23 October 2014

Mizoram Launches Captive Farming

Aizawl, Oct 23 : Mizoram launched captive farming in passion fruits under the RKVY and the state government's own New Land Use Policy.

The project captive farming in passion fruits for Tuikum cluster was launched by horticulture minister P C Lalthanliana during a function at Chhingchhip village today in presence of NLUP implementing board chairman and MLA, J H Rothuama and the beneficiaries.

The project will cover 612 beneficiaries (families) from ten villages - Khumtung, Baktawng Vengpui, Baktawng Tlangnuam, Chawilung, Chhingchhip Mualpui, Chhingchhip, Chhiahtlang, Hualtu, Hmuntha and Khawbel - under Serchhip district and one village Phulmawi under Aizawl district. The project will be undertaken by the state-owned corporation Mizoram Food and Allied Industries Corporation Ltd (MIFCO).

Rs 783.62 lakh has been allocated for the project, including Rs 521.12 lakh from RKVY and Rs 262.50 lakh from NLUP. Rs 15,000 has been deposited to bank account of each beneficiary as first installment. Each beneficiary will receive Rs 35,000 worth wire mesh in November.

Based on their performance, the beneficiaries will receive further installments of financial assistance, an official statement said. Meanwhile, the state government has sanctioned Rs 27.80 lakh (Rs 133 lakh for salaries and Rs 141.80 lakh as other financial grants) to MIFCO as a step to revamp the sick PSU.

Passion fruits farmers under this cluster are expected to supply at least 10,000 metric tons of passion fruits to a fruit processing plant at Chhingchhip owned by MIFCO.

Each beneficiary will cultivate passion fruits on at least one hectare of land. A beneficiary will be provided with 2000 saplings each and from this annual production of at least 20,000 kgs of passion fruits are expected.

The government has also decided to implement cluster farming in pine apple under RKVY and NLUP. Clusters and beneficiaries for the project have been selected. The project will be launched soon, officials said.

Half-Naked Woman Found Bound, Gagged in Mizoram Church

Aizawl, Oct 23 : A 19-year-old woman – half-naked and gagged, with her hands and feet tied up with ropes – was found behind the pulpit of a church in Aizawl early Wednesday morning.

Several members of the congregation who were making preparations for an approaching service after the early morning prayers at the Bethlehem Veng Presbyterian Church found the woman around 6.30 am.

The woman, who hails from Tlungvel village about 58 kms from the state capital, was lying behind the pulpit (a raised platform from where preachers deliver sermons) with her hands and feet bound with ropes, and a scarf tied around her mouth.

The congregation members untied her but she refused to say in any detail what had happened, only mentioning that two people – a man and woman she said she did not know – tied her up and left her there.

She also asked for another woman with whose family she had been staying for about a month in the locality. An eyewitness from the locality said the woman and her father came to identify her.

They confirmed she had been staying in their care and was being taken care of by the daughter, who has been volunteering to care for members of loose occult movements.

The police were informed and they have detained her for questioning.

They have also registered a case under IPC section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.)

A senior police official said  the woman has not been responsive to police interrogators but that several angles are being investigated, including who were the people that tied her up and left her in the church, and even whether she might have been complicit in the incident.

India’s Largest Dam Given Clearance But Still Faces Flood Of Opposition

The 3000MW Dibang dam, rejected twice as it would submerge vast tracts of biologically rich forests, is to get environmental clearance – but huge local opposition could stall the project
A dam in Arunachal Pradesh. Travelib Environment/Alamy
A dam in Arunachal Pradesh. Photograph: Travelib Environment/Alamy
Six years ago, former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for the 3000MW Dibang multipurpose dam project. The dam, to be built across the Dibang river, in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, will be the country’s largest. The state plans to build more than 160 dams in the coming years.

Dibang dam will not only generate power but supposedly control floods in the plains of neighbouring Assam state. The dam’s reservoir was estimated to submerge 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of dense forests along the Dibang river valley. The forest advisory committee (FAC), which examines the impact of infrastructure projects on wilderness areas, was appalled and rejected it.

For a project so large, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) failed to assess critical components of the project and was widely criticised for inadequately predicting the dam’s effects on the environment. Its evaluation of impacts on wildlife is a farce. The authors of the document list creatures not found in that area, such as Himalayan tahr, and concocted species not known to exist anywhere in the world, such as brown pied hornbill. Of the ones they could have got right, they mangled the names, referring to flycatchers as ‘flying catchers’ and fantail as ‘fanter’.

