27 March 2015

Former Mizoram Chief Minister Brig Sailo Dead

Aizawl, Mar 27 : Former Mizoram chief minister Brig Thenphunga Sailo died here today, family sources said.

Sailo (93) was rushed to the hospital at around 10 am and died there at 11.50 am after heart failure, its authorities said.

He is survived by wife Thansiami, sons, daughters and grandchildren.

Born on January 1, 1922, Sailo had joined the British Indian army in 1942 as a junior officer.

Mizo National Front (MNF) declared independence from the Union.

When he retired from the army in 1974, he had formed the Human Rights Committee to ease the lives of Mizo people reeling under insurgency and alleged army excesses.

Sailo had formed a political party called Mizoram Peoples Conference in April 17, 1975 and it won the Mizoram union territory elections in 1977 and he became the second chief minister of the state.

He was elected to the state assembly in 2008 for the last time and quit active politics at the age of 92 after his term ended in 2014.

Audi inaugurates first dealership in North-East India

audi-northeast, Audi showroom in Northeast, Audi India, Audi Guwahati, Audi in Assam
The new venture was inaugurated by Audi India’s head Joe King, in the presence of Pulak Goswami, Chairman, Audi Guwahati.

Audi has inaugurated its first dealership in the North-East region of the country as it opened a new showroom in Guwahati, Assam. Located at the NH37, Lalmati, the new outlet will run under the banner of ‘Audi Guwahati’. The new venture was inaugurated by Audi India’s head Joe King, in the presence of Pulak Goswami, Chairman, Audi Guwahati.

Spread across over 15,000 sq.ft. of area, the new facility incorporates the showroom area for the display of vehicles, an exclusive arena for merchandise and a service facility, which is spread over an area of 7,600 sq. ft. The service floor includes a dedicated body and paint shop. The aftersales facility is capable of carrying out service of six cars in a single day.

With the new dealership kick-starting its operation, Audi is aiming to sell close to 150-200 units per year from its Guwahati outlet. Further, Audi Guwahati claims that it has already received bookings for around 50 units in the region, which going forward is forecasted to get even better. Also, apart from serving customers from seven states of North-East, the Audi Guwahati will also cater to prospective customers in West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Commenting on the inauguration of this new dealership, Joe King said, “We enter a new place only when we see there is a market for us. We expect to sell a minimum of 150-200 units in the first year.

We are the first luxury car maker to enter this market and we will definitely get the first mover’s advantage.”

Mizoram Plans To Roll Out Food Security Act, May Benefit Govt But Not Its People

In Mizoram, only 64.40 per cent of the population would be able to purchase rice at the highly subsidised rate under the Food Security Act.

Aizawl, Mar 27 : Mizoram Minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs today informed the state assembly that the state government proposed to implement the Food Security Act in the state.

Replying to a query from Lalrinawma of the Mizo National Front ( MNF), John Rotluangliana said that 7,06,296 people would be covered by the Food Security Act.

Under the Act, one person would receive five kilos of rice at the rate of Rs three a kilo in a month, he said.

However, the minister added that only 64.40 per cent of the population of the state would be able to purchase rice at the highly subsidised rate under the Food Security Act.

Rotluangliana said that implementation of the Food Security Act would be beneficial for the government, but would bring heavy burden and hardships to a large number of people as the state government has been providing eight kilos of rice per month to all the people in the state at present.

VDF Rally in Imphal Turns Violent, Several Arrested

Imphal, Mar 27 : The Manipur Police today fired several rounds of tear gas shells and live bullets as the agitating Village Defence Force (VDF) personnel turned violent and tried to manhandle Imphal West Additional SP (Law and Order) S. Ibomcha at Khoyathong.After holding a meeting at THAU ground under the aegis of All Manipur VDF Welfare Association, over 1000 VDF personnel took out a rally towards Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh's residence.

Their demands included honorarium hike, setting up of a separate VDF battalion and service security.

A heated verbal confrontation broke out between the VDF personnel and a police team led by S. Ibomcha as the rally was blocked near ABC godown, Khoyathong.

Later, the police teams led by the OCs of Imphal and City Police stations and Imphal West Commando DSP Krishnatombi also arrived at the spot to control the agitating VDF personnel.
The police personnel later fired some tear gas shells to disperse the agitators as they tried to force their way towards the Chief Minister's bungalow pelting stones on the police.

In the clash, a group of VDF personnel rushed towards Ibomcha with one of them trying to manhandle the police officer, who was trying to help an injured VDF personnel.

On seeing the attack on the Additional SP, Imphal West commando DSP Krishnatombi and his team fired several rounds of live bullets in the air.

