Showing posts with label Meghalaya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meghalaya. Show all posts
04 November 2013

Meghalaya On Dengue Alert

Shillong, Nov 4
: Health authorities in Meghalaya Sunday sounded a dengue alert after 18 people from Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills, tested positive for the virus in about the last four days.

"We have sounded a dengue alert in the district after 18 people, who were down with flu-like symptoms for the past few days, tested positive for dengue," Pravin Bakshi, the district magistrate of West Garo Hills, told IANS.

Initially, the patients were admitted to the Tura civil hospital. They were later discharged, but are still under medication, the official said.

Bakshi said health officials have been issuing public notices to alert the people on the disease, while a team of medical officials from Shillong, Meghalaya state capital, rushed in to Tura to monitor the situation.

"A team of epidemiologists will also visit the district to study the pattern of the disease," Bakshi, who is also the chairman of the district health society, said.

Health officials will also undertake fogging in various localities to ensure that aedes mosquitoes, which are responsible for the outbreak of dengue, do not find breeding ground.

Bakshi said that he has directed hospital authorities across the state to provide adequate treatment and medicines to those suffering from the disease.

Dengue is a tropical disease. Common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and skin rash. There is no vaccine for dengue and the only way to reduce infections is to improve hygiene levels so as to prevent mosquito bites and stop mosquitoes from breeding.

It is particularly difficult to create a vaccine because the disease is caused by different viruses and there are no animal models available for testing.

The disease kills over 5,000 Indians every year, and remains a seasonal threat, particularly during the monsoon.
07 October 2013

The Child Miners of Meghalaya

Thousands of children risk their lives to work in "rat hole" mines in northeastern Indian state, earning $60 a week.

Rosanna Lyngdoh of NGO Impulse with 11-year-old coal miner, Lakpa Tamang [Karishma Vyas/ Al Jazeera]
Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya: Pemba Tamang slides on his bright red gumboots, fits a torch to his head and says a little prayer. "God, please bring me back out alive."
He walks out of his tarpaulin shack wielding a pickaxe and swaggers across monsoon green hills to a 15-meter-deep pit dug crudely into the earth.
He will spend the next seven hours here, crouched deep inside a "rat hole" less than a meter high digging for coal. "You have no control over your life here,” he says. "Because you never know when you’re going to die."
Death is not something most 17-year-olds think about, but it has lingered over Pemba ever since he was eight, when he first came to Jaintia Hills in India’s northeast to work in the coal pits.
His father had just died from tuberculosis. Still nursing a five-week-old baby, Pemba’s mother moved the family from their dirt-poor village in neighbouring Assam state to the lucrative mines of Meghalaya so she could earn money selling food to truck drivers and labourers.
But it was never going to be enough to feed her three growing boys, and soon Pemba and his older brother started working in the "rat holes", earning about $60 each a week to support their family.
Impulse, a local NGO fighting child labour in Meghalaya state, estimates there are around 70,000 children like Pemba who work in the mines, either digging for coal or loading thousands of trucks bound for the energy-hungry industrial sector across India and into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Illegally trafficked
Hasina Kharbhih, the founder of Impulse, says she’s discovered children as young as five working in Jaintia Hills.
The mines are so small and narrow that only someone the size of a child can squeeze inside to extract the coal.
Web Exclusive: Indian child miner tells his story
Most of the under-age workers have been illegally trafficked into the region from Nepal and Bangladesh by agents working for mine owners.
Desperate families are promised handsome salaries in exchange for their children’s work, but they often have no idea that they will end up living in dangerous, slave-like conditions in Meghalaya.
"Many of the families out there are still looking for their children," says Kharbhih. "They haven’t heard from them for the last two or three years."

Some of these families at least will never see their children again. A few years ago local newspapers reported the discovery of skeletons inside mine shafts. They are believed to be those of children who worked there, but there has been no inquiry or arrest.
Many of the families out there are still looking for their children
Hasina Kharbhih, founder of Impulse
"Children have been dying in these rat holes and the dead bodies are not actually being taken back because it’s not possible. There’s no way they can get them out. And they are not being reported because in the context of our state, they’re illegal migrants," says Kharbhih.
Pemba is terrified of suffering the same fate.
"I’ve seen four accidents," he says squatting on a pile of coal. "There was this one guy who would always sit there in the mine chewing betel nut. One day this enormous rock fell on him and crushed his head. We sent his body back to the village. He had a wife and two kids."
Pemba laughs out loud when asked about compensation for the man’s family. "The owners give money to the managers and the most the managers give in compensation is Rs5000 ($80) or Rs6000 ($96). This man lost his life. What can you do with this much money?" he says.
"I’ve seen guys break their legs and crack their heads open. I don’t want these accidents to happen to me because then I’ll be crippled."
Pitch dark and dangerous
But there’s little Pemba can do to protect himself. Armed with his red boots and a pickaxe, he disappears into a black cave that has been carved into the side of a mountain. He struggles to pull a large wooden crate as he walks crouching further into the mine.
Inside, it is frightening. The workers say they can almost feel the weight of the mountain above bearing down on their bodies. It’s damp, pitch dark and dangerous.
With only a small head torch to guide him, Pemba picks coal off the walls and fills his crate, all the while struggling to breath in the sulphur rich air. The ceiling touches his head even as he squats. The only thing holding it up is a strategically placed wooden log.
Children as young as five work in Jaintia Hills [Karishma Vyas/ Al Jazeera]
It is common for these "rat holes" to suddenly flood, or for parts of the mine to cave in altogether. Workers, including children, have been buried alive, or trapped without any hope of rescue.
Activists say these conditions are inhuman and inexcusable. Coal mining generates millions of dollars a year in Meghalaya and contributes up to 10 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.
Yet, there is no investment in the industry or in the workers, who labor without safety equipment, health cover or insurance.
Child rights advocates are demanding mine owners use modern, mechanical methods to dig for coal, so children would no longer be needed.
Despite requests for interviews with several state government representatives, including the ministers for social welfare and labour, no official was available to answer questions about the children working in Jaintia Hills.
Polluting state resources
However, Dolly Khonglah, a local coal exporter and the secretary of Meghalaya’s International Exporters Chamber of Commerce, struck a belligerent note.
She seemed furious that her industry was being criticised for polluting the state’s natural resources and for putting lives at risk.
"We have the stock of minerals that is God-gifted in our own private land," she said, surrounded by pro-mining protesters waving placards. "With this we are exporting to Bangladesh, we are fetching foreign exchange for the government of India, we are paying royalty. We are fetching revenue for the state government. We are providing employment to all the boys and girls."
Parents often have no idea that their children will end up living in dangerous, slave-like conditions [Karishma Vyas/ Al Jazeera]
But when asked about children working in coal mines, she denied any knowledge.
"Under limestone in Nongtalang elaka (village) there’s no child labour at all. You can quote me in any international news I don’t mind that," she insisted.
"We are not concerned with coal mining because we are dealing only with limestone."
Al Jazeera visited three out of the 5000 individual coal mines that operate across Jaintia Hills and met several child miners aged below 18 years.
The youngest was 11-year-old Lakpa Tamang from Nepal whose own father had died in a mine accident.

