Tripura witnesses sharp decline in malaria cases

AGARTALA, July 31 – Tripura, one of the high endemic malaria zones in the country, has witnessed a sharp decline in the incidence of the ‘fatal’ disease.

Incidence of malaria in the State has been reduced by 23 per cent when compared to 2009 while the dead toll stood at only four during 2011, according to figures available with Family Welfare and Preventive Medicine department.

Altogether, 1.43 lakh blood samples were tested during 2010, out of which 10,377 tested positive, said Dr RK Dhar, Director, Family Welfare and Preventive Medicine here on Sunday.

This year, as many as 1.26 lakh blood samples were collected while only 7,948 cases tested positive. In Tripura, 90 per cent of the cases are Plasmodium Falsiparum which is more fatal than Plasmodium vivax (10 per cent).

The entire Dhalai district and Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura district have been identified as high endemic zone for malaria. Rupaicheeri, Santir Bazar of South Tripura district and parts of Bishalgarh subdivision of West Tripura district have also been rated as potential pockets for malaria.

“We are focusing on preventive steps as well curative measures to reduce the outbreak of malaria”, said Dr Dhar. As part of the preventive steps, around three lakh medicated mosquito nets have been distributed among the villagers living in malaria prone zones last year. This year, the State Government had already sought 1.5 lakh medicated nets from the Centre under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), one of the flagship programmes of Health and Family Welfare Ministry.

According to him, adoption of Village Health and Nutrition Day proved handy for awareness generation even in rural areas. As per the guideline, the Day is being organised twice in a month for each Gaon Panchayat and Village Committee (tribal area). “This enables the doctors, health staff, officials of Social Welfare and Drinking Water & Sanitation departments to closely monitor the health condition of villagers”, he said.

Besides, over 7,000 ASHA workers are also engaged in different areas to take care of pregnant mothers, mother and child living in far flung areas. It may be noted that entire Tripura had already been declared as malaria drug resistant State by the Ministry. “There is no dearth of drugs and equipments to conduct Rapid Diagnosis Test even in far flung areas”, he said.

“The situation will improve further when the State Government plan to set up at least one health institution at each Gram Panchayat and Village Committee by 2012 is implemented”, he added.
READ MORE - Tripura witnesses sharp decline in malaria cases

India bid to win Myanmar support through funds

R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, July 31 – The Government of India has decided to provide funds to Myanmar for implementation of several infrastructure projects in a bid to persuading the Government of that country to take action to evict the militants using the territory of that country as a safe haven.

Highly placed official sources in New Delhi told The Assam Tribune that for years, China has been able to make its mark in Myanmar by financing several infrastructure projects and only recently, the Government of India has realized the importance of coming closer to Myanmar. Sources said that time and again, the Government of Myanmar assured to take action against the militants using the territory of that country as safe haven, but so far, no concerted effort has been made in this regard.

Recently, the Government of Myanmar told India that the poor road condition affected movement of the troops to the area where the militants are taking shelter and after consultation with the Myanmar authorities, India has approved a series of road projects in that country. Sources said that the Government of India has approved several road projects on principle and the technical estimates are now being prepared and in addition to financing the projects, India would also provide technical support if necessary.

Interestingly, the Government of India has not yet been able to improve infrastructure on Indian side of the international border with Myanmar, which seriously affected the performance of the Assam Rifles personnel deployed to guard the international border. In some places, the Assam Rifles was forced to set up the camps well inside the Indian territory instead of setting it up on the international border because of the poor infrastructure and there is urgent need for improving the road condition in the area, sources added.

Meanwhile, sources revealed that according to an estimate of the security forces, at least seven thousand militants belonging to different North East based groups are taking shelter in Myanmar. Though the militants are not receiving any help from the authorities of Myanmar, no major operation has yet been launched by the Government of that country as yet to evict the militants.

Sources said that according to inputs available, the Manipur based groups have come under a united front recently for operational purpose and if all the militants taking shelter in Myanmar join hands in the days to come, it would become a potent force. The unification move is believed to have started with a view to receiving assistance from China as according to intelligence inputs, some Chinese officials recently made it clear to the leaders of the militant outfits that they could expect help only if they join hands and no Chinese agency would be willing to help the militant groups individually.
READ MORE - India bid to win Myanmar support through funds

The making of a global changemaker

BANGALORE: “We are fighting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the army the power to shoot on suspicion or arrest without warrant. This act has led to the violation of a number of human rights by the army”, says Monika Khangembam, a final year student at Commits Institute of Journalism and Mass Communication, Bangalore, who participated in the British Council Global Changemakers 2011 — Asia Youth Summit, in New Delhi between July 17 and 23.

Monika, originally from Manipur, spent her childhood years in the states of Manipur and Sikkim. She did her under-graduation from Chennai and is currently pursuing Public Relations and wants to use her education to fight for human rights in her home state. “I interned with an NGO called Human Rights Alert, Manipur, which organises protests and creates awareness in cities like New Delhi and Bangalore about the conditions in the North-Eastern states. It was they who informed me about the Youth Summit,” said Monika.

She was one among the 60 ‘global changemakers’ selected from 1,500 student applicants worldwide. “I had to submit an application and go through a screening process. The applicants had to submit a two-minute video showing the kind of work they do and we were interviewed via Skype,” added Monika. Sixty young people from 27 countries, came together to discuss issues close to their hearts, and share their experiences, from climate change to social entrepreneurship and human rights. The selection also comes with substantial financial assistance to these students to carry out their work.

“I spoke about the atrocities committed by the army which is a result of powers given to them by the Act. The enforcement of the AFSPA has resulted in innumerable incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape, and looting by security personnel. Instead of being our protectors they are the ones who are torturing the people. The participants from other countries were taken aback as they did not have any idea about the existence of such rules in a democracy,” said Monika while recounting her experiences of the summit.

As a young activist, Monika gave a presentation of the work she did in association with the NGO, which include arranging legal aid and rehabilitation of widows. One of the participants in the programme from UK, Steven Dominique Cheung, a British-Chinese braoadcaster, has promised that he would be making all attempts to raise the human rights violation issue with the European Parliament, and adopt a resolution that would turn the spotlight on Manipur and the struggle against human rights. “It was an eye-opener for me. Interacting with young activists, entrepreneurs, event managers, I learnt about various issues all over the world”, she pointed out.

During the course of the Summit,� Monika met former UN Undersecretary General and former minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, who promised his support to any activity she undertook in her fight against human rights violations.

“In India, association with celebrities becomes important if you want to get the attention of the media and the general public. I hope we are able to work towards a permanent solution to the problem,” said Monika.
READ MORE - The making of a global changemaker

India-Bangla pact on border management

NEW DELHI, July 31 – Amidst a growing sense of bonhomie, Bangladesh and India signed the Border Management Plan to enhance border control and uphold peace and tranquillity in Dhaka this afternoon.

The pact was signed by the Director General of Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard of Bangladesh on Saturday morning.

Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram’s visit said that a considerable progress had been made in implementation of the joint statement declared during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi last year.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in Jan 2010 has given a new direction to the course of our relationship,” he said.

The two Prime Ministers had a common vision for the future of cooperation between the two countries, he added.

“The joint communiqué adopted during the visit outlines various decisions and initiatives and it implementation would transform the bilateral relationship,” the Union Home Minister said.

Chidambaram reaffirmed New Delhi’s continued support to Bangladesh, in the back drop of the fiasco over the Prime Minister’s off-the-record comments to a group of editors, last month that led to hue-and-cry in Bangladesh.

“Let me reaffirm that India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Bangladesh and seeks a deeper and stronger partnership. We are guided by the fundamental premise that a stable, prosperous, democratic and peaceful Bangladesh is in our mutual interest. We are committed to pursuing cooperation with Bangladesh that brings prosperity to our peoples and development to the two countries,” Chidambaram said.

In his opening remarks at a joint press conference in Dhaka, Chidambaram said the relationship between India and Bangladesh is passing through a very promising phase in recent times with both sides embarking on a number of forward looking, pragmatic and mutually beneficial initiatives.

Both countries recognise the importance of cooperation in the field of security and are determined to jointly combat the menace of insurgency, militancy and terrorism. We are glad that our leadership had agreed that the territory of either would not be allowed for activities inimical to the other and resolved not to allow their respective territory to be used for training, sanctuary and other operations by domestic or foreign militants and insurgent organisations and their operatives.

He also pointed to the recent high level visits. “The regular high-level exchanges between our two countries in recent time have further cemented the bilateral relations,” he said.

Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress, had been here earlier this week as the chief guest at the autism conference and to receive Bangladesh Freedom Honour conferred on Indira Gandhi.

The Vice-president of India also visited Dhaka in May marking the inauguration of joint celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian minister said.

“These events testify the shared struggle and sacrifice by the people of our two countries.”

Later, hailing the Border Management Plan, Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram said India believed that this would help them manage the border better. “We share a long land border and ensuring its sanctity is the joint responsibility. India has taken several measures to enhance border controls and uphold peace and tranquillity. We are committed to cooperating with Bangladesh in protecting our borders from illegal activities,” he said.

“India has taken several measures to enhance border control and we are committed to cooperating with Bangladesh in protecting our borders from illegal activities,” he said.

Home Minister of Bangladesh Shahara Khatun remarked that the coordinated efforts of BGB and BSF would strengthen the border security by stopping smuggling and trafficking of human, drug and arms.

“We are working on several projects to improve trade infrastructure and connectivity. Government of India has now undertaken to set up seven Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) and a foundation stone of the ICP at Agartala was laid in May. A new LCS was opened at Fulbari-Banglabandha in January and a Border Haat was inaugurated on Meghalaya-Bangladesh border earlier this month,” Chidambaram said.

The visiting Union Home Minister later called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni and advisers to Prime Minister Prof. Gowher Rizvi and Dr. Mashiur Rahman.

