26 September 2014

Tetseo Sisters From Nagaland Popularize Naga Folk Music

Kohima, Sep 26
: The northeast region has produced several artists who excel in the field of music. Now, a very popular folk music band from Nagaland, the Tetseo Sisters, has taken the Naga folk music to the national and international level.

One of the most popular female bands from Nagaland, they sing songs known as "Li" (folksong) in the Chokri dialect of the Chakhesang tribe of Nagaland that tells stories of Naga people, their joys and sorrows, hopes and aspirations.

They started practicing music in their school days and have not looked back since then.

They specialize in folk music and aim to keep it alive among the youth.

"We keep travelling place to place. Eventually we have been invited for cultural exchange program and have performed at many othrs an event that's how we began our journey. As we perform more and more our identity become stronger as a folk singing group. A lot of people called us folk singing sisters on TV. Well then, we became Tetseo sisters," said Mercy, member of the Tetseo sisters.

The Tetseo Sisters comprise four siblings - Mercy, Azi, Kuvelu and Lulu.

The sisters released their first album of acoustic songs called "Li" Chapter One "The Beginning" in 2011.

During their performance they use age-old Naga string instrument known as "Tati or Heka Libuh".

They have performed in different places across the country and abroad. Recently, they mesmerized the audience at Scotland, Myanmar and Thailand.

"We have been performing for more than twenty years so we finally record an album called "Li" the chapter one along with my sisters and it consists of 12 songs. Theme of the song is about love, peace and different festival," said Kuvelu, singer of Tetseo sisters.

"We realize that our folk music is important, different and unique and it's really beautiful so our parents also encourage us a lot they taught us song, they taught us how to play Tati," added Mercy.

The Tetseo sisters are playing an important role in preserving folk tradition of Nagas and are currently working on their upcoming album.

India Invites Thai Businesses To Invest in The Country

Bangkok, Sep 26 : India today invited Thai businesses to invest in the country and said it attaches top priority to the development of the North-East states as it opens a corridor into South-East Asia.

India's Ambassador to Thailand, Harsh Vardhan Shringla referred to various initiatives taken by the new Indian government to take the country's trade and development to a new plateau.

"Opening the North East creates a corridor for us into South East Asia," Shringla told a gathering of Thai commerce ministry officials, trade department representatives, ethnic Indian Thai businessmen and academia on the sidelines of a live telecast function showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching "Make in India" campaign.

Those who had gathered to watch the telecast, organised by the Indian Embassy with the assistance of India-Thai Chamber of Commerce, wanted to know about Indian Government's new "Make in India" campaign and developments in India's North-East region.

"We hope to attract Thai investors," Shringla told the assembled gathering.

Prime Minister Modi today launched the "Make in India" initiative in New Delhi to make India a manufacturing hub by attracting foreign companies to set up their manufacturing units.
25 September 2014

Process for Import of Rice from Myanmar Delayed: Mizoram

Aizawl, Sep 25 : Tender process for import of rice from neighbouring Myanmar to Mizoram has not been fixed and time for finalisation was extended, state food and civil supplies minister John Rotluangliana today said.

Rotluangliana said the tender seemed to have been extended due to technical reasons.

Mizoram was planning to import rice from Myanmar to ensure non-stop supply of foodstuff during the mega railway block beginning from October 1 due to gauge conversion of the Lumding and Badarpur route in Assam.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has made arrangements to import rice from neighbouring Myanmar and the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India Limited had floated a tender on September 8 for import of one lakh quintal of rice from Myanmar.

The rice would be imported via Zokhawthar in the Mizoram-Myanmar border in Champhai district and would be distributed to Aizawl, Lunglei and Lawngtlai districts.

The godown of the state Trade and Commerce department, having a capacity of 8,000 quintals at Zokhawthar border trade centre on the banks of the Mizoram-Myanmar border river Tiau was being prepared for stocking the rice.

Rotluangliana said the gauge conversion work was expected to be completed by March 2015, but might be delayed.

The mega block would have severe impact on the food supplies in Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and southern parts of Assam.

Tripura High Court starts SMS Service

Agartala, Sep 25 : The high court of Tripura is now being recognized as an IT-enabled HC in the country.

According to reports, the Tripura HC has introduced SMS service for both litigants and respondents for the first time in the country. It has drawn the attention of the Supreme Court. Now, it is being replicated in other HCs of the country.

"Pull-based SMS system is working as client satisfaction tool in the HC. Immediately after filing a case, a litigant gets an SMS. But SMSs are of two types - if any error is found while filing, the system-generated SMS suggests specific correction in the petition. If the filing is error-free, the petitioner gets an SMS with case number and before every hearing, both the parties get SMS," a top official of HC said.

