Showing posts with label Mizoram. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mizoram. Show all posts
10 September 2015

Mizoram: Retired PWD engineer, secretary in dock for Rs 107 lakh Scam

According to an enquiry by the ACB, Liansanga benefited the most from the alleged scam and pocketed almost the entire amount of Rs 107 lakhs while Lianchungnunga is accused of pocketing a little over Rs 42,000.

Aizawl, Sep 10 :  Mizoram’s Anti-Corruption Bureau has registered criminal and corruption cases in a special anti-corruption court against two top PWD engineers and an accountant for allegedly embezzling Rs 107.67 lakhs from a road improvement project in the state’s northern region.

Liansanga (a retired engineer who was the Engineer-in-Chief of the PWD), Lianchungnunga (PHE and Minor Irrigation Secretary and former Chief Engineer of the PWD’s highways division) and Lalthanpuia, a PWD accountant, have been charged under four sections of the Indian Penal Code and three sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

These include criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and misappropriation.
If found guilty, the trio face up to seven years behind bars.

According to an enquiry by the ACB, Liansanga benefited the most from the alleged scam and pocketed almost the entire amount of Rs 107 lakhs while Lianchungnunga is accused of pocketing a little over Rs 42,000.

The accountant has been charged with fabricating documents, forging another official’s signature and cheating a colleague to help cover up the scam.

Liansanga has also been accused of abusing his position to allocate less than two-thirds of Rs 696 lakhs meant for various PWD projects by the state government, which received the money from the 12th Finance Commission.

The retired engineer is also accused of fabricating records to show 75 kms of a road from from Serkhan village in Mizoram’s Kolasib district to Bagha in south Assam’s Cachar district was re-surfaced while in reality only 19.3 kms was actually re-surfaced.

It was because of the condition of this road despite the improvement works that a complaint was submitted to the ACB by a student union leader named Vanlaltlana back in 2011. The complaint led to an investigation and subsequently resulted in the current cases for the trio.

Liansanga also faces a separate graft case in which he and 15 other government engineers are accused of having swindled more than Rs 900 lakhs while building two mini-hydel projects more than a decade and half ago. - See more at:
04 September 2015

Mizoram Farming Model Attracts Global Funding

Aizawl, Sep 4 : The Mizoram government's farming scheme that aims to support over 1,25,000 families in the state has attracted international funding and global agencies' support, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said.

"A tri-partite agreement was signed between Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Union agriculture ministry and the Mizoram government for technical co-operation for the flagship programme - the New Land Use Policy (NLUP)," Lal Thanhawla said in a meeting.

An official quoting the chief minister said that, under this agreement, $4,96,000 has been received from the FAO. "Under the NLUP, over 1,25,000 families would be given financial assistance and training for permanent settled farming instead of 'jhum' cultivation," Lal Thanhawla said Tribals in the northeastern states practice 'jhum' or slashand-burn cultivation.

This shifting form of farming usually involves cutting down of entire forests in the hills and allowing the slashed vegetation to dry on mountain slopes prior to burning. Rice is grown along with vegetables, maize, cotton and mustard, among others.

The CM said that a pact was recently signed between the Mizoram government and the Tata Trust wherein the latter would contribute Rs 18 crore for promoting livelihood activities to supplement the NLUP programme.
31 August 2015

Lifting The Liquor Ban in Mizoram: Will it Help The State?

By Ankush Saikia

Aizawl city by night.

The shop (below) is in a building in one of the crowded market areas of Aizawl with nothing to advertise it to the outside world. But a steady stream of people are entering it, clutching what looks like a booklet in their hands. Inside, a policeman keeps an eye as the merchandise is handed over to customers while four cashiers behind two counters write down details of the purchases in the booklets or liquor cards. A customer can buy six bottles of IMFL (750ml) and 10 bottles each of wine and beer every month for their "personal bonafide consumption". Visitors from outside the state can make purchases by producing their Inner Line Permit.
Liquor card holders queue up at a wine shop in Aizawl.

The state assembly passed the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition and Control Act (MLPCA) in 2014 and it came into force from 15 January 2015, replacing the earlier Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act (MLTPA). The first wine shop opened in Aizawl on 16 March 2015 and officials in the Excise & Narcotics Department (END) say they expect huge profits.
Mizoram shares its border with three states in the North East besides Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Three state-owned corporations have been chosen to operate retail outlets. There are private players too, but they face a challenge in finding a building owner willing to allow them to operate in the face of pressure from church bodies opposed to the lifting of prohibition. Picketing of wine shops by church volunteers has forced at least one private operator to shut shop. There are a total of 16 outlets all over the state, and the END has issued more than 52,000 liquor cards (at an annual fee of Rs 500).
A liquor card issued by the Excise and Narcotics Department.

Mizoram attained statehood on 20 February 1987 after the Mizo Accord was signed between the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the GoI in 1986. Pressure from civil society groups to control alcoholism led the government to enforce the MLTPA, 1995, from 20 February 1997, exactly a decade after Mizoram had become the 23rd state in the Indian Union. Amendments to the Act in 2007 and 2011 allowed fruits, especially grapes, to be turned into wine for sale by growers' societies.