Several VDF personnel were taken into custody after the untoward incident.
24 March 2015

Mizoram second highest in India in terms of HIV prevalence: Health Minister

http://i.ndtvimg.com/mt/2014-12/HIV_geneirc_650.jpgAizawl, Mar 24 : With more than 7,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and more than a thousand having died of complications associated with the disease since 1990, Mizoram is the state with the second highest incidence rate in the country, Health Minister Lal Thanzara said Monday.

Lal Thanzara, however, admitted a change in the way funds are released from the Centre has led to some complications in the fight against the disease even as opposition MLA Dr K Beichhua, to whose starred question the minister was replying to in the assembly, expressed fears such a situation may make Mizoram become the state with the highest incidence rate of HIV/AIDS.

According to Lal Thanzara, 9894 people among the 4.57 lakh who have been tested for HIV have been found positive. Of these, 1038 have died due to complications brought on by the virus.

In his reply to another starred question on the same topic by opposition MLA Lalruatkima, Lal Thanzara said more than Rs 31.25 crores have been received from the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) over the past two years but that a change in the funding pattern in the current financial year has meant some delay in disbursement of salaries to workers at the front line at least twice.

In January this year, leaders of an umbrella group of NGOs that work with the Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) had warned of a surge in the disease’s prevalence because the cash-strapped state government was unable to release more than Rs 800 lakhs it had already received from NACO more than five months earlier.

They said this meant the 37 frontline organisations were unable to pay salaries or rent for the premises they were occupying and had to curtail outreach operations, leading to a shortage of preventive equipment such as disposable syringes and condoms to a huge percentage of more than 12,500 intravenous drug users and an equal number of sex-workers, informal migrant workers and homosexuals.
23 March 2015

Mizoram Govt Prepares For Bru Repatriation

Aizawl, Mar 23 : Mizoram government has been making arrangements to start the final repatriation of around 3,000 Bru families lodged in six relief camps in neighbouring North Tripura district, an official said today.

Additional Secretary for Home Lalbiakzama told PTI that the state government had prepared Road Map-IV for repatriation of Bru refugees from Tripura and submitted expenditure proposals to the Union Home Ministry.

"Arrangements were underway to begin the process as soon as the Centre releases the fund for the repatriation," Lalbiakzama said.

He said that the Bru refugees were proposed to be resettled in Mizoram-Tripura-Bangladesh border Mamit district, Mizoram-Assam border Kolasib district and south Mizoram's Lunglei district bordering Bangladesh.

Once repatriated, the Bru families would be resettled in their respective villages where they stayed before they migrated to Tripura and if their original village was abandoned, they would be resettled in a village within the same assembly constituency, he said.

Officials of the three districts said that more than 2,000 Bru families were proposed to be resettled in Mamit district, a little over 650 families in Kolasib district and more than 200 families in Lunglei district.

State home minister R Lalzirliana earlier said that a meeting convened by Union Home Ministry in New Delhi on January 30, attended by representatives of both Mizoram and Tripura governments decided that the Brus in the six relief camps in Tripura should be repatriated within six months.

"The meeting also decided that those Bru families who refuse to return to Mizoram during the time-frame should allowed to remain in Tripura, deleted from the voters' list in Mizoram while the Centre would close down the relief camps and discontinue the free ration provided to the inmates of the camps," Lalzirliana said.

Brus migrated to Tripura from Mizoram during the later part of 1997 after militants belonging to the erstwhile Bru National Liberation front (BNLF) gunned down Lalzawmliana, a forest guard working inside Dampa Tiger Reserve near Persang hamlet on October 21, 1997.

The first effort to repatriate the Brus from November 16, 2009 was not only hampered by the murder of a Mizo youth, Zarzokima of Mizoram-Tripura border Bungthuam village by Bru militants on November 13, 2009, but also triggered another exodus.

Hundreds of Bru families have been repatriated since 2010 but many of them refused to return to Mizoram due to obstruction from anti-repatriation leaders who made a plethora of demands to the Centre and the state government.

Mizoram: Prohibition Ends Despite Strong Protest By The Church

By Jaideep Mazumdar

Politicians railed and ranted and pastors warned of divine wrath, but the hundreds queuing up outside the lone liquor outlet that opened in Aizawl's Millenium Center mall on Monday, after 18 years of prohibition, remained unfazed. This predominantly Christian hill state, surrounded on three sides by Myanmar and Bangladesh, had gone `dry' under pressure from the hugely influential Church in 1997.

Excise department officers estimate that more than 1,000 people bought liquor from the Mizoram Food and Allied Industries Corporation (Mifco) outlet on Monday and Tuesday -the first day's sales stood at Rs 2.7 lakh and Tuesday's, at Rs 3.46 lakh.