In his scathing critique, Anwaruddin Choudhury, an expert on the wildlife of north-east India, sarcastically concluded the EIA makes a case for the project to be shelved, as Dibang was the only place in the world “with these specialities!” Despite listing these amazing creatures, the EIA goes on to say “no major wildlife is observed”.

In a similar vein, the document claims only 301 people will be affected by the dam. Authorities must be puzzled that a project with so few affected people should be opposed by so many. Protests by local people began soon after the inaugural stone was laid in 2008. Since then large crowds have disrupted public hearings. On 5 October 2011, police fired on one such mass demonstration, injuring 10 people. Regional authorities branded anti-dam protestors as Maoist rebels, further angering them.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the Idu Mishmi and Adi tribes will be the most affected. They fear loss of grazing land, fishing grounds, and lack of safety of the dam in a seismically volatile zone.

Additionally, they are concerned that the large number of workers needed to build the dam will overwhelm their cultural identity and their lands.

When the FAC first rejected the project in June 2013, it said the “ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast track of forest land, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the state, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project”.

Some of the grassland-covered river islands in the Dibang river are the prime habitat of the critically endangered Bengal florican. The ministry’s recovery plan for the bird species recommends the area be designated as a national park.

Neeraj Vagholikar, an environmentalist familiar with the case, who works for NGO Kalpavriksh, lists the concerns of people downstream in Assam: loss of fisheries, loss of agricultural land on river islands, increased vulnerability to floods caused by removal of boulders from riverbeds for dam construction, sudden release of water from the reservoir in the monsoons, and safety of the dam in a geologically fragile and seismically active region.

Under public pressure, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi told prime minister Narendra Modi in July this year, “We urge that all hydro electric projects be taken up only after consideration of dam safety, flood moderation and downstream impact mitigation measures in consultation with government of Assam.”

Arunachal Pradesh resubmitted the proposal in February 2014, dropping the height of the dam from 288 metres to 278 metres and saving 1,100 acres of forest. The FAC rejected it again in April 2014.
Prakash Javadekar’s ministry of environment and forests also rejected the proposal on 28 August 2014, and cited these reasons in its letter: “[The] proposed area is very rich in biodiversity, sensitive ecosystem being at the edge of hills and flood plains and having large number of endemic and endangered flora and fauna, etc. Moreover, such project is most likely to have considerable downstream impact including impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa NP [national park] in Assam which is yet to be studied.”

That ought to have put paid to the dam project. Instead, the prime minister’s principal secretary revived it in early September.

This time it sailed through the clearance process. At the time of writing, the minutes of the FAC meeting granting approval have not been made public, and the final height of the dam is still unconfirmed. Anti-dam activists suspect the height of the dam may be lower by 20 metres, and the dam is likely to submerge 4,300 hectares (10,586 acres) of forest.

Javadekar has repeatedly stated he supported development without destruction of environment. But it’s just a matter of days before he affixes his seal of approval to the dam. The FAC’s previous concerns for the area’s biodiversity and the lack of studies of the impact in Assam were brushed aside. A project that claims to control flooding in Assam has not conducted one public meeting in that state nor was the chief minister’s demand for consultation acknowledged. The ministry’s own concerns about the impact on Dibru-Saikhowa national park remain unaddressed. This is the latest in a series of moves made by the government to push large projects at the cost of the environment.

When he was a prime ministerial candidate, on 22 February 2014, Modi had said in a speech at Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh: “I know that the people of the state are against the building of big dams, and I do understand their sentiments. We can still tap those potentials with proper scientific technology and small dams, besides using solar energy to supplement them.” Either he had changed his mind in six months, or he never meant what he said then.

However, forcing these approvals through may not make an iota of difference. The 2000MW lower Subansiri hydroelectric power project got all its clearances, and yet after spending over £500m, the project was brought to a halt in December 2011. The largest anti-dam people’s movement, “unprecedented in India’s hydropower history,” refuses to allow dam construction.

Activists believe the buildup of a massive opposition in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam may render the Dibang dam a non-starter too.

Mizo IAS Oficer Transferred Over Report Leak in Tripura

Agartala, Oct 23 : Tripura’s Left Front government has initiated efforts to save the officers and employees involved in the Rs 17-crore scam in Bishalgarh block.

In a move to punish those responsible for leaking out the special audit report that found gross irregularities in the 36 out of the 52 gram panchayats and village committees under the Bishalgarh block to the tune of Rs 17 crore, the state government yesterday transferred senior IAS officer and director of the state audit department, Lalnuna Rukhum, to the relatively less important post of officer on special duty (OSD) in state institute of personnel and rural development (SIPARD).