On the contentious issue, Chidambaram said issues relating to enclaves, adversely possessed land (APL) and undemarcated border will be resolved during the visit of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

The headcounts completed last week found that some 51,000 people live in the enclaves.

“The APL issue is almost resolved and there’re one or two cases which need to be taken care of, while 6.5 kilometres of un-demarcated boundary will be resolved before the visit of the Prime Minister.”

On Saturday, the two sides reviewed the last week’s joint headcounts in 162 adversely-held enclaves on both sides of the two nations. Of this, 111 are Indian territories inside Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and India share over 4,000 kilometres of boundary and there are 111 enclaves in Bangladesh, while 51 in India.

The Home Minister of Bangladesh remarked that they had a fruitful discussion on enclave exchange and hoped that they would be able to resolve all the disputes, including the border problems, very soon.

The round-the-clock access of Bangladeshis living in Dahagram and Angurpota also came up at the meeting for discussion at the meeting, she added.
READ MORE - India-Bangla pact on border management

BSF boss bags NHRC literary award

SILCHAR: For this top BSF official, the pen is truly mightier than the sword. After winning many literary awards, Manohar Lal Batham, DIG of the Border Security Force, has now bagged the prestigious National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) award for his book Astitva Ka Sankat Aur Manvadhikar" (Crisis of Survival and Human Rights).

A committee constituted by the NHRC for awarding outstanding books on human rights written in Hindi, selected Batham's book for the prize which carries a cash award of Rs. 40,000. Batham will receive the award at a function to be organized by the NHRC in New Delhi soon.

Batham, who is now posted at the Mizoram-Cachar frontier at Mashimpur near Silchar, has already received the Pt Govindvallabh Pant Award and the Indira Gandhi Official Language International award for his first book Atankwad Chunoti Aur Sangarsh. Sammonopadhi, another work by Batham, won him the Rashtrabhasha Aacharya award.

Batham, who is also a President Police Medal awardee, has also written books of poetry. One of them, Sarhad Se, has been translated into English, Urdu, Kachhi (Gujarati), Punjabi, Malayali, Bengali and other languages. It is based on the day to day life of an army man.

Born in Bhopal, Batham has been interested in writing right from his childhood. And even after so many years of grueling hard work as a BSF boss, his passion for literature has not dwindled.

"The scenic beauty of the areas near international borders and problems faced by villagers living near the borders are issues that inspire me to write", he said.

The NHRC-awarded book Astitva Ka Sankat Aur Manavadhikar was published in 2008 by Megha Books, New Delhi.

Dignitaries of the literary world and officials of various fields have congratulated Batham on his achievement. The writer has dedicated the award to his friends and colleagues, without whom, he feels, writing the book would not have been possible.
READ MORE - BSF boss bags NHRC literary award

Regional connectivity ‘can help achieve faster economic growth’

Regional connectivity, particularly in the eastern part of South Asia, can help achieve faster economic growth in the region, speakers at a seminar said Thursday in the capital.

They stated that the private sector could play a significant role in promoting regional cooperation, including trade and commerce, through establishing roads, waterways and railways connectivity between and among Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India, particularly the latter's northeast seven states.

Their observations came at the seminar titled, "Prosperity and Growth: Through Regional Co-operation", organsied jointly by Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at the Pan- Pacific Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka.

The President of the MCCI, Major Gen (retd) Amjad Khan Chowdhury delivered the address of welcome at the seminar.

Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni was present as the chief guest on the occasion.

Terming the government and the businesses as partners, the foreign minister said: "The present government has put a befitting emphasis on strengthening and deepening relations with our neighbours so that we may exploit the synergies for mutual benefit".

"We, in Bangladesh, must think about our excellent geographic location and utilise this for the benefit of the peoples around us in addition to that of our people," she said, adding "connectivity should not, however, be limited to physical connectivity only. It should be cultural and ideas, too".

She has said Bangladesh sees opportunities in South- South cooperation, that is, countries with similar level of socio-economic development and their immediate neighbours.

"The government is currently undertaking an exercise to put in place a comprehensive framework for providing access to Nepal, Bhutan and India through Bangladesh. This access may be made by using the ports of Mongla and Chittagong for export/import from the third countries and it may also provide the access to the remote states of northeastern India," the foreign minister mentioned.

"The access may be extended through Myanmar and Thailand to other countries of Southeast Asia and beyond. We are also working on strengthening shipping linkages with Sri Lanka and the Maldives," Dr Dipu Moni said.

She said that intra-regional trade in South Asia is mostly hampered by poor infrastructure and lack of facilities at the land ports and land customs stations which increase the cost of products.

She stressed the need for the development of facilities at the land customs stations that will play a vital role in gearing up regional trade.

The MCCI President Maj Gen (retd) Amjad Khan said South Asia, particularly its north east sub-region, is one of the least connected as well as the poorest regions of the world. This region includes Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, parts of India, Myanmar and parts of China. This vast region is inhabited by over one quarter of the world's population.

He has said the efforts from the highest authorities of these countries are now focused on establishing regional multi-modal connectivity through transborder roadways, railways and waterways, while looking forward to setting up mechanisms and infrastructures for common use of land ports and sea ports.

"The political partition of the subcontinent in 1947 did not need to turn into an economic partition. This distancing over a period of more than half a century between what was previously one integrated region has caused incalculable loss of economic vitality. Bangladesh lost a huge market and source of investment and mobility of goods and people," said the MCCI president.

He noted being small and landlocked economies like Nepal and Bhutan did not receive due importance until very recently. But things are now changing, he added.

"Economic integration and cooperation among South Asian countries should be conceived within the framework of regional economic integration, where all natural and environmental resources, facilities and opportunities should be utilised for the benefit of all countries in the region," he mentioned.

"Political commitment and policy continuity are imperative for establishing effective regional transport connectivity/ transit. Building up of public opinions is important to ensure policy continuity. Consultation with all stakeholders, including private sector, civil society organisations and media is also important," he mentioned.

Taking part in the discussions at the seminar, former adviser to the immediate past caretaker government, Dr ABM Mirza Azizul Islam said there are formidable hurdles to regional cooperation and "we must take realistic steps".

He said private sector can play an important role in enhancing regional trade.

Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Prof Mostafizur Rahman said the connectivity in the region should be a win-win situation for all the countries concerned.

He said the transit fees should be in line with the international rules and regulations.

The Director General, South Asia Department of ADB, Sultan Hafeez Rahman presented the keynote paper on "ADB's Regional Cooperation Programmes in South East Asia, Central Asia and South Asia" at the seminar.

Senior ADB officials of South Asia Department, Sona Shrestha and Cuong Minh Nguyen presented the keynote paper on "Trade facilitation: Broad Concepts and the Case of South Asia".

Sultan Hafeez Rahman said Bangladesh government and ADB documents estimate a total project cost of US $ 6.45 billion to finance 22 projects including 2,000 kilometres of land transport network and eight rail links under sub-regional transport framework.

The MCCCI committee member Kamran T Rahman also presented the keynote paper on "Role of Bangladesh Private Sector in Enhancing Regional Cooperation in South Asia".

He said, "Bangladesh should undertake pro-active steps to transform herself into a regional transit hub by utilising its strategic geographic location, developing the required infrastructure and facilities and pursuing regional framework agreement, based on authentic cost-benefit analysis".

Florian A Alburo of Centre for the Advancement of Trade Integration and Facilitation 249 School of Economics University, Diliman, Quezan city of the Philippines presented the keynote paper on "Cross Border Trade Experiences and Best Practices".

Senior energy specialist of South Asia Department of ADB Priyantha DC Wijayatunga presented the keynote paper titled "South Asia Regional Cooperation: Energy" at the seminar.

Director of South Asia Department of ADB Mr Sekhar Bonu made concluding observations.

The Secretary of the MCCI, Farooq Ahmed offered vote of thanks at the function.

FBCCI adviser Manjur Ahmed and former banker Mamun Rashid, among others, took part in discussions.
READ MORE - Regional connectivity ‘can help achieve faster economic growth’

North - East kids get taste of Pune education

By Kiran Dahitule

Pune: About 47 school students from Assam and Nagaland arrived in the city on July 23 for a week-long visit on an invitation from the city-based Jnana Prabodhini School. They are accompanied by 16 teachers of those schools.

The students of these north-eastern states would get an opportunity to gain first-hand experience about the educational activities in Pune, known internationally as an educational hub.

Rajkumar Tiwari, a science teacher from Umrangshu, in Assam, said all Kendriya Vidyalayas (Vivekananda board) organise regular trips to different cities of India.

“Pune is one of the favourite destinations as students get to learn the most in this city,” he added.

Debalina Bannerjee, a standard X student from Assam said, “This trip is a great learning experience as we have seen and heard things we had never even imagined. This trip has helped me clear my aim about my future. We learnt a lot about science and I am happy that I got the opportunity to be a part of this trip.”

After interacting with experts on topics like applied biology, intricacies of electronics and chemistry, students visited Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) on Wednesday.

They would also visit the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Kelkar museum during their stay.

A science teacher, Trisha Rajguru from Bokuloni, Assam said, “After this visit, we would make these students talk about their experience and also teach other students about what they have learnt in Pune.”

Manoranjan Sutradhar, a standard IX student from Nagaland opined, “This has been a very enriching trip and I am happy that I will be able to share all that I have learnt with my friends. This trip has given me in-depth knowledge of science and now I am sure in near future I will be able to choose science for further education.”
READ MORE - North - East kids get taste of Pune education

RTI activists call Itanagar bandh

ITANAGAR, July 28 – The Arunachal RTI Activists Forum (ARTIAF) has called a 24-hour Itanagar bandh on July 29 demanding resignation of Health Minister Atum Welly and Chief Information Commissioner Y D Thongchi.

The Health Minister recently landed in a controversy after his son and daughter allegedly submitted fake educational certificates for government jobs while his three aides were arrested on the charge of plotting to murder an RTI activist who brought the matter to light.

