Taiwan offers help in wildlife conservation

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

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

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

Assam tribal girl wants action on attackers, on hunger strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IIIT to be set up in Assam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naga supra state body: now Assam raises objection

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

State not to allow inclusion of its territory in Nagalim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assam struggles with barbaric beliefs

By Kaushik Deka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telangana echoes in Assam hills, lends support to Bodos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hazarika's funeral creates world record

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

Assam achieves third highest rate of progress in HDI

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