Elephant stuck in pit in Kaziranga, critical

A female elephant was today seriously injured when she got stuck in a deep muddy pit in Kaziranga National Park.

The elephant was grazing with other members of the herd near the Boishamari camp in northern side of Kohora range when she got stuck in the pit, Park officials said.

The animal fell down, broke her hip and could not make any further movement.

She was suffering from pain and the other members of the herd tried to pull her out, the officials said.

The elephant was crying in pain and patrolling park employees informed veterinarians who reached the spot and injected pain killers and medicines.

Veterinarians attending on her said her health condition was deteriorating and it was difficult to move her out of the pit.

Abducted girl rescued near Assam-Nagaland border

Guwahati, Dec 6 : A girl abducted by an unidentified gunman Wednesday from Assam’s Sivsagar district was rescued from near the Assam-Nagaland border Thursday morning, police said.

“The class VIII girl was rescued today (Thursday) morning from Rangajan area along the Assam-Nagaland border. The girl was not hurt by the abductor and was handed over to her family by the police,” said Sivsagar Superintendent of Police Bijoy Kuligam.

A man Wednesday hijacked a school van with 11 children on board at a gun-point near Sivasagar district’s Nazira area. He escaped with a girl student in a tea garden along the Nagaland border.

Although 10 children along with the van-driver were rescued after the vehicle was recovered by the police, one student was missing till late Wednesday night.

“We have launched an operation in and around the area. Nagaland police were also helping us in search of miscreant who abandoned the girl and managed to escape. We hope to nab him in a day or two,” Kuligam said.

Accorduing to police, the man had an altercation with some youths at a tea stall near Nazira Tiniali and ran away after they chased him. He stopped the school van passing by the area and asked the driver to drive towards Simaluguri on the Assam-Nagaland border.

He later got down near the Santak tea estate and vanished in the garden with the girl.

The anti-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) led by Paresh Baruah in an emailed statement to the media Wednesday denied their involvement in the matter and urged the youth to release the girl unharmed immediately.

Assam: Drunk teacher ties noose on child to show hanging to class IV students

A primary school teacher in Sonitpur district of Assam tied a noose around a student's neck to show the class how freedom fighters were hanged prompting the district administration to order an inquiry.

Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Lalit Gogoi told The Indian Express that the district elementary education officer was asked to investigate and submit a report by Monday. "It is a strange case and we are taking some drastic action tomorrow," Gogoi said.

According to local reports, Dhiren Kakati, the teacher, tied a noose around a student of Class IV and almost pulled the knot when some children raised an alarm out of fear. Some even ran away. The incident occurred at Kongkalbhangi Prathamik Vidyalaya, about 30 kms west of Tezpur, the Sonitpur district town. The teacher was explaining Class IV students a lesson "Swadhin Bharat" when he did his "practical" demonstration on how the British hanged freedom fighters.

When parents went to school to find out, Kakati confirmed he had shown them "practically" how freedom fighters were hanged.

Two other teachers reportedly protested their colleague's action but found that he was drunk.

OIL plan to train local youths


Jorhat, Nov 29 : Oil India Ltd will launch an initiative to train over 25,000 youths from Assam and other parts of the Northeast in the next five years to address unemployment and rural poverty in the region.

The company will sign memoranda of understandings with Construction India Development Council, Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati, and IF&FS Education and Technology Services Ltd, Guwahati, to train these youths for placements in construction companies, industrial sewing, housekeeping and hospitality industry, management, jewellery making and gemstone cutting and polishing.

A senior OIL official told The Telegraph today that the company’s long-term corporate social responsibility would be a big help in addressing the unemployment scenario in the region, especially in the rural areas.

“These youths will be selected from areas where the company has its operations and will be provided free training in various fields,” the official said.

The company, which has its field headquarters at Duliajan in Dibrugarh district, has been under tremendous pressure from various organisations, demanding jobs for local youths and development activities in the interior areas of Upper Assam.

The company had recently announced that it had suffered a loss of at least Rs 200 crore during the 2012-13 fiscal because of frequent agitation called by numerous organisations in three Upper Assam districts of Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, where the company has oil and gas fields.

Baghjan, Berakuri, Makum, Halfjan and Digboi oil fields in Tinsukia are the most important hydrocarbon reserves of OIL, which is the main supplier of gas in the region.

The All-Assam Moran Students Union and the Assam Tea Tribes Students Associations have been up in arms against the company, accusing it of not carrying out any development activities in Upper Assam, where the company has several oil fields, and not recruiting local youths.

The company, however, denied such allegations and said it has been dedicated to carry out development activities.

The OIL official said the company has been spending huge amounts of money under its corporate social responsibility schemes to develop areas where it has its operations.

Last year, the company spent Rs 51.9 crore and more than 90 per cent of the funds were spent in the development of the Northeast.

The official said the company also plans to launch an initiative for entrepreneurship orientation programme (EOP) for the teachers/faculty, entrepreneurship awareness programme (EAP) for the colleges students and entrepreneurship awareness camp (EAC) for schoolchildren very soon.

OIL, in partnership with State Institute of Rural Development, has supported over 6,000 self-help groups under Project Rupantar that has benefited over 35,000 families in around 200 villages in Upper Assam.

The company has made an investment of around Rs 9 crore in this project, which was launched in 2004.

Assam cable ops face pole problems

MUMBAI: As many as 40,000 cable operators in Assam await a final decision on the issue of monthly payment for using electric poles to lay cable wires.
It was in September that the Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) sent out its first circular, making it mandatory for cable operators in the state to pay Rs 25 per electric pole per month, with the deadline being 7 October.

The APDCL notice stated that all cable wires should be removed from electric poles. It further said: “Those using poles (will have to) pay Rs 25 per pole per month for services and also comply with safety measures as notified by the board,” according to Greater Guwahati Cable TV Operators' Association (GGCTOA) general secretary Md Iquebal Ahmed.
Significantly, while 80 per cent of the electric poles are used by cable operators, the remaining 20 per cent are used by telecom and broadband operators as well as the Assam police. Close to 31,000 electricity poles are being used by cable operators in Guwahati alone.
Says Ahmed: “When we received the notice, even APDCL authorities were not aware of the safety guidelines that needed to be followed. Also, we were not too happy with the amount we were asked to pay. So we requested for an extension in the deadline for complying with the notice,” and added that the GGCTOA proposed holding a meeting with the APDCL chairman to present its viewpoint.
Accordingly, a meeting was held on 22 October with 12 cable operators from across Assam, the APDCL chairman and other state heads.
“Through the meeting, we communicated our concern over paying the Rs 25 per pole per month to APDCL. Considering that APDCL will earn revenue from many other service providers who are using the electric poles, we requested them to lower the rate. We also proposed licensing for cable operators, which will allow only those cable operators with proper documents to be given licenses to lay down cables on electric poles,” Ahmed reveals. 
It is learnt the Assam-based cable operators have suggested three options for payment: one - Re 1 per pole per month; two - slab system, where a cable operator will pay Rs 500 for 50 poles with an increase of Rs 300 per additional 50 poles used and three – the Meghalaya model which uses the slab system.
“The process is already in place in Meghalaya for the past six years. There was an agreement between the board and cable operators to use the pole. The agreement has been so worked out that on an average - every operator pays Rs 5-6 per pole per month. Moreover, they are also being provided electricity for Rs 50,” said Ahmed.
On APDCL’s part, a committee has been constituted to decide the rate. “Though we had fixed it at Rs 25 per pole per month, after the cable operators’ association applied for a revision in rate, we are now working on the final fee that they have to pay for using the electric pole,” expresses APDCL public relations officer Chandra Mudoi.
Asked about the criteria that are to be used to decide the final rate, Mudoi highlighted that the effort was on to "compare the electric pole fee from other states, like Meghalaya.”
But what led to the decision levying this fee on cable operators in the first place? “The cable wires strung over electric poles can cause electrical accidents. So we asked the cable operators to remove these, which they didn’t and so we asked them to pay rent. Also, other states take money from cable operators for using electric poles. And so it makes sense for us to charge them for using electric poles without any permission or even without safety measures,” elucidates Mudoi.
With the committee expected to announce the new fee in the next few weeks, Mudoi is quick to point out that: “If the operators do not agree to the new rate, we will ask them to remove the cable wires from the poles.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed says: “We have tried to explain to the committee that there are smaller operators whose area of business is smaller with lesser number of subscribers. And there are the bigger operators as well. The committee cannot have equal policies for both. Though currently we are in the status quo mode, we are using the electric poles like before and await the final decision.”
Will their pleas be heard or will Assam Power short circuit them?

Assam: IED Recovered From Train at Kamakhya Station

A powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED), weighing nearly seven kgs, was recovered from the coach of a train at Kamakhya Station here today.

The explosive was found by patrolling Railway Police Force personnel in a bag lying abandoned in Coach No: 11411 of Intercity Alipurduar Express after it arrived this afternoon at the station.