The forum had called a 12-hour bandh on July 14 demanding resignation of Welly and Thongchi.

His son Akung and daughter Anung allegedly produced fake documents to secure the posts of Inspector (Tax and Excise) and Social and Cultural Organiser respectively in the State Government.

The duo had submitted certificates that they had passed from colleges under Gauhati University. But Payi Gyadi of the NGO, Sango Lamte Foundation, filed an RTI with the Gauhati University which said they did not pass out from those colleges.

On June 6, the police arrested three supporters of Welly for planting a bomb in Gyadi’s car.

Meanwhile, Itanagar SP Chuku Apa, who probed the bomb planting case, was shifted to Delhi. Apa, however, said his transfer was routine.

The ARTIAF also demanded resignation of Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin on moral grounds charging him of shielding Welly and Thongchi, who were relatives. Besides, it has also demanded that Welly’s son and daughter be arrested.
READ MORE - RTI activists call Itanagar bandh

Mountain radars for Northeast


Nohwar in Shillong on Wednesday
Shillong, July 27: Sophisticated mountain radars that can detect aircraft 450km away would soon replace conventional radars in high-altitude areas of the Northeast, a top Eastern Air Command officer said today as the air force geared to tackle threats of cross-border intrusions.
Air Marshal K.K. Nohwar said the Eastern Air Command was also in the process of upgrading six Advanced Landing Grounds in Arunachal Pradesh for improving communication.
Nohwar — who is set to take over as vice-chief of air staff at air headquarters, New Delhi, from August 1 — didn’t name China but said the air force was prepared to defend Arunachal at all cost when quizzed on the threat from the neighbour at a media conference.
Nohwar said installing sophisticated mountain radars in hilly, rugged areas of the region would help improve surveillance with their higher coverage.
Placed at a higher altitude and with a range of 450km, they can detect aircraft, helicopters and spy drones earlier than the low-level conventional radars that have limited reception.
Sources said the air force would conduct a recce to set up new stations in vulnerable border areas where the new radars would be installed. The sources, however, wouldn’t say how many mountain radars the air force planned to set up in the eastern sector because of security reasons.
Nohwar said the process of upgrading Advanced Landing Grounds like Tuting, Menchuka Along, Passighat, Vijaynagar and Ziro in Arunachal was on to ensure better connectivity. Besides the recently inducted Sukhoi squadrons in Assam’s Chabua and Tezpur, two more squadrons will be inducted in Chabua by 2014 as part of upgrading the fleet, the air marshal added.
The air marshal, however, said the upgrade was primarily aimed at improving air connectivity in land-locked Arunachal to ease the problem of transporting people and goods and not so much for strategic reasons.
“There is hardly any good road communication network in several parts of Arunachal Pradesh and people have to trek long distances. The upgrade of the ALGs will solve the connectivity problem of the people of the Northeast,” Nohwar said.
The officer also said the surface of the ALGs now was not conducive for landing of civilian aircraft and, with the upgrade, “aerial lifeline will be available to civilians”.
But the upgrade assumes significance in the context of Chinese claims on the state. Moreover, military aircraft will also land in these ALGs for operational purposes.
READ MORE - Mountain radars for Northeast

IAF to upgrade NE airfields

NEW DELHI, July 27 – In a bid to match China’s growing air power, the Indian Air Force plans to upgrade at least eight Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) and strategic airfields in the North Eastern Region.

This was disclosed by the outgoing Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marhsal P.V. Naik on Tuesday. “We are in the process of upgrading eight ALGs and contract for it would be signed next month and the work should be complete in three years,’’ said Air Chief Marshal Naik, who retires on July 31.

The move is part of IAF’s strategy to upgrade air defence along the Sino-Indian border. The ALGs at Pasighat, Along, Menchuka and airfields at Chabua, Mohanbari, Jorhat, Hashimara, Tezpur, amongst others are planned to be modernised.

The strategy is to ensure faster movement of men and machines to these distant areas closer to the Sino-Indian border, he said.

Meanwhile, the IAF chief said India follows a ‘no-first-use’ nuclear policy but warned its response would be “very heavy” in the event of any nuclear attack on the country.

“Our nuclear policy is of no first use. It also talks about a very heavy response in case of a nuclear attack. It talks about a retaliatory and hard response, our policy talks about that,” Naik said.

“Tactical or strategic, it is a nuclear weapon. So, obviously our response would be absolutely violent as per our existing policy. I don’t think it is a game-changer,” he added.

Asked if there was any need to be concerned about the assessment in some quarters that Pakistan had an edge over India in terms of the nuclear warheads, he said, “There is no need to be worried on this.”

Meanwhile, responding to a query on the role of HAL, Naik said that the aerospace PSU had provided great support to the IAF in the last 50-60 years. He said already some steps were being initiated by the Government to streamline the procedures in the company for improving the quality.
READ MORE - IAF to upgrade NE airfields

Ghatowar favours projects

SHILLONG, July 27 – DoNER Minister, Paban Singh Ghatowar today stated power was the “basic requirement” of the people and as a concerned citizen he is “for hydel projects.”

Ghatowar said: “as a concerned citizen I am for hydel power projects as these are perennial source of power generation. Moreover, hydel projects are eco-friendly and also economical.”

The Union Minister added, experts were on their job and it was after due consideration, concerning environment and people’s requirement, hydel project were being constructed.

“Power is the basic requirement of the nation and we have to harness nature’s resource. We need dams...,” Ghatowar, who was here to inaugurate an IIM-Shillong certificate course, said.

Ghatowar’s observation is significant as there has been protest in Assam and other parts of the region against construction of mega dams.

On the Gas Cracker Project, Ghatowar said, as DoNER Minister and also an MP from Assam, he is paying special attention and coordinating with the Prime Minister’s Office for completion of the project within the specified time frame.

Overall, Ghatowar said, his Ministry would lay stress on developing connectivity in the region as it is one of the major bottleneck towards development of the region. “Adequate infrastructures are being developed, but owing to climatic condition and remoteness of the region some of the projects have been delayed,” he said.

Moreover, the DoNER Ministry’s focus is also on developing the agriculture sector and recently Assam and Tripura has proved that the North East can improve its food grain production, he said.

Another key sector is tourism, and Ghatowar said, discussions were on with state governments to develop a tourism circuit for the region for faster growth of this crucial sector.
READ MORE - Ghatowar favours projects

Peace and Development in NE India

By Dr. R.B. Thohe Pou

Many people talk about peace and development, but how many of us sincerely want peace and development in North East India? Arms Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) was introduced in NE regions in 1957 and re-imposed in Manipur and Nagaland in 1985. Nagaland State has again been declared as a disturbed area in July 2011. The draconic law of AFSPA has mentally and physically affected the people in the region, and it will have a great impact even in the future. Some people may allege that there is peace in the region, but controlling the people by a gun barrel cannot be called as PEACE. If you are really talking about peace, let there be peace and development in the region in letter and in spirit.

The government wants to bring peace and development in the region, but it cannot do so while denying the rights of the people. If rights and justice of the people are denied, there cannot be peace and development in NE India; this is true not only in NE India but anywhere in the world. With mutual understanding and knowing the facts of the history, no problem is so abstruse as to be unsolvable.

The BJP government took the initiative in the Indo-Naga peace talks with the senior leaders like Atal Vajpee Bihari. However, the younger generation have different views on the Naga political problem; some are even ignorant about the essential Naga historical facts. There is medicine to kill pain, and we can prescript medicine to reduce it, but a doctor needs to diagnose the root cause and problem, and give the complete dose to heal a patient. Repressing the rising voice of the people through military might is only like a doctor prescribing only the pain killer to be relieved ephemerally.

Mizoram state is becoming one of the fastest developing states in NE and has achieved the second highest literacy rate in India after the insurgent problem was solved. The State has recently celebrated the 25Years of Peace in the State on 30th June 2011. It has become one of the model states in terms of developments and peace in NE. Only those who have genuinely studied the issues and problems can only understand the real cause of the problem and issue of NE India. Recently, Rahul Gandhi – one of the promising future Indian Prime Ministers, says, “Army is not the solution to Kashmir and NE.” Many other Indian Army officers having previously served in NE region also gave a similar report.

When the NE burns, it affects all of India; when the Naxalites affected regions burn, it affects the entirety of India. Unfortunately, only some logical and visionary leaders see this aspect. According to the govt. of India – Home Ministry Affairs (HMA) 1967, NNC was listed as a banned terror group in NE India. On 17th May 2010 the govt. of India released another list of terror groups in India in which more than 100 terror groups are banned like – Maoists, ULFA, NBDF, SIMI, etc., but the NSCNs factions are not included. However, some people alleged the NSCN – the Naga National Workers as terrorist, criminal, extortionist, etc. If the NSCN are terrorist and criminal then the whole Naga civil leaders and Naga people also can be booked under TADA and criminal cases for supporting them to bring peace in the region as an accomplice also can be punished under IPC.

India will become a peaceful Nation and develop more progressively once some of the threats and problems are solved. Today the three biggest problems being encountered by the GOI are –

i). The Jammu and Kashmir issue and problems
ii). NE insurgent Issue and problems (especially the NSCN and ULFA)
iii). Maoist problems (Naxalites) issue and problems

India has been investing a huge sum of money for counter-insurgency. Such expenditures would be reduced significantly if the above three problems were solved, yielding not only peace, but also greater economic prosperity. Those three problems have different issues and problems, and it needs to consider patiently in each case separately. It is high time that the GOI gives serious thought to these burning issues in India. Corruption is another mania in India, but the above three issues are more important than other issues in India. If the GOI wants the Naga political to be solved and to restore peace in the region, it needs to acknowledge and accept the genuine cause of the Naga political problem and prescribe the complete dose to heal the region completely.