Pemba Tamang, who is not related to Lakpa, knows that children work in the coal pits because he’s one of them.
He had dreamt of a very different future, but his aspirations have been tempered by fate. Now, his only dream is to own a small piece of land that he can farm. Out in the open air, far above the mines.
"In my heart I still feel like going to school but what can I do?" he shrugs.
"I wanted to be a really good doctor, but fate didn’t let me do all this."
30 September 2013

Trip to Garo, Meghalaya's Lost Hills

(The lost hills of Meghalaya-…)

The Garo hills are part of the Garo-Khasi range in Meghalaya, India.

They are inhabited mainly by tribal dwellers, the majority of whom are Garo people. The range is part of the Meghalaya subtropical forests eco-region. Since Sohra (earlier name :- Cherrapunjee) and Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya lie in the West Khasi Hills region, as a result the bulk of tourism in Meghalaya is mainly concentrated within the Khasi Hills region. The Garo Hills, though occupying a substantial part of this undulating terrain, is predominantly lesser known and even lesser visited throughout the year.
People who reside in the Garo Hills are known as the Garos. Besides the Garo hills, there are Garo settlements in the plains of Assam and Bangladesh.

The Garos call themselves Achik-mande. In the Garo language Achik means Hills and mande, Man. So, Achik-mande means the Hills people.Garo Hills comprises 5 districts. Tura is the largest town with a population of about 70,000 located at the foothills of often cloud covered Tura peak. These places are rich reserves of natural flora and fauna.

A traditional Garo woman
Baghmara is the headquarters of South Garo Hills district in the state of Meghalaya in India. The place is bordered by Bangladesh and is about 113 km from Tura. A river known as Simsang flows through its expanse and is also covered in hills and tracts along the way.The river criss crosses the entire region and finally enters Bangladesh as Samleshwari. This region also houses the Balpakram National Park, famous for elephants and clouded leopards.

Baghmara Town, district of south Garo Hills
We hired a 4*4 Sumo from Sohra (Cherrapunjee) to Ranikhor, Ranikhor, lying close to the plains of Bangladesh, is a popular town In the Khasi district,. From Ranikhor, another 4*4 Mahindra Camper was provided by Samrakhshan Eco tours, one of the premier organizations dealing in community based eco tourism and conservations in Garo Hills. The journey was an absolute roller coaster ride with the border gates of both neighbouring countries providing a lot of thrill and wonder throughout. This part of the region is a porous border and if one zeroes into the google maps, there is a visible road through this area but the condition of the road is extremely pathetic due to the operation of large number of coal mining trucks.

River at Ranikhor
A better route is through Nonstoin to Baghmara from Shillong later joining NH62 which starts from Dudhnai and goes all the way to Tura through Williamnagar and Baghmara. The more regular and common route is from Guwahati to Baghmara through NH37 and later joining NH51 to Tura and further through NH62 to Baghmara.

How to get there
By Air
The nearest airport is Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is also known as Guw?h?ti International Airport and was formerly known as (Borjhar Airport).

Baghmara is about 345 KM from Guwahati International Airport.

Guwahati airport is a major hub for flights to North-East India and limited international destinations.
Shillong and Tura are connected by regular scheduled helicopter services run by Pawan Hans. Shillong (30 min), Tura (50 min), Naharlagun ( Itanagar), Tawang (75 min).

By rail
The nearest railway station is in Guwahati. Baghmara is 320 km from Guwahati Railway Station.
Guwahati is connected by train with major cities like Kolkata, New Delhi, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Mumbai.
I took the Saraighat Express which leaves Howrah at 3:50 PM and reaches Guwahati at 9:30 AM in the morning.