The explosive, timed to explode at 3:55 PM, was found along with fused wires wrapped in a polythene packet, and was kept in a tiffin box in the bag. Senior RPF officials rushed to the spot and evacuated the passengers in time.

Bomb disposal unit also rushed to the station and took the bomb in its custody and defused it.

In view of the incident, security has been tightened and patrolling intensified in and around railway stations under the North East Frontier Railways in Lower Assam.

Aasu seeks special constitutional status for Assam

GUWAHATI: The All Assam Students' Union (Aasu) on Monday sought protection of indigenous communities of the state from illegal influx.

Staging protests across the state, the students' body also demanded special status for Assam and cent per cent representation of indigenous Assamese people in the assembly, parliamentary seats from the state and in local bodies.

It also demanded that the government ensure rights of the Assamese people over land and the natural resources of the state.

"To safeguard the interests of the indigenous people of Assam in this hour of crisis, there is no other alternative than a special constitutional status for the state with rights over land and its natural resources," said Aasu adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya at a news conference here on Monday.

He said the government should not delay in reserving all legislative assembly, parliamentary seats from the state and seats in local bodies for the indigenous people. "Like SCs and STs, the government must ensure representation of indigenous people all over the state," Bhattacharyya added.

Bhattacharyya also slammed the Centre for failing to provide constitutional safeguard to the Assamese people, though it (the Centre) had assured the same to the students' body in 1985 while signing the historic Assam accord.

The Aasu adviser demanded that the Centre give separate employment zone status to the northeast to address the issue of unemployment.

The union also attacked retired IPS officer KPS Gill, who had recently said in Tezpur that Khargeswar Talukdar, the first martyr of Assam agitation, had died after falling into a pond and not due to baton charge by police. "Gill's statement is an insult to the martyr's sacrifice. Talukdar died when he was beaten up by policemen when he was protesting in Bhawanipur in Barpeta district demanding boycott of election," Bhattacharyya said.

"The inner line permit system should be in place in all the seven northeastern states to protect the interests of the indigenous communities of the region," said Aasu general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi.

He said from November 19 to 25, the students' body will stage protests against price rise and on November 26, their activists will take out a torch rally across Assam.

Assam fumes at American website's 'rape festival' spoof

A satirical piece by an American website apparently targeting the increase in sexual assaults on women in India has left Assam seething in anger over the mention of an "annual rape festival" in the northeastern state.

The Assam director general of police (DGP) Jayanto Narayan Choudhury on Thursday ordered a probe in Guwahati after the write-up was posted on Facebook, drawing angry response from netizens.

The write-up, titled 'The Assam Rape Festival In India Begins This Week', was first posted five days ago on a website nationalreport.net which claimed to be the US' most independent news site. The report was later picked up by many other news portals and forums.

Assam is among many states in India which has seen a rise in incidents of sexual assault on women. Just a few days ago, two women were raped and murdered in the capital city, triggering mob violence against alleged police inaction.

"Men in India are already beginning to celebrate as the annual Assam Rape Festival is just days away. Every non-married girl age 7-16 will have the chance to flee to safety or get raped," the write-up said, eliciting comments ranging from incredulity to anger.

"WTF..", wrote one user Gitima Das, using the abbreviated version of a common slang phrase.

Facebook users agreed that it was meant to be a satire but took objection to naming a state. "It's satire. But u can't name a state or a country while writing a satirical piece," wrote another Facebook user Tonmoy Borkotoky.

In fact, the satirical piece also dragged in other states.  "The Assam Festival began in 43 BC when Baalkrishan Tamil Nadu raped everyone in his village of Ludhiana. Baalkrishan Tamil Nadu is remembered every year at this event, in fact the trophy given to the man with the most rapes is called The Baalkrishan."

Apparently, the piece is identical to a similar piece posted by the same website, only the state targeted that time was Punjab.

Devraj Upadhyay, the superintendent of police of Assam Police's CID, said that they have already started a probe into the matter. "We have taken up a suo moto case. It is a sensitive issue and we will take up the matter with the matter with the website," Upadhyay told Hindustan Times over phone from Guwahati.

The probe will be handled by the CID's cyber crime cell.

Defunct Assam Flying Club may take off soon

GUWAHATI: The Assam Flying Club (AFC), which has remained defunct for the last few years, is likely to be revived soon. Newly appointed secretary of the club Bikrom Singha Lahkar said that if the government gives him full authority, he would try to make the club operational in about two months.

The Cessna 152 and Pushpak MK-1 trainer aircrafts, available with the flying club, have remained stranded for over 10 years. However, Lahkar felt that the aircrafts can be restored.

Set up in 1958, the flying club located in the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport, enjoyed the distinction of being the lone flying club in the northeast to issue private and commercial licenses to pilots until it started facing hurdles in the early Nineties.

"It's a matter of pride for us that the club is going to make a fresh start soon. For the last few weeks, I have been holding discussions with various agencies - including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India, Aero Club of India, North Eastern Council, various government flying clubs - and the Assam government to make the AFC operational at the earliest. Though earlier the LGBI Airport authorities had refused to let us enter the hanger of the club, it has now allowed me to go inside the club which is in a depleted condition," Lahkar said, while addressing media persons here.

He said the North Eastern Council authorities have informed him that it would be easier for them to release funds if the tag northeast is included to the flying club.

Lahkar said the flying club can start operating soon as there is no dearth of airstrips in the state. "It's possible to fly trainer aircrafts from the AFC located inside the LGBI Airport, despite the present air traffic. We also have the option to use over a dozen airstrips located across the state, if the government assists our club officials," he added.

The LGBI Airport authorities are ready to allow the club officials to resume work, but only after they clear outstanding electricity and water bills of about Rs 50,000 against a total outstanding of more than a crore.

Can't restrict traffic near Kaziranga: Assam to NGT

New Delhi, Oct 31 (PTI) The Assam government has told the National Green Tribunal that traffic on a stretch of a national highway bypassing the Kaziranga National Park cannot be restricted absolutely as the road is an economic lifeline to areas rich in tea cultivation and coal and oil production.

Dioxin main cause of cancer spread in Assam, says study

GUWAHATI: Release of dioxin in the air through burning of municipal waste, hospital waste and automobile emission is the major cause behind the spread of cancer in the state.

A city-based environmental activist, Aashim Chatterjee, said the number of cases is on the rise due to lack of proper legislation, limited air quality monitoring mechanism and facilities to monitor the cancer-causing pollutants in the atmosphere.

Chatterjee said, "A research was carried out following the increasing number of cancer cases in Assam. During the study, it was found that garbage here is burnt and automobiles here do not use compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, as a result of which a lot of dioxin is released into the environment. The primary source of dioxin, which is the main causative agent of cancer, is man-made. It is a dangerous chemical compound of hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and chlorine. Risk of cancer was also noticed among people using chlorinated water. High level of air pollution was seen as a major cause of lung cancer."

He said the study has found that 68 per cent urban areas have particulate matter higher than the required amount. The pollution control board lacks the facilities and equipment to monitor the cancer causing pollutants in the atmosphere. Though cancer cases are rising alarmingly, awareness among people is very low as many patients coming for treatment are at an untreatable stage.

Tracing roots from Hong Kong to Assam

GUWAHATI: The roots of Cho Yuet Meng's family go much deeper in Assam than in Hong Kong where she lives now. Born of a Chinese father and an Indian mother at Makum in Assam's Tinsukia district, she was uprooted from her place of birth along with her family during the height of Sino-Indian war in 1962 on security grounds.

Fifty years later, Cho is about to undertake a journey to Makum again and relive her childhood memories.

Cho, who was christened as Anjali Gawala then, and her family were first taken to Deoli camp in Rajasthan and subsequently deported to Hong Kong. Cho was in eighth standard when she and her parents were deported.

"I am very excited to be in the land of my birth. I still remember my childhood friends athough I don't remember how many days I spent at the deportation camp. I worked at an insurance company in Hong Kong and had to struggle quite a bit initially. But it was the pangs of nostalgia and memories of Makum that pained me more than the struggle. I have retained my original name besides my Chinese name," said Cho, who will head for Makum on Tuesday.

Eight other Chinese, who like to refer them as Chinese Assamese and had suffered a similar fate, are also embarking on a journey to their place of birth at Makum.

Litterateur Rita Choudhury's socio-literary organisation Adharshila played a pivotal role in bringing them back to Assam again. Choudhury, author of a highly acclaimed novel titled 'Makam', said it was one of the most tragic episode in the country's history because the government deported those people who were born and brought up in Assam. She said despite their Chinese ethnicity, they were Indian citizens.

'Makam' is a poignant depiction of the sufferings the Indian Chinese in Assam had to face during the thick of 1962 war.

The origin of Chinese settlement in Assam goes back to the British era when they were brought as migrant labourers from China about 170 years ago to work in state's tea gardens. In course of time, the Chinese migrants assimilated with Assamese society and married local women, resulting in a thriving culture.

Choudhury said everything for the 'Chinese Assamese' changed in 1962 when paranoia and betrayal had shattered the community.

