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.