The people of NE India yearn for peace and development, but more than 60% of the Indian population does not understand the root causes for the lack of peace and development in NE. One should not think that the problem in NE region is just a law and order problem. While considering the size of the region and demographic aspects, some people may want the Seven Sisters to become one nation, but there is no historical basis for such a union. Why has the giant India had a ceasefire with the small Naga army since 1997? The size does not matter but the historical fact counts.

It is well-known that NSCN is considered as the mother of insurgents in Northeast India, and everyone who loves peace and development in the region needs to extend support to resolve the Naga political and ULFA problems. Then someday the beautiful greenery of the NE States of India can become one the best tourists’ destinations, and also become one of the commercial hubs of India. The people around the world want peace and development in the region and in a recent Annual Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the World Baptist Alliance (WBA) which consists of 120 Nations support Naga Reconciliation. NE people have suffered enough for more than 50 years under AFSPA and the insurgency problem, and it is time now for everyone to think more positively and to have the desire to the most pressing issues and problems in the region.

The Naga Political problem is not problematic only to the Naga indigenous people; it affects the whole NE region and India. Directly or indirectly, development in the northeastern region is depending upon solving the Naga Political and ULFA problems. Once the Naga Political and ULFA problems are solved, we can see the dawning of development and peace in northeastern region of India. It is alleged (reported) that the Naxalites have a link with the ULFA, and the network may continue to enlarge as times passes. It is also alleged that the NSCN is giving shelter to the ULFA cadres some where in the border of India and Myanmar. So in one way or another, all three groups are closely linked, which shows the insurgent epidemic in the future in India.

Solving the NSCN and ULFA problems in NE will bring solace to India and in particular to northeastern region. The GOI and the people of northeast need to understand not only the factual issues, but also to acknowledge and accept the genuine cause of the Naga Political problems. In previous Central-NSCN-IM Peace-talks, the Chairman of NSCN-IM said that the Peace-talks are coming to most crucial stage, and in more recent talks (18 July 2011), NSCN Special Emissary V.S. Atem told the Telegraph, India, “The talks were positive and we now enter the most crucial phase of the negotiation.” Moreover, it is also reported that the Naga political problem will be solved in “shortest possible time” and the solution will be based on “the uniqueness of Naga history and situation which was recognized by the government in 2002”. After more than 60 rounds of Peace-talks held in different countries and in Delhi, now it is showing a positive result in their Peace-talks. Consequently, the people of Naga-land and NE India should be in euphoria and extend their support to the ongoing Peace-talks to bring a long-lasting peaceful solution in the region.
READ MORE - Peace and Development in NE India

Weaving her real dreams: Ritika Mittal

Weaving her real dreams: Ritika Mittal
Ritika Mittal
"Imagine a Chai, spiced with a handful of Ahomiya jungle mist, the tickling laughter of Kutchi women, the spicy wet earth of Kerala and the booming railroad whirring of Punjab's song and dance. That is Mora for you." This sentence on Mora's website captures the spirit of Ritika Mittal's textile brand and draws a whimsical word picture of the saris, dupattas and skirts that she designs and retails through it. She talks to Chandana Banerjee about why she left the reality shows to find the real India and why she doesn't regret it one bit
Weaving more than just textile
Ritika personally designs each piece, drawing inspiration from whatever catches her fancy, while her mother, Madhu Mittal, gets them crafted by a team of tailors in Jalalabad, Punjab. Mora products are created with handloom cotton and silk, and are a heady mix of traditional textile techniques, with patch-work borders and pallus. Take one look at the beauties and you'll want one for your wardrobe, to hold and enjoy, to flaunt and relish.
"We use a multitude of methods like block prints, Mizo and Naga weaves, Kutch and Kantha work, Sanganeri prints and so on," says the effervescent Ritika, who spends months travelling to the interiors of India, discussing and exchanging ideas with handloom weavers. It's while travelling on rickety buses, living with the villagers in their huts, tucking into simple meals of rice and ginger, and swapping tales with the locals across crackling bonfires that this feisty young entrepreneur manages to weave such interesting tales on textile. Probably this is why, she is able to imprint her saris and 137-pleat skirts with the true flavour of India.
Breathing life into the dead
Ritika loves finding weaves that craftsmen aren't working on anymore and then convincing them to create a roll of it for her.
Presently on a sojourn to the North Eastern states in search of rare weaves, she says, "When I started Mora sometime in 2009, I started with the easier-to-approach places like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kutch, West Bengal and Lucknow to source textiles for our saris. But now, we're focussing on the North East, which have beautiful techniques and weaves that are dying. It's more difficult accessing remote villages there and understanding the language, but it's an amazing experience because unlike a bustling big city, in villages people have the time to bond, to form real relationships."
She reveals, "In the North East, I am planning to revive the bamboo silk and Stinging Nettle weave."
The switch from reality TV to real India
But this wasn't the life Ritika had designed for herself, who was a Supervising Producer with a television channel in her earlier avatar. "There are only so many reality shows that you can put together," she says.
She designed her first sari for her own wedding, when she decided that she didn't want to wear one with bling and sequins. "It was a mulmul sari with borders from some fabrics that I liked," remembers Ritika, who, spurred on by the response she got from people, designed nine more. "I sent the designs to my mother, who got them stitched in Punjab. When I received the parcel and saw the saris, I cried. I never thought I'd be able to do this." The entire batch was bought by someone from Vizag. Incidentally, the earthy name - MORA- was born in an auto rickshaw, when Ritika and her husband wanted to label the saris. And it's an apt name since each design is as unique as DNA and a treat for the buyer.
After the first sale, Ritika handed in her resignation and headed to Ladakh to think things through. "I called my mom from there and asked her if she was ready to do this and that's how we took the plunge," says Ritika, who feels that it's because of this special mother and daughter bond and the way they are able to read each other's thoughts that the pretty saris are what they are.
Growing up
In the short span of a year-and-a-half, Mora has expanded from being a design label to a textile brand. "We retail only through my website and do not plan to retail at stores or turn to mass production," emphasises Ritika, who believes in keeping things simple and pouring her heart and soul into her work. Amen!
Visit to know more about Mora
READ MORE - Weaving her real dreams: Ritika Mittal

Patil’s visit to boost Look East Policy

SEOUL, July 24 – President Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s visit to the Republic of Korea and Mongolia beginning today is expected to greatly enhance existing ties between India and those countries with which it shares ancient cultural ties, and some significant strategic concerns.

Today the President was accorded a 21-gun salute when she arrived at Seoul Air Base by a special Air India aircraft from New Delhi. The Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Min Dong-Seok received her at the base after the Boeing 747-400 aircraft named Agra touched down under a cloudy sky.

Speaking to a select group of media persons on the aircraft carrying the Indian delegation to the Republic of Korea, the President described the two countries as ‘key pillars to our Look East policy, as well as of our growing integration with the Asia-Pacific region’.

She mentioned the spread of Buddhism from India to the countries, which created strong cultural bonds, and their democratic credentials reflected a respect for individual freedoms.

Economics is likely to be the top priority for India and the Republic of Korea, while with Mongolia the agenda will include closer economic co-operation and India’s support in capacity building and human resource development.

The Indian President’s visit reciprocates the official visits of the Heads of States of Republic of Korea and Mongolia in recent times and furthers the process of high level engagements with the countries which maintain friendly relations with India. This year is celebrated as Year of India in Korea, and the Year of Korea in India, which will feature a number of cultural events among others.

The President’s visit starts at Seoul, where she will meet President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung-Bak, who was the Chief Guest in the Republic Day celebrations in January 2010, and during whose visit bilateral ties between the two countries got elevated to the level of ‘Strategic Partnership’. Patil said, ‘My objective will be to accelerate the momentum of our relations’.

A range of discussions will take place between the two Presidents in restricted as well as delegation-level formats with focus on bilateral interests, regional and global issues. A substantial part of the high level engagements will concentrate on expanding the economic partnership between India and Republic of Korea. Two-way trade between the Asian democracies is projected to climb to 21 billion USD this year, and has registered a remarkable growth in recent times.

The President expressed her hope of receiving more investment from the Republic of Korea in India, and referred to Korean conglomerates using the country as a manufacturing base for exports to foreign markets. Several industrial giants such as Hyundai, Samsung, and LG have also been very successful in the Indian domestic market.

Her visit to Mongolia, which begins on July 27, will be marked by meetings with President of Mongolia, Tsakhia Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold apart from interactions with Parliamentarians of the State Great Hural.

The Indian President underlined the country’s involvement in developing the human resource of Mongolia through strategic interventions like vocational training and skill building. ‘India is committed to assist Mongolia in capacity building and human resource development,’ the President remarked.

Significantly, a high level Indian business delegation will be in Seoul and Ulaanbaatar during the President’s visit, which will make a strong pitch for more robust economic ties between India and her Asian neighbours.

Although officials are tightlipped, it is expected that India and South Korea will explore new areas of common interest in Space and Defence, and India and Mongolia may do the ground work for expanding exploration of select mineral resources in Mongolia which has considerable deposits of coal, copper, iron ores, crude oil, zinc and molybdenum, among others.
READ MORE - Patil’s visit to boost Look East Policy

Bangladesh to give India access to Chittagong port

Samudra Gupta Kashyap

India's long-pending request to Bangladesh to provide access to Chittagong port has finally become a reality. While an announcement to this effect was made by Bangladesh Commerce Minister Md Faruk Khan at Kalaichar in Meghalaya on the Indo-Bangla border on Saturday, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has welcomed it, saying this would give a major fillip to trade in the Northeast.

“India can use not only Chittagong but several other ports that we have developed in the recent years. Other neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar can also use our ports for trade and commerce in future,” Khan said, while inaugurating a border haat between the two countries at Kalaichar on Saturday.

“We welcome the offer of Bangladesh to use Chittagong and other ports. This will, no doubt, provide tremendous benefit for trade and development of Bangladesh as well as the Northeast. India has already finalised and shared the draft modalities with Bangladesh in this regard,” Sharma said.