By road
There is only one overnight bus service available from Guwahati to Baghmara. However, there are regular overnight bus services available to Tura (Nearest town which is well connected to Baghmara). Buses start from ISBT, Guwahati at 8:30 PM and reach Tura at 4 AM and Baghmara at 9 AM respectively. A ticket to Tura will be around Rs 250 per head and to Baghmara, it will be Rs 320 per head.

From Tura, there are customary shared sumo services available for Baghmara. The distance from Tura to Baghmara is around 106 KM and the journey takes around 3 and a half hours. A single ticket costs Rs 150 and the shared sumo services are available from 6 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon.
Alternatively, there are shared taxi services available from Bharalumukh, Guwahati to Tura which depart at 6 AM and 2 PM. The drive is 6 hours long.

The best season to visit this region is during the monsoons i.e. July-September and also in the winters i.e. around November-December as this region remains pretty warm and sunny in the summers.

Where to stay
We stayed in Baghmara Tourist Guest House which is located at the high hillock of Baghmara town offers a bird's eye view of the region's landscape and Simsang River. The Baghmara Tourist Guest House has all the basic facilities for a comfortable stay.

Meghalaya is 'Least Developed' State: CM Sangma

Shillong, Sep 30 : Welcoming the Rajan panel report, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma admitted that Meghalaya is "least developed" state.

"Is it not true? If it is not true, then why are our boys and youths joining the militants?" asked Sangma to a query on the report at a news conference.

"We are far behind, and we need to catch up with the rest of the country. Forget about the world. If you are looking from a global perspective, India itself has to catch up with the rest of the world," he said.

The panel for "Evolving a Composite Development Index of States", headed by the then chief economic advisor Raghuram Govind Rajan, now the Reserve Bank of India governor, was set up by the central government amid demand by Bihar for "special category" status.

Based on the multi dimensional index scores, the 10 least developed states are Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Describing Rajan's panel as "true", Sangma said, "We have many things to do. A number of initiatives are on from the government. Meghalaya should be a destination for everything which would open up hundreds of new opportunities for our youths. That is what we are looking at."

"We are candid in saying that we are behind. We are much behind despite having the potentialities and the strength among the people. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to create an enabling environment so that at the end of the day, people will stand to gain."
23 September 2013

Meghalaya: Activists Call For 5 Night Road Blockade

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Sep 23
: The agitation for introduction of an Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Meghalaya, which will check the inflow of "outsiders", continued on Sunday as 10 pressure groups called for a five-night road blockade in the hill state starting Monday.

Pro-ILP groups have said they will "enforce" the blockade from 8 pm to 5 am for five days, while their members will picket government offices on September 26 and 27. The groups include student bodies like Khasi Students' Union and Garo Students' Union, and NGOs like Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People and Civil Society Women's Organization.

"We have decided to go ahead with our next phase of action in protest of the state's adamant attitude against the the high-level committee recommendation of implementing an Inner Line Permit system in Meghalaya," Eldie N Lyngdoh, joint spokesperson of the 10 groups said in Shillong on Sunday.

Last year, the high-level committee had recommended the introduction of the ILP but with changes. The committee had proposed an ILP that would ensure the participation of traditional institutions, NGOs and civil society, apart from making sure genuine residents of the state were not harassed.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma had turned down the recommendation in favour of a more 'comprehensive mechanism' that would, instead of the "archaic" ILP system, put in place a stringent tenancy law.

Meghalaya: A Disconcerting Disconnect

Pro-ILP activists believe implementation of ILP will protect and safeguard the interest of the indigenous population in Meghalaya. Photo: Ritu Raj KonwarBy Sayanti Chakraborty

The Hindu Pro-ILP activists believe implementation of ILP will protect and safeguard the interest of the indigenous population in Meghalaya. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
While the whole country is busy condemning racist tweets on Miss America, debating Tendulkar’s retirement and reacting to Mallika Sherawat’s birthday wish to Narendra Modi, a small state in the north-east of India is struck with continuous agitation.
Reason – ILP .
Meghalaya that is remembered mostly only in geography lessons is facing agitation for the past few weeks from 10 pressure groups including some frontal organisations of regional political parties and the Khasi Students’ Union.
These groups have been taking out rallies, picketing government offices, calling for bandhs and imposing night curfews on national highways across the state to push forward their demand for introducing Inner Line Permits (ILP).
ILP is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a restricted/protected area for a limited period of time. The document is an effort by the Government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international borders of India (according to Wikipedia).
Currently, the ILP is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
Situated in the north-eastern corridor of the country, Meghalaya is bound on its north by Assam and on its south, Bangladesh. To check the inflow of illegal migrants into the State, parties are in continuous demand for implementation of ILP. The huge, labour-intensive coal mining industry is one of the reasons for the inward flow of labourers from various parts of the country. Also, since the state shares borders with Bangladesh, the flow of illegal immigrants goes unnoticed. This influx has led to the unemployment of local labourers. Also, the people believe this influx is causing a demographic shift and threatening the tribal minorities of the state.
Introduction of ILP is to regulate the entry and temporary stay of outsiders in general and migrant labourers in particular.
The High Level Committee on Influx had submitted its report last year recommending the State Government for the implementation of ILP. But the Mukul Sangma government has refused to do so and is looking for other options to control the influx issue. Strengthening of Directorate of Infiltration, appointment of labour officers and a strong Tenancy Act are a few such options. Sangma is of the view that it will create negative perception about the state and hinder development.
Talks between the government and the pro-ILP activists have failed. Adamant NGOs have refused any assurance that these “other options” will help in tackling the matter.
Result – A week long holiday for government employees (picketing), loss of earnings for the daily wage earners and creating obstacle in travelling of people via the state.
12 September 2013

Betel Nut Bridges The Gap Between Rich And Poor in Meghalaya

By Pooja Bhula

Eating paan isn’t new to Indians and in cities such as Mumbai, you’re introduced to it by the graffiti of red spit stains left by many. In Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, Kwai (paan/betel leaf with lime paste and areca nut) is consumed by all--kids, men and women--and is available everywhere, be it paan shops, people’s houses orconferences.