After winning the state elections in 2013, the Congress government initiated the process of amending the Mizoram Liquor (Total Prohibition) Act, 1997 to allow sale of a fixed monthly quota of liquor to permit holders. The Church, especially the Presbyterian order which claims a membership of a little over half the state's 10 lakh-odd population, vehemently opposed the move. But the government, backed by some civil society organizations, went ahead with the framing and enactment of the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition & Control Act 2014, last July.

Licenses were awarded to state public sector units to open five liquor outlets in Aizawl on March 16, but Church-backed opposition ensured that only one outlet could open at a shopping mall. Mizoram excise minister R Lalzirliana said negotiations were on between the state PSUs holding the liquor licences and elders of the localities where wine shops are to be set up. "All five outlets in Aizawl will open soon and after that, we'll start awarding licenses for liquor vends in other districts too," he says.

The wait for alcohol has been a long one for Lalthlamuana, a 62-yearold trader who is one of the 55,000odd (and the number is rising by the day) permit holders. " After 1997, we had to rely on bootleggers who not only charged exorbitant prices, but also supplied poor quality and adulterated liquor," he says.

The state government had argued that prohibition had not been effective and it was losing revenue as liquor was being smuggled in from neighbouring Assam. There was also lethal spurious liquor in circulation.S Kapkima, a senior doctor at the Civil Hospital in Aizawl, says that over the last 15 years, the number of patients suffering from ailments caused by consumption of spurious liquor had increased exponentially .Also, the government argued, prohibition was fuelling substance abuse.

"Nowhere in the world has prohibition worked. It is much better to control liquor consumption, as the new law aims to," says the minister.

Under the new law, a permit holder (the licence costs Rs 500 a year) can buy six bottles (750 ml) of liquor and ten bottles each of beer and wine per month. As of now, only two brands of Indian whisky are available. "We've kept the prices lower than Assam to discourage smuggling in liquor from that state," says excise department deputy commissioner Ngurchungnunga. He adds that gradually , more brands of IMFL (Indian-made foreign liquor) will be available. The government also plans to give bar licenses. The Aizawl Club, a favourite with the city's elite, has been given one and will start serving liquor soon.

Church leaders and pastors are livid. "The new law is a gross violation of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church of India and against the rules framed by the Presbyterian Church of Mizoram," says Rev Chuauthuama, a former pastor and prohibition's most vociferous supporter in the state. He raised a black flag at his residence to mark March 16 as a `dark day'. "Before prohibition was imposed, alcoholism was rife. It broke many families. This was why the first generation of Christian converts in Mizoram decided in 1910 to call for prohibition," he says.

Former pastor Rev Zaihmingthanga says the devout will resist the move. "My locality (Khatla, which was to have a wine shop) has resolved not to allow any liquor outlets here," he says. He admitted that local churches -there are over 250 churches in Aizawl, a world record for cities -were behind the `ban' on opening of liquor outlets.

Michael Lalmanzuala, who was the former chief secretary of Mizoram, advocates a complete separation of the Church and the state."The Church has no right to interfere in matters of the state. Mizoram cannot be totally dependent on doles from the Union government and has to raise its own revenue," he argues.  He says that `zu', the local rice beer, was an integral part of Mizo culture and strict social norms ensured people drank responsibly. "It was only after the British missionaries vilified `zu' and promoted prohibition that alcohol became a problem for Mizos," says the former bureaucrat. Dr Thanpuii, vice president of Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawn Pawl (MHIP), an influential organization to which nearly every Mizo woman belongs, says prohibition hasn't worked and the 2014 Act, if implemented properly, can solve the problem of alcoholism and drug addiction.

But the cheer may not last long.Lallungmuana, head of sociology at Pachhunga University College, predicts the government will reimpose prohibition before the state goes to polls in 2018. Opposition leader Zoramthanga of the Mizo National Front (MNF) has already promised to re-introduce it if his party is voted to power.

Some denominations like the Presbyterians and the Pentecostals have warned that those who hold permits will not be allowed to take on leadership roles in church activities. But going by the hundreds who are applying for permits every day , such threats seem to have had little effect.

Mizoram Has More Ration Card Holders than it’s Total Population

Aizawl, Mar 23 : There are almost five lakh more names on Mizoram’s ration cards than the state’s total population.

Replying to a starred question by opposition MLA Lalrinawma, Food and Civil Supplies Minister John Rotluangliana said there are currently a total of 15.91 lakh names on a total of 2.79 ration cards in the BPL, APL and AAY categories.

According to the 2011 census, Mizoram’s population is 10.97 lakhs, meaning the amount of names on the state’s ration cards exceeds the state’s population figures by 4.94 lakhs people. The decadal growth rate in the 2001-11 period was meanwhile 23.48 percent.

The Minister said the government hopes to solve the discrepancy when it completes the end to end computerization of ration cards, which is underway.

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