India has been pressing Bangladesh for access to Chittagong port for more than a decade. But it is only after the change of guards in that country that a positive move has been made in this regard. A formal agreement between the two countries for access to Chittagong port is expected to be signed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Dhaka in September.
READ MORE - Bangladesh to give India access to Chittagong port

N-E India a potential economic corridor for BD, say experts

Experts consider the north-east India a potential economic corridor for trade and commerce for Bangladesh and stressed the need for investment in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

In separate keynote papers during a working session of stakeholders' consultation at BRAC Inn Centre Saturday, Masudur Rahman of Micro-credit Regulatory Authority of Bangladesh and Saikat Dutta of Engineering Export Promotion Council of India highlighted the points suggesting removal of barriers to get benefit of the corridor.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB) organised the day-long consultation aiming at fostering regional cooperation in South Asia.

The working session on 'economic corridors in South Asia: Business potentials and investment opportunities," was chaired by Chairman of Policy Research Institute Dr Zaidi Sattar.

The keynote paper presenters said Bangladesh with its geographical location has become a natural trading partner for the north eastern states of India, connecting Nepal and Bhutan through a narrow 16-kilometre wide land corridor.

Having over 4000 kilometers (km) border, they said Bangladesh and India would build the economic corridors to boost regional integration and improve trade particularly for pro- poor economic development through promoting SMEs.

Dr Masudur Rahman said the trade gap of about US dollar 304.63 million with India can be reduced through focusing on non- traditional export items to the north eastern states of India and suggested removal of tariff and non tariff barriers mostly imposed by India.

He said India has imposed high tariff on some Bangladeshi goods which have good prospects for export to northeastern region of India and changed harmonised system of code in the case of fruit juice increasing a 20 per cent higher duty from the earlier HS code.

Saikat Dutta said economic corridors connecting north eastern states of India with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh would attract enormous private investment leading to save travel time, travel costs and generate employment opportunities.

He said both the countries can share the economic benefit of labour incentive and economic growth sector of SMEs by removing various barriers. These include use of obsolete technology, access to credit, low value addition and limits to capacity expansion and high infrastructural and transaction costs.

Both the speakers highlighted improvement of physical infrastructures including efficient cargo handling through road, rail, air and inland water, digitilisation of land ports and simplifying banking system.

SANEM and RIS have identified nine economic corridors in East Asia to foster regional cooperation and is now conducting different studies to strengthen cross-border infrastructure, enhance investments in infrastructure, bring efficiency in border corridors, promote multimodal transportation and opening of south Asia regional transit through adopting SA common transport policy.
READ MORE - N-E India a potential economic corridor for BD, say experts

Myanmarese in India displeased with Delhi supplying arms to Burmese military

New Delhi, July 23 : Myanmarese residing in New Delhi staged a demonstration on Friday to express their displeasure over India's decision to supply arms to defence forces of Myanmar.

The protestors complained that the government has recently supplied trucks loaded with various arms and ammunition to Burmese military, which they said would be used against the ethnic minority communities.

"We came to know that the Indian government supplied more than 50 trucks of low mode arms and ammunition's through Moray border to Burma. So, I think this that is not right for the Indian government to supply arms to the notorious region in the Moray. The military government is right now is not true civilian and democratic government, except of the same military General who took off the military uniform and he put on civilian clothes to show the world that they (sic) are truly constitutional civilian government," said Thingthinaung, Board Member of Women's League of Burma.

Some of the protestors apprehended that arming the Myanmar regime could lead to grave consequences in their homeland.

"The situation in Burma is not very good. It is already 100 days now, after Thein Sein has taken over, like a military civilian type of government and then they said that they have installed. But so far we have not heard any good news from Burma and especially in the eastern border. Now many thousands and thousands of people start (have started) fleeing the country. They are now fleeing to their neighbouring countries and then nothing is working out. We are now expecting even a civil war between the military and ethnic groups there," said Alana Golmei, coordinator in Burma Centre, Delhi.

India has received nearly 7,000 Myanmarese after they fled from their homes, alleging that the military junta had tormented them.

India used to support Myanmar's pro-democracy movement before it initiated its 'Look East Policy' in the 1990s in an attempt to solve its insurgency problem in the states of Manipur and Nagaland that border Myanmar.

Recently, the policy has also been seen as an attempt to stem China's growing influence in Myanmar and secure more energy supplies.
READ MORE - Myanmarese in India displeased with Delhi supplying arms to Burmese military

Upgrade loan for N-E roads

ADB sanctions $200m for six states

Relief route: A bus mired in a muddy road in Tinsukia. File picture
Guwahati, July 23 : The Asian Development Bank today sanctioned a $200 million loan for upgrade of roads in six states of the Northeast.
The bank’s board of directors cleared the loan — the biggest external assistance package till date for the region’s road sector — in Manila today.
The funds, which will be released in two tranches, will help in the upgrade of 430 km of roads in six states — Ass-am, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura.
The biggest loan till date was of $60 million by World Bank to Mizoram in 2002 with additional financing of $13 million provided last year.
An ADB communiqué issued today said the improvement work would include wid-ening sections of existing ro-ads, strengthening of paveme-nts, raising embankments and construction of permanent structures at river crossings.
Christened the North Eastern States Roads Investment Programme, it will target the secondary roads network and aims to improve the performance of the state roads sector in the region through project implementation and dedicated capacity building measures.
The bank, in its communiqué quoting Hideaki Iwasaki, a portfolio management specialist in ADB’s South Asia department, said more than 30 per cent of the population in these states lived below the poverty line and upgrade of these roads would help improve mobility and accessibility for many communities.
“Better roads in the region will also significantly improve the investment climate for the private sector, both domestic and foreign,” Iwasaki said.
The total cost of the investment programme is $298.2 million of which the bank will provide $ 200 million, with the Centre providing the rest.
The programme will help in improving the growth rate of traffic on the roads covered by the project and reduce travel time on the roads by 20 to 40 per cent.
The programme will also include capacity building measures for state public works departments to carry out effective planning and asset management along with introduction of modern road management practices.
The ministry of Development of North-eastern Region (DoNER), along with the state governments, will implement the programme, which is due for completion by the end of December 2016.
The first tranche of nearly $75 million will be used to fund upgrade over 200 km of roads in Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim.
Once completed the roads will have to be maintained by state public works departments.
The Northeast has a 145,000km road network, comprising 35,000km of surfaced roads — mostly national highways, state highways, and district roads — and 110,000km of unpaved roads.
“With the limited exception of the highest class roads (mostly national highways, maintained by central organisations), the road network in the region is in extremely poor condition. Insufficient coverage, weak and rough pavement conditions, poor geometrics because of the hilly terrain, narrow pavements, submersible stretches, poor riding quality, weak, distressed and semi-permanent timber bridges characterise the state road network” the bank said in a report on the region’s roads.
READ MORE - Upgrade loan for N-E roads

Fake degrees: Cong defends Arunachal minister Atum Welly

New Delhi: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin is trying to protect a senior minister in his government, Atum Welly who has been exposed by CNN-IBN for getting a fake degree for his daughter. Speaking exclusively to CNN-IBN, the Arunachal Chief Minister claimed that Welly was not involved in any wrong doing.
"No, these are allegations. The enquiry is on and the police department has been given the responsibility to submit the report. As far I know, his daughter joined the service with a class 12th certificate and the required qualification was of class 10th. She has said that she has never submitted any documents; someone else might have planted it also, which needs to be enquired," claimed Gamlin.
Welly's son and daughter have reportedly submitted fake degrees and documents to secure plush government jobs. The forgery was revealed by a RTI filed by local activists who now allege they are being threatened and intimidated.
In 2007, Atum's son Akung Welly was appointed as Inspector, Taxes and Excise and marksheets and certificates from Pragjyotish College of Guwahati were submitted. Later a RTI reply revealed that the documents were forged and Welly had not graduated from the college.
Atum's daughter Anung Welly too was appointed as a cultural officer in 2010 during the time when her father was the cultural minister. Anung submitted a graduate degree from Beltola College in Guwahti - an institute where she had never enrolled.
Both forgeries were confirmed by the Itananagar Superintendent of Police in his court affidavit, which stated," sufficient documentary evidence of forgery exist against Anung Welly and Akung Welly and they will be arrested sooner."
Atum Welly's abuse of power is also being investigated. The Superintendent of Police has been transferred after he gave the report.
RTI activist Payi Gyadi, who exposed the forgeries, alleges the minister tried to buy him out and now he is being harassed. On June 5 this year, a pistol and two hand grenades were planted in his car.
Welly's hand was exposed when police arrested three suspects. One of them was Sanjeev Tana, Atum Welly's former election agent. Gyadi now wants the case to be probed by the CBI.
"I would like to request Sonia Gandhi to take action since the state government is not doing anything," said Gyadi.
The police registered an FIR against Welly's son and daughter in January 2011 but no action has been taken so far. Welly who is a Congress minister has spread a sense of fear and continues to be in power and what also continues is the abuse of power.
READ MORE - Fake degrees: Cong defends Arunachal minister Atum Welly

