Showing posts with label Northeast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northeast. Show all posts
11 August 2015

Northeast Airports Lack Night Landing Facilities: Minister

title=New Delhi, Aug 11 : Representational Image (Getty Images) Four major airports in the northeastern states of Assam, Mizoram and Meghalaya do not have night landing facilities, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said on Monday.

"Presently, the airports at Shillong (Meghalaya), Lengpui (Mizoram), Jorhat and Tezpur (both in Assam) in the northeastern region are not equipped with night landing facilities," Sharma stated in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.

He said that while Shillong airport belonged to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Lengpui airport belonged to the Mizoram government and the Tezpur and Jorhat airports were owned by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

"Upgrade of airports, including provision of night landing facilities is a continuous process, which is undertaken by the Airports Authority of India depending on the operational requirements at the concerned airport, demand from airlines, technical feasibility, availability of land free from all encumbrances etc.," he said.

According to the minister, though the Kumbirgram airport at Silchar in southern Assam is equipped with night landing facilities, it belongs to the IAF and permission for night landing flights for civil operations at this airport rests with the IAF.

Sharma said that domestic air services have been deregulated by the government and airlines were free to operate anywhere in the country, subject to compliance of route dispersal guidelines (RDGs) issued by the government.

"The government has laid down RDGs with a view to achieve better regulation of air transport services taking into account the need for remote and regional areas of the country.

However, it is up to the airlines to provide air services to specific places, depending upon the traffic demand and commercial viability," he stated.
10 August 2015

Northeast MPs Lock Horns Over Possible Alteration of State Boundaries

Northeast MPs lock horns over possible alteration of state boundaries

As the details of the peace accord between the Central Government and NSCN (Isak-Muivah) remain ambiguous, parliamentarians from Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have locked horns with their counterparts from Nagaland over the possibility of altering their respective state boundaries.

Despite reports that the provision of redrawing the state's border to incorporate Naga-inhabited areas in 'Greater Nagaland' had been dropped, the Members of  Parliament said that the demand for Greater Nagaland had been the "most important demand" of the NSCN and reaching a conclusion without it would be "simply impossible".

"We welcome the peace accord because it is a  move to tranquilise decades long violence in Nagaland. But if the peace in  Nagaland is at the cost of our territories than we won't let it happen," Ninon Ering, Member of Parliament from East Arunachal Pradesh, told IANS.

He said It should be understood that Nagas staying in any other state apart from Nagaland "are an integral part of that state as they have been staying there for years.  Where does the demand for other states to give up its Naga-inhabited areas come from?" he asked.

Noting that there were only four Naga tribes living in Arunachal Pradesh, including the  Wancho, Tangsa and Nocte, Ering said: "At most the government can allow them to have autonomous councils, but giving up those areas to Nagaland won't be possible." IANS spoke to a number of MPs from the region.

On Monday, the NSCN-IM and the government had signed  the Naga Peace Accord, settling an almost 20-year-old peace negotiation process that started in 1997 after the group signed a ceasefire agreement.

NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who signed the accord oat a ceremony at the prime minister's 7 Race Course Road  residence on Monday, had hailed it as a "momentous occasion".
Thokchom Meinya, Member of Parliament from Inner Manipur constituency, said that the  BJP-led government and the NSCN-IM were in "a hurry to settle their problems  without realising the harm caused" to other north-eastern states.
"The way  government is trying to keep the content of the accord confidential clearly  shows that it might have something which is not in favour of  Nagaland's neighbouring states," Meinya said. He added that the government  should have at least informed Parliament before signing the accord with the NSCN-IM. "Discussing in Parliament with all stake-holders was necessary," he added.

Nagaland  shares its boundary with Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. At least three  districts in Manipur - Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati as well as two in Arunachal  Pradesh - Tirap and Changlang  - are Naga-inhabited districts.

P.A. Sangma,  Member of Parliament from Meghalaya's Tura constituency, said: "End to the  conflict in the North-Eastern region is a must. But the government should be well aware that they can't keep Nagaland happy by making its neighbouring states sad."

However,  Nagaland's lone Rajya Sabha member Khekiho Zhimomi termed the objection raised  by the other MPs from the region "groundless" and said that "all the Naga inhabited areas in  the North-Eastern region belonged to the Naga ancestors" and should be made a  part of the Nagaland.

"It is a  positive development for Nagaland. The peace accord should be  completely in the interest of the Nagas regardless of whichever North-Eastern states they might be living in," Zhimomi said.
"Why should  they object to the Naga inhabited land being given to form Greater Nagaland? We  are only demanding our ancestoral lands in the neighbouring states where the  Naga tribes have been staying for centuries," said Zhimomi.

On Tuesday, former Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio had told IANS: "The demand for Greater  Nagaland is the main demand of the NSCN - irrespective of which faction it is.  The question of dropping that demand does not arise as this is what the conflict  is all about."
05 August 2015

Day after Naga peace accord: No crackers, no festoons, it’s cautious optimism in Nagaland

In Dimapur, the state’s business centre, students attended schools and colleges, shops and offices remained open.

Nagaland peace accord, Naga peace pact, Naga peace accord, Narendra Modi, naga insurgent group, Nalagand accord, Naga insurgency, NSCN(IM), Nagaland insurgency, Nagaland news, Indian Express, Nagaland news, india news, nation news

It was life as usual in Kohima Tuesday.

A day after the NSCN(IM) signed a historic “framework agreement” with the Centre moving a significant step closer towards ending an armed separatist movement, nobody in the state seemed ready to make any specific comment on the outcome without knowing the exact details of the agreement.

