Three killed by lightning in Assam

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

Illegal migration issue serious: PC

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

Assam Rubber Board to bring 12,500 hectares under plantation

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

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

Rs. 100-crore flood aid for Dhemaji

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

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

Manipur observes 119th Patriots' Day

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

Rubber Board focus on Assam

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

Ratan Tata calls on Assam CM

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

8 washed away in Assam flash floods

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

Fire crackers burst on train tracks in Assam

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

Assam to get Northeast's first integrated tea park

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

Assam Assets surpasses its targets

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

AASU plea for Assamese

Union submits demands to Gogoi

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

Assam tea production rises by 24% in June

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

Demand in LS for creation of Bodoland state

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

Assam police make photo-identity proof mandatory for Internet Cafes


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

Assamese welcome NDBF's unilateral ceasefire declaration

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

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

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

Now, development the watchword in Assam's Baksa District

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

Assam tea workers’ return to their roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flood fury on, 20 Jorhat villages hit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charter proposes steps to protect indigenous people

NEW DELHI, Aug 5 – ULFA may have dropped the demand for sovereignty, but its charter of demand is varied and high on preservation of the identity of the people and protection of indigenous culture and right to engage in specific relationship with foreign countries for promotion of mutual trade, commerce and cultural relationship.

The charter of demand called the framework of charter for negotiation to resolve the issue between Assam and India and signed by chairman, Arabinda Rajkohwa gave a brief account of the history of Assam and how British snatched away sovereignty of the people of Assam after the Yandaboo Treaty of 1826. “The people of Assam have suffered historic neglect and disdain at the hands of Government of India, There is, therefore, real grounds for a struggle to uphold Assam’s inalienable rights, which had also led to the rise of ULFA,” it said.

The people of Assam today feel insecure in their own national homeland and have been left far behind. To achieve such objectives, ULFA proposes that negotiations be initiated between India and the ‘people of Assam’ to bring in measures Constitutional and otherwise of wide scope that certain urgent political, economic, social, cultural arrangements be undertaken and completed within reasonable time-frame by Government of India.

The 12 broad groupings under which negotiations are proposed to start include grounds for ULFA struggle and their genuineness, status on missing ULFA leaders and cadres, constitutional and political arrangements and reforms including protection of identity and material resources of the local indigenous population of Assam.

Illegal migration, its effect and impact and required remedies including sealing of international borders, river patrolling and development of a native force to man the borders, ethnic issues and problems and constitutional restructuring including settlement of border disputes and removal of encroachment, restoration, protection, preservation and spread of indigenous culture of Assam in all its variety are some other aspects.

The ULFA has also called for financial and economic

arrangements including of all royalties on mines and minerals including oil, land and natural resources including right of natives to the land, flood control and management.

The economic demands included industrial growth, development of infrastructure, removal of transport bottleneck, development of entrepreneurial skill, availability of credit, infusion of capital leading to industrial take-off.

The outfit has also called for right to engage in specific relationship with foreign countries for promotion of mutual trade, commerce and cultural relationship.

Railways facing terror threat in State

GUWAHATI, Aug 3 – Railways, the economic lifeline of North-east India, is once again under threat from extremist groups in Assam, following which some trains have been cancelled or short terminated in the last few days. Smooth running of trains will be affected in the State till Independence Day, a period during which extremists have targeted railway assets in the recent past.

Well-placed sources in NFR, who would prefer anonymity, revealed that apart from improving security standards of NFR, the State Government has been informed about the need for better protection of railway assets from time to time. However, no fool proof system has been developed to thwart the designs of subversive elements.

What surprises many is, even though the State Government keeps reiterating about an improvement in the law and order situation of the State, lives of passengers in trains and railway employees are still at risk from armed extremists in a number of stretches. It is such fears that prompted the NFR to cancel trains running in the Metre Gauge section under Rangiya Division.

Stretches in the Rangiya Division have been considered vulnerable by the NFR because of threats which can emanate from a number of extremist groups. The threat perception is such that the NFR is not willing to take any risks even though it is aware that stoppage of train movement in the MG section will impact on goods and passenger transport in Assam and in parts of Arunachal Pradesh, which may also increase the cost of commodities carried by trains.

This year, the threats from extremist groups, appear to have increased with some attempting to put pressure on the State and Union Government to meet their demands, or to assert their presence in a somewhat desperate way.

As the NFR continues to receive complaints from aggrieved passengers each time it cancels or short terminates trains, its officials point to the high degree of threats, some of which are new. “The Ghograpar blast was first attributed to the NDFB anti-talk group. But it was later found to be the handiwork of a hardly known group…the problem is most extremists treat the railways as a soft target,” said a senior NFR official based in its Maligaon headquarters.

Another, emerging challenge for security personnel is availability of better technology and knowledge and their use among some extremist groups. It is believed that mobile phone connectivity is one of the means which extremists have relied on to plan and target train assets. In the recent derailment of a train in Kokrajhar district, it is established that a gas cutter was used to remove rail track, a dangerous precedent, NFR sources admit.