The auto-generated SMS, voluntarily sent by the high court, has increased the level of satisfaction of the litigants about the judiciary and also curtailed dependency of petitioners on advocates for basic information.

Though a few high courts like Bombay and Punjab have push-based SMS service, Tripura high court is the pioneer in introducing the system. In push-based SMS, the litigant or the respondent has to seek information about the case in the toll-free network and upon receiving the requisition, the court pushes the information.

But in case of pull-based system, the court sends information voluntarily and at the time of filing the case, the litigant has to give his contact details in the application.

The official pointed out that after setting up of separate high court in Tripura in March last year, about 7,500 cases have been disposed of so far.

Meghalaya Blockade Cuts Off Parts Of Northeast

Agartala, Sep 25 : The northeastern states of Tripura and Mizoram, and southern Assam remained cut off from the rest of India following a blockade of the National Highway (NH) 44 in Meghalaya, official said here on Wednesday.

The Movement for Indigenous People's Rights and Livelihood, a non-governmental organisation in Meghalaya, has called for an indefinite "economic blockade" from Sep 23 against a ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on unscientific coal and sand mining in the state.

The NH 44 from Guwahati passes through Meghalaya connecting southern Assam, land-locked Tripura and Mizoram with the rest of India.

"Thousands of southern Assam, Tripura and Mizoram bound goods-laden trucks, passenger buses, small cars and other vehicles have been stranded in different places of NH 44 in Meghalaya. The agitators attacked and damaged some vehicles Tuesday and Wednesday," a Tripura transport department official said.

"We have approached the Meghalaya government to intervene into the matter and restore the normal movement of vehicles through the NH 44. The NH 44 blockade would further affect the scarcity of essentials and food grain in Tripura, Mizoram and southern Assam due to monsoon related transportation difficulties."

The official said that after torrential rain during the past three days huge landslides on the NH 44 at Tansen (50 km south of Shillong) in Meghalaya also blocked the movement of vehicles through the highway.

Following a public interest litigation filed by an NGO of Meghalaya, the National Green Tribunal in April imposed a ban on unscientific coal and sand mining in the northeastern state.

The NH 44 blockade was launched just days before train services in Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and four districts of southern Assam would be stopped for gauge conversion by the Northeast Frontier Railway.

Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said this would further affect the movement of food grain from different parts of the country to Tripura, Mizoram, southern Assam and parts of Manipur.

Beyond The Oath


A visit to the director’s office at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal is akin to visiting an ultra high security zone. You go past unarmed guards provided by an agency and then you enter a fortified area complete with sandbagged posts manned by the CRPF wielding automatic weapons. Past that you are greeted with signs that read “Visitors not allowed beyond this point” and then you get to the ante room and find Manipur Rifles personnel armed with AK-47s — the personal security detail of the director. The aura of the institute being an advanced centre for medical sciences seems to have been lost somehow.

It is now a premier centre for medical sciences and draws students from across the North-east region save Assam. It celebrated its 43rd foundation day on 14 September and has so far produced 2,904 doctors and 1,053 specialist doctors. Today it has 418 undergraduate students, 414 postgraduate students, 161 BSc nursing students and 95 pursuing a degree in dentistry on its rolls. It also has 24 different departments dealing in subjects as diverse as anatomy and otorhinolaryngology and provides service and care to patients who flock to fill the 1,071 beds available. Last year, it catered to 43,317 in-house patients while another 299,178 were treated as outdoor patients.

Initially, it began as the Regional Medical College funded by the North Eastern Council but was converted into a Centrally managed institute under the Union ministry of health and family welfare in 2007 with a board of governors headed by the Union health minister as chairman and the Manipur chief minister as vice-chairman. Its executive council is headed by the Union health secretary as chairman and its director as member secretary. With such a vast infrastructure and an even more impressive management set-up, one would be coerced into thinking that all is and has to be well with its affairs. On 14 September 2010, Professor S Sekharjit Singh was appointed its director of by the UPA-II set-up in Delhi.

Then on 25 August the bombshell arrived from Delhi in the form of an order signed by a deputy secretary in the Union health and family welfare ministry which stripped Sekharjit Singh of his post and Professor Chongtham Arun Singh of the Department of Orthopaedics was asked to take charge as director until further orders. The drama began unfolding bit by bit, revealing murky business at the Rims where Singh and his caucus functioned much beyond the Hippocratic oath. First, he refused to recognise the Centre’s order stating that a director cannot be removed just like that and he bolted his door and bolted. The Centre then advised Dr Arun Singh to take police help, break open the door and assume charge, which he did the next day. Sekharjit Singh then attempted to take the help of the judiciary and moved Manipur High Court, but Justice N Koteshwor turned down his appeal for a stay on the dismissal order. Then he, accompanied by his son and daughter, both medical doctors, left the state and has not been heard of since.