But Meghalayans don’t leave behind any red trails and it also has a cultural significance. As per the folklore of Khasis, a major tribal community of Meghalaya, it acts as an equalizer between the rich and poor.

As the story goes, a rich man and poor man were childhood friends belonging to the same hills, but the latter moved to a distant village after marriage. Whenever the poor man visited his native place to meet family, the duo spent hours together and the rich man offered him sumptuous meals.

But villagers gossiped that the poor man was merely boasting about having a rich friend, compelling the poor man to invite him home. The rich man promptly agreed, but the poor couple ran out of food. Villagers didn’t spare a morsel and disappointed with nothing to offer, the poor couple killed themselves. That night a notorious thief entered their house and saw the dead bodies. Fearing that villagers would blame him, he too killed himself. Pained at the reason of his friend’s death, the rich man prayed for a way to keep customs alive without causing the poor to suffer.

Since then offering Kwai to visiting friends is a part of Khasi etiquette. The areca nut signifies the rich man; lime paste and betel leaf--the husband and wife, and the place between the lower lip and gum where Khasi women keep the tobacco is the thief’s hiding place.

With inputs from Bindo M Lanong and a book on Khasi folklore
10 September 2013

Inner Line Permit A Legacy of British Rule: Meghalaya CM

By Naresh Mitra

Guwahati, Sep 10 : Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma on Monday categorically said that the concept of inner line permit (ILP), which various organizations, including student bodies, are demanding in Meghalaya, has become "outdated" and has no relevance in the present-day context.

"It (ILP) is no longer an effective mechanism to check influx of illegal migrants. It is a concept that was initiated during the British rule and has outlived its efficacy. So, implementation of the ILP is not going to help anything," Sangma said on the sidelines of the North East CleanTech Summit here.

Sangma's Monday remark has sent a clear message to pressure groups that the Meghalaya government is determined not to budge from its stand against the ILP demand. Rather, the chief minister made it clear that his government is in favour of exploring other "effective" mechanisms for preventing illegal migrants settling in the state.

Though pressure groups in Meghalaya have been raising the ante for the implementation of the ILP system to check illegal migrants, the state government has been persistently maintaining its stand that it did not favour the mechanism.

As a tribal state where non-tribals cannot purchase land, Sangma reiterated that the government is working on a mechanism to integrate existing laws and customary authorities in the state to further check influx.

"We are also in favour of making the tenancy legislation stronger and making it functional in close coordination with the customary authorities in the state. Also, there is the National Population Register, which will help in determining and checking influx," Sangma said.

The ILP system, at present, is enforced in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. Along with Meghalaya, various organizations in Manipur too are demanding implementation of the ILP. Though Manipur is not a tribal state, activists demanding the ILP system argued that there are non-locals settling in the state and getting voter identity cards.

With northeastern states vying for investments from across the country and abroad, many corporate leaders are not so enthusiastic about the ILP system.

On Monday, Sangma inaugurated the summit, organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in association with Canada's department for foreign affairs, trade and development.

"My government is very eager to engage in tapping the renewal energy potential of the state. We are looking for partners in synergizing tapping of power with a green concept. We will ensure that this is done in a hassle-free manner," Sangma said.

Experts from Canada, corporate leaders, technology providers, scientists, senior government officials from the Centre and the northeast and stakeholders deliberated on ensuring energy security in the region through sustainable and eco-friendly technologies.

Courage on Crutches: Indian Kids To Speak at UN

Phynjoplang and Rida Khrim are best of friends. Brought up in an orphanage in Meghalaya, they share each other's dreams and vision. Born with speech and hearing impairment, Phynjoplang, 14, is very happy that Khrim, his interpreter and "best pal", is accompanying him to the UN to talk about inclusive education for both disabled and abled children.

When Phynjoplang stands in front of hundreds of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on Sep 24, Khrim, a 20-year-old tribal woman who also suffers from mild physical disability, will convey his ideas of making the world a better place to live in.

"There should not be any discrimination. I will demand inclusive education for all at the UN," Phynjoplang conveyed through Khrim in sign language to IANS.

The two friends will join nine other children for an exciting journey to New York where they will put forward their demands on behalf of India's millions of children for proper healthcare, safe drinking water, well-equipped schools and protection from abuse and neglect.

The 11 children will begin their 10-day journey to New York on Sep 17. Spearheaded by a child advocacy group 'Nine is Mine', these children are hopeful that their demands will be included in the agenda of the Millenium Development Goals of 2015.

"I am nervous and excited too. For the first time I will stand before the leaders of the world and demand a better future for children. It is a tremendous feeling," Phynjoplang added, as Khrim nodded in response.

"I demand better education for the diabled children. Why shouldn't they study with abled children? Why this discrimination?" Khrim asked.

Another participant, Poonam Kumari, 13, will raise her voice for ending child marriage based on her own struggles and experience.

"I ran away from my home two years back because my parents were planning to get me married. If I hadn't run away I would be living a miserable life just like my two sisters," Poonam Kumari, who is from Bihar said

Though only two children of the group can understand English, they are determined to make their voices heard from an international platform. For most of them this is the first visit abroad and that too to the UN.

