had recently undertaken a demonstration on National Database on Emergency Management and Flood Management Information System to the state government.

NHPC manipulated environment NOC: AGP

GUWAHATI, Nov 22 - Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly PK Mahanta has pointed an accusing finger at the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC) alleging that it managed Environment No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the Lower Subansiri Hydro-electric project through manipulation.

Addressing media persons here, Mahanta reiterated the party’s opposition to big dams and said that contrary to the Chief Minister’s accusation, the AGP had since the beginning pushing for a multi purpose project for the Subansiri in the greater interest of the State.

Referring to a letter from former member secretary of the Assam State Pollution Control Board, MK Sharma to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, Mahanta said that this letter was enough evidence to prove that NHPC had resorted to manipulation to acquire the NOC.

It needs to be mentioned here that this letter clearly states that the NOC to NHPC was not issued during the tenure of Sharma that ended on April 2004 as the project report and EIA (environmental impact assessment) were not clear enough to deal with the probable environmental consequences that may be caused due to severe ‘geo-techtonic activity in the area or dam site and reservoir which are located in the recent geological formation of Tertiary period’.

The letter also mentions that the NHPCs Environmental Management Plan was not sufficient to deal with issues like restoration of bio-diversity of flora and fauna including aquatic lives etc.

“The question is in what way the NHPC could collect the NOC during latter part of 2004” asked Mahanta alleging that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was trying to mislead the people by hurling baseless allegations against the AGP in connection to the Subansiri project.

Mahanta further said that the Congress government could stoop down to any level right to horse trading to further its political interest and observed that Congress patronage strengthened the divisive forces in the State.

Survey presents gloomy picture of Assam

NEW DELHI, Nov 22 – In what might come as a shocker for Tarun Gogoi Government ahead of the Assembly election, a report in a national magazine has put Assam at the bottom of the heap, projecting all-round slippages.

“How Good is Your Chief Minister’, a report by noted economist Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari in India Today’s current edition offers no reasons for Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi to feel relaxed.

In the overall composite marking, Assam has been ranked 18, ahead of only Jharkhand and Bihar. The State has been given 1.7 point, a sharp drop from its best-ever performance of 16 points, given in 2005. Assam is among of handful of States, whose rank has gone down, the report said.

The report puts Himachal Pradesh in number one position among the 20 bigger States and Delhi has been ranked number one among the smaller States.

According to the report, Assam continued to fare well, between 2004-2009 scoring anywhere between 13-16 points. However, in the current year, it touched its lowest.

The figures are for overall performance based on agriculture, primary health, education, law and order, infrastructure, investment, consumer market and macro economics. Assam was placed at the bottom in almost all the eight heads, the study covered.

The magazine’s State of the States Study has been conducted annually since 2003 and the report monitors the performance of the State across a range of categories. Put together, one obtains the overall living conditions in every State. All the data used in the study are publicly available and are sources from government and related organisations, said the two authors

Tarun Gogoi’s biggest setback could be in governance, if the report is to be believed. The State has been placed at the bottom of the list of 20 big States and ranked the last with 0.4 points, a steep drop from its highest of 18th rank given in 2004 and 2005.

A State that scores on governance has an adequate number of policemen per lakh of population and a fast disposal of litigations under the Indian Penal Code. The study took three aspects of violence as a measure of governance.

In the investment environment, Assam has been ranked 19, ahead of Bihar with 1.1. Uttrakhand is the fastest mover attracting an investment worth Rs 18, 492 crore.

In macro economics, the report places Assam in 18th rank with 1.6 points but ahead of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. An equitable and sustainable progress is a reflection on the State’s management of finances. The State’s per capita GDP is one measure of prosperity.

In the agriculture sector, Assam’s performance is worst among all of the 20 bigger States and has been placed at 20th rank with 0.3 points.

Assam, however, fares well in consumer market study and is ranked 13th with 2 points. Consumer markets are indicators of affluence.

