Assam: 6 Minor Girls Rescued, 2 Traffickers Arrested

Six minor girls were rescued today along the Assam-Bhutan border when they were on their way to Gujarat for allegedly being sold there for sex trade, police said.

The girls aged 12-15 years were rescued by the people of Moranjana village who suspected foul play by two persons- Parbati Barman and Haricharan Boro - who were escorting the girls, they said.

The two escorts were held by the people and handed over to police and the girls sent back to their families, they said.

The girls belonging to poor families of the tea tribe community were taken from their Paharpur village in Kamrup district by a vehicle for boarding a train to Gujarat from Moranjana, police said.

They were lured on the promise of jobs in companies and offices at good salaries that they could send back home, they said.

Another person, Safiqul Islam, accompanying the girls is absconding and police has launched a search operation to nab him.

Parbati and Haricharan confessed before the police that they would regularly take both minor girls and boys from Assam for sale in Gujarat.

Bookie dies in judicial custody in Assam

A man arrested on charges of running a betting racket for the domestic T20 league died in judicial custody in Assam on Sunday, the day the cash-rich tournament ended.

The police in central Assam’s Jorhat town said suspected bookie Palash Barua, a TB patient in his 20s, died at the local medical college hospital.

He had developed health complications at Jorhat district jail where he was lodged for running the betting racket in Mariani town, bordering Nagaland, nearby.

Barua’s family members alleged the police had beaten him up at the Mariani police station lock-up after arresting him on May 18. He was arrested with seven others for running the betting racket worth at least Rs. 65 lakh during this season’s tournament.

On Monday, Barua’s family lodged a complaint against probationary Indian Police Service officer Satyabrata Rai Medhi, Mariani police station officer in-charge Musfiq Ali and the Jorhat district jail superintendent, accusing them of assault and negligence.

Medhi, who has been cracking down on gambling and liquor dens in the area, declined to comment on Barua’s death. A local police officer, however, denied Barua was tortured in custody before being sent to jail soon after his arrest under sections 14 and 15 of Assam Gambling and Betting Act, 1970. “Prima facie, it is a case of natural death,” the officer said.

After Barua’s arrest, his family had sought bail citing his critical health. The plea was turned down, as the jail authorities said he would be taken care of.

“The police were doing a good job of cleaning up the area, but something went wrong after these people were arrested for betting,” All Tea Tribes’ Students Association joint secretary Dhiraj Goala said over phone from Mariani.

Controversy has dogged Mariani since last Friday, when CRPF personnel manhandled local Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi after he allegedly engaged in a war of words with local police officials.

Kurmi and his supporters had blocked the roads to adjoining Nagaland after Naga miscreants had abducted and assaulted two small tea growers of the area.

Rare bearcat found in Assam

Rare bearcat found in Assam Guwahati: A bearcat, a rare species of climbing mammal, was captured in Assam's Nagaon district and shifted to a rehabilitation centre, officials said Wednesday.

"The sub-adult male (around 1.5-metre-long) had reportedly entered a house in Aahomgaon village on the outskirts of Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, in Nagaon district," an official said.

"The locals then handed it over to the police, who in turn informed the forest department," said an official.

The bearcat, also called 'binturong', has been shifted to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), near Kaziranga national park in Assam's Golaghat district.

Officials said this is for the first time in the CWRC's decade-long history that this species has showed up.

"One of our veterinarians brought the animal from Nagaon to CWRC in Golaghat. The animal appears healthy except that it is blinded in one eye, which looks like a congenital deformity. We are hoping to release the animal and possibly monitor it to learn more about this rare mammal," said veterinarian Anjan Talukdar.

Threatened by habitat loss and poaching, this species inhabits areas south of Brahmaputra river in northeast India.