“This is virtually a demotion because a senior IAS officer cannot be posted as OSD, SIPARD. Perhaps the government suspects Rukhum for leaking the special audit report,” said a senior official in the state secretariat. He said apart from Bishlagarh block, the special audit report on national rural health mission (NRHM) scam has also reached the Opposition.

Even 33 days after the FIR was filed against 12 officers and employees of Bishalgarh, including former BDO Bimal Chakraborty, nobody has been arrested so far.

The police searched the houses of two junior engineers and a head clerk without a search warrant, three weeks after the filing of the FIR, but failed to recover anything related to the scam.
22 October 2014

Mizoram: No Male Vasectomy compared to over 2100 women undergoing contraception procedures in 6 months, Says Report

By Adam Halliday

Aizawl, Oct 22 : At least 2,171 women underwent temporary or permanent contraceptive procedures over the past six months in Mizoram while no man did, a half-yearly report of the state health Department’s Reproductive and Child Health division made public on Tuesday shows.

“There are no reports of any male undergoing vasectomy or temporary procedures in the past six months,” state RCH program officer Dr R Lalthanga said.

Of the women who underwent contraceptive procedures, 857 underwent medical sterilisation while the rest employed the temporary copper-T procedure.

The half-yearly report, tabled before a review meeting chaired by Health Minister Lal Thanzara, also shows only 13 women have died from childbirth while 387 infants have passed away before their first birthdays.

This brings the state’s infant mortality rate (IMR) to 36 for the first half of the financial year, which is one higher than last year’s state IMR of 35, which was a middle-area position compared to other states in the country.

Abductors of 11 Non-Tribals Reduce Ransom Amount in Mizoram

Aizawl, Oct 22 : The abductors of 11 non-tribals in Mizoram have reduced their earlier ransom amount from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 11 lakh, police officials said here on Tuesday.

The abductors, by using the mobile phone of one captive, told the latter's relatives at Patharkandi in Assam's Karimganj district last night, that they had reduced the amount of the ransom to ensure that the relatives together could pay the same.

The abductors, belonging to militant outfit NLFT and cadres of the Bru Democratic Front of Mizoram, also threatened the relatives that the ransom should be paid this month itself, otherwise it would be the responsibility of the relatives if anything happened to the hostages, the officials said.

The 11 non-tribal construction employees were abducted from a place near Rajiv Nagar in Mamit district on October 10.

Welcome to Mawsynram, the Wettest place on Earth


Winchester Lyngkhoi carries fresh meat up to his butcher's stall on market day in Mawsynr
Winchester Lyngkhoi carries fresh meat up to his butcher's stall on market day in Mawsynram. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
YOU might need a bigger umbrella — in fact, you might need a stash of them.

And forget sunglasses because you’ll be lucky to see many rays in the wettest place on Earth. Perched atop a ridge in the Khasi Hills of India’s north east, the village of Mawsynram is subject to the highest average rainfall on the planet.
Rainwater surges through Mawsynram Village during a heavy downpour. Picture: Amos Chappel
Rainwater surges through Mawsynram Village during a heavy downpour. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
In the two peak monsoon months of June and July Mawsynram is hit with an average 275 inch
In the two peak monsoon months of June and July Mawsynram is hit with an average 275 inches of rain. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Mawsynram is a village in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya state in north-eastern India, a region renowned for being constantly wet.
The village receives a whopping 467 inches of rain per year thanks to summer air currents sweeping over the floodplains of Bangladesh and gathering moisture as they move north.
Perched atop a ridge in the Khasi Hills of India's north east, the village of Mawsynram i
Perched atop a ridge in the Khasi Hills of India's north east, the village of Mawsynram is subject to the highest average rainfall on the planet. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Mawsynram receives constant rain. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Mawsynram receives constant rain. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
When the resulting clouds hit the steep hills of Meghalaya they are “squeezed” through the narrowed gap in the atmosphere and are compressed to the point where they can no longer hold their moisture.
The end result is the near-constant rain the village is famous for.
Labourers wearing traditional 'knup' umbrellas walk into Mawsynram. Picture: Amos Chappel
Labourers wearing traditional 'knup' umbrellas walk into Mawsynram. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
A farmer wearing a traditional 'knup' umbrella doesn't let the rain get in the way as he
A farmer wearing a traditional 'knup' umbrella doesn't let the rain get in the way as he works near Mawsynram. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Further afield, deep in the rainforests of the state of Meghalaya lie some of the most extraordinary pieces of civil engineering in the world.
Here, in the depths of the forest, bridges aren’t built — they’re grown.
A fisherman walks under an ancient tree root bridge at Mawlynnong village. Picture: Amos
A fisherman walks under an ancient tree root bridge at Mawlynnong village. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Examples of the thin aerial rubber tree roots used by locals to creates bridges and ladde
Examples of the thin aerial rubber tree roots used by locals to creates bridges and ladders in and around Mawsynram, which is the wettest place in the world. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Trailing vines and mosses, the living trees bridges of Cherrapunji are breathtaking in their majesty.
Ancient tree vines and roots stretch across rivers and streams, creating a solid latticework structure that appears too fantastical to be real.