In both primary education, Assam has done relatively better. In primary education, Assam’s position is 8th with 3.6 points. While in primary health, it has been ranked 13th with 1.4 points, a drop from its best ever ranking of 15th in 2005.

In infrastructure, Assam ranks 17th, with 3.2 points. The study has taken into account, percentages of homes with electricity connections, villages connected with pacca roads, overall road lengths and spread of bank branches.

Writer pens plight of Chinese-origin Assamese

She does not consider herself an activist, but writer Rita Chowdhury has been fighting for the cause of hundreds of Assamese people of Chinese origin facing a severe identity crisis having been disowned both by China and India.

When the senior lecturer of political science at Cotton College in Guwahati chose to highlight the plight of some Chinese people who came to Assam in the Second World War in her novel "Makam", little did she know that she will soon mull a movement for their rehabilitation.

"I wanted to reconstruct that part of history, that dark phase," she says about the book which means 'golden horse' in Cantonese.

"The British brought hundreds of men from China to work in tea gardens. These workers soon became part of the Assamese society and many of them married local girls. But after the 1962 India-China war, they were sent to a detention camp in Deoli in Rajasthan so that they don’t work as spies," says the writer.

"Some of them were deported to China while a few were released later. Those released came back to Assam only to find that their property were all gone. The deported people are still considered as Indian refugees," Chowdhury who is in the capital, said.

The writer wants our society to assimilate these people among us.

"We need to embrace them. They are in a state of shock, facing a severe identity crisis. Many of these people are scattered across the state and also other parts of the country. Those deported are longing to come back. They need our support, the government’s support," she says.

In writing the novel, she studied various books published on the Indo-Chinese war but the main storyline was based on media reports and commentaries.

"I conducted interviews with the deportees, sufferers and witnesses and travelled abroad to meet some of them. The evolution of tea industry of Assam and the history of migration of tea workers interwoven with unwritten saga of Chinese society became my subject matter with which I started my work four years ago," she says.

But she had great difficulty in connecting with the victims and their relatives.

"Before I could find any of Assam-born Chinese survivors, most of them left this world. I am sure they died carrying with them lot of pain, frustration and tears. Also most of the people who knew about the migration of Chinese people to Assam died. That’s why lot of stories remained in darkness about the birth and evolution of the Chinese society," she says.

According to Chowdhury, most of the characters in her novel are true.

"To portray the social infrastructure of that period certain characters had to be created.Though I could not erase the pathetic and gory incidents from their minds by highlighting those brutal days, my aim is to illuminate the unfortunate history that lived in darkness for years," she says.

"Those Assamese-Chinese settled abroad organise annual cultural programmes like Bihu. Many of them want to visit Assam and see their place of birth and relatives."

The writer has met a number of government and opposition leaders to facilitate the return of these people. chief minister Tarun Gogoi has assured the writer that those estranged from their families in Assam, and even those who were born and brought up in Assam and later deported would be given a warm welcome, if they want to visit their birthplace.

Legendary Dr Bhupen Hazarika to be seen in his first music video

Mumbai, Nov 20 : Music legend and Dada Phalke awardee, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, will be seen in his first music video promoting the cultural wealth of northeast India.

The song, 'Our northeast. our star', working title 'Sapne Sach Kare', has been written by Swanand Kirkire ('Hazaaron Khwashishen Aisi', '3 Idiots') and composed by Shantanu Moitra. The final version of the song has the artistes singing in their native language, as well as in Hindi.

The video has Dr Hazarika sharing screen time with with Meghalaya's legendary Blues artist Lou Majaw, Mizoram's pop artist Mami Varte and Tripurean talent Sourabhee Debburma.

The project is the initiative of Meghalaya-based 1.2 million tonne cement company, Star Cement's effort to celebrate the vibrancy of the region's culture. The company also felicitated Dr Hazarika here today.

''Dr Hazarika is practically a 'God' in Assam, and the project with him goes beyond the brand. It is about unifying the people of the northeast within themselves and with the rest of India,'' the company director, Sanjay Agarwal said.