All the while, IMFL and hooch continued to be available if you knew where to look, just like in Manipur and Nagaland where prohibition was in force as well. Rangvamual on the outskirts of Aizawl was one such area, with shanty houses populated by migrants from other parts of Mizoram and even Myanmar. Some houses sold hooch, as well as IMFL smuggled in from outside the state, and the trade continues. People still come down from Aizawl in the evenings to "RV", as it is commonly known, to buy hooch and IMFL.
Various brands of liquor being sold at a shop in Khawmawi village in Myanmar, just across the border from Zokhawthar in Mizoram.

In 2011, a Study Group on the MLTPA conducted a survey to find out whether total prohibition was helping the state, considering the easy availability of hooch and IMFL on the black market and the effect of the former on the health of drinkers. Hooch was increasingly being made from ethanol smuggled in from Myanmar. The survey concluded that a controlled environment for the distribution of liquor would work better. Hence limited opening hours (10am to 5pm), liquor cards with quotas, strict supervision from the END, and tighter implementation of laws. However, local newspapers have quoted ruling Congress party members as saying that if the lifting of prohibition doesn't work then they would recall the earlier Act, thus, in effect, hedging their bets.

According to END, between 1997 and 15 September 2014, 57 people died from the consumption of spurious liquor; a figure some say should be much higher. The survey also shows that there was a steep rise in cases of alcohol-related liver disease and psychiatric referrals for alcoholism during total prohibition. Opponents of the lifting of prohibition say it will lead to more money flowing out of Mizoram, while the local hooch sellers ensured that most of the money was kept in circulation within the state. So far, there hasn't been a marked decrease in the sale of hooch, probably because it is still cheaper than most legally-sold IMFL.

Zoramthanga, two-time ex-chief minister and the president of the MNF, says Mizo society is not yet ready for liquor to be sold openly. Vanlalruata, general secretary of the Central YMA (CYMA), makes the same point, adding that the government is not in a position to enforce strict controls on liquor sales. The enormously influential YMA or Young Mizo Association is a state-wide organisation of which every young Mizo is a member and remains one for life. 

According to Professor Margaret Zama of Mizoram University, in the pre-Christian times, zu or rice beer was an integral part of Mizo society and a part of rituals conducted by chieftains. As conversion picked up pace, adherents of the new faith marked out prohibition as a  way of curtailing consumption of zu and along with it the aura of the chieftain.

The Presbyterian Church, the largest denomination in Mizoram, is strongly opposed to the lifting of prohibition. Even if individual church members might support the government's stand, the powerful Church Synod is dead set against it. There are many though, like the school teachers from Aizawl, who say that people, especially the youth, need to have the freedom to make their own choices. "That's why some of our young people can't handle their freedom when they go outside the state, and end up making wrong decisions," he says.
Aizawl city.

Everything in the city of Aizawl revolves around community and the church. The shared Mizo tribal history also ensures there is a high degree of social cohesion. People do have their own opinions but see the wisdom in following a group course of action. However, there are some, especially among the youth, who feel otherwise and the issue of prohibition can be seen in terms of a tussle between individual choice and the diktat of the larger social group.

Porous Border
Nearly 200 km to the east of Aizawl, on a road that winds along the hillsides, lies the sleepy town of Champhai, headquarters of the district of the same name. Champhai shares a 404 km long unfenced border with Myanmar, with the ethnically-related Mizo-Chin people on either side allowed free access for 16 km into either country (but there are those from the Myanmar side who come in further, even up to Aizawl). During the "troubles", the period from 1966 until 1986, many Mizos went across to the Myanmar or Burma side. Thirty km from Champhai town is the scruffy border town of Zokhawthar. The END here has to oversee the district and the porous border with a total staff of about 45 people.
A beer bar on the Myanmar side overlooks the River Tiau that separates that country from India.

Mizoram, with its low population, hilly terrain, and peaceful conditions is, as an END official put it, "a smuggler's paradise". Over-the-counter cold medicines sold in India are smuggled across the border into Myanmar, where the tablets fetch two to three times their actual price. Ephedrine/pseudoephedrine (PE) is extracted from these tablets in makeshift laboratories to manufacture methamphetamine tablets. During the week I was in Mizoram, there were two seizures in Champhai district of heroin trafficked in from Myanmar.

There are reports of traffickers shifting operations to Champhai district from Manipur. An unfenced border and a similar ethnic composition on either side means that people smuggling across PE tablets in bulk or bringing in meth and heroin can be hard to detect. There is talk among people and among the END officials as well of individuals in Champhai who have overnight constructed large houses and bought vehicles. Poverty in the loosely administered Chin State region across the border and a lack of information sharing with Burmese government agencies compounds the problem. The Burmese Army is alleged to let drug smugglers operate in return for a cut. Most bulk seizures take place in Aizawl, where buyers from outside the state arrive to negotiate. An alternative drug route passes through Lunglei in southern Mizoram and into Bangladesh.
Champhai is a sleepy town 30km from the unfenced Indo-Myanmar border.

Mizoram with a population of only about 12 lakh has made the most of its limited resources. It has a high literacy rate (over 90 per cent), and a low crime rate. A club from the popular Mizoram Premier League has even made it to the I-League for the 2015-16 season. But, like Vanlalruata of the CYMA, there are many in Mizoram who fear that along with the lifting of prohibition, the trafficking of drugs from across the border if not checked could lead to new problems for this otherwise peaceful north eastern state.