"They (Chinese Assamese) were uprooted and deported to a land where they had no organic connection. It is an ugly episode in Indian history. The Chinese labourers married women from here and formed a new community. They accepted our culture and way of life. But they were given a raw deal just in the name of ethnicity. It is time the Indian government looks into the matter seriously," said Choudhury.

10 women are kidnapped in state every day, say police

GUWAHATI: Around 10 women are abducted in Assam on a daily basis, and most of them become victims of trafficking. Poverty, unemployment and improper implementation of schemes are some of the main reasons behind women falling prey to human trafficking rackets.

Figures available with the state police reveal the increasing rate of kidnapping of women in Assam over the years. As per records, about 2,740 women have been kidnapped in Assam since January 2013, with the monthly figure being at least 304.

Though the records did not specify the number of cases registered under the human trafficking category, police said more than 60 per cent cases were linked to trafficking. "Human trafficking is a major concern for Assam Police. Minors and women are being trafficked to other parts of the country from here. Racketeers take advantage of the huge rate of unemployment and lure these minors and women to other parts of the country with promises of good jobs," said Assam Police chief J N Choudhury.

The areas most vulnerable to trafficking are Nagaon, Morigaon, Baksa, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, bordering areas of Hailakandi and Karimganj districts, particularly along the Mizoram and Bangladesh borders. Women and children from the state are trafficked mostly to Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat for sexual exploitation, labour and forced marriage.

"Fake recruitment agencies are very active in the region. Recently, a girl who hails from Jorhat was rescued from Malaysia. She was sold to a nightclub in Kuala Lumpur. Some travel agents operating in the guise of NGOs are also in the loop," said a CID official.

Assam Police have 14 anti-human trafficking units to deal with the growing menace. However, with shortage of manpower, these units are struggling. As per the National Crime Records Bureau report for 2012, at least 3,360 cases of kidnapping of women were recorded in Assam, with two cases registered under the 'Importation of Girls from Foreign Country Section of IPC'.

National Hydroelectric Power Corporation to modify Subansiri dam design, add safety measures

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said a Centre-appointed expert panel has suggested additional safety measures in the construction of the stalled Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project by NHPC. The central decision was conveyed in a letter by the Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya Scindia earlier this week, Gogoi told reporters here.
"As per the recommendation of Thatte Committee, an independent Dam Design Review Panel (DDRP) was formed. It has proposed some additional safety measures in the construction of the dam. Now, NHPC has been asked to modify the design of the dam," the Chief Minister said.
The DDRP examined issues like foundation competency, seismic aspect, dam design and existing ground conditions, the Gogoi said. He said the Power Ministry had accepted the recommendations and asked NHPC to proceed accordingly. Scindia further informed Gogoi that NHPC would implement recommendations of the Joint Steering Committee to mitigate the downstream impact at a cost of about Rs 470 crore.
On allocation of power to Assam, the letter said "the Technical Experts Committee appointed by the Planning Commission to examine technical aspects of the project has recommended that Assam be given first charge on the 300 MW of unallocated power in addition to the already allocated power of 208 MW of paid and 25 MW of free power." The construction work of the ambitious 2,000 MW project on the Subansiri river has been stalled after protests by locals and many organisations, mainly by RTI activist Akhil Gogoi-led Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti.
Gogoi said Scindia had also referred to the delay in the construction due to agitation and asked the Assam government to expedite the work. The project, located at Lower Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh, near North Lakhimpur on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, is the biggest hydroelectric project undertaken in the country so far. The cost of the project was estimated to be around Rs 6,285 crore and scheduled to be commissioned in December 2012. However, strong protests were lodged by various groups on the issues of safety and downstream impact.
Earlier NHPC had constituted an Expert Group consisting of experts from IIT Guwahati, Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University to study the downstream impact after Assam government expressed concerns. To check the structural safety of the dam, the Planning Commission had appointed a two-member Technical Experts Committee to study the technical reports of the Expert Group.
Further, as desired by Assam government, a Joint Steering Committee was formed by NHPC in 2011 to suggest feasible and practicable remedial measures in the downstream areas with reference to Expert Group's recommendations along with issues related to flood, bank erosion and sediment control.

Assam's farmer leader arrested for protest

Assam's farmers' leader and Right To Information activist Akhil Gogoi was Monday arrested for staging a protest in front of a court without obtaining permission from the district administration.

The protest was being held outside the court of the Kamrup session judge.

Gogoi, who leads the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) was arrested while demanding action against business establishments and individuals involved in cases of using agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes in Kamrup district.

"He had violated Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code which is in force, prohibiting assembly of five or more persons. They did not take permission. We asked them to vacate the place, but the protestors did not comply, forcing us to arrest him," said Senior superintendent of Police (Guwahati) Anand Prakash Tiwari.

The protest Monday was against the anticipatory bail granted to the proprietor of a real estate firm against whom a case was registered. Gogoi said government lawyers did not oppose the man's bail, and the police ought to have booked him under stricter sections of law.

Protests have been held by people angry with the arrest of their leader, since Gogoi was taken to the Sonapur police station in the outskirts of the city.

The KMSS has said it would protest also in front of the office of Assam police chief and the residence of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

KMSS leader Mukut Deka said protests would continue till strict action is initiated against those illegally transferring agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

The state government has already constituted a committee headed by senior Congress legislator Bhumidhar Barman to inquire into the increasing number of complaints about illegal transfers of agricultural land in the state.

Assam slum population highest in NE


GUWAHATI, Oct 22 – Nearly two lakh people in Assam reside in slums across 31 towns in the State. As per the latest data from the Office of Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India, the total slum population in Assam stood at 1,97,266.

The number of slum dwellers in Assam is the highest among the North-eastern States, even though they constituted less than one per cent of the State's overall population of around 3.12 crore, according to the recently released 'Primary Census Abstract for Slum, 2011.’

The report stated that 31 out of 88 towns in Assam have slums. Of the total number of slum dwellers in the State, 1,17,124 reside in identified slums, 70,979 in recognized slums and 9,163 in notified slums.

Among other North-eastern States, Tripura has the second highest number of people in slums with 15 out of 16 towns having slums. There are 1,39,780 people in slums of Tripura.

In Nagaland, 11 out of the 19 towns have slums, with 82,324 people residing in such places. In Mizoram, there are 78,561 people in slums, all concentrated in one town.

Six out of ten towns in Meghalaya have slums. The total slum population in the state stood at 57,418. Arunachal Pradesh has 15,562 slum dwellers, with their presence spread across five of the 26 towns in that State.

Interestingly, Manipur was one among the few States and Union Territories in the country (along with Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep) that are free of slums, as per the 2011 data.

Overall, across India, the total slum population as per the Census report stood at 6,54,94,604 in 2011. Out of 4,041 towns pan-India, as many as 2,613 have slum dwellers.

Congress in Assam decides to dump its internal squabble

GUWAHATI: With aggressive campaign unleashed by BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi and the Saffron party gaining major foot hold in Congress stronghold of Upper Assam area, Congress in Assam has decided to dump its internal squabble till the Lok Sabha polls next year.

AICC has asked the leaders of both the pro chief minister, Tarun Gogoi faction and those opposing him to patch up and present a united front in the Lok Sabha as the party is hugely banking in the state to get maximum seats.

But there is still six month left before the country goes to poll and strict stricter from party high command, ambitious leaders of congress are forced to keep their house in order. Congress in Assam is in power for third consecutive term and dissidence in the party has significantly dented the party's image.

A senior leader in the party who does not want to be quoted said," Congress in Assam has a problem of plenty as the party won 79 seats in 126 member assembly in 2011 and all cannot be ministers. For the time being the fire is doused, however fire will erupt again as the dissatisfied lot will be always there."

In last one and half year Congress leaders in Assam were fragmented and were seen tongue lashing each other in the public, creating serious doubts about the prospects of the party in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

Several party leaders where running to New Delhi at every pretext to meet party leadership. Around 32 MLAs most of them opposed to Gogoi's style of functioning has sought special congress legislature party (CLP) meeting.

The emotionally surcharged three hour long meeting was held on Saturday, where leaders decided to bury their differences and prepare for the Lok Sabha.

Gogoi said, "We need to give Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at least 14 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. We will have CLP meeting every three months from now on wards.". Congress won 7 Lok Seats in last election.

Even in the CLP meeting, some leaders sought reshuffle in the state council on ministers as new MLAs will get a chance. Gogoi has recently ruled out reshuffle in his cabinet and stated that he will do the same when it is dim fit.

For now the 10 Janpath is convinced about the leadership of Gogoi and his authority in the party can be well gauged from the fact AICC general secretary in-charge for Assam, Dr CP Joshi choose to remain away from much hyped CLP meeting.

Gogoi has stated, " I have invited Joshi to meeting however Joshi refused to come and asked me to accomplish the task."

Throwing tough challenge to congress, BJP is gaining grounds and has done well in the autonomous council and corporation elections held recently. The party has put up a good show in the pachayat polls held this year. The party has made major inroads in oil and tea rich Upper Assam areas which is congress bastion.