''The song and the reason behind the music video got me to participate in the project. We have dreamt and thought a lot about something like this. When it started, we knew the atmosphere around it,'' Dr Hazarika said.

The music video, directed by Aniruddha Roy Choudhury, is set to be released on December 11 at Kolkatta.

Assam edge in power tussle

New Delhi, Nov. 21 : Assam may have gained an edge over Arunachal Pradesh in a battle over hydel schemes that mirrors the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh tussle relating to the Polavaram dam project.

Itanagar is pushing for some 85 hydro-power projects that Dispur fears may flood areas in the Brahmaputra valley. Yesterday, the central government signalled in Parliament that the Prime Minister’s Office might allow river-basin studies downstream before clearing the dams in the Eastern Himalayas.

The statement comes at a time Orissa, which fears the Polavaram dam in Andhra will submerge part of its territory, is fighting the battle in court.

In Arunachal, three hydel projects with a combined installed capacity of 2,710MW are under construction in the Brahmaputra’s upper reaches. Chief minister Dorjee Khandu has also allotted 82 other hydel projects, with a combined capacity of 37,794.5MW, to central and private sector companies.

Contracts worth thousands of crores are, therefore, at stake. Also at stake are political interests because of the risks of flood and displacement, especially in the Brahmaputra valley, caused by any sudden discharge of water after heavy rainfall in Arunachal.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a request that studies be carried out before the projects were finalised. Now, an inter-ministerial group too seems to have made a similar recommendation.

“The inter-ministerial group’s report... recommended that sub-basin-wise EIA (environmental impact assessment) studies may be taken up in major tributaries of the Brahmaputra,” junior home minister Vincent Pala told the Rajya Sabha on Friday in reply to a question.

“It was also decided that the Central Water Commission shall conduct studies for the Subansiri and Siang sub-basins in consultation with the central electricity authority and the ministry of environment and forests.”

The water resources ministry has already published a notice seeking expressions of interest on the studies it wants in the Subansiri and Siang sub-basins in Arunachal to assess the possible impact of the hydel projects.

Pala said the water commission might later take up studies in other basins too. He acknowledged that Gogoi had raised concerns about the impact of the planned dams and suggested a comprehensive river-basin study.

Khandu may have one more hurdle to cross. None of the power companies selected for the projects in the frontier state has yet approached the home ministry for clearance.

The selection of companies for the projects is considered a sensitive matter because of Arunachal’s geographical proximity to China, which plans a dam on the Brahmaputra in Tibet.

“There are several companies, and we do not know anything about them. Eventually, they will have to come to the home ministry for clearance,” a government source said.

Drop in infant mortality rate in Assam: Health minister

Tezpur, Nov 20 (PTI) Infant mortality rate in Assam has come down to 58 per cent after the implementation of the National Rural Health Mission in the state about five years ago, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said today.

The mortality rate dropped by seven per cent from the pre-NRHM figure of 65 per cent, Sarma said, inaugurating the Rs 75-lakh Special Newborn Baby Care unit at the Kanaklata Civil Hospital here, the fifth such unit in the state.

The mortality rate had come down close to the national rate of 55 per cent, he added.

The other four special units are at the Assam Medical College Hospital In Dibrugarh, Nalbari Civil Hospital, M M C Civil Hospital in Guwahati and Golaghat Civil Hospital.

For better medical treatment to the rural patients, wide ranging reforms would be brought about in the NRHM mission centres from the next financial year.

The construction work of the new Tezpur Medical College at Thumuki near Thelamara, under Dhekiajuli police station, would be completed soon to offer health care to the people from northern Assam from next year, Sarma said.

Appreciating the performance of the health workers under the NRHM, he said the appointed medical practitioners and health workers'' remuneration would also be enhanced from the next financial year.

Assam hosts career fair for 'disabled'

A career fair is held for the disabled in Guwahati as an initiative to generate employment among disabled.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi inaugurated the fair on Friday.

