24 killed in road accident in northeast India

NEW DELHI – At least 24 passengers were killed and more than five went missing when a bus carrying a marriage party fell into a river early Tuesday morning the Kamrup district of the northeast Indian state of Assam, said police.

The bus, carrying around 40 passengers from Guwahati to Tihu, fell into a river after a crossing wooden" bridge collapsed, said police.

Road accident rate in India is among the highest in the world, with at least 100,000 killed each year on the road.

Mudslip-hit road awaits repairs

Nagaon, May 31 : The road between Dima Hasao district and Silchar, which has remained paralysed since last Wednesday after landslides, could not be repaired.

Sources from the Dima Hasao district autonomous council said efforts were on to clear the road but continuous rain and poor infrastructure were hampering repairs.

Since Wednesday, landslides continued in the district’s Rekha area, 25km from Dima Hasao district headquarters town of Haflong, blocking the road link between the hill district and the Barak valley town.

“The landslide did disrupt train services but it was restored immediately. At present, only the road is blocked but the trains are running as usual,” a source said.

The 185km road between Lanka in Nagaon and Silchar through the hill district is prone to landslides. The route, which is part of the proposed East West corridor, was handed over to five construction companies in succession five years ago. Four construction companies left the site after frequent attacks on its employees by the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah.

“The government should solve this problem. At least, solid RCC walls on the rock face can block mudslips. The companies should be hired back so that the proposed four-lane highway with anti-landslide measures could be finished on time,” said a source of Dima Hasao district police.

Outcry over ‘English only’

Guwahati, May 30 : Students and college teachers are at loggerheads with Gauhati University over its decision to make English the sole medium of instruction at the degree level.

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Assam College Teachers’ Association have strongly opposed the decision, terming it ridiculous.

AASU general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi said making English the only medium of instruction would be an insult to the mother tongue and added that such a move would create chaos in colleges, especially those situated in rural areas, where most students came from vernacular medium schools. “Besides the students, many teachers will find it difficult to teach various subjects in English. What will happen to those teachers who completed their studies taking Assamese as the medium? Such a move must be stopped,” he said.

A university official said it was high time for Gauhati University to make the move as most states in the country had already made English the medium of instruction.

He said many textbooks at degree level, especially for science and commerce streams, were not available in Assamese and students had no other option but to depend on books in English. “If students can read their textbooks in English, I do not see any logic as to why there is opposition to the making the same language the medium of instruction,” the official said.

General secretary of the teachers’ association, Biswajit Bhuyan, did not buy the argument that degree-level textbooks in Assamese were not available in the market and insisted that both Assamese and English should remain the mediums of instruction.

“Dibrugarh University has already withdrawn its decision on the same issue. We will soon meet the vice-chancellor of Gauhati University, Okhil Kumar Medhi, to discuss the issue and pressurise him to suspend its decision. The teachers’ association hopes that the university will take the matter seriously,” he said.

Cotton College principal Indra Kumar Bhattacharyya said he was personally in favour of the move. “It is difficult to teach certain subjects, particularly science, in Assamese. In the highly competitive academic field it is also advisable for students to opt for English medium for their own interests,” he said.

The teachers’ association and AASU have also decided to move both Gauhati and Dibrugarh Universities seeking guidelines for fair evaluation of students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, in the wake of increasing allegations and complaints that many teachers are not allotting deserving marks to students, and thus, spoiling academic careers.

Rs 4,000 cr cost overrun on Assam cracker plant

Government panel says faulty feasibility report delayed project
Faulty feasibility report has delayed Assam Gas Cracker Project (AGCP) by over 15 months, which may cost an additional Rs 4,000 crore. This was said by a standing committee constituted for fixing the responsibility for time and cost over run of the project.

The PM had unveiled the gas cracker project in Lepetakata in Dibrugarh in April 2007, which was expected to complete in five years. However, the project deadline has been extended to December 2013 with a revised cost of Rs 9,285.04 crore.

The revised estimates are yet to be sent to public investment board (PIB) before seeking approval of cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA). Brahmaputra Cracker & Polymer (BCPL) has undertaken the Lepetakata project. BCPL is a joint venture between GAIL (India), Oil India, Numaligarh Refinery and Assam government.

Last week, chemicals and fertiliser minister MK Alagiri apprised prime minister of the delay in commission of the project. “The report in a nutshell has brought out that the seed for time and cost over runs was embedded in the very way the entire project was formulated,” Alagiri said in a letter to Singh dated May 25.

“Considering that the detailed feasibility report did not attempt to address the basic limitations under which the project was supposed to function and did not envisage adequate incentive structure for the promoters, the time and cost over runs were inevitable,” Alagiri said.

Oil India chairman NM Borah and EIL chairman AK Purwaha were not available for comments. Gail is the majority stakeholder of BCPL with 70 per cent stake. Oil India, Numaligarh Refinery and Assam government each hold 10 per cent.

The department of chemicals would be sending the revised estimate report to department of expenditure shortly before placing it before PIB and then taking the project for CCEA approval.

Gail told Financial Chronicle that the project DFR was prepared in 2005.

"Due to various reasons, the actual project implementation could start only in 2009. Thus, the main reason for increase in project cost can be attributed to the change in the cost indices compared with 2005. We would like to highlight the fact that the North East region has a relatively longer Monsoon period, and there is limited time available for the construction activities of the project," Gail said in an email response to FC's queries.

Cops can't always be honest due to suffocating

GUWAHATI: The people of Assam are yet to get proper services from the police force although many reforms have been initiated in the police department. Addressing a seminar on Police accountability and the civil society' in the city, former state director general of police (DGP) Prakash Singh said police officers cannot always function in a completely honest manner because of the work environment prevailing in the state as well as the other parts of the country.

"Although the officers of the Indian Police Service are among the most qualified policemen the world over, the suffocating work environment doesn't allow them to be completely honest all of the time," said Singh. The DGP presented a paper on the topic Instruments of police accountability' in the seminar that was organized jointly by the State Police Accountability Commission and the Assam State Legal Service Authority on Sunday at Administrative Staff College in the city.

Pointing out the problems faced by young police personnel, the retired officer said that the Police Act does not give sufficient scope for officials in the state to work for the people with the desired people-friendly attitude. Recounting some of the personal experiences in his long career, the former state DGP of the state said "the chain of command in the police force has become rotten". He cited the case of UP police officers who could not be honest in their duty as they were asked to collect money for the birthday celebration of chief minister Mayawati.

However, Singh said the State Police Accountability Commission has been given the responsibility of addressing all the allegations of police delinquency in the state. Although the complaints against the police officers junior to the superintendent should be redressed by the district accountability commission, the state-level commission has to redress them, which has caused an extra burden on the commission too.

Since it inception in 2007 in Assam, the commission has received a total of 144 complaints from different quarters of the state. Of these, it had already disposed of 106 complaints by May this year. "We have received total 144 complaints since December 2007. We have already addressed 106 complaints," said Justice D N Chowdhury, chairman of accountability commission.

Lakhimpur to get language research centre

GUWAHATI: Asom Sahitya Sabha will soon take a step ahead in furthering the cause of local languages with the inauguration of a new study and research centre at Bihpuria in Lakhimpur on June 1 this year. The centre, which is named after Lumber Dai, the noted litterateur from Arunachal Pradesh, will facilitate detailed studies on regional languages, mainly Assamese and other ethnic languages and dialects of the region.

During the inaugural function on June 1, the Lumber Dai Memorial Literary Award will be conferred on the well-known folk litterateur and researcher of folk culture from the northeast, Basanta Das.

"The research centre will offer all possible facilities for higher studies, including PhDs; the courses will be affiliated to Gauhati and Dibrugarh universities. The study material for the courses has been finalized," said the secretary of the apex literary body, Poromananda Rajbonshi, adding the centre's doors are open to anybody living in the state, the country and even for those outside India who want to study and research the languages of Assam. He further said the hard copies of the study material would be provided through post and the same would also be uploaded on the website for the researchers.

Besides, the centre would also facilitate research on other northeastern languages. "We are also gathering information on the other languages of the state and the region. Besides Boro, Mising, Karbi and others, we aim to facilitate research on several languages of the neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh," said Rajbonshi.

He added saving regional languages has become very urgent at the present time. "Many people have stopped speaking their mother tongues. Several languages have become extinct or are on the verge of disappearing," he said. Meanwhile, the apex literary body of the state is taking several steps to bridge the cultural gap between Assam and other states.

"Asom Sahitya Sabha has initiated the translation of the 25 best Oriya stories and 50 best poems. I think this is a great way to bridge the cultural gap between the two states," said Chandan Sharma, an official at the sabha. He added several others initiatives are also being taken.

Mercy plea rejected, but Assam can’t find hangman

Samudra Gupta Kashyap

With President Pratibha Patil rejecting Mahendra Nath Das’s plea for clemency, the decks have been cleared for his hanging. But the authorities are unable to find a hangman.

“The convict, who was in Guwahati Central Jail for the last several years, has already been shifted to Jorhat, the only designated jail in Assam for carrying out death sentences. But we are yet to find a hangman,” said Simanta Thakuriya, IG, Prisons. “We have written to the authorities in West Bengal and other states, but are yet to get any positive response,” he said.

The last time that a hanging was carried out in Jorhat jail was on July 27, 1990, when the hangman was brought in from Uttar Pradesh. “We don’t have a hangman in Assam, the last two hangings were done by a hangman from UP,” said Paresh Chandra Koch, superintendent, Jorhat jail.

