Showing posts with label Assam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Assam. Show all posts
07 August 2014

Assam State Bird 'Deo Hans' On Verge of Extinction

By Suresh Nandi

Guwahati, Aug 7 : The Assam state bird — white-winged wood duck, also known as ‘deo hans’, is facing an extinction threat due to human activities, habitat loss, hunting and sheer neglect by the government.

Ironically, the Assam Forest Department has not yet conducted any specific survey to get an estimate of the population of the endangered duck despite it being in the 2010 IUCN Red List category. As per estimates by naturalists and environmentalists, there are less than 400 to 450 white-winged ducks left in the state, mostly concentrated in the Nameri and Dihing Patkai besides Dibru Saikhowa forests. 

Noted naturalist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhary, who is also known as the ‘Birdman of Assam’, said that he had conducted a study in 1994 and had estimated that the population of the endangered bird in the state could be around 450. “Definitely, there is no chance of any rise in the population due to reasons like degradation of the habitats, egg-collecting, hunting, etc.  I feel there are less than 400 birds left,” Choudhury said.

An estimate by the Institute of Bird Population in 2012 said the bird’s population in Nameri is less than 200. Each pair needs around 250 acres of land to breed. It prefers inaccessible swampy areas and lives in secluded jungle pools, occasionally perching on trees during the day.  It breeds in hollows of mature trees during summer.

Wildlife activists say their habitats in Nameri-Balipara, Sonai-Rupai, Upper Dihing are fast depleting due to deforestation, encroachments and disturbance of riverine habitats, including loss of riparian forest corridors.  Besides, human activities  have also degraded their natural homes.

“The resultant small and fragmented population is vulnerable to extinction due to loss of generic variability, disturbance, hunting and collection of eggs and chicks for food or pets, ” according to a Birdlife International (2010) Species report.
29 July 2014

Now Assam Asks ONGC, Oil India for Higher Royalties


ONGC and the Gujarat government are embroiled in a legal battle following the latter’s demand for additional royalty. Reuters

ONGC and the Gujarat government are embroiled in a legal battle following the latter’s demand for additional royalty.
SummaryState-run hydrocarbon explorers ONGC and Oil India face the grim prospect of having to pay additional royalties to states.
State-run hydrocarbon explorers ONGC and Oil India face the grim prospect of having to pay additional royalties to states. Assam, taking a cue from Gujarat, has sought royalty on the pre-discount price of crude oil produced in the state, rather than the actual price the fuel is sold by the two firms, effective February 1.

ONGC and the Gujarat government are embroiled in a legal battle following the latter’s demand for additional royalty of R10,000 crore from the PSU for crude production in the state since 2003.

Gujarat’s rationale for the move is that royalty needed to be paid not on the subsidised price crude oil is sold by ONGC to oil marketing companies, but the pre-discount price.

Sources said Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to direct the oil PSUs to change the royalty payment mechanism, as demanded by Gujarat.

Thankfully for ONGC and OIL, the northeastern state hasn’t demanded that the new norm be applied from an earlier date. This is despite the fact that Assam had an estimated cumulative loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore since 2008-09 because of the current system of determining royalty.

The apex court had directed ONGC to start paying royalty to the Gujarat government on the pre-discount price from February this year, while the state’s demand for arrears since 2004-05 is yet to be decided on.

Sources added that Gogoi urged Modi to “advise the ministry of petroleum and natural gas to give appropriate instructions to ONGC and OIL to pay royalty, VAT and other state taxes to the government of Assam also at pre-discounted price of crude oil with effect from February 1 2014 as ordered by Supreme Court in case of Gujarat”.

This comes as a dampener for ONGC as its bottom line is expected to be impacted by more than Rs 2,000 crore (for Gujarat and Assam alone) every year (see chart). Gogoi has pointed out that ONGC and OIL are liable to pay royalty on crude oil at 20% of the well-head price, in addition to VAT at 5% and other state taxes.

Other states that could potentially follow suit include Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

I’m ready to Kermit to this relationship: Desperate villagers in Indian region hit by droughts hold wedding ceremony for frogs in bid to appease rain gods


  • The ritual took place in Dibrugarh in the north eastern Indian state of Assam
  • Villagers perform the ceremony to try and bring rainfall during dry spells
  • Ritual began by catching a male and a female frog from two different villages
  • The two frogs were dressed up and adorned with traditional colour
  • After ceremony the frogs were taken to a small pond nearby and let go
  • By Tara Brady

    Desperate villagers in an Indian region hit by droughts have held a wedding ceremony for
    frogs in a bid to appease rain gods. 