Career access has brought together 25 companies representing Telecommunications, Insurance, Retail, Manufacturing, Consultancy Firms, IT and ITES, Cosmetics and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).

Total 352 qualified candidates have registered for the Fair from 11 States. Among these, 267 are men and the rest are women.

Interacting with the mediapersons one of the coordinators of the Fair Monideepa Chaudhary said that such type of job fair is the first of its kind to be organised in northeastern India.

"We are holding this job fair exclusively for persons with disabilities, and it is the first ever job fair for people with disabilities in north east. We are holding this in association with Ability Foundation Chennai, which has the experience of holding such fairs for persons with disabilities for the last six years," said Chaudhary.

The participants were excited to witness such a unique fair in the region.

"I have come here for the first time and these sorts of career programmes for the physically challenged people should be held because it provides employment opportunities for the people. So, I think this is a great initiative," said Ravi, a participant.

The fair is also supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Directorate of Social Welfare, Government of Assam; Federation of Industries and Commerce of North Eastern Region; Employment Generation Mission, Government of Assam; Director of Employment and Craftsmen Training, Government of Assam and the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre. (ANI)

Kaziranga National Park loses another tiger

Fifth tiger carcass found this year

Forensic report will clarify on the possibility of poisoning

Kaziranga boasts world's highest tiger density at 32.64 per 100 sq. km

Guwahati: The Kaziranga National Park has lost another tiger. The authorities recovered the carcass of an adult tigress in the Agaratoli range of the park on Friday.

The authorities are yet to ascertain the actual cause of death and are awaiting forensic reports on the samples sent for laboratory tests. This was the fifth tiger carcass recovered this year, and the third in November.

Park sources said the samples sent for examination included deer hair that was found in its stomach. The reports will clarify on the possibility of poisoning.


The tigress was camera-trapped in 2009 during a study carried out by Aaranyak — a society for biodiversity conservation in northeast India — the Assam Forest Department and the Kaziranga National Park Authority.

The ‘camera trap' method to estimate population covered an area of 144 sq. km. of the central and western parts of the park.

The findings of the study were compiled into a report titled ‘Monitoring of Tigers and Prey Animals of Kaziranga National Park,' which says that there are 32.64 tigers per 100 sq.km. at Kaziranga — the highest tiger density in the world.

Earlier, on November 11, patrolling staff of the Gerakati camp of the World Heritage Site's Bagori range recovered the carcass of an adult tiger.

The summary report submitted to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), upon post-mortem and disposal of the carcass, stated that the preliminary investigation suggests the tiger died of severe injury.

According to the forest guard at the nearest camp, the tiger was injured by wild buffalo, a herd having been seen in the vicinity a few days before.

The body had signs of major injury in the rib cage area and left side of the neck, the report added.

Cause not ascertained

On November 10, the carcass of another adult tiger was recovered by the patrolling staff at the Laudubi camp of the Kohora range.

The preliminary investigation and post-mortem report could not ascertain the cause of death as the carcass was in a stage of advanced decay. “The area close to the carcass had no signs of fighting, and the forest staff has not heard any tigers fighting in the area. The tiger might have died due to old age,” stated a report.

Four tiger deaths in one month in Kaziranga

Guwahati: An adult tigress has been found dead at Agratoli range of Kaziranga National Park in Assam, the fourth such death in this month in the sanctuary.

Park officials said the carcass of the tigress was found on Friday in a highly decomposed state.

The reason behind the death is yet to be ascertained, they said.

It is the fourth tiger carcass to be found this month in Kaziranga National Park, which is a World Heritage Site.

Earlier, carcasses of three tigers, all in decomposed state, was found at Kohora, Agratoli and Bagori ranges of the Park. Officials had claimed that all deaths were natural.

Assam CM pays homage to Indira Gandhi

GUWAHATI, Nov 20 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today paid homage to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the occasion of her 93rd birth anniversary. Addressing a gathering in the city, Gogoi recalled the contributions of Indira Gandhi to the nation and said that she, through her administrative and political acumen, tried to solve the problems plaguing the nation.