Like other states in the north east, Mizoram is largely dependent on central government funds. This might lessen to some extent if the current oil exploration is successful;  the 60MW Tuirial hydro project is expected to be operational by 2017, thus saving the power-deficit state more money. However, this might also weaken the government's argument of lifting prohibition for the sake of increased revenue. And with assembly elections due in 2018, the state government could well reverse its current stand on prohibition in order to win the approval of influential church bodies.

Ankush Saikia is the author of Dead Meat, a crime novel set in Delhi.

Electoral Rolls of Mizo Refugees Caught in Repatriation Standoff

Agartala, Aug 31 : An 18-year-old logjam on the repatriation of a group of Mizo tribals from relief camps in Tripura has now thrown up a new challenge: whether or not their names should be included in the electoral rolls of their home state.

Around 31,300 Reang tribals, who locally call themselves "Bru", have lived in makeshift camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic violence.

"The special summary revision of electoral list of Mizoram being undertaken by the state election department would not cover those tribals living in relief camps in Tripura," state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Manisha Saxena told IANS.

"The state election department did not receive any instruction from the Election Commission to cover the tribal refugees in the special summary revision of the photo electoral rolls," she added.

Following the Election Commission's advice, almost all the states in the country are undertaking a special summary revision of photo electoral rolls with January 1, 2016, as qualifying date.

Earlier, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla and various political parties of the state had demanded that the Reang tribals, who had refused to return to Mizoram despite a series of attempts to repatriate them, should be excluded from the voters' list.

Refugee leader Bruno Msha said the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF), the lone organisation of the refugees, has taken up the matter with the Election Commission and urged the poll panel to conduct the special summary revision in seven relief camps as was done earlier.

"If the Reang refugees remained out of the revision process, it would be a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of genuine Indian citizens," Msha told IANS.

"The MBDPF urged the election commission not to fall into the conspiratorial move of the Mizoram state government which is depriving the non-Mizo tribals in numerous ways."

The Tripura election officials are saying that to conduct the summary revision of electoral rolls in the relief camps of northern Tripura is the duty of Mizoram.

"The special summary revision of photo electoral rolls would be done according to the existing voters' list prepared by the Mizoram election department," Tripura's additional chief electoral officer Debashish Modak told IANS.

After the central and Tripura governments' pressure, the Mizoram government had decided to take back the tribal refugees in a phased manner from June 8. Before that, the Mizoram government conducted an identification camp in each of the seven camps from June 2, but none turned up in the identification camp, the last phase of which would be ended this week.

Refugee leader Bruno Msha said that the Mizoram government's plan to rehabilitate the repatriated refugees is faulty, impractical and unilateral.

"We want a written agreement with the Mizoram government before the repatriation. The central government must be involved in the process," Msha, general secretary of the MBDPF, added.

"We have, on a number of occasions, told the central and Mizoram governments that the refugees are willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10-point demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met," he added.

In its six-page memorandum to central government, the MBDPF had accused the Mizoram government of discriminating against the tribals.

According to the Mizoram government's repatriation roadmap, the refugees willing to return to Mizoram will be rehabilitated in Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts. The Mizoram government has offered a Rs.85,000 rehabilitation package for each family along with free rations for one year.

The refugee leaders are demanding higher compensation. They have put forward a charter of demands that includes financial assistance of Rs 150,000 per family, free rations for every repatriated family for two years, cultivable land, a political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security, among others.

According to a union home ministry report, Rs.246 crore has been released to the Tripura government since 1997-98 for the maintenance of the refugees and around Rs.45 crore has been given to the Mizoram government since 2004-05 for disbursement to migrant families for their rehabilitation in Mizoram.
28 August 2015

Houses Swept Away, Graves Damaged By Rain and Landslide in Mizoram

Aizawl, Aug 29
: Heavy rains and landslides swept away three houses and damaged 70 graves in two cemeteries here, officials said today.

Three houses were swept away by heavy rains and landslides in the capital city of Mizoram, while four vehicles were damaged in landslides last night, District Disaster Management Authority officials said.

At least 50 graves were also damaged at the cemetery of Chaltlang locality, while 20 at the Ramhlun Vengthar cemetery, they said.

Heavy rainfall during the past one week caused severe damage in different parts of the state as many district headquarters, including south Mizoram's Lunglei, Saiha and Lawngtlai districts, central Mizoram's Serchhip district and Mizoram-Myanmar border Champhai district, remained cut-off from Aizawl due to massive landslides on the roads.

Over a hundred families had been rendered homeless as the river Khawthlangtuipui inundated several houses in south Mizoram's Lunglei district bordering Bangladesh in the past one week.

Wet rice cultivation (WRC) area belonging to around 250 families were also inundated by the floods which submerged the road between Tlabung and Borapansury village, the lifeline of eight villages along the Bangladesh border.

Villagers living along the Bangladesh border area were facing hardship as essential commodities could not be sent to the villages for more than a week, they said.

SC-monitored Bru Repatriation Ends one willing to return to Mizoram under MHA’s rehab offer.