Harita Kumari from Tamil Nadu can only speak in her native language, while Nayan Sarki from Kalimpong, a hill station in West Bengal, can only talk in Nepali. But both know what they have to say in front of the world audience.

While Harita wants equal rights for the girl child, Nayan is keen that India eradicates hunger.

Anees from Shillong in Meghalaya wants India to end child labour, especially for those working in the mines in Jaintia hills in the northeast.

"You should go and see the condition in which these kids live in the mines. Most of them are trafficked and forced into this kind of job which is very dangerous," Anees, 15, told IANS.

Similarly, for Surbhi and Risabh from Delhi, their demands are for equality and an adequate platform for the many deprived children.

For 14-year-old Swarna Laxmi, who is blind, it will be her second chance to speak at the UN this year.

"In March, I talked about violence against women and children. This time my voice is for equal opportunity for the children with disability," she said with pride reflecting in her voice.

As all of them are minors, Rekha Kumari, 20, has taken the responsibility to act as the convenor and look after the group members too.

Though she has an artificial leg and walks with the help of crutches, Rekha said she has nothing to complain about in life.

"My demand is simple. I want good healthcare for the underprivileged section of society. What I have gone through, others should not face the same," she said.

Rekha said she lost her leg after a doctor in a Delhi hospital injected her with wrong medicines when she was just two years old.

"My leg had to be amputated. I use an artificial leg, but need the support of crutches to move around," she said.

"We just want the world leaders to know how the underprivileged children live. We demand a better life, a life that gives us equal opportunity and privileges," she said.

(Shradha Chettri can be contacted at
30 August 2013

Meghalaya Eyes Strong Law To Check illegal Immigrants

Shillong, Aug 30 : Ruling out the re-introduction of a permit system for Indians seeking to enter Meghalaya, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma Thursday said the government will implement a strong law to check the influx of illegal immigrants.

"The government is equally concerned over the influx and we will tackle the issue by strengthening the existing laws and enforcement agencies," Sangma told reporters here after a meeting with 10 social organisations which demanded the re-introduction of the inner line permit (ILP) system.

He said that the government was in process of having a system, which was "more effective and comprehensive" rather than the ILP, which is also perceived as a piece of law that infringed upon the fundamental rights of the citizens.

The ILP is issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 by the state governments.

The chief minister claimed the tribal population had declined in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, where ILP was in force to curb the influx of outsiders in those states.

Underlining the need to implement the National Population Register Biometric Enrolment Plan in the state, Sangma said it will help a great deal to verify the credentials of the people.

"It is our shared objective to check influx and infiltration and we require further engagement and cooperation of NGOs, instead of hitting a stone-wall and taking a confrontational attitude," the chief minister said, while making clear that his government will not re-introduce the ILP in the state.

The 10 social organisations sought restrictions like the inner line permit - required by Indian citizens to enter Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram - saying that the influx situation in Meghalaya might go out of control given its proximity to Bangladesh and Assam.

Joe Marwein, the spokesman of the 10 organisations, said the implementation of the ILP would help protect the tribal population from being "annihilated" in their own land.
28 August 2013

Rise in Tourists in Meghalaya


Sohra in East Khasi Hills the main draw for foreigners, Indians

By Andrew W. Lyngdoh

Shillong, Aug 28 : Not for nothing do they call it the Scotland of the East. Meghalaya, the abode of clouds, was a popular draw for tourists, both domestic and foreign, last year.

The improvement in law and order scenario in Meghalaya, barring the Garo hills, was also responsible for the steady rise in tourist inflow to the state from 2007-2012.

According to statistics provided by the Meghalaya tourism department, the state received more than 6 lakh domestic and foreign tourists in 2012, with 6,80,254 domestic tourists and 5,313 foreign tourists setting foot in the state. Most of the domestic tourists were from Assam and West Bengal and a bulk of them came in April to escape from the heat in the plains.

However, the increase in the inflow of tourists in 2012 as compared to 2011 was marginal. Two years ago, the number of domestic tourists was recorded at 6,67,504 while the number of foreign tourists was 4,803. The same trend is being seen in the last five years where more domestic and foreign tourists came to visit the state. (See chart)

Though there are over 40 tourist spots officially identified across the state, East Khasi Hills district, in which Sohra (Cherrapunji) is located — once the wettest place on earth — still attracts the bulk of tourists, a government official said.

Overlooking the plains of Bangladesh, Sohra at 1,300m (4,290 feet) above sea level, offers a panoramic view of the hilly terrain, deep gorges and valleys and roaring waterfalls. Despite not having received the best of rainfall in recent times, “Brand Sohra” still carries weight among those who are in quest of the exotic amid the most ordinary locales.

Although there are miles to be covered, the tourism infrastructure is steadily developing with more home stays and guesthouses coming up in the state. Focus is also being given to rural tourism to enable guests to take pleasure in living in conjunction with different facets of nature. According to a government official, there are around 15 home stays and guesthouses in and around Sohra alone.

Recently, chief minister Mukul M. Sangma said the government has increased investment under the Tourism Mission and implemented several schemes, which include construction of tourist lodges, guesthouses, roadside amenities and restaurants to promote tourism.

The government is also promoting rural and village tourism to provide tourists with a personalised experience of the culture and lifestyle of the locals, Sangma said.

However, Meghalaya still has a long way to go to provide the best of comfort and service to tourists, though some of its facilities are world class.