    The amphibian ritual took place in the village of Dibrugarh in the north eastern Indian state of Assam.
    Villagers perform the ceremony to try and bring rainfall during dry spells.
    Villagers perform a wedding ceremony between two frogs to pray for rain and good harvest
    Villagers perform a wedding ceremony between two frogs to pray for rain and good harvest

    Ranjan Das, one of village leaders who attended the wedding, said: 'Our region had not witnessed much rain this year so far. 
    'So we arranged the wedding of two frogs to please the rain Gods.' 
    The ritual began by catching hold of a male and a female frog from two different villages.
    'We have to make sure that the frogs have been brought from two different villages. Only then will the rain Gods accept our plea,' said Das. 
    Bizarre: Villagers who took part in a wedding ceremony of frogs in the village of Dibrugarh, India
    Bizarre: Villagers who took part in a wedding ceremony of frogs in the village of Dibrugarh, India

    Villagers said there had not been rain in the area this year so they arranged a wedding ceremony for frogs
    Villagers said there had not been rain in the area this year so they arranged a wedding ceremony for frogs

    Pukka up: The male frog during the wedding ceremony in India where there has not been any rain
    Pukka up: The male frog during the wedding ceremony in India where there has not been any rain

    The two frogs were dressed up and adorned with traditional colour. The female frog was even gifted a chain
    The two frogs were dressed up and adorned with traditional colour. The female frog was even gifted a chain

    'After that, we sit for the ritual and perform the wedding just like we do our own.'
    People from around four villages attended the bizarre marriage ceremony on Sunday, 27 June, which
    lasted six hours.

    Das said more than thousand people were present at the wedding, which was held in the local park.
    The two frogs were dressed up and adorned with traditional colour. The female frog was even gifted a
    gold chain by the villagers. 

    More than s thousand people were present at the wedding, which was held in the local park
    More than s thousand people were present at the wedding, which was held in the local park

    People from around four villages attended the bizarre marriage ceremony yesterday
    People from around four villages attended the bizarre marriage ceremony yesterday

    After the ceremony was over, the frogs were taken to a small pond nearby and let go

    After the ceremony was over, the frogs were taken to a small pond nearby and let go

    'Traditional prayers were recited by the saints who conducted the wedding. It was a joyful affair,' said attendee Paromita Gogoi.
    After the ceremony was over, the frogs were taken to a small pond nearby and let go.


    Villagers then proceeded to eat dinner, where more than 900 plates of food were served.
    'We let the frogs go, so that they can live their life and convey our message to the rain Gods,' added Gogoi

    'This ritual is performed as a last resort measure. And thanks to God, our wishes come true,' said Gogoi.
    It seems the prayers of the villagers were answered - it began raining across Dibrugarh this morning.
    03 July 2014

    450% Rise in Assam Cyber Crime

    By Pankaj Sarma



















    Guwahati, Jul 3 : There has been a phenomenal rise in the number of cyber crime cases registered in Assam, according to the latest figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau.

    The NCRB report, titled Crime in India, 2013, which was released on Monday, shows that the number of cyber crime cases in Assam registered under the provisions of Information and Technology Act, 2000, leapfrogged from 28 in 2012 to 154 in 2013, an increase of a whopping 450 per cent.
    In terms of percentage increase of cyber crime cases, Assam ranked second among the states in the country, only behind Uttarakhand.
    Of the 154 cases registered in the state last year, 111 cases were registered under Section 67 of IT Act, which relates to obscene publication/transmission in electronic form.
    The remaining cases were registered under Section 66 (1) of the IT Act, which pertains to hacking computer systems causing loss/damage to computer resource/utility.
    Two persons were arrested last year in connection with cyber crime cases in Assam.
    Both were in the age group of 18-30 years, the report said.
    Not a single case of cyber crime was registered in Mizoram and Nagaland in 2012 and 2013, the report said. Arunachal Pradesh witnessed a decline in cyber crime cases from 12 in 2012 to 10 in 2013. In Tripura, the number of cyber crime cases registered remained unchanged in 2012 and 2013 at 14.
    Assam additional director-general of police (CID) Mukesh Sahay said greater Internet penetration was one of the reasons for the increase in cyber crimes in the state.
    “With the rising popularity of social networking sites, there has also been an increase in the cases of defamation on those sites,” Sahay said.
    “We have received a number of cases related to defamation, threats and personal attacks made through social media,” he said.

    “There has also been a rise in cases of financial frauds in cyberspace, which has contributed to the increase in total number of cyber crime cases,” he added. Sahay said a majority of these financial frauds were online banking frauds and credit cards frauds.
    Last year, an official of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Ltd at Duliajan had lodged a police complaint after Rs 4 lakh was siphoned off by unidentified criminals from his bank account at SBI’s Dispur branch by hacking into his netbanking account.
    “While there has been an increase in cyber crime cases, we have also detected and solved many such cases,” Sahay said.
    On June 12, CID sleuths had arrested two youths — Jiaur Rahman, 25, and Illias Rahman, 23, — on charges of fraudulently withdrawing lakhs of rupees from bank accounts of different persons through Internet banking.
    “Some people also misuse the Internet and social media for rumour-mongering, which had led to thousands of people from the Northeast fleeing Bangalore in 2012,” he said.
    To deal with the menace, the state police have set up a cyber crime cell and a cyber forensic laboratory at the CID headquarters.
    “We provide regular training to police personnel from the districts on cyber crime investigation at the CID headquarters,” Sahay said.
    23 June 2014

    Assam opposes visa-free entry to Bangladeshis

    Gogoi says state is opposed to proposal irrespective of age

    Guwahati, Jun 23
    : The Assam government in far-east India has rejected a revised proposal by the Centre for relaxation of visa norms giving free entry to Bangladeshi citizens below 10 years and above 70 years into India.