No one from the more than 11,000 adults enlisted in Mizoram’s electoral rolls and their families who live in these camps has turned up.

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No one from the more than 11,000 adults enlisted in Mizoram’s electoral rolls and their families who live in these camps has turned up.  (file photo)

The Supreme Court-monitored repatriation of Bru tribals who fled Mizoram for Tripura in 1997 ended on Thursday as officials closed the verification counters at Hazacherra, the sixth and last relief camp.

No one from the more than 11,000 adults enlisted in Mizoram’s electoral rolls and their families who live in these camps has turned up to avail of the rehabilitation package offered by the Union Home Ministry (MHA).

The just-concluded repatriation process, which the government has said will be the last time efforts are made to bring back the displaced tribals from Tripura and resettle them in Mizoram, began on June 1.

In line with a roadmap drawn up by the state governments and the MHA (which was submitted to and approved by the SC), officials from Mizoram accompanied by those from Tripura set up verification counters in the six relief camps for several days each.

Anyone willing to return home to Mizoram were to turn up at these counters with necessary documents and officials would then verify if they are bona-fide residents of the state.

They would then be given transport assistance till the villages earmarked for their resettlement and given close to a lakh Rupees per family to help them re-establish their lives, land to build houses on and a year of free rations.

Except for two families who anyway changed their minds a day after they were verified, no one agreed to return under these conditions, in line with the demands of the main body representing the displaced population: the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum has said it wants a bigger rehabilitation package than the one on offer, and that they should be resettled in a cluster of habitations under armed security.

Although the attempt to carry out the repatriation process was largely peaceful in the camps, Tripura Police arrested a security officer accompanying Mizoram officials at Kanchanpur town, near where the camps are located, after a minor road accident resulted in a crowd encircling the team of officials. Several officials were also detained following the incident.
27 August 2015

Several Houses Swept Away in Mudslide in the Mizoram Town of Phullen

Consistent rainfall over the past few weeks have caused landslides throughout Mizoram

Aizawl, Aug 27 : At least three houses have been swept away by a mudslide and several others vacated in a north-eastern Mizoram town, an official said Wednesday, the latest in several weather-related incidents that have damaged property and caused hardship in the remote state over the past one week.

Block Development Officer Zorammuana Khiangte said about 50 feet of the town’s main road has also sunk almost a metre and cut off Phullen from the rest of the state following heavy rains over the past two or three days. Fortunately, no casualties have been reported in the town, about 120 kms from state capital Aizawl.

Consistent rainfall over the past few weeks have caused landslides throughout the state, temporarily blocking roads and highways and occassionally leading to mudslides that have buried residences.

A few casualties have been reported, including a driver in his 20s who later died in a hospital after the vehicle he was driving was buried by a landslide near Sailam village, about 75 kms south of Aizawl, this past weekend.

In eastern Mizoram, a Bailey bridge between Khawzawl town and Neihdawn village was damaged by strong currents of the Tuimuk stream on Monday night, cutting off several villages in the vicinity.
24 August 2015

Mizoram CM Pins Hope On PM Narendra Modi To Retain Special Category Status

Kolkata, Aug 24 : Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla has expressed hope that the Narendra Modi government will retain the 'special states category status' as well as financial grant on '90:10 formula' to eight north-eastern states.

The eight north-eastern states have submitted a joint memorandum to Prime Minister Modi seeking his intervention in the matter, Lal Thanhawla said on the sidelines of a programme here last evening.

"During our last meeting, eight chief ministers of the north-east had sent a joint memorandum to the Prime Minister and he is looking into it. We have asked for a joint appointment with the Prime Minister," Thanhawla said.

The Mizoram Chief Minister was in the city to deliver the inaugural 'Carey Lecture' organised by the Bible Society of India to mark the 254th birth anniversary of the Reverend William Carey.

"Even though they (Centre) have not made any commitment or given any indication but something is in the air that they may restore the special states category status to the eight north-eastern states and also restore the financial grant on 90:10 formula for the north-eastern states instead of 50:50 proposal," Lal Thanhawla said.

"The finance minister ( Arun Jaitley) had made some remarks favouring this and we are waiting with great expectation," he added.

According to the Mizoram Chief Minister the Centre should handle the matter "sympathetically" as the removal of the "special category status" from the eight north-eastern states would not help them but would leave them in lurch.

"In the process (removal of special states category status), they (the states) will be losing variety of developmental projects and infrastructure grants and all that. So they (the Centre) have to look into it and consider it sympathetically," Lal Thanhawla stressed.

The 14th Finance Commission had recommended to raise the transfer of taxes to states from 32 per cent to 42 per cent, and withdrawal of special states category status.

In 1969, National Development Council had first accorded the special category state status to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland. Eight more states -- Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand - were added to the list in 2010.

Until 2014-15, the special category status meant these 11 states received a variety of benefits and sops.

The major contention of the north-east states is that due to geographical reasons they suffer from economic-infrastructural deficiency which makes it difficult for them to earmark even their share of funds to meet the expenses of central schemes.

Talking about his brother and minister Lal Thanzara's resignation as the state Information and Communication Technology Minister, Lal Thanhawla said, "He (Thanzara) is holding highest moral values. Even though he is my brother I am all in praise for him."