The office of principal accountant general (Audit) of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is conducting a performance review on the impact of the Meghalaya government’s investment in promoting the tourism sector in the state. Responses, together with the findings emanating from the performance review, will seek to bring out a balance on the efficacy of the expenditure incurred by the state government out of the public purse to promote tourism.
27 August 2013

Daniel Syiem's 'Ka Tlang' presented at Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2013

An all organic collection from the talented Meghalaya based designer Daniel Syiem captured the audience with his awe-inspiring designs

Shillong, Aug 27 : Inspired by the lovely winter season in Shillong, the chill in the weather, the picturesque mountains, and the fashionable local people of Shillong, Daniel Syiem presented another remarkable collection at Lakme Fashion Week W/F 2013. 'Ka Tlang' when translated is 'Winter in Shillong' that rightfully describes the soul of the collection.

The label seamlessly blends traditional craft with western silhouettes retaining an ethnic touch while conforming to global trends.His signature style of simplicity, love of nature and a deep-rooted pride in tradition was apparent in his design conceptions.

This collection showcased his all-embracing fashion aesthetic and caught everybody's attention due to his unique use of checks, eclectic collars, sleeve detailing and innovative designs. Using natural hand-woven fabrics, this collection was all about interesting coats and jackets, trendy pleated skirts, beautiful and classy shift dresses, fitted short wraps and lots more. His focus on unique natural colour dyes like turmeric yellows, indigoes and blues set him apart and has almost become his trademark in today's fashion industry.

An overwhelmed Daniel says "This time I have used a thicker version of the versatile fabric, Ryndia called ThohRew Stem and a traditional check fabric called Tapmohkhlieh, which is indigenous to Meghalaya. My inspiration has always drawn from the deep rooted distinct cultural heritage of Meghalaya, and I'm thrilled to see that my contribution to the fashion domain has been widely accepted and acknowledged".

'KaTlang' has been designed with minimum use of fasteners, where meticulously detailed outfits have been made from a completely natural, chemical free fabric.The amazing jackets are stylishly lightweight yet extremely warm, perfect for chilly winters.

About Daniel:
Daniel Syiem knew that the fashion world was his destination when he realized his true vocation- fashion. Recently, he showcased in the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013 in the Emerging category. He received a tremendous response from the press, fellow designers as well as national and international buyers. In 2000, he won the North-East Best Designer Award and there has been no looking back since. He has presented various collections all over India and his repertoire of fashion shows is immense. He has a string of awards recognizing his unique international style and focus on promoting organic and ethnic material exclusive to the North-East region of India. His forte in Western Wear is apparent in the clean silhouettes, seamless fluidity and interesting drapes in his collection.
24 August 2013

World Class Football Stadia in Meghalaya Soon, Aug 24 : With the aim to tap the potential of youth in football - the most popular game in the state - the Meghalaya government has decided to prepare world class football stadia in the state.

"The government is planning to construct at least four international standard football stadia in the New Shillong Township (NST)," sports and youth affairs minister Zenith Sangma said.

Zenith added that proposed stadia would be constructed as per specifications of the Federation Internationale de Football Association.

"This will provide the much-needed boost to young talented footballers of the state. The government's objective is to promote the game as it will create avenues of employment for the youths," the minister said.

Admitting that the sports infrastructure in Meghalaya is inadequate, Zenith said the government was willing to construct sports infrastructure at NST at an estimated cost of Rs 70 crore, adding that the project was awaiting sanction of the Union ministry of sports and youth affairs. He added that the government proposed to construct artificial turfs at Mawlai, Jowai and in Ampati and two such turfs in Shillong.
23 August 2013

Controversy Raging Over Mukul’s ST Status

By Raju Das

Shillong, Aug 23 : For sometimes now there has been a raging controversy regarding Chief Minister Mukul Manda Sangma’s Scheduled Tribe (ST) status and the matter has reached the Meghalaya High Court.

Some associations, including the Garo Students’ Union (GSU) and the All North East Indigenous Garo Law Promoters’ Association (ANEIGLPA) have opposed Mukul Sangma’s ST status.

The controversy began when one Monindro Agitok Sangma challenged Mukul’s ST status way back in 2004 and filed a petition. In March 2010, the Shillong bench of Gauhati High Court disposed off the petition. Last week, the advisor of ANEIGLPA, Tennydard Marak again filed a petition.

The controversy is regarding Mukul’s mix parentage and the surname he adopted. The Garos are a matrilineal tribe and surnames therefore are inherited from the mother. The Chief Minister’s father is Binoy Bhusan Maji Marak from the Garo community. His mother was Roshanara Begum and embraced Christianity after her marriage.

After questions were raised how Mukul got the Sangma title when his mother’s surname was Begum and was a non-tribal, it was said that Roshanara Begum was adopted by one Rikmi Manda Sangma in 1960 as her daughter and so the title. A legal deed of adoption was also shown as proof.

However, the ANEIGLPA said that neither the adoption was done under the customary norms of the Garos, where both sides of the clan (mother-father) hold a meeting for the adoption, neither was the legal deed of adoption was done during Roshanara Begum’s lifetime.

“The affidavit of adoption of Roshanara Begum was done in 2008 after her death,” Tennydard Marak said today. He claimed that the Electoral Voter’s Identity Card showed Roshanara Begum going by her maiden name till her death in 2006. Based on these arguments some of these associations are staing that Mukul is not a Garo and also not a ST.
30 July 2013

Mawsynram in India- The Wettest Place On Earth

Mawsynram in India- the wettest place on earthMawsynram, Jul 30 : Deep in India's northeast, villagers use grass to sound-proof their huts from deafening rain, clouds are a familiar sight inside homes and a suitably rusted sign tells visitors they are in the "wettest place on earth".