There were some who saw the scope of creating political space for the NSCN(IM) leaders. But most political leaders here did not see any immediate possibility of Muivah and his associates seeking political space within the framework of the Constitution.

Chief Minister T R Zeliang refused to hazard such a guess so early. “It’s difficult to make any observation without looking at the details of what the agreement has,” Zeliang said.

“It is too early to talk about creating political space for Muivah and his team. Moreover, going by what government interlocutor RN Ravi has said ( about “shared sovereignty”), we will have to wait for the details of the agreement that was signed on Monday,” Chuba Ozukum, president of Naga Hoho — the apex body of all tribal communities of the state said.

Meanwhile, there was no celebration or bursting of crackers, no banners or festoons to mark the occasion. In Dimapur, the state’s business centre, students attended schools and colleges, shops and offices remained open.

NSCN (IM) cadres seek transit help from Mizoram

Aizawl: Around 50 NSCN(IM) cadres holed up in the jungles of eastern Bangladesh have told Mizoram authorities that they might need transit assistance.

The shortest route from their Bangladesh base to Nagaland goes through Mizoram.

Sources said “Colonel” Apum,  NSCN(IM) commander in Chittagong region, contacted authorities Tuesday to intimate them of a possible return to India through Mizoram. 

12 New Railway Lines Being Constructed in Northeast India

New Delhi: Work on 12 new railway lines with a total length of 1,248 km is being taken up in the northeast, an official statement said on Tuesday.

"Against a national average of 20 km per 1,000 sq km railway network density, the northeastern states have an average railway network density of 10.1 km per 1,000 sq km," Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Work on 12 new railway lines with a total length of 1,248 km is being taken up in the northeast, an official statement said on Tuesday. "Twelve new line works have been taken up in northeastern region having a total length of 1,248 km at a total cost of Rs. 38,416 crore (Rs.384 billion)," he said.

According to the minister, Rs.2,279 crore was allocated in 2012-13, Rs.3,392 crore in 2013-14 and Rs.5,200 crore in 2014-15 for new lines, gauge conversion and doubling the existing lines in the region.
"An increased outlay of Rs.5,338 crore has been provided in 2015-16 for speedier execution of projects in the northeastern region," Sinha said.
04 August 2015

Northeast India Varsities To Offer Skill Training

Northeast India varsities to offer skill training The National Skill Development Corporation and major universities in northeast India have inked deals to introduce skill-based training in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of educational institutes

Kolkata, Aug 4 : The National Skill Development Corporation and major universities in northeast India have inked deals to introduce skill-based training in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of educational institutes, a statement said on Monday.

The move is to introduce skill-based training in undergraduate as well as postgraduate programmes of colleges/institutes/departments in these universities in a phased manner, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) said in a statement.

The universities' list comprises Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University, University of Guwahati, Dibrugarh University, Tezpur University (Assam), Sikkim Manipal University (Sikkim), Tripura University (Tripura) and Indra Gandhi Technological and Medical Sciences University (Arunachal Pradesh).

The courses will be introduced in the second year of undergraduate programmes and cover four semesters in the second and third year of undergraduate programmes. The courses will help boost India's recently launched 'Skill India Mission'.

"The students will be given a choice to select any one skill-based course from the identified sectors in addition to the regular academic subjects.

"However, it shall not be mandatory for a student to join such skill development courses. The choice is left to the student," the release said.

Dilip Chenoy, the managing director and chief executive officer, NSDC, said, "To link skill training to meaningful and fulfilling careers, we are also helping them in placements through Sector Skill Councils and Training Partners who will be participating in the implementation of the programme."

The NSDC will ensure 70 per cent placement of students post training.

Up to eight sectors will be made available initially for the participating colleges/institutions to choose from.

Before the commencement of every academic year, these universities will review the existing skill development programmes in the colleges/institutions with the NSDC.

These will consider introducing new sectors and courses as per the demand of the industry and the willingness of the participating institutions.

The fee of the courses will be mutually decided by each university and the NSDC in consultation with NSDC approved training partners and NSDC approved Sector Skill Councils, according to the statement.
31 July 2015

Government To Revamp Oil Activity in Northeast India

By Animesh Singh

New Delhi, Jul 31 : The government plans to revamp exploration and production activities in the northeast sector with the aim of restoring it as the country’s hydrocarbon hub.

A series of ambitious steps like improving the output in the upstream, midstream and downstream activities as well as reviving the infrastructure are part of a vision document for the region, which is being readied by the petroleum ministry under supervision of the Prime Minister’s office.

The document, sources privy to the development said, is likely to be prepared within a month as the petroleum ministry has already set up a committee headed by additional secretary A.P. Sawhney to supervise its preparation. Crisil has been hired by the ministry to provide consultancy for the purpose.

The development of north-east region is a key part of the Narendra Modi government’s agenda, and in fact the Prime Minister had earlier stated that by 2022, when the country will be celebrating the 75th Independence Day, he is keen to reduce the total oil imports from the current 77 per cent to 67 per cent.

With the PMO directly involved in the revival of the hydrocarbon sector in the region, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited Assam in April 2015 and toured the oilfields in Digboi, Duliajan, Nazira and Numaligarh.

Mr Pradhan, during the course of his visit, had indicated that the government will soon be coming out with a vision document for boosting production as well as investment in the petroleum sector in the region.

The committee headed by Mr Sawhney has held a series of meetings to finalise the vision document and sources informed this newspaper that improving the output in the upstream activities from the current 4.5 million tonnes per annum to 6 million tonnes per annum is going to be one of the key aspects of the policy.