Congress party has also decided to form a five member panel to look into the grievances of the MLAs. Political analyst views this development as political exigency enforced by the party from New Delhi

Leader of dissident camp, health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma said, "The chief minister has heard from the MLAs and has assured to take necessary measures. Party leaders won't criticize each other any more and we will criticize Modi."

Bid to promote tourism in Dima Hasao

GUWAHATI, Oct 11 – At the initiative of the elected members of the autonomous council of Dima Hasao district and Landmark Hotels, 34 members of the Tour Operators’ Association of Assam (TOAA) came to Haflong on September 26-27 to prepare a roadmap of various tourist destinations in Dima Hasao, a press release said.

The Department of Tourism with the assistance of local NGOs like Blue Hills Society, Nature Lovers’ Club, and Hills Protection and Preservation Society took the guests to various tourist destinations of the district on both the days. On September 27, in conformity with World Tourism Day, a seminar was organised by the Department of Tourism, Dima Hasao, and Landmark Hotels at the Landmark Hotel, Haflong. The seminar was attended by the CEM of Dima Hasao, Debojeet Thaosen, EM incharge of tourism, Lal Joshua Biate, EM incharge of education, Kulendra Daolagupu, other elected members of the autonomous council, officials of various departments of the district, school students and members of different NGOs.

The seminar facilitated exchange of ideas on various aspects of tourism and its advantages, and the potential of Dima Hasao to be one of the most popular destinations of India.

Transfer policy for women school teachers in Assam ordered

After concerns were expressed for safety of women teachers posted in remote areas and gang rape of one of them at Dalgaon in Darrang district, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today directed that a transfer and posting policy be formulated for them.

The chief minister asked Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla to constitute a three-member committee to formulate policy for safety of women teachers besides congenial working conditions for them, official sources said.

The committee would be headed by P P Varma, Adviser to Chief Minister, Commissioner and Secretary Elementary Education Hemanta Narzary and Deputy Director Elementary Education Asomi Gogoi, said official sources here.

The committee would submit its recommendations within a month, sources said.

A 21-year old teacher who had qualified for the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) and was recently appointed by the state government, was raped allegedly by four persons at a tea garden when she was returning home from school on October two.

Three of the accused have been arrested with two of them being identified as 33-year-old Muslimuddin and 27-year-old Joynal, both workers at the Chikonmati Tea Estate.

After being short-listed for appointment, TET women teachers were posted within 8 km of their residence, a memorandum by the Udalguri district unit of the Assam State Primary Teachers' Association said.

But after confirmation they and their male colleagues were posted through lottery at places which were over 60 to 70 km, often inaccessible areas, from their homes, it added.

Self rule for two Assam districts sought

GUWAHATI: Welcoming the Union cabinet's approval for the creation of Telangana, the chief adviser of tripartite talks for Joint Action Committee for Autonomous State (JACAS), JI Kathar, said the Centre should now give a serious thought to the creation of an autonomous state comprising Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.

"We are very happy that the Cabinet has approved the creation of Telangana. We welcome the decision. At the same time, we want the Centre to step up the process for creation of autonomous state under Article 244(a) of the Constitution," added Kathar, who was part of the JACAS delegation for tripartite talks with the Centre and state government in New Delhi last month.

Kathar said the creation of an autonomous state under Article 244(A) is not a long-drawn process for creation of new states. "There is neither any need for an amendment to the Constitution nor getting two-third majority for creation of an autonomous state. So, it is high time for the government to take some positive steps for creation of an autonomous state," added Kathar. He said the next round of tripartite talks is expected to be held in the first half of October.

"We are looking forward to something positive from the next round of tripartite talks this month," added Kathar.

JACAS, a conglomeration of different Karbi organizations, was formed in the aftermath of state demand movement in Karbi Anglong district in August this year. Karbi Anlong witnessed violence after the Centre's nod for creation of Telangana in August. Karbi organizations set government buildings on fire and damaged railway tracks, demanding creation of an autonomous state.

No trace of abducted NHPC official

The two motorcycles used in the abduction of a National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) official last month have been seized but there is no trace of the victim yet, Assam Police said Saturday.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) A.P. Raut said: "Our operations have been on but unfortunately we are yet to rescue the abducted official. We have arrested some people and recovered the motorcycles used in the crime."

Anil Kumar Agarwal, general manager of 800 MW hydro-power project in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, was abducted Sep 21 by four motorcycle-borne armed men, from near Bhalukpong area along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border when he was coming from Tawang to Tezpur, police said.

Raut said: "So far we have carried out operations along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border only but we are going to shift the operations more towards Arunachal Pradesh from today."

"We have received some clues but the terrain in Arunachal Pradesh is very difficult and inclement weather has also hampered the operations. The abductors have also been shifting their location frequently," he said.

Raut refuted reports of ransom demand set by the abductors.

Police suspect the role of anti-talks faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland led by I.K. Songbijit in abduction.

Varma Appointed Assam Chief Minister's Advisor

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has appointed former Chief Secretary P P Varma, who retired recently, as his advisor.
The Chief Minister has directed the present Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla to issue a notification immediately in this regard, official sources said here today.

The newly appointed Advisor to CM will oversee and monitor the flagship programmes of Government of India and Chief Minister's Special Programmes.

Varma, who retired on September 30 last, has been given a Cabinet rank status.

Gogoi's Gambit

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi may be claiming that 'Modi magic' won't work in Assam, but his party is already in panic mode. Assuming that a Modi-led BJP will corner the Hindu votes, the Congress high command has almost finalised a pre-poll deal with All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). The Congress has agreed to set aside four seats for AIUDF. Gogoi is happy because Kaliabor, from where his son Gaurav is expected to contest the Lok Sabha polls, remains with Congress.

Life and reason


Truth teller: Pankaj Thakur in Guwahati. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
The Hindu Truth teller: Pankaj Thakur in Guwahati. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

Sahitya Akademi award winner Assamese writer-translator Pankaj Thakur tells us that the truth about the Assam Movement will prevail one day as nothing can be kept away from the purview of history

Look at history. Worldwide. And you shall find that all significant chapters of a society can be located in its literature.
Apply this observation to Assamese literature and you can’t avoid thinking that so little about the chapter of the State’s students’ agitation against illegal migration and its consequences have been dealt with through a writer’s pen. Yes, there are important books that have held the movement as focus. But they are a handful considering the movement was one-of-a-kind in the social and political firmament of the State which gave the country its youngest chief minister and many other things including giving birth to insurgency with the demand for secession from India.
Well known writer-journalist from Assam, Pankaj Thakur, responds to this observation, “That the students’ movement is reflected inadequately in our literature is true. The movement took a very fast turn. The moment it tilted towards terrorism, the pro-movement general public started taking a back seat and gradually withdrew from the mainstream. Meanwhile, the Government, in the name of controlling terrorism/insurgency, took equally strong armed action. In other words, it became counter-insurgency. The term ‘secret killing’ and the magnitude of this act speaks volumes about insurgency and counter-insurgency. The common people were sandwiched between both these groups and found it safe to be away from the scenario. Presumably, this tendency of evasive psychology made people hesitant to become expressive in most of the fields.”
Thakur, the winner of Sahitya Akademi’s Translation Award 2012 for translating Vishwas Patil’s significant book on dams, “Jhadajhadati” from Marathi to Assamese, though counts the works that handled powerfully the times. “Syed Abdul Malik’s ‘Pora Gawot Pohila Bohag’ ( novel), Rita Chaudhury’s ‘Eai Somoy, Sai Somoy’ ( novel), Sibanath Barman’s ‘Swadesh, Swamat’ ( non-fiction) are a few among the writings based on the impacts of the Assam Movement. Jyanpeeth awardee Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya took a sympathetic stand through his writings towards the movement, and he opposed the activities of State-sponsored terrorism.”
Thakur has his reasons for not dealing with the subject in his writings yet. “It is probably because the issue touched me deeply, and I wanted to do something concrete so that something could be achieved to ease the complexities of this multi-dimensional problem of our country.” He, however, states, “I attempted to minimise the level of misunderstanding amongst the various ethnic groups of the region, as many (local) newspapers made the issues much more complex for their vested interests. In the process, I edited a book called ‘India’s North East – A Multi-faceted View’ in 1982. Through it, I attempted to address issues like the impact of illegal migrants in Assam’s economy and the political scenario, abnormal changes of the demographic pattern of the region in comparison to the growth of population in the rest of the country, etc. The book made an impact on the desired line. It was included as a reference reader in the universities of the NE region and also in the JNU for North East Studies.”
He though points out categorically in an email interview from Guwahati, his base, “I do believe that nothing could be kept away from the purview of history. Sooner or later, the truth will prevail.”
As of now, Thakur has many things going for him. Recently, his well-received Assamese book “Jibon Juktir Bahirot” was translated into Hindi as “Tark Se Pare Zindagi” by Papori Goswami and launched in New Delhi. The English translation of this short story collection, “The Heart is a Secure Address”, was launched at the 18th International Book Fair and Literary Festival in Prague last year. A clutch of 18 shorts, the book speaks as much about the writer’s sharp eye that draws out for readers the finer points in a character as also bringing to them slivers of everyday life in the remote corners of the North East.
One significant story based on his real life experience belongs to 1977. Thakur was then a lecturer of Economics at Mount Tiyi College, Wokha, Nagaland. The story skilfully deals with human relationships, the innate goodness and the fears, one’s sense of ethnicity, with the Assam-Nagaland border tensions that took a bloody turn in Merapani town.
“I do believe that everybody carries a lot of things close to their hearts. If they are presented in a structured manner, they can be valuable material for good fiction,” he says. A thought that prodded him to write, edit and translate as many as nine books so far despite taking up a career in the hectic corporate sector.
Working on the same premise, Thakur is readying himself for yet another set of autobiographical writings. “The book, titled ‘Mon Mati Manuhor Gaan’ (‘Mind, Land And People’s Songs’), will be launched later this month. You can call it the second part of ‘Jibon Juktir Bahirot.”