Comparing the developments leading to Thanzara's resignation with the Lalit Modi issue implicating foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the Vyapam scam, Thanhawla said, "Because of (issues related to) Sushma Swaraj, Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Parliament could not function throughout the (monsoon) session and the Prime Minister has not spoken a single word about this.

"But for this minister (Thanzara) there is mere allegation. To enable those who made the allegations in case they called for an enquiry against him and to give them a free hand he resigned... This kind of high moral responsibility was never seen before in Indian politics," he said.

Thanzara resigned last week from both the state Assembly and the Council of Ministers in the wake of reports of him holding 4,76,000 shares in a construction firm which bagged contracts worth crores in the state.

Opposition Mizo National Front leaders accused Thanzara, who held shares in the company, of ensuring it was given undue favours when applying for contracts by the state public works department.
20 August 2015

Mizoram Govt Hikes Taxes On Tobacco Products by 10%

Aizawl, Aug 20 : The Mizoram government today approved a proposal of the state taxation department to increase the rate of tax on tobacco products from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, an official statement said.

The hike was meant to work as a deterrent for smokers and users of other tobacco products, it said.

A meeting of the state cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla decided to regularise a number of teachers working in the Higher Secondary Schools, the statement said adding the number of teachers to be regularised was yet to be determined.

The cabinet also approved the draft Mizoram Right to Public Service Rules, 2015 to be laid in the next session of the state legislature.
18 August 2015

Notice to Mizoram Government Over Student's Killing

Aizawl, Aug 18 : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked Mizoram to submit a report within four weeks on the reported killing of a student in police firing, an official said here on Monday.

"The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the student killing in police firing in Mizoram on August 4. The commission has asked the state Chief Secretary and state police chief to submit a detailed report within four weeks on the issue," a home department official said.

He said: "The NHRC has observed that the incident raises questions regarding violation of human rights of the young student victim."

According to media reports, over 300 protesters had gathered in front of Chawngte police station in southern Mizoram on August 4 to protest over alleged unfair recruitment of 100 employees in Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC).

In order to control the mob, police had to open fire, that resulted in the death of Agosh Chakma, 20, on the spot and injured 15 others.

The members of Mizoram Chakma Students Union had organised the protest demonstration.

After the death of the student, the agitating crowd ransacked and damaged many houses belonging to top politicians, including chief executive member of CADC Buddha Lal Chakma, executive members and elected members of the autonomous body.

The CADC later provided Rs 10 lakh as an ex-gratia to the family of the student and conducting a fresh recruitment process.
17 August 2015

Mizoram Will Do Everything To Ensure Peace: CM

Aizawl, Aug 17 : Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla assured the people of the state that the government would leave no stone unturned in maintaining peace and tranquility.

In his Independence Day speech after unfurling the national flag at the Assam Rifles ground in Aizawl, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said that flagship programme New Land Use Policy (NLUP) has made impressive progress and was well on the tract to realise the set goals of achieving development in the state.

Lalthanhawla He said that 90,139 people have so far been benefitted under the NLUP and assistance for another 44,861 people would be started soon.

The chief minister said that the atmosphere of peace in the state was disrupted on March 28 when the convoy of the Assembly Committee on Government Assurances members was ambushed by insurgents on the outskirts of Manipur border Zokhawthiang hamlet where three policemen were killed and five others injured.

"Counter operation was launched by the Mizoram Police and in the ensuing operation self-styled Sergeant Malsawmkima of the HPC (D), a police deserted, was killed near theManipur border on May eight," he said.

For Love and Honour

By Roshni Nair

Anand Ranganathan pens a love story, but it is his portrayal of the Mizo insurgency that wrenches at the heart, says Roshni Nair
: For Love and Honour
Author: Anand Ranganathan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 361
Rs: 350

March 5, 1966 is perhaps the least known of many dates of infamy associated with Indira Gandhi. Less than two months into her prime ministership, the 'Iron Lady of India' ordered the only airstrike by India on her own citizens. The target: Aizawl and surrounding villages in (then) Assam's Lushai Hills district. But Delhi denied sanctioning such strikes. Since there was an information blackout, no official records exist of the scale of destruction.

India was oblivious to what transpired in present-day Mizoram. In many ways, it still is.
In 1959, Lushai Hills' bamboo forests were affected by Mautam or bamboo death, which surfaced when trees would flower every 40-50 years and invariably attract hordes of black rats. Crops and stored grains were destroyed, and lives and livelihoods claimed by a devastating famine. But the Assam government, headed by Bimala Prasad Chaliha, failed to provide relief. Mautam, coupled with growing schisms between the Assamese state and Mizo people, birthed the Mizo National Front (MNF). With its demands for independent statehood, MNF led the Mizo insurgency from 1966-1986.
This is the context of For Love and Honour, Anand Ranganathan's second book after The Land of the Wilted Rose. The story kicks off with a gripping counter-insurgency operation in Mizoram's jungles, just moments after India lifts the 1983 cricket World Cup. Captain Akhil Mehra, who loses his right arm, leaves the army a hero and becomes security manager in Carlington's, a lush tea estate in Haflong, Assam. Mehra is eager to start anew.