Apart from this, upgrading the refining infrastructure and improving refining capacities as well as evacuation procedures (especially of gas), are also part of the vision document, sources added.

Official sources said that considering the fact that the law and order situation in the north-east region is always fragile, and land acquisition is also a major obstacle there, the government, while looking to give a boost to the petroleum sector, plans to ensure that these issues are streamlined.

They however refused to divulge any details about the timeline within which the reforms in the petroleum sector are to be implemented once the vision document is prepared.

4G Reaches Northeast

4G reaches northeast As part of the trial offer, Airtel customers in Shillong will be able to avail a complimentary upgrade to 4G services at 3G prices.

Guwahati, Jul 31 : Country's largest private telecom operator Bharti Airtel today rolled out latest 4G technology in Meghalaya's capital Shillong, the first in northeast.

"Bharti Airtel Ltd, a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, today launched 4G trials exclusively for its customers in Shillong," the company said in a statement.

As part of the trial offer, Airtel customers in Shillong will be able to avail a complimentary upgrade to 4G services at 3G prices, it added.

"Today, as we launch Airtel 4G trials for our existing customers in Shillong, they will be uniquely positioned for a superlative 4G experience.

"We are committed to building a world class 4G network in the region," Bharti Airtel CEO (Assam and northeast) Saurabh Goel said.

The company started the testing of 4G signals in Shillong about two months back and is emphasizing on this entire process so that customers do not face any issue once the facility is introduced.

As part of its plans to expand customer base, Airtel has also announced "go-to-market partnerships" with Samsung and Flipkart for 4G devices.

The company claimed that the 4G services will enable customers to avail superfast internet speed with facilities such as high definition video streaming with zero buffering, downloading up to 10 movies in less than 30 minutes, uploading two high resolution photos per second and connecting multiple devices without compromising on the experience, among others.
30 July 2015

India and Myanmar Pledge To Deepen Ties

By Elizabeth Roche

Myanmar’s senior general U Min Aung Hlaing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

Myanmar’s senior general U Min Aung Hlaing says the country will remain an important platform in support of India’s Act East Policy

New Delhi: India and Myanmar pledged to deepen their bilateral security cooperation, with senior leaders of both governments expressing their resolve during talks in New Delhi, a statement by the stated on Wednesday.

Senior general U Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar Defence Services, who is on a visit to India, called on India’s three service chiefs as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

The visit by the senior general of Myanmar follows a raid by the Indian Army last month to hunt down separatist militants, days after 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Chandel district of Manipur.

Myanmar authorities had later stated that the Indian troops had not crossed into the country’s territory.

“Senior general U Min Aung Hlaing expressed his commitment to deepen defence and security engagement with India, including in the maritime security domain,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said after the meeting.

India’s north-east is home to dozens of insurgent groups, fighting for autonomy or secession.

The Indian Army has been deployed in the region that borders Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, for decades.

Indian officials say militant groups have set up base in Myanmar and Bhutan, using them as launch pads for attacks against India.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, India backed Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

But it changed tack after realizing that the insurgent groups operating in the north-east have established bases in Myanmar.

India then actively engaged the then junta-run government, investing in infrastructure projects, exploring oil and gas blocks, and offering credit.

Ties were sustained after Myanmar slowly transitioned into a democracy with the first election in two decades being held in 2010.

“Senior general U Min Aung Hlaing appreciated India’s role as a reliable development partner for Myanmar. He said that Myanmar considers its relationship with India very important, not only as a neighbour, but also as a country with longstanding historical and cultural ties, shared interests and strong people-to-people ties with Myanmar,” the statement said.

“He added that Myanmar will remain an important platform in support of India’s Act East Policy,” the statement said, referring to India’s efforts to forge closer links with South-East Asia.

On his part, Modi underlined “India’s commitment to strengthen the bilateral relationship with Myanmar in all areas, including defence and security” besides support Myanmar in its endeavour for national development, the statement said.

The prime minister said India regarded Myanmar as “India’s gateway to Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and urged for greater connectivity between the two countries and beyond, the statement said.

With Myanmar due to go in for general elections in November, Modi said he respected “the desire of the people of Myanmar for a transition to a stable multi-party democracy, and conveyed his best wishes for the upcoming elections in Myanmar to be peaceful, free and fair”.
20 July 2015

Assam Tops Northeast in Accidents

By Andrew W. Lyngdoh

Shillong, Jul 20 : Assam recorded the highest number of deaths in accidents among the northeastern states in 2014 while Meghalaya had the maximum increase of reported traffic accidents in the country, according to a report.

The Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2014 report provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed that there were 4,51,757 accidental deaths reported in the country, an increase of 12.8 per cent compared to 2013.

In 2013, there were 4,00,517 accidental deaths recorded in the country.

The data revealed there were 52 accidental deaths every hour in 2014. While every hour nearly two persons died in "natural calamities", the data revealed that nearly 36 people were killed in "unnatural accidents" every hour in 2014.

"Out of 4,51,757 accidental deaths, 3,16,828 and 1,14,728 deaths were due to unnatural causes (70.1 per cent) and other causes (25.4 per cent), respectively, and the remaining 4.5 per cent deaths were due to causes attributable to forces of nature," the report said. (See chart)

Accidental deaths attributable to nature include deaths owing to floods, earthquake, landslides, lightning and epidemic, among others.

