Assam govt declares paid holidays on polling days

The Assam government today declared paid holidays on the three days of polling in the state for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

According to an official release, all factories, plantations, shops, commercial establishments, public entertainment places and banks will provide paid holidays to their workers to cast their votes.

Polling in the state's 14 Lok Sabha seats will be held in three phases on April 7, 12 and 24.

Student's union demand constitutional safeguards for people of Assam

A student organisation in Assam, All Assam Students Union (AASU), organised a protest to demand constitutional safeguards for the people of the state.

A leader of AASU, Simanta Goswami, said the protesters have given a document stating their demands to representatives of all the major political parties in Assam.

"The All Assam Students Union has given a document of demands to all the political parties in which we have clearly stated that we need some constitutional safeguards for people of our state at any cost. We have told all the parties to clearly state their position on this issue, and also implement new policies to meet our demands", said Goswami.

Several members of the AASU took out a rally to the residence of the state Governor, Janaki Ballabh Patnaik, demanding constitutional safeguard on a number of issues such as land rights of the people, protecting the interests of the tribes, identifying illegal foreigners in the region and sealing the nearby border with Bangladesh.

Goswami further warned the political parties of total boycott if they failed to meet their demands.

"If the political parties don't agree to these demands, we will boycott them and never accept them in future. We don't have any other option as the people are facing an existential threat here," added Goswami.

According to students of the Union, the people of Assam have been fighting for such issues since 1970s, but they are still pending due to government's negligence.

The groups blame the government of plundering the region's significant mineral and agricultural resources and ignoring demands for greater autonomy and greater economic opportunities.

Assam engineer caught accepting bribe

Police caught a junior engineer of the Barpeta Zila Parishad red-handed while taking bribe for allotting Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) schemes in lower Assam's Barpeta district.

Based on the complaint of Jahidul Islam of Ramapara Gaon Panchayat that junior engineer Dillauddin Ahmed has been demanding commission for allotting schemes under the BRGF, Barpeta Sadar Sub Divisional officer Bipul Saikia planned a trap and caught Ahmed while taking money from the complainant, sources said.

In the name of allotting various schemes under the BRGF, Junior Engineer Dillauddin Ahmed had been allegedly taking commission, they added.

Students take out peace rally against bandh in Assam

In the backdrop of the recent 100-hour Dima Hasao district bandh in Assam, students of various schools and colleges today hit the streets taking out a peace rally in protest against frequent bandhs disrupting normal life.

The 100-hour Dima Hasao district bandh called by NC Hills Indigenous Students Forum (NCHISF), a students organisation from February 26, had affected normal life and fuelled price rise.

The peace rally was taken out on the main street of Haflong town by the Government College Students Association and other students from various schools and colleges here.

After the procession, the students also submitted a memorandum to the Assam Governor through the Deputy Commissioner of Dima Hasao stating that they condemned the recent bandh by the NCHISF.

The latest bandh by the NCHISF had caused many difficulties to the students appearing for the ongoing HSLC and HS examinations in the state.

The memorandum also pointed out that the bandh supporters had caused huge damage to public property and inconvenience to the general public.

The NCHISF and Indigenous Women Forum (IWF), Haflong have been raising the issue of bifurcation of Dima Hasao for long and have called bandhs in the district several times.

National Green Tribunal seeks reply in three weeks on Subansiri dam

GUWAHATI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given an ultimatum of three weeks to the Assam government to file its reply on the Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Power (LSHEP) dam on Monday.

Earlier, the tribunal had asked all respondents in the case - state governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), ministry of power, NHPC - to file their responses within March 3. But the state government sought for more time again.

The NGT issued notices to all respondents regarding the release of minimum sustenance water at the rate of 450 cumecs from the lower Subansiri dam throughout the year to ensure the river's ecological health.

"The tribunal slammed the Assam government for its delay and said it was unacceptable as it's a serious matter. The MoEF and the ministry of power too could not file their replies. The tribunal gave the ultimatum of three weeks to all parties to file their responses and said the hearing on the matter will start from March 25," Abhijeet Sarma, petitioner in the case told TOI.

On Monday, NHPC and the government of Arunachal Pradesh filed their replies. "The NHPC said that it will release 220-250 cumecs of water by keeping one turbine running. But it's far less than the minimum sustenance flow of 450 cumecs. Moreover, who will guarantee that there won't be any malfunctioning in the turbine? Any disruption of flow, even if it is for a short period, will annihilate the downstream biota of the river," the petitioner added.

Besides the minimum sustainable water flow, the petitioner also requested that a 'fish ladder' be located at the dam's opening to allow fish migration.

The petitioner, who is also the president of an NGO named Assam Public Works, approached NGT after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case, considering it to be a technical matter, in September last year.