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.