Central ‘carrot’ gathers dust


Kohima, July 22 : The first special economic zone of the Northeast is yet to become a reality even after four years, indicating that attracting investments is still a difficult proposition despite various initiatives by the authorities.
The Centre had approved the setting up of a multi-product special economic zone in Nagaland in 2007 at a cost of Rs 3,400 crore. The total area allocated was 450 hectares at Ganeshnagar near Dimapur. The Centre has released Rs 5 crore for the project till date.
Special economic zones were set up in the country to overcome the problems faced by various business units on account of multiplicity of controls and clearances and absence of world-class infrastructure, along with a view to attract larger foreign investments. The Special Economic Zones Act was passed in May 2005.
Expressing unhappiness with the tardy progress of work at the zone site, parliamentary secretary for industries and commerce K.C. Nihoshe told The Telegraph: “I am not satisfied with the progress of the work. Though some work is on, it is progressing at a slow place.”
The Centre had given two approvals for special economic zones in Nagaland — one to H.N. Company for a multi-product special economic zone (400 hectares) and the other to Nagaland Industrial Development Corporation Limited for an agro and food processing special economic zone (50 hectares).
Nihoshe, while attributing the slow progress of work to the monsoon, said, “We are hoping that works would be completed by this year.”
He said though the state government was in touch with several reputed companies from within and outside the country, no one had come forward to invest in the Ganeshnagar zone.
To attract investors, seminars were held on several occasions where representatives from several comp- anies had attended but still there were no investors, he said.
The existing Export Promotion Industrial Park (EPPI) at Ganeshnagar will be also converted into a special economic zone.
In 2008, Cona International Ltd, a South Korea-based company, had signed two memorandums of agreement with the Nagaland government for investment in industries and commerce and agro and food processing sectors.
The first agreement was signed with the department of industries and commerce and the second with Nagaland Industrial Development Corporation Limited for investment in the agro and food-processing sector.
Asked whether works by Cona International Ltd was satisfactory, he said they were not progressing at all. “We are not satisfied with their work,” he said, adding that the company had not made much progress.
He, however, expressed optimism that once the infrastructure was created, companies would flock to the zone for investment in the agro and food-processing sector.
Once a special economic zone is approved and the Centre notifies the area of the zone, companies are allowed to set up units there. All proposals for setting up units in the zone are approved at the zonal level by the approval committee comprising the development commissioner, customs authorities and representatives of the state government.
Rules say that any individual, co-operative society, company or partnership firm can file an application for setting up an unit in the zone, which comes under the ministry of commerce.
The state government had to pay more than Rs 40 lakh as compensation to the affected farmers at Ganeshnagar.
Some products being considered for the agro and food processing zone are based on pineapples, passion fruit, ba-mboo shoot, medicinal plants and aromatic herbs, including lemon grass and aloe vera.
The SEZ website, however, mentions the zone as “still not operational”.
The 2000 Industrial Policy of Nagaland aims to facilitate rapid and sustained industrial development to enable entrepreneurs to generate substantial income and employment in the state.
READ MORE - Central ‘carrot’ gathers dust

Arunachal minister gets jobs for his kin by fraud, Congress begins probe

GUWAHATI: The AICC has started an enquiry into an allegation of kin of a minister in Arunachal Pradesh government getting government jobs on the basis of fake education certificates.

AICC in-charge of Arunachal Pradesh, Sanjay Bapna said that enquiry is based on a complaint from Arunachal Pradesh., "The matter is in our knowledge. I don't remember the name of the complainant but he is not a Congressman. We are getting information and the matter is being looked into."

Earlier Arunachal Pradesh RTI activists, who levelled the allegation against the health and family welfare minister Atum Welly based on information gathered under RTI, had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi and sought her interference in the issue.

The complainant has alleged before AICC that the health minister's son Akung Welly and daughter Anung Welly have allegedly produced fake degree certificates of Gauhati University while applying for Arunachal Pradesh government jobs.

The minister was unavailable for his comments. His office in Itanagar said that he is out of station. The Arunchal Pradesh Congress Committee president Nabam Tuki was also unavailable as he too was out of station. Office secretary of the state PCC, Rahul Dutta, however said that the PCC has no knowledge of any enquiry being conducted by AICC against Welly.
READ MORE - Arunachal minister gets jobs for his kin by fraud, Congress begins probe

8 tribals kidnapped from Tripura

Agartala, Jul 21 : A massive combing operation has been launched to trace out the poor tribals, including two CPI(M) leaders, who were kidnapped by the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militants yesterday from the remote Debendra Karbaripara in Dhalai district of North Tripura.

Police said here today that the TSR along with the Assam Rifles personnel had launched a manhunt in the area to rescue the kidnapped people. The BSF jawans were also put on a high alert in the porous eastern border with Bangladesh.

According to a report, the heavily-armed NLFT militants raided the village in the late hours of July 18 and kidnapped four tribal villagers, including local CPI(M) leaders--Arun Chakma (35) and Ganja Chakma (45)--along with two other innocent tribals Sudhyajoy Chakma (35) and Ratanjoy Chakma (27) at gunpoint.

On their way back, they had detained four others identified as Baisakh Chakma (30), Sumanta Chakma (30), Kahindra Tripura (35) and Fallenjoy Tripura (25) who were returning home after work.

This was the third kidnapping incident of the state this year.
READ MORE - 8 tribals kidnapped from Tripura

Body of abducted trader found

Nagaon July 20 : Dima Hasao district police today recovered the decomposed body of a businessman who was kidnapped and killed by the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah three years ago.

The body of the Bengali businessman, Subrata Dey, 25, was recovered by a special police team from Bisakisong village.

Dey was kidnapped by a team of DHD (Jewel) militants in May 2008 from Bisakisong, 10km from the Maibong sub-division headquarters.

According to Dima Hasao district police, altogether 50 such missing cases were registered in different parts of the district since 2006, of which Haflong police station registered 12.

“Most of these are suspected to be kidnapped by militant outfits for extortion or other reasons,” a high-level police source in Dima Hasao said.

Four persons, including a “sergeant major” of DHD (Jewel), Handsome Dimasa, and a resident of Bisakising village, Biswajit Dimasa, were arrested in connection with the kidnapping three days back.

The police recovered the vehicle registration certificate and driving licence along with Dey’s body at a site, which was traced out with the help of the arrested cadres.

“Our operation is on to get clues of the missing persons,” a police source said.
READ MORE - Body of abducted trader found

Meet reviews NE security

Silchar: A meeting between intelligence agencies and security forces deployed in the Barak Valley and Mizoram was held at Mashimpur, the headquarters of BSF's Mizoram and Cachar Frontier.

At Monday's meeting, BSF inspector-general JC Pandey welcomed all delegates to review the security scenario in the Barak Valley and Mizoram besides the impact of underground activities from the rest of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya.

The BSF IG said the country was facing both internal and external threats. "The security scenario in our neighborhood is not good. The threats to our borders vary from military to intelligence. We have to be ready to face any emergency," added Pandey.

Under such circumstances, the responsibility of the intelligence has increased manifold and co-ordination among ntelligence agencies and security forces was required, said the IG.
READ MORE - Meet reviews NE security

Chamling for Sikkim as eco-city State

TUMIN (SIKKIM), July 19 – Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has started a village-to-village tour of East district from Tumin-Lingee constituency recently.

At his first stop at Makha Secondary School, the Chief Minister met the people and had one to one interaction with the public.

Later, addressing the gathering the Chief Minister stressed on the dream of making Sikkim an Eco- City State by providing urban like facilities and opportunities in the rural areas.

The Chief Minister while talking about the policies and programmes of the government on the upliftment of the rural areas vis-a- vis the development of cooperative movement in the State announced to allot works up to the value of Rs 2 crore to cooperative societies of the State.

At Lower Tumin, the Chief Minister while talking about the health policy of the State Government announced to introduce Cervical Cancer vaccination to girl child.

At Tumin Barang the Chief Minister while declaring government’s intention to construct a Ramayana Village at Tumin Barang said that this project will be first of its kind in the world.

For this purpose, 15 acres of land has been identified in the village which will be purchased by the government and the work will be started within this year, he said.

The Ramayana Village so constructed will be having the statues of the characters of Ramayana telling the story of the epic. The government has plans to convert the constituency into a pilgrimage tourism centre, Chamling said.

In future the place will be a major tourist hub and will be visited by people from across the globe. “In this way we are preparing a strategy for sustainable development of the State”, he added.
READ MORE - Chamling for Sikkim as eco-city State

Centre to give administrative freedom to Gorkhaland

New Delhi: The Central Government has given its go-ahead for creation of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration - an autonomous body that will have greater administrative powers than the existing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
The decision has been taken after the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) meeting and Home Minister P Chidambaram has been directed to go to Kolkata to sign the agreement with the concerned parties.
The members of the West Bengal government, the Centre and the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJM) are expected to sign the agreement on Monday.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met with GJM president Bimal Gurung and other top party leaders on Sunday in this regard.
The Left has decided to stay away from the event saying the deal will spark violence and pave the way for the formation of the separate state of Gorkhaland.
Prakash Karat said the deal will spark violence and pave the way for the formation of a separate state of Gorkhaland.
"We are not in agreement of the nature of the settlement or terms of the agreement," said Prakash Karat.
Meanwhile, a CPM-backed group has called a bandh in North Bengal in protest.
Shops in Sukna on Monday remained closed and roads were empty.
The bandh is expected to bring life to standstill in Jalpaiguri, Malda, North and South Dinajpur as well.
The people of the Terai and Dooars region are worried the pact will be detrimental to their interest.
READ MORE - Centre to give administrative freedom to Gorkhaland

Prime Minister calls off northeast visit

AGARTALA: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cancelled his scheduled visit beginning July 22 to two northeastern states - Assam and Tripura - citing a hectic schedule in the national capital, an official said here Sunday.

The postponement of the prime minister's visit to Left-ruled Tripura evoked political controversy, though the Congress officially termed it as "apolitical".

Tripura Congress spokesman Tapas Dey told reporters: "There are no political reasons behind the cancellation of the prime minister's trip to Tripura."

"Manmohan Singh Saturday talk to Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar by phone from New Delhi and expressed his inability to come to the state in view of the busy schedule in New Delhi," an official statement clarified.

Media reports Sunday said that in view of the prevailing tense situation in Tripura arising out of the recent clashes between Congress workers and police, the "worried prime minister cancelled his tour to Tripura".