Gogoi said that inspired by the late leader's ideals the State Government had taken up a lot of welfare schemes for the poor and that about 90 lakh people were going to derive benefit out of the schemes.

The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee commemorated Indira Gandhi’s birthday at Rajiv Bhavan.

In his address, APCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita recalled the contributions of Indira Gandhi in the country’s freedom struggle as well as her contributions made during her tenure as Prime Minister, especially her endeavours at removing poverty and promoting equality.

On the occasion of the 93rd birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi, a meeting was held on Friday at the office of the Assam State Commission for Women.

Presiding over the meeting, president of the Commission Mridula Saharia stressed on improving the status of women and appealed to the mothers to take special steps in the character formation of their children. She said that mothers can play a great role in bringing a change in the society by inculcating moral values in the children.

The meeting was attended by Anjali Baruah, president, Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti and others.

Assam wants treaty on water sharing matters with China

Guwahati, Nov 19 : The Assam government will press the Centre for a treaty on water – sharing arrangements with China, especially after confirmed reports of the neighbouring country building mega dams on the Brahmaputra river (Tsangpho river) that could lead to adverse downstream impact in India’s North East.

“There is no water – sharing treaty or any other pact for sharing information on rivers with China at present. The government of Assam will request the Centre to enter into such a pact with China, like the country has with Pakistan,” Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters here today.

Expressing concern at the possible adverse downstream impacts of big dams in China, Mr Gogoi said the state government will take up the matter with the Centre again.

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue with the Chinese president when the latter visited India a few years back. We will once again press the Centre to talk to Beijing over the matter,” he said.

He pointed out that China has maintained that there would be no adverse impact on North East India and added that Assam will not accept the contention without a proper, thorough study by its experts.

“The Assam government will conduct a study to understand the downstream effects and we will also urge the Centre to carry out a comprehensive study across the NE region,” Mr Gogoi said. China’s mega dams on the Brahmaputra could have adverse impact on the downstream areas in India’s NE and Bangladesh as the river, which enters Bangladesh through India from China, is a major source of livelihood for the region, intricately linked with the lives and culture of its people.

Assam government mulls big dams safety legislation

Guwahati, Nov 19 The Assam government is mulling a legislation on the lines of the Centre’s Dam Safety Bill 2010 to ensure safety of people and property as well as adequate compensation for any loss incurred due to big dams in the state or its bordering territories.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, informing of the state government’s proposed legislation, today said a new Act to safeguard the interests of the people is being mooted by the state government. “The Act would be to ensure safety of the people,” he said.

The chief minister added that the Act would also stress on adequate compensation on any loss that the people may suffer due to a dam. “Such a piece of legislation will be beneficial for the state,” he said.

More than a hundred small and big dams have been proposed in Arunachal Pradesh and groups and individuals in Assam have aired serious concerns on possible devastating downstream impacts of these dams on the state. The Centre’s Dam Safety Bill 2010 proposes to ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all dams of certain parameters in India and to ensure their safe functioning.

Besides, the Bill proposes to set out uniform dam safety procedure which shall ensure national investment and benefits by safeguarding human life, livestock and property. Though the Bill will be applicable only in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, besides the Union Territories, it has a provision that the Act shall also apply to such other State which adopts the Act by resolution passed on that behalf under Clause (1) of Article 252 of the Constitution.

Security Strengthened in Assam

Security has been increased here in India’s Assam state only days after a banned militant group went on a killing spree in the region. Extremists from the National Democratic Front of Bodoland gunned down at least 19 people and left several others critically injured.

The planned attacks have brought life to a virtual standstill in the region. However Indian forces are now providing security for local residents.

[Ramesh, Local Resident]:
"Ever since that incident took place, the security personnel have been guarding our village and there are no are signs of any tension. As long as the army protects us, everything will be alright."