Deaths owing to unnatural causes included traffic accidents, air crash, drowning, collapse of structure, stampede, and others, while deaths owing to other causes include those caused by consumption of spurious liquor, suffocation and deaths of women during pregnancy, among others.

The notheastern states, including Sikkim, recorded a total of 8,875 accidental deaths, and out of these, 6,623 were deaths owing to "unnatural causes" while 530 and 1,722 deaths were owing to "natural" and "other causes".

Assam recorded the highest number of accidental deaths while there were no accidental deaths owing to "natural causes" in Manipur.

On an all-India basis, the data revealed that the incidence of accidental deaths increased by 12.8 per cent during 2014 compared to 2013.

The data revealed the quantum of accidental deaths by causes attributable to forces of nature has declined by 11.2 per cent and that of deaths by unnatural causes (including other causes) has increased by 14.2 per cent during 2014 over 2013.

The highest rate of accidental deaths was reported from Puducherry (96.3) followed by Chhattisgarh (84.6), Gujarat (59.2), Haryana (58.5), Madhya Pradesh (57.6) and Maharashtra (57.0) against the national average rate of 36.3, the data said.

Gender-wise analysis revealed that 21.5 per cent and 78.5 per cent of the total victims were females and males respectively.

"The age group of most of the victims was between 18 and 45 years. This group of people accounted for 58.6 per cent of all persons killed in accidents in the country during 2014. A total of 41,744 senior citizens were also killed in various accidents during 2014," the data revealed.

Traffic accidents: The data revealed that traffic accidents in the country have marginally increased by 1.3 per cent during 2014 compared to 2013. The maximum increase (55.2 per cent) was reported in Meghalaya (from 194 cases in 2013 to 301 cases in 2014), the data stated.

"Traffic accidents comprising road accidents, railway accidents and railway crossing accidents were the major contributors to accidental deaths by unnatural causes," the data stated.

A total of 4,81,805 traffic accidents comprising 4,50,898 road accidents, 28,360 railway accidents and 2,547 railway crossing accidents were reported, and these accidents caused 1,41,526, 25,006 and 2,575 deaths respectively in 2014, the data revealed.

In 2014, the northeastern states recorded 9,885 traffic accident cases. Out of these, 7,825 cases were in Assam alone.

Meghalaya recorded 301 cases, Tripura (716), Mizoram (95), Manipur (735), Nagaland (39), Arunachal Pradesh (112) and Sikkim (62 cases).

The data revealed that the 9,885 traffic accidents had caused 4,037 deaths, the maximum being in Assam with 3,212.
17 July 2015

Northeast to get better internet connectivity and enhanced digital technology

Tripura is all set to emerge as India's 3rd internet gateway after commissioning of the submarine cable connectivity through Cox Bazar Cable Landing Station in Bangladesh.

Tripura is all set to emerge as India’s 3rd internet gateway after commissioning of the submarine cable connectivity through Cox Bazar Cable Landing Station in Bangladesh.

Union Communication and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was in Agartala recently to lay the foundation stone for the same in the presence of Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Governor Tathagata Roy and top BSNL officials.

The agreement for leasing of international bandwidth for internet at Akhaura between BSCCL and BSNL was signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during his visit to Bangladesh in June.

Currently, India’s international internet bandwidth connectivity is at two places – Mumbai and Chennai. With the opening of the 10G link through Akhaura, the network in Tripura will be as good as any metro city.

“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi very clearly feels that the development of India will remain incomplete if the eastern and northeastern part of India does not develop. It is a matter of commitment for us. For the entire northeastern region we have prepared a package of Rs 5,000 crores for mobile and telephone connectivity that has been duly approved by the cabinet. Therefore, improvement of the northeast is very much important for us,” Prasad said after laying the foundation stone.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar also highlighted the importance of tele-connectivity for the Northeast.”There is dearth of infrastructure without which we cannot tap all those resources available in the Northeast. And the most important infrastructure is connectivity and in regards to this, aside from road, rail, and air connectivity, tele connectivity is most important which brings the world to our palms. Thereby importance of tele-connectivity is unquestionable,” he said.

The government will spend 19.14 crore Rupees to create the infrastructure, including the laying of optical fibers. Rupees 8 crore per year will be given as rental fee to Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL) to avail the service.

At present, the Northeast region gets internet connectivity through Mumbai and Chennai and the long distance and difficult terrain creates many problems.

With this new development, people in Tripura as well as neighboring Northeastern states will have access to high-speed, uninterrupted internet service with large bandwidth. “The coming up of the gateway will increase the speed (of internet) since we are closer to Bangladesh. This is great news for the remote Northeast as we are going to connect with entire globe,” stated Sitangshu Dey,a local.
As a part of the government’s vision to digitalize India, there are also plans to revive the postal network and provide services like ATMs, e-commerce and core banking through post offices.

The Union Minister opened the core banking services at the Agartala head post office and said that post offices will play an important role in digital India programme, especially in rural areas.

He also laid the foundation stone for Dimapur head post office, inaugurated the postal shopping site for the region and distributed prizes among various postmasters for their services. “We have already applied and we hope that by August, the Reserve Bank of India will approve the payment banking permission. Once it happens and the entire infrastructure is complete, you can understand how much power you will have in all the branches of postal department in banking transaction and payments. Digital India is designed to change India, to empower India, to bridge the gap between digital haves and have-Nots,” Prasad revealed.

The government is keen to expand digital connectivity in the landlocked Northeast region which will give the people access to varied services over the internet and make their lives easier.
08 July 2015

BSNL to urge Centre to allow MNP in Northeast

BSNL wants MNP in North East India. ReutersShillong, Jul 8 : BSNL will pursue the telecom ministry to allow Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in the north eastern region, a senior company official today said.

