Assam: Opposition demands discussion on school girl's killing by militants, border violence

Noisy scenes prevailed in the Assam Assembly on Monday as the Opposition parties - AGP, BJP, AIUDF and BPF demanded a discussion over violence along Assam-Nagaland border and killing of a school girl by NDFB(S) terrorists for allegedly being an informer of police.
While the Opposition AIUDF demanded resignation of the government as "it has no moral right", Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the 16-year-old girl Priya Basumatary was "not a police informer".
As soon as the House met this morning, BPF MLA Pramila Rani Brahma raised the issue of killing of the girl at the beginning of the Question Hour, when Gogoi was present.
Joining her and adding the issue of violence at Uriamghat area in Golaghat district along the Assam-Nagaland border and the subsequent deterioration of law and order situation in the district, entire Opposition rose on their feet and shouted demanding a discussion over the two issues.
AIUDF's Abdur Rahim Khan said, "Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh -- everyone is killing Assamese people. This government has no moral right to stay and it should resign immediately."
Brahma then walked into the well of the House and stood just in front of the Speaker's table for around 10 minutes raising the law and order situation of the state. Speaker Pranab Kumar Gogoi said "Priya was killed a couple of days back but everyone kept silent. But after few days only, all started reacting and now you are also raising the issue... I will request the CM to make a statement after the Question Hour."
On this, AGP MLA Padma Hazarika said only a statement from the Chief Minister would not work and a discussion was needed as these two were very serious law and order issues.
Another AGP MLA Phani Bhusan Choudhury said the House can discuss the issue as per Section 144(2) of the rules of the Assembly proceedings provided the Speaker agrees to it. Congress MLA Himanta Biswa Sarma also urged the Speaker to give time to discuss the issues.

Assam losing Rs 200 crores annually due to floods: Economic Survey

Guwahati, Aug 20: Assam suffers an average loss of Rs 200 crore every year due to devastating floods with nearly 40 per cent of the state’s total land declared as flood-prone by the government. According to the Economic Survey, Assam for 2013-14 tabled in the Assembly during the ongoing Budget session, the average annual loss due to flood in Assam is to the tune of Rs 200 crore and in 1998, the loss suffered was about Rs 500 crore.

During 2004 it was about Rs 771 crore, the document said. The survey also pointed out that the national average of flood-prone area in the state was about a quarter of the total land area of the state. ”The flood-prone area of the state is 31,500 sq km as assessed by the Rastriya Barh Ayog which is about 39.58 per cent of the total land area of Assam. This is about 9.4 per cent of total flood-prone area of the whole country,” it said.
The survey said the flood-prone area of India as a whole stands at about 10.2 per cent of the total area of the country. ”Records show that average annual area affected by flood (in Assam) is 9.31 lakh hectares. The flood protected area of the state is 16,500 sq km (16.5 lakh hectares) till date,” the survey pointed out.
Besides, the scale of the problem has grown with massive erosion, which stands at an average rate of 8,000 hectares every year in the state with a total of 4.27 lakh hectares of land having been washed away since 1950. During post Independence period, Assam faced major floods in 1954, 1962, 1972, 1977, 1984, 1988, 1998, 2002 and 2004, the survey said.

Witch-hunting cases on the rise in Assam

GUWAHATI: People in the state perhaps still remember the ghastly incident in which 38 people of Shikarigaon, a remote village in Majuli Island, were branded as witches and ostracized by their fellow villagers last year. This was not the last case of witch-hunting in the state.

Last month, an elderly couple from Sapekhaiti village of Udalguri district, were chased out by villagers on a similar charge. Since then, the couple are spending their days in hiding. What is even more strange is that the husband is a former college principal.

Even as the state boasts of making progress on the economic and other fronts, there also many cases of witch-hunting and other superstitious practices that victimize scores of people and even take lives.

According to social activist and general secretary of Brothers, an NGO working against witch-hunting, Dibyajyoti Saikia, at least 20 cases of witch-hunting were reported and five persons killed so far this year.

Saikia said on Saturday that between 2008 to October 2013, 81 people were killed for being 'witches'.

"The superstition of witch-hunting has become a bane for the state. Cases are increasing. Yet we don't have a strong legislation to deal with the superstition," Saikia said.

With the budget session still going on, social organizations have upped the ante for placing a strong bill in the assembly to stop witch-hunting in the state.

"The chief minister had last year promised that a strong anti-superstition legislation would be put in place to fight witch-hunting in the state. But, we are yet to see such legislation. People are being harassed and killed in the name of witch-hunting. Our demand is that the government actively consider placing a bill in the assembly," Saikia said.

