Village Financial Services enters Assam

City-based Village Financial Services today announced commencement of its operation in Assam to tap opportunities available in the Northeast.

The company in a statement said that its first branch in Assam and 103rd overall had been opened in Dhubri district.

It would be a full-service rural branch providing micro-lending services. The company plans to expand in other Northeastern states as well to reach out to rural women.

The company also aims to raise its customer base from 145000 to 200000 poor households by the end of fiscal year 2014-15, the company said.

Students demand governor's rule in Assam

Guwahati, May 29 : All Bodoland Minority Students Union (ABMSU) in Assam took to streets and demanded governor's rule in areas hit by violence between indigenous tribesmen and settlers, which left 47 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Around 31 Muslims were gunned down in three days of what police said were attacks by tribal militants who resent the presence of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Last month, more than 40 people from the Bengali speaking minority community were killed in Baksa district in Assam including Kokrajhar district.

President of the students union, Sahabuddil Ali Ahmed, urged the Assam as well as the federal government to seize illegal arms in Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) areas.

"We have demanded Assam and the federal government to tackle the possession of illegal arms. We have demanded governor's rule in the BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District) regions to ensure peace," said Ahmed.

Meanwhile, general secretary of the students union, Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, criticized former Congress party-led UPA government for the unrest.

"This was Congress government's policy. UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and interior minister Sushilkumar Shinde were equally responsible for the conspiracy. And especially Assam Chief Minister along with Congress and BPF (Bodoland People's Front) politicised the issue to remove Muslims from Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) areas. So we demand that the chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, should resign as soon as possible," he said.

Bodo representatives say many of the Muslims in Assam are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who encroach on ancestral Bodo lands. In 2012, clashes erupted in which dozens of people were killed and 400,000 fled their homes.

Rebels in Delhi for Gogoi ouster

NEW DELHI, May 28 – The last word on the State Congress dissidence has not been said yet, as the group of disgruntled MLAs have landed in the capital to meet AICC leaders to press for their demand for removal of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Within hours of Chief Minister Gogoi’s departure for Assam, the disgruntled MLAs landed here in batches from Guwahati. In all, an estimated 20 MLAs are expected to arrive, said sources in the dissident camp.

The sources said they have been invited by the AICC-appointed team of advisers. Though officially it has not been announced, a team has been constituted under the leadership of Ghulam Nabi Azad to look into the grievances of Himanta Biswa Sarma’s group. The other members of the team include Dr CP Joshi, who is the general secretary in-charge for Assam, and party treasurer Motilal Vohra.

While rejecting Gogoi’s resignation plea, the AICC had assured the rebel group that a team of observers would be appointed to talk to them.

While the group is gunning for Chief Minister’s head, Gogoi loyalists, however, are also upset with him for his handling of the situation.

According to sources in the Chief Minister’s camp, the AICC high command had given Gogoi a free hand to reshuffle his Council of Ministers, while asking him to continue.

But now, he appears to be reluctant to drop the trouble makers in his ministry, including Himanta Biswa Sarma.

“We are very disappointed and hence have decided not to come to Delhi anymore on behalf of the Chief Minister. At least 34 MLAs and Ministers had rushed to Delhi last week in support of the Chief Minister after the disgruntled MLAs raised the banner of revolt in Guwahati,” said a leader in the Chief Minister’s camp.

The Chief Minister had, in fact, told this newspaper that he had made up his mind to quit as he was hurt by the turn of events.

Meanwhile, the rebel group led by senior MLA Sarat Borkotoki is likely to meet the three-member team of observers on Wednesday.

46 MLAs to Oppose Gogoi's Leadership in Assam

Despite Congress president Sonia Gandhi rejecting Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's resignation today and asking him to continue in office, 46 disgruntled MLAs have decided to meet the Governor tomorrow to apprise him about their opposition to Gogoi's leadership.

Former minister and senior Congress leader Sarat Borkatoky told reporters, "46 legislators will go together to apprise Governor J B Patnaik about the situation. We have got an appointment with the Governor at 5 PM tomorrow."

After a meeting of the disgruntled Congress legislators in his official MLA residence here, Borkatoky said they would meet at 11 AM tomorrow to discuss on what to tell the Governor.

"Our resolution was that we have no faith in Gogoi's leadership. But when high command has gone against it, we have no option but to go to the Governor," he asserted.

"If we have to remain in the electoral politics, then we have to have change in the leadership. We have also asked for a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting to be called where we will say we have no faith in Gogoi's leadership", Borkotoky added.

Minister Siddique Ahmed said, "We have prepared a document stating our position".

Education Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, considered to be leading the dissident camp, told reporters after tonight's meeting, "C P Joshi (Congress leader in-charge of Assam) told me from Delhi that our high command has not taken any decision yet on Gogoi's resignation, but will do so shortly".