In the past three months, security forces have killed at least 20 militants, prompting revenge attacks by the group.

[Gajen Swargiary, Local Resident]:
"We fear for our lives. We know we are not safe. We do not know when the militants will come and kill us. It has happened in the past also, and it can happen again. We are scared."

India's northeast state is home to more than 200 tribes and has been the focus of separatist insurgency for decades.

Sign water-sharing pact with China, Gogoi urges PM

GUWAHATI: A day after Beijing formally announced that it would start constructing a dam on the Tsangpo river that flows into Assam as Brahmaputra, state chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday said he would request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sign a water-sharing treaty with China.

"We are taking up the issue very seriously. I will talk to external affairs secretary Nirupama Rao to know what Chinese authorities have told her about the dam. But right now, I will request the prime minister to consider signing a water-sharing treaty with China — a sort of understanding that New Delhi has with Islamabad," Gogoi told reporters.

The CM said he would ask the Centre to closely watch developments across the border and seek a team to study the downstream impacts that India will have to face once the dam comes up in China. The study should be carried out for our future safety.

The Brahmaputra rises from near Lake Mansarover. After flowing eastwards through Tibet, it takes a U-turn to the south before entering Arunachal Pradesh. The Brahmaputra flows 918km before falling into the Bay of Bengal. China's plan is to dam the Brahmaputra and divert 200 billion cubic metres of water every year to the country's north-east regions of Shaanxi, Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin.

In 2006, when it was first reported that China would build a dam on the river as it flows through Tibet, Gogoi had sought Singh's intervention to impress upon Chinese authorities to stop damming the Brahmaputra in Chinese territory.

Experts fear construction of a dam on the Brahmaputra in China might slowly turn biodiversity-rich Assam and Arunachal Pradesh into semi-arid states and deplete the groundwater table.

Gogoi said he would make a joint effort with his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart, Dorjee Khandu, for drawing the Centre's attention on the Chinese dam on the river on which Assam's economy largely depends on.

Unique job fair for physically-challenged in Assam

GUWAHATI, Nov 18 – A pioneering attempt by two organizations will open job opportunities for physically disadvantaged youths of Northeast India on November 19. Career Access 2010, a job fair for persons with disabilities, will promote equal opportunity employment and also spread awareness on the issue.

Organised jointly by Shishu Sarothi, Guwahati, and Ability Foundation, Chennai, in association with Naukri.com, the innovative job fair will encourage disadvantaged youths to get jobs commensurate with their qualifications.

The event would bring together 25 companies representing telecom, insurance, retail, manufacturing, consultancy firms, cosmetics and FMCG.

Significantly, 352 qualified candidates have registered for the job fair from 11 states. Among the applicants, 267 are men and 85 are women. Around 80 per cent of the job seekers are from Assam, it was informed.

In a press conference held today, Jayashree Ravindran of the Ability Foundation said that there was a need for equitable employment, and people with disabilities should not be stereotyped.

She hoped that Career Access 2010 will break stereotypes and also open up people's minds, eventually creating better opportunities for the physically challenged.

Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, said that more corporates should become equal opportunity employers. He hoped that the job fair would be an eye opening event for employers as well as prospective employees.

The organizers mentioned that people with disabilities have a right to a level playing field with equal opportunities, of getting suitable work on the basis of their qualification and skills. It was stated that recruiting people with disabilities is a part of human resource and recruitment policy and not merely corporate social responsibility.

Pritam lifted my songs: Assamese singer

Guwahati, Nov 18 : A popular Assamese singer has dheere se served Bollywood music director Pritam a zor ka jhatka. Singer-composer Kumar Bhabesh has accused Pritam of lifting two of his songs and blending them into the foot-tapping Zor ka jhatka hai dheere se lagaa, a song Akshay Kumar and
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan dance to in retro-comedy Action Repplay.

"The mukhda of this hit number sounds the same as my chartbuster Dehati laahi laahi bukukhonu joubane bharaa (Slender girl with a heart full of youthful exuberance) while the antara is uncannily similar to my 2008 song Aahana kothabor...pohila Ramzanote," Bhabesh said.