Assam Police crack down on impersonation in CEE

At least ten youths have been arrested for impersonation, allegedly appearing in Combined Entrance Examination (CEE) for medical and engineering courses on behalf of other students, Assam Police said Monday.
While five of them were arrested from four different examination centres in Guwahati Sunday, four others were nabbed from Silchar in Barak Valley area, police said.
Another such student was arrested in Bongaigaon district Sunday, police said.
A senior official of Assam Police said that an operation has been launched to curb the racket of such students.
"Mubarak Hussain of Premnagar and another person - Sohal Ahmed Choudhury of Uttar Pradesh - were nabbed from a CEE centre at Dispur College Sunday. They were appearing in the examination on behalf of different candidates. Similarly, Amit Kumar was arrested for appearing in the same examination at Jalukbari Sunday. Rakesh Kumar Rai was also nabbed from a CEE centre in Bharalumukh area of the city," he said, adding that Kamlesh Yadav was arrested later in the day.
"The four people arrested from Silchar were Binay Kumar, Safikur Niranjan Kumar, Sujit Kumar and Brajesh Kumar," said the officer, adding that all of them hail from Bihar.
Police said that the person arrested from Bongaigaon has been identified as Ravi Kumar, who also hails from Bihar.
"These are all brilliant students. They had established contacts with some students of the state, who were appearing in the CEE for admission into medical and engineering colleges. They assure these students they would get through the exams and charge huge amounts of money," said the officer. Some of those arrested have named a few others also involved in the racket.
"During interrogation, some of them had said that they had received only Rs.5,000 or Rs.10,000 for cracking the exams on behalf of the students. But we believe that the amount involved is quite high. Our investigation is on and we hope to arrest all in the racket soon," said the officer.
The CID had earlier warned the Dibrugarh University, which conducts the examination in Assam, about this and asked the university to implement stringent measures to check the fraud.

In 6 years, PM has become 8 years older

 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have become eight years older over the past six years.

In his affidavit filed along with nomination papers as a Rajya Sabha candidate from Assam on Wednesday, the Prime Minister has stated that he is aged 82. However, in his affidavit as a Rajya Sabha candidate filed in 2007, Dr. Singh mentioned his age to be 74.

His date of birth is stated to be September 26, 1932 on the official website of Prime Minister ( and on the website as a member of Rajya Sabha. Going by this date of birth, the Prime Minister is aged about 80 years 7 months 15 days.

The website “Personal Profile” of Dr. Singh states: “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was born on September 26, 1932, in a village in the Punjab province of undivided India.”

Assam govt and AASU discuss NRC updating

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the All Assam Students Union (AASU) today urged the Centre and Registrar General of India to immediately start work of updating National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The state government, led by Gogoi and AASU, in a meeting here discussed various steps already taken for updating the NRC in Assam.

The state government accepted in principle that the process of updating the NRC should be taken up throughout the state, subject to approval from the Centre.

AASU underscored that they want a tripartite discussion of the Assam Accord at the PM level to which Gogoi assured them that he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the earliest.

The last such talks at the PM level were held in May 2005.

Today's meeting also decided to consider AASU's suggestions on draft modalities of the Cabinet Sub-Committee's recommendations and presently under consideration of the Centre, official sources said.

Revenue Minister Prithibi Majhi and other members of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on NRC updation, Chief Secretary and other senior government officials were also present while the AASU delegation was led by its advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya.

PM files RS nomination papers in Assam

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh filed his nomination papers in the Assam assembly on Wednesday afternoon for a fifth straight Rajya Sabha term from the state. His fourth term ends on June 14.

His visit was marked by a series of protests as members of students’ organisations and political parties showed black flag and staged sit-ins seeking reasons for his ‘step-motherly treatment’ to the state.

Singh has been representing Assam in the Upper House since 1991 after he became the Union finance minister. Former chief minister Hiteswar Saikia offered him a Rajya Sabha seat that had fallen vacant and even made Singh a tenant to justify his nomination.

“I hav
e been representing Assam in the Rajya Sabha for the last 21 years, and I cannot be grateful enough to the people of the state. I shall endeavour to ensure all-round development for Assam,” he said after emerging from the assembly. 

Singh is expected to win the seat comfortably with the Congress and its allies occupying 94 berths in the 126-member assembly. The Congress candidate, preferably one from the Adivasi community, is also likely to win the second seat as the combined strength of the opposition is 32.

The opposition has failed to come up with a consensus candidate with the pro-Muslim All India United Democratic Front (18 MLAs) differing ideologically with the Asom Gana Parishad (nine) and the BJP (five).

The last date of withdrawing nomination is May 20 and the elections, if necessary, will be on May 30.

ULFA slams Assam CM for award to 'bikini-girl' Sharmila Tagore

A day after she received the prestigious Srimanta Sankaradeva Award from President Pranab Mukherjee at a function here, Sharmila Tagore on Tuesday became an indirect target of Paresh Barua's ULFA(I), with the outfit questioning Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi why the award instituted in the name of the 16th century saint-reformer was conferred on the actor.