But life on the estate, with owner Rai Bahadur Sen, his caretaker-assistant Chawngthu Norden and daughters Indrani and Ipsita reins him in a conflict of another kind.

For Love and Honour is a love story at heart. But – and this is a tiny 'but' – it puts itself at risk with a parallel track. Running adjacent to Captain Mehra's arc is that of his senior, Major Rahul Schimer – by far the most interesting character in the book. The 'danger' – if one can call it that – of parallel arcs, especially with protagonists as contrasting as Mehra and Schimer, is that it's easier to disconnect from the character one doesn't identify with much.

In this case, Captain Mehra. From the first chapter itself, his misplaced bravado and the repercussions it reaps makes him unlikeable. It's difficult to empathise with him despite his problems at the tea estate (which end up making Mehra look like even more of a man-child).

But in the Carlington estate, Ranganathan has created an atmosphere of disturbing calm so reminiscent of Indian tea plantations. Due to this and the racy plot, there's not a dull moment in the book. The character of note in this storyline is Chawngthu Norden, who, behind his genteel and sometimes-brusque exterior, cocoons tremendous fortitude – and pathos.

In his Acknowledgements, Ranganathan gives a hat-tip to Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig. The book, he writes, 'started off as a challenge to transplant Stefan Zweig's Alpine Edith over to the hilly climes of the Northeast'. While Zweig's Beware of Pity may have inspired the love story in For Love and Honour, it's the portrayal of the Mizo insurgency that wrenches at the heart.

Through the eyes of Schimer and Norden, one understands why scrawls like 'Indian Army Go Home' were outpourings of immense grief and anger, not unfounded hostility. One rejoices when Schimer tries to right the wrong he committed. Characters like Rualfela Khyangte and little Chiku reflect the magnanimity of the Mizos who lost their families and survived on near-nothing, yet gave themselves something to look forward to.

The insurgency ended when Mizoram became India's 23rd state. But India is yet to express regret for the indiscriminate air strikes of 1966, and the subsequent displacement of the Mizo people into monitored settlements.

In 2007, former prime minister Manmohan Singh apologised for Operation Bluestar.

Mizoram still waits.
13 August 2015

Army officer transferred following Mizoram Guv intervention

Aizawl, Aug 13 : An army officer posted at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJW) at Vairengte has been transferred following the intervention of the Mizoram governor for allegedly misbehaving with the local people.

An official statement here said that the transfer order came after Mizoram Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) Nirbhay Sharma spoke to CIJW School Commanding officer Maj. Gen. Vivek Sehgal regarding complaints from the people of Vairengte, which lies on the Mizoram-Assam border.

The army officer, Col R Singh, was transferred to Guwahati yesterday, it said.

The Young Mizo Association (YMA) of Vairengte town had submitted a memorandum to Sharma seeking his intervention for the immediate transfer of the said officer.

In the memorandum, IMA alleged that Col Singh often organised football matches near the Vairengte local church during church services.

"The colonel, carrying pistol and other weapons like sword or knife, used to terrorise people in the streets of Vairengte and even abused women," YMA had alleged, adding that "in an inebriated state, (he) also used to drive his motorcycle noisily and dangerously".

Local community leaders in Vairengte had submitted an FIR against Col Singh on July 4 and again on August 5 while criminal cases have been registered against the officer at Vairengte police station.

The governor, meanwhile, expressed hope that the people of Vairengte and staff and personnel at the CIJW School would continue to live in harmony as they have done all these years.

Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee sends relief to Mizos of Myanmar

Aizawl, Aug 13
:  In a noble move, The Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) today sent relief services to the Mizo flood victims in Myanmar.

The relief materials included 400 bags of rice, 20 quintals of Dal, 40 tins of edible oil, two quintals of soya product and medicines total worth of Rs 8.20 lakh, a press statement issued by the MPCC said.

Two trucks were sent to Zokhawthar and Farkawn villages in Champhai district, the statement said, adding that the materials sent to Zokhawthar would be delivered at Tahan (Myanmar) and the materials sent to Farkawn would be delivered at Haka village (Myanmar).

The materials would be taken over by the Mizos at the Myanmar border, the statement said.

The central committee of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) had already sent 200 bags of rice to the flood victims in Myanmar last week.
11 August 2015

Mizoram Charity Concerts for Myanmar Flood Victims

The Zofa Global Network and the Green Mizoram Network organized mobile charity concerts for flood victims called “In Aid of Disaster Victims in Myanmar” on 6 and 7 August in Aizawl, Mizoram State, North East India.

Mizoram State's largest community-based organisation donated 10 tons of rice while local musicians held mobile charity concerts in five public squares in Aizawl, the state capital.

On 6 August, the mobile charity concerts were held at the Bawngkawn, Chanmari, New Market and the Millennium Centre in Aizawl.

On 7 August, the concerts were held at Thakthing Bazar (Mizzion Veng), Khatla Kawn, Vaivakawn and Israel Point in Aizawl.

Performing were the top Mizo singers Rosangliana (Zo Rock), Sawmtea, Manuna Chawngthu, Ronald Zothantluanga, Zualboihi, Sangkimi Khiangte, Lawmi Khiangte, Feli Fanai and Rosy Zorinpuii.