"I'll try to ensure that the MNP service is extended to NE states. I'll raise this issue with the Union minister who will be visiting Agartala later this month," BSNL NE1, chief general manager, DP Singh told reporters in Shillong.
BSNL wants MNP in North East India.
North eastern states are barred from MNP, implemented in the rest of the country on 3 July for security reason, he said.

Singh said that over 100 towers located in remote areas of the region have been shut down due to cost overrun. These towers were earlier funded by the Centre under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme.

He, however, said that the Centre has recently approved a proposal to implement a comprehensive development plan for the north eastern region at a cost of over Rs 5,336 crore aimed at connecting 8,617 villages.

"This project which includes 2G mobile service in uncovered areas and providing reliability in transmission networks will be commissioned in September next year," Singh said.

Stating that the NE1 circle has made a loss of Rs 88 crore this year, Singh said the revenue collection went up by Rs 17 crore and assets worth Rs 46 crore had been added to the network.

While informing that wi-fi hotspot connectivity would be provided at important tourist places, Singh said 44 locations in Meghalaya, 35 in Mizoram and 94 in Tripura have been selected for the service.
07 July 2015

Work On Telecoms Link Between India and Bangladesh To Begin This Week

New Delhi will start putting into operation this week an agreement on telecommunication links between India and Bangladesh within a month of its signing.

15 June 2015

Talks With UPF Militant Groups Upgraded To Political Level: Mizoram CM Zoramthanga

Aizawl, Jun 15
: With the signing of ceasefire between the centre and the eight Mizo insurgent groups under the banner of United People's Front (UPF) on Tuesday last, the talks with the groups was ungraded to political level from official level, according to former Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga.

Zoramthanga, who was present in Delhi during the signing of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) told PTI here today that delays in peace talks between the centre and the ethnic Mizo militant groups was harming mutual trusts between the two sides.

"Years have passed after signing SoO earlier, but without any formal parleys," he said, adding that the groups did not sign SoO during the last nine months making the situation explosive in the north east", he said.

The former revolutionary leader said that he helped in brokering peace between the groups and the government of India without actually participating in the talks.

He said that his main role was to create mutual trust between the groups and the centre, lacking due to prolonged hostilities between the two sides.

"I did not want to be called as interlocutor or as any official mediator as my main role was to build mutual trust between the two sides," he said.

The UPF constituents were the Kuki National Front (KNF), Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRO), Kuki Revolutionary Army (United), Zomi Defence Force (ZDF), United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF), Kuki Revolutionary Front (KRF), Zomi Defence Volunteers (ZDV) and Hmar People's Convention (Democrats), he said.

The militant groups headed by UPF chairman S T Thangboi were represented by leaders of the groups while the centre was represented by Ministry of Home Affairs officials headed by Sambhu Singh, joint secretary (north east) of the MHA.

Earlier, Zoramthanga, went to Myanmar and Bangkok two times to broker peace between the Myanmar government and 17 ethnic-based insurgent groups in that country.
08 June 2015

Chin State: Gateway to India

From this taxi stand, tourists can make a day trip to other destinations in Mizoram./EMG
From this taxi stand, tourists can make a day trip to other destinations in Mizoram./EMG

A light drizzle was falling one Sunday morning in the border town of Rih Khaw Dar in Chin State. When I looked out the window of my motel room, I saw a red and white bridge over Ciau Creek with the border trade zone of India's Mizoram State in the background. Plantations dotted both side of the creek, and crows of roosters echoed through the hills.

Myanmar, Jun 8 : Perched on a hill on the Indian side and shrouded in dense fog, Zokhawthar village lies west of the border trade zone. Then I spotted two vehicles coming out of Zokhawthar and probably heading to Rih Khaw Dar. But strangely there were no cargo trucks inside the border trade zone. I found the answer during my breakfast at a teashop: most ethnic people in Chin State go to church on Sundays and so do the Mizo people of Mizoram State. So the trade zone was a bit quiet.

At the border crossing, Myanmar security officers told me that Myanmar nationals can cross the border freely without showing any identification and we could ride our motorcycles through the border crossing. Their only warning was that India uses left-hand traffic and that we need to put on a helmet.

Things were quite on the contrary in Moreh, an Indian border town in Manipur State just opposite Myanmar's Tamu in Sagaing Region. While Mizoram is relatively peaceful, everyone cast a suspicious glance at me when I was entering Moreh during my last visit.

At the border crossing, there were inspection gates on each side of the border. But we were not stopped for questioning. We went through the gate with our motorcycle and drove up the hill to Zokhawthar. Although Zokhawthar is only a village, it looks better than Rih Khaw Dar as it has more buildings, better road and electricity.

"Hey, drive on the left," shouted my friend on the pillion.

Two policemen whizzed past us on their motorcycle on their way to the trade zone. All roadside houses and shops remained closed. We saw some Mizo people going to church. We had no idea where to go and so we drove along the main road without turning to any street. We saw a signboard written in English with the word "Taxi". It must be a taxi stand, but no vehicles were in sight. There were stone pillars written in English and Mizo just opposite the taxi stand. Next to the taxi stand was a bus stop. We saw some people with their luggage but we could not speak Mizo and they could not speak Myanmar, so we ended up exchanging a smile.