Das, 48, was given the death sentence for beheading a man in Guwahati on April 24, 1996. “Das is lodged in a 12x6 feet cell, where he spends most of his time reading the Gita,” said Brajen Das, jailor of the Jorhat Central Jail.

Recruitment drive by Infosys

GUWAHATI, May 29 – Executives from Infosys, Bangalore, recently carried out a campus recruitment drive at the city-based Asian Institute of Management and Technology (AIMT). Students of computer application, management and biotechnology participated in the process, which consisted of a written examination followed by an interview, according to a press release.

Four students of AIMT were able to crack the rigorous interview process. The successful students will be absorbed at various campuses of Infosys across the country.

According to the campus team from Infosys, “The students are well-groomed to face the corporate world, and we would like to continue the relationship with AIMT in future,” the release added.

Riding a wave that refuses to ebb

Tarun Gogoi pulled off a coup by becoming CM for the third time running. Ratnadip Choudhury tracks his journey
Assam has reposed its faith in Gogoi
Third-time lucky Assam has reposed its faith in Gogoi
Photo: Ujjal Deb
WHEN SEPTUAGENARIAN Tarun Gogoi became Chief Minister of Assam for the first time in 2001, his rather blunt — even politically incorrect — utterances were seen as harbingers of certain doom. But his stable performance over two terms earned him the sobriquet gaonburah (village headman) and the opposition could not unsettle him either on the plank of corruption or on illegal migration from Bangladesh. The peace process with insurgents also helped the Congress’ fortunes.
“I am not bothered about corruption. This government has given me irrigation, a handpump for clean drinking water, cycles for my daughters to go to school. I am told my younger daughter would get a laptop from the government if she does well in her board exams. That is why I voted for Congress although I was with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in the beginning,” says Sunil Das, a peasant from Dhekiajuli.
The AGP, which had been the principal opposition party in the state, has been in a freefall for a long time. The Congress has swept the length and breadth of Assam, its ally in the last government, the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) has retained its bastion in the Bodo heartland while the Maulana Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has emerged as the main opposition, thus posing a new challenge for the Congress in the next term to hold on to its traditional Muslim votebank and to check the volatile minority-migrant politics that Ajmal has been playing in Assam for a decade.

People seem to see a clear difference between the Gogoi and Prafulla Mahanta regimes. “In 1996, the regime failed to pay salaries to employees,” says Shubhra Deka of Dibrugarh. “There was hardly any development and killings were rampant. But Gogoi has delivered. We do not mind if people make money out of development works if the masses benefit.” Gogoi’s forceful rhetoric about the lack of an alternative to the ruling Congress seems to have hit the bull’s eye. Out of the 126 seats in the state Assembly, BPF, which got 12 seats, had Gogoi’s strong backing. The AGP (10 seats) and the BJP appeared to be clueless during the campaign, with party president Chandramohan Patowary and senior leaders Brindaban Goswami and Atul Bora losing their seats. The BJP was reduced to five seats, with its party president Ranjit Dutta losing his own, highlighting the need for a new leadership.
The third-time CM also sees himself as a mass leader who knows how to remain acceptable to the people. As he puts it: “I can sense what the grassroots want. So observers can term my policies as populist. That’s their choice but people have given their mandate in favour of my schemes, and it is not like we run the schemes with Central funds; many of them are totally financed by the state government. It is not easy to hold on to power for a decade, antiincumbency is bound to come, but I have pushed forward anything that I thought is in the interest of the common people very passionately. That has worked.”
In the run-up to the 2011 Assembly polls, Badruddin Ajmal had reportedly asked, ‘Who is Tarun Gogoi?’ The reply came through the ballot box
The achievement is remarkable, especially since Gogoi never led a mass movement like Assam’s first CM Gopinath Bordoloi did. He is not witty, like another ex-CM, Hiteshwar Saikia. Yet, he has clicked. “It is his never-say-die attitude that has rejuvenated the Congress in Assam," says Tinat Atifa Masood, a talented writer who is compiling Gogoi’s biography. “People love him for his sense of humour. He is not your regular politician. He is very open-hearted.” Some admirers says he exudes positive energy, which is why his personality attracts people. Gogoi modestly says it is because the opposition has failed to perform its duties. “Tell me one instance where they have been able to push my government to rethink on any policy,” he asks. “They have never been constructive. It would be bad if Assam is left with no opposition.” In his current position, he can be generous.
Born in Rangajan tea estate in Upper Assam’s Jorhat district, where his father Kamaleshwar Gogoi worked as a doctor, Gogoi started taking interest in politics in secondary school. His icon was Jawaharlal Nehru. “I first saw Nehru when I was in Class 3 and became a fan. I felt inspired to do something that helps people,” he says. As a student, he loved playing pranks. His hostel superintendent Lakhi Dutta shouted at him because was busy polishing shoes while others were studying. Dutta had warned him that he would be left with no option but to polish shoes for life if he did not clear his Class 10. This is exactly what happened. He did, however, clear the exam in his second attempt. But Gogoi’s love for shoes continues to remain.
“The good thing about Gogoi is that he is not a power monger,” says Wasbir Hussain, senior journalist, who has followed Gogoi’s rise closely. “Power has come to him, he did not reach out for it even when he was elected MP for the first time in 1971. He was a compromise candidate then. He also does not believe in protégés.”
GOGOI may not be articulate, but he has been the Congress’ crisis manager in Assam. After a successful stint in Delhi as a Parliamentarian and an AICC functionary, he had to rebuild the image of the Congress in Assam when he took charge as state Congress president in 1996. He groomed young leaders, giving them space to grow. Now, his is the last word. He has had his differences with the Assamese and national leadership but there has been no serious dissidence against him. “I have been able to strike a chord with the state leaders and the AICC because all had faith in me,” he explains. “By and large, the party stood by me, albeit at times I had to be firm.”
What really sounded the death knell for the AGP is the absence of a chief ministerial candidate who could match Gogoi’s stature. “The voters perhaps found the opposition confused and voted for stability,” says Harekrishna Deka, former Director General of Police. “The anti-incumbency factor could not be cashed in by the AGP.”
What lies ahead for Gogoi and the Congress? “Development and peace will be my priority since this is what we have promised the people,” says Gogoi. He will push the Centre to resume peace talks with ULFA and other insurgent groups. This will ensure the electorate keeps the faith, because despite desperate attempts from Dispur, tackling corruption is becoming a tall order. Gogoi will have to accommodate some party heavyweights despite their tainted image.
Of course, there are potholes along the way. The rise of Ajmal’s AIUDF will be a cause for worry. Gogoi has always seen the Muslim cleric as a key political adversary. He stood his ground to keep Ajmal away from an alliance with the Congress — had the party gone down that road, it would have cost the Muslim votebank and also hurt Assamese sentiments. At the same time, the CM has never employed nasty tactics when dealing with Ajmal. He chooses to use humour. Like the time he asked, “Who is Badruddin Ajmal?” In the run-up to the polls, Ajmal had reportedly retorted, “Who is Tarun Gogoi?” The reply came through the ballot box.
“He is passionate about issues but does not lose his cool,” is what Gogoi’s wife Dolly had once said. She has always been his main support. After his heart surgery last year, daughter Chandrima and son Gaurav wanted Gogoi to bid farewell to active politics. But he feels he has some unfinished work. “I am not satisfied with my own performance. To put it plainly, I need to do far better. I have plans for Assam,” he adds.
His family will have to wait for at least five years before he hangs up his boots. Meanwhile, for the third time running, the people of Assam have in Tarun Gogoi a CM who dares to call a spade a spade, and can tread the not-so-trodden path, yet sail through smoothly.
Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.

Seba rectifies marks mistake

Fresh marksheets for students who were marked absent for Hindi

Tarun Gogoi
Guwahati, May 29 : The Board of Secondary Education, Assam, today rectified its mistake over non-allotment of marks in Hindi in the Matric examination results declared yesterday.
The board was prompt in resolving the issue after chief minister Tarun Gogoi instructed the commissioner and secretary of the secondary and elementary education to submit a report about the complaints of a section of students that they were not allotted marks in Hindi despite appearing for the examination.
The AASU criticised the board and demanded corrective steps at the earliest.
Sources said the board had already ordered an internal inquiry to find out what led to such a mistake.
Secretary L.N. Sarma told The Telegraph that the board had received complaints from St Mary’s English High School, Maligaon and St Vivekananda English Academy, Pandu, that 99 students were shown absent for the Hindi examination and thus declared failed in their results.
“We immediately verified the matter and executed necessary steps to address the issue. The board finally issued fresh marksheets by allotting marks in Hindi to aggrieved students this morning. Even though students did appear in the Hindi examination, it was inadvertently shown that they were absent. The mistake was totally unintentional,” Sarma said.
Secretary of St Vivekananda English Academy Mitra Som Saha said 27 students from her school who secured letters marks (80 per cent or above) in all other subjects were shown absent for the Hindi examination and thus declared failed.
“We immediately drew the board’s attention on the matter. The school is grateful to the board for its fast and active initiative to address the students’ grievances. After allotment of marks in Hindi today, 27 students who were otherwise declared failed are distinction holders now,” Saha said.
An aggrieved student said it was a bolt from the blue when he found himself declared failed even after securing letter marks in English, general science and general mathematics.
“I could not eat till the matter was solved this morning,” the student said.
The Matric results declared by the board showed nearly eight per cent rise over last year’s figure to a record pass percentage of 71.08.
The board also clarified that Suman Shekhar Sarma and Hritwika Pathak, who secured the 10th and 12th positions on the merit list respectively, from Al Ameen Academy, Kalgachia, were actually from Ram Choudhury Sankardev Sishu Niketan at Sarthebari.