The first song – a hybrid in Assamese and Bodo languages – is from the album Sonpahi which Bhabesh had cut in 2000 while, the second is from his 2008 album Roja replete with Islamic songs.

Bhabesh said he heard the song on Tuesday evening after returning from a two-month music project in a remote village in Assam's Karbi Anglong district. "I don't know if an arranger gave Pritam my albums or he had it sourced, but he should have had the decency in contacting me before using my scores. Or he should have given due credit to me and my team," he said.

The Assamese singer has given Pritam five days to respond or face legal action.

Special job scheme launched in Assam

Under the scheme the government is providing financial assistance and better employment opportunities to weavers, farmers and unemployed youths

Guwahati: Assam government has launched a special employment scheme eyeing to provide financial assistance and better employment opportunities to weavers, farmers and unemployed youths of the state.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday inaugurated the “Chief Minister’s Special Employment Programme 2010-11” in Guwahati and distributed bank loans worth rupees 1.10 crore to 93 joint liability groups (JLGs) under this new programme.

“Our government has always accorded top priority to provide different avenues of self employment to weavers, farmers and unemployed youths through a host of schemes that have led to a rise in their income and living standard,” Gogoi said while launching the program.

Another 238 JLGs also received loans and financial assistance worth rupees 5.66 crore under the Chief Minister’s Jiban Jyoti Swaniojan Yojana on the occasion.

Minister for Panchyat and Rural Development, Chandan Brahma said government was contemplating to provide financial assistance in the form of subsidy to Self-Help Groups (SHG) soon.

“Self-help groups have played a pivotal role in ushering a silent revolution in rural areas through their diversified economic activities. Hence, we need to give to them all opportunities to grow. We will also distribute power tillers and tractors to small and marginalized farmers as firm mechanization will result in more production, leading to increased income,” added Gogoi.

Brahma said, “We plan to include more and more weavers and farmers under this programme. So far more than 25,000 youths have received employment under the Chief Minister’s Jiban Jyoti Swaniojan Yojana programme.

Assam Govt taking steps to solve unemployment

GUWAHATI, Nov 17 – “Unemployment is one of the problems facing the State and to solve it, our Government has taken a slew of schemes and initiatives during the past nine years,” said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi while giving away bank loan and assistance to Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) under Chief Minister’s Special Employment Programme 2010-11 and Chief Minister’s Jiban Jyoti Swaniojan Yojana at a function organized by State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) at Khanapara in the city today.

Inaugurating the Chief Minister’s Special Employment Programme, Gogoi said the government has accorded top priority to provide self-employment opportunities to weavers, farmers and unemployed youths through a host of schemes which have led to a rise in their income and living standard.

Gogoi said that the State Government is contemplating to provide more subsidy to the Self-Help Groups as they are able to usher in a silent revolution in the rural areas through their diversified economic activities. He announced the Government’s plans to distribute more power tillers and tractors to the farmers, specially small and marginal ones.

He said the Government would set up an ITI in every block for skill development of the huge workforce for engaging them in various apprentices. Earlier, the Chief Minister released a book titled ‘Assam – The Silent Revolution’ at the function.

Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development, Chandan Brahma said the CM’s Special Employment Programme is a unique scheme aimed at generating self-employment opportunities in a big way. Brahma said that more than 25,000 unemployed youths have been self-employed under Chief Minister’s Jiban Jyoti Swaniojan Yojana. Principal Secretary, Panchayat & Rural Development Department, Arun Kumar also spoke on the occasion, stated an official release.

Altogether 93 JLGs have been disbursed loans under Chief Minister’s Special Employment Programme 2010-11 amounting to Rs 1.10 crore. Another 238 JLGs have been given loans and assistance covering 952 families under Chief Minister’s Jiban Jyoti Swaniojan Yojana at a cost of Rs 5.66 crore.