A convenience store was open nearby, so we went in to buy things. The shop owner greeted us in Mizo. When we asked whether we could buy some drinks in the Myanmar language, the old woman said "yes" in Myanmar. We were glad to meet someone who could speak our language. My friend bought some snacks made in India. It was only then that we noticed that the store sold both snacks from Myanmar and India.

"Can we buy with Myanmar kyats?" I asked.

Sone Ban, the shop owner, said we could buy with either Myanmar or Indian money. In fact some shops accept both currencies while other shops only accept the Indian rupee. She said products from Myanmar were more profitable than Indian products. She calculated all items we bought, changing the prices in rupees into kyats. The exchange rate was Ks17 for one Indian rupee. The friendly shop owner also provided money transfer service extending as far as Kalay in Myanmar and Imphal in India.

She told us that she used to live in Myanmar where her husband was a soldier. Since her husband passed away, she had lived in Zokhawthar for over 40 years. All of her children lived in India and some of her relatives and friends still lived in Hakha (Chin State) and Kalay (Sagaing Region). It had been a long while since she last spoke Myanmar, but she could speak fluently and seemed very happy to chat with us. Her children grew up in India so they could no longer speak Myanmar.

Visitors can travel all the way to Champhai [in the same state] from Zokhawthar without the need to show any travel documents. A taxi ride to Champhai from Zokhawthar costs between Ks 15,000 (US$13) to 20,000 (US$19) and takes one hour and a half. It's possible to make a day trip to Aizawl [in the same state], but visitors need to have their passport stamped at the border gate.

I noticed the difference between Manipur State and Mizoram State. Border security is tight at Manipur and visitors are banned from taking photographs once inside the state. Sometimes you are subject to unexpected inspection. It's more laid back in Mizoram. Everyone greeted us warmly and we could take photos as we liked. It is truly a state with a refreshing sense of independence.

Just as I bid farewell to Zokhawthar, I was thinking of coming back again to observe how a country's principles impact on its socioeconomic development as well as health and education of the people living on either side of the border.

IOC to invest Rs.1,500 cr to ramp up storage in Northeast

title=Public sector undertaking Indian Oil Corporation plans to invest around Rs.1,500 crore in the Northeast to strengthen its various divisions, including storage and retail, over the next three-four years.

Indian Oil-AOD, the company's Northeast division, is scouting for land in states such as Assam, Tripura and Mizoram to increase storage capacities of petroleum products.

"Northeast is very important for us and we are focussing more to provide optimum services to the people of the region.

One of the most important issues is availability of products, keeping in mind the geographical disadvantages of the region," Indian Oil Corporation Executive Director (IndianOil-AOD) Dipankar Ray told PTI here.

Common people of the region, especially in hill states, suffer a lot whenever there is any natural calamity or political or social disturbances, he added.

"To mitigate this problem, we have decided to increase our storage capacities of petroleum products and LPG in every state of the region in a big way.

"For this, we will invest around Rs.1,500 crore over the next three-four years in the seven states," Ray said.

Out of this amount, about Rs.1,250 crore will be put in to ramp up the storages of petrol, diesel and kerosene, while Rs.150 crore and Rs.50 crore will go for enhancing LPG storage capacities and increasing the number of retail outlets, respectively, he added.

Ray said the company is looking for land in Assam, Tripura and Mizoram to increase its petroleum products' capacities.

"We have a depot at Missamari in Assam with a capacity of 19,000 kilo litre (kl). We plan to increase it to 25,000 kl at an investment of Rs.160 crore.

"The depot is surrounded by the Army cantonment and we are discussing with the Army for more land to enhance storage," he added.

In Tripura, the company plans to invest Rs.175 crore to have a new depot at Agartala with a capacity of 45,000 kl by closing its existing 9,500 kl depot at Dharmanagar.

"The Tripura government has identified a land parcel and we have seen it. We are at an advanced stage of negotiation for the land with the government," Ray said.

He also said that the company is in discussions with the Mizoram government over land to set up a new storage depot at Sairang with a capacity of 12,122 kl, entailing an investment of Rs.150 crore.

On the timeframe to complete these expansions, Ray said: "Usually it takes 24-30 months of construction time, excluding the period in inviting tenders. So we hope, these three projects will be completed in the next three-four years."
01 June 2015

A Place in The Clouds

By Deepa Gupta

An unprecedented road trip from Assam to Meghalaya and Mizoram turned out to be a heady mix of serenity, sanguinity and spontaneity