A local man on the “double decker” tree root bridge in Nongriat Village, deep in the rain
A local man on the “double decker” tree root bridge in Nongriat Village, deep in the rainforests of the Indian state of Meghalaya. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Local woman Mary Synrem holds a young Ficus Elastica rubber tree root, the material used

Local woman Mary Synrem holds a young Ficus Elastica rubber tree root, the material used to construct the tree root bridges in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
The Cherrapunji region is considered to be one of the wettest places on the planet and this is the reason behind the unusual bridges.

With Cherrapunji receiving around 15 metres of rain per year, a normal wooden bridge would quickly rot.

A living tree root bridge deep in jungle near Nongriat Village, near Meghalaya, India. Pi
A living tree root bridge deep in jungle near Nongriat Village, near Meghalaya, India. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Deep in the rainforests of the Indian state of Meghalaya lie some of the most extraordina
Deep in the rainforests of the Indian state of Meghalaya lie some of the most extraordinary pieces of civil engineering in the world. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
This is why, 500 years ago, locals began to guide roots and vines from the native Ficus Elastica rubber tree across rivers using hollow bamboo until they became rooted on the opposite side, eventually creating a bridge.

Tourists visiting Mawsynram will definitely need one of these, in fact maybe a few. Pictu
Tourists visiting Mawsynram will definitely need one of these, in fact maybe a few. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
But locals don’t let the rain get in the way of a good celebration or some hard work.

Farmers especially have developed ways to keep the rain at bay.

The sign on the weather station on the outskirts of Mawsynram, India, says it all. Pictur
The sign on the weather station on the outskirts of Mawsynram, India, says it all. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
Made from bamboo and banana leaf, they wear knups, which are favoured for enabling both hands to be kept free for work and for being able to stand up to the high winds which come with the rainstorms in Mawsynram.

Goats shelter in a bus stop during nother drizzly afternoon in Mawsynram. Picture: Amos C
Goats shelter in a bus stop during nother drizzly afternoon in Mawsynram. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
And locals don’t let the pouring rain get in the way of a good festival either with hundreds taking part in a traditional Khasi festival in Mawsynram.

Mawsynram Village, just don't expect a lot of sunshine. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/austra
Mawsynram Village, just don't expect a lot of sunshine. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
The festival has been held since 1899 when 16 Khasi youths formed the Seng Khasi movement to save the Khasi culture from being diluted by the rapid spread of Christianity.

A Khasi boy has his turban tightly twisted into place by his grandfather before an annual
A Khasi boy has his turban tightly twisted into place by his grandfather before an annual Khasi festival. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope
People take part in a traditional Khasi festival in Mawsynram, which is the wettest place
People take part in a traditional Khasi festival in Mawsynram, which is the wettest place in the world. Picture: Amos Chappele/Rex/australscope

Delhi Comes Out in Full Support For Assam

New Delhi, Oct 22 : Delhi stood firmly behind the Music Fraternity yesterday and lent its earnest support for the concert titled #FORASSAM.

A packed Blue Frog witnessed the biggest names of the music industry as all the stars performed live to an enthralled audience. Spearheaded by Papon and Vishal Dadlani, the concert at Blue Frog in Delhi was held to help generate funds for the people who have been ravaged by the recent floods in the state of Assam.

Said Papon, “The intention was to generate awareness and attention about the flood situation in Assam and generate as much relief funds as possible towards the cause. We will collect the funds and hand it over to the chief minister’s fund soon”.

“This is probably the biggest concert in Indian music history where the music fraternity has come forward for a cause. Flood is an annual phenomenon in Assam, but due to some reasons, it doesn't get properly highlighted enough to be considered as a national calamity. ” said Vishal.

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