Vodafone offers prepaid roaming WB to Assam

Kolkata, May 27 (IBNS) Vodafone Essar, one of India’s leading cellular service providers, on Friday started the Prepaid Roaming Facility for the customers of Kolkata, Rest of Bengal travelling to Assam & North East.

This National Roaming facility, which was available only for Postpaid Customers, will now be available to all Vodafone Prepaid Customers.

The service will be pre-activated and will not require any additional charges for activation. This facility empowers customer with a hassle-free experience of not changing their prepaid SIM while travelling.

Sridhar Rao, Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Essar East Limited said, “Vodafone has launched this new service where prepaid customers from Bengal will be able to roam seamlessly across India including Assam & North East.”

According to the recent DoT announcement, Prepaid subscribers of Kolkata & Rest of Bengal service area will be permitted roaming facility to and from other parts of India, except J&K without any restriction.

18 Assam ministers sworn in

Guwahati, May 27 (IANS) Eighteen ministers of the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam were sworn in Friday two weeks after election results were declared.

Governor J.B. Patnaik administered the oaths of office and secrecy to the ministers of which 14 are of cabinet rank and the remaining four are ministers of state with independent charge.

Gogoi was sworn in as chief minister May 18, but he took nearly two weeks to finalize the list of his council of ministers. Congress won an emphatic victory bagging 78 of the 126 assembly seats. The Bodoland People's Front (BPF), an ally of the Congress, won 12 seats.

Of the 18 ministers, one is from the BPF. In the earlier cabinet, there were three ministers from the BPF.

"We are committed to working for the overall development of the state. Being in power for the third straight term means the responsibilities on us are manifold," the chief minister told IANS soon after the swearing-in function.

"Undoubtedly, we have to work even harder and with utmost sincerity now. People of Assam voted us to power for the third term and hence the expectations would be even more," Himanta Biswa Sarma, sworn-in as cabinet minister, said.

There were eight new faces in the cabinet.

"This would be my first tenure as minister and I shall strive hard to do justice to my position and am ready to take up whatever responsibilities are vested on me," Basanta Das, a minister of state, said.

The portfolios would be announced soon.

Tarun Gogoi ministry in Assam to induct 18 ministers tomorrow

The eight-day-old Tarun Gogoi ministry in Assam will be expanded tomorrow with the induction of 18 ministers.

Gogoi was sworn in as chief minister for the third consecutive term by governor JB Patnaik on May 18.

Soon after assuming office Gogoi, whose Congress won 78 of the 126 Assembly seats, had gone to Delhi to get the list of his council of ministers approved by the party high command.

While Gogoi had taken oath in Raj Bhawan his council of ministers will be sworn in by the Governor at a function at the ITA Cultural Centre here due to space constraints in the Governor House, Raj Bhavan officials said today.

Gogoi keeps his ministerial hopefuls waiting

Even after repeated attempts for a week, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has not been able to work out any formula to declare his 18-member council of ministers in Assam. This has not only increased the nervousness of

aspirants but has also enhanced the agony of the veteran Congress ministers likely to be dropped from the third term of the party in Assam due to old age or non-performance.
If insiders are to be believed, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, grappling with the problem of plenty of legislators this time, is in a fix over the recommendation of the Central leadership to accommodate Debabrata Saikia, a first-timer and son of late chief minister Hiteswar Saikia.
Against the backdrop of Andhra Pradesh where the party antagonised the son of late chief minister Y. Rajasekhar Reddy and included Prema Khandu, son of late chief minister Dorjee Khandu, in the Arunachal Pradesh Cabinet, the Central leadership of the party has suggested the inclusion of Mr Saikia.
However, taking Mr Saikia into his council of ministers would be a serious embarrassment for Mr Gogoi, who went on record to say that first-timers should not expect ministerial berths.

Small town students shine bright in HS

GUWAHATI: It was a day of thumbs up for small town students in the higher secondary exams conducted under the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC), the results of which were declared on Monday. Guwahati students were completely overshadowed in arts and science. However, in commerce, students from the capital scored high.

Also, girls outshone boys in all three streams science, commerce and arts.

Dhemaji district, which often has to face the onslaught of floods and other natural calamities, overcame all odds to be at the top with 90.80 per cent in arts, 98.56 per cent in commerce and 92.48 per cent in science.

Kamrup, the hub of educational institutes, recorded 75.27, 79.95 and 86.03 per cent respectively in arts, commerce and science. The overall pass percentage of arts was 73.14 and commerce 79.81 while science recorded 87.32, which was a slightly better show than last year's. Colleges in Bajali, Nalbari and Dibrugarh among other small towns were way ahead of city colleges. In arts, out of 1,86,688 students 1,36,548 cleared the exam and in science out of 17,535 students 15,312 passed. In commerce, 13,389 students cleared out of a total of 16,776 who appeared.

Kashmiri Das of Cotton College was a topper in arts with 446, while Sabbah Qamri of Sorbhog, an institutional private candidate, came a close second with 445. Urvashi Chetia of Krishna Guru Mahavidyala of Sarthebari took the third position with 444.

Karabi Medhi, Mokhjumi Ahmed, Daisy Barman, Chiranjit Das and Rituparna Kalita of Anundoram Borooah Academy of Bajali were placed in the fourth, eighth and 10th positions respectively.

In science, the top scorer was Shekhar Kumar Yadav of Salt Brook Academy, Dibrugarh, with 460 marks. Cotton College had to be happy with a second with 458 marks scored by Bishal Saha. The top 10 list featured Kunja Kanan Nath, Anurag Saha and Anubrata Saikia of Salt Brook Academy as also Kakali Priyam Goswami and Lily Singha from Cotton College.

I K Bhattacharya, principal, Cotton College, said, "Often a single mark makes all the difference. So we are not worried about many students from our college not being able to make it to the top 10."

Guwahati, however, beat all districts and towns in the commerce stream. Gauhati Commerce College (GCC) emerged the topper with nine of its students making it to the top 10. Shalaka Jain of GCC was the topper with 439 marks while Nikita More of K C Das Commerce College came second with 438.

Other GCC students who topped were Sankeet Agarwal, Ankit K Agarwal, Nidhi Sipani, Puja Agarwal, Ankit Jain, Sonam Jain, Tanbir Ahmed Ansari and Richika Agarwal. Anundoram Borooah Academy of Bajali performed exceptionally well with five of its students in the top 10 in arts. Other colleges which did very well were Salt Brook Academy of Dibrugarh, Jajnyabhumi Adarsha Jatiya Academy of Nalbari, Sipajhar College, CKB College of Teok, Kamrup College and Bikali College of Goalpara. In the vocational Part II results, 80.17 per cent candidates have passed out of which boys comprise 80.66 per cent and girls 78.97 per cent.

Jorhat eye hospital provides low cost treatment to underprivileged patients

Jorhat, May 23: The Jorhat Lions Eye Hospital, the second biggest eye hospital in Assam under the banner of Lions Club, provides low cost eye treatment to underprivileged patients in the region.

Every week, hundreds of patients from different parts of Assam and nearby states like Nagaland and Arunachal visit here for treatment.

The doctors here have examined over 48,000 people and performed over 15,000 free cataract operations.

"I hope to provide the services to the people so that they can be benefited," said Anil Kumar Barooah, Chairman, Jorhat Lions Eye Hospital

The institution has state of the art medical infrastructure including two operation theatres, wards for free patients and other latest facilities.

The hospital also organizes camps in different districts of the state. It has a 32-seater bus that is used for these camps as well as to bring in patients from interior areas. he patients are examined and operated without any fees on every Thursday and Saturday.

" It is a very good organization where the poor and the needy are helped. The people who cannot buy costly medicines are treated here at a low cost. The facilities, the staff and the doctors here are good," Jitamoni Sabha Pundit.

Get Gold, not Old

By Kaushik Deka

By tomorrow the people of Assam will know the names of 18 ministers who will manage the affairs of the state for the next five years. It’s a very small number to be chosen from 90 MLAs—78 Congress and 12 BPF—and that’s where lies the biggest challenge of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. He has silenced his critics by returning to power with absolute majority when many experts—and novices such as I—had predicted maximum 45 seats for the Congress. The next big task is to form a Cabinet without much noise.
Though Congress High Command usually takes such decisions, this time Gogoi has been given a free-hand to choose his Cabinet. Digvijaya Singh, who was the poll in-charge for Assam, has announced that he will not interfere in allotting ministries. Singh has a reason. The former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh understands that Gogoi knows the political intricacies of Assam better than anyone else. It’s no small achievement to return to power for third consecutive term, something that Singh could not achieve in his own state.
This free-hand will have positive and negative consequences for Gogoi. The good thing is that he will have a Cabinet of his choice. But those who will be deprived of a ministry may create trouble for the chief minister. The Bodoland Peoples Front is seeking two berths and it’s very important for Gogoi to keep his pre-poll ally happy. Any dissidence from the Bodo party will mean resurgence of the separatist movement for Bodoland.
This means Gogoi has only 16 chairs for his partymen. It’s a problem of plenty.
It has already been declared that first-time MLAs will not be made ministers. Around 15 MLAs under the age of 40 have entered the 12th Assam Assembly for the first time. Some of them such as Jayanta Malla Baruah and Pallav Lochan Das have defeated political heavyweights in their first electoral battle. Yet, these young turks will remain happy with their legislative powers only.
Then there are some performing MLAs who have remained unbeaten since 2001. The unanimous feeling among such MLAs is: “If we don’t get ministry even in our third term, the people of our constituencies will assume we have no importance in the party. They will not vote for us again.” Their patience may run out this time and they may pose serious threat to the health of the Government.
Speculation is rife that Gogoi will include all the veterans of the party in his Cabinet. While the inclusion of octogenarian Dr Bhumidhar Barman is certain, Govinda Chandra Langthasa and Sarat Barkataki may also make it to the final list. This will surely earn Gogoi goodwill among his contemporaries, but the party may lose a great chance to connect with the youth. In the 2006 Cabinet, it was the young brigade who did the most hard work, while there was nothing much to write home about the oldies. The chief minister must remember that people have voted for development and peace and, therefore, only the performing ministers of the last Cabinet should be given another chance.
Credit must be given to Gogoi that he launched several young and new faces in 2011 battle. This came as a welcome change to young voters—even the old ones were tired of non-performing “assets”—and the result said it all. It will be criminal waste of such a huge mandate if Gogoi sticks to his old war horses. It’s the time to reward the performers and gift a youthful and energetic ministry to the people of Assam.
Otherwise, the voters, who are desperate to see a change, may change the party in 2016.