“I have booked you on a flight to Guwahati,” said Puneet, my friend, over phone, “And from there we shall be on a road trip across the Northeast right up to Mizoram.” Unbelievable, I had thought to myself then. With bomb threats and terror most of the time, this trip would never be possible. And yet, it started taking shape. I landed at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport on a humid afternoon to be greeted by my travel partners. And therein began my fascination with the topographical wonders of the land of the Seven Sisters, of which I was to explore three – Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
Dotted by hills, the city of Guwahati appeared quite like any other. It was later, when we decided to explore the city, that the noise, the bustling, the slow crawling traffic, the non-hurried pace of life, all began to unfold. Amidst all this, the saving grace was the quietly flowing Brahmaputra. The serenity of this unfathomable river remains mystical.
On our way to Tezpur the next morning after Kamkhya Temple, the drive in the gypsy began to get beautiful by the kilometre. The plains were spread in a lush green cover and there were no vehicle besides ours. There were strict instructions to not stop anywhere in between (and that meant to not even stop for pictures) and to maintain speed. The occasional huts and thickets of bamboo trees around them were a sight. The open expanse of vast green during the monsoon had wrapped the entire land in a tender fresh hue.
Even as I shut my eyes to capture the immense beauty in my mindscape, the almost magical moments were cut short by the abrupt breaking of the vehicle. Heavy spiked chains were spread on the road at the entry point to Tezpur and then at every short distance throughout the city. A bomb had exploded in a vegetable vendor’s basket just a few minutes before and men in olive greens manned the city, guarding every nook and corner. But the tranquil surroundings of the army mess, the piping hot dal served for dinner and the neat, cool rooms, more than made up for the day long drive.
A quiet, quaint little town, Tezpur has hardly any shops and it appeared to be sparsely populated. As we approached the Dah Parbatia temple, the ruins at first appeared nondescript. The ASI protected monument with sculpted images of goddesses Ganga and Yamuna on its gates with garland in hand and the Shiva linga in the main sanctum stood on a raised platform amidst the silent greens. From there to Agnigarh and the heat had begun to take its toll. The site of romance between Usha (daughter of asura Banasura) and Anirudha (grandson of Lord Krishna) was simplistic and minimal with a panoramic view of the Brahmaputra. A a cool drink from the tiny refreshment centre atop the hillock felt good. As per the planned itinerary, the road trip would now divert towards Mizoram. As we moved from Tezpur back to Guwahati and towards Shillong, the drive became a bit tiring. As the gypsy sped along the NH 40, the nip in the air grew strong and soon Shillong appeared in full view with distinctively flatter hills as compared to the high and mighty mountains in Uttaranchal and Himachal. The army guest house in Shillong provided much warmth with its artistic woodwork and old world English charm.
The next morning was cold and cloudy. We first went to Ward’s Lake, where red lotus bloomed in abundance and then the Rhino Heritage Museum which was all about the history of Shillong; and soon we were speeding towards Silchar. The countryside changed from hills to plains to little hills all along this route. We were also now in a safer zone and taking pictures became easier. When I got off to click the tribal woman as she collected the gladioli, she smiled when she saw the camera in my hand. We were now on NH 44 and Jaintia Hills soon welcomed us. The neatly manicured tea plantations came in full view on both sides of the road. The plains thengave way to rivulets and mountains thickly covered with dense forests with not a single barren one.
And then came a point on this highway from where you got a view of Bangladesh. Suddenly the boundaries ceased to exist. What borders are we talking about when we can see one country from right across our land? All along NH 54 (that connects Aizawl to the rest of the country through Silchar), the lone vehicle in hills with a winding road in the middle of a thicket, did become a bit scary at times. And the hairpin bends seemed unending with a few enchanting sights – a wild gladioli field in the middle of nowhere! The six hour long hill drive had the head spinning and the body tiring. So much for a road trip, I thought. The sun veiled the huge mountain dotted with houses even as the clouds played peek-a-boo in the clear blue sky. Deafening silence greeted us. The beauty of Aizawl was captivating.
Stuffed paranthas with butter made for the perfect late lunch in the verandah and as evening began to descend, the chill forced us inside even as mist enveloped the hills from all sides. What struck me about the kaleidoscopic markets in Aizawl city was that the shops were all, entirely manned by women. Even the security at the mall comprised only women. And not a single readymade clothes shop for women had trial rooms! “Where can I try this on?” I asked. “Right here”, said the woman at the counter. The matriarchal set-up was as intriguing as insightful. At the vegetable market you had everything from pulses to spices to veggies and fruits. And of course, creepy crawlies! Of all kinds, variety, shape, sizes, being sold by the kilo. Most women were dressed in the traditional attire and smoking. A pretty young woman in Levis’ puffed away a Marlboro nonchalantly while selling kidney beans. This could happen only in Mizoram, my friend said.
Later that evening, as I ventured into the verandah, shawl tightly wrapped around, I could hear choir singing in the hills. Music was the lifeline here. The next morning it rained and grew very cold.
Forced to stay indoors, we feasted on the immense beauty of the hills with a bowl of Maggie noodles and coffee as I wondered whether I would ever come back to this lovely side of my country.

Cries For Withdrawal Of AFSPA Gets Louder

Guwahati, Jun 1 : The Tripura government’s decision to withdraw AFSPA has resonated in Manipur one of the most troubled-hit states in the North-East.

The AFSPA withdrawal has sent a message of confidence and hope to the people of Manipur in their epic fight against Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA).

The supporters of Irom Sharmila Chanu, who is on fast since 2000 for total repeal of the draconian law, have once again vowed to launch a massive anti-AFSPA protest in the state and other parts of the North-East.

“This start must become dynamic very soon and governments must try to repeal it from everywhere in the North-East. We also believe that by breaking this inertia, there is a signal of something positive. A start was awaited. We will hit the streets asking for total repeal of the draconian act,” the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign stated in a statement.
28 May 2015

Bangla Set To Export Unused Bandwidth To Northeast India

BSCCL,BSNL to ink deal during Modi's Dhaka visit

Dhaka, May 28 : The state-owned Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) is set to initiate the process of exporting its unused bandwidth to north-eastern states of India early next month.

 The BSCCL will sign a deal with an Indian firm to this effect during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in the first week of next month, said officials.

"We are expecting to ink the deal with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to supply 10 gigabyte per second (gbps) bandwidth during the Indian premier's next week's visit," BSCCL deputy general manager for the international internet gateway (IIG) Abdul Wahab told the FE Wednesday.

 All is now set for inking the deal, he added.

The BSCCL is expecting to fetch around Tk 94.20 million (US$1.2 million) through the export of 10 gbps bandwidth to the Indian firm annually, Mr Wahab said.