Centre engaged in back channel talks with Bodo militants

P. Chidambaram, Union Home Minister. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
P. Chidambaram, Union Home Minister. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram on Wednesday disclosed that the Centre was engaged in back channel talks with the jailed chief of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Ranjan Daimary in Assam, and reiterated the Centre’s resolve to hold dialogues with any group that shuns violence.
“We are talking with Ranjan Daimary. He is in prison and we are talking with him through the back channel,” Mr. Chidambaram informed the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.
He said the Union Government was in touch with Mr. Daimary and hoped that once the talks start, there would be progress. “One faction of the NDFB was in favour of talks with the government, but the one led by Mr. Daimary was not. The Centre is committed to engage in political dialogue with any group, which is ready to shun violence,’’ he remarked.
NDFB was formed under Daimary’s leadership in November 1994 to demand a separate Bodoland in Assam. The outfit broke into two following the Assam bomb blasts in 2008 in which Mr. Daimary was named as the mastermind. The hardline faction of NDFB, which project itself as the real NDFB, is led by Daimary.
Mr. Chidambaram said the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution was amended for the creation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which took office in May 2005. Bodo language has also been included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. About 846 ex-Bodo Liberation Tiger (BLT) cadres have also been recruited in central police forces and the approval for appointment of 400 ex-BLT cadres as Special Police Officers (SPOs) has been given to the State government.
On the query whether the recent Supreme Court judgment on SPOs would affect this decision, he said: “I don't think so.”
A Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was signed between the Union Government, Assam Government and the Bodo Liberation Tiger in 2003 for setting up the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam and the inclusion of the Bodo language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, among others.
“The government is committed to implement MoS in letter and spirit. The implementation of MoS is being reviewed in the Home Ministry periodically,” he stated.
He said the Assam Government had late last year recommended the inclusion of the tribes living in Karbi Anglong and N.C. Hills districts and Scheduled Tribes (hills) living in the plain districts of Assam in the list of Scheduled Tribes (Hills) along with Bodo Kacharis. “As per approved modalities of the government, the proposal of the Assam Government needs consultation with the Registrar General of India and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes,” he added.

EMFA appeals for restrain on Facebook comment

Guwahati, Aug 03 (PTI) The Electronic Media Forum Assam (EMFA) today appealed to the people not not to target the field reporters and camera persons of a local news channel for its editor''s alleged derogatory remarks on an ethnic community in the Facebook. "The reporters and camera persons should not be targeted personally as they are only performing their duties under the guidelines of their respective new channels", EMFA President Nava Thakuria said in a press release. The EMFA also urged the management of the media group to resolve the issue amicably at the earliest for the greater interest of journalism. The Editor-in-chief of the channel had claimed that a fake account was created in his name where such remarks were made and he had already registered a case with the cyber crime STF in this connection. The All Assam Tai Ahom Students Union and several other organisations took out a torchlight procession in Dibrugarh district last night demanding arrest of the editor and a CBI probe into his alleged remarks.

Train passengers facing harrowing time due to cancellations

GUWAHATI, Aug 2 – Scores of train passengers across Assam had a harrowing time after a number of trains were cancelled, rescheduled, or short terminated for the second consecutive day by the NF Railway. The movement of around 20 trains has been affected today.

People were stranded in many stations, including hubs like Guwahati. Hapless passengers from various stations have complained about the inadequate facilities provided to them. The NFR has also been criticized for being slow in dispensing train status information to those awaiting travel.

Sources in NFR said that the trains were affected by the removal of rail track by miscreants near Kokrajhar and due to serious security concerns. With intelligence inputs suggesting possibility of more subversive acts by extremist elements, the NFR is unwilling to take any risk.

Although the running of trains was affected for the second day, NFR officials are tightlipped on when normal resumption of services will take place. “It might take a few more days before the normal schedule is restored in all the sections,” said an NFR official. The NFR has recently been informed about threats to its assets and recent incidents like the one near Kokrajhar and the bomb blast near Ghograpar have reinforced such fears.

In a press note, the NFR informed that apart from the cancellation and rescheduling, all MG passenger train services in Rangiya Division have been cancelled with immediate effect.

Trains cancelled in Assam over security concerns

Guwahati, Aug 2 : Security concerns following sabotage of railway tracks by insurgents at two places in western Assam ahead of Independence Day celebrations led the Northeast Frontier (NF) Railways to cancel or short-terminate several trains today.

'Due to security reasons over Assam areas and accident between Fakiragram and Kokrajhar, several trains will remain cancelled / partially cancelled / short terminated," NF Railway sources said.

Militants had damaged tracks at two spots near Kokrajhar yesterday, causing derailment of a goods train.

A little known Bodo outfit had later claimed responsibility and warned of more such attacks in the run-up to the August 15 celebrations.

Among the trains affected are mostly passenger trains running between Alipurduar and eastern Assam.

Night running of trains are routinely stopped across Assam on the eve of any national day celebration as militants repeatedly target the trains.