    The earlier proposal sent to the state was whether visa-free entry should be given to Bangladeshi nationals below 18 years and above 65 years of age.

    Chief Minister of the state Tarun Gogoi on Saturday told a press conference here that the state government had received a communication on June 19 from the Ministry of External Affairs seeking its opinion about the proposal and a second revised proposal was sent after the first one was turned down.

    “We have rejected this proposal and informed the Centre accordingly. We are opposed to visa-free entry to any national from Bangladesh irrespective of age,” Gogoi said.

    “This is not visa-on-arrival. We do not have any issue on that as we already have such facility with many countries. The UPA government had proposed visa-on-arrival with Bangladesh, but the latest proposal from the NDA government is for visa-free entry to a select group of Bangladeshi nationals,” Gogoi said.

    The Centre, he said, had sent the proposals, which were aimed at improving relations with Bangladesh as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would make a three-day visit to Bangladesh from June 25, during which she would meet its top leadership and was likely to discuss issues such as relaxing visa norms.

    “This is completely a U-turn from the poll promise. BJP had said something else during the campaign and is now doing completely the opposite after coming to the power,” he said.

    “People voted for BJP which promised to control price rise, reduce corruption and deport Bangladeshi infiltrators. But we have not got any hint of ‘Achche Din’ (good days) yet,” Gogoi said.

    Speaking about the hike in rail fare and freight rates, Gogoi said “As Assam is highly dependent on supplies from outside, it will affect the state.”

    On use of Hindi in states, the Chief Minister said it should not be imposed and anyone should be free to use the language that they were comfortable with.
    17 June 2014

    AASU Demands White Paper on Bhutan Hydel Project

    Guwahati, Jun 17 : The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) today demanded a White Paper from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union Government on the Bhutanese hydel project for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone.

    In a statement here, the student body said that though it is for good neighbourly relations with Bhutan, it has to raise the demand for a White Paper on the Bhutanese hydel project, in view of the devastations caused by its Kurichu Hydel Project in 2004 and 2007 in five districts of the State namely – Baksa, Nalbari, Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon.

    Though power availability is an unavoidable condition for development, Assam’s crops, land, habitats, culture and civilisation should not be allowed to be affected.

    Reminding that the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime at the Centre and the present Congress-led Government in the State did not take any measure to protect the interests of the State when the floodwaters released from the Kurichu power project killed its people, devastated its crops, cultivable lands and dwelling houses, the student body said a White Paper on the above project has become imperative.

    The White Paper should make it clear as to what is the generating capacity of the said Bhutanese project, whether there was any study done on the cumulative downstream impacts of the project on Assam areas, whether measures to protect the interests of Assam from the adverse impacts of the project have been taken or not, said the student body.

    KMSS protest: The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has also opposed the move of the Union Government to help the Bhutanese Government to construct a 600-MW hydel project. The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have made a somersault on the issue of big dam projects with Prime Minister Modi laying the foundation stone of the above project and the Indian Government assuring Bhutan of funds to construct the project.
    09 June 2014

    Four Cops Suspended for Allegedly Abandoning Assam Top Cop During Encounter

    By Zoya Anna Thomas
    Four Cops Suspended for Allegedly Abandoning Assam Top Cop During Encounter
    Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju today joined a host of senior government officials and police officers in Assam to pay last respects to SP Nityanand Goswami.

    Guwahati. Jun 9 :  Four policemen were suspended today for allegedly abandoning a top cop during an encounter with militants in Assam.

    Nityanand Goswami, the Superintendent of Police of Assam's Hamren police district was killed in an encounter with militants in the Karbi Anglong district on Thursday. He was leading three police parties in an operation against Karbi People's Liberation Tigers (KPLT) in a remote forest area, when they came face to face with a large group of militants who opened fire on them.

    The police team retaliated and in the ensuing encounter, Mr Goswami and his personal security guard were killed.

    Mr Goswami's son demanded that a CBI inquiry be launched into the incident. "I demand CBI inquiry, I want to know what happened to my father," he said.

    Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today joined a host of senior government officials and police officers in Assam to pay last respects to Mr Goswami.

    Mr Rijiju said, "I have come here to give condolences to my senior officer and PSO who lost his life in such a tragic incident. I have come here on behalf of Rajnath Singh and the Central government."

    The KPLT was formed in 2011 to demand that an Autonomous Karbi State (AKS) be carved out of Assam.

    It is a breakaway anti-talks faction of the ethnic insurgent Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF).
    26 May 2014

    Winning Northeast Candidates Promise To Work For Development

    Guwahati, May 26 : Guwahati was in a celebratory mood after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to win seven of the fourteen parliamentary seats in Assam that were up for grabs in the recently held general elections.

    The Congress and the All India United Democratic Front managed to win three seats each, while an independent won one seat.

    A local going by the name of Biswojit said: "Food, clothing and housing are the three basic requirements that need to be taken care of. In Assam, if you see, outside Guwahati, there is a major problem of electricity. That should be solved. Floods and infiltration are major problems. The new government should look into all of this."