The Presbyterian Church also asked all churches in Aizawl to contribute towards the aid effort and asked those in towns and villages to also pitch in if they can. A local TV network has also called for contributions from viewers.

Two of the state’s main student unions, the MZP and the MSU, have also appealed to all students in the state to contribute one-day’s lunch worth of money to be sent as aid to the flood-affected people.
Another group of musicians is also planning a concert for later this month.

People United in Music with a Purpose (PUMP) has organised a Charity Concert for victims of the  flooding in Myanmar on 14 and 15 August in front of the Millennium Centre, in Aizawl.
The following singers and bands will be performing on 14 August: C.Luri, Zoramchhani, Mami Varte, Manunna (Hardray), Andrew Laltlankima, Henry Varte, Ruthi Ch.Ralte, Zorini Khiangte, Feli Thangluah, Dr.Zothansanga, DJ Lalvenhimi, Sawmtea Chhangte, Mizo Cardinal Choir, David Vanlalpeka, Lancy Remlalhruaii, Pratima, Spi, Michael M Sailo, Zualboihi, May-i, Ruatfeli (Triau Track), Hmingtea, and The Breeze.

The following singers and bands will be performing on 15 August: Lawmi Khiangte, Lungmuana Chhangte, The Prophets, Stacy VL Muanpuii, Forever Young, The Keys, Hlimhlimi, Henry Varte, Rosy K. Remsangpuii, Temi Sailo, Betea, TBZ Choir, leprosy Mission Choir, Mizo Cardinal Choir, Feli Fanai, Laikai ROCK, Tribal Power, Hexatone, 3rd Eye, Radiowave and Kroashia.


Mizoram: Local group ask Gov to remove Army Colonel to prevent ‘civil-military conflict’

Aizawl, Aug 11 : Colonel Ravinder Singh, who is posted at the Army's Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS), was arrested by Vairengte police for threatening a man in a shop last week with a knife.

Locals in Mizoram’s Vairengte village have asked state Governor Nirbhay Sharma to help remove an Indian Army Colonel to prevent “civil-military animosity and conflict” after the Colonel was arrested for the second time in a month by police due to his alleged violent behaviour, including threatening a local man with a knife.

Colonel Ravinder Singh, who is posted at the Army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS), was arrested by Vairengte police for threatening a man in a shop last week with a knife. He had been arrested and later charge-sheeted for allegedly assaulting a fellow-Colonel in the school campus a month before.

The local unit of the Young Mizo Association, the state’s largest community-based organisation with members in bvirtually every household, on Monday submitted a letter to Governor Sharma asking that the Colonel be removed from the school and listed out complaints by villagers.

These include the Colonel playing football outside church buildings during Sunday church services, moving around the village with guns, machetes and other weapons and terrifying residents, presenting gifts to women after they make it clear they do not want them and visiting them at odd hours in their shops, workplaces and even homes, knocking on locals’ doors late in the night and one time removing a porch light-bulb, and general public drunkenness.

“Our young men have developed a sense of enmity against him,” the YMA wrote in the letter to Governor Sharma, adding the Colonel’s continued presence might lead to “unwanted commotion breaking out in the village”.
10 August 2015

Key Link To Indo-China Pangolin Smuggling Nabbed From Mizoram

By P Naveen

Bhopal, Aug 10 : Madhya Pradesh forest department arrested another key link in the Indo-China international pangolin smuggling racket from Mizoram. The accused, Laltlan Kunga, a resident of Kolasib district in Mizoram, was brought on transit remand to Madhya Pradesh and produced in Chhindwara court on Saturday. One kg of pangolin scales were confiscated from his house. Blood, meat and scales of pangolins are sold to traditional medical practitioners at a premium in south-eastern countries.

Ritesh Sirotia, in-charge of state forest's special task force (STF) wildlife crime, told TOI that Kunga is a mediator between pangolin traders in India and China. "We have identified two Myanmar nationals, who are part of the poaching syndicate. Efforts are on to arrest them through Interpol," he said.

He was into this trade for last five years. "Kunga was getting commission from poachers in India and Myanmar. He was assigned with task of smuggling pangolins and its scales to China," said the officer.

As many as 38 people from seven states have been arrested, including 23 from Madhya Pradesh, seven from Maharashtra, two from Odisha, two from Andhra Pradesh, one from Chhattisgarh, two from West Bengal and one from Mizoram.

Another key player of the gang has been identified as Amir Hussain Laskhar of Assam. He is absconding. Laskhar moved an application for anticipatory bail in the court. STF is also trying to arrest his female associate, Zobi Hmar, who is a tribal and part of the global smuggling ring.

Last month, STF arrested Ashfaq Hussain, 63, a leather businessman from Odisha's Berhampur area. A Kolkata-based marine engineer and a corporator involved in smuggling Indian pangolins to China and Vietnam were arrested during previous operations. Accused allegedly confessed to poaching and trafficking 100 pangolins from Madhya Pradesh to China in the last 12 months.

Those arrested from Kolkata have been identified as Jamal Iqbal, 59, and his son Danish, 24, a marine engineer. Eleven others, including an independent corporator were arrested from Chhindwara district.

