Hidesign factory plan for Guwahati


The Hidesign store in Guwahati.
India’s premier leather brand, Hidesign, has set its sights on the Northeast and is looking to open a factory in Guwahati.
“Though we are yet to identify the place, looking at the business prospects I am indeed very keen on opening a factory in Guwahati,” Hidesign founder and president Dilip Kapur said in Guwahati recently.
The company currently has three factories — one in Pondicherry and two in Himachal Pradesh — from which the products are distributed worldwide.
The retail partner of Hidesign in the region, Design Wale, a local business firm, is ready to go the extra mile to promote quality leather bags here.
The entrepreneurs behind Design Wale, Kangkan Chakravarty and Mehtaj Zaman Ahmed, are optimistic about the custom factory. “It will take some time, as these things do not happen overnight. Moreover, since we are based in Guwahati, the factory will be opened here. But, it will happen for sure,” Chakravarty said.
The factory is, however, not the only deal struck by Design Wale with Hidesign. Three standalone stores in Dimapur, Gangtok and Shillong are also in the pipeline.
“It has been only 13 months, and the Guwahati store is performing better than our expectations. This has encouraged us to further explore the Northeast market and open independent stores. The three chosen cities are heading towards urbanisation, yet retain their past glory and heritage — the same concept that drives Hidesign,” Kapur said.
The company will open its doors for the Dimapur crowd in January next year, followed by stores in Sikkim and Shillong in a phased manner.
Barring these three, Hidesign will also have a section for themselves at the Sohum Emporio in Guwahati. “I have already visited Sohum Emporio and checked the space. It will take us two months to develop the store,” Kapur said.
With an annual domestic turnover of Rs 110 crore, Hidesign has 63 boutiques across the country, with additional outlets in departmental and specialty stores.
Despite prices being on the high side, Hidesign never fell short of what it did best — lure people.
“When we decided to open a boutique in Guwahati, we did not conduct any market survey like our contemporaries do. We worked on our instincts. The Northeast is full of impulsive buyers, which gave us the confidence to open more stores here,” Ahmed said.

Govt explores cultivation in Karbi Anglong district

GUWAHATI: Taking a cue from Tripura, Assam government is exploring ways of involving members of United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) in rubber cultivation in Karbi Anglong district.

The Karbi outfit had signed a peace accord with the Centre last month. Over 300 cadres, including leaders of UPDS, are to lay down their arms at the Karbi Anglong Sports Association ( KASA) stadium at Diphu on December 14.

State soil conservation minister, Ardhendu Kumar Dey told TOI on Sunday that he has already discussed rubber cultivation plans in the district with UPDS leaders. Dey said with UPDS joining the mainstream, rubber plantation could be the best option for economic rehabilitation for members of the outfit.

"In Tripura insurgency was successfully contained by ushering in rubber cultivation. The economic benefits from rubber cultivation can also be replicated for members of insurgent outfits in Assam. In fact, I had talks with leaders of UPDS for taking up rubber cultivation in Karbi Anglong," Dey said.

Rubber cultivation in Karbi Anglong was prevalent many years ago, but the spell of insurgency affected its promotion for over a decade in the district.

Rubber Board member, Siby Monipally said, "Rubber plantation has proved to be the most dependable source of income. This sector is going to uplifting economic activity in Karbi Anglong in a big way."

Mrinal Chowdhury, Rubber Board's field office in-charge at Diphu (Karbi Anglong district headquarters) said, "The situation has changed in Karbi Anglong now. Former militants who have joined the mainstream are showing interest in taking up rubber cultivation. More than 50 members of militant groups in Karbi Anglong have already started rubber plantation for economic benefits." At present, about 2,500 hectares in Karbi Anglong district is under rubber plantation.

"With the improvement of law and order situations now, we are all set to usher in plantation economy through rubber in Karbi Anglong," Chowdhury added.

The state soil conservation department has targeted to cover 50,000 hectares in the state under rubber plantation in the next five years.

"Assam's potential area for rubber cultivation is two lakh hectares. Right now we have set the target of bringing 10,000 hectares under rubber plantation each year and in five years we are going to cover altogether 50,000 hectares," Dey said.

The potential yield from 50,000 hectares is estimated to be 375,000 metric tons of rubber latex in five years, expected to generate an income of over Rs 10,350 crore.

Assam govt will help state's film industry: Gogoi

Guwahati, Dec 12 : Assam government will assist in bailing out the state's ailing film industry, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said today. "Films being a powerful and effective means of communication can be gainfully utilised in a number of ways as an instrument of creating public awakening and to promote oneness by enlisting public cooperation in the task of nation building," Gogoi said here at the mahurat of an Assamese feature film 'Baandhaon' being directed by celebrated film maker of international repute Jahnu Barua. The film is being produced by Assam State Film (finance and development) Coporation, which was lauded by Gogoi. Barua, thanking the corporation for its help, demanded that it should help in promoting at least three Assamese feature films a year. The shooting of the feature film is scheduled to begin next month, he added. State Cultural Affairs Minister Pranati Phukan also spoke on the occasion.

Monkey menace hits Guwahati zoo, authorities mull sterilization

Monkey menace has reached alarming proportions in a zoo in Guwahati, Assam, as they harass the visitors and leave them injured.

Despite the fact that the zoo has a dense forest within its fold, the monkeys seldom stay there. Instead, they cross over to the visitors' zone.

The monkeys have destroyed zoo property and attacked people in the past. An environment of fright and chaos has gripped the zoo.

Pinku Borkuch, a visitor to the zoo, said that this had become a perennial problem in the zoo premises.

He added that many a time the monkeys have shown aggression towards children and have harmed them, leaving them injured.

"The monkeys here as you can see are roaming freely. They come here because during winters they don't get much to eat up in the hills. Here they snatch fruits or chips etc from the hands of the visitors. So, if they steal from the hands of a child then the child can get hurt or get an infection from it. If you try to chase them away they counter-attack," added Borkuch.

The primate problem had become such a big headache that the zoo authorities and Dr. M.L. Smith, a vet at the zoo, were considering sterilizing them to prevent rapid multiplication of the population.

Smith also said that capturing the monkeys was a herculean task and was far from easy.

"Our steps to control this menace are in the initial stage. We want to surgically sterilize the monkeys so that their breeding rate comes down. Also, catching these monkeys is not easy, especially catching them for a second time. So, this is in a trial and error stage as of now," added Smith.

The zoo authorities have already started the sterilization process and they are bringing the monkeys one by one, under the scalpel to perform vasectomy and tubectomy on them. So far, five monkeys have been operated upon.

The monkeys operated upon will be marked to identify them from the rest. Apart from this, the authorities have also decided that all the enclosures in the future would be built in such a way, that the monkeys cannot breach them.

The monkey population in the zoo was estimated to be over 500.

Taiwan offers help in wildlife conservation

GUWAHATI: Wildlife conservation in the state is all set to get a foreign fillip with the Taiwan government coming forward to assist in conservation activities by funding NGOs in the field.

The Taiwan government has already been supporting eight conservation programmes in the state since 2007, at a cost of US $ 48,000. Taiwan will now fund Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based NGO, to the tune of US $ 6,000, for a project titled 'Monitoring of greater one-horned rhino in Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary'. Besides,it will provide US $ 5,000 to another NGO, Rhino Foundation for Nature in North East, for compilation and production of a monograph on 'Mammals of North-east India review'.

Taiwan ambassador to India Wenchyi Ong will be here on Wednesday to hand over the cheques to the NGOs on behalf of Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture of Taiwan. "As a token of support and friendship, Taiwan wishes to make a small contribution to the daunting task of conserving wildlife in the region," Ong said.

Assam tribal girl wants action on attackers, on hunger strike

Tezpur (Assam), Nov 22 : Four years after she was stripped and brutally assaulted in public and forced to run for her life by hoodlums during a procession in Guwahati, tribal girl Laxmi Orang today began a three-day hunger strike here demanding punishment for her attackers.

"I am yet to receive any official intimation on the action taken against the culprits. My fast is to demand for action against the guilty," 22-year-old Laxmi told reporters at the Tezpur
Nehru Maiden, the venue of her agitation.

She had lodged a complaint after the incident at Beltola area of Guwahati on November 24, 2007. In the rally, the processionists, including her, were demanding Scheduled Tribes status for Adivasis residing in Assam and enhancement of daily wages of tea garden labourers.

The government had instituted a CBI inquiry into the charge of physical humiliation and a few persons were taken into custody.

However, Laxmi said she has not yet received any official intimation on the action taken against the culprits.

The protesters were also demanding that duty hours of tea garden labourers should commence from 9 am instead of the present 7 am and continue till 4 pm as usual.

Laxmi and her supporters further demanded rehabilitation, with compensation, for the Adivasis affected in ethnic violence and now sheltered in Kokrajhar rehabilitation centres for years.

IIIT to be set up in Assam

Guwahati: An Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) would be set up at Mirza near here in Assam on the lines of IIT, chief minister Tarun Gogoi said on Monday.

The project has been conceived in public-private mode with central government and Assam government and leading industry partners as stake holders, Gogoi told reporters here.

The IIIT is in response to the union HRD ministry's decision to set up 20 new IIITs across the country in addition to the existing four institutes of international standard in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Gandhinagar and Delhi, he said.

"With world-class infrastructure for academics and research in the field of information technology and sciences", Gogoi said, "emphasis would be on industry-interface research and development relevant to Assam, besides skill development benefitting the youths of the state to be employable here and elsewhere".

The Centre would have a share of 57.5 per cent, Assam government 35 per cent and the rest 7.5 per cent would be together held by the Tata Group, Oil India Ltd and Amtron" he added.

The first board of governors of the IIIT would be decided in consultatiojn with S Ramadorai, Former TCS chief and present advisor to the Prime Minister in the national skill development council.

Ramadorai said, "We want to start classes in August 2012 and students can join the Institute after class 12. We will also focus on undergraduate researh. We will also concentrate on local domains and needs and how to bridge the two".

Assam objects to Centre's suggestion on supra status to Nagas

Guwahati, Nov 20 (PTI) After Manipur, Assam today objected to the Centre's reported suggestion to grant a 'supra state body' status to Nagas settled across northeastern region. "There is even no hint of creation of a supra state. Before granting it, the government of India will certainly consult us before taking such a step. But if it is created then we will certainly oppose it," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters here. "There is no basis till now for granting a supra state body. Officially there is no such information. Our officers have inquired about it and have received no information," he said. He said maybe it was Naga rebel group NSCN-IM that was floating the idea of the 'supra state body'. "There will be problems if a supra state body is created. Can problems be solved simply by creating autonomous councils for different communities...more problems will instead be created," he pointed out. Elaborating, he said many Assamese, Bengalis and Tamils resided in Delhi but would supra state bodies be created for them there. Government spokesman and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had yesterday said the Assam government would take no steps which would affect the geographical boundary of the state, which had only some Zeme Nagas in North Cachhar Hills district who were only encroachers. Earlier, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh had written to the Centre seeking clarification on media reports that the government was considering granting a 'supra state body' status to Nagas living in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to enable them to preserve their culture, identity and customary laws under one body.

Naga supra state body: now Assam raises objection

Guwahati, Nov 18 (PTI) After Manipur, it is the turn of the Assam government to raise objection to the Centre's reported suggestion of granting a 'supra state body' status to the Nagas settled across the Northeastern region. "The Assam government will take no steps which will affect the state's geographical boundary," government spokesman and minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters here today. "Some of Assam's areas were under the occupation of Nagaland," he said. The border dispute between Assam and Nagaland has been continuing for decades. "There are no Naga areas in Assam and only some Zeme Nagas in the North Cachhar Hills district. The few Nagas who stay in other parts of the state are 'encroachers' and not inhabitants", the spokesman said. Zeme Naga community is one of the three sub-groups of Zeliangrong tribe. The government would not take any step that might affect the hopes and aspirations of the people of Assam, Sarma said. Earlier, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh had wrote to the Centre seeking clarification on media reports that the government was considering granting a 'supra state body' status to Nagas living in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to enable them preserve their culture, identity and customary laws under one body.

State not to allow inclusion of its territory in Nagalim

GUWAHATI: The state government will oppose any move by the Centre to give Nagas in Assam the right to infringe upon the state's territory in any manner.

There are reports of the Centre working with the NSCN(IM) on an accord with a provision to give Nagaland a special status under which Naga councils would be set up in Naga-dominated areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Though the state government is yet to receive any formal communication from the MHA on this issue, a senior state government official said, "The state government will not agree to any move by the Centre to allow Nagaland to make any kind of infringement on Assam territory."

However, government spokesman and health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, "There are no Naga-inhabited areas in Assam and any such move by the Centre will not affect the state."

State home secretary G D Tripathy told TOI, "We have not received any communication from the home ministry on the formation of Naga councils in Assam territory. We have also checked with the home ministry and it has denied any such move."

A source close to chief minister Tarun Gogoi said he is likely to meet home minister P Chidambaram on November 26 on the Naga issue. Gogoi had earlier opposed the territorial integration demanded by the NSCN(IM) and extension of the ceasefire to Naga-inhabited areas in the state.

The Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts of the state bordering Nagaland on the east have a substantial Naga population and the NSCN(IM) has been demanding the carving out of a greater 'Nagalim' by joining with Nagaland these Naga-inhabited areas of Assam as well similar areas in Arunachal Pradesh on Nagland's north and Manipur on its south.

The All Assam Students' Union also raised its voice against the reported move by the MHA to give Nagaland control over parts of the state. The students' body's general secretary, Tapan Kumar Gogoi, demanded both the Centre and state governments clarify their stands and issue whitepapers on the issue.

Manipur, too, has a sizeable Naga population and has been opposing tooth and nail the integration of Naga-inhabited areas in the state with Nagaland. The NSCN(IM) and the Centre signed a ceasefire agreement on August 1, 1997 and dialogue started in 1998.

Assam struggles with barbaric beliefs

By Kaushik Deka

Witch-hunt, animal and human sacrifice, black magic etc. continue to mar Assam's social landscape.

Witch-hunts, occult practices and an age-old tradition of animal sacrifice. Assam's social landscape continues to be locked in an uneasy coexistence between the modern and the barbaric. Over 10 people have been killed in witch-hunts this year. Black magic practitioners, called bej or ojha, still hold sway in wide swathes of tribal-dominated areas in the state. And faith often becomes a fig leaf to victimise opponents and settle personal scores.

On October 8, in Jaraiguri in Kokrajhar district, Bigiram Narzary, 60, and his wife Urbushi Narzary, 55, were stoned to death by people who alleged the couple was responsible for a number of deaths in the village in the past few months. On October 9, a seven-year-old child was reportedly sacrificed inside the camp of the 121 Border Security Force (bsf) Battalion at Paharinagar in West Garo Hills district, Meghalaya. The body was mutilated, the stomach cut into pieces and incense sticks forced into the forehead. Police said two bsf jawans and a tantrik from Mankachar, Assam, were involved.

Most witch-hunts reported this year were from Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Sonitpur districts. The practice is also prevalent in Kamrup (rural), Goalpara, Chirang, Baska, Lakhimpur and Karbi Anglong districts. The districts are marked by rampant illiteracy, poor accessibility and a severe lack of basic infrastructure, including in health care, education, sanitation, and potable water. Inevitably, locals fall back on ojhas and bejs to heal and, often, bring the dead back to life.

On October 9, Akkas Ali from Juria in Nagaon district was declared dead by doctors of snake bite. His family invited several ojhas who claimed they could revive him. In a similar case in Guwahati on September 20, ojhas attempted over three days to revive a 45-year-old woman, Sarala Devi, who died of snake bite. Her body was finally placed in a raft and set afloat on the Brahmaputra. "Someday, some ojha might find the body and bring her back to life," says a relative.

Branding someone a witch is often an excuse to settle scores, or gain at another's expense. "Some alleged witch-killings are nothing but the handiwork of the land mafia," says a police officer in Sonitpur district.

On June 22, police in Sonitpur found four bodies dumped in a ditch in Monabarie Tea Estate, Asia's largest. The bodies of Binanda Gaur, 46, his wife Karishma Gaur, 36, daughter Naina, 15, and a neighbour Manglu Mour, 14, bore multiple injury marks and the faces were burned with acid. Karishma and Naina had been declared witches by the plantation workers. Tiku Orang, one of those arrested, admitted they were instigated by a man named Surat Modi to accuse Binanda and his family members of practising witchcraft, causing plantation workers to fall sick. But Binanda's wife and daughter were the real targets. Both were raped before being killed.

Official reports say from 2001 to date, 61 people have been victims of witch-hunts, including 39 Bodos and 22 Adivasis. Altogether 86 cases have been registered and chargesheets filed in 54 cases. But there has not been a single conviction yet. Those conducting witch-hunts often get away because there are no witnesses or it's difficult to pin the blame since a group of people are acting in unison.

A rise in animal sacrifices is another facet of superstitious practices in the state. There are over 100 temples in Assam where the practice is prevalent, including the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. Numbers tell the story. At Bilweswar temple in Nalbari district, 20 buffaloes were sacrificed in 2010, but 32 have already been slaughtered this year. In Ugratara temple in Guwahati, the number increased from three to 13 over the corresponding period. Sources say 500 goats, 200 ducks and pigeons were sacrificed at Devi Doul in Sivasagar during Ashtami Puja this year. "Honestly speaking, it's impossible to stop this practice. All we can try is to reduce the numbers," says Bibhab Talukdar, head of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based ngo.

Several pressure groups and ngos are combating witch-hunts to little effect. In June this year, the All Bodo Students Union launched an awareness campaign in Kokrajhar. "Such campaigns will never be effective if the root causes of the menace-lack of education and health care-are not taken care of," says Indranee Dutta, director, Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development.

In 2001, Kula Saikia, the then dig (Western Range) of Assam Police, initiated a project called Prahari in Kokrajhar to intensify the drive against witch-hunting and run campaigns among the village chiefs and elders. The project has been virtually grounded for the last two years. "It had worked wonders in tackling the menace and must be revived," says Thebla Basumatary, a Kokrajhar resident. "It's not correct to say that cases of witch-hunting have risen. Due to Project Prahari and media spotlight, cases are being reported now," says Saikia.

The Assam State Women's Commission has initiated the process towards a law to deal with witch-hunting on the lines of those in states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. A three-member committee, that includes Saikia, was constituted to prepare a draft to be submitted to the government. It has met twice so far.

Assam gas project cost rises to Rs.8,920 crore

New Delhi : The government Wednesday revised upward the cost estimate of the Assam Gas Cracker project to Rs.8,920 crore from the earlier Rs.5,460.61 crore due to rise in prices of input and other costs.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the revised cost.
The project, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, will be funded by capital subsidy of Rs.4,690 crore. It will also have Rs.2,961 crore debt and Rs.1,269 crore equity.
The cabinet had in April 2006 approved the earlier estimate.
However, the project has suffered from time and cost overruns due to various reasons including time escalation, increase in infrastructural requirements and construction cost, labour unrest, prolonged monsoon and inadequate availability of skilled manpower at the site.
The project is considered crucial for the development of Assam and other states in the northeast.
"The project is in its fifth year of execution. Requisite land for the complex has been acquired and necessary land development is also in the completion stage," an official statement said.

Telangana echoes in Assam hills, lends support to Bodos

In a show of unity, the Telengana joint action committee and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Tuesday publicly lent their support to the movement of tribal Bodos in Assam for the creation of a separate state. Spearheading demands for the creation of smaller states, 22 groups nationwide decided to come under one platform to give fillip to their movements.

The two Andhra Pradesh groups asserted that their movements were based on similar lines, and hence their support to one another. “The Bodos’ demand is legitimate because they, like the people in Telengana, have been deprived of their rights over the years,” Jaya Vindhyala, president of PUCL, said on the sidelines of the rally organised by All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) for the creation of a separate state. The Bodos have been demanding a separate state for long by slicing out parts of Assam.

“The BSP, NCP, JD (U) and JD (S) have all endorsed the creation of smaller states. We don’t understand why the government is silent,” Vindhyala said. She added their visit to Assam was to unite their movements.

“We will soon form a federation of the groups demanding smaller states. Our national agenda will be to defeat the UPA and NDA,” Prof Gali Vinod Kumar, convenor of Telengana JAC, said.

“There are growing demands everywhere for the creation of smaller states. But the UPA as well as NDA instead of addressing them are playing games,” Kumar alleged.

He warned that if the government fails to address the demands by the winter session of Parliament, they will intensify their agitation. Kumar said the groups demanding smaller states have also kept open the option of foraying into electoral politics by 2014 to realise their demands.

The ABSU threatened indefinite blockades on three national highways and railway routes if the “central government continues deceiving us”. The Bodos are demanding a 50-50 division of Assam.

Hazarika's funeral creates world record

Legendary singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika's funeral has created a world record with the highest number of people paying tributes to him over two days though Michael Jackson memorial service holds record as the most watched funeral on television.
Hazarika's funeral creates world record
According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, more than five lakh people attended the funeral of 'The Bard of the Brahmaputra' and 30 lakh people watched it on television.
Hazarika died on November five in Mumbai and his body lay in state at the historic Judges Field for two days from the night of November seven for people to pay their homage before cremation on November nine.
The Wikipedia has a list of notable funerals representing historical funerals, based on both the number of attendants and estimated television audience.
The Michael Jackson memorial service on July 7, 2009, holds a record as the most watched funeral ever with 2.5 to 3 billion viewing it the world over.
More than two lakh people paid tributes to Princess Diana of Wales in September 1997 in London and Althorp, United Kingdom while 2.5 billion viewed it on television.
The list includes, among others, the funerals of Elvis Presley, Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr, Joseph Stalin, Joseph Tito, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Montazeri, Benigno Aquino, C R Annadurai and Aryton Senna.

Assam achieves third highest rate of progress in HDI

Guwahati, Nov 14 (PTI) Assam has achieved the third highest rate of progress in Human Development Index (HDI) among all major states in India, according to India Human Development Report, 2011 of the Planning Commission. Assam registered 32 per cent progress in HDI for 1999-2000 and 2007-08 and if it maintains the current rate of progress for another decade it was likely that its overall human development would be ahead of other states, the report pointed out. HDI reflects three main components of development - education, health and per capita income. The report said Assam has shown the highest rate of progress in income index and third highest rate of progress in health index but is lagging behind the national average in the education index. With a hunger index of 19.83 (as in 2008) and ranked fourth, Assam is doing better than the so-called developed states with high per capita income namely Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat, the report added.

Bomb threat hits rly services on Lumding-Silchar section

SILCHAR: Train services on the Lumding-Silchar section of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) remained cancelled from Tuesday evening till 7 am on Wednesday due to a bomb threat on the tracks.

A senior police officer in Haflong, the headquarters of Dima Hasao district, said authorities of NFR division at Lumding got information that there was a bomb planted on the tracks somewhere between Harangajao and Maibang stations in the section. Immediately after this, movement of all passenger and goods trains was stalled at different points on Tuesday evening to avoid any untoward incident and a massiver search operation was launched along the 71-km stretch between the two stations, he added.

Haflong police station OC Shanku Sargiari said Assam Police, along with the Army, GRP and RPF, launched an operation along the stretch of the railway track with the help of sniffer dogs for the bomb. The operation continued throughout the night. But at the end, nothing was found, said a relieved OC.

Due to the action of the authorities, the Lumding-Silchar Cachar Extress, Agartala-Lumding Express and some freight trains were stopped at different destinations throughout the night. The move, however, caused harassment to the passengers.

The officer said the trains were allowed to start for their destinations only at 7 am on Wednesday after ensuring that there was no bomb anywhere on the tracks. He added that precaution was necessary given the recent law and order situation in the hills district. "We are no more ready to take any risk. Therefore, people should bear with us," said the officer.

He added that security measures have been tightened throughout the Barail Hills range following a few incidents of killing, torching of houses and attack on trains by suspected militants since the first week of this month.

Centre assures Assam of adequate funds for development

The Centre has assured Assam to provide adequate funds for proper implementation of rural development schemes in the state. This was disclosed by Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh after reviewing the on-going schemes in Nagaon district in Central Assam on Wednesday.

He said, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, has accorded highest priority for upgradation of infrastructural facilities in rural areas of the state.

The Minister asked the state government to prepare appropriate schemes aimed at benefiting the rural needy people, employment generation and uplifting the economy. He assured that funds for the schemes will not be a problem.

He also visited some on-going rural development projects under Indira Awas Yojana and Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA in Samaguri Assembly Constituency in the district.

Delhi turn to work on Manas pact


Guwahati, Oct. 26: New Delhi is yet to respond to Thimphu’s comments on a draft memorandum of understanding on wildlife cooperation between India and Bhutan over a year ago to protect Manas on both sides of the international border.
A source said Bhutan has given its comments on the MoU, but there has been no response from New Delhi.
“A senior park official from Royal Manas Bhutan visited Manas National Park a couple of days back and said his government had given its comments on the draft and has agreed to the trans-boundary concept. It was now waiting for India to go ahead,” the source said.
There have been discussions between conservation agencies on the trans-boundary issues which are also supporting the cause and called for expeditious action from the host country. A number of training programmes has been organised in Bhutan to educate officials on wildlife issues.
At present, India has a memorandum of understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
The source said the draft memorandum of understanding has to be vetted by the ministry of home affairs and external affairs.
At present, collaboration and cooperation between the managers and staff of Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park is very strong but it needs to be formalised.
The Indian and Bhutanese park management and staff regularly visit each other to exchange information and can move freely across the border for this purpose.
Though there was joint camera trapping of tigers in both Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, the report has still not come out.
However, officials said before talking on trans-boundary issues — which is required as it will help wildlife conservation on both sides — it is important to put Manas National Park into proper shape.
There are a number of problems that still haunt Manas like the absence of control over the buffer areas. For instance, the field director of Manas has no control of these areas, which causes management problems.
The buffer area forests fall within the jurisdiction of the forest chief of Bodoland Territorial Council, whereas the core area is under the control of chief wildlife warden, Assam.
The joint IUCN/Unesco mission which visited Manas early this year has strongly encouraged both India and Bhutan to do a joint feasibility study on a trans-boundary expansion of the existing property to include larger areas of this landscape on both sides of the international border.
While Manas National Park has been declared out of danger, forest officials said it was time for Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site, which will help both the sides. India has already given its support for helping Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site.

Save-Sharmila team threatens hunger strike

Supporters of the campaign in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Oct. 27 : The activists of Kashmir to Imphal Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, who reached Guwahati today, said they would sit on a hunger strike if they were not allowed to meet the Iron Lady of Manipur in Imphal.
The campaigners will leave for Imphal tomorrow to meet Sharmila, garner public support there and put pressure on New Delhi to meet her demand of scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
“Our group comprises social and human rights activists from states outside the Northeast and we would like to meet Sharmila tomorrow. However, we have heard that no one is allowed to meet her. If we are not allowed to meet her, we will sit on a token hunger strike, which is the non-violent way of protesting, on October 28,” Faisal Khan, leader of National Alliance for People’s Movement, told The Telegraph after a meeting at the Asam Sahitya Sabha here.
The nationwide campaign started in Kashmir on October 16 and has traversed 10 states and travelled about 4,000km to gather public support against the act, which is termed “draconian” by its opponents.
The save-Sharmila campaign is a joint initiative of the people’s movement, Asha Parivar, Gandhi Global Family, Jagriti Mahila Samiti, Khudai Khidmatgar, Yuva Kosish, Mission Bharatiyam and a few other NGOs. Irom Sharmila has been on fast since November 2000 demanding scrapping of the army act from Manipur.
The group is demanding positive steps to hold talks with Sharmila, send an all-party delegation to Imphal, a team of the National Women’s Commission, National Human Rights Commission as well as a special medical team from New Delhi to examine her health condition.
The activists, speaking at the meeting here, accused the Centre of doing injustice to Sharmila by neglecting her demand to scrap the act.
“The people of Manipur have been fighting for long in support of Sharmila and her demand. However, their cry against the ‘black law’ has not been paid any heed by the government at New Delhi. Hence, we decided to form a platform of people from the rest of the country to put pressure on our political class at the Centre to meet Sharmila’s demand,” Khan said.
Santosh Upaddhay, an activist from Bihar who works with jail inmates in his home state, said, “I have been working in jails and I have seen that family members are allowed to meet inmates inside the jail. Unfortunately, Sharmila has been fighting for people of her state and yet is not allowed to meet anyone. This is nothing but violation of her fundamental rights. When the people of Manipur are against the draconian act, we believe that the Centre is doing injustice to the people.”
The campaign made stops at Ludhiana, Karnal, Panipat, Delhi, Aligarh, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Ranchi, Patna and Calcutta before reaching Guwahati.

Security placed on high alert following fresh attack by militants in Assam

Oct 16,  6:49 PM
In Assam, security has been placed on a high alert following fresh attack by militants in Dimasa tribe inhabited villages in North Cachar Hill district on Sunday. Additional forces are being deployed in the vulnerable areas of the hill district.

According to official sources, armed miscreants torched 16 more houses in Gaijen village, around 25 kilometres away from the Halflong Police Station this morning. Three persons, including two women were injured in the militants’ attack in the village. This was the second attack on the Dimasa villages during last 48 hours in the district.

AIR correspondent reports, the Police suspect the involvement of the newly formed underground outfit- Hills Tiger Force in the attack. Earlier on Friday, the miscreants had torched eight houses in Choto Longri village in the district.

The district authorities, organised peace meetings involving students and society leaders in the Dimasa, Kuki, Hmar and Jemi Naga tribes inhabited areas of the district to maintain communal harmony.

Ulfa deposits 57 weapons with Centre ahead of peace talks

GUWAHATI: The Centre has finally managed to convince the pro-talks Ulfa led by Arabinda Rajkhowa to deposit its weapons ahead of the peace negotiations scheduled for October 25. However, the faction has deposited just 57 assorted weapons, a number believed to be far smaller than the outfit's actual arsenal. A suspension of operations agreement was signed by the Centre on September 3.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said, "Initially, there was some objection from Ulfa leaders to depositing the weapons, but the government has convinced them to do so. It is a uniform policy followed with all outfits that before talks start they should deposit their weapons, stay in designated camps and not resort to any extortion."

Gogoi said the first round of talks between Ulfa and the Centre since the tripartite ceasefire agreement was signed last month will be held in New Delhi on October 25. A memorandum of settlement would also be signed with the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), another militant outfit of the state, on October 24 in New Delhi, the chief minister informed.

He added, "However, there are forces like the Maoists, ISI and anti-talk groups who are trying to derail the peace process that we are carrying out with militant groups. They know that once the process is completed, the state will make development in leaps and bounds."

Giving details of the deposit of weapons with the Centre, state home secretary G D Tripathi told TOI, "They have so far deposited 57 weapons but they might still have some weapons with them. We will be getting the rest of the arms as well."

The senior home department official added that the 57 deposited weapons are currently stored in the house of a pro-talks Ulfa leader, but are under the joint custody of the local police and the Ulfa leader. "They are under a double-lock safe custody, with keys to one lock with the local police officer and the other with the Ulfa leader. Very soon, we will be shifting these weapons to the camps where the Ulfa cadres will be staying while the peace talks proceed," Tripathi said.

The pro-talk Ulfa cadres will have to stay in designated camps, which they want to be named as Assam Naba Nirman Kendra. The home secretary said, "There will be nine such camps in the state and the camp at Goalpara is ready to be handed over to the cadres. When the cadres of that area move into the camp, we can shift the deposited weapons there."

The Ulfa faction had so far been refusing to deposit their weapons like other outfits that are holding peace talks with the government. The Ulfa leadership was demanding an "honourable" walk-in into the discussion without depositing weapons, but the Centre finally convinced the outfit to agree to its demand.

The home secretary said the Rajkhowa faction has also submitted a list of the cadres of the pro-talks Ulfa, who number 297.

Maoists tiptoe into Assam

Jorhat, Oct. 16 : At least 18 Maoist rebels were apprehended in Tinsukia district alone in the past month, including one arrested yesterday from Sadiya along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. This has triggered speculation among security forces that the Leftist rebel group is trying to fill the void created by Ulfa in Upper Assam .

“What is worrying is that most of these arrested persons are ethnic Assamese youths. A few of them have received training in Jharkhand and Manipur,” a senior police officer in Tinsukia district said. The officer said at least five youths who were arrested had received training in Jharkhand and two were trained by the NSCN (I-M) in Manipur.

Police also apprehended another Maoist rebel, Dibakar Das, from Sapekathi town in Sivasagar district yesterday. The police said Dibakar, who hails from Kothikhuda village in Sapekathi area, admitted to having links with the Maoists and he, along with one Aditya Bora, had been carrying out a recruitment drive recently.

Dibakar was arrested on the basis of information provided by two Maoist rebels apprehended from Sonari last month. Sources in the police headquarters said earlier it was suspected that an Adivasi militant organisation of the state had links with the Maoist rebels but in recent times it has come to light that Leftist rebel outfit has also managed to lure local youths. Many of them have joined the outfit.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said in Guwahati today that he had been iterating time and again about the Maoists trying to expand their network to Assam. “They are active and the developments definitely prove they were trying to get a toehold in the state,” Gogoi said.

Oust Paresh, CM to Myanmar

GUWAHATI: Myanmar's assurances that it would not allow its territory to be used for insurgent activities against India has prompted chief minister Tarun Gogoi to demand Ulfa hardliners' commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah's ouster from the neighbouring country.

A spokesman of the ministry of external affairs on Thursday, during a briefing on the ongoing visit of Myanmar president U Thein Sein to India, said in New Delhi on Friday that India has received assurances that Myanmar territory will not be allowed to be used for insurgent activities against India and both sides will remain in close and regular contact in this regard.

"This is very good news for the northeastern region and for Assam in particular as Ulfa and some other NE militant outfits are based in Myanmar. We know that Paresh Baruah is there too. Like Bhutan and then Bangladesh, I think Myanmar too should oust the Indian militant outfits and Paresh Baruah from its territory," Gogoi said here on Saturday.

He said though Myanmar is not an immediate neighbour of the state, having a good relationship with the country would not just improve the security situation in Assam but also help develop the economy of the region under India's Look East Policy.

"The hotbed of insurgency in the state is at the junction of Sadiya (upper Assam), Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. This area is interconnected and provides easy access to militants to sneak in and out of Myanmar," Gogoi said.

The chief minister added that the NDFB and Ulfa wreaked havoc in the state in throughout the 90s from their headquarters in Bhutan. After the 2003 Bhutan offensive, the two outfits shifted base to Bangladesh and then to Myanmar when Bangladesh clamped down on them, he said.

Recently, Myanmarese forces attacked camps of Indian militant outfits though no casualties were reported on either side. The Indian militants are sheltering at a unified camp in the Taga area of Kachin region in Myanmar, which is close to Indian territory. This camp houses the mobile military headquarters of Baruah's Ulfa faction and also serves as the base of eight other outfits from Manipur, including the NSCN(K).

"Ulfa has about 80 to 90 members in the unified camp. Top leaders of Baruah's group like Jibon Moran, Michael Deka Phukan, Bijoy Das and Sujeet Mohan are hiding at the camp. However, we are not sure about Baruah's presence. Ulfa has three other camps in Myanmar - the Arakan base with about six cadres, the Naga base with about eight inmates and the 28th battalion headquarters with just three rebels," said Gogoi.

Security sources said that besides Ulfa and NSCN(K), Myanmar is also the base of militant outfits including the PLA, the UNLF, Prepak and the KYKL from Manipur.

Indo-Myanmar pact to tackle insurgency in north-east: Gogoi

Guwahati, Oct 16 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the Indo-Myanmar agreement would benefit the security of the north-eastern region by tackling the menace of insurgency in the area. "The accord between visiting Myanmar president Thein Sein and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is good news for the north-east region from the security point of view", Gogoi told reporters here. "Insurgent outfits like ULFA, NSCN and other groups from the region have set up camps in Myanmar. Like Bangladesh did, we are now hopeful after the accord that Myanmar will also oust them from their territory for peace, security and stability in the region", Gogoi said. "Assam's uppermost tip Sadiya, adjacent Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar are the bastion of the militants. This will be tackled by the agreement to enhance effective cooperation and coordination between the security forces of the two countries," he added. The opening of the Stilwell Road, built during World War II in 1942 and passing through Burma would benefit Centre's Look East Policy by intensifying trading activities with South Asia to bring about overall socio-economic betterment in the area, the CM said.

Ulfa hardliners slam Rajkhowa for peace talks

GUWAHATI: The fight between Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and military boss Paresh Baruah is public now. Ahead of the first round of discussions by Ulfa's pro-talks faction on its charter of demands with the government, Baruah has slammed Rajkhowa for seeking an agreement with the government through talks.

An email statement by Baruah's faction stated, "If Rajkhowa goes against the ideologies of Ulfa and proceeds for signing any kind of agreement with the Centre, Ulfa, as a whole, will not accept that."

The anti-talks faction's publicty in-charge, Arunodoy Dohotiya, in the email said, "We do not believe in any kind of accord with the government about which Rajkhowa is speaking in public. There can be no agreement on sovereignty. It is earned through sacrifice. Ulfa was born to restore Assam's sovereignty."

Rajkhowa, on the flip side, defended his group's peace initiative and accused Baruah of acting against the greater interest of the people of the state. Rajkhowa, who was produced in the designated court on Friday in connection with four TADA cases, said outside the court, "Paresh Baruah has nowhere said that he is seeking a military solution. Let him make his stand clear on the peace process."

This was Rajkhowa's first appearance in the court after he was released from jail on bail to facilitate the peace process in January last. Rajkhowa's statement outside the court followed an email statement from Baruah's faction, which rejected the peace process.

The Rajkhowa faction, in its charter of demands submitted to the centre on August 5, dropped its sovereignty demand and replaced it with a proposal to initiate negotiations "to bring in measures, constitutional or otherwise, of wide scope and that certain urgent political, economic, social and cultural arrangement be undertaken and completed within a reasonable timeframe by the government of India to ensure a peaceful democratic solution to the historic Indo-Assam question."

Mahanta for fresh border demarcation

Silchar: AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on Thursday said there should be a fresh survey and demarcation of the 4096-km Indo-Bangla border, including the 267.3-km stretch along Assam.

After visiting the 92-km international border in Karimganj district, Mahanta told the assembly that the land-swap deal, signed between India and Bangladesh during the Dhaka visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and four NE chief ministers on September 6, was asfull of errors and that the interest of Assam has largely been sacrificed.

"The states of West Bengal and Meghalaya were benefited from the deal, but Assam lost its land. There should be a fresh survey and demarcation of the entire border. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi is not giving the true picture to the people of the state about the agreement," Mahanta told reporters in Karimganj on Thursday.

The former Assam chief minister also visited the disputed 2.874-km stretch in Lathitila-Dumabari and Madanpur-Palatol in Karimganj district and talked to farmers who lost their land to Bangladesh as a result of the deal. "The farmers showed me the land documents, which prove that the land in question, which was handed over to Bangladesh, belongs to them. How can the Centre sign such a deal without consulting Parliament. This is against the provisions of the Constitution and a compromise with sovereignty," said the AGP leader.

Mahanta also talked to Indian people who were barricaded out during construction of the barbed- wire fencing along the border.

He said people living on the other side of the border were living an inhuman life. "The government should immediately take measures to rehabilitate them," he said.

Mahanta said his party will raise the issue during the special session of assembly on October 17.

Under the protocol to the 1974 land boundary demarcation between India and Bangladesh, which was signed in the first week of September, 94.6 acres of land at Lalthila and 299.04 acres at Pallathal, which have been in adverse possession of Bangladesh since 1965, have also been ceded away to Bangladesh. The state also lost Boraibari village in Dhubri.

Mahanta alleged that his party lost the last assembly elections because of tampering of EVMs by the ruling party. He demanded that ballot papers should be used during the ensuing elections to ensure free and fair voting.

Asked about the delay in completion of the Lumdinga"Silchar broad gauge project under NF Railway, the senior AGP leader blamed both chief minister Tarun Gogoi and former Union minister Santosh Mohan Dev for this. asThe people of this region have been bearing the burnt due to political rivalry between the two senior Congress leaders," he said.

Three killed by lightning in Assam

Three persons, including a blind couple, were killed by lightning in separate incidents in Assam s Sonitpur district today as the flood situation in the district turned grim. Incessant rains fed the rivers, leading to alarming rise in water levels in Sonitpur and neighbouring districts. The blind couple, Madan Topno and his wife Phulmoni, were struck by lightning in Bindukuri area, leading to their deaths. Another person, Bhuju Kurmi, was also killed by lightening in the same area. Spiraling waters of the Jia Bhoroli, Jorakhor and other rivers have inundated several areas in Sonitpur. Flood waters have also reportedly entered parts of the airport in the district headquarters town of Tezpur. Though the runway is safe as of now, if waters continue to rise, the possibility of flood waters entering the runway has not been ruled out. Flood waters have also entered a training camp of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in Tezpur. In Golaghat district, several areas have been inundated as rivers in the district are being fed with water gushing from higher reaches in bordering Nagaland, which has witnessed heavy rains.

Illegal migration issue serious: PC

NEW DELHI, Aug 25 – Admitting that illegal migration is a serious problem, Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram today declined to link the undemarcated border with the influx of immigrants from Bangladesh. The Home Minister was responding to Members in the Rajya Sabha this morning during a Question Hour discussion on boundary dispute with the neighbouring country. Chidambaram observed that to call an immigrant as an infiltrator also may not be correct because infiltration is used in a very different context in connection with militancy. The undemarcated border is only 6.1 km and it lies in three segments. There is a good possibility that these matters will be resolved when the Prime Minister visits Bangladesh. Chidambaram said, “As far as illegal immigration from Bangladesh is concerned, yes, that is a problem. People from Bangladesh cross over and enter into India. While large numbers come on visas, a small number does come illegally. However, the Home Minister’s reply led further interruptions with AGP and BJP MPs lodging protests. “We apprehend them on the international border. I have the numbers that are apprehended at international border. In 2008 - 3,175, in 2009 - 2,460; in 2010 - 1,600, and in 2011 up to July – 453 illegal migrants were apprehended,” he reeled out. Amidst interruption by Members, who demanded a half-an-hour discussion, Chidambaram conceded that a large number of people have come across the border and they have not been apprehended. “I concede that. This is a very long border. It is a difficult border. We have a large number of BOPs. We are increasing the number of BOPs by almost 50 per cent. We are trying to strengthen the border, but given the nature of the terrain, the fact that people on either side of the border belong to the same racial and language group, there are great difficulties in identifying illegal immigrants,” he said. ‘There are no easy solutions, but we are doing our very best to stop illegal immigration,” he argued. Replying to questions, the Home Minister further clarified that there are no different standards between the western and eastern borders. Between India and Bangladesh, the agreement was that fencing will be erected beyond the 150 yards from the international border. “In some places, we have asked that we should be allowed to erect the fencing within 150 yards. “The misconception should be corrected, that if the fence is erected at 150 yards, the land on the other side of the fence belongs to Bangladesh. It is completely wrong. That land is Indian land. There are gates, there are BPOs,” he said. Treading cautiously citing friendly relations with Bangladesh, Chidambaram disclosed that that India and Bangladesh have identified a certain number of patches for joint inspection. At least 46 patches have been prioritized. In 34 patches, joint inspection between India and Bangladesh has been completed. Work has commenced in 27 cases, and, in the remaining cases, work will commence. “Wherever we want to build fence within 150 yards, we go through a procedure. It is a slow procedure. It is a procedure that requires negotiations with Bangladesh but we are addressing those problems, where the fence has to be put up within 150 yards of the international boundary.” Declining to give any time line for demarcating the boundary, Chidambaram said that on October 8, 2009, Bangladesh had given notice before the International Arbitration Tribunal. India has time to submit its counter memorial. Bangladesh has 51 enclaves inside the Indian territory and India has 111 enclaves inside the Bangladesh territory. As far as the number of people is concerned, the number in both categories of enclaves is not very large. The total number in all the enclaves put together is only 51,590. Earlier, Kumar Deepak Das said that there were many disputed lands on the Indo-Bangladesh border, such as Lathitilla-Dumabari. Some 50 acres of land, including a tea garden, that has been given to Bangladesh for construction of the Bhongir line in the Karimganj area. Making an intervention, Biren Baishya wanted a half-an-hour discussion on the issue. Thomas Sangma said that Meghalaya shares a large part of its border with Bangladesh but he claimed that the border fencing is done with a setback of 150 yards from the border pillars. As a result, India is losing a lot of land to Bangladesh and the neighbouring country is not constructing any border from their side, he pointed out.

Assam Rubber Board to bring 12,500 hectares under plantation

Supratim Dey / Kolkata/ Guwahati August 25, 2011, 0:31 IST The Rubber Board has indentified Assam as a” potential state” to “replicate the Tripura success story” and plans to bring 2 lakh hectares area under rubber plantation in the state in near future. It has a set a target to bring at least 12,500 hectares area under rubber plantation in Assam and 35,000 hectares in North East in the 12th five year plan. Sustained effort from the state government and the Rubber Board had made Tripura, a left ruled state in North East, the second largest producer of natural rubber in India within a short span. The rubber success story helped the state bring down militancy drastically over the years. If Rubber Board officials are to be believed, Assam can overtake Tripura within next 10 years or so, if a sustained effort is being made. “We have seen that the agro-climatic conditions of Assam and North East are suitable for rubber plantation. What has happened in Tripura can also happen in Assam and North East. We are going to be focussed on North East in the next 4-5 years,” said Sheela Thomas, Chairperson of Rubber Board. Tripura has shown that rubber can be very remunerative employment for the people, “if there is a whole hearted effort from the government”, Thomas said. She added that “productivity wise” too Assam “huge scope” for rubber plantation. Citing Kerala’s example, Thomas, however, cautioned that agricultural land should not be converted into rubber plantations as that would then lead to food scarcity in the state. AK Krishna Kumar, Executive Director of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS), who has been very instrumental in helping Tripura script the rubber success story, suggested the Assam government to launch a Rubber Mission, similar to one launched in the neighbouring state, for promoting rubber plantation in a focussed way. Researches are presently underway by the Rubber Board to develop a rubber clone exclusively for the North Eastern states. As per figures provided by the Rubber Board, Assam has 28,102 hectares of land under rubber plantation currently, against its potential of 2 lakh hectares. Tripura on the other hand, has 55,415 hectares of land under plantation as against its potential of 1 lakh hectares. The land under rubber plantation in Kerala, which is the largest rubber producing state in India, is 5,25,408 hectares. With demand for natural rubber growing fast, the deficit between availability and supply too is widening, prompting the Rubber Board to look for suitable areas for plantation. Presently, India’s rubber industry turnover is around Rs. 4,500 crore and the demand is expected to touch 1.78 lakh MT by 2025.


Guwahati, Aug 24 : Flash floods triggered by heavy rains continue to wreak havoc in Assam, with an estimated 900,000 people displaced and nine dead so far, officials said on Wednesday. A government bulletin said 12 of the 27 districts of Assam have been affected by floods, the eastern districts of Dhemaji and Lakhimpur being the worst affected. "So far, 9,11,080 people have been affected by the floods in 12 districts and 43 embankments breached," the government statement said. At least nine people have been swept away by the floods in the past one week, seven of them in Dhemaji district. A Central Water Commission bulletin said the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries were flowing above the danger mark in at least eight places. An estimated 250,000 people are now displaced in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji, about 400 km east of Assam's main city of Guwahati. "Most of the flood-hit people are now taking shelter on raised platforms, railway tracks, and in government schools and offices," a government spokesperson said. Torrents of flood waters have breached at least four vital mud embankments in eastern Assam, besides snapping road links. National Highway 52 in eastern Assam has been severely affected. A vast stretch of the Kaziranga National Park has come under water, forcing forest guards to move out of the sanctuary and making animals run for safety. "We are taking all possible measures to mitigate the woes of the flood-affected people," Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said.

Rs. 100-crore flood aid for Dhemaji

Sushanta Talukdar
Tarun Gogoi
Tarun Gogoi
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday announced a Rs. 100-crore package for the flood-hit Dhemaji district.
The announcement came during a tour of the district by Mr. Gogoi for a first-hand assessment of the flood devastation in the backward district.
He announced this while talking to the flood-affected people of the district, at Silapathar and Sisiborgaon.

The Chief Minister also announced ex-gratia of Rs. 1 lakh to the kin of each of those killed in the floods.
He said Rs. 25,000 would be given to the families whose concrete houses had been damaged by flood waters, and Rs. 10,000 to the families whose kutcha houses had been damaged.
Besides, the State government would also provide financial assistance to compensate for the loss of livestock and special assistance to students affected by floods.
Later, at a meeting with top officials of the district administration, the North East Frontier Railways and the Border Roads Organisation, Mr. Gogoi directed the departments to initiate measures to reverse the course of the River Gai which caused the devastation, and to restore communication network in the district.
He instructed the district administration to continue providing relief materials to the affected people.
The Northeast Frontier Railway, with support from the Railway Board, on Tuesday dispatched relief materials to the flood-affected people of Dhemaji and North Lakshimpur district.
The materials sent include about 1,700 dhotis, 1,600 sarees, 1,000 children's dresses, and 1,100 polythene sheets for protection from rain.
These are being handed over to the district authorities for further disbursement, stated an official release issued by chief public relations officer, N.F. Railway, S. Hajong.

Manipur observes 119th Patriots' Day

Imphal, Aug.24 (ANI): Manipuris recently observed the 119th Patriots' Day in capital Imphal in the presence of Governor Gurbachan Jagat and Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh. Floral tribute was paid to the war heroes of 1891. It maybe recalled that Prince Tikendrajit, General Thangal and Kajao Singh were hanged on August 13, 1891 for waging war against the British. The British hanged Prince Bir Tikendrajit and General Thangal at Pheidapung in Imphal in broad daylight before thousands of Manipuris for revolting against them. Government schools and colleges observed the day by singing patriotic songs, recitations and participation in drawing competitions. In Imphal, the event was observed in the Bir Tikendrajit Park.he sacrifice rendered by Prince Tikendrajit inspired India's freedom movement subsequently. Years later, the government of free India, with suggestion from Arun Chandra Guha, included the portrait of Bir Tikendrajit in the National Portrait Gallery inside Parliament. Governor Jagat said that Patriots' Day was a reminder of the heroic acts of Manipuris in different war fronts of the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891 that showed to the world that Manipuris had the sacrificing and unflinching courage to challenge the then mighty British Empire for the sake of their motherland. He further said that while celebrating the day, the present generation, along with paying our homage and tribute to the heroic forefathers of Manipur, should renew our pledge to work with dedication for the cause of our motherland. Jagat said Manipur should take steps to accelerate development for prosperity and welfare, as a part of India, its citizens had a bounden duty to make the country strong and prosperous. Chief Minister Singh said the patriotism of Prince Tikendrajit, General Thangal and others would serve as a guiding light to the people of the state. The chief minister also appealed to the people to stand united against the perpetrators of disunity in the state and move towards peace and prosperity. (ANI)

Rubber Board focus on Assam

GUWAHATI: The national Rubber Board is looking to make Assam one of the leading states in rubber production in the country. The board, which is focusing on the future of rubber production in the northeast, said Assam should come up with a comprehensive policy on rubber plantation and production. Tripura tops in rubber cultivation in the region, with 55,415 hectare under rubber plantation. Assam is in the second place with 28,102 hectare under rubber plantation. Tripura produces more than 18,455 tonne of rubber per annum and the volume shows a rising trend. In fact, Tripura has emerged as the second largest rubber producer in the country after Kerala. "The need of the hour is to formulate a comprehensive policy for rubber plantation and production in Assam. Tripura could march ahead in rubber production because of a focused policy approach in this sector. We want Assam comes up with a rubber policy as well," a senior Rubber Board official said over the phone from Kerala. The official added rubber cultivation is already happening in Assam. "What we need now is to give it a proper boost. So, a focused policy approach is needed to ensure Assam emerges as one of the top rubber-producing states in the country," he said. Considering the importance of rubber cultivation in Assam, chief minister Tarun Gogoi has called a meeting with officials of the Rubber Board on August 24. tnn The meeting will be a crucial one on shaping a policy-approach to rubber cultivation in Assam, the official said. The Rubber Board's focus has shifted from traditional rubber-producing belts like Kerala and Tamil Nadu to the northeast as far as plantation is concerned. The Tripura Rehabilitation Plantation Corporation Ltd (TRPCL) of the Tripura government played a crucial role in weaning tribals from shifting cultivation and making them shift to rubber plantation. "Rubber plantation in the northeast has scripted success stories in Tripura, and we are geared up with training and promotional exercises for popularizing rubber plantation in Assam," the official said. The board has set up a rubber research and training centre at Hahara in Sonapur on the outskirts of the city to train upcoming rubber cultivators in the state.

Ratan Tata calls on Assam CM

Ratan Tata calls on Assam CM
Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata paid a courtesy call on Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at his official residence here.
Tata, who arrived here last night, met Gogoi and held discussions on the progress of ongoing projects of the company in the state, official sources said.
Tata was on a visit to the state to hand over keys of 150 Nano cars to customers at two Tata Motors outlets here.
Speaking on the occasion, Tata said Assam was an important state for the company''s growth activities.
Tata Motors looks at the development of commercial vehicle as a total Indian effort without any collaboration with any foreign company, he added.

8 washed away in Assam flash floods

Lakhimpur, Aug 15 (PTI) At least eight people, including four of a family, were washed away and Assam-Arunachal Pradesh surface links disrupted by flash floods in Assam''s Dhemaji district today.
The eight were washed away at Sisibargaon by swollen waters of Gainadi, a major tributary of Brahmaputra river, following torrential rains in its upper reaches of Arunachal Pradesh, official sources said.
The rising water level swept away the family of four - a couple and their two children-- who had climbed a tree to save themselves, the sources said adding a search operation was on to trace them.
The flash floods inundated 35 villages in Sisibargaon revenue circle where houses were submerged under 5-feet water, the sources said.
A portion of a railway bridge on Rangiya-Murkongselek metre-gauge track was washed away by the surging waters leading to suspension of train services.
Gainadi has submerged NH-52 disrupting road communication to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, the sources added.

Fire crackers burst on train tracks in Assam

Goalpara, Aug 15 (PTI) Fire crackers kept inside a tin on the railway tracks by miscreants burst at Darrangiri in lower Assam's Goalpara district early this morning but none was injured.The fire crackers exploded around 2 am causing the people to assume that an improvised explosive devise (IED) had burst on the B G tracks, district additional superintendent of police Pradip Kumar Brahma told PTI.Denying media reports about a minor explosion of an IED on the railway tracks under Rongjuli police station, the police officer said, the crackers must have been planted by miscreants to create a fear psychosis among the people.Police patrolling was on to prevent subversive activities by insurgents in the district in view of Independence Day today, he added.

Assam to get Northeast's first integrated tea park

GUWAHATI: The first integrated tea park of the Northeast will come up at Chaygaon on the outskirts of Guwahati. Around Rs 23 crore will be invested in the project. The pre-feasibility report of the park is already prepared. Sources in Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) told ET: "We have identified 200 bighas of land for the tea park. We have already purchased and acquired 60 bighas. Process is on for procuring the remaining." Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, during his meeting with deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said that though tea is the biggest industry in Assam there was not a single integrated tea park in the state, which could cater to the needs of the industry. "The AIDC has taken steps to set up the tea park, which will create worldclass infrastructure for processing, warehousing, blending and packaging on the industry cluster concept. Tea export from the state will increase substantially with the operation of the park," the sources added. Based on the techno-economic feasibility report, AIDC has re-casted the project cost from Rs 39.67 crore to Rs 23.40 crore. The fund is expected to be generated from the leased out space and assistance to the state for developing export infrastructure and allied activities. Currently, Guwahati has around 14 lakh square feet of warehousing facilities scattered in different locations. Assam's tea production was estimated at 480.2 million kg (mkg) last year, which was down by 19.7 mkg compared to the previous year's production of 499.9 mkg. Tea plantation is expanding fast in non-traditional areas and the park is expected to assist the growers in the non-traditional areas. While Assam and Tripura are traditional tea-growing states, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim constitute the non-traditional areas. The Northeastern region accounts for 55% of the area under tea and 53% of the production. Tripura produces 7.5 mkg annually. The non-traditional areas together produce 2.98 mkg annually.

Assam Assets surpasses its targets

GUWAHATI: Oil and Natural gas Corporation Limited (Assam Assets) has announced that it has surpassed all targets in the first quarter of the current fiscal after over achieving the MoU goal of oil and natural gas production in the last financial year that has remained elusive for the last 25 years. Assam Assets manager BK Baruah said it is the achievement of the entire team which has worked relentlessly to achieve the targets which, at times, seemed impossible. "However, we have to understand that we have greater challenges ahead because of the monsoon. So, we have to prepare ourselves accordingly with a foolproof production plan during the monsoon season to accomplish our target in this quarter as well," he said. He added, "After a long time, we have tasted success which remained elusive for years. Let it not wither away as we go forward with our mission of bringing our past glory back to Assam Assets' crown. And for this, we need very calculated moves and a multidisciplinary team concept." A spokesman of the company said Assam Assets, which is one of the oldest assets in ONGC with a very high rate of reserves depletion, has been able to surpass all targets in the first quarter of the current fiscal except for gas sales which suffered a minor setback due to the lack of consumers. During the first quarter, oil production has been overachieved at 105.2 per cent (0.302 million metric tone) against the planned output of 0.287 MMT. Similarly, gas production rose by 102 per cent at 118.29 million metric standard cubic meters (MMSCM) against the planned production of 115.96 MMSCM. The spokesman said, "But what remains most significant is the performance of the drilling services which has surpassed its target at 120 per cent. While the planned target was for five wells, the actual number of wells drilled stood at six." Apart from its quest for excellence in the field of petroleum production, Assam Assets is not lagging behind in its social commitment. It has adopted the policy of inclusive growth as a responsible corporate citizen and played an important role in strengthening the fabrics of society with meaningful contributions in welfare and sustainable development activities involving all stakeholders, the spokesman added.

AASU plea for Assamese

Union submits demands to Gogoi

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Aug. 11: The All Assam Students’ Union today moved Dispur to make Assamese a compulsory subject in all schools in the state, including Kendriya Vidyalayas.
Submitting representations on policies and demands for improvement of education to chief minister Tarun Gogoi and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the AASU said all students, whether studying in government or private schools, must learn Assamese as a subject.
AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya told reporters here that the students’ organisation had asked the state government to come out with a language policy for school and college education in the state.
Bhattacharyya said the policy must make Assamese a compulsory subject for all schools situated in Assam, including the CBSE-affiliated Kendriya Vidyalayas and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, which now function in English and Hindi.
He said in many other states of the country, the Kendriya Vidyalayas had introduced vernacular languages, according to the rules of the Union government.
“It has been observed that while students from the government schools learn both vernacular and English languages, their counterparts in English medium and private schools do away with the vernacular language. Such discrimination cannot be accepted. All school students in the state must learn both Assamese and English with equal importance,” Bhattacharyya said.
The students’ union has also demanded the government to appoint quality teachers to enable vernacular medium students to have a strong command over English.
Bhattacharyya said though the government has made it compulsory to learn English from Class I, it has not yet appointed quality and adequate number of teachers for the purpose.
According to him, the representations submitted today highlighted 15 policies and 63 demands to bring about much desired changes and improvement in the state education sector. Besides demanding that educational institutions should be free from all political interference, the AASU representations have sought a systematic introduction of the pre-primary section to make primary education more attractive and dynamic.
“The pre-primary section for the group between three and five years should concentrate on textbook free education and healthy physical and mental growth of children by introducing them to an educational environment with total freedom. The pre-primary section must be introduced in the line of kindergarten and nursery sections of English medium schools,” Bhattacharyya said.
Opposing the sudden imposition of NCERT books at the primary level, the students’ union told the chief minister and education minister that literal translation of NCERT books must be avoided and textbooks containing local history and geography should be introduced for students.
He said the government must come out with strict regulations to monitor the functioning of private schools in terms of fixing the students’ fees and salary of teachers. Among other demands were the introduction of a scientific and modern evaluation system by the Board of Secondary Education, Assam, reintroduction of commerce as a subject in SEBA curriculum, setting up of engineering college and law college in every district and a one-time grant of Rs 100 crore to Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University.

Assam tea production rises by 24% in June

Aug 11, 4:56 PM
In Assam, tea production rose by 24 percent in the month of June, 2011. As per the recent report, the state produced 63 million kilograms in that month from 51 million kg in the year-ago period.
AIR correspondent reports, encouraged by the rise of quality tea production, the tea industry has decided to urge the government to declare tea as a national drink.
Assam produces over 51 per cent of the total tea of the country and contributes 13 percent to the total global tea production. The annual turnover of this industry in Assam is five thousand crore rupees and it employs 10 lakh workers.
On the other hand, Indians consume the highest volume of tea in the world. 80 per cent of the total tea produced in the country is consumed in the country itself. Around 85 percent of the Indian households drink tea.

Demand in LS for creation of Bodoland state

New Delhi: A demand for creation of a separate Bodoland state, carved out of Assam, was raised in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. Maintaining that the UPA-II has promised to create a separate Telangana state, Independent member S K Bwiswmuthiary demanded that the government take immediate measures for creation of a separate Bodoland state in line with Telangana. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, he urged the entire Parliament to support the demand of indigenous people for creation of Bodoland within the constitutional framework. "The UPA-II has announced a policy decision for creation of separate states like Telangana. The demand for bringing about a lasting solution to the Bodoland problem has been long overdue and urgent steps should be taken to resolve this issue," the Kokrajhar MP said. CPI(M) member Mahendra Kumar Roy raised the issue of tea garden workers in Siliguri who went on a three-day strike recently to demand higher wages. He sought the intervention of the Union Labour Ministry in the matter, saying no resolution has been found despite negotiations. Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP) wanted central assistance in creating mega food parks in Bikaner, while his party colleague sought establishment of Kendriya Vidyalaya in Nawada for the children of railway workers there.

Assam police make photo-identity proof mandatory for Internet Cafes


Guwahati, Aug. 9: Cyber cafe owners who fail to a record of the photo-identity proof of users or allow them to surf websites that contain pornographic or obscene material may run into trouble.
In a bid to tighten the noose around cyber cafes, Assam police will be implementing the IT (Guidelines for Cyber Cafe) Rules, 2011, in the state.
A senior police official said penal action would be initiated against errant cyber cafe owners, found to be violating the provisions of the recently framed rules. According to the rules, cyber cafes shall not allow any customer to use its services without submitting a photo identity. The intending user may establish his identify by producing a document that shall identify the users to the satisfaction of the cyber cafe.
Such documents may include identity cards issued by any school or college, credit cards or debit cards issued by a bank or post office, passports, voter identity cards, permanent account number (PAN) cards, photo-identity cards issued by the employer or any government agency and driving licences.
The source said there were more than 250 cyber cafes in the city but most of them were not following the rules, which were notified by the Centre in April this year.“The CID will convene a meeting of the associations of cyber cafe owners to make them aware of the rules. A separate meeting of officers-in-charge of police stations will also be held to brief them about the rules,” the source said.
In the absence of any monitoring, most cyber cafes were not following the rules that made it mandatory for them to maintain a log register containing a detailed record of all customers, including their name, address, contact number, age, gender, signing in and signing out timings, type and detail of identification document and the computer terminal identification number.
Cyber cafes would have to prepare a monthly report of the log register, showing date-wise details of usage of the computer resource and submit a copy of the same to the police. The cafes will also have to keep the records for at least a year and owners must ensure that the log was not tampered with.
“Since the rules have been notified and it clearly mentions that cyber cafes shall take sufficient precautions to ensure that their computer resources are not utilised for any illegal activities, we are now going to strictly enforce these rules. The owners will be held responsible and implicated for the illegal acts of their customers under the relevant provisions of the IT Act,” the source said.
The rules also stated that cyber cafes shall display a board, clearly visible to the users, prohibiting them from viewing pornographic sites as well as copying or downloading information that was prohibited by law.
“All the computers in the cyber cafes would have to be equipped with the commercially-available safety or filtering software so as to avoid access to websites relating to pornography, including child pornography or obscene information,” the source said.
“In case of minors, even if they are carrying identity cards, they will be permitted to use computers in a cyber cafe, but won’t be allowed inside cubicles if not accompanied by guardians or parents,” he said.
It also stipulated that the screen of all computers installed other than in partitions or cubicles shall face “outward”, that is, they shall face the common open space of the cyber cafe.
However, some cyber cafe owners feared that if they had to implement the rules, they may have to lose customers as many would feel that their privacy was being compromised.

Assamese welcome NDBF's unilateral ceasefire declaration

Guwahati, Aug 9 (ANI): People in Assam have welcomed the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) faction's ceasefire declaration. On July 27, the NDFB declared a unilateral ceasefire with the government with effect from August 1 for an indefinite period. The ceasefire will help in giving a boost to the peace process in Assam and pave the way for talks between anti talk NDFB and the government. The declaration came after an eleven-member delegation of the Bodo National Conference (BNC) met the jailed chairman of the outfit, Ranjan Daimary, at the Nagaon central jail on July 20. "Ranjan Daimary is coming forward for talks with the government. It is a good thing. Paresh Baruah should also do so. We the people of Assam want all the militant groups to come forward for talks," said Binanda Gogoi, a local. "We welcome the decision of NDFB to declare unilateral ceasefire with the government. We believe that they have respected the sentiments of the entire Bodo society. We now hope that now the government will also reciprocate back," said Anjali Diamary, sister of Ranjan Diamary NDFB is responsible for blasts, extortions and killings in the Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Darrang, Barpeta, Dhubri, Nalbari and Sonitpur districts.n 2008, it engineered serial blasts in Guwahati that left over a 100 people injured. (ANI)

Tea industry to seek IIT-G help to overcome labour shortage

Supratim Dey / Kolkata/ Guwahati August 9 : To overcome the problem of labour shortage, which has been “pinching” it hard of late, the tea industry of Assam will soon knock the doors of IIT-Guwahati to help it introduce more mechanisations into its activities. The tea industry has zeroed in on two-pronged approach to overcome the labour shortage problem, said Bidyananda Barkakoty, Chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA). Besides introducing more mechanisations into its activities, the tea industry will soon approach the Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) ministry to set up a skill development and training institute in Assam to impart skill based training both among blue and white collar workers. “Shortage of labour is going to be a major challenge for the tea industry. We have already started to feel the pinch. Absenteeism has already been an area of concern,” Barkakoty said. He said that though absenteeism among labourers was affecting tea production, shortages in many gardens had been felt even without absenteeism. “We have taken up the issue with Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) at several meetings,” added Barkakoty. The tea industry wants machines indigenously designed and developed based on the local conditions. “Research and Development (R&D) on mechanical harvesting, pruning and other field operations is the need of the hour. There are some existing machines made in Germany, Japan, China and other foreign countries. If the machines can be designed and developed indigenously based on the local conditions, then the cost of machines will come down to a considerable extent and will be more user friendly. We will seek the help of IIT Guwahati in this regard,” said Barkakoty. He also stressed that tea, being a labour intensive industry, skill development at all levels had been lagging behind, thereby adversely affecting production, productivity and livelihood enhancement.

Now, development the watchword in Assam's Baksa District

Guwahati, Aug 9 (ANI): With militancy on the decline in the northeast, development and progress have become the new watchwords in states such as Assam. An example of this is Baksa district in Bodoland territorial council, which is witnessing a rapid change through the introduction of a centrally sponsored scheme that has ensured the regular supply of electricity to the people. The four-member Dhanwar family has been living in the Borgaon village of Baksa District for years. They earn their livelihood from paddy cultivation. They are happy as their village is now witnessing development through many central schemes that have been implemented here. The regular supply of electricity has made a major difference - especially for children who are now able to in the night. This has happened under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural electrification scheme. "We got the connections just a month ago. It will be good for my children as they can now study late in the night," said Bolo Dhanwar. "The government has provided electricity connections. It has been very helpful. Earlier at least five to six liters of kerosene was needed but now only 1-2 liters is required," said Daisam Boro. The electrification scheme was launched in 2007 and was implemented by the Assam electricity Board and the Power Grid Corporation of the region. The scheme also covers many areas of Jorhat, Nalbari, Barpeta, Morigaon, Golaghat, Darrang, Kamrup, Lakimpur, Nagaon, Bongaigoan, Dhemaji, Dhubri, North Cachal Hill, Karbri Anglong, Tinsukia and Goalpara. 1,89,816 houses were electrified in 2009-10, 3,52,237 in 2010-11 and 50,163 homes have been electrified till now. "We have completed the first phase almost 23 to 26 districts. We have almost completed in Assam especially three districts Tinsukia, Goalpara and Jorhat," said S K Handique, Managing Director, ASEB Apart from electrification, other developmental projects like road construction have also being launched in the Baksa district. The district is nearly 100kms away from Guwahati and consists of many villages that are mainly inhibited by Bodos, Santhals and some other tribes. (ANI)

Assam tea workers’ return to their roots

In what has been seen as an alarming development in the 180-year-old plantation industry of Assam, a large number of tea plantation workers are leaving their jobs and going back to their ancestral homes outside Assam. Fearing that this reverse migration of tea garden workers may aggravate the shortage workers further, the chairman of North Eastern Tea Association Bidyananda Barkakoty revealed, “Reverse migration is taking place in some areas. About 300 families have left the tea estate and gone back to Telangana.” Disclosing this alarming trend of reverse migration at biennial general meeting of the association at Golaghat on Saturday, Mr Barkakoty said, “Shortage of labour is going to be a major challenge for the tea industry. We have already started feeling the pinch. Absenteeism has already been an area of concern. We have taken up this issue with Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) at several meetings.” He also clarified that absenteeism and shortage of labour, though inter-related — are two different issue. “Shortage of workers in many gardens are felt even without absenteeism,” he added. Mr Bidyananda Barkakoty, however, declined to divulge the name of the tea estate, but confirmed that migration of tea garden workers from Assam to Kerala had also been noticed. To overcome the problem of shortage of manpower and absenteeism, the NETA chairman stressed the need of adopting a multi-pronged strategy of mechanisation and setting up a human resource development (HRD) institute. “The changing lifestyle and modern living standards require an overhauling of the traditional management style,”Mr Barkakoty said.

Aasu slams NHPC's quake-proof claim on Subansiri dam

GUWAHATI: The All Assam Students' Union (Aasu ) on Sunday came down heavily on the NHPC's claim that the Lower Subansiri hydro-electric dam has been designed in way so that it can withstand any high seismic activity. The students' union alleged that the NHPC officials were trying to distort truth for their personal gain.

"The NHPC has tried to avoid the real scenario. We will like to ask them to sit with experts of Gauhati University and IIT Guwahati here," Aasu president Shankar Prasad Rai, adding, "NHPC has been silent on the cumulative downstream impact on the people living on the downstream areas if the Lower Subansiri hydro-electric dam and 168 other hydro-projects come up in Arunachal Pradesh."

In 2006, Rai claimed, "NHPC had admitted that it was not going ahead with the project without a proper study on the dams' downstream effects."

Last week, senior NHPC officials had claimed that the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri project has been designed after a detailed investigation and studies on tectonic features of the dam site.

Flood fury on, 20 Jorhat villages hit

JORHAT: The flood situation in the state remained grim for the third consecutive day on Sunday. Besides Lakhimpur district, more than 20 villages in Jorhat district have been affected by a fresh wave of floods since Sunday morning. The floodwaters also submerged a part of NH 37 in Jorhat, posing a threat to communication with the three upper Assam districts of Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia.

Deputy commissioner (Jorhat) Ramesh Chand Jain said, "The fresh wave of floods at Teok, Mudoijan and Kakojan rivers affected about 400 families under Teok revenue circle in the district. Moreover, floodwaters also submerged several parts of the NH 37 in Teok area since this morning." The floods also hit about 800 families in Jorhat West revenue circle today. This wave of floods has affected more than 13 villages in Solmara area in the district so far, he added.

On the other hand, the flood situation in Lakhimpur district remained stable on Sunday as there was no report of fresh floods since Saturday evening. "The water levels in Dikrong and Durpang rivers are now steady and no report of fresh floods has been received since Saturday. In many places, the water levels are receding and nature's fury is showing sign of abating," said Lakhimpur DC Anwarwiddin Choudhary.

"However, the waterlogging problem in several areas under Nauboicha, Bihpuria and Narayanpur circles caused some impact in a few villages in the district so far," he added.

About 50,000 people of more than 60 villages under Bihpuria, Narayanpur and Nauboicha circles in Lakhimpur district have been affected by the second phase of floods since Thursday afternoon. Many people in the district became homeless while the deluge caused widespread damages to roads, cropland and properties flooded by Dikrong, Chingra and Durpang rivers.

This apart, erosion caused by the Boginadi River took a serious turn on Saturday, affecting more than 500 families. "The erosion remained unabated and a vast area was engulfed by the river on Sunday," a district administration official said.

Death of a campaigner: corrupt Indian officials blamed in killing of activist

Arup Kalita's body was found this week, his skeletal remains finally recovered from the shallow depths a pond in the small village of Kukurmara in India's north-eastern fringes.

Arup Kalita
Arup Kalita, left, and his belongings that were found with his remains Photo: UPEN DEKA/BISWAJIT DAS
Dean Nelson
By Dean Nelson,

Kukurmara, Assam:
His mobile phone, motor bike keys, driving licence and trousers were all discovered along with his bones.
How he got there was no surprise to his grieving family. They knew the 29-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was dead when he when he disappeared in August last year. They had heard he had been beaten, tortured and then his corpse dumped into the pond where it was apparently trampled deep into the mud below by an elephant.
But what may be surprising to some is the location of his resting place – in the official grounds of Assam's forestry department.
His family and supporters say that location is the key. All believe he has paid the price for India's failure to tackle corruption at all levels.
Mr Kalita's apparent murder makes him the 18th anti-corruption crusader to be killed in India since 2008. Others include several campaigners who used Right to Information legislation to uncover corruption in government aid schemes for India's poorest, one of the country's leading crime reporters who exposed Mumbai's 'diesel mafia,' and a civil servant who was burned alive by oil smugglers.
Campaigners say the killing in Kukurmara, and the difficulty in getting it investigated, highlights the need now to create a powerful new watchdog to hold India's rich and powerful to account, from village officials to government ministers, on local and national levels.
Indeed even as Mr Kalita's body was being uncovered the Indian government was facing serious allegations of corruption in the award of mobile phone operator licences and contracts for last year's Delhi Commonwealth Games. One former minister is currently in jail, along with the head of the Commonwealth Games Organising committee and the daughter of the ruling Congress Party's main coalition partner.
The corruption Mr Kalita believed he had uncovered though, and which his family believe led to his death, was on an altogether smaller scale. But it did, in his view, threaten the forest environment in Assam's Kamrup West, where illegal logging is devastating the state's protected jungle.
Mr Kalita was a leader of the local All-Assam Non-Tribal Students Union which had been campaigning against local sand smugglers. The smugglers, who transport sand dug from a local river bed without paying taxes, were damaging local farmers' fields by spilling sand on crops and driving over planted plots.
His sister Manju Kalita Das told The Daily Telegraph he had visited the local Forest Department in August last year to complain about the sand-mining but was criticised by officials and local sand-diggers who were in the office.
"They said 'we also have stomachs and families to feed. We want this business to run, why are you making these complaints?' They feared they would lose their livelihoods."
His fellow student union leader Dhiren Mali, who was with him said he had been warned by a senior official of "grave consequences" if he did not abandon his complaints. "The official said 'I will teach you a lesson,'" he added.
Mr Mali said the union resolved to step up its campaign and a few days later received a tip that trucks of illegal timber were being covered with sand to smuggle them out of the district. They tracked the trucks as they headed towards the Kukurmara Forest Department office and raced ahead to urge officials to intercept them and arrest the drivers.
"The Forest officials said 'why have you come here?' Then they started hitting us, punching us in the head. I couldn't see Arup and when I was finally rescued by police they said Arup was OK," he said. He never saw his friend again.
Mr Kalita's cousin Pradip Kalita said he had been told by a police officer that they been unable to force their way in when they arrived on the scene but had heard Arup screaming and believed he had been tortured.
He said neighbours and forest dwellers nearby told him they had seen the department's elephant wading through the tiny pond stamping its feet shortly after the commotion and suspect it had been used to crush his body into the mud.
A spokesman for the Forest Department department declined to comment, but Police Superintendent A.J Buruah said an investigation is continuing and results of a post-mortem are pending. One forestry official has been arrested and four have absconded since the body was found.
He said some officials had claimed there had been a "scuffle" and Mr Kalita had slipped into the pond and drowned as he fled his assailants. "We'll find the cause of death, I want to give them [Mr Kalita's family] justice," he said.
The family has no doubt what and who caused their brother's death. "He has made so many accusations, so obviously they regarded him as an enemy," said his sister Manju. The family point out that it took a High Court order to force an investigation into the death and this was only carried out after a further demand.
Both family and supporters feel Mr Kalita's death is indicative of a failure to tackle corruption in India more widely.
Prashant Bhushan, one of India's top lawyers and anti-corruption campaigners, agreed. "It is a blue collar mafia and it is increasingly resorting to violence. It is bound to happen if you allow corruption to go unchecked, then the mafia resorts to violence against anti-corruption activists."
Her mother, who was too distraught to comment, wailed her son’s name from her bed as her daughter listed their demands. They want £14,000 and a government job for one of their relatives as compensation. “And we want the culprits to be caught and given exemplary punishment,” she added.
Former Chief Conservator of Forests M.C Malakar said Mr Kalita’s complaints on corruption and official collusion in timber smuggling had some basis in fact. Illegal logging is destroying the state’s forests, he said, and some officials had “joined the criminals.”
“The situation here is volatile. There is an insurgency and criminals have taken advantage. It’s difficult for our officials to go into the forest. There have been assault cases, and some officials might have joined the criminals. Timber has been stolen…officers have been suspended and action taken against them,” he said.