Protesting Assam farmers caned, over 70 detained

Guwahati, Oct 2 : A number of people, including Assam farmers' leader and RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, were injured Tuesday as police used cane charge and tear gas shells here against marchers protesting over land ownership rights. Over 70 people were detained.

The police action came when supporters of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), led by Gogoi, were marching towards the state capital complex at Dispur.

Senior Superintendent of Police (City) A.P. Tiwary said the samiti was given an option of organising their programme at a ground but "they did not agree to this".

"They proceeded with their programme without our permission and this is a violation of the prohibitory orders," he said.

At least 40 people, including women, were injured during the cane charge, claimed a protestor.

Earlier, the samiti's application seeking permission to organise a rally and demonstration was rejected by the Kamrup (Metro) district administration.

As police and security forces Tuesday prevented the marchers from going towards Dispur, the protestors shouted slogans condemning the state government.

The protestors scuffled with police, forcing them to fire tear gas shells and resort to cane charge, police said.

Police later detained 73 agitators, including Gogoi and Kamal Kumar Medhi.

"We are going to release the agitators after they give an assurance in writing that they would not take part in such rallies in future," a police officer said.

Female teacher batters 46 girl students in Assam

Female teacher batters 46 girl students in Assam

Korkajhar(Assam): A chilling incident was reported from Chirang district of Assam where a female teacher assaulted 46 girl students on Friday without any justified reason.
All the students are of Jawahar Navoday Vidyalaya and were studying in 6th, 7th and 8th standards.

The victimized students have reported that the teacher Debashree had asked some of the students to take bath and some to study inside the room.

Then, the teacher without any reason began physically assaulting the students.

Fifteen girl students had to be given immediate medical attention and were taken to Basugaon Primar Health Centre.

A student of class VI (B), Varsha Bhattachrjee reportedly had a broken tooth during the assault.

On Saturday, the parents of the victimized students filed a written complaint with the Deputy Commissioner of Kokrajhar and chairman of JNV, Nitin Khare.

Strict action against the teacher under the Right to Education Act was demanded by the parents. Additional Deputy Commissioner, Dinesh Boro was sent to have a look at the situation.
A show cause notice has already been issued to the teacher by school authorities.
In her defence, Mrs. Deboshree has said that students have become defiant and to control them, physical punishments was required.

She pointed out incidents where teachers were attacked by the parents and how the parents used media to smash teachers over petty things.

The Additional Deputy Commissioner has assured that necessary action will be taken against the accused teacher and an FIR had been lodged under 323/326 IPC at the Basugaon Police Station

Oct 2: 60 lakh Assam students to write essay on Mahatma

On October 2, about 60 lakh students across Assam will be writing an essay on Mahatma Gandhi. Announcing this here Sunday, Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said every student and teacher would have to remain present in their respective educational institutions on the day as the education department in Assam has withdrawn the Gandhi Jayanti holiday. "While school teachers will have to organise an essay competition on Gandhiji, college teachers will have to organise a quiz on Gandhiji and the freedom movement on Gandhi Jayanti," Sarma said.

Six poachers caught from Kaziranga

Kaziranga (Assam), Sep 27 : Six alleged poachers were today caught in and around the Kaziranga National Park here.

Acting on a tip-off, personnel of the Forest Protection Force launched an operation in Kohora range of the Park and nabbed three poachers this morning, forest officials said.

Based on their interrogation, three others were picked up subsequently while one managed to flee, they said.

A magazine and seven silencers were recovered from the apprehended poachers, the officials said.

Assam planters want tea to be national drink

Coonoor, Sept. 26 :  The North Eastern Tea Association Assam, has sought the support of South Indian Planting and Traders’ Associations to pressurise the Centre to declare tea as a national drink.

“Although ministers had shown interest, this issue is pending for over a year now. We have submitted a detailed memorandum to the Union and Assam Governments. We are mobilising the support of various planters’ and traders’ bodies,” the association Chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty told Business Line.

He was leading a delegation of Assam planters to the Golden Jubilee convention of Coonoor Tea Trade Association.

“We visited tea estates and factories in the Nilgiris and tasted the teas coming up for this week’s auction.

“We are highly impressed at the quality improvements made here. We will suggest some measures followed by Coonoor for implementation at Guwahati auctions,” he said.

“We have represented to the Tea Board that when it is asking bought-leaf factories to have price-sharing formula with growers, it should ask packeters to share their price with factory owners,” he said.

200 Guwahati schools still vulnerable to disasters

GUWAHATI: If you are a parent and your child goes to a school in Guwahati, then there is cause for serious concern as your child may be in grave danger.

Based to a report submitted by Assam Engineering College (AEC) before the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) in March-end, around 200 private and government-run schools in Guwahati were found most vulnerable to disasters like earthquake, flood and strong winds by the Kamrup (Metro) district disaster management authority.

However, even after six months, there has been no visible effort on the part of the authorities of these institutions as well as the government to rectify this situation.

Sources, in the ASDMA, said the authorities are likely to float tenders inviting firms to carry out necessary repairs after the Durga Puja.

According to the source, while some of the schools that need repairing are leading private schools of the city that have been set up in recent times, some were established over 100 years back.

The Union ministry of human resource development ( MHRD) in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) and District Disaster Management Authority of Kamrup (Metro) district have planned to train about 2,000 school teachers in the city by October this year to handle crisis situations and disasters.

This has been done because Guwahati falls in seismic zone-V - the highest earthquake risk zone. But the plight of these 200 schools still remains a cause of concern for the school authorities.

College principal arrested on molestation charge in Assam

Tezpur: The principal of a college in Assam's Lakhimpur district was arrested for allegedly molesting 10 girl students, police said on Saturday.

The principal of ST Junior Anthony College, Roydas Milaphil was arrested by Laluk police last night after a complaint was lodged by the local unit of All Assam Student's Union (AASU) at Harmut police station alleging that he had molested 10 girl students of the college, the sources said.

Pickpockets hailing from Assam in city police net

The Thampanoor police have arrested two persons involved in picking the pockets of passengers at various bus stands in the city. The arrested were Prathap Panik, 35, and Tom K Battoor, 24, of Assam.
According to the police, the duo, who picked pockets and snatched bags of passengers, were arrested based on a complaint lodged by Jose Peter, a resident of Pathanamthitta, for snatching his bag and Rs 6,000. The police said that Joseph and his family had come to the city for going to Kanyakumari on September 15. When they were about to board the bus to Kanyakumari, the duo snatched the bag from Joseph and escaped.
However, as the victim registered a complaint with the Thampanoor police, policemen, along with Joseph, conducted a search in their patrolling vehicle. It was during the search that the duo were identified by Joseph when they were coming out of a bar near Aristo Junction. Both of them were taken into custody by the police on the same day. However, their arrest was recorded only on Tuesday evening.
The police also said that the two accused had similar cases registered against them in Kochi, Thrissur and Palakkad districts. Though several cases were registered against them, this is the first time that they are landing in the police net. The police also recovered the money and purse snatched from Joseph from the duo.  Both of them were produced before the court and remanded in judicial custody.
A team led by Thampanoor Circle Inspector Sheen Tharayil conducted the arrest. Thampanoor SIs S Ajayakumar and Suresh Chandra and CPOs Syam, Sunil, Jayan and Faisal comprised the team.

New transmission line offers respite to power hit Assam

(Power-hungry Assam has…)
MUMBAI: Power-hungry Assam has got a lifeline as the first of the two lines of the first ultra mega transmission project has started operations.

Sterlite Grid, a part of the Vedanta group, has commissioned a double-circuit transmission line as a part of its East North Interconnection projects which aims to connect Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. Interestingly, the project was originally aimed to pump in power from hydropower projects in Assam to states like Bihar, West Bengal, and Punjab. But the transmission line is now being used to transport electricity from power surplus states to Assam, which has a shortfall of 7-10%.

"We have commissioned the 230-km Purnia-Biharsharif transmission line. This line would evacuate power from hydropower projects in Assam to other states. But currently it is being used to draw in power to Assam from power surplus states," Praveen Agarwal, director, Sterlite Technologies, told ET.