"Joshi also said a Congress central observer will be sent to Guwahati soon and take the opinion of each MLA on change of leadership in the government. In the interest of Congress he asked me to urge the MLAs to wait for Sonia Gandhi's decision", Sarma said.

To a query, he said, "I will not go to the Governor tomorrow as I am a minister. To go to the Governor I have to first resign from my ministership."

Asked if the Gogoi government was likely to fall if the 46 MLAs go to the Governor tomorrow, Sarma said, "We cannot allow a situation where the MLAs go to meet the Governor. Even if 16 MLAs withdraw their support then the government will not continue."

Congress has 78 MLAs in the 126-member Assam Assembly.

On Tuesday, 45 of the 78 Congress MLAs considered to be from the dissident MLAs camp opposing Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's leadership, had resolved to send a letter to Sonia Gandhi on the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha elections in Assam.

Gogoi on the day of the poll results on May 16, after his party was reduced from seven to three seats, had announced he would submit his resignation to Sonia owing moral responsibility for the debacle.

Prominent MLAs in the dissident camp include former chief minister Bhumidhar Barman, ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma, Gautam Roy, Ardhendu Dey, Siddique Ahmed, former ministers Sarat Borkotoky, Gautam Bora, MLAs Abdul Muhib Majumdar, Rumi Nath, Jayanta Malla Barua, Rekibuddin Ahmed, Hemanta Talukdar.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to meet Sonia Gandhi with resignation

GUWAHATI: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday arrived in New Delhi to offer his resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and seek her directives on his future role.

This comes as dissidents have once again called for leadership change following the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress won just three Lok Sabha seats in the state.

A close associate of Gogoi, who has travelled with him to New Delhi, said, "The chief minister will seek Sonia Gandhi's advice on what role she wants him to play after the poor election results. If the party president does not accept his resignation, he will ask for a freehand without any interference from any central leaders to manage his ministers and MLAs here. Gogoi often takes advice of the party president."

A group of rebel ministers and legislators have carried out a signature campaign for the leadership change. Pro-Gogoi ministers have countered this by asking the chief minister to form a new cabinet.

"We have proposed to the chief minister to call for resignation of all ministers so that he gets a freehand to form a new cabinet. I have also talked to few ministers and we are all ready to submit our papers," forest minister Rockybul Hussain said. Agriculture minister Nilamani Sen Deka told TOI he is ready to resign if the chief minister calls for a collective resignation of all ministers.

On Monday, pro-Gogoi legislators met the chief minister and pressed for new faces in the cabinet, who can deliver before the 2016 assembly elections. The group asked Gogoi to form the new cabinet within 15 days.

Significantly, the pro-Gogoi group wants the chief minister to call off the alliance with Bodo People's Front after several organizations and people alleged it had instigated recent killings of Bengali-speaking Muslims.

Assam seeks advice to protect rhinos

This follows a Gauhati High Court order in March asking the authorities to come up with concrete steps to protect the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, a highly endangered species.

In Assam, 12 of the 16 rhinos poached before the year crossed the halfway mark were in Kaziranga National Park. With rhinos continuing to be killed in the UNESCO World Heritage site for horns, forest authorities have sought suggestions from experts and NGOs to tackle poaching effectively.

This follows a Gauhati High Court order in March asking the authorities to come up with concrete steps to protect the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, a highly endangered species.

An organisation working for protection of rhinos is in favour of plugging transit routes. Another advocated use of more gadgets in tune with times, and expressed surprise at opposition from the army to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for overhead surveillance on poachers.

“Increased global demand for rhino horns is leading to more poaching and we need global intervention,” said Richard Emslie, scientific officer with IUCN’s African Rhino Protection Group, who joined, online, an international conclave on Kaziranga and Rhino Protection on Monday.

Christy Williams of WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Programme said, “One has to plug transit routes through which rhino horns are smuggled to the international market,” he said, pointing at Dimapur-Imphal-Moreh route gangs use to smuggle rhino horns from Kaziranga.
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Williams asked why the army had objected to use of UAVs in Kaziranga after a test-flight was successfully conducted in April last year.

“It is time Kaziranga made the best use of technology-driven gadgets including UAVs,” Williams said.

“Moreover, the difficult task of rhino protection should not be left to the forest department alone. The police and judiciary should be involved so that every arrested poacher is convicted,” he added.

Bibhab Kumar Talukdar of Asia Coordinator of International Rhino Foundation said gathering intelligence on poachers was lacking in Kaziranga. “While effective intelligence gathering is the first part of the strategy, ensuring conviction of poachers by a dedicated team of forest officials to pursue cases in courts of law is a must. Arrest is just the first step, but if arrested persons are not convicted they become hardcore poachers and will create more poachers,” he said.