"The ULFA(I) considers the Assam government's conferment of the Srimanta Sankaradeva award to the bikini-girl of Hindi cinema Sharmila Tagore (Begun Ayesha Sultana) a gross insult to the greatest saint of Assam. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, whose government had only recently insulted Sukafa, the founder of the Ahom dynasty, now owes an explanation as to why his government chose Sharmila Tagore who is in no way associated in propagating the ideals of Sankaradeva," a statement emailed to media offices by the ULFA(I) on Tuesday said.

Interestingly, Sharmila in her acceptance speech not only recalled her Assamese connection but also the contributions of her maternal family towards shaping modern Assamese culture and society.

Assam to review investment policy

GUWAHATI: The state government is contemplating to conduct a study to find out whether the state has benefited from the ambitious North East Industrial and Investment Policy announced by the Centre in 2007 to boost industrialization in the backward state as well as the entire region.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said, "The government would constitute a committee to study whether Assam has benefited from the incentives under NEIPP."

Gogoi's remark comes close on the heels of the Planning Commission increasing Assam's annual plan share to Rs 12,500 crore after it appreciated the efforts of the state government in infrastructure development and agriculture.

The policy is loaded with fiscal incentives and other concessions to attract investors from within the country and abroad to this geographically isolated region but official records show that since 2001, no industry has been set up in the state sector and of the 16 state public sector units under the industry and commerce department, 11 have been closed down, one is sick and two are incurring losses. Only one is making profit and one has just started functioning.

The Economic Survey of the state for 2012-13 states, "Assam is still making efforts desperately for gearing up industrial activities. The manufacturing sector's contribution to the state economy maintains a downward trend and is pegged at 4.05 per cent."

The policy, which is applicable to all industrial units except those producing tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes, pan masala and plastic carry bags of less than 20 microns, refineries and units engaged in peripheral activities like preservation during storage, cleaning operations, packing, re-packing, labeling or re-labeling, sorting and alteration of retail sale price, extends to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.

Gogoi and industry and commerce minister Pradyut Bordoloi have made numerous trips abroad in search of investments to the state since 2001. But all their efforts have drawn a blank so far. Sources said there is no direct foreign investment proposal for the state from the Centre.

"In many cases, investors have been found to retract because of lack of easily available land," the source said. The industry department is optimistic and claimed that six big Indian business houses are now showing interest in the state, which include Hindustan Lever Limited, Ind-Swift Laboratories, McLeod Russel (India) Limited, North East Pulp and Paper Private Ltd, Kohinoor Pulp and Paper Private Ltd and Globe Power and Steel Ltd.

Assam Human Rights Commission orders compensation

Guwahati: Even as an ill-fated woman Guwahati fell prey to the flash flood in the city after a spell of rain on Thursday night, Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has asked the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of Binoy Mohan Das who faced the same fate two years back.
Das, the then Superintendent of Kamrup Treasury, fell into an unguarded drain as he was walking along the footpath after a spell of rain which submerged the city on October 21 in 2011 at the R.G.B Road, in Guwahati.
A Division Bench of the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) comprising its Chairperson, Justice Dr. Aftab H. Saikia and Member, Tarun Phookan, by its order dated 08.05.2013 passed in AHRC Case No.238/24/11-12 recommended to the Government of Assam to pay compensation of Rs.10 lakh within three months to the next of kin of late Binoy Mohan Das.
Ajay Hazarika, Chief coordinator, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Guwahati, filed a complaint before the Commission in that behalf and the Commission after taking up the case directed the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and the APWD (Roads) Guwahati City, Division-I, to separately enquire into the said fatal incident and submit their respective reports. The reports were accordingly submitted in due course and after considering the same the Division Bench passed the order of the recommendation. The State Government was given liberty to realize the compensatory amount in equal proportion from those two Departments fixing responsibilities in that regard upon their respective officials/staff concern.
Another middle aged lady Basanti Devi, who originally hails from Bihar, stepped on a live electric wire as drain water submerged the Anil Nagar area in the city after a spell of rain on Thursday evening.

Committee seeks 6 more months to probe job scam

SHILLONG: A high-level committee constituted by the Meghalaya government to probe the infamous job scam that rocked this north-eastern state earlier in 2011, today sought a six month extension to complete the task.

In an affidavit filed before the Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court, Justice T Meena Kumari, the committee sought six more months time to complete the probe.

Citing non-availability of original documents and original files from the registry of the Meghalaya High Court and the CBI, the committee through the deputy secretary of the Education department B S Sohliya, said the chairman of the committee "would start the examination of the legality of the whole recruitment procedure as and when the documents are received".

An inquiry by the CBI had earlier indicted Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh (the then Education Minister), the CBI in its report said the then director of the School, Education and Literacy, J D Sangma, was "instructed" by the Minister to tamper with the score-sheets in all five sub-divisions of the state.

"Enquiry has established that majority of candidates were appointed in irregular manner by changing their original marks on account of experience, education, qualification in the score sheets by applying white fluid (correction ink)," the report said, adding that the board members were surprised to see the manipulated score sheets.

While the education department had appointed 350 names as successful candidates in the selection process, 255 were those who were recommended by the politicians.

A single bench of the Gauhati High Court had ordered for a CBI inquiry into the alleged anomalies in the appointment of assistant teachers in government lower primary schools in Meghalaya after adjudicating on a case of nine writ petitions filed by more than 100 aggrieved applicants from various districts of the state during April-May 2010.

Assam farmers threaten suicide over poor maize seeds

Farmers at Assam’s Abhayapuri town in Bongaigaon district today threatened to commit suicide in protest against the spurious quality of maize seeds distributed to them by the state government.

Maize. AFP
Maize. AFP
Even though the maize plants bloomed fully in the 43,200 square feet land under plantation, there was hardly any yield in them, the farmers alleged. The poor production has pushed the 50-odd farmers to a severe financial crisis.
Ironically, these farmers registered a record production last year by selling many quintals of produce in the market. However, this year they were convinced by the state agriculture department to use the maize seeds distributed by them, a local TV channel NewsLive reported.
The farmers today gathered in front of the agriculture department office in Abhayapuri and threatened to end their lives without adequate compensation.

Assam Police to seek custody of Saradha Group chief: Tarun Gogoi

NEW DELHI: Assam Police will soon approach a court in Kolkata seeking custody of Sudipta Sen, chairman of Saradha Group which has gone bust, for allegedly duping people in the state.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said a team of Assam Police is camping in Kolkata and in the process of approaching the city's Bidhanangar court to take Sen's custody as his chit fund company had a large presence and got investment in Assam before going bust.

"We are trying to get custody of Sudipta Sen. Out team is already in Kolkata," he told reporters here.

Gogoi said his government has already handed over the case to CBI for a thorough probe into Saradha Group's activities in Assam and find out those involved in it.

Asked about alleged links of a senior politician and former police officer of Assam with the chit fund company, the Chief Minister said "no one will be spared if found guilty".

Sen, his associate Debjani Mukherjee and another Saradha official Arvind Singh Chouhan were arrested from Sonamarg in Kashmir valley on April 24 while they were on the run.

Sen, the chairman of the Saradha Group, allegedly defrauded thousands of small investors, and the two others were today sent to nine days police custody in a fresh case by a court in Kolkata. They had already spent 14 days in police custody in a separate case.

Assam wants speical coal linkages for two power projects

Assam has demanded 'special' coal linkages from the Centre for two of its thermal power projects - one a greenfield project and the other a revival project. The state has also expressed its uneasiness for having made to bear the "huge burden" of under-recoveries by way of the policy of discount on crude oil prices to compensate the downstream oil companies.

The state government has sought long term linkage of 0.2 million metric tonnes of coal to revive the 60 MW thermal power plant at Chandrapur, near Guwahati, and 1 million metric tonnes for the proposed 500 MW thermal power plant in Margherita, in Upper Assam. The Marghertia project was envisioned way back in 2008, but due to non-availability of any coal linkage for the project, it hasn't yet seen the light of the day.

In a meeting with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has sought that coal linkages for the two power projects be ensured. Gogoi said Assam had been pursuing with the Union ministry of power and the ministry of coal to provide "special" coal linkages for the two projects.

The chief minister sought Singh's intervention for allocation of power from projects located in Bhutan. "The hydroelectric projects in Bhutan have been set up with assistance from India over rivers which flow from Bhutan into Assam. However, there is negligible allocation of power to Assam from these projects. We, therefore, request your kind intervention for allocation of power from the Central sector quota or otherwise from these power projects to Assam. This would help improve the efficiency of the transmission system located in North-East."