    In Manipur, the Congress won both the Lok Sabha seats of Inner Manipur and Outer Manipur. In Tripura, the ruling CPI-M won both Lok Sabha seats.

    Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: "I hope that the two candidates who will be representing our state in the parliament after winning here, will keep in mind the massive support given by the people of Tripura, and accordingly, will work towards fulfilling their duties."

    Meanwhile, in Arunachal Pradesh, both the Congress and the BJP managed to get a seat each in the two constituencies.

    The Congress also won 40 out of 60 seats in the assembly election.

    Nabam Tuki, who was sworn in as chief minister for a second consecutive term, and placed emphasis on working towards development of the state.

    "My priority has been given in my election manifesto where I have given priority to youth development, then social security, infrastructure development and communications," Tuki said.

    In Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland, the lone Lok Sabha seats were retained by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, the Congress and the Naga People's Front respectively.

    In Meghalaya, while the Congress retained the Shillong constituency, the Tura constituency went to the National People's Party.
    22 May 2014

    Congress split wide open in Assam; Tarun Gogoi likely to resign today

    By Prasanta Mazumdar

    Guwahati, May 22 : The impact of the drubbing that it received in the 2014 general election is showing on the Congress in Assam, which is heading towards a crisis. More than half of the party's MLAs in the state are seeking a change of leadership.

    The party, which has been ruling Assam since 2001, won just three of the 14 Parliamentary seats in the state, largely because of rebel within the ranks. The BJP, on the other hand, won seven seats. Post the election, the rebellion has reached new heights.

    "We (45 Congress MLAs of the 78 in the state) met to discuss the causes of our party's defeat in the polls and subsequently, resolved to send a letter to Sonia Gandhi to give her a picture of the situation and suggest corrective measures," the state's health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is allegedly leading the dissident camp, told journalists.

    The letter, dubbed as 'memorandum', was prepared after a signature campaign. The legislators had met over 'dinner' on Tuesday night to felicitate Sushmita Dev, the newly-elected party MP from Silchar.

    Sarma said they did not discuss the issue of leadership as chief minister Tarun Gogoi himself had offered to resign taking moral responsibility of the defeat.

    Gogoi is expected to meet Sonia on Thursday to tender his resignation. But Assam's rebel party legislators, which include at least four ministers, feel that the high command will not accept Gogoi's resignation, if indeed tendered, in view of the Congress' nationwide poll debacle. This is why they are using the signature campaign to mount pressure on Sonia to sack Gogoi.

    Meanwhile, ministers loyal to Gogoi, left for the national capital on Wednesday to thwart the rebels' designs. They insisted the ministers should resign en masse to allow Gogoi to form a new government.
    20 May 2014

    Dissidents Want Gogoi to Resign as Chief Minister of Assam

    By Manoj Anand

    Guwahati, May 20 : The problem of Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi may not be over merely by offering his resignation to the Congress president as the dissident camp, led by Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, wants him to vacate the chair for a new chief minister in Assam.

    Though, dissident leaders who claim to have the strength of nearly 50 out of 78 Congress legislators are tight-lipped, they gave enough hint about their action plan by motivating at least five Cabinet ministers to boycott the Cabinet meeting convened by the chief minister on Monday to formulate a strategy to observe completion of 13 years of the government led by him.

    When the Cabinet meeting was held three Cabinet ministers — Himanta Biswa Sarma, Gautam Roy and Sidiqui Ahmed — were closeted at the residence of veteran Congress MLA Sarat Barkatoky in the MLA hostel.

    The parliamentary secretaries in the Gogoi government and deputy-speaker Bhima Nanda Tanti were also present in the meeting. Two senior ministers, Ardhendu Dey and Ajit Singh, did not attend the Cabinet meeting.

    The leaders of the dissident camp emerging from the meeting, in their off-camera interaction with reporters said that they would insist on seeking a change of leadership as Mr Gogoi has lost the confidence of more than 50 legislators of the Congress.

    Asserting that party has also lost the confidence of voters, a minister emerging from the meeting said, “If some drastic step is not taken, Congress may have to see more pathetic result in 2016 assembly elections in the state.” The dissident leaders were of view that offering resignation was a planned move of Mr Gogoi to placate the growing dissidence as he was not willing to quit. “We are going to press for Congress Legislature Party meeting to elect leaders,” the dissident leaders who did not want to be quoted said.

    Earlier, Assam power minister Pradyut Bordoloi told reporters that cabinet meeting was convened to pass a resolution expressing our gratitude to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for their sincere contribution in development of Assam.

    He said, “The cabinet meeting has also decided to organize public meetings at district headquarters and state level to observe completion of 13 years of the Gogoi government.”

    Mr Bordoloi also rejected that there was any discussion on defeat of the party in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections. “We have already announced that collective leadership of the party which includes ministers as well has taken the responsibility for the defeat of the party,” said Mr Borodoi rejecting that there was any dissension against the leadership of Mr Gogoi
    16 May 2014

    Assam Court Denies Bail To Accused in 1000-cr NC Hills Funds Scam

    By Pranjal Baruah

    Guwahati, May 16 : Accused of swindling a thousand crore from the NC Hills Autonomous Council, R H Khan and Mohit Hojai, along with four associates, will have to spend some more time in prison with a special court here rejecting their bail petitions on Thursday. They have been in jail since 2009.