Saikia has threatened to agitate from August 25, demanding a strong legislation to fight witch-hunting and other superstitious practices in the state.

He observed that with the passage of time the practice of witch-hunting is becoming more complex with personal enmity and vested interest coming into play.

"There was a time when the majority of the victims were women. For the last seven to eight years, we have observed that 40 per cent of the victims were male. This calls for urgent attention from the government," Saikia added.

68 yrs on, Assam looks to revive financial fortune

Guwahati: From being one of the most prosperous states of the country post-Independence, to one of its poorest, Assam has been on a roller-coaster ride for 68 years.

However, as the country celebrates its 68th Independence Day, the state, with a prudent financial plan in place, has set itself a growth rate of 6.88%, above the national projection.

In 1950-51, Assam had an enviable per capita income of 4% above the national average. With floods, infiltration and militancy wreaking havoc, its per capita income dropped to 41% below the national average in 1998-99.

Said the Planning Commission, "What is more alarming is that the gap (between the state and national per capita income) is growing. Between 1980 and 1990, per capita income (at 1980-81 prices) grew by 20% in Assam, compared to 40% for India. Between 1980 and 1998, per capita income in Assam grew by 10%, compared to 39% for India."

For almost three decades, between 1951 and 1979, all was well with the state's finances as its economy grew at more or less the same rate as the rest of the country.

A report of the Planning Commission states, "Assam's per capita income fell due to a higher rate of population growth caused by immigration. Over the period, Assam's population grew at an average rate of around 4% per year. The widening disparity since 1980-81 is, however, due to slower growth of its economy. While the Indian economy grew at 6% between 1981 and 2000, Assam's GDP grew at 3.3%. While the growth rate of the Indian economy accelerated in the 1990s, Assam's economy decelerated."

There was a fall in the growth rate of electricity, gas and water supply and in the construction sector. Capital expenditure for development also fell and these resulted in fewer job opportunities and rising unemployment.

"Assam is the only major state in India that showed increasing rural poverty between 1957 and 1994," the commission report said.

It has identified small agriculture operational landholding size and agriculture development, floods and erosion, infiltration from Bangladesh and militancy as the causes for the downturn.

"Unless extortion by various insurgent groups is brought under control, industrial growth is unlikely to accelerate. Assam is a complex state with huge ethnic diversity, Bangladeshi immigrants and an educated middle-class frustrated by poor economic development," the commission suggested.

Then there was the six-year-long anti-foreigners movement which stalled all development activities in the state. The post-Assam Accord period wasn't much better. The Planning Commission, quoting data over a 15-year period, from 1984-85 to 1999, said the state recognizes the "failure of revenue receipts to meet...the rapidly growing expenditure commitments, particularly expenditure on salaries, wages, allowances and pensions".

There were heavy losses from negligible returns on capital expenditure on projects and investments in public-sector undertakings, declining buoyancy of state tax revenues and the consequent rising costs of public debt and higher borrowings.

The Economic Survey of Assam, 2013-14, states, "The fiscal reform measures adopted by the state started yielding favourable results since 2005-06 and moved with revenue and fiscal surplus during the period from 2005-06 to 2008-09 and subsequent years of 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi is ready to scale new heights. While his rivals criticize him for the growing debt burden, which stands at Rs 27,248.16 crore, Gogoi sees this more as a device which will protect the government of cost escalation a decade later.

"Gujarat's debt burden is Rs 1.5 lakh crore and ours is just Rs 27,248 crore. I ask my officers to go for more loans because a loan taken today will protect me from rising costs 10 years later," Gogoi said.

Over 9,000 HIV cases in State

GUWAHATI, Aug 14 – Over 9,000 cases of HIV have been detected so far in Assam, the State government said today.

In a written reply in the Assembly on behalf of the Health Minister, State Agriculture Minister Nilamani Sen Deka said that as on March 31, 2014, a total of 9,110 cases of HIV (+ve) people had been detected in the State.

The highest number of such cases was in Kamrup Metro district (3,570), followed by Cachar (1,866), Dibrugarh (630), Nagaon (418) and Golaghat (304).

Deka said steps have been taken for prevention of HIV/AIDS, with the Assam State AIDS Control Society implementing the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) as per the Department of AIDS Control’s strategic plan.

Targeted intervention among high risk groups like female sex workers, injecting drug users (IDU), truckers, migrants and others is being implemented through selected NGOs.