Oddly enough, lifelong residents of Mawsynram, a small cluster of hamlets in Meghalaya state have little idea that their scenic home holds a Guinness record for the highest average annual rainfall of 11,873 millimetres (467 inches).

"Really, this is the wettest place in the world? I didn't know that," Bini Kynter, a great-grandmother who estimates she must be "nearly 100 years old" tells AFP.

"The rain used to frighten me when I was a young girl, it used to make our lives hell. Today people have it easy," she says, wrapping a green tartan shawl tightly around her shoulders.

Meteorologists say Mawsynram's location, close to Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal is the reason the tiny cluster receives so much rain.

"What happens is that whenever any moisture gathers over the Bay of Bengal, it causes precipitation over Mawsynram, leading to a heavy, long monsoon season," Sunit Das of the Indian Meteorological Department told AFP.

While annual monsoon rains lashed the national capital last week, causing traffic chaos and flooding at the international airport, such problems are mild for Mawsynram.

Just thirty years ago, Mawsynram had no paved roads, no running water and no electricity, making its six-month long monsoon an insufferable experience for its mostly impoverished residents.

Landslides still occur regularly, blocking the only paved road connecting the hillside hamlets. Rainwater still seeps into the mud huts occupied by some villagers. And, while most homes now have electricity, outages are commonplace.

Every winter the people of Mawsynram spend months preparing for the wet season ahead, anticipating nonstop rain and no sunshine for several days at a time.

They repair their battered roofs. They cut and hoard firewood -- a source of light and fuel for cooking. They buy and store foodgrains, since few will venture out to shop during the wettest months between May and July.

The women make rain covers known as "knups," using bamboo slivers, plastic sheets and broom grass to create a rain shield that resembles a turtle shell, meant to be worn on one's head while being large enough to keep rain off one's knees.

The labour-intensive process of weaving a knup - each one takes at least an hour to complete - occupies the women of the village right through the rainy season, when they are cooped up indoors for months at a time.

Bamboo and broom grass -- a delicate, fragrant, olive-coloured grass used to make Indian brooms -- are among the chief plants grown in this rocky, hilly region.

Broom grass is dipped in water, flattened using wooden blocks and finally dried on rooftops across Mawsynram. According to Prelian Pdah, a grandmother of nine, this makes the grass stronger and more likely to survive a downpour.

Pdah, 70, spends part of the winter and all of the monsoon season making bamboo baskets, brooms and knups which are bought by visiting businessmen who sell them around the state.

"I don't like the heavy rainfall, it's boring to stay indoors all day. It's annoying," she tells AFP.

Although few Mawsynram residents seemed to know or care about their record-holder status, the right to the Guinness title has been hotly disputed by a nearby town, Cherrapunji, which used to lay claim to that honour.

In sleepy Mawsynram, many find the record-setting monsoon downright depressing.

"There's no sun, so if you don't have electricity it's very dark indoors, even during the day," Moonstar Marbaniang, the pyjama-clad headman of Mawsynram says.

Those who have second homes elsewhere flee to escape the season. Others catch up on their sleep, according to Marbaniang, whose first name suggests one of the more striking legacies of colonial rule in India's northeast.

Historians say the past presence of British soldiers and missionaries in this region has seen many people name their children after random English words or famous historical figures, often with no knowledge of what they might mean.

State capital Shillong's former nickname as the "Scotland of the East" also goes some way to explain the popularity of tartan scarves and shawls, even in the most far-flung and underdeveloped villages of Meghalaya.

Somewhat fittingly for a state whose name means "the abode of the clouds" in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, it is not unusual for clouds to drift through people's homes in Mawsynram, leaving a wet film on their furniture.

The grass-covered roofs are meant to muffle the relentless drumming of the rain, but a heavy downpour will usually dislodge the grass to deafening effect.

"We have to talk a little louder to be heard during the monsoon!" 67-year-old Marbaniang tells AFP, his mischievous eyes sparkling.

When the monsoon finally ends, there are no parties to mark its exit. The rainy season simply gives way to the repair season, Marbaniang says.

"We don't hold any celebration or festival to mark the end of the rain. We just start drying our clothes outside," he says, flashing a toothless grin.

Despite enduring record amounts of rain, sanguine villagers say there is no other place they would rather live.

Marbaniang, whose children all live in Shillong, says: "I'll never leave, this is my home, I was born here, I will die here."

"Sure, it rains a lot, but we are used to it. We just wait it out."
24 July 2013

Meghalaya Governor drops 'His Excellency' Salutation Title

Shillong, Jul 24 : Meghalaya Governor Krishan Kant Paul has dropped the "His Excellency" honorific preceding his name for official purposes, a Raj Bhavan official said here on Tuesday.

"The Meghalaya governor has approved the discontinuance of the salutation 'His Excellency' while addressing him at functions within the state," Principal Secretary to the Governor M.S. Rao said. Rao, however, added that the salutation will not be dropped during the governor's interactions with foreign dignitaries.

Shortly after he was sworn in as the president in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee also decided to do away with titles like "His Excellency" and "Mahamahim".

Paul, a former commissioner of Delhi Police, took over as Meghalaya governor July 8.
09 July 2013

Paul Takes Over As Meghalaya Governor, Calls For Peace And Harmony

Shillong, Jul 9 : Former Delhi Police chief Krishan Kant Paul Monday took over as the new governor of Meghalaya.