A 21-year-old youth was killed and 111 people, including 28 policemen and 11 journalists, injured in Agartala on July 10 and 11 in a series of clashes between the police and Congress workers, who allege that the state adopted prejudiced policies towards the state's medical students.

A three-member All India Congress Committee (AICC) team led by union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik visited the state Wednesday to assess the situation. They also met the governor and apprised him of the situation.

"We would submit a detail report of the Tripura situation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take appropriate measures," Wasnik had told reporters here.

AICC in a statement and senior Congress leaders led by Tripura unit chief Surajit Datta met the governor and demanded dismissal of the Left Front government and promulgation of president's rule in Tripura.

The Tripura government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into these clashes.

The prime minister was scheduled to lay a foundation stone for a campus of Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute at the Texpur University in Assam on July 23 and attend a function in Guwahati the same day.

In Tripura, the prime minister was to inaugurate the newly-built Tripura assembly and lay the foundation stone for a new Raj Bhavan complex here July 22.

If the prime minister visits Tripura, this would be his first visit to a Left-ruled state after the April-May poll debacle of the Left parties.
READ MORE - Prime Minister calls off northeast visit

Assam, Tripura Awarded for Record Food Production

Agartala, Jul 17 (IANS): Assam and Tripura are the two northeastern states among the 10 Indian states receiving national awards for record foodgrain production, an official said here Sunday.
"Assam got the award in the category of states with overall foodgrain production of between one and 10 million tonnes. Tripura was the sole winner in the category of states with overall food grainproduction of less than one million tonne," Tripura agriculture department director Shib Narayan Sen told reporters.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conferred the 'Krishi Karman' awards to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Tripura Agriculture Minister Aghore Debbarma at a function in New Delhi Saturday.
Debbarma said Tripura had produced 712,000 tonnes of rice during 2010-11, and had been implementing a "perspective plan" to achieve self-sufficiency in foodgrain within the next few years.
"The prime minister has highly appreciated Tripura for its success in food grain production. He asks the state to attain more success in food productions," he added.
The other states received the 'Krishi Karman' awards include Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Each award-winning state received a trophy, a citation and cash award - Rs.2 crore for total foodgrain production and Rs.1 crore for each of the four crops included in the basket.
READ MORE - Assam, Tripura Awarded for Record Food Production

Tripura demands alternative transmission corridor via Bangladesh

Agartala, Jul 17 : Tripura has demanded opening up of an alternative power transmission corridor between the northeastern region and mainland India via Bangladesh.

Addressing the power ministers’ conference in New Delhi on July 13, Power Minister Manik Dey pointed out that an alternative transmission network for the NE would enhance the integrity and reliability of power supply in the region.

He suggested taking up the issue of setting up cross border power transmission network with the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) and ensure the grid connection between Dhaka and West Bengal under bilateral power sector cooperation.

Mr Dey also highlighted that the existing power grid connectivity between India and Bangladesh would require extension by a mere 150 kilometres for providing access to Agartala, which could be worked as an alternative for power transmission in the region.

''Being located in a remote part of the country, power evacuation has been one of our greatest challenges and the Ministry of Power is providing support to the Bangladesh Government in strengthening its power infrastructure,'' Dey underlined.

The meeting had also resolved to reduce the transmission loss to 15 per cent and inclusion of the advance cost of power line maintenance and internal power network expansion in annual balance sheet.

''We agreed to reduce transmission loss substantially from existing 31 per cent, but we protested to other issues like advance cost amount booking and introduction of private-public partnership in power distribution and management because of private entry in crucial segment make people sufferers,'' Dey stated.
READ MORE - Tripura demands alternative transmission corridor via Bangladesh

Arunachal highway project stalled despite PM's repeated promises

The people of Arunachal Pradesh are unhappy with the slow pace of development of the Rs.125 billion trans-state highway, despite a repeated declaration by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to complete the project by 2013, a step that would boost infrastructure in the strategic northeastern state bordering China.
Poor roads and infrastructure, especially roads along the border areas, is a major problem in view of repeated reports of Chinese incursions in Arunachal Pradesh.
Three years after Dr. Singh announced the massive development package for Arunachal Pradesh, the highly ambitious highway is caught in the official labyrinth in the union Environment andForest and Road Transport and Highways ministries.
Dr. Singh on January 31, 2008, had announced a package worth Rs 24,000 crore, including the highway, to link 13 of the state's 16 district headquarters with double-lane roads, right from Tawang on China border to Kanubari, saying, "The sun kisses India first in Arunachal Pradesh. It is our land of the rising sun."
The Union Road Transport and Highways ministry is paying no heed to the repeated promises made by Dr. Singh towards the development of the highway project, resulting in poor connectivity in the state.
The 1,840 km long highway, which will link the state's eleven district headquarters, is facing one hurdle or the other. The apathy of the Road Transport and Highways ministry is making things worse.
"The files are not moving in the ministry and there has been a long delay in clearing the things from the ministry side, resulting in delay of the crucial highway project," sources linked with the project said.
Worried over poor pace of development of the highway, Congress Member of Parliament Takam Sanjoy said: "The delay in the project would hamper movement of locals as well as troops in the border areas due to poor connectivity."
In 2009 also, Dr. Singh said that the Trans-Arunachal Highway, rail and air connectivity, and construction of two small hydro projects would meet the requirement of many remote areas, especially villages located on border areas, suffering from isolation.
Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China. India and China had fought a bitter war in 1962 with the Chinese troops advancing deep into Arunachal Pradesh and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian soldiers.
In 2008, the Prime Minister had visited the state amid reports of heavy troop deployment in the border areas in Arunachal Pradesh and announced mega financial package.
The Trans Arunachal Highway will start from Tawang on the Sino-Indian border and pass through Seppa, Sagalee, Hoj, Ziro, Daporizo, Aalo, Pasighat, Roing, Khongsa and Changlang with a link with Saikhowaghat in Assam.
The Union Ministry of Shipping, Road and Transport and Highways had notified it as a national highway 229. It will touch the NH-52 and NH-37 running on both sides of the Brahmaputra in Upper Assam and will be connected by the proposed Bogeebil rail and road bridge.
READ MORE - Arunachal highway project stalled despite PM's repeated promises

No report on president's rule in Tripura: Governor's aide

Tripura Governor D.Y.Patil did not send any report to the central government recommending president's rule in the state, an official said here Thursday, terming the reports "baseless"

"A section of the media has been reporting that the governor has sent a report to the central government recommending president's rule in the state. The media reports are totally concocted, fabricated and baseless, as no such report has been sent to the union home ministry by the governor," a Raj Bhavan official told reporters.

In the wake of recent political violence, the Congress, the state's main opposition, has been demanding dismissal of the Left Front government and promulgation of president's rule in the state, alleging a "breakdown in the law and order situation".

Congress general secretary and Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim in-charge Luizinho Faleiro asked the governor to take serious note of the situation and send a special report recommending dismissal of "this corrupt and undemocratic government in Tripura".

"I call upon the central government to take urgent steps to restore the civil rights, liberties and guarantees of freedom from fear to the people of Tripura who are undergoing untold miseries at the hands of the fascist regime in the state," said Faleiro, former Goa chief minister, in a statement.

A three-member party team led by union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik visited the state Wednesday to assess the situation. They also met the governor and apprised him of the situation.

"We would submit a detail report of the Tripura situation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take appropriate measures," Wasnik told reporters.

Senior Congress leaders led by Tripura unit chief Surajit Datta also met the governor and demanded dismissal of Left Front government and promulgation of president's rule in Tripura.

A 21-year-old youth was killed and 111 people, including 28 policemen, injured in Agartala Sunday and Monday in a series of clashes between the police and Congress workers, who were alleging that the state adopted prejudiced policies towards the state's medical students and protesting police baton-charge on party activists during the protests.

The Tripura government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into these clashes.

The government has also removed an officer-in-charge of a police station for alleged access on the protesting Congress workers and journalists.

At least 11 journalists and west Tripura district police chief Anis Prasad and his deputy was also injured in these clashes.
READ MORE - No report on president's rule in Tripura: Governor's aide

MoT to unveil Tourism Master Plan for N E states by month end

Master Plan to be implemented in three phases at a sum of Rs 3,600 cr
By Anish V Punnackattu | Guwahati
Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Govt of India, along with North Eastern Council (NEC), will unveil the Integrated Tourism Master Plan for the North Eastern states soon. The draft Master Plan developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and submitted to NEC is currently under the consideration of MoT. According to Deepa Laskar, Regional Director (North-East), India Tourism, the Master Plan is expected to be in the public domain by the end of this month.

Speaking at a road show organised by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (MDONER) and North East Industrial Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) in partnership with ADTOI in Guwahati on July 7, 2011, Laskar said that the Tourism Master Plan will provide much needed direction to the future tourism infrastructure development in the region. “The Master Plan will mainly focus on developing the region into a quality and not quantity oriented tourism destination. Stress will be laid on Nature and Culture Tourism, as well as augmenting quality accommodation in the region,” stated Laskar. She said that the Department is ready to take the suggestions of the private sector, travel trade associations, and professionals at the implementation stage of the plan. “With proper tourism infrastructure in place, the region could well become the ‘Gateway’ to the S E Asian countries,” she added. A similar road show was also held in Shillong on July 9, 2011.

NEC has already started consultations with various component states of the region about the projects and circuits that can be taken up as part of the Tourism Master Plan. In one such meeting held recently between NEC and the state officials of Manipur, Tripura, and Mizoram, it was agreed to develop Kangla, Loktak and Moreh in Manipur as a Tourism circuit under the Tourism Master Plan. According to Manjula Saika, Advisor, NEC, approximately Rs 3,600 cr will be spent for the implementation of Tourism Master Plan in the region.