    Khan, then deputy director of the social welfare department, Hojai, then chief executive member of the NC Hills Autonomous Council and Ahshringdaw Warisa, the self-styled 'deputy commander-in-chief' of the now-disbanded militant outfit DHD (J), had been helped in executing the scam by three others. They had moved the lower court, pleading for an 'interim bail' earlier.

    They were among the 15 who had been named as 'prime accused' by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Rs-1000 crore money laundering scam. They had been accused of siphoning off huge amounts of government development funds to DHD (J) for procuring arms and ammunitions to wage a war against India.

    However, the lower court's order came as a shock for all six, as the NIA had given 'no objection certificates' (NOCs) to their interim bail pleas. The agency had also said it had no problem with the court granting them interim bail.

    "The court rejected their bail plea to help the ongoing probe into the matter. It has the right to reject a bail plea even after getting NOCs," said Ashim Talukdar, counsel for Warisa.

    Talukdar added the petitioners were considering moving the Gauhati high court.

    In 2011, the lower court had rejected similar bail pleas of DHD (J)'s 'chairman' Jewel Gorlosa and its 'commander-in-chief' Niranjan Hojai in the same case. However,, both men had later been granted interim bail by the high court on the condition that they would take part in a peace parley with the government. After the success of the peace talks, Garlosa disbanded his militant outfit in 2013.
    15 May 2014

    After ward boy confesses, Assam medical student is held for ‘killing’ woman doctor

    By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

    Dipmoni Saikia has been sent to police custody for 7 days. ( source:  PTI )
    Dipmoni Saikia has been sent to police custody for 7 days. ( source: PTI )

    Summary

    According to Dibrugarh SP Rana Bhuyan, ward boy claimed that Saikia had also sexually abused the victim.
    Guwahati, May 15 : Five days after a first-year post-graduate student of the Assam Medical College in Dibrugarh was found murdered in the duty room of the gynaecology department, the police on Wednesday arrested Dipmoni Saikia, a final-year PG student, for allegedly killing her with the help of a ward boy.

    “We have arrested Saikia on the basis of confessional statements made by Kiro Mech, the ward boy who was arrested within a few hours of the incident on Friday. We have booked him under Sections 302, 34 and 120(B) of the IPC, after which the CJM’s court sent him to seven days’ police custody,” Dibrugarh SP Rana Bhuyan told The Indian Express over the phone. The motive behind the crime, however, was yet to be ascertained, he said.

    According to Bhuyan, Mech claimed that Saikia had also sexually abused the victim. “She tried to resist and in the process scratched the ward boy’s face and bit his thumb,” he said. “Saikia, however, has claimed he is innocent and is being framed,” he said.

    Mech, a temporary ward boy, reportedly told the police that Saikia had assured him about a month back that he would get a permanent job if he helped him in “some work”. “When Mech asked him what work he would have to do, Saikia said he would tell him when the time came,” said Bhuyan.

    On April 24, Saikia reportedly asked Mech to help him kill the victim. Both Saikia and the victim were on night shift every Thursday. “On May 8, Saikia did not turn up for night shift. Mech said Saikia had already instructed him to ensure that the night duty nurse left early. Accordingly, Mech convinced the night duty nurse to leave soon after 5 am on May 9.

    Saikia then arrived, and the duo strangulated the victim while she was sleeping in the duty room,” said Bhuyan, quoting from the ward boy’s confessional statement to the police.

    “A patient’s attendant reportedly heard some shouts coming from the duty room, but she found the door locked from inside. The duo first strangulated the victim on the bed and then pulled her down to the floor, where Saikia reportedly stamped on her chest. The two then lifted her and placed her on the bed, after Saikia used a stethoscope to check that she had died. The ward boy said he then used a knife to slit her throat. Going by Mech’s statement, everything was over within a few minutes,” said the SP.

    The post-mortem report is yet to be submitted.

    The victim was set to marry another final-year student of the same medical college on July 9, said Bhuyan.
    21 March 2014

    Megadams: Battle on the Brahmaputra

    Brahmaputra river
    China and India have their eye on the energy potential of the vast Brahmaputra river. Will a new wave of "megadams" bring power to the people - or put millions at risk? Navin Singh Khadka reports from Assam, India.
    On the banks of the Brahmaputra it is hard to get a sense of where the river starts and ends. It begins far away as a Tibetan mountain stream. On the floodplains of Assam, though, its waters spread as far as the eye can see, merging with the horizon and the sky.

    From here it continues through north-eastern India into Bangladesh, where it joins with the Ganges to form a mighty river delta.

    For centuries the Brahmaputra has nourished the land, and fed and watered the people on its banks.
    Today, though, India and China's growing economies mean the river is increasingly seen as a source of energy. Both countries are planning major dams on long stretches of the river.