In 2010, Sterlite bagged the India's first ultra mega transmission project to construct theRs1,000 crore-transmission lines that would carry 1,000 mw of power from hydropower projects in north east to light up over 10 lakh homes in north and eastern India.

"We have invested Rs500 crore on the first line and would invest another Rs500 crore on the second line. The second transmission line has been delayed due to local disturbance. We hope the government authorities will help us to expedite the project," Agarwal, said. According to the Central Electricity Authority, India reported a power deficit of 5% in April-August, with north eastern including Assam facing deficit if almost 7%. Power Grid plans to spend Rs20,000-25,000 crore every year in transmission infrastructure.

Protests against rise in crime in Assam

Haflong: Students and general public on Wednesday came out on the street protesting against the spurt in crime against women in Dima Hasao district.

The protesters also gave a memorandum to the district authority to take immediate steps to prevent such incidents.

Over a thousand people with strong presence of the student community gathered at the Lal Field here in the morning and protested and sought justice on growing incidents of gang-rape, kidnap and other offences in the entire district.

In a memorandum submitted to Dima Hasao Deputy Commissioner Barun Bhuyan, the protesters demanded immediate arrest of the culprits and employment opportunities to the victims besides financial compensation.

Some of the organisation that took part in the protest include Hmar Woman Association, Dimasa Mothers Association, Bieate Mothers Association and Student Bodies of Dima Hasao District.

Assam police to recruit 10,000 personnel: DGP

Guwahati, Sep 18 (PTI) With a view to strengthen the force, Assam Police today said it will recruit around 10,000 personnel within next three months, the process of which will start from October this year.

"We have a total vacancy of around 10,000 people. We want to fill these as soon as possible... In the next three months, we will complete hiring these people," Director General of Police Jayanto N Choudhury told PTI h

Jhumor – A Symphony from the Hills of Assam by Papon

MUMBAI: Music gets raw on Coke Studio@MTV Season 3. In search of some soulful melody, Papon goes into his comfort zone – his homeground Assam and creates a folk song ‘Jhumor’.

‘Jhum’ means togetherness and ‘Mor’ means coming in line. Excited about composing the song for his people, Papon says “It’s the common person’s song in Assam and they will be very happy to see their song on national television.” To create a local feel, Papon has also used a local talent Dulal Manki from Assam to sing this song. Catch the track ‘Jhumor’ on Coke Studio@MTV airing this Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 8 pm which is sure to take you on a journey to the tea gardens of Assam

Music doyen's magic to touch UK

GUWAHATI: Come September 6 and London will get to experience a music concert taking in artists from Bangladesh and India, especially from Assam, to commemorate the 87th birth anniversary of Bhupen Hazarika.

The event is an attempt by the Assamese diaspora in collaboration with the Nehru Centre, Mayfair, London, to take the work of the doyen of Assam to a global audience.

Bangladesh high commissioner Mohammed Mijarul Quayes - a noted patron of the arts - is expected to attend the event.

The event will be chaired by deputy high commissioner of India Virander Paul and the expected attendees are Lord & Lady Sheikh, writer Yavar Abbas and filmmaker Emma Achara, among others.

"The state has been fortunate to have given birth to a great musical genius in Bhupen Hazarika. Now that the mighty voice is silent, Assam and the world have become poorer. The concert is a significant step in our endeavour to take Bhupenda to the global forum. On the eve of his 87th birth anniversary, Indian and Bangladeshi artists will be united to celebrate his musical journey," Rini Kakati, organizer and Assam coordinator for the UK.

The Assamese diaspora settled in the US and in Europe commemorates the birth anniversary of the 'Bard of Brahmaputra' through different events.

Child rights on Dispur agenda

Special courts to try crimes against kids
Guwahati, Aug. 29: Assam has become the second state in the country after Goa to notify setting up of special courts to fast-track cases relating to child rights and sexual offences.
Assam social welfare department deputy secretary Kavyashree Mahanta told The Telegraph today that the state legal affairs department had already issued a notification for setting up the special courts in all district and sessions judge courts. “These courts will exclusively handle cases relating to crimes agai-nst children, including sexual offences, in accordance with provisions of the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012,” she said.
The Centre had earlier asked all states to set up special courts for dealing with cases relating to children but only Goa has implemented the order so far. Sources said Dispur speeded up the process for setting up the special courts after Assam topped the charts in National Crime Records Bureau’s latest report, with 84.65 per cent crime recorded against children. The Assam State Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights also lobbied for setting up of the special courts.
The state government has joined hands with the National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam, here to work out modalities on how these courts would function.
“These courts will provide a child-friendly environment for trial of cases related to crime against children. Such courts are very necessary in Assam in view of the increasing cases of child trafficking, child labour, sexual abuse, child marriage and other child rights violations. These courts will be supervised by the high court. We are hoping that the special courts will start functioning by the end of this year,” National Law University associate professor Benerji Chakka, who is associated with project, said today.
The university is working out guidelines for training public prosecutors, police officials and others associated with the trial process. “We have to train people on how to talk with the child victims of crime or sexual abuse. A child victim is already traumatised and, hence, should be handled very carefully,” Chakka said.
Many children from the Northeast, including Assam, have been rescued from homes run in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. They were reportedly taken out of the region with the promise of good education and care but were later found living in inhuman conditions.
There were also reports of many minor girls being sexually abused in Assam. According to a study conducted in 13 states in 2007 by Union ministry of women and children, Assam reported 142 cases of sexual abuse of minors.

Assam to restructure public distribution system

Faculty sources from IIM-Shillong said the new model for the corporation had been designed after a series of discussions with senior government officials and with stakeholders

An 'innovative' Public Distribution System (PDS) model, conceptualised and designed by the Indian Institute of Management-Shillong (IIM-Shillong), will soon try and fix "leakages" and "inefficiencies" in the system in Assam. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has given the go-ahead to the setting up of a 'Assam State Civil Supplies Corporation', which would be integral to the new system and whose structure has been designed by IIM-Shillong.

Faculty sources from IIM-Shillong said the new model for the corporation had been designed after a series of discussions with senior government officials and with stakeholders. The new corporation would be set up on a private-public-partnership mode, and would have a "robust structure" in place to sustain both domestic and international dynamics. "The corporation will have a two-tier structure - Tier I, which would be an executing company, and Tier II, which would be an initiating corporate body. The corporation would be a New Age public distribution system for the Assam with cutting edge technology and efficient management systems to overpower leakages and inefficiencies of the legacy system," sources said.

Gogoi gave the go ahead for formation of the new corporation following a meeting with senior government officials and faculty members of IIM-Shillong at his official residence yesterday.

"The design concept by IIM-Shillong seems to be innovative with fresh ideas and thinking. It's good that the best model has been adopted for hassle-free implementation down to the producers' level, the main stakeholders in the corporation coming up," said Gogoi.

However Gogoi added that the new structure should be a robust and vibrant one, and should be able to "withstand the pressures and overcome them". Gogoi said the most important aspect was that the new corporation should be able to generate its own resources to sustain domestic dynamics.Faculty sources from IIM-Shillong said the new corporation would be induced with women empowerment, self governance and sustainable, trust and long term bonding, competitive managerial capabilities and cutting edge technologies.

Silchar tense after objectional items found in places of worship

Silchar town in Cachar district of Barak valley in Assam has been tense since Sunday evening after unidentified miscreants placed some objectional items at places of worship at Rongpur area in midst of  the town. The district administration put Army on alert after situation deteriorated.
The item had been kept by unidentified miscreants at the places of worship in Rongpur area in the town in a bid to disrupt communal harmony. As the news spread, local people gathered at the spot.
Police arrived at the spot to control the situation, public beaten up a police official and also targeted Diganta Bora, SP of Cachar district. Police first lathicharged to disperse the agitated crowd and later fired several rounds in the air to control the situation.
Thirty people including six policemen were injured in the clash. The agitated crowd set ablaze two police vehicles. Later, additional forces were deployed in sensitive areas in the town and section 144 was also promulgated. 

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday in Guwahati blamed the Vishwa Hindu Parisad (VHP) for the recent communal tension in Silchar, the main town in southern Assam.

“VHP has been trying to create communal disturbance in Assam. Not only in Silchar, at many places in the state, the saffron brigade is active to trigger communal tension”, said Gogoi.
Gogoi said that BJP in Assam has realized that the saffron party would face defeat in the coming Lok Sabha election and to create favourable situation for the party, other members of saffron brigade jumped into create communal tension.
“In Ayodhya, VHP suddenly take decision to carryout a yatra for Ram temple. This is for creating communal disturbance. Similarly, VHP is trying to create communal tension everywhere in the country before the Lok Sabha poll”, added Gogoi.
The chief minister warned all communal forces active in the state: “We deal very firmly with all communal forces active in the state”. 
All the three Barak valley districts of Cachar , Hailakandi and Karimganj are regarded as communally sensitive district. The valley witnessed some major communal violence in the nineties particularly after the Babri mosque demolition. Both BJP and Congress are equally strong in Barak valley in the state.
Meanwhile, VHP condemned chief minister Gogoi’s allegation to it on Silchar incident. VHP’s NE region secretary Abhijit Deka alleged that Gogoi has lost mental balance and no more suited to continue as chief minister of the state.
In protest against Ayodhya VHP leaders’ arrest, members of saffron parivar had taken out a protest march in the city on Monday.

