Archive for March, 2010

Media Asked to Focus on Development of Northeast States

March 31, 2010

By Shreeraj Gudi

rspandey New Delhi, Apr 1
: Union Government’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks R. S. Pandey on Wednesday asked the media to report more on progress and development of the northeast region than just covering problems.

“Northeast has more stories on prospects and development than problems. There is a vast region of peace and tranquility. The areas which are enjoying peace and harmony should be shown to the outside world,” Pandey said.

His comments came while participating in a dialogue on “North East: Fallen off the media map?” organized by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP).

Pandey asked the scribes to highlight the basic human values in their reporting when he said the northeastern part of the country can really produce good and sellable news. But he expressed concern that the mainstream media did not have much focus on that region.

In his address, Pandey stressed that the psychological gap between northeast region and mainstream or metropolitan cities-centric media should be bridged.

“There is an immense psychological difference, this needs to be filled with,” Pandey said.

He said covering northeast is a big challenