Eco-tourism changing State rural economy

GUWAHATI, March 29 – The concept of eco-tourism which has found favour especially with the enterprising youth of the State is gradually changing rural economy, with many educated boys and girls getting involved with such tourism projects.

As this concept has been gaining ground, it has popularised ideas such as eco picnics, eco excursions etc amongst the nature lovers and students and to further propel ecotourism in the State, the Ecotourism Society of Northeast India has come up with a project of eco excursion for educational institutions of the region.

It needs to be mentioned here that another group of dedicated youths under the banner of Wave Ecotourism has been organising eco picnics for students regularly. As part of such eco picnic, the students learn to respond to nature and act as her sentinel.

According to functionaries of Ecotourism Society of Northeast India, the decision to launch eco excursions was taken in the backdrop of lack of exposure of the students to the rich treasures of the region.

“The times have changed. Gone are the days when excursions were just a fun outing. Now excursions are learning oriented, to understand the world around us, to find out the unexplored,” said Gautam Dutta, president of the society.

Dutta added that such eco excursion would introduce the young generation to the unexplored nooks and corner of their region and would go a long way in boosting the eco tourism efforts.

The main objectives of the eco excursions will be to highlight the eco tourism resources of North East India among the young generation, to create awareness among the students and motivate them towards the tourism industry.

Some of the destinations on such eco excursions will be Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Sivasagar, Tawang, Bomdilla, Bhalukpong, Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park etc, informed Dutta.

Dissension prevails among leading parties in Kokrajhar

KOKRAJHAR, March 27 – As the 13th Assam Assembly elections approach, internal crisis among some leading political parties in Kokrajhar at the headquarters of BTAD has grown as cracks have developed among party workers in some segments.

Significantly, the ruling political party BPF and its ally the Congress both have their share of the problem.

In a political shift, Parameswar Brahma, the sitting MLA and Parliamentary Secretary of Assam from BPF quit the party as he did not get the BPF ticket this time. Strong resentment prevails among BPF workers as a result of which the BPF had to change its candidate from Chapaguri LAC in which sitting MLA Thaneswar Basumatary was replaced by Hitesh Basumatary, EM of BTC. Similarly a BPF candidate Iyat Ali Sarkar from Sorbhog has been unexpectedly withdrawn with a compromise to leave the seat for the Congress candidate.

On the other hand, strong resentment also prevails over the selection of Rina Brahma from Kokrajhar West by the Congress party. Further the BJP candidate Santosh Tarafdar selected by the party in Gossaigaon LAC has also created dissatisfaction among a large section of BJP workers in Kokrajhar district.

Non-political bodies agenda: Several non-political organisations having stronghold across communities are emerging as key factors in wooing voters on the issues dominating in this area.

A leading Bodo organisation ABSU has already appealed to the Bodo political parties for unification move in view of the common issue of Bodoland Statehood claiming that the struggle of Bodo movement is as yet incomplete. At the same time, several demands of ABSU particularly in the field of education and social upliftment are yet to be achieved. However, the ABSU is keeping its stand of not taking side with any political party. It is therefore pertinent that on the pending demands ABSU may have a discontent over governance.

On the other hand, AKRSU which has a strong hold over the Rajbongshi communities in this region has been mounting their struggle for ST status and separate Kamatapur Statehood, could not find much favour with the government so far and it has appealed to this community not to vote for the Congress party. As such, a larger segment may be influenced by the decision of AKRSU to take the side of any candidate in the fray.

Further, AASAA alongwith other non-political organisations among Adivasis has also been repeatedly asking for a clear-cut decision of the government, primarily in respect of the ST status of this backward community. At the same time they have also focused on some horrible recent incidents of eviction in the Lungsung forest areas in Kokrajhar apart from the killing incident of leaders like Bosco Charmaco etc.

As such rising above political lines these non-political organisations have rational issues which are yet to be satisfactorily addressed.

Mahanta owns no car, has Rs 11,117 in hand

Guwahati:  Two time former chief minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has no car and has cash balance of only Rs. 11,117 in hand.

According to the affidavit filed in the Nagaon Deputy Commissioner's court, Mahanta who is contesting from two assembly constituencies of Bahrampur and Samuguri has declared his total movable assets to be Rs. 19,17,947.
Stating that he owns no vehicle, the former chief minister declared that the value of his plot of land was Rs. ten lakh and he has cash of Rs. 11,117.

In the affidavit filed, Mahanta said the market price of his assets currently was worth Rs. 12,10,000 while he has UTI bonds worth Rs. 25,200 and NSC postal savings amounting to Rs. 10,3358 and jewellery and gold worth Rs. 87,500.
The 53 year-old former chief minister has stated that his loans from bank stands at Rs. 29,998.
In contrast, his wife and former MP Dr Jayashree Goswami Mahanta is richer than him as she owns an ambassador car worth Rs. 97,650.

The wife of the former chief minister has a total cash in hand of Rs. 1,23,531 and a landed property in the Kharguli area of Guwahati valued Rs. 42,05,000.

According to the affidavit, her movable assets stand at Rs. 1,37,84,276 and the total market value at present of her assets are Rs. 2,67,50,000.

While her movable assets stands at Rs. 13,784,276, the UTI bond savings total Rs. 22,04,399 and NSC postal savings at Rs. 14,46,232.

The jewellery and gold of Dr Jayashree Goswami Mahanta is worth Rs. 2,25,000 and her outstanding bank loan is Rs. 1,56,22,135.

I will return to power, says Assam CM Gogoi

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said he is confident of scoring a hat-trick by returning to power after the Assembly elections in April. "This time we will certainly cross the half-way mark by getting around 64 seats," he told a group of visiting journalists at his residence here. Congress, led by Gogoi who is ruling the state for 10 years, has 54 seats in the present Assembly and is supported by the Bodoland People's Front.
On terrorism affecting the state's development, the Chief Minister said insurgency has failed to stem the growth process and with further progress the terror threat will be wiped out. "Normalcy in the state will come with the development only," he asserted and said development is a major poll-plank this time. He also refuted charges of corruption against him and his government.
The Congress leader said in his next term the priorities will be employment-oriented education, skill development of skills and law and order. Gogoi also aims to double the per capita income of the state from present level of Rs 29,000.
I will return to power, says Assam CM Gogoi
On problems being faced by the state silk industry, he promised to provide subsidy on the yarn and convert handlooms into powerlooms. Gogoi claimed the condition of tribals in Assam is better than other states.
Referring to education scenario in the state, the Chief Minister said his government is not only distributing free cycles to the students, but also providing laptops to those who scored 60 per cent and above in the high school
examination. He claimed during his 10-year-rule, "the state has progressed a lot and this much development had not taken place in any other tenure."
Meanwhile, Governor J B Pattnaik, interacting with the journalists highlighted the need to provide employment to the tribals in police and para-military forces in order to bring in the mainstream. He said Assam has lot of potential for developing hydro-power, but asserted it should not be done at the cost of people.
The 126-member Assam Assembly will go for the polls on April 4 and 11.

Mahanta Files Complaint With EC Against Cong

Leader of the Opposition and former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta today said his party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has filed a complaint with the state election commission against the ruling Congress.

A private satellite TV channel and a local channel of Nagaon had aired paid news supporting the Congress for which the complaint was filed, Mahanta told PTI here.

Without naming the channels, the two-time former chief minister threatened to move court if the EC failed to take action.

Mahanta is the party's nominee in two constituencies of Bahrampur and Samuguri which falls under Nagaon district.

Money seized from businessman

Guwahati, Mar 20 : Several lakhs of rupees was today seized from a businessman at Satmile area in Assam's main city Guwahati today.

Police said the seizure was made during a routine check at an inter-state check-post with Meghalaya.

The businessman, Nanda Kishore Prajapati, was on way to Guwahati from Garo hills in Meghalaya. Police seized Rs 7.40 lakh from Prajapati.

Over Rs 40 lakh in cash has been recovered from various places in the run-up to the election. Assam goes to the polls on April 4 and 11.

Handique faces hurdle of unkept promises

JORHAT: He is the only Union minister from Assam and plays a very important role during every election. His experience as a leading politician from the state is vast. Being a Tai Ahom himself, he commands immense respect among people of the community who comprise a major chunk of the population in Jorhat and Sivasagar districts an advantage which will surely help him in leading Congress's election chariot this time too.

But the 2011 assembly elections may be a tough one for Handique, a close confidant of chief minister Tarun Gogoi, as the popularity of the Union minister is low in many parts of upper Assam due to the anti-incumbency factor.

A Congress leader said Handique will address party rallies in all ten assembly segments Jorhat, Titabor, Teok, Mariani, Sivasagar, Amguri, Mahmora, Thaora, Sonari and Nazira under the former's parliamentary constituency. But the influence of the Union minister seems to have diminished in some areas due to his unkept promises.

Aasu's Sivasagar unit president Pranab Chetia said, "In Sivasagar, the DoNER minister is not an influential person any longer because he hasn't done anything remarkable in the six LACs of Sivasagar, Mahmora, Sonari, Thaora, Amguri and Nazira which fall under Handique's parliamentary constituency. Besides, there is strong resentment among people of the constituencies bordering Sonari, Amguri and Nazira for the minister's failure to raise the demand for a solution to border disputes in Parliament."

He added that although the problem has taken a serious turn, Handique was just a mute spectator for which his popularity has waned to a large extent. "We think the minister will not play an important role in the coming polls," he said.

Tileswar Bordoloi, a freedom fighter from Jorhat, said, "Handique has failed to live up to his promises. During his tenure, he has not undertaken any remarkable project in his constituency which has eroded his support base." He added that the minister's pledge of constructing a mega water supply project in Jorhat, nationalization of the Tocklai Research Association and a bird sanctuary in Jorhat are yet to see the light of the day. He said the Union minister, who was junior to him in school, was yet to pay the full money meant for constructing the Mukti Jugaru Sanmilan Bhawan. "Handique had assured us to pay Rs 6.5 lakh for the construction of Mukti Jugaru Sanmilan Bhawan. But he has given only Rs 1.5 lakh so far," he added.

Talking to TOI recently, the Union minister had said, "The DoNER ministry has sanctioned funds for the Jorhat water supply project which will start soon. I have also written a letter to the Union commerce minister to take necessary steps on the nationalization of the Tocklai research institute."

Despite all shortcomings, Handique is still expected to play a pivotal role in the 10 assembly segments of Jorhat parliamentary constituency. "As a senior Congress leader, Handique is very popular among voters. He will play a key role in favour of Congress in the coming elections because of his influence on the electorate of Jorhat," said a Congress worker.

Handique started his political carrier as a member of Assam assembly in 1972. He was also the member of Rajya Sabha in 1980. Thereafter, he represented the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991 for the first time. He won the Jorhat Lok Sabha seat for the sixth consecutive term in 2009 and went on to become the cabinet minister of mines and DoNER. However, in January this year, he was dropped from the ministry of mines.

BJP has ‘secret understanding’ with ULFA: Gogoi

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday accused the AGP and BJP of having a “secret understanding” with the ULFA.

Addressing a press conference, the veteran Congress leader said: “Why doesn’t the ULFA speak against the AGP and BJP? The anwer is simple.

The AGP and BJP, which have a secret understanding between them, also have a secret understanding with ULFA.

That ULFA has asked the people not to vote for the Congress is enough to prove that the outfit has indirectly called for voting for the AGP and BJP.”

“ULFA wants a government of the AGP and BJP. At least that is my inference,” he said. He also suspected a “secret understanding” between the AGP, BJP and AUDF: “Otherwise why would AUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal say he was fielding candidates in most seats to defeat the Congress?”

Assam scam accused files poll papers from jail

Guwahati, Mar 18 (IANS) Mohit Hojai, one of the key accused in a Rs.1,000-crore financial scam, Thursday filed his nomination papers from jail for the Assam assembly elections as a representative of a regional party, which is an ally of the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

Hojai, who has also been formally charged in court by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case, has been nominated as candidate for the Haflong assembly constituency in Assam's North Cachar Hills district by the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC).

Hojai was arrested in 2009.

The NIA, which investigates terror related crimes, has come up with startling revelations that government funds worth millions of rupees have been going to the coffers of a separatist group in Assam.

The findings point to a politician-militant-bureaucrat-contractor nexus in Assam.

The NIA, in its second charge sheet submitted in the court of special judge in Guwahati Oct 18, said elected members of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) helped the outlawed Jewel Garlosa faction of the Dima Halim Daogah (DHD-J) siphon off government funds.

'The main activity of the DHD-J after 2006 was to siphon off government funds through extortion with the help of elected members of the council, contractors and government servants, in order to finance their subversive activities,' says the NIA charge sheet, a copy of which is available with IANS.

Among the 16 people formally charged by the NIA are Hojai, a politician, bureaucrat R.H. Khan, who was the deputy director of the social welfare department, contractor Jibangshu Paul, and DFD-J leader Jewel Garolosa.

Hojai's candidature could possibly weaken the AGP's vow to make the Rs.1,000 crore financial scam an election issue to pin down the ruling Congress.

'The AGP has joined hands with the ASDC and you find the prime accused in the Rs.1,000 crore scam nominated as candidate of the ASDC and AGP silently supporting the whole dirty game,' a senior Congress leader said.

Trinamool to go it alone in Assam polls

Silchar: While the Trinamool Congress is keen to enter into an electoral alliance with its UPA ally Congress in West Bengal, it has gone its own way in Assam, deciding to fight the poll alone.

The party has already announced its first list of 55 candidates, including former minister Bijit Saikia from Tezpur Assembly seat, and is scheduled to announce a second list soon.

It will contest 12 of the 15 Assembly seats in the Barak valley where there is a sizeable presence of Bengalis, and is confident of winning at least seven of them.

In 2009, Trinamool had sprung a surprise by winning five Assembly seats in Arunachal Pradesh out of 28 seats where it had put up candidates to make inroads in the Northeast for the first time.

The candidates it had fielded in Arunachal comprised mostly those who were denied tickets by the Congress - a fact which is in display in Assam too.

In Manipur, the party had won a by-election from Konthoujam Assembly seat last month defeating a Congress rival after forming an electoral alliance with the BJP.

Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee will campaign for the party in the state and is likely to address five rallies at Silchar and Karimganj, Trinamool general secretary Neelotpal Das said.

Assam poised for change of guard

GUWAHATI: Launching an attack against the ruling Congress government in Assam, BJP on Wednesday said people of the state will vote against corruption, price rise and bad law and order in the assembly elections.

"The Congress is daydreaming that people will give its mandate for the third term. The voting trend in the country today is for performance and governance. In the last 10 years, the Congress has failed miserably in all parameters of governance. So, Assam is poised for a change this time," said BJP national spokesperson Prakash Javedkar. Javedkar, who will be present during the filing of nomination of BJP candidates in Tezpur on Thursday, alleged that the last 10 years saw 12,000 deaths in militancy-related violence, 8000 cases of kidnapping and 5,000 incidents of extortion.

"Corruption, bad law and order and price rise are the worst failures of Congress. Today, Assam has about 50 per cent population living below the poverty line. The unemployment figure has touched 23 lakh which is highest in the country. Agriculture growth in the state is below two per cent," added Javedkar.

The BJP leader, however, claimed that states ruled by the saffron party were faring better than Congress-ruled states in terms of governance and development. The saffron party is expected to release its manifesto next week.

Opposition to focus on corruption and price rise in Assam polls

Guwahati, Mar 17 : With electioneering slowly intensifying in the state in view of the next months’ two phase assembly polls, corruption and price rise might upset the prospect of the ruling Congress party, which is seeking a third consecutive term to power. The opposition parties have identified corruption and price rise as two potential weapons to attack the Congress party.

The unearthing of a series of multi-crore scams in the fag end of the second term of the Tarun Gogoi government’s rule is making the Congress camp jittery. The scams, on the other hand, have come something like godsend for the opposition parties, particularly the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which was desperately in search of a major poll plank to attack the ruling party during elections. The BJP, which has been buoyant in Assam since the last Lok Sabha elections, when it won 4 seats, too will be attacking the Congress on corruption and price rise grounds, besides the illegal Bangladeshi-immigration issue.

At least three multi-core scams, viz.; North Cachar Hills scam, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council scam and Irrigation department scam, were unearthed in the state in last one year.

“Corruption and price rise will surely be high on our agenda. Corruption has gripped every department of the state during the Congress’ rule and people need to be said how the Congress party looted the public money,” said a senior office bearer of the BJP.

Accoriding to him, Varun Gandhi will be star campaigner in the state, in addition to Hema Malini and LK Advani.

Further, with essential commodities going through the roof, coupled with hike in petroleum prices, there is an anti-incumbency wave against the Congress party in the state, which the opposition parties are capitalising on.

The going for the Congress is expected to be further rough as the political arithmetic in the state has changed since 2006. The rise of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which has a good following in Mulsim dominated districts of Assam, is expected to play spoilsport for the Congress.

The AIUDF, which was a minimal force in 2006 assembly election, is expected to cut-across traditional Muslim votes of the Congress party this time. Congress’ alliance partner, the Bodoland People’s Party (BPF), too is keeping its card open by not going for any pre-poll alliance with the Congress party.

Assam CM files nomination papers

Titabor (Assam), Mar 16 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today filed his nomination for the Titabor Assembly constituency under Jorhat district.

Accompanied by his wife Dolly Gogoi and son Gaurav Gogoi, a relaxed and smiling CM filed three sets of nomination before the Returning Officer and SDO (Civil) Debo Kalita.

Exuding confidence Gogoi told reporters after filing his papers that the Congress will come to power for the third successive term with a clear majority.

"We will sweep the polls and form the government.

There is no doubt about it," he said.

The chief minister further added that the contest in the forthcoming polls would be primarily between the Congress, Asom Gana Parishad and the BJP.

Asked about the ULFA threat to the Congress, Gogoi said, the "ULFA was not a factor at all and their threats will not affect us".

Assam to Approach Centre on Migrants Issue: Gogoi

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said he will ask the Centre to provide legal refugee status to the people from Bangladesh who had to flee that country due to religious persecution even after the cut-off year of 1971.

"On humanitarian grounds, I will take up with the Centre the issue and include it in the election manifesto to be published by the third week of this month," Gogoi told a press conference here.

"We are not bothered about what religion they (migrants) belong, whether they are Hindus or Muslims. On humanitarian ground, those who have been forced to leave Bangladesh due to religious persecution should be granted legal refugee status," he said.

Denying that he was trying to garner the votes of the majority community by making this announcement ahead of the assembly election, the chief minister said the people who were forced to migrate to India from Bangladesh due to religious persecution will stay.

Claiming that his party will win the assembly election and form the government for the third consecutive term, Gogoi said there was "development all over the state and law and order problem has been tackled effectively."

The chief minister said this year 62 civilians were killed when compared to the last year of the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) government 10 years ago when 212 people lost their lives to the militants.

Launching a scathing attack on AGP, Gogoi alleged that during the regime of former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta "secret killings" (of ULFA kins) had taken place.

"Now development is on all fronts and people are free to move around as the law and order situation has improved", he said.

Rejecting the charge that Congress had violated the model code of conduct by distributing bicycles and blankets among the villagers, Gogoi said this was the policy of the government.

"If the opposition feels that we have violated the model code of conduct, they are free to approach the Election Commission", he said.

Pointing out that the electoral alliance with Bodoland People's Front (BPF) will stay, Gogoi said his party will field candidates in most of the 126 constituencies pending understanding with the Bodo party in "some seats".

Replying to a query whether party tickets will be given to aspirants who have a criminal background, Gogoi said those who have chargesheets filed will not be nominated.

No change in candidates' list for Assam: BJP

Sushanta Talukdar

GUWAHATI: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Vijay Goel announced here on Sunday that there would be no review of list of candidates for the Assam Assembly elections already announced by the party and that indiscipline in the party would not be tolerated.

Mr. Goel made the statement when journalists asked him if the party was contemplating a review of the list in view of the demand raised by some disgruntled workers.


Hundreds of BJP workers from the Marigaon Assembly constituency had vandalised the Assam BJP headquarters here on Saturday to vent out their anger over the selection of candidates.

“There will be no review of the list of candidates. It is not possible to give party ticket to each aspirant. However, indiscipline will not be tolerated and stern action will be taken. We have already expelled six workers involved in Saturday's incident,” he added.

Positive campaign

Mr. Goel said that his party would launch a positive campaign in Assam and showcase the “good governance” in BJP-ruled States.

He also said that in Assam, the BJP would contest all the 126 assembly constituencies and fight against both the Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). Though BJP has already rejected the idea of “grand alliance” of all Opposition parties proposed by the AGP, disgruntled BJP workers have accused the party leadership of fielding weak candidates in some constituencies in accordance with a “secret understanding” between the two parties.

The senior BJP leader, however, denied the allegation.

Election Commission satisfied with Assam''s poll preparedness

Guwahati, Mar 8 (PTI) The Election Commission today said it is satisfied with the security arrangements in Assam and is optimistic that the state Assembly elections which are scheduled to be held next month will be fair and peaceful. Reviewing the poll preparedness in the state, Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said, "We are very optimistic about free, fair and peaceful polls in Assam. I am very satisfied with the law and order arrangements. It is very good. Our comfort level is very high with their preparedness". The full team of Election Commission which arrived here yesterday held a meeting with the district Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police on the poll preparedness, Quraishi said. The EC also reviewed the law and order situation today with the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Director General of Police here. "We had individual meetings with the political parties which mostly raised the issues about polling stations, security forces and the need of CCTV in sensitive booths," Quraishi said. The parties also expressed their concern about the alleged continuation of freebies by the government in violation of the model code of conduct, need for micro observers, misuse of money power and paid news, the CEC said. Altogether 137 officers who were posted in their home districts against EC rules will have to be transferred, Quraishi said.

Assam polls: Bicycles outpace ‘BMW’

Prasanta Mazumdar

GUWAHATI: Once the best bait to lure voters in Assam, BMW seems to be outrun by bicycles this election in Assam.

For those visualising the German cars, BMW is a locally-used acronym for ‘blanket-money-wine’. The various political parties in Assam have invariably doled out the three things to woo voters in the state’s especially tea and minority Muslim belt over the years.

Constituting half of Assam’s total population, the two communities decide the fate of candidates in almost half of the state’s total 126 assembly segments. And if they could be easily lured through blanket, money and wine, it was because of their poverty and utter backwardness.

However, bicycles appear to be the flavour this season around. Recently, the police seized over 1,500 bicycles from public sector Statfed’s warehouse in central Assam’s Nagaon district.

And not just this, bicycles, purportedly procured under a scheme for schoolgirls, were also seized from several educational institutes in western Assam’s Sualkuchi, central Assam’s Morigaon and eastern Assam’s Tingkhang constituencies.

Apart from bicycles, hand-pumps are also on offer to lure voters in migrant Muslims-inhabited ‘char’ areas. A dozen hand-pumps were seized by the police from the residence of a panchayat president Nazira Begum, a Congress leader, on Saturday in central Assam’s Dhing area.

“Luring voters is a Congress culture,” said a leader of Asom Gana Parishad. “The seizures only go to substantiate this,” he added. The BJP also took a jab at the Congress on the issue. “The government (read Congress) is distributing bicycles in violation of the election code of conduct. So, we have requested the concerned district administrations to take necessary action,” BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Gupta told Express. He said the party had also lodged a complaint with the EC.

The Congress has rubbished the charges.

Troops to be diverted to Assam

Part of the reinforcement of central troops for West Bengal may be diverted to Assam, which goes to the polls on April 4.

West Bengal, which had asked for 798 companies of central forces for pre-poll duties, has already received an advance contingent of 100 companies. Almost 30 per cent of the deployment was to be done in the left-wing extremism areas.

The forces are being used for route marches, area domination exercises, and also for helping to maintain law and order . Another reinforcement of 100 companies was slated to arrive from Saturday.

Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh told journalists at the Secretariat that there would be intra-State movement of troops between Assam and West Bengal (where a six-phase polling would commence on April 18).

To a question on Speaker H. A. Halim's comment that he should have been consulted by the Election Commission on the poll dates, Mr. Ghosh said this announcement was made by the EC in its own right.

Mr. Ghosh said that while Ministers could participate in question-answer sessions, they could not make new announcements now.

Asked whether the Chief Minister can go on district tours, he said: “If there is a law an order problem, he can certainly go.”

BJP Assam office ransacked over selection of candidate

Disgruntled Morigaon district unit workers today ransacked the BJP Assam unit office in Guwahati in protest againstselection of candidates.

A large group of slogan shouting workers stormed into the office on RG Borooah Road with placards and started smashing the furtniture, computers and window panes.

Alleging the party leadership had put up an unknown candidate "after taking bribe from the Congress and AGP", the demonstrators, including women, threatened to sit on a dharna in the compound of the office till party state unit President Ranjit Dutta explained why the name of Prahlad Bhuyan was announced as the candidate from Morigaon.

Claiming Bhuyan was unknown in their area, the protestors wanted their leader Bhadra Kanta Nath to be instead made the saffron party's candidate.

BJP national vice-president and Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakraborty attempted to pacify the agitators by promising a meeting between them and national leader Vijay Goel when he comes here tomorrow.

The protestors accused the party of putting up weak candidates.

Earlier at a press meet prior to the ransack, Dutta denied report in a section of media about a secret seat-sharing deal with some political parties as BJP was weak in certain constituencies.

"I clarified we have not put up weak candidates. There will be no future alliance or secret understanding with any political party. We will contest in all the 126 seats," he said.

Will form next Assam govt, have minority contestant: BJP

Guwahati: Exuding confidence of winning the "required number of seats to form the next government in Assam", the BJP state unit on Saturday said the party had given representation to all communities, including minority, in its candidates list for the assembly polls.

"This time people want change from the Congress Tarun Gogoi government. We will get the required number of seats in next month's assembly polls to form the next government in Assam", BJP state unit president Ranjit Dutta, MLA, told reporters here.

Deciding to go it alone to fight against "corruption by the Congress government" in the upcoming assembly hustings in the two-phased elections scheduled for April 4 and 11 next, Dutta said, "people will vote in favour of the BJP to form the next government".

Stating that candidates from all communities will be given tickets by the saffron party for the polls, Dutta said, they would include a minority contestant, eight women, seven scheduled tribe, six tea tribes, three scheduled caste and two each from Nepali community and BJYM.

Accusing the ruling Congress of "failing to give an opportunity to indigenous Assamese Muslims to contest the polls", Dutta said, "in upper Assam we will put up an Assamese Muslim contestant".

"There are media reports that the BJP has a secret seat- sharing deal with other political parties as our `party is weak in certain constituencies'. I clarify there will be no future alliance or secret understanding with any political party. We will contest in all the 126 seats".

43 migrants deported in last 15 months: Centre

GUWAHATI: Illegal migrants have always been a cause of concern in Assam and during every election political parties make the issue their poll plank. And barely a month ahead of this year's assembly elections, the Centre has said Assam deported 43 illegal migrants to their "places of origin" in the last 15 months.

In a reply to Lok Sabha member Badaruddin Ajmal (AIUDF), Union minister for home affairs Mullapally Ramachandran said altogether 162 foreigners and illegal migrants were deported between December 2009 and February, while 43 persons were sent back to their "places of origin".

The minister added that the Assam government has set up three detention camps in Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Silchar "to keep the declared illegal migrants and foreigners in the state till they are deported". According to the state government's report, 2,354 declared foreigners have been deported to Bangladesh till the end of 2010.

Some organisations, including the All Assam Students' Union (Aasu), alleged that illegal migrants coming from Bangladesh have been living in Assam for decades and threatening the state's demography. Incidentally, Aasu had started the six-year agitation seeking detection and deportation of the illegal migrants from 1978 that ended in the signing of Assam Accord in 1985.

According to the organization, lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are still living in Assam whom the state government couldn't identify and deport during the last two decades. Aasu even accused the Congress government, encouraging illegal migrants for vote-bank politics. But despite the Assam Agitation, the issue continues to remain alive with the Centre unable to complete the fencing of the porous Indo-Bangla border.

In the Nineties, the government said IMDT Act stood as a hindrance in the detection and deportation of the foreigners. Even though, a judgment by the Supreme Court in 2007 withdrew the act and cleared the way for deportation of the illegal migrants in the state, the situation remained unchanged.

Assam chief minister confident about vote

Congress faces no real opposition, he says

By Ajay Jha

New Delhi: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday exuded confidence about his Congress party emerging victorious yet again in the upcoming state legislative assembly elections.

Assam along with four other states is scheduled to go to the polls starting next month.

"There is no opposition in the state. AGP [Asom Gana Parishad] and BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] are in bad shape. We defeated them in [2009] Lok Sabha elections and will do it again," Gogoi said while interacting with media at the Press Club of India.

The autonomous election commission has announced two-phased polling in Assam, which has been under Congress rule for the past ten years with Gogoi as the chief minister.

Gogoi's confidence about a non-existent opposition in the state, however, is not shared by the central leadership of the Congress party.

Results of an internal survey conducted by a professional agency show that the party may end up winning just 42 seats in the 126-member state assembly, compared to 65 seats the AGP-BJP combine which will get the present opposition simple majority.

The only way the party can emerge victorious is if it forms an alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).

HCL Infosystems wins deals from Assam Electronics Development Corporation Ltd and BSNL

* An initiative by the Government of Assam to enhance PC adoption among students in the state
* Multi-crore deal to provide 7200 units of HCL ME laptops
* To deploy systems for consolidation of the BSNL billing process across North & West Zone

HCL Infosystems has bagged a multi-crore deal from Assam Electronics Development Corporation Ltd (AMTRON) to provide 7200 units of HCL ME laptops.

This initiative by AMTRON is an integral part of the existing ‘Anundoram Borooah Award Scheme’ by the Government of Assam set out to honour meritorious students of the state. HCL Infosystems will be partnering with the state government and will be providing HCL ME Laptops designed for Indian conditions and supported by one of the largest HCL service and support network in the country today.

As a part of this initiative, Education Department (Secondary), Information & Technology Department under Government of Assam will be awarding laptops of the latest configuration to honour meritorious students of the state. AMTRON will distribute these laptops across the district headquarters of Assam to all students who have secured first division in the HSLC, High Madrassa, Sanskrit and Pali Pravesika and FM (Sr. Madrasa) Examinations, 2010 conducted by SEBA and State Madrassa Education Board, Assam.

JV Ramamurthy, President and COO, HCL Infosystems said, “India, being a growing economy, needs to propel PC penetration and truly democratize access to broadband to realize its potential as a knowledge economy.”

HCL Infosystems also won a Rs. 250 crore project from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for deploying a state-of-the-art facility for printing and managing BSNL customer bills. The company will also be making the entire capital investment to upgrade the existing systems for higher efficiency.

HCL Infosystems will be managing the BSNL’s billing system process for two zones - North Zone and West Zone and would extend over a period of 7 years. The company will be setting up the facility equipped with sophisticated printing solutions for transactional output with the most advanced hardware and software solutions. The project will entail a complete transformation and automation of BSNL’s bill printing mechanism thereby adding greater efficiency in reaching out to its subscribers.

Commenting on the occasion, J V Ramamurthy, President and COO, HCL Infosystems said, “In the rapidly emerging space of telecom we have developed a host of system integration solutions and this project win from BSNL. We are excited about this opportunity and look forward to expand our areas of operation through more solutions added to our offerings”

Poll grievances committee constituted in Assam

Guwahati, Mar 4 (PTI) Assam Chief Electoral Officer Hemanta Narzary today constituted a three-member grievances committee to look into all election related complaints during the upcoming Assembly polls.
The three-member committee will entertain complaints or grievances of all political parties, candidates or any other persons in regard to the decision to grant or refuse certification of an advertisement of political nature, official sources said.
The committee comprises of the Assam Chief Electoral Officer as the chairperson, an observer appointed by the Election Commission and the Director of Field Publicity, Assam, Government of India.
Assembly polls in Assam will be held in two phases with 62 constituencies going to polls on April 4 and the remaining 64 on April 11.

54 nominees in second saffron list

NEW DELHI: BJP on Thursday announced the second list of 54 candidates for the assembly polls in the state. The BJP's Central Election Committee (CEC), at a meeting chaired by party chief Nitin Gadkari, cleared the names of nominees.

Ananth Kumar, the secretary of the CEC, said BJP will contest all 126 seats in the elections. Another meeting of the CEC is scheduled to be held on for March 9. Last month, the party had declared six candidates for the state polls.

The names of the nominnes are Sukhendu Shekhar Dutta (Patharkandi), Shipra Goon (Karimganj South), Biswarup Bhattacharjee (Badarpur), Subrata Nath (Hailakandi), Awadesh Singh(Sonai), Surendra Prasad Singh (Udharbond), Rina Singh (Lakhipur), Bijaylaxmi Chakraborty (Barkhola), Kulendra Daulagapu (Haflong-ST), Padma Mybongsha (DiphuST), Doyamoee Syanal (Dhubri), Biswajit Roy (Gauripur), Mani Koch (Bongaigaon), Ranjit Das (Sorbhog), Kartik Sarmah (Bhabanipur), Manoranjan Das (Patacharkuchi), Upendra Chandra Arya (Jania), Chanakya Pathak (Sarukhetri), Jiten Sarkar (Boko-SC), Ranjit Rahang (Dispur), Pradip Thakuria (Rangiya), Diban Deka (Barkhetry).

Hills council concerned over violence in Haflong

GUWAHATI: The North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) has condemned law enforcing authorities for failing to put a halt to violence by unidentified miscreants in Haflong of Dima Hasao district. The NCHAC officials also expressed concern over the persistence of the situation in the area which might disrupt the assembly elections in April.

Haflong has seen several incidents of violence during the last few days. A grenade was defused on Thursday morning at the residence of Mayanon Kemprai, an executive member of the Haflong council. Another grenade attack was reported from the house of Subrata Hojai, an executive member, on Wednesday.

"We condemn such acts of miscreants who are trying to disturb peace in the district. The more serious concern is that no one has been able to nab the culprits. Security mechanisms and the state government have failed to curb crime in the area," said the chairman of the council, Depolal Hojai, addressing a press meet in the city on Thursday. "We want an immediate solution to the problem. The law enforcement agencies and the central government should find a permanent solution to check the formation of groups that can disturb peace in the district and affect development work here," Hojai said urging the central government to expedite the process of peace talks.

Mission Dispur

GUWAHATI: Tarun Gogoi is confident of capturing Dispur for three times in a row as he has led the Congress to victory in almost all elections starting from panchayat to parliament since 2001. But 2011 is not an easy ride for the chief minister of Assam.

Though Gogoi still commands respect among common people, his failure to control corruption in various government departments has become his biggest drawback. But Congress still has an edge over others with the opposition parties are unable to form a united front to challenge the ruling party and the EC already announcing the election dates.

As electioneering proceeds, the situation, however, may change with three other major players AGP, BJP and the Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF who may plot Gogoi's downfall.

The Congress still runs strong in its traditional bastion of Upper Assam with Gogoi leading from the front and also exploiting the ongoing peace process with Ulfa. However, Congress's success or failure also lies in its performance in this tea-oil rich belt where BJP, of late, has been plotting whatever it can to end Gogoi's rule. With former AGP MP and Aasu leader Sarbanada Sonowal joining the saffron party, BJP is hoping for a "change" in Upper Assam. And, if Gogoi fails to keep his bastion intact, Dispur may change hands.

Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah can also play havoc for Congress if security forces failed to tame the hardliners who are opposed to the peace process initiated by the chief minister. Though Congress has managed to weaken Badaruddin Ajmal by creating a division in minority politics, it has to be seen how the Maulana retaliated. After his expulsion from the Arshad Madani faction of Jamiat, Ajmal split the Assam Jamiat and switched loyalty to the Mahmood Madani faction. A wounded Ajmal could pose more danger.

Congress ally BPF is sure to keep its base intact, but its support would depend on the former's final tally. Last but not the least is Prafulla Kumar Mahanta a man who has always plotted Congress's defeat.

100 companies of para-military forces to arrive in Assam

Guwahati, Mar 3 (PTI) About 100 companies of para military forces will arrive in Assam before the two-phase assembly poll next month.

Chief Electoral Officer Hemanta Narzary said the para military forces would be deployed in all 125 constituencies to maintain law and order for free and fair polls.

Election will be held in 11,254 polling stations in the first phase on April 4 and in 12,557 polling stations in the second phase on April 11.

A total 1.81 crore electorate will exercise their franchise, he said.
Narzary said the EC will keep a strict watch on election expenditure by candidates and has demarcated a six-layer process.

There will be an expenditure observer and additional expenditure observer, B D O surveillance team, accounting team, shadow observation and static surveillance team, he said.

Besides, one officer would be posted in the Director General and Police office to report to the Election Commissioner, he added.

Central Vigilance Committee on PDS visits Assam tomorrow

Guwahati, Mar 2: The Central Vigilance Committee on Public Distribution System (PDS), headed by Justice D P Wadhwa, is scheduled to visit different parts of Assam beginning on Thursday.

Justice Wadhwa, who will be accompanied by senior Committee functionaries, will visit field offices and hold discussion with senior Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs officers.

It has been reported that the Committee will inspect files and documents on appointment of 'Fair Price Shop' dealers and commission payable, complaint and enforcement mechanism for the last five years and award of tenders for transportation of food grains.

The Committee will also go through the problems that are affecting the proper functioning of Public Distribution System in Assam and suggest corrective measures.

AGP unhappy with Assam poll schedule, Congress welcomes it

Guwahati, March 2 (IANS) Assam's main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) Tuesday voiced unhappiness over the two-phase poll schedule announced for the state, saying the party would have preferred four-phased assembly elections instead.

Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi Tuesday announced in New Delhi the poll schedule for five states. Assam will have a two-phased polling with the first phase covering 62 assembly seats on April 4 and the remaining 64 seats on April 11. Counting of votes takes place May 13.

'We are not at all happy with the poll schedule as we gave in writing to the Election Commission seeking a four-phased election. Considering the fact that Assam is an insurgency-prone state and there is serious law and order problem, there could be difficulties in conducting the vote in two phases,' AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary told IANS.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress party in Assam have welcomed the poll schedule.

'We welcome the poll schedule and the party is ready to face the mandate. We shall put up candidates in all the 126 assembly seats,' BJP Assam state president Ranjit Dutta said.

'We are confident and ready for the polls and am sure the Congress party would make a hat-trick by winning the assembly elections for the third straight term,' Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

The term of the Congress government expires May 28.

AGP launches Net attack on Congress

GUWAHATI: The assembly election is on April 4 and the state's main opposition party has taken the cyber way to fight the ruling Congress.

In its newly designed website, AGP has arranged an online debate against Congress rule. It also shows digitally how the geographical boundaries of the state have changed under Congress rule.

The reduction in geographical area of the map starts with the formation of Tripura Union Territory on July 1, 1963 and then Nagaland on December 1 the same year. This is followed by formation of Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in 1972 and Mizoram in 1973 all under Congress rule. In its site, AGP says the changing geographical map of the state is due to Congress's "misrule". The party has also started an online discussion forum where different subjects related to the state have been put under debate. This includes unemployment, big dam projects and scam in NC Hills Council.

The home page of the party's website says, "We came to power in December, 1985. Prior to that, our state was ruled by various fractions of INC for 36 years and Janata Party for 2 years. During that period, central allocation received by the state was 30% as grant and 70% as loan. We changed it to 90% as grant and only 10% as loan."

It adds, "The population of the northeast is only 3.8% of the total country. Despite this, AGP made the provision to reserve 10 per cent of funds of all development schemes of the central government. The state was receiving a mere Rs 61 for per MT of crude oil. We increased it to Rs 314."

Saying that regionalism was the only solution, the party in its website has given a clarion call for strengthening regional forces like AGP in the greater interest of people of Assam. "After all whatever development that has come about in Assam in the past two decades is only because of the relentless efforts of AGP," says the site.