Taking up the crude oil discount policy, Gogoi said the Assam has been made to bear the "huge burden of under-recoveries" by way of a policy of discount on crude oil prices "with a view to compensate the oil marketing companies". "Such discount policy has not only adversely affected the VAT (value added tax) and Entry Tax collection realised on post discount price, but also has badly hit the royalty collection of the state. Such discount policy on the international price of crude oil has led to loss of revenue of around Rs. 537 crore to the state on account of VAT and Entry Tax alone during the year 2012-13", he added.

Gogoi also took up the loss of royalty incurred by the Assam government due to discount on sale price of crude oil. Gogoi said that though the state government had taken up the matter with the Union ministry of petroleum and natural gas on the need for redressal of the injustice being meted out to the state, the latter had not yet taken any favourable decision.

Gogoi requested the Prime Minister to keep crude oil and petroleum products outside the purview of Goods and Services Tax (GST). "We strongly feel that the existing provision of Clause 12A in Article 366 of proposed 115th Constitutional Amendment Bill to keep these products outside GST are in right spirit and should not be tampered with," he added.

Non-availability of bamboo shoots halts production in paper mill

SILCHAR: Production in Cachar Paper Mill, the only major industrial undertaking in south Assam and adjoining states of Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura, has once again come to a halt due to crisis of green bamboo shoots.

Industry sources said production in the mill, a unit of the public sector Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd situated at Panchgram in Hailakandi district, stopped five days ago due to non-availability of the main raw material.

The mill, with a capacity of producing 1,00,000 tonne of paper annually, has been shutting down every now and then for the last few years incurring huge loss. "There's insufficient supply of bamboo from its sources, including Mizoram and Dima Hasao for the last few weeks. This has compelled the authorities to stop production temporarily. However, when we have sufficient raw material, the production will resume," said an HPCL unit official on Tuesday.

The sources said the mill requires 300-350 tonne of bamboo daily for production of paper, but the unit is getting less than half the bamboo required since 2006-2007 leading to temporary shutdown of the production unit every now and then.

Situated at a remote place in the northeast, the mill also has poor infrastructural facilities. The mill is dependant on bamboo supplied from the jungles of Mizoram, Dima Hasao and Tripura. The supply of bamboo for the mill was resumed partially only recently after a long gap caused by bamboo flowering.

The unit fails to get bamboo regularly from Dima Hasao in an absence of a proper railway track to the area, while the Tripura government is yet to resume supply of bamboo to the Cachar Paper Mill after the devastating bamboo flowering in the state during 2007-08.

Members of Citu-affiliated Kajog Kol Thikadar Shramik Union and Cachar Paper Mill Mazdoor Union last Friday handed over a memorandum to Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar during his visit to Silchar urging him to take necessary steps to resume bamboo supply without further delay.

The two unions also requested him to start a pulp unit at Tripura. "One such unit is being considered in Mizoram by the state government. If another is set up in Tripura, it will be of great help to the Cachar Paper Mill," the union functionaries said.

Assam's annual outlay fixed at Rs.12,500 crore

Guwahati, May 8 — Assam's annual plan outlay for 2013-14 has been fixed at Rs.12,500 crore, a statement said Tuesday.
The annual plan outlay was fixed at a meeting between Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in New Delhi, said an official statement issued by the chief minister's office here.
The outlay is an increase of Rs.2,000 crore compared to last year's Rs.10,500 crore, the statement said.
Ahluwalia also praised the state government for the infrastructure development and added that the state has been impressive in sectors like agriculture, infrastructure development, health and education.
He also appreciated the state government for improving the key parameters in so far as reduction of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR).
He said he would be keen to organize a major conference in association with industry chamber CII in Guwahati in November this year in which ambassadors and experts from South East Asia, Singapore and other countries would take part.
He said that the conference will highlight the infrastructure development that have taken place in the past ten years in Assam and the changes that would usher in the next four-five years to attract investments in a big way.
Ahluwalia also requested Gogoi to extend support to the Subansiri hydro electric project as "it would bring huge benefits not only to the northeast region but the country as a whole". Gogoi, however, told him that the state government is only concerned about the safety aspect of the project.