The whole project will be broken into three phases and the first phase envisages developing infrastructure at tourist destinations like Kohima (Nagaland), Aizwal (Mizoram), Loktak Lake (Manipur), Nechuka (Arunachal Pradesh), Tawang (Assam), Manas (Assam), Tea Tourism (Upper Assam) and Umiang Lake (Meghalaya). The projects are expected to be taken up in the 12th Five Year Plan period, commencing from 2012.

Subhash Verma, President, ADTOI said that the region holds a lot of tourism potential and all states of the North East, private stakeholders and travel trade associations should work together to set up infrastructure and promote the region as one entity to discerning tourists. He also advocated more B2B workshops to update the trade about the region from time to time. He assured all kinds of support to agencies involved in developing the region into a tourist destination. About 38 members of the ADTOI from across India took part in the North East road show in Guwahati and Shillong.
READ MORE - MoT to unveil Tourism Master Plan for N E states by month end

Arunachal asks Assam for solution of boundary dispute

Itanagar, Jul 13 (PTI) Arunachal Pradesh has requested Assam to work out modalities for an amicable and lasting solution to the decades-old boundary problem between the neighbouring states, official sources said here today.Arunachal Home Minister Takar Marde called on Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati yesterday and discussed the prevailing situation along the disputed border areas, the sources said.During the meeting, Marde requested Gogoi to set up a high level team comprising of border area legislators of both the states besides deputy commissioners and SPs with a mandate to visit the disputed areas to study ground realities. Despite status-quo agreement signed repeatedly between both the Congress-ruled states, people get evicted from border areas by the police and forest department personnel. Arunachal Pradesh had not accepted the 1951 Bordoloi Commission report on the boundary of the states. The Local Boundary Commission constituted by the Supreme Court about three years ago had a few sittings including one at Itanagar recently.
READ MORE - Arunachal asks Assam for solution of boundary dispute

5000 rally against mega dam

Tezpur, July 11: The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) put up a massive show of strength here today, with over 5,000 activists taking out a procession opposing construction of the mega dam as part of the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project at Gerukamukh.

Led by AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya, president Sankar Prasad Rai, secretary Tapan Gogoi and TMPK president Jahan Dolay and secretary Indra Kumar Sungkrung, the activists marched from Joymoti Field with placards registering their protest. They submitted two memoranda addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chief minister Tarun Gogoi through Sonitpur deputy commissioner Tapan Chandra Sarma.

The memoranda, quoting reports on the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project, said the North East Student Organisation (Neso) had initiated a series of agitations since 2001, warning that if the dam were to be constructed at Gerukamukh, the people of Assam would be badly hit.

In this connection, a committee was constituted with representatives of the state government, AASU and NHPC on December 8, 2006, which stated in its report that there would be a massive downstream impact if the project were to be implemented.

Arunachal Pradesh had proposed construction of 168 hydroelectric projects that would affect the downstream areas, for which a cumulative downstream impact study was necessary.

Subsequently, another expert committee, constituted with representatives of Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and IIT Guwahati, submitted its preliminary report on February 10, 2009 recommending immediate stoppage of the project.

In its final report, the committee had stated that investigations had revealed gross anomalies regarding construction of a mega dam of such proportions at the selected site, as the area was geologically and seismically sensitive. The committee advised reduction in height of the dam or its relocation, as the Himalayan foothills were not geologically stable enough to support such a mega dam.

Subsequently, a state Assembly committee had opined that the safety and security of the state’s people could not be compromised at any cost.

The memorandum further said the organisations were not opposed to construction of power projects, as Assam needed more power generation to cope with the power crisis.

It suggested that the government construct micro dams instead of one major dam, which might affect people living in the downstream areas, particularly in Assam.

Three members of TMPK, on their way to Tezpur from Gohpur to take part in the rally, were seriously injured when their vehicle hit a stationary truck on NH52 at Behali in Sonitpur district.
READ MORE - 5000 rally against mega dam

12th Five-Year plan critical for Arunachal: CM

ITANAGAR, July 12 – Terming the 12th Five-Year Plan as critical for the development process in the state, Arunachal Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin said that many of the infrastructure and other projects that were under way would see fruition during the next plan period.

Describing Arunachal Pradesh as a ‘special’ State even within the special category States, Gamlin said that poor physical connectivity, low internal resource base, lack of skilled manpower and a long and relatively under-developed international border are some of the major constraints the state is facing, which could prove to be impediments in the its growth targets.

Gamlin was speaking at the regional consultation on the Approach paper for the 12th Five-Year Plan convened by the Planning Commission in Guwahati last week which was chaired by its Deputy Chairman Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, an official communique said here.

Chief Ministers of all the north-eastern states attended the consultation.

Sharing some of the problems of the state, he said that difficult terrain combined with a very sparsely distributed population posed a peculiar development challenge.

“There are places which require 6 to 8 days of foot-march to reach and where a kg of salt costs Rs 120 and a cement bag up to Rs 4,000. As such development activities in these areas turn out to be costly,” he said.

“Our appeal to the Planning Commission is that while considering projects for such regions, typical formulae of cost-benefit analysis should not be applied.

Rather, the vast intangible dividends that this kind of an investment would bring in the long run should be the guiding factor,” he pointed out.

“In addition, the minimum population criteria now followed results in a lot of our habitations not benefiting under many centrally sponsored schemes.

We would request that the guidelines for the centrally sponsored schemes should be made region-specific and should be framed only after extensive discussions with state governments and after field visits,” Gamlin added.

He said that the state government has envisaged a capacity addition of 12,086 MW during the 12th plan period through commissioning of 91 hydroelectric projects.

The entire potential is expected to be realised by the end of the 14th plan period when the annual accruals by the sale of state’s share of free power are expected to be in the range of Rs 10,000 crore.

Gamlin, however, pointed that since all the power produced would need to be evacuated to the National Grid through the Siliguri corridor, the transmission system must be looked into seriously.

“Since the project is too big to be undertaken by the state government alone, it has to be taken up at the national level,” he said and expressed his hope that this would get due attention in the approach paper.

“As transmission systems typically require three to four years to be put in place, work on this should start early,” he added.
READ MORE - 12th Five-Year plan critical for Arunachal: CM

Indigenous peoples in Asia share same stories of oppression


MANILA – Indigenous woman Thangjam Manorama of Manipur was raped and murdered by paramilitary forces of India on July 11, 2004. Until now, despite the positive identification of the perpetrators, justice remains elusive.

Manipuri women refuse to forget the brutal rape and murder. It is one of the many violations committed by India’s state security forces, courtesy of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The AFPSA conferred special powers on the Armed Forces of India in what the language of the act calls as “disturbed areas” in Manipur and seven other states. Manipur is located in North East India.

Speaking at the forum, July 6 in Quezon City, Jitten Yunman of the Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action (FIPA) said the AFPSPA is one of the many forms of military response by the Indian government on the assertion of their right to self-determination.

The law authorizes the military to shoot at or otherwise use force – even to the point of causing of death – against any person who is acting in contravention of the law” against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons; to arrest without a warrant and with the use of “necessary” force anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so; to enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, among others.

Yunman said before the Indian occupation in October 1949, Manipur had an independent political setup. In 1947, Manipur adopted its Constitution and elected its officials in 1948.

Yunman deplored the exploitation of the natural resources of Manipur by foreign corporations in collusion with the Indian government. At least 169 mega-dams are being constructed. Oil drilling and mining operations are also underway.

Yunman added that highways and railways funded by World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have negative impacts on the lives of indigenous peoples.

The indigenous people of West Papua, the Dani people, share the same experience of subjugation by the Indonesia government. Since 1969, Indonesia took over West Papua and the region has been declared as Military Operations Area since.

“Many from among the Dani people were killed,” Leonard Imbiri of the Yayusan Anak Dusun Papua said, citing the military’s massive killing in 1978 that victimized up to 1,500 Dani people.

Imbiri said many Dani organized themselves to wage an armed struggle to fight the government.

Even after the fall of the Suharto regime, Imbiri said, the rights of the indigenous peoples are still not being recognized. “There is an autonomy law but it is not being implemented,” said Imbiri.

In the Philippines, the Bangsamoro people, was also granted autonomy but they remain oppressed.

Bai Ali Indayla, secretary general of Kawagib, discussed the history of subjugation suffered by the Bangsamoro people. They resisted Spanish occupation. Under the American colonization, more than 2,000 Moro, mostly women and children, were murdered in the Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak massacres.

Such oppression compelled the Bangsamoro people to take up arms and the Moro National Liberation Front and eventually the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were formed.

Indayla said that landlessness and the absence of social justice continue. In addition, the natural resources in Muslim provinces are exploited by transnational corporations.

Indayla also deplored the presence of US troops in Moro areas. “In the guise of humanitarian aid or sugar-coated bullets, the US troops and its government is trying to win the hearts and minds of Moro people by building schools, roads, bridges and engaging civil society and non-government organizations,” she said.

According to Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), indigenous peoples/national minorities suffer all over Asia from denial of their rights to ancestral lands, territories, and resources. Often, states refuse to recognize their collective socio-cultural and political systems/customary laws.

There are at least 200 million indigenous peoples in Asia, comprising two-third of the world’s total IP population. The AIPP said they have the lowest literacy level, lesser access to health and education services, lesser access to electricity, communication, water facilities, etc and have higher incidences of poverty based on national poverty line standards.

In the era of globalization, land and natural resources, especially those within the ancestral domain, are rapidly commodified, privatized and controlled by a few big landlords and big capitalist business interests, often in collusion with governments. “Globalization accelerated the intrusion of large-scale resource-extractive ventures and so-called development projects into their ancestral lands and territories. These include large-scale mining operations; agricultural mono-crop and biofuels plantations; commercial logging, agroforestry and industrial tree plantations; commercial fishing; oil and gas exploration and development; special economic zones and export processing zones; military reservations and bases; large dams and energy-generation facilities; and infrastructure development such as oil and gas pipelines, roads, ports and transportation networks,” the AIPP said.
READ MORE - Indigenous peoples in Asia share same stories of oppression