The export capacity could be raised to 40gbps, he added.

The cabinet approved last month the signing of the agreement to export the bandwidth to the BSNL for supplying to India's north-eastern states on lease and commercial basis.

"We have plans to export more of our unused bandwidth to augment our earnings," the BSCCL company secretary Abdus Salam Khan told the FE.

Officials said the BSCCL is a member of two international submarine cable consortiums-the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 (SEA-ME-WE 4) and the South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 5 (SEA-ME-WE 5).

It has already been working under the SEA-ME-WE 4 which stretches from France to Singapore.

The work on the SEA-ME-WE 5 is underway and it is expected to be finished by 2015.

The SEA-ME-WE 4 is an optical fibre submarine communications cable system that carries telecommunications between Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria and France.

The cable is approximately 18,800 kilometres long, and provides the primary internet backbone between South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Europe.

The submarine cable capacity of the BSCCL under its existing SEA-ME-WE 4 is around 200gbps and with the launching of the SEA-ME-WE 5 the capacity would be raised to 1,500gbps.

Currently only 30gbps internet bandwidth is being used in the country and the remaining 170gbps remained unused.

After next week's deal for exporting bandwidth to India, the BSCCL will be looking for bandwidth export to Italy, Mr Khan said.

On completion of preliminary discussion the BSCCL has already sent a proposal to the post and telecommunications division under the Ministry of Post, telecommunications and Information Technology to export around 90 gbps bandwidth to Italia Sparkels at a price of Tk 160 million.

The Italian firm would pay BSCCL Tk 4.80 million per year to bear the maintenance costs of the submarine cable.
26 May 2015

Modi To Take Up Northeast Connectivity Issue

By R Dutta Choudhury

Guwahati, May 25 : Improving connectivity of the North East region will be the key agenda of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his ensuing visit to Bangladesh as the Government of India has come to the conclusion that connectivity through the neighbouring country is a must for the development of the region.

Highly placed sources in the Government of India said that the Prime Minister is very clear in his mind on the issue of improving connectivity of the North East. “The Prime Minister is of the view that geographic remoteness is the root cause of underdevelopment of North East and there is urgent need for improving connectivity for the all round development of the region,” sources said.

Sources pointed out that improving relations with Bangladesh and transit through that country is vital for the development of North East and that is why, this would be the key issue for discussion during Modi's scheduled visit to Dhaka early next month. The Government of Bangladesh has already allowed on principle to allow India the use of Chittagong port. But the modalities would have to be finalized before India gets access to the port.

Sources pointed out that the use of Chittagong Port would open up a host of opportunity for the North East. Lack of sea connectivity was one of the major problems faced by the region since Independence and this issue would be taken up by Modi during his visit. The Government of India has already started working on road connectivity of North East with the South East Asian countries. But land connectivity depends on several key factors like the rough terrain, particularly in Myanmar.

“Moreover, we do not know how the political and security situation in Myanmar will develop in the days to come. If something goes wrong in Myanmar, the road connectivity between the North East and the South East Asian countries will be badly affected. In such a scenario, the use of Chittagong Port will come very handy,” sources added.

Moreover, sources said that at this moment, the North East is connected with the rest of the country only by a chicken neck corridor in North Bengal, it in turn has affected movement of goods to the region and resulted in escalation of prices. Use of the Chittagong Port and water ways through Bangladesh will ease out this problem to a great extent. Moreover, the road transit facilities through Bangladesh will also be immensely beneficial for the North East and the Prime Minister will take up these issues with his Bangladesh counterpart in his visit.

Sources further pointed out that maintaining good relation with Bangladesh does not have much economic relevance to the rest of the country. But it is vital in the perspective of the North East region if the region has to see economic growth.
20 May 2015

Gamlin Being Used As a 'Punching Bag': Northeast Community

New Delhi, May 20 : People from Northeast community today came out in support of Shakuntala Gamlin, whose appointment as the acting chief secretary escalated into a row, and said that she is being used as a "punching bag" and made the "scapegoat" in the fight.

They staged a protest outside Delhi Secretariat and later handed over a memorandum to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

"We are hurt by the allegations being made by the government in public. Government should treat everyone equally," one of the protesters, J T Tagam, said.

Protesters blamed Kejriwal of being "partial" to the woman IAS officer from North-East.

"First government recommended her name and later objected to her appointment and then accused her of favouring power companies in a public rally before the media. The Chief Minister should publically apologize to her," another protestor said.

People from the community said "attacking" statement by the Delhi government and Kejriwal towards a lady officer was unexpected and uncalled for. Bringing a lady officer from North-East in between the political fight was unacceptable and should have been avoided.

"She is discriminated against in many ways and this is her character assassination. She is being used as a punching bag in a tussle between the Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister. Kejriwal has been making allegations without any proof.

"We stand by Shakuntala Gamlin. By targeting her, he has targeted the entire community. The Chief Minister should conduct an enquiry and if she is found guilty, we are ready to accept the government's decision. She is being made a scapegoat in a political battle," said Taba Doni, president of Arunachal Student Union, Delhi.

Protesters said the government's decision of not appointing her as the chief secretary was illogical and it should have conducted a check on service background of an officer before recommending his/her name for such a senior bureaucratic post.

They said they will also write to President and Prime minister in this regard.

The confrontation over appointment of Gamlin as the acting chief secretary of Delhi had turned into a full-blown war between the ruling AAP and Jung with Kejriwal alleging that the LG was trying to take over the administration.

Despite Kejriwal's strong opposition, Jung had appointed her to the post on Friday.