"Tribals were used to pick up pangolins from forests and paid Rs 400-500 per kg for scales. It was then forwarded to Jamal between Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 and then shipped to China where it's sold for around Rs 1 lakh and more.

The operation to bust the pangolin racket was carried out by special task force (STF) of state forest department led by Chhindwara chief conservator of forests, Ritesh Sirothia, range officer Nitin Nigam and forest guard Chandra Sekhar Sharma.

This ant-eating mammal with armour of keratin scales has been listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species. Experts said, "If poaching continues, pangolin could go extinct."

In traditional Chinese medicine, roasted pangolin scales are used for detoxification of blood, draining pus, curing palsy and stimulating lactation while its blood is used to treat asthma, cancer and reproductive problems.
07 August 2015

How an High Court Order is Helping Mizoram Tackle Land Compensation Demands

Aizawl, Aug 7 : Village Councils are the equivalent of panchayats, and the “passes” have traditionally acted as certificates of land ownership for agricultural purposes within the Council’s territory.

Worried about conflict and delays over compensation for land chosen as sites of infrastructure projects, Mizoram has circulated to its officials a High Court ruling that a widely-issued land ownership document could not be used to claim or allot compensation.

The Gauhati High Court’s Aizawl Bench passed an order in June saying Village Councils had no authority to issue “Garden Passes”, and that no claim for compensation could be made on the basis of these letters.

Village Councils are the equivalent of panchayats, and the “passes” have traditionally acted as certificates of land ownership for agricultural purposes within the Council’s territory.

“The power to issue a Garden Pass or a pass for any agricultural purpose to any person by a Village Council is not traceable to any power in any land laws prevailing in Mizoram…,” the court said, striking down an order passed by the lower court, which had awarded compensation to more than 100 petitioners.

The petitioners’ lands had been acquired by the government for the under-construction railway line from Assam to Aizawl as part of the North-East Frontier Railway’s plan to link all Northeastern state capitals by 2022.

The petitioners had approached the HC saying they had been compensated only for the crops on their agricultural land, and not for the land itself.

“The issuance of the same for any agricultural purpose does not give any right to such pass holders to claim any land value. As such, persons having lands covered by Village Council pass for agricultural purposes cannot be entitled to compensation, i.e. there cannot be any land valuation made in respect of those lands,” the court said.

Lalramthanga, Principal Secretary, Chief Minister’s Office, brought the judgment to the notice of participants at a meeting of top officials last week. The court order was discussed at length, and copies of it have subsequently been circulated among heads of various departments that are, and can be involved, in infrastructure projects and accompanying acquisition processes, according to several officials who attended the meeting.

Several infrastructure projects in Mizoram have been delayed and complicated due to land compensation claims, prompting Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla to declare in the Assembly recently that “We are a compensation community” — leading to a heated exchange between him and opposition MLA Lalruatkima, who demanded the CM’s speech be taken off the records.
05 August 2015

Anticipatory bail to Zirsanga, six others in education funds Scam, Aug 5 : The Aizawl Bench of the Gauhati High Court on Tuesday granted anticipatory bail to Chief Executive Member of Mizoram’s Lai Autonomous District Council, V Zirsanga and six others in a Rs 1.5 crores education funds scam.

Justice L S Jamir granted anticipatory bail to the accused, which include the District Education Officer, a high school teacher attached as cashier to the DEO and two teachers who head the main teachers’ body there.

They have been told not to leave Lawngtlai town (headquarters of the LADC) without prior permission, cooperate with investigators and not try to influence witnesses.

The men had earlier been granted interim bail by the same court on July 23, a day after the Aizawl District Court rejected their anticipatory bail plea after the investigating officer, an Anti-Corruption Bureau Inspector, said the court prosecution witnesses were turning hostile or were less enthusiastic about giving testimony.

The IO said he suspected it might be because the accused remained at large and lived in the same town as the accused.

LADC CEM V Zirsanga and the others are accused of illegally amassing about Rs 1.5 crores from the education scam.

According to the ACB, they did this by issuing fake pay certificates for 41 teachers, drawing salaries of some teachers more than once while apparently pocketing the salaries of several others.

NGOs & Churches To Collect Donations To Help Myanmar Flood Victims

Aizawl, Aug 5 : Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and churches will be collecting donations to help flood victims in the neighbouring state of Manipur and ethnic Mizo inhabited areas of Myanmar.

Zo Re-unification Organisation (ZoRO) leader R Zamawia today said the ZoRO convened a meeting of major NGOs and political parties yesterday and agreed to collect donations from the people of Mizoram for helping the flood victims in the Mizo inhabited towns of Kanan, Khampat, Halkha, Falam, Tahan and Kalemyo in Myanmar and several villages in Manipur.

Association of singers and musicians - the Mizo Zaimi Insuihkhawmpawl (MZI) and People United to Promote Music (PUMP) would also organise charity concerts on the streets of Aizawl this week to help the flood victims.

The Presbyterian Church's Mizoram Synod issued a circular to all local churches asking for donation to help the flood victims in Myanmar and also appealed to the church members to hold special prayer services for flood victims.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla sent a condolence message to his Manipur counterpart Ibobi Singh as several died in Chandel district due to the floods.

Lal Thanhawla said the people of Mizoram were praying for the people of Manipur at this time of disaster and grief.

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