Human-animal conflict leaps up in India

In Assam state, development and habitat loss are forcing wildlife into urban areas.

Rapid-rescue teams in Assam capture wild animals that have strayed into human settlements [Nupur/IFAW-WTI]
Guwahati, India - Each time the sepia-coloured snake hisses, Pronita Kashyap says, "Aastik, Aastik, Aastik" - a prayer to the Hindu serpent goddess and her son.
Sweaty and jittery, she explains, "It is said that snakes kill by fate and tigers by chase". When the snake coils and recoils at the corner of a squat toilet, Kashyap sprinkles smashed garlic and sprays a disinfectant on the floor, hoping to drive the half-metre-long intruder from her home. Stick in hand, she calls the state animal zoo - but there's no response.
About half an hour later, the snake slithers out through the window into the garden. Kashyap keeps watching until the weeds and reeds stop quivering.
As forest cover shrinks in India's northeastern state of Assam, sightings of wild animals have become increasingly common. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 290 people were killed by animals in Assam from 2009-11 - second only to Maharashtra state.
Human-animal conflict is widespread in rural areas in Asia and Africa, but habitat loss and development in places like Assam have put more people in urban areas at risk.
In the past few years, reports have abounded of pythons entering bathrooms and bedrooms, sambar deers running through courtyards, clouded leopards sneaking into backyards at night and carrying off livestock or pets. Pangolins, jungle cats, civet cats, foxes and wild boars repeatedly stray onto the lanes and bylanes of Guwahati, the capital. Monkeys running amok in kitchens is a routine occurrence in hillside areas. Outside of the city, elephants, tigers, one-horned rhinos and gaur, the Indian bison, are occasionally spotted.
These human-animal encounters often result in panic, fracas and bloodshed.
Shrinking habitat
As man encroaches on wilderness, the wild strays into urban settlements. This is not an overnight development, says Jayanta Sarma, an environmental consultant.

The Assam state zoo has rescued 324 animals from in and around Guwahati, the capital, from April 2012 to March 2013 [Sashanka/IFAW-WTI]
Assam's population swelled from 14 million in 1971 to 31 million in 2011. Frenzied urbanisation gobbled up 30 percent of the state's forestland. Nationally, Assam has the most forestland under encroachment.
"There has been a prolonged conflict between so-called development and conservation of wildlife," explains Sarma. The line between urban, rural and jungle is becoming blurry in Assam, a tropical biodiversity hotspot.
Illegal deforestation, logging, earth-cutting and extension of residential settlements and croplands into reserved forests and hillocks have reduced the natural habitat of animals, forcing animals to wander around in search of food.
When stray wild animals devour domestic ones, there is no compensation for owners. When vengeful crowds slay feral animals, there is no punishment, encouraging such killings, adds Sarma.
Rescue teams
Between April 2012 and March 2013, the Assam state zoo has rescued 324 animals from in and around Guwahati, the capital, according to Dr M L Smith, a forest veterinary officer. Of these, 54 died, 45 were exhibited at zoos and 225 were released in protected areas.
The zoo has no specific rescue team, and the officials, animal-keeper and veterinary doctors respond to distress calls. Many animals die during rescue attempts or from being trapped in wells; one leopard died from an overdose of tranquiliser. Irate locals have killed many straying animals with rocks, axes or bamboo poles. In March 2012, mobs butchered two leopards - one in Kamrup and the other in Dibrugarh district - and feasted on their meat.
In January, the state government announced the deployment of rapid-rescue teams in 15 districts. "None of the teams are operational," says Anjan Talukdar, a veterinarian at IFAW-WTI, Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, based in Kaziranga. He says media - particularly television channels - provoke the crowds and cause a nuisance. "At least 1,000 people gather out of curiosity and it hampers the rescue operation," he explains.
The IFAW-WTI centre has five mobile teams and has rescued more than 3,306 animals in the last 10 years in Assam and released 1,854, according to Rathin Barman, the coordinator of the centre. It receives an average of 30 calls a month and during monsoon season about 200.
No winner in this tussle
Feverish urbanisation has muddled the food chain and positioned man in the path of animals' migration routes, says Rajib Rudra Tariang, a professor of zoology at Digboi College. "Now there is more collision and people have become volatile," he explains.
The close encounters have left residents of Assam wary. A muddy road leads to Mridula Borah's house, perched on the foothills of Durga Sarobar in Guwahati. A few years ago, the hill was covered with dense forests, but now it is a haphazard patchwork of ranch-style houses, clusters of trees and large egg-shaped rocks.
"We regularly hear the roar of leopards at night, and there is a strong musky smell," Borah says. Once the street was full of stray dogs, but now there are none. The community has started keeping pets indoors after many were killed.
Borah's two-year-old cocker spaniel, Olive, was taken one night. In the morning, Borah found dried blood and leopard pawmarks on the soft, red soil.
This story has been written under the aegis of the CSE Media Fellowships.

Non-tribals oppose statehood, call bandhs

Guwahati, Aug 26 : With the central government inviting Assam groups demanding separate states for talks in New Delhi from Sep 2, several non-Bodo and non-tribal organisations have threatened to launch a mass movement.

These bodies Sunday took part in a mass conclave in Guwahati and decided to oppose the statehood demand.

These have also decided to pressurise the state and the central governments against further division in the name of caste and communities.

Another non-Bodo organisation, the Asomiya Oikya Mancha, has called for 300 hours of bandh of all government offices besides rail and road blockades in Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD) starting Sep 2.

While the Koch Rajbongshi organisations wanting Kamatapur state have been invited Sep 2, a delegation of the Joint Action Committee for Autonomous State demanding state status for Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts has been asked to reach the next day.

On Sep 4, the central government has invited delegations of Bodo organisations demanding a Bodoland state.

"The central government has taken a hasty decision on Telangana while targeting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, the decision has fuelled statehood demands in Assam. The non-Bodos living in Assam's BTAD areas have been suffering a lot. Creation of a separate state will further aggravate the situation and we are not going to accept this," said Brajen Mahanta, chief convener of the Sanmilita Janagosthiya Sangram Samiti.

"Today we have decided to oppose any further bifurcation of the state in the name of cast and community and we also appeal to the government of India to settle the grievances of the communities through other means, which is acceptable to all living in the state since ages," he said.

In Assam, ethnic divides fuel demands

Sushanta Talukdar

Bodo tribal boys, wearing body paint, shout slogans during a rally in Ghoramara in Sonitpur district, Assam, demanding a separate Bodoland state. File photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
The Hindu Bodo tribal boys, wearing body paint, shout slogans during a rally in Ghoramara in Sonitpur district, Assam, demanding a separate Bodoland state. File photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
The Sunday Story
Assam’s ethnic pot is boiling once again with the United Progressive Alliance’s nod to create a Telangana State, spurring the revival of statehood movements by four ethnic groups — the Bodos, the Karbis, the Dimasas and the Koch-Rajbangshis.
While organisations of the Koch-Rajbangshis have demanded a Kamatapur state comprising 15 districts of Assam and six of West Bengal, the other three demands have been raised from the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), Karbi Anglong hill district and Dima Hasao (the erstwhile North Cachar) hill district which are governed by administrative set-ups enjoying legislative, executive and financial autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.
The revival of the statehood movements raises the question whether its autonomy experiment — thought to be the panacea for addressing territory-linked ethno-linguistic and ethno-cultural identity issues — has failed.
Political elites among the Bodos, the Karbis and the Dimasas argue that the Sixth Schedule experiment failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people in the three areas as the State government did not fully devolve powers on the councils as promised.
Meanwhile, ordinary Bodo, Karbi and Dimasa people never got any opportunity to enjoy self-governance as no power was handed to villages.
The autonomous institutions in the three Sixth Schedule areas of BTAD, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao — namely the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) and the Dima Hasao District Autonomous Council (DHDAC) — are single-tiered and outside the purview of the Panchayati Raj system.
Since the ad hoc village council bodies are not elected, villagers have remained passive beneficiaries of development schemes and do not have any say when allocated funds fail to reach them.
In Tripura, nominated village committees were replaced with elected councils in 2006 in all 527 village committees under the Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTADC). The TTADC, which came under the purview of the Sixth Schedule in August 1985, also vested with the elected Village Committees the powers and duties for implementation of State and Central development schemes. There is 33 per cent reservation for women in these committees.
Nearly nine years after the formation of the BTC, the Bodoland Village Council Bill, 2012, which provides for a directly elected council, was passed on July 18, 2012. The Bill still awaits the Assam Governor’s assent.
The peace accord signed by the Centre and Assam governments with the erstwhile militant outfit United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) of Karbi Anglong hill district on August 25, 2011 provides for setting up of village councils under the Karbi Anglong Autonomus Council (KAAC) to deepen the democratic process at the grassroots. The Memorandum of Settlement signed with both factions of the erstwhile militant outfit Dima Halam Daogah(DHD) of Dima Hasao hill district on October 8, 2012 also provides for setting up of village councils for devolution of powers on the grassroots to benefit all sections.
The State government has allowed the Bill and the two peace accords to gather dust instead of ensuring their speedy implementation. Failure on the part of the Centre and Assam governments to make the Sixth Schedule an effective institution with wider participation of the people has allowed the political elites of the three tribes to seize the opportunity created by the Telangana decision, to revive the statehood demand and articulate it as the only means of getting rid of backwardness and for the preservation of their identity, culture and heritage.