Hard work pays off for Bodo youth in UPSC

Rupjyoti Brahma Karjee.

Kokrajhar, May 23 : Bodo youth Rupjyoti Brahma Karjee, from Dotma in Kokrajhar, who has cleared Union Public Service (UPSC) examination securing the 559th rank, believes that there is no shortcut to success.
Rupjyoti believes in hard work as the only route to success and is ready for a life as a committed public servant.
His success comes 15 years after Sanjiv Narzary who was the last person to clear the UPSC exam from the Bodo community.
In an interview here today, Rupjyoti said he started considering his ambition to be a civil servant seriously only after completing post-graduation from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
Rupjyoti promised to be a good public servant and work for the unity of the nation. The candidate who cleared the highly competitive exam in his second attempt exuded a positive attitude and grit. “There is nothing that can’t be achieved in a lifetime; every challenge can be made easy through hard work,” he said.
He completed high school from St Xavier’s School in Dotma in 1997, his higher secondary from Union Christian College, Barapani, near Shillong in 1999 and then BA in economics from St Antony’s College, Shillong, in 2002. He then left for Delhi where he completed post-graduation and MPhil in economics from JNU in 2006.
Rupjyoti’s preparation was not just limited to the prescribed syllabus but comprised a varied list of magazines and newspapers, which kept him updated regarding social, political and cultural events. He added that co-operation from seniors and faculty in JNU also helped him a lot.
He thanked the BTC administration and his family who financially supported him during his years of preparation.
The Bodo Sahitya Sabha and All Bodo Students Union felicitated Rupjyoti. BSS president Kameswar Brahma felicitated Rupjyoti with a traditional aronai and a bouquet at his residence at Dotma today.
Brahma said, “The community only has a few public servants. We believe the success of a local youth would encourage others to work hard and clear the UPSC exam.”

ADB may aid Assam tourism projects

GUWAHATI, May 23 – Tourism in Assam is set to get a boost with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) likely to include the State in its financial assistance programme for tourism infrastructure development.

The State Government has submitted a proposal to this effect to ADB.

Official sources told The Assam Tribune that the State Government took up the matter with ADB at its recent meet in New Delhi following which the latter sought a proposal.

Once ADB accepts the proposal, it will send a technical mission to the State to assess the proposed projects and work out the details.

In another positive development, the State received Rs 50 crore from the 13th Finance Commission for tourism which was much higher than the earlier grant. The grant is in addition to what the State gets normally from the Centre for tourism promotion.

Earlier on Saturday, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Assam, HS Das, while addressing the second annual convention of Tour Operators Association of Assam, said that tourism was gradually getting the attention it deserved from the State Government. “After assuming office, the Chief Minister mentioned tourism as one of the top three priority areas and that is a positive development for the sector,” he said.

Stressing that tourism ought to be a total experience for the visitor, Das said that tourist infrastructure and facilities apart, the over all hygiene and sanitation of the State – especially the roads and streets and their surroundings – needed to be maintained properly. He said that besides the role of the Tourism Department, other line departments too have a responsibility in this regard.

“We have put enough funds at the disposal of the municipal bodies, and no municipality or town committee can take the plea of fund crunch for not discharging its responsibilities,” Das said.

Stressing the need for greater coordination among different departments for promoting tourism, Das said that the forest road leading to the tourist guest house on the bank of the Chandubi lake on the outskirts of Guwahati could not be repaired despite the sanctioning of funds, as the Forest Department was opposing the move.

PK Dong, retired DDG, India Tourism and chairman, Sikkim Tourism Development Board, who was instrumental in putting Sikkim on the world tourism map, gave an account of the tremendous strides the tiny hill State had taken in recent years.

"Sikkim's annual revenue earning from tourism reached Rs 700 crore in 2010 from Rs 1 lakh in 1995. Less than one lakh tourists visited the State in 1995 which jumped to over seven lakh in 2010. From an add-on destination, Sikkim is now a major destination in India," Dong said.

Attributing Sikkim's success to careful planning and implementation, Dong said that sustainability and preservation of the natural environment, besides making the local populace partners in the process, had been the guiding principles in promoting Sikkim's tourism.

“Sikkim’s forest cover, in fact, has increased by three per cent in the past 15 years… there is a limit to tourism and promoting it beyond its carrying capacity is always counter-productive,” Dong said.

Dong had a word of advice for Assam Tourism – package Assam and the North-east attractively. “The North-east is rich in potential but it needs to improve its image, develop tourism infrastructure and facilities, add new destinations, and do some aggressive publicity and marketing,” he said, adding that after the separation of Meghalaya from Assam, the latter ought to have promoted and projected Haflong as the State's lone hill station.

27 Assam police officials chargesheeted


CBI has chargesheeted 27 Assam Police officials, including three retired IPS officers, for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore rupees scandal in the appointment of constables in the 10th Assam Police Battalion.

CBI sources said here today that the chargesheet was filed earlier this week for anomalies found in 2007 in the appointment procedures. Is also alleged that at least Rs 19 crore were siphoned off from government treasury in fake appointments from 2001 to 2006.

Among the chargesheeted were three retired IPS officers - Paresh Neog, Indrakanta Gogoi and Jiban Singh, sources said.

The case was handed over to CBI in 2009 following which the central probe agency grilled several police officials, including at least seven IPS officers.

BSF foils cattle smuggling bid in Dhubri dist, catches two

GUWAHATI: BSF troops seized 77 cattleheads in Dhubri district and caught two persons while they were trying to smuggle out the animals to Bangladesh on Saturday. BSF officials said a special operation team of the force from its Bansichar border out-post seized the cattle worth Rs 3,56,000. The two were handed over to Dhubri police.

The officials added that during the last 24 hours, BSF troops deployed along the Indo-Bangla border in Dhubri and Meghalaya also seized forest products, country boats and other contraband items while they were being smuggled out to Bangladesh. The seized materials were worth Rs 8,30,500 and were handed over to officials concerned.

The officials said BSF troops from the Assam and Meghalaya Frontier have intensified operations along the international border to check illegal infiltration and other trans-border crime. On Friday evening, the border guards of Badambari out-post detained an Indian and a Bangladeshi anti-national along the frontier in Meghalaya`s West Garo Hills district.

They seized Bangladeshi taka and a mobile phone when the duo was trying to sneak into India. The two were identified as Nirmal Sarkar (38) of Gangapur village of Nadia, West Bengal and Bimal Sarkar (50) of Durgapur village in Netrokona, Bangladesh.

Assam CM Tarun Gogoi to meet Congress High Command in New Delhi

May 20, 11:30 AM
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is leaving for New Delhi Friday afternoon to meet the Congress High Command to finalize the list of ministers in his newly-constituted Cabinet.

According to official sources at Guwahati, Mr. Gogoi is scheduled to meet the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other senior party leaders before finalizing 17 names of the ministers to be included in his Ministry.

AIR Guwahati correspondent reports, that Mr. Gogoi has already announced to offer one ministerial berth to its ally Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF). The new Ministers are likely to take oath next week.

Mr. Gogoi was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of the State for a third successive term on Wednesday last. The present Congress-led Government in the State has the support of 92 newly-elected MLAs in the 126-Member Assam Assembly, including 12 Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), one Trinamool Congress and another Independent legislator.

Tarun Gogoi promises to work with renewed vigour

By Prasanta Mazumdar

GUWAHATI: Congress veteran Tarun Gogoi was sworn in as the chief minister of Assam for the third straight term on Wednesday.

Governor JB Patnaik administered the oath of office and secrecy to 77-year-old Gogoi at a function at Raj Bhawan in Guwahati.

Union minister BK Handique, Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma, PCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita, Gogoi’s family members and top civil and police officials were among those who attended the swearing-in ceremony.

Gogoi is second after the late Bimala Prasad Chaliha to do a hat-trick as chief minister.

Later talking to journalists, Gogoi said his government would now expedite the process of peace and economic reforms. “People voted in our favour not for our lectures but for what we have delivered to them especially during our second term (2006-2011),” Gogoi said.

“In the run upto the polls, opposition parties, mainly BJP, and a section of the media went all out against us. However, the people gave us an absolute mandate keeping in mind our performances in the last five years,” he said. Gogoi said he held people living in rural areas in high esteemas they had been politically and socially very conscious.

“People living in villages largely voted in favour of us because they didn’t want peace and development to be disturbed,” he said. A number of development schemes implemented by the Gogoi government were rural-oriented.

“The mandate has increased our responsibility further. We shall have to work with renewed vigour now,” he said. Gogoi has a daunting task ahead given that he could accommodate only 18 of the 78 elected legislators of his party in the ministry. Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) is an ally of the Congress and so, he cannot ignore it either.

“Our ties with BPF have been the best among alliance partners in the country in the last five years,” Gogoi asserted.

He said he would leave for New Delhi on Thursday to finalise his ministry in consultation with AICC leaders.

Opposition Asom Gana Parishad observed the day as ‘black day’ against alleged tampering of electronic voting machines by the Congress in the polls.

Gogoi's dilemma: Too many MLAs, few ministerial berths

K Anurag in Guwahati

After assuming charge as the chief minister for the third time in a row, Tarun Gogoi [ Images ] is faced with a Himalayan task of constituting his ministry that can have only 18 ministers beside him, thanks to the policy of downsizing of state ministries that is in vogue through out the country.

Gogoi who is travelling to New Delhi [ Images ] on Friday to finalise the names of his ministers in consultation with the party high-command, has to select only 18 ministers out of the 78 elected Congress members of legislative assembly and 12 from its ally Bodoland People's Front.

It is not surprising that Tarun Gogoi is mulling to request the central government to increase number of ministerial slots in the 126-member Assam Assembly from the existing 15 per cent to 25 per cent.

Unless Gogoi is allowed to accommodate more than 18 ministers, it will be impossible to keep his all his MLAs happy this time, given that there are naturally far too many aspirants for a ministerial berth. Moreover, at least one ministerial berth has to be given to the BPF.

"This time we are going to request the Centre to allow us to have a bigger ministry by increasing the number of ministerial slots up to at least 25 per cent of the total strength of the House (that comes to 31 ministers). Other North eastern states have already moved the Centre for the purpose," Gogoi said.

While Assam with a bigger House can have 19 ministers including the chief minister, other N-E states with only 60-member House each can have maximum 12 ministers per state.

Before downsizing, all the N-E states used to have ministries with over 30 members representing various tribes and communities. Now, that the size of ministries have come down, the chef ministers are forced to appoint a large number of political secretaries to accommodate MLAs from the ruling party, as well as the coalition partners and that ultimately fails the very purpose of downsizing.

In absence of sufficient ministerial slots, chief ministers of the N-E states, especially in Meghalaya and Nagaland have to create posts of many parliamentary secretaries to accommodate MLAs who could not become ministers.
Gogoi too is planning to have more number of parliamentary secretaries this time, compared with the previous government to accommodate as many ruling party MLAs as possible.

23 arrested in killing of alleged witches

Assam POLICE officials have arrested nearly two dozen people in the killings of 11 men and women for allegedly practising witchcraft and sorcery.

Seven women and four men were killed in April alone by fellow villagers in Assam state. They were suspected of performing in witchcraft and thus causing death and disease in the area.

Police official P K Dutta told The Associated Press today that 23 people have been arrested so far in connection with the killings and the police are looking for several others who have fled.

Witch hunting has seized Assam for years, with those suspected of sorcery frequently killed in cold blood by fellow villagers.

GU girls catch stalker in hostel

Gauhati University girls’ hostel
May 18 : The boarders of the AT 3 girls’ hostel of Gauhati University nabbed an intruder in the wee hours today who had sneaked into the hostel compound and frightened the girls by knocking on the doors.
University sources said around 3am, two boarders of the third block of AT 3 girls’ hostel (who were staying in the same room) heard someone knocking on the door.
The girls then asked who he was and threatened to call police. But when their threatening did not work, they contacted the other boarders of the hostel over phone who came out and chased the intruder till he was caught by the security guards.
The intruder, who was wearing only a towel and a vest, was later handed over to the police. A knife was seized from him.
The boarders of the girls’ hostels complained that knocking on doors and windows of the hostels has become a common occurrence at night. Earlier, the boarders took the knockings to be antics of monkeys from the nearby hills.
The hostel boarders of AT 3 had also faced a similar incident on May 7 night when an unidentified person attempted to open a window through a broken windowpane, but could not succeed as the boarders raised an alarm. The university suspended two security guards and repaired the windowpane the next day.
The intruder, identified as Lakhyadhar Barman, 32, works under a contractor and hails from Borigaon in Nalbari district. Jalukbari police have registered a case against him.
“Tapping on the doors and windows of the hostel is so frequent that one can expect such incident at least thrice a week on an average,” said Kabita Bora, a boarder.
Yet, the security guards of the university failed to nab a single intruder, till this morning.
“There must have been more than one intruder as we came to know later because several other boarders complained of knockings at the same time,” said Susmita Kalita, another boarder.
“Earlier, the hostel had three security guards. But the number was reduced to one two years ago. We have complained several times to the university authority about the weak security system of the hostels. But there has not been any concrete measure till now,” said another boarder.
The university has 270 security guards, of who around 100 are always on duty. Still, the university has witnessed a series of theft cases in the past three months triggering panic among students.
“We have taken the matter seriously. We will intensify vigil in and around the girls’ hostels,” said a senior official of the university.
The general secretary of the post-graduate students’ union, Hrisikesh Baruah, said as National Highway 37 passes through the university campus, the goons can easily enter the university. They have been demanding the university authority to erect boundary walls and to hand over security to a private agency, but have not received any response so far.

One-horned specimens easy to spot in India national park

By Jean Pier
A male rhino commandeers the park road. Armed guards accompany jeep safaris to protect visitors from rampaging animals. JEAN PIER / SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS-NEWS
A male rhino commandeers the park road. Armed guards accompany jeep safaris to protect visitors from rampaging animals. JEAN PIER / SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS-NEWS

More Information

Location: Central part of Indian state of Assam
More info: info@kaziranga-national-park.com
Getting there: JetLight and JetAirways are two airlines that fly from Kolkata to Jorhat Airport, 53 miles from the park. Contact the park about bus and rail service.
When to go: The park is open to visitors Nov. 1-April 30. The best time to visit is from December through April as visibility of animals improves after the grassland burning. The park is crowded during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.
GUWAHATI, India — Seeing a rhino in the wild isn't exactly easy. I know. I have visited some of the best rhino haunts in Africa and have not had even a distant glimpse of one.
But if you're willing to settle for one horn instead of two, there is a place in India where rhino sightings are almost guaranteed.
Kaziranga National Park is approximately 720 miles northeast of Kolkata (Calcutta) in the Indian state of Assam. It lies in the flood plain of the Brahmaputra River, which meanders lazily across the central valley of Assam after a torturous descent from the Tibetan Himalayas.
The spring snow melt and summer monsoon bring yearly floods to Kaziranga that enrich its grasslands and tropical forests, enabling the park to support healthy populations of Bengal tigers, elephants, various deer, wild water buffalo, boar, monkeys, reptiles and birds (both migratory and local). The park's most famous resident is the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, which is every bit as big and burly as its African cousins.
Like African rhinos, the Indian rhino has been hunted extensively for its horn, which is still prized in the Chinese and Vietnamese medicinal trade. Early in the 20th century, fewer than 200 Indian rhinos survived in northeast India and lowland Nepal. Today, through habitat preservation and protection from hunting, that population has risen to more than 2,800. Seventy percent of these animals are in Kaziranga.
Our first Kaziranga safari was to the west end of the park in an open jeep that collected us from the Wild Grass Lodge around 2:30 p.m. We popped into the back of the jeep, which had facing bench seats, unpadded roll bars, and no seat belts. This was one of those times you just have to accept that if your time has come to exit this life, then so be it! We had come to see rhinos and subliminal messages from the National Safety Council about the dangers of riding in this vehicle were not going to stop us.
After a 30-minute drive along Assam's “major” highway, we arrived at the western gate to the park. Unlike other Indian wildlife parks we have visited, we were required to take an armed guard with us into the park.
His job was to protect us from any animals that should charge our jeep. The policy is to shoot over the animal three times, and if it continues to charge, shoot to kill.
I hoped the guards were good at this routine because rhinos can run very fast and I didn't relish the thought of a dying rhino in my lap.
It is almost impossible to avoid seeing a rhinoceros in Kaziranga — they are everywhere: robust males, moms with young, and just ordinary rhinos.
They can be spotted threading the tall elephant grasses or just strolling down the road. At the end of the day, we had seen so many rhinos, we gave up counting them. We had also seen elephants, buffalo and many deer. Kaziranga was alive with animals. Standing in the jeep as we drove back to the gate in the setting sun, my spirits soared with the warm wind. How lucky we were to be in this special place.
At 5:45 the next morning, hot chai was delivered to our room to fortify us for our elephant safari. Our jeep was waiting in the predawn fog to take us to the central park entrance, which was only a short ride from our lodge.
We joined the other safari members at the elephant boarding platform, a raised area accessed by steps that enables riders to step directly onto the elephant. This is the first time we have ridden astride an elephant, which is a rather uncomfortable position for folks unaccustomed to doing the splits. Our convoy comprised eight elephants, each carrying a mahout (driver), who sat on the elephant's neck and gave it commands, and two or three riders, who straddled a long saddle affair strapped to the elephant's back.
An armed guard rode along on one of the elephants, but I am not sure how much he could protect us from charging rhinos or leaping tigers as we were soon widely dispersed in the fog, appearing like shadowy beings gliding over the elephant grass on magic carpets.
In contrast to jeep safaris, elephant safaris are not confined to roadways and are better accepted by the wild animals as a natural part of their environment. This allows riders to observe the park's fauna at close range without disturbing them. Thus, one can stroll beside a rhino for awhile or stand in the midst of a herd of endangered swamp deer and watch the young males butt heads.
We returned to the lodge via a dirt road that traversed a long string of tidy small farms. This was a pleasant change from the highway and an opportunity to see life around the park. We were welcomed by smiling adults and laughing children who all wanted their picture taken. I felt like we were as much of a novelty to them as the rhinos were to us.
Behind the smiles and laughter, controversy is brewing over Kaziranga's recent designation as “critical tiger habitat.'' Kaziranga's rich environment presently supports more tigers per square mile than any other protected area in India. The new designation would require acquisition of more land to increase the size of the park and the closing of large sectors of the park to tourists. Although these changes may benefit the tiger, the locals believe they will suffer as many may be forced off their land. Tourism, which supports their economy, may be reduced.
Our last safari was an afternoon jeep tour of the eastern end of the park. In contrast to the western sector, the eastern sector, also a 30-minute highway drive from our lodge, is primarily lush jungle abutting the Brahmaputra River. It has abundant animals, including rhinos, but is noted for its river dolphins and rich birdlife. Returning to the lodge in darkness, we were followed most of the way by a wildly honking SUV over-stuffed with an exuberant wedding party.
Our toast over a Kingfisher beer that evening was especially joyful. We had survived our last jeep ride and had seen enough rhinos to last a lifetime. Who cares if they only had one horn?
Jean Pier is a freelance writer based in Sequim, Wash. Email jeanpier@bellhill.net.

Assam verdict refects hope for an end to conflict: Ulfa

Sanjib Kr Baruah

New Delhi, May 16 : The verdict in Assam reflects hope for a permanent solution to the longstanding conflict, a top ULFA leader said after the Congress registered an unexpectedly high tally of 78 in the 126-member assembly. "The result underlines the hope and aspiration of the people of Assam to see a genuine solution
to the conflict between India and Assam," said Prodip Gogoi, vice-chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa).

"It is also reflects people's anger against Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Prafulla Mahanta for his involvement in the 'secret killings episode', which seemingly people have not forgotten," he said.

AGP could manage only a humiliating 10 seats.

During his second term as chief minister from 1996-2001, Mahanta was accused of playing an active role in the murder of family members of Ulfa cadres. About 35 such 'secret killings' have been documented.

The Ulfa is presently studying a 390-page document drafted by the Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan, a body of intellectuals, that will form the basis of its agenda for the forthcoming talks with the government.

The Ulfa vice-chairman also said "equal rights and protection of the indigenous people of Assam" would get top priority in the talks.

"There is a feeling among people that we are getting far less than what we are giving in terms of resources. This anomaly should be corrected," said Hiren Gohain, convenor of SJM.


GUWAHATI, May 14 – The Congress swept the elections to the Assam Legislative Assembly by winning 78 of 126 seats, while the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were completely routed. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) also improved their tallies and the Trinamool Congress managed to open its account by winning the Hajo constituency. The Left parties failed to open their account.

The Congress even managed to surpass its own expectations in the elections and almost all the heavyweights of the party managed to win with handsome margins. The only notable loser among the Congress was senior member Bharat Chandra Narah, who was defeated by Naba Kumar Doley of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Dhakuakhana constituency.

The AGP recorded its worst ever performance since the formation of the party following the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985 as the party only managed to win 10 seats this time and the fate of the BJP is also similar as the party managed to win only five seats. The AIUDF managed to become the major opposition party in the Assembly by winning 18 seats. However, there will be no Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly this time as a party requires minimum of 21 seats for its legislature party leader to get the post.

A number of prominent leaders of the AGP and BJP lost the polls. The president of the AGP, Chandra Mohan Patowary lost to Nilamani Sen Deka of the Congress in Dharmapur constituency in Nalbari district. Deka received 50,768 votes while Patowary managed to secure 45,433 votes. The president of the State unit of the BJP, Ranjit Dutta also lost the elections. He was defeated by Congress newcomer Pallab Lochan Das in Behali constituency by a margin of over 18,000 votes.

Though former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta managed to win from Barhampur constituency by defeating Congress candidate Suresh Borah, he lost in Samaguri constituency to Rockybul Hussain by a margin of more than 19,000 votes.

A number of other senior members of the AGP had to bite the dust in the elections. Former Minister Atul Bora was defeated by Akon Bora of Congress in Dispur constituency, another former Minister Ramendra Narayan Kalita came a poor third in West Guwahati constituency, party general secretary Hitendra Nath Goswami lost in Jorhat constituency, senior member Dr Alaka Sharma lost in Nalbari, former Minister Dr Kamala Kalita lost in Chaygaon to youth Congress leader Rekibuddin Ahmed and former party president Brindaban Goswami lost to Rajen Borthakur of the Congress by a margin of over 20,000 in the prestigious Tezpur constituency.

The Congress performed beyond expectations all over the state including the Barak valley where the BJP lost its stronghold. In the last elections, the BJP and the AIUDF performed well in the valley, but the Congress managed to regain its position in the valley this time. The Congress also did well in the Hill districts of NC Hills and Karbi Anglong despite the Opposition claims of gaining ground in the districts.

Almost all the senior leaders of the Congress managed to win by handsome margins. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi defeated his nearest rival of the AGP by a margin of over 50,000 votes in Titabor constituency while, Himanta Biswa Sarma created a record by defeating his nearest rival Pradyut Bora by a margin of over 77000 votes. Among other Congress heavyweights, Dr Bhumidhar Barman defeated former Assam Assembly Speaker Pulakesh Baruah of the AGP by a margin of over 6,000 votes, while GC Langthasa defeated his nearest rival Kulendu Daulagapu (BJP)by a margin of over 25,000 votes in Haflong and Ajanta neog was elected to the Assembly from Golaghat.

The BPF not only managed to retain its position but also won seats from outside the Bodoland Territorial Council area.

It may be mentioned here that in the 2006 polls, the Congress managed to win 53 seats and form the Government by forming an alliance with the BPF. This time the Congress managed to win absolute majority and the party will be able to form the Government on its own. But as the Congress president Sonia Gandhi has already assured to form an alliance with the BPF, the existing alliance is likely to continue.

The AGP managed to win 24 seats in 2006 and the party’s strength went up to 25 after Prafulla Kumar Mahanta rejoined the party. But there has been a marked decline in the performance of the party this time and will not be even the major opposition party in the State Assembly. The BJP also managed to win 10 seats in 2006 but its performance also came down despite all the senior leaders of the party campaigning in the State in the run up to the elections.

Probe ordered into death of HIV orphan

Dikshita Barman

Guwahati, May 12 : The Assam Human Rights Commission today asked the state social welfare department to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Dikshita Barman, a four-year-old HIV positive girl, last month and submit a report to it within 30 days.
The directive came after a city-based NGO, Consumer’s Legal Protection Forum, moved the commission, citing a report published in The Telegraph on April 23 highlighting how the girl from lower Assam’s Nalbari district died after she was shifted from one care centre to another.
The NGO had on May 5 complained to the commission that Dikshita had died because of absence of a special care centre for HIV positive children in the state. The commission accepted the complaint and registered a case (116/18/2011-12), before issuing the inquiry order.
Commission member Jyoti Prasad Chaliha today said, “We had gone through the news items and the complaint lodged by the NGO and asked the commissioner secretary of the social welfare department to conduct a thorough inquiry into the incident, and the circumstances leading to her death. We have asked them to discuss with those associated with the care and treatment of the child and submit a detailed report to us.”
The commission also asked the department to report the steps being taken by the government regarding creation of facilities to take care of HIV positive children. “The NGO complained that while there are around 70 HIV positive orphans in the state, there are no facilities to take care of them. So we have asked the department to let us know if the government has any policy or scheme for HIV positive orphans,” Chaliha said.
Dikshita, who had lost her parents to AIDS last year, was discovered in a goat shed at her uncle’s house in Nalbari last December. She was brou-ght to Guwahati by a local NGO on December 11 and was being taken care of in a community care centre run by Bhorukha Public Welfare Trust, another NGO. Her condition had also improved after anti-retroviral treatment.
The child welfare committee, under social welfare department, and Assam State AIDS Control Society decided to send her to a care centre run by Missionaries of Charity at Lankeswar. She was shifted to the new centre, Shantidaan, on April 2 and four days later, she died of a serious stomach ailment.
“Dikshita is no more, but there are several children like her who need special care. Ke-eping this in mind, we appealed to the commission to instruct the government and ensure that human rights of HIV positive children are protected,” the NGO’s chief coordinator and Gauhati High Co-urt lawyer Ajoy Hazarika said.

Made-in-MIT straw choppers for farmers


The second prototype of the straw chopper designed at MIT.
Jorhat, May 12 : Light, durable and cheap is the straw chopper, which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is designing in partnership with the Mushroom Development Foundation, Guwahati, so that small farmers in the state can supplement their income via mushroom farming.
Pranjal Baruah, member of the foundation, which is a citizens’ organisation, said there was great need of a straw-cutter, which could be easily handled by women also. The present design was heavy and bulky and required two men to use it and was also expensive and easily breakable.
“The innovation, which the MIT students are designing, is something that can be made easily by village blacksmiths with locally available scrap and can be maintained by a cycle repair shop or motor garage, unlike the present chaff-cutter, which is unwieldy, expensive, breaks down frequently and is very costly to maintain,” Baruah said.
The need for the chopper arose when the foundation started its promotion of mushroom cultivation in Northeast.
The foundation felt that through mushroom cultivation a marginal farmer would not have to depend on the income of one-season cultivation of paddy, as was the practice in the region in the absence of largescale irrigation facilities.
Baruah, a pioneer of commercial mushroom cultivation, said straw was the base for mushrooms to grow and for the spawn to feed on the nutrients it was required to be cut.
The first problem the foundation discovered was the resistance to take up mushroom cultivation, as it was difficult for people to cut straw with the existing machine.
“We first tried to develop a straw chopper here locally, but failed miserably. Then we contacted Paul Pollock, entrepreneur and product developer based in the US, who contacted MIT in 2009. An MIT professor, E. Jones, came here in 2010 and saw the machine but did not know what to do. The developed countries do not require straw choppers, as they use harvesters. After returning, he studied the samples of all choppers from different parts of the world and found that all were more or less the same, designed by a British engineer in the late 18th century,” Baruah said.
IIT Guwahati is trying to make a mechanised straw chopper, as it envisages this to be a potential area, which could change the economy.
The MIT team comprising Lusann Yang, Majda Almarzouqi, Vanessa Zhang, F. Montalvo and Lana Awad have taken the initiative to improve community services in India and some other countries so that farmers can benefit through alternate opportunities and also create opportunities for a second group, which could manufacture and repair the machines.
Vanessa, who liases with the foundation, said in a recent email to Baruah that a prototype was ready and only a few improvisations had to be made to make it more efficient.

ID cards for selected border haat traders of India & B'desh

SHILLONG: Customs officials from India and Bangladesh on Wednesday decided to issue identity cards to "selected" traders after resumption of the age-old border haats (markets) on both sides of the international border that Meghalaya shares with the neighbouring country.

"Customs departments of both the countries are carrying out the documentation process now. Border trade will be free of duty and restricted to selected people in and around the border villages only," said superintendent (technical) of Customs (India) AN Pal on the sidelines of a meeting between customs officials of both the countries here on Wednesday.

"It is being done to ensure smooth trade and make the process simpler," Pal said adding that the next such meet would be held in Chittagong.

On the other hand, Bangladesh on Wednesday urged India to "systematize" issuance of "car passes", vis-Ã -vis border trade even as Customs officials from both sides agreed to issue identity cards to `selected` traders from both sides to make the age-old border haats functional and more secure.

Customs officials of India and Bangladesh discussed various issues relating to bilateral trade between the two countries, and mulled ways and means to streamline and simplify movement of exports and imports across the international border.

"The biennial meeting here took up minor problems faced by exporters and importers in a bid to address them at local level," an official said.

The Bangladeshi delegation was led by Commissioner of Customs (Dhaka North) Enayat Hussain, while the Indian side was headed by North East Customs commissioner SR Barua.

The Bangladeshi side expressed the need for dumping places within the Customs area in India for goods coming in from the neighbouring country.

Hussain said proposals to set up more Land Customs Station were taken up at the meeting, besides the border haat (market) to be set up at Balat along the Meghalaya international border as a pilot project to revive the traditional border markets.

Both sides also discussed a proposal to issue "standard passes" to the vehicles of exporters and importers carrying goods through the international border.

North East Customs Commissioner SR Barua said the passes, to be issued by a competent authority of the respective country, were required for security issues. "It will ensure that the same person and vehicle comes back. These passes would be issued through simplified procedures in place of passport and VISA which is much more complicated," he said, adding the passes would carry details of the driver, attendee and the vehicle.

The minutes of the meet will be submitted to the respective Excise and Customs boards for further deliberations and decisions.

It is reported that Bangladesh's official imports from India during 2009-10 stood at over $3. 2 billion while Bangladesh was able to export only $304.63 million worth. However, in the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, Bangladesh's exports stood at $359 million. Besides formal trade, informal imports from India are worth billions of dollars.

Twenty-three of the total 32 LCS in the Bangladesh border in the region are presently functional.

ADB to provide $ 56.9 m to tackle floods, erosion in Assam

New Delhi, May 11, 2011

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India have signed an agreement for the first tranche loan of $ 56.9 million under the $ 120 million Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Programme.

The programme is aimed at helping to mitigate the disruption to life and livelihoods and the huge economic losses that are caused by periodic floods in the Brahmaputra river.

The agreement was signed here yesterday by Mr Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India, Mr. Hun Kim, ADB Country Director for India and Mr R. S. Prasad, Chief Executive Officer, Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Agency and Commissioner and Secretary, Finance Department, Government of Assam, on behalf of the state government.

The Multi-tranche Financing Facility of $120 million for the investment programme was approved in October, 2010 to enhance the reliability of flood and river erosion protection infrastructure and management systems in key urban, suburban, and rural areas along the Brahmaputra River in Dibrugarh, Kamrup (near Guwahati), and Golaghat (upstream of Kaziranga National Park) districts.

The first tranche loan will focus on the most vulnerable reaches and upgrade existing embankments, provide riverbank protection works where required, and help collect critical data and information. Work under the first loan is expected to be completed by September, 2014, an official press release said.

In addressing flood and river erosion problems, the programme will introduce a range of innovations, including the application of the latest cost-effective and sustainable technologies of bank protection with geo-textile fabrics, proactive risk mitigation through erosion prediction modelling using remote sensing, and community participation through local disaster management committees, among others.

Mr Rajamony said that effective management of flood and erosion problems was critical for Assam where the majority of urban and agricultural land was flood prone. He said that the ADB programme would, therefore contribute to inducing critical private investments in urban, industrial, and agriculture sectors, while protecting essential public and private assets and livelihoods of the population.

Mr. Hun said that this innovative water sector loan would put into operation comprehensive structural and non-structural measures for flood risk management following international best practices and introducing latest technologies. He expressed hope that its successful implementation would provide a model that can be replicated in other flood prone states in India.

Power crisis in Barak Valley, social organization threatens agitation

SILCHAR: Karimganj Nagarik Manch, a social organization based in the border district of Karimganj, sent a memorandum to the chairman of Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) on Wednesday seeking a solution to the severe power crisis in the Barak Valley.

A member of the manch said if the situation was not improved immediately they would go for series of agitation days to come. The organization has already decided to stage a dharna in front of the ASEB office in Karimganj on Thursday. Mass meetings and other agitation programmes have been planned for later phases of the stir, added the member.

In a memorandum to ASEB chairman, the manch members said three districts of the Barak Vallley and Karimganj district near Bangladesh border, in particular, have been suffering from power cuts for several days. The situation has affected functioning of industries, including tea gardens, business and normal life in the area.

"People are not getting enough supply of drinking water. The Public Health Engineering department has failed to supply water in the district, including Karimganj, as their pumps are non-functional without power. Hospitals and education institutes too have been affected," the memorandum added.

Meanwhile, the Central Assam Power Distribution Company Limited`s Barak Valley zone general manager Dipankar Nath said the crisis would continue for some more days because of a crunch in supply of power from the load dispatch centre at Kahilipara.

Nath added that supply of power from the distribution centre was much below the requirement. "While the valley needs about 90 MW daily, it has been getting 40-45 MW daily," he said.

Reports from various parts of the valley said irate people attacked ASEB offices and gheraoed deputy commissioners` office. They were unhappy with the lukewarm response of authorities to their problems.

Private sector DLF started two power projects in Banskandi (Cachar) and Adamtila (Karimganj) with a capacity of 15 MW and 9 MW respectively with the help of gas supplied by ONGC from its nearest fields. But after a few years, the gas supply was stopped at Adamtila leading to a shut down of the plant. At Banskandi also the electricity production is on the verge of closure due to continued shortage of supply of gas by ONGC.

Couple of years ago, Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) and Power Finance Corporation and Assam government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for setting up a 250 MW thermal power plant at Digarkhal in Cachar district. However, the project is yet to be started.

7 from Assam clears UPSC Main exam

NEW DELHI, May 11 – At least seven candidates from Assam have cleared the UPSC Civil Services (Main) Examination 2010.

Among the successful candidates are Himanshu Sharma who is ranked 49, Mannan Akhtar (55), Rupjyoti Brahma Karjee (559), Ankita Kar (610), Arunita Phukan (613), Shankarbrata Rai Medhi (742) and Mantu Kumar Das (845).

The results of the UPSC Civil Services (Main) examination have elated the candidates who took the tough challenge and emerged successful, and also enthused the youths of the state in general.

A student of medicine, Mannan Akhtar, who is ranked 55, said he was very happy and it was difficult to express the feeling in words.

Akhtar who had toiled for around 18 months before taking the exams said that it was hard work and focus that made him succeed. He also acknowledged the support he received from his family, friends, and seniors.

An avid badminton player, Akhtar was earlier the overall topper in the MBBS exam from Gauhati Medical College.

Asked is he had anything to say to young aspirants, he said that with dedicated work and faith in oneself great hurdles can be crossed.

Shankarbrata Rai Medhi, who spoke to The Assam Tribune over phone said that he was ecstatic to receive the news. Working as a teacher in a prominent college in New Delhi, he said that his preparations were spread over nearly three years.

He said that he attributed his success to a number of people, but his parents played a major role in keeping him inspired and motivated.

Asked if it was indeed necessary to undertake coaching in New Delhi or other metros to be emerge successful in the examination, he replied in the negative.