    INTERACTIVE
    map× map for mobile
    • Source of the Yarlung Zangbo

      × Source of Yarlung Zangbo
      The river, known as the Yarlung Zangbo in China and as the Brahmaputra in India, starts its 1,760 mile (2,840 km) journey beneath Mount Kailash, high in the Tibet region of the Himalayas.
    • Zangmu dam

       Zangmu dam
      China is constructing the Zangmu dam to provide hydro-electric power. The project began in 2009 and has caused concern downstream in India. Three other dams are planned nearby.
    • The Great Bend of the Yarlung Zangbo

        The Great Bend
      Before the Yarlung Zangbo leaves China to flow into the Arunachal Pradesh region of India and become the Brahmaputra, it makes a dramatic turn to the south, known as the Great Bend.
    • Assam tea gardens

        Assam tea gardens
      Many of Assam's tea gardens are irrigated by the Brahmaputra. They are vulnerable to flooding and erosion by river water.
    • Subansiri dam site

        Subansiri dam site
      India is also building dams on the river – many more than China. The Lower Subansiri Dam, on a tributary of the Brahmaputra, has been stalled by protests for several years.
    • Guwahati - city on the river

        Guwahati
      In Guwahati, Assam's biggest city, anti-China sentiment is growing and some say the river level has dropped in recent years.
    In Assam the plans are being greeted with scepticism and some fear.
    The fear is that dams upstream could give China great power over their lives. And many in Assam worry whether China has honourable intentions.
    Brahmaputra voices: What next for their river?
    Brahmaputra stories: The businessman, the activist, the expert and the official
    After a landslide in China in 2000, the river was blocked for several days, unknown to those downstream.
    When the water forced its way past the blockage Assam faced an oncoming torrent. There was no advance warning. There are concerns this could happen more frequently.
    Some also believe that China may divert water to its parched north - as it has done with other southern rivers.
    India's central government says China has given them assurances about the new Tibetan dams.
    "Our foreign ministry has checked with China and we have been told that the flow will not be affected, and we will make sure that the people's lives are not affected by the dams," Paban Singh Ghatowar, minister for the development of north-eastern India, told the BBC.

    Start Quote

    By engaging in a race to dam the Brahmaputra as quickly as possible, China and India will cause cumulative environmental impacts beyond the limits of the river's ecosystem”
    Peter Bosshard International Rivers Network

    Beijing says the dams it is building on the Tibetan stretch of the river will ease power shortages for people in that region.
    "All new projects will go through scientific planning and feasibility studies and the impact to both upstream and downstream will be fully considered," China's foreign ministry told the BBC.
    It said three new dams at Dagu, Jiacha, and Jeixu were small-scale projects: "They will not affect flood control or the ecological environment of downstream areas," the foreign ministry said.
    Despite the statements, there is no official water-sharing deal between India and China - just an agreement to share monsoon flood data.
    Experts and interest groups remain as sceptical as local residents.
    'Rivers unite us, but dams divide us," says Peter Bosshard, of the International Rivers Network.
    He criticises India for ignoring the rights of Bangladesh even as it deals with China's claim on the river.
    "By engaging in a race to dam the Brahmaputra as quickly as possible, China and India will cause cumulative environmental impacts beyond the limits of the river's ecosystem, and will threaten the livelihoods of more than 100 million people who depend on the river."
    It is hard to know where the truth lies. The dams are hidden from view, on remote valleys and in deep mountain gorges. It is there that the never-ending tension between politics, development and environment is now being played out.
    12 March 2014

    Meet Silchar's first family – one that has held office since 1952

    By Prasanta Mazumdar

    Elections are a mere formality for the Dev family in Assam's second largest town, Silchar.

    Barring five years in between, a member of the family has held an elected office — be it a municipal seat, an assembly or a Parliamentary seat — since 1952.

    The family's political journey started with Satindra Mohan Dev, a freedom fighter in India's independence struggle, who later served as a minister in the state. His son, Santosh Mohan Dev, followed suit.

    He contested nine Parliamentary elections, of which he won seven, for the Congress. In five of these, he represented Silchar in the Lok Sabha while in the other two, he represented Tripura, and in the process, secured a rare distinction of being elected from two states. Santosh lost on two occasions, in 1998 and in 2009.

    Santosh's wife Bithika Dev too has represented Silchar in the state legislative assembly from 2006-2011. It was only between 1971 and 1975 and for one year between 1998 and 1999 that no member of the Dev family held an elected office. For the 2014 general election, the Congress is fielding Santosh's daughter Sushmita, an MLA, from the Silchar seat.

    A lawyer, Sushmita is an alumnus of the Thames Valley University, London and Kings College, London University. She plunged into active politics in 2009 by successfully contesting the municipal elections and in 2011 contested in the assembly elections and became an MLA.

    "We have won most often because we have worked for the people and the area," said Sushmita. "We are not tainted and my father's public touch and grassroots connection is immense."
    Silchar resident Biswajit Gupta explained that the family is accessible, which adds to their winnability quotient. "They (Dev family) have often won because they are immensely popular. They can easily mingle with voters and are not snobbish."

    Bikash Dutta, a voter in Silchar, however, pointed out that Santosh Mohan Dev lost the 2009 elections because of the polarisation of the Muslim votes. "The Congress always had the edge here because of the division of Hindu votes (counting Adivasis who work in tea estates). The Hindu votes have often gone to both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party," said Dutta.

    "But the Muslims largely voted in favour of the Congress in Silchar until the emergence of the All India United Democratic Front."
    Muslims constitute 35 per cent of the voters in the Silchar constituency. In 2009, Santosh was up against AIUDF chief and perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal and the BJP's Kabindra

    Purkayastha, who won by a margin of 41,470 votes. However, Dev lost out to Ajmal, who polled a little over 200,000 votes to his 197,244.
    Wooing Muslims and consolidating the Hindu votes is not going to be an easy task for Sushmita, who faces a stiff challenge from AIUDF's BK Nath and Samata Party's AH Laskar, a former MLA. But she is optimistic about her prospect. "I have worked with integrity and made visible changes in my area," she said.
    04 March 2014

    Protests Against Arrest of Peasant Leader

    Guwahati, Mar 4 : Protests were staged in various parts of Assam today against the arrest of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) president Akhil Gogoi here in the wee hours yesterday.

    KMSS workers and supporters staged protests in different parts since yesterday against the arrest, blocking roads in some parts, mainly in eastern Assam and outskirts of Guwahati.

    They have also demanded unconditional release of Mr Gogoi and his four other associates who were arrested with him.

    The KMSS has also launched a movement for the release of their leaders from today.

    Mr Gogoi and his associates were arrested in a pre-dawn crack from various parts of Guwahati yesterday.

    They have been remanded in four days police custody by a local court, beginning yesterday.

    They have been arrested on charges of abetment to suicide and criminal conspiracy after Mr Gogoi, at a press conference on Saturday, said more KMSS workers were ready for self-immolation if they were not given land rights.

    A KMSS worker, Pranab Boro, had committed self-immolation in front of the state secretariat here on February 24 last against alleged deprivation of land rights to landless dwellers of Guwahati.
    28 February 2014

    Curfew in 25 Assam villages following clash

    GUWAHATI: Indefinite curfew was clamped on Thursday in 25 villages in Assam's Darrang district after 13 people were injured in a clash between two groups, officials said.

    Darrang deputy commissioner MS Manivannan said curfew was imposed in 25 villages to stop any deterioration of the situation.

    The curfew would be in force till further orders and till the situation improves, he added.

    A group of people attacked another group at Udmari village, after suspecting the second group to be of dacoits. A total of 13 people were injured in the incident, a district administration officer said.

    Five of the injured were taken to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital for treatment.

    Additional security has been deployed in and around the area, police said.

    The district administration has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.
    14 February 2014

    Assam becomes the first state to ban smokeless tobacco legally

    Guwahati, Feb 14 : The north-east state Assam has become the first state to legally ban consumption and sale of all forms of smokeless tobacco, including pan masala containing tobacco and nicotine.

    The Act comes into effect on Thursday. On Wednesday, state health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the legislative assembly that governor JB Patnaik had given assent to the Assam Health (Prohibition of manufacturing, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutkha, pan masala, etc, containing tobacco and/or nicotine) Bill, 2013, on Tuesday. "The notification will be issued on Wednesday, and the law will come into force from Thursday," Sarma said.

    The law will come into force from Thursday, said Assam health minister Though several states have imposed similar bans under the food safety regulation, Assam will be the first to impose the ban through legislature. The state government decided to take this step after considering the fact that smokeless tobacco accounts for 90% of oral cancers.

    The act also bans the manufacture, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution and sale of the substances. For violating the law, one shall be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. Consumption or possession of zarda, gutka and pan masala containing tobacco shall be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for each subsequent offence.

    Sale, manufacture and storage of pan masala and gutka containing tobacco and nicotine have been banned for a year with effect from March 8, 2013, under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011.

    "Our department can ban the sale of tobacco but the production aspect has to be handled by the agriculture department. We cannot ban production of tobacco. If any farmer produces such products, he has to sell them outside the state," Sarma added.

    29 January 2014

    Assam Wants A New Time Zone

    Assam's chief minister argues that time change will save energy and synchronise the eastern state with the rest of the country.
    Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi
    The chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi. Photograph: Biju Boro/AFP
    Every day residents of Assam, a state in north-east India, see the sun rise and set earlier than their compatriots because, in a country that stretches 3,000km from east to west, the clocks are all set at the same time. To correct this injustice Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, is demanding the creation of a new time zone. "We want offices to start one hour ahead, so that we increase our overall productivity and save on energy," he said.

    Technically speaking, it would make sense to create a second time zone. There are almost 28 degrees of longitude between the country's eastern and western extremities, whereas on average a time zone corresponds to 15 degrees. In 2006 India's planning commission recommended two time zones, explaining that it would provide for substantial energy savings. At peak hours electricity demand currently exceeds supply by 17%.

    But on two occasions, in 2002 and 2006, the federal government rejected proposals along these lines, for fear of chaos at the time border and rail accidents. The topic is politically sensitive in a country prone to separatist tension. Delhi is afraid a second time zone may distance north-eastern states. Indeed, it was on the grounds of national unity that India decided, shortly after independence, to abolish Mumbai and Kolkata time.

    Two researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, Dilip Ahuja and Debi Prasad Sengupta, advocate putting clocks back by half an hour all over India to satisfy the demands of north-eastern states and avoid chaos. In a study carried out in 2012 they calculated that with this arrangement India would save from 0.2% to 0.7% in energy, depending on the state.

    Daylight has other virtues too. Drawing on research done in Britain suggesting that crimes and accidents happen more at night, the two scientists emphasised the advantages of stopping work an hour earlier.

    But as the regional daily Assam Tribune pointed out this month, "a gain of half an hour for the eastern region may lead to loss of equal numbers of hours in the central and western regions".
    India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy says it will examine Gogoi's ideas. But with only four months before a general election, it seems unlikely the government will risk upsetting voters giving Assam more sunlight.

    This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde
    13 December 2013

    Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi orders probe into Assam killings

    Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi orders probe into Assam killingsGuwahati, Dec 13 :  Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday ordered an inquiry into an alleged staged shootout in Chirang district, where residents said police and army personnel killed two students claiming they were Bodo insurgents.

    Mr Gogoi asked state Additional Chief Secretary V.B. Pyarelal to carry out the inquiry and submit the report within 30 days.

    The incident took place early on Wednesday at Raijungbari village in Runikhata, about 200 km from Assam's main city Guwahati.

    Police and army personnel killed two youths and injured another. They said the two slain youths were cadres of the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) led by I.K. Songbijit.

    One AK-46 rifle, one grenade and 15 rounds of live ammunition were recovered from their possession. Police said the injured youth was a linkman of the outfit.

    Residents, however, said the three boys were from the same family and that they were innocent. The slain youths - Jiri Narzary and Pranjit Narzary - were students of Class 7 and 10 while the injured Nikedin Narzary is a student of Class 6 in a local school.

    Residents on Wednesday came out on the streets to protest the killings, attacked the Runikhata police station and also set fire to some motorcycles.

    This forced police to resort to a baton charge and fire blank rounds to disperse the crowd. The Chirang deputy commissioner also ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.
    04 December 2013

    'Brahmaputra Cruises' Among World Top 10 Adventurous Cruises

    Wildlife and wilderness are main features of cruises in Assam on vast Brahmaputra river. (AP)Wildlife and wilderness are main features of cruises in Assam on vast Brahmaputra river. (AP)

    Guwahati, Dec 4 : Wildlife and wilderness are main features of cruises in Assam on vast Brahmaputra river.

    'Brahmaputra Cruises' by Assam Bengal Navigation Company has been recognised by CNN International as one of the top 10 Most Adventurous Cruises in the World for 2013.

    The 'Brahmaputra Cruises (Jungle Book Tour/India)' has been ranked sixth among the cruises including the Amazon, the Antartica, the North Pole, Australia and Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Managing Director of Assam Bengal Navigation Company, Ashish Phookan, told PTI.

    Recalling that Assam Bengal Navigation Company, an Indo-British joint venture, had pioneered long-distance river cruising in India in 2003, he said the company completes ten years of cruising on Brahmaputra river on the 'ABN Charaidew' this year.

    The Company also has 'Bengal Cruises' with their second boat 'ABN Sukapha' operating on the Hoogli river since 2007 and on the Ganges since 2010, Phookan said, adding, their third boat 'ABN Rajmahal' will commence commercial operation on the Ganges from February next year.

    For this pioneering venture, the Assam Bengal Navigation, a sister concern of Jungle Travels India, was conferred the National Tourism Award by the Union Ministry of Tourism for 2004-2005, he said.
    'Brahmaputra Cruises' feature visits and attractions such as wildlife viewing, both by jeep and on elephant back, village walks, visits to tea gardens, exploring towns in cycle rickshaws, barbecues on deserted river islands, dance performances and visits to archaeological sites, pilgrimage centres and craft workshops, Phookan said.

    Wildlife and wilderness are the main features of the cruises in Assam on the vast Brahmaputra river. The river bed is often 20 or 30 km across - an empty world of sand spits and water with marvelous bird life and the occasional Gangetic Dolphin, he said.

    The cruises also give access to a number of National Parks, including rhino habitat Kaziranga in upper Assam and The Project Tiger Reserve, Manas on the Indo-Bhutan border, besides Orang National Park across Darrang and Sonitpur districts, Phookan said.

    "Between October and April, we offer a combination of 7-night, 10-night and 4-night cruises named after the Assam Despatch Service, the daily mail-cum-passenger service that once plied from Calcutta up the Brahmaputra to Dibrugarh in Assam," he said.

    The Cable News Network in its website describes the 'Jungle Book Tour, India,' as "While the cruise aboard the delightfully anachronistic 24-person Charaidew trundles along from Guwahati to Tezpur, you can sip local tea and enjoy mild Assamese curries onboard. A visit to the UNESCO-listed Kaziranga National Park, for elephant, rhino and (maybe) tiger spotting, is one of the diversions en route".

    "The Brahmaputra River begins in the glaciers of Tibet before winding through India and emptying, 2,900 kilometers later, into the Bay of Bengal", the website says.

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