Poachers kill rare rhinos in India; drone flights halted

Indian forest officials stand near the body of a one horned horn rhinoceros, which was killed and de-horned by poachers at Burapahar in Kaziranga National Park, some 250km east of Guwahati on Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013. An armed gang has killed two rare rhinoceros at a wildlife park in north-east India, officials said on Thursday, Aug 22, 2013, adding that drones deployed to stem the rising number of killings have been halted. -- PHOTO: AFP

GUWAHATI, India (AFP) - An armed gang has killed two rare rhinoceros at a wildlife park in northeast India, officials said on Thursday, adding that drones deployed to stem the rising number of killings have been halted.
Poachers used assault rifles to shoot dead the rhinoceros before gouging out their horns at the park in Assam state on Wednesday, taking the total number slaughtered there this year to 27, officials said.
"Poachers used AK 47 to shot dead the rhinos. We have recovered empty cartridges from the site of the incident," a park ranger said, requesting not to be named.
Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain said the killings at Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site, were carried out by "militants", while declining to name the outfit thought responsible.

Assam losing 8,000 hectares every year due to erosion: Gogoi

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the state is losing around 8,000 hectares of land every year due to heavy erosion by Brahmaputra river.

Attending a meeting of the Group of Ministers (GOM), headed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar at New Delhi, to consider inclusion of erosion as a natural calamity, the chief minister highlighted the problems faced by the state due to erosion.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. PTI
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. PTI
According to an official release, Gogoi said that around 8,000 hectares of land are going to the river bed every year.
The loss of land due to erosion is a permanent one and the affected people have nowhere to go once the flood water recedes, he added.
Gogoi argued for taking up the erosion protection schemes under financial assistance from National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
“The committee after deliberation, decided that loss of land due to erosion occurring after floods should be examined for change of the norms for compensation for loss of land during floods under NDRF/SDRF,” the statement said.
The meeting was also attended by Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Union DONER Minister P Ghatowar and Union Minister for Water Resources Harish Rawat.
Earlier, the GOM was formed at the initiative of Gogoi.

Aasu fast against govt failure to implement accord

GUWAHATI/JORHAT: Twenty-eight years have passed since the Assam Accord was signed between the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and leaders of the Assam Movement led by PrafullaMahanta on 15 August 1985, but the accord has still not been implemented in its true letter and spirit. The prime objective of the accord, which resulted from a six-year-long student movement, was to free Assam from illegal infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh.

To mark the failure of the government in implementing the accord, the All Assam Students' Union (Aasu) on Wednesday started a hunger strike across the state.

Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) president and two-time chief minister Mahanta, who was a signatory of the accord, also blamed the government for inaction. "The Indo-Bangla border is still porous. Even after so many years, the government yet to seal the border. And instead of making a treaty to deport infiltrators, the government is trying to give our land to Bangladesh," alleged Mahanta. He said AGP would continue to press the Centre for implementation of the accord.

Aasu adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjee, who went on a fast since 6am on Wednesday, said Aasu would continue the fast till the flag-hoisting ceremony at Lal Quila in New Delhi on Independence Day on Thursday.

"On August 15, 1985, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had announced after hoisting the Tricolour that the Assam Accord was signed to make Assam influx-free. After 28 years, the accord still hasn't been implemented. Now even members of fundamentalists groups and Pakistani insurgents are sneaking into the country through the porous Indo-Bangla border. This hunger strike makes mockery of that promise," said Bhattacharjee.

"If we add the six years of the movement, then it will be 34 years that the people of Assam are waiting for an influx-free state. How long do we have to wait? Aasu demands that the government announce a time-bound action plan now," he added.

Aasu organizing general secretary Sarat Hazarika said in Jorhat, "We want the provisions of the Assam Accord to be implemented fully within a specific period of time. We demand a constitutional safeguard for the indigenous people of Assam to ensure their protection." In Jorhat, Aasu members staged a fast in front of DC's office.

In every district, 30 activists of the organization are staging the fast. On May 5, 2005, the state government and the Centre in a tripartite talk assured Aasu that border fencing would be done within a year and the National Register of Citizens would be updated, but it still hasn't been done.

Already, several organisations have moved the Supreme Court against the government's delay in implementing the Assam Accord and the apex court has asked the government to reply on its inaction.

Assam cooks up ways for schools to cope with extreme heat

Students at the Jalukanibari higher secondary school in Jorhat, Assam, during June's heat wave.
GUWAHATI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Authorities in the northeast Indian state of Assam are mulling measures to deal with the impact of extreme heat in schools, after temperatures in June shot up several degrees higher than normal, and stayed there.

The state experienced a record-high temperature of 39 degrees Celsius on June 14, with the thermometer registering more than 37 degrees for much of the month.

Meteorology department officials said this was completely unexpected, as temperatures in June are usually around 32 degrees.

The monsoon arrived in Assam on June 7, bringing some rain. But two days later, cyclonic winds developed in the northwest Bay of Bengal, diverting the monsoon winds and boosting mercury levels, according to MK Gupta, deputy director general of the regional meteorological centre.
“This sudden rise in temperature, which is being witnessed more recently, is an offshoot of climate change triggered by global warming,” RM Bhagat, a senior scientist at the Tocklai Experimental Station, a research centre in Assam, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Due to the heat wave, the district administrations stepped in urgently, and issued directives to all schools to change their class times from the usual hours of 9 am to around 3 pm. Some switched their timetable to between 7 am and 9 am, and others ran lessons from 9 am to 11 am for most of the month.
Kamrup Metro district was the first to make the move, followed by Dibrugarh district and several others that were also severely affected.
“This order was issued due to the ongoing heat wave across the state, and keeping in mind problems school children face in such inclement weather,” said Kamrup Metro district deputy commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri.
School staff said they had never come across a situation where lesson times had to be changed because of the temperature.
“The month of June this year was warmer than usual from the beginning, and suddenly from the middle of the month the temperature shot up to almost 39 degrees Celsius, which is something completely unheard of,” said Pranjal Saikia, a senior teacher at the Jalukanibari higher secondary school in Jorhat district.
Saikia added that the heat was so fierce that some students were close to falling ill and had to be asked to take rest.
“The directive...regarding retiming of the classes was a big relief to both us and the students, and even on those days when the classes were retimed, we asked the students to drink an adequate amount of water while at school,” said Saikia.
In Guwahati, where the situation was far worse due to a lack of greenery and tree cover, schools even had to postpone their exams, which were scheduled for June.
“In our school the exams - which are usually held around the second or third week of June had to be postponed - and we brought forward the holidays,” said Sabita Gogoi, a senior teacher at Adarsha Asom Vidyalaya school in Kamrup Metro district. The summer vacation took place almost three weeks early, and exams were held in early August, the first time such a thing has happened in Assam, Gogoi added.
The situation was similar in Lakhimpur and Sivasagar, where there is more greenery and shade and less pollution.
“We changed the timing of our classes as soon as we got the directive from the district administration, and if the directive hadn’t been issued, many students would have fallen ill,” said Bijoy Nath, a senior teacher at Brahmaputra school in Sivasagar district, which is a green area with many tea estates.
District authorities have said they will monitor the weather situation, and issue further advice if needed. They are also planning to hold brain-storming sessions soon to seek solutions to the problem in case it happens again.
In a landmark 2011 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that heat waves of greater magnitude would happen more often in the future, alongside other more extreme weather events around the globe.
In Assam, putting air conditioners (ACs) into classrooms is not a feasible option, said Kamrup Metro district deputy commissioner Agnihotri.
“There are a few private schools in the state which can afford to install ACs, but it is important to note that there are thousands of government schools and private schools with a limited budget where it is not possible at all,” he said.
Nonetheless, the administration is in favour of dealing with the situation, he added, spelling out a series of possible measures for the coming years.
“The administration will be focusing on changing school timings, ensuring that schools keep ample water in stock for the students, and also modifying school buildings through architectural changes,” Agnihotri said.
School representatives said they supported these ideas, which are within their capabilities.
“The steps...are practical ones, and can be done in all schools—whether big or small, government or private,” said Saikia.
The Assam health department said it had published advertisements in all the state’s major newspapers, advising people how to treat heat stroke, and to stay indoors whenever possible.
Amarjyoti Borah is a freelance writer based in northeast India.