IIM topper shuns plum job offers

Youth decides to set up his own business rather than work for giant firms

Guwahati, May 11: Manav Jain, this year’s gold medallist at IIM Shillong, would rather be a “Ratan Tata than work for him”.
Though the country’s youngest IIM has shown a better placement record than in the previous year, with the average compensation package on campus being around 12.36 lakh per annum, Jain opted out of the whole interview procedure.
“I opted out of placements because I believed that I can serve myself better by getting into something of my own, rather than working for a corporate. I have been a topper throughout, be it in school, college or MBA, and have confidence in my capabilities. This is why I opted out of corporate placements,” said the 23-year-old who has entrepreneurship running in his blood.
“My inspiration has been my father. He always told me to become big myself rather than work for someone big. I would rather be Ratan Tata than work for him. This way, I can someday dream to be that big,” Jain told The Telegraph over phone from New Delhi.
Jain, who studied at Modern School, Delhi, and completed his graduation from Sri Ram College of Commerce, got the gold medal for his all-round performance at IIM Shillong. He will be working with his father for a year or so to understand business — the family runs Rakesh Papers Private Limited in Delhi which has a turnover of Rs 15 crore — and then look for further scope for expansion and growth.
Jain’s decision would surprise many in IIM Shillong since the institute has attracted better and bigger firms this year.
Nearly 16 new companies took part in the placement process, a mark of IIM Shillong’s growing stature.
There has been a great rush from the banking and financial sectors, which constituted 43 per cent of the offers on campus.
The range of profiles varied from investment banking, equity research, project advisory, consumer banking, wholesale banking, capital markets — the recruiters being Nomura Investments, Standard Chartered, HSBC, ICICI Bank, YES Bank, DE Shaw and SBI Capital.
“With the presence of first time recruiters like Procter and Gamble, which offered profiles across their product supply and customer business development functions, 27 per cent of the offers were made in the functional areas of marketing and operations. Other than Procter and Gamble in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, Godfrey Phillips India offered roles in marketing. From the Tata Group, companies like Titan and Tata Steel made offers in areas of marketing and supply chain,” the official said.
Jain, too, batted for the institute.
“IIM Shillong being a new institute is indeed a very good place to be in. It gives you the freedom to do a lot many things, which institutes with formalised systems do not offer. I got to learn a lot from this place,” he said.

Girl rescued from the clutch of human trafficker

NEW DELHI: A 16-year-old girl was rescued from the clutches of a human trafficker, who had lured her to accompany him from Assam to Delhi by promising to marry her.

The anti-kidnapping squad of the crime branch of Delhi Police along with members of NGO Shakti Vahini rescued her on May 5 when the accused was negotiating with a decoy customer to sell her off. The girl is a native of Kamrup district of Assam.

According to DCP (crime) Ashok Chand, the trafficker was demanding Rs 1.5 lakh from the decoy customer.

"During counselling, the girl said that the trafficker used to talk to her over phone often and soon they became close. On April 27, the accused, identified as Ismail Ahmed, along with the girl left Assam for Delhi. Ahmed had promised her that he would marry her once they reached the capital,'' said Rishikant, a senior member of Shakti Vahini.

After reaching Delhi, Ahmed postponed the marriage on one pretext or the other. In the meantime, the two developed a physical relationship. On May 1, Ahmed took her to Kanpur and reached their destination the next morning. They returned the same day. In Delhi, Ahmed kept the girl in a placement agency office at Shakurpur. The girl said she was not given food properly.

"After a medical test the girl was sent to the children home, Nirmal Chaya, as per the order of the Child Welfare Committee. In the meantime, the NGO officials contacted her parents, and her father and elder brother are on their way to Delhi,'' said Rishikant.

During interrogation of the accused, cops found out that Ahmed is married and has four kids. He is from Nagaon district of Assam. "We hope to arrest some more people in the case. Investigation in the matter is also on in some places in UP,'' said Chand.

An FIR under section 363 (kidnapping), 366A (procurement of minor girl) and 376 (rape) has been lodged against the accused.

CBI probing 8 cases of irregularities

R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, May 10 – The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating into eight cases of financial irregularities in North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council and the Bureau is likely to take up one more case shortly. However, completion of the investigation may take some more time.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the CBI has registered only the cases handed over to it by the Assam Government. The State Government first handed over five specific cases to the CBI and only recently, three more cases relating to the departments of Health, Forest and Social Welfare have been handed over to the agency. Sources revealed that the CBI is in the process of taking over another case of financial irregularities in implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in the Hill district.

Commenting on the progress of investigation, official sources revealed that the relevant papers are being scrutinised and examination of the accused as well as others is in progress. Sources said that political leaders including a former Chief Executive Member (CEM) and Executive Members of the NC Hills Autonomous Council have been examined. Several officers and contractors have also been examined and the process is yet to be completed and it would take some time to complete the investigations. However, the CBI is yet to take any decision on examining Ministers and former Ministers as reported in a section of the media, sources added.

It may be mentioned here that the financial scam in NC Hills was one of the worst to hit the State in recent times and a special audit by the office of the Auditor General also highlighted a number of glaring financial irregularities. Though the State Government was initially reluctant to hand over the investigations to the CBI, it decided to do so following advice from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Though Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi assured in a Press conference that the CBI would be asked to investigate all the irregularities pointed out by the Special Audit by the office of the AG, initially only five specific cases of financial irregularities were handed over to the Central agency and later four more cases were given.

The AG audit also pointed out mismatch between the funds allocated and released to the Council but the role of the Finance Department is yet to be probed and the CBI has not been asked to probe into the matter so far. Similarly, the role of the Hill Areas Development Department in the irregularities has also not been brought under the purview of the CBI probe as of now.

Official sources revealed that the CBI has been probing into only the specific cases handed over to it by the State Government and its mandate is very limited.

Assam to get its first tea lounge soon in Guwahati

Guwahati, May 9, 2011

Assam will soon have its first tea lounge, the Assam Chai Bar, in its main city here, which will provide tourists and locals with an one-stop destination to taste or buy tea produced in the state.

The tea bar, being built on the ground floor of the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) here, is expected to be open for customers by August 1.

GTAC chairman Ravi Capoor, addressing a press conference here today, said the tea lounge would offer wide varieties of Assam Orthodox, Green and CTC teas, such as Second Flush, Autumnal and Rainy Season teas.

Teas from different parts of Brahmaputra and Barak valley will also be available for retail purchase as well as consumption, he said.

"It will be an exhaustive menu as far as Assam tea is concerned. It will also have Darjeeling tea so that people can contrast the taste and quality of the two," Mr Capoor, who is also the Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Government of Assam, said.

The Assam Chai Bar (The Tea Room) is being initiated by the GTAC in collaboration with North East Tea Association, Assam Tea Planters’ Association and Bharatiya Cha Parishad.

"The tea lounge will be run by the tea associations as they have better experience and are better equipped to do so," the GTAC chairman said.

He said a massive publicity blitz would be launched soon to promote the tea bar and talks have already been completed with the tourism department to ensure that the Chai Bar is included in all tourism promotion literature and advertisements.

"We are also working on putting it in the Incredible India campaign," Mr Capoor said.

The choice of the tea to be included in the menu will be done by a selection committee of experts and emphasis would be on packaging to maintain garden-fresh taste for at least three months.

The pricing would be approximately Rs 20 to Rs 200 per cup and tea varieties priced as high as Rs 4000-5000 per kg would also be available for purchase.

Matric results on time, says Seba


Good news
Guwahati, May 9 : The Board of Secondary Education, Assam, today said results of the matric examinations would be declared within a month, allaying fears of delay.
The board could not avail of the services of several teachers in evaluation of answer scripts of 4 lakh examinees because of engagement of several teachers in the Assembly poll duty.
But dedication of the evaluators has helped the board complete the whole exercise within the stipulated deadline, Seba secretary L.N. Sarma told The Telegraph.
Sarma said Seba should be able to declare the results either on May 27 or 28.
Last year’s results were declared on May 29.
Seba normally recruits nearly 10,000 teachers as evaluators. The board has 46 zones in the state and each zone requires a minimum of 200 evaluators. But this time the Seba could not recruit the requisite number of evaluators because of Assembly election duty.
The fear of delayed results arose after Seba failed to complete the preliminary evaluation by March 25.
“There were uncertainties if Seba would be able to stick to the Supreme Court’s deadline of declaring the Class X final examination results within June 10,” a source said.
Admitting the initial hiccups, Sarma said Seba tried to motivate the existing evaluators and told them to avoid any situation of uncertainty over declaration of the matric results. He said the board would also hold a meeting soon after the tabulation process in completed to take a final decision on allotting pass marks to students who have failed to do well in the general mathematics paper.
He admitted that a large of students found the general mathematics a bit tricky and tough. “Once the tabulation process is completed we will get to know the overall performance of students and thus, it will be easier for the board to take a decision on allotting marks in the mathematics paper. For example, if a student secures above 60 per cent marks in other subjects barring mathematics, the board would consider the performance of the particular candidate as good and accordingly adopt a liberal attitude towards mathematics,” he said.
Seba faced criticism for making the general mathematics paper tough. There is a great deal of fear among many examines that they would not be able to secure even the pass marks of 30 in mathematics.
Sarma said the board earlier told evaluators that instead of focusing on correct answers in the general mathematics paper, they must try to find out whether the students have followed the correct procedures to solve the sums.
Students who have followed the correct procedures should be given the “benefit” for making the right attempts.
Seba had also instructed its evaluators to quit their “conservative” attitude and become liberal in allotting marks to students who sat for this year’s exam.

Draft charter of demands seeks autonomy for Assam

GUWAHATI: A citizens group of Assam, which has brokered peace between Ulfa and the Centre, has prepared the draft charter of demands that seeks constitutional amendment providing overwhelming autonomy to Assam.

The citizens peace broker group, Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan, on Saturday handed over the draft charter to Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, who said that the draft charter will be discussed at the outfit's platform and a formally decision will be taken in one month's time before starting the talks. The draft on adoption by Ulfa will form the basis of the unconditional talks that both and Ulfa and centre have agreed to hold.

Last January the Ulfa leadership has held courtesy meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi and the formal talks had to be kept on hold because of the assembly elections in Assam in April.