In the meantime, the CBI had earlier registered a case against Sekharjit Singh on charges of corruption relating to irregularities in the purchase of dental chairs and other misappropriations. On 23 May this year, the CBI furnished the FIR copy to the District and Sessions Judge, Manipur East, and earlier it had also earlier registered a case against Dr L Fimate,  Sekharjit Singh’s predecessor.

Then the CBI, which hitherto in Manipur had only been dealing in murder cases, decided to go a step further and raided the official quarters of Sekharjit Singh and nine other places, including his wife’s and daughter’s houses. The seized items included documents, laptops and computers that were said to have revealed a wealth of information but the most damning of all seems to be a letter alleged to have been written by Sekharjit Singh’s  wife to the president of Manipur’s BJP unit asking him to return the Rs 1 crore paid earlier to forestall the impeachment move and the CBI raids. This amount seems to be a pittance for a man said to be owning three houses in Manipur and others in Guwahati, Kolkata, New Delhi and Bangalore and is said to have paid Rs 4 crore to the personal assistant of then Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for his appointment as Rims director.

But what Sekharjit Singh did goes much beyond the records on the CBI files. For instance, he recruited 121 nurses against 71 sanctioned and advertised posts. The bribe fee was said to have hovered around Rs 15 lakh each for the first 71 and Rs 25 lakh apiece for the remaining 40. And although he tried to get post facto sanction for the 40 seats from the executive council, he failed but they continue to be on the rolls and received salaries till date. He also managed to turn the Rims into a hotbed of corrupt contractors, most of them said to be relatives of his wife.

He went on a spree of digging drains and constructing walls all around and even stripped the wooden planks of the Gymkhana, paved it with cement and again installed teak flooring — all on contract. He also decreased the retirement age of the heads of departments from 65 to 62 years to enable his wife to head the department of anatomy.

When the Nursing College was established, he appointed her principal and when protests arose he made her the advisor of the college, overriding the principal. What was shocking was the manner in which he treated 47 men and women hired as daily wage workers who were being paid a paltry Rs 3,000 a month. The women were utilised by his wife as domestic help and have not been paid for the last five months while their salaries had been withdrawn. And often it was his wife, referred to as “Madam”, who would dole out their salaries at her residence — not in cash but in the form of Amway products for which she is today a platinum card holder agent.

According to Chongtham Bijoy Singh, who resides in the village adjoining Rims and had spent the last three years chronicling Sekharjit Singh’s misdeeds, the man was trying to behave as a despot and his wife, Damayanti, acted as if she was a reincarnate of Imelda Marcos.

Professor Chongtham Arun Singh acknowledged to The Statesman the public perception of Rims being in the centrestage of corruption and added that while he did not know how long he would be holding the office, he pledged to bring about transparency in all spheres of life at Rims, which, he hoped, would mitigate the apprehension of the public in days to come. For now, his morning walks have been rendered impossible because of the bevy of security guards detailed for his protection.

The writer is based in Imphal

India’s Gateway To The East


Given the shared heritage, there’s tremendous potential for New Delhi to push its economic interests with Yangon

In the minds of New Delhi’s elite, India’s South Asian neighbourhood is made up solely of the seven members of Saarc, even though we share no land borders with three of them. We tend to forget that four of our north-eastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — share a 1640 km land border with Myanmar. Not only is Myanmar a member of Bimstec, the Bay of Bengal grouping linking Saarc and Asean, it is also our gateway to the fast growing economies of East and Southeast Asia.

While successive leaders of Myanmar, who are devout Buddhists, have looked upon India predominantly in spiritual terms, as the home of Lord Buddha, they recognise that an economically vibrant India provides a balance to an increasingly assertive China. Sadly, we have not been able to take full advantage of either our shared Buddhist heritage by facilitating increased pilgrimages, or used our economic potential effectively to promote our interests.
Changing situation

Ties between India and Myanmar have quietly blossomed over the past two decades. The respective militaries and security agencies of the two countries have facilitated cooperation across the border. This has led to effective action against cross-border insurgencies and narcotics smuggling. Myanmar’s information minister recently reiterated his government’s readiness to crack down on Indian insurgent groups such as the ULFA (Assam), PLA (Manipur) and NSCN-K (Nagaland). India, in turn, has acted firmly against Myanmar insurgents entering its territory.

Myanmar has moved steadily in easing the rigours of military rule since the elections that swept President Thein Sein to power in 2011. The military still has a crucial role in national life, as negotiations are on to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire with 16 well-armed insurgent groups drawn from ethnic non-Burmese minorities. This is no easy task, but is a prelude to negotiations on the highly sensitive issue of federalism and provincial autonomy for ethnic minority areas.

After years of bonhomie during military rule, Myanmar’s relationship with its largest neighbour China is under strain. China’s Yunnan province borders the sensitive and insurgency-ridden Kachin and Shan states in Myanmar.
The China factor

China has helped significantly in building Myanmar’s infrastructure and equipping its military. India’s fears of Chinese bases in Myanmar were not borne out. But differences between China and Myanmar have grown recently, especially on large projects like the Myistone dam, which had to be junked, and a proposed railway line to connect Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal. There is growing opposition to Chinese projects in copper and nickel mining. The sentiment is that China has taken Myanmar for a ride regarding an oil pipeline linking Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal port of Kyaukphu.

There are concerns over Chinese involvement with insurgent groups such as the Kachin Independence Army and the United Wa Army. Despite this, border trade across the Yunnan-Myanmar border is booming, reaching $4.17 billion in 2013, against a mere $35 million border trade across the India-Myanmar border, though the “unofficial trade” (smuggling) across this border is estimated at around $300 million annually.

India’s former Ambassador to Myanmar VS Seshadri has authored a report spelling out how India has been tardy in building connectivity through Myanmar to Thailand and Vietnam and securing access for our landlocked north-eastern States to the Bay of Bengal. Our border trade regulations are formulated by mandarins in North Block and Udyog Bhavan who have no idea of the ground situation. They could learn a thing or two from China’s pragmatism — the manner in which it treats the markets with its neighbours not as foreign, but as extensions of its own markets. Opening up such trade will also enable our north-eastern States to meet their growing requirements of rice at very competitive rates.

Unless we learn to look at our neighbours the way China does, bearing in mind the inherent strengths of our economy, we can never match the economic influence of China on our borders in the North-East. The new minister for north-eastern affairs VK Singh has served at length in the North-East. It is hoped he will liberalise procedures and permit trade across borders with Myanmar in currencies traders mutually agree upon. Vehicles should move freely across the borders on roads through Myanmar, to Thailand and Vietnam.

Moreover, the “Kaladan multimodal corridor” linking our north-eastern States through the port of Sittwe in Myanmar will be useful only if Sittwe becomes the key port for India-Myanmar trade. India has done remarkably well in human resource development projects in Myanmar. It has played the lead role in the establishment of the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology, an advanced centre for agricultural research and education, an agricultural university and welcomed many Myanmar professionals for training in its medical and engineering institutions.
Tardy record

But we would be less than honest if we did not admit that in project and investment cooperation, our record has been tardy. After having secured exploration rights for gas in the Bay of Bengal, we conducted our project planning and diplomacy so clumsily that we did not have a strategy ready for taking the gas to India through a pipeline across Myanmar and our North-East, or for transporting it as LNG. China deftly stepped in and took away all this gas by expeditiously building a pipeline to Yunnan province.

In the mid 1990s, Myanmar offered us hydro-electric projects with a potential of over 1,000 MW across rivers near our borders. We took years to scrutinise these projects, which companies in South Korea earlier offered to construct. After nearly two decades we backed off. Our private companies too not been able to avail offers of land for plantations across Myanmar.

India was offered hundreds of acres of land for agriculture and for bamboo plantations for making paper pulp, close to its borders. Two private sector companies signed MoUs with Myanmar counterparts. But Myanmar officials found our private sector to be more bureaucratic than our government. India lost access to huge bamboo resources which went to a Thai company that clinched a deal in weeks — something our companies could not achieve for nearly two decades.

The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan
24 September 2014

YMA Members To Be Given Training On Disaster Management

YMA members to be given training on disaster management

Aizawl, Sep 24 :
Mizoram Disaster Management and Rehabilitation Minister C. Ngunlianchunga today said that members of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) in each village and locality would be imparted training on the issue.

Attending the passing out parade function of the 11th batch of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) at the headquarters of the fifth battalion of the India Reserve Police near Aizawl, Ngunlianchunga said that YMA members were the main disaster response volunteers before the formation of SDRF.

“The YMA members were the first response force whenever disaster struck in a village or in the urban area,” he said, adding that better and state-of-the-art rescue equipment would be provided for the SDRF and local YMA members.

Policemen belonging to the state armed police and IR battalions were selected for the SDRF training and were continually trained by the personnel of the first battalion NDRF from Guwahati.

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