He was administered the oath of office by Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice T. Meena Kumari at the Raj Bhavan here.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, members of his council of ministers, assembly Speaker Abu Taher Mondal and Leader of Opposition Donkupar Roy were among those who attended the ceremony.

Paul, 65, was the Delhi Police commissioner from February 2004 to July 2007 and became a member of the Union Public Service Commission July 26, 2007. He had also served in the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing.

An avid cricket lover, Paul is credited with having cracked the betting racket in which South African captain Hansie Cronje was indicted. The 1970 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer is also credited with nabbing serial killer and conman Charles Sobhraj.

Married to Omita Paul, who is currently secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee, Paul carries a wide ranging of experience of urban policing and internal security. He was involved in handling a mega event like the Asian Games in 1982 in New Delhi and the Non-Aligned Movement summit in New Delhi in 1983.

An MSc and PhD in chemistry from Panjab University, Paul joined the IPS in 1970 and was granted the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories) cadre, under which he was first posted at Andaman and Nicobar Islands and then served as the chief of Arunachal Pradesh Police.
05 July 2013

Students Group Asks Meghalaya Not To Ahead with Aadhaar

Shillong, Jul 5 : Citing influx as a major concern, a powerful students group in Meghalaya Thursday asked the government not to go ahead with the National Population Register (NPR) biometric enrolment, and the implementation of the Aadhaar scheme in the state.

The Khasi Students' Union (KSU) expressed the need to put on hold the proposed enrolment drive as the state first requires stronger mechanisms to check influx.

"Our demand from the state government is to stop this biometric enrollment and implementation of Aadhaar. Amidst our focus on the need to have strong mechanisms to check influx, this enrolment will defeat the purpose of checking the menace of influx in the state," said KSU supremo Daniel Khyriem.

He alleged that the NPR biometric enrolment or implementation of Aadhaar will only facilitate "outsiders" to strengthen their claim of being genuine residents of Meghalaya.

The NPR biometric enrolment will lead to the implementation of the Unique Identification number (UID) in the state. After the enrolment comes to a close, each individual will be provided with the UID number.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) aims to provide UID or Aadhaar, a 12-digit ID number, to all residents on a voluntary basis.

The NPR biometric enrolment in the state commenced on June 21 from Raj Bhavan where Governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary was the first in the state to have completed the process.

The biometric enrolment in the state is part of the second phase of data collection for NPR. The first phase of this national exercise was completed in 2010 along with the housing and house listing operations for the 2011 Census.
04 July 2013

Population Register Hits Road Block in Meghalaya

By Raju Das

Shillong, Jul 4 : The ambitious National Population Register (NPR) has hit a road block in Meghalaya with the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) today opposing the registration citing “unabated influx of outsiders in the State.”

The Centre is bringing the entire population of India under the NPR by creation of digital database having identity details of all the individuals along with photographs, finger biometrics and iris images of individuals. The enrollment is for all citizens of India who have attained the age of five and above.

The KSU met the Home Minister Roshan Warjri and demanded that the State Government should stall the ongoing NPR biometric enrollment as well as implementation of AADHAR in the State.

“Our demand to the State Government is to stop this biometric enrollment and implementation of AADHAR in the State. This enrolment has come at a time when the State is fighting influx,” KSU president Daniel Khyriem said after the meeting with the Home Minister.

The KSU leader argued that NPR biometric enrollment or implementation of AADHAR will only help outsiders to strengthen their claim of being residents of Meghalaya.

The NPR bio-metric enrollment of all residents of the State began on June 21 from Raj Bhavan with the first citizen of the State, Governor RS Mooshahary completing the enrollment process.

The biometric enrolment in the State is part of the second phase of data collection for NPR. The first phase of this national exercise has been completed successfully in the State in 2010 along with the Housing and House Listing Operations of 2011 Census.

Meanwhile, the KSU said that the Home Minister has assured the students’ delegation that she would inquire into the status of the ongoing enrollment process of NPR.
27 June 2013

Tension Prevails in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills

Shillong, Jun 27 : Tension prevails in Garo Hills in western Meghalaya following Sunday’s killings of eight migrant coal miners by unidentified assailants, an official said here Wednesday.

“The situation is still tense but under control in Garo Hills. We are keeping a close watch on the prevailing situation,” Commissioner of Divisions and in-charge of Garo Hills Peter W. Ingty told IANS.

The government has rushed in six companies of central paramilitary forces – four companies of Border Security Force and two companies of Central Reserve Paramilitary Force – to maintain law and order in Garo Hills region.

Prohibitory orders have been clamped under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), banning gathering of four or more people at one place in South and East Garo Hills. In West Garo Hills, the night curfew has been in place since Friday night.

Meanwhile, an official said that there is a panic among migrant workers, mainly from Assam, who fear fresh attacks on non-indigenous workers.

“At least 13,000 migrant workers have left Garo Hills and many more are leaving today (Wednesday) following the killings of the eight migrant coal miners from Assam,” Pravin Bakshi, district magistrate of West Garo Hills, said.

“Adequate security has been put in place to maintain law and order,” Bakshi added.

On Sunday night, eight migrant coal miners were killed and three others wounded at Garegittim and Nongalbibra areas in Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills district by a group of unidentified assailants.

The gruesome attack on the coal miners came after a mob turned violent while protesting an alleged bid to molest a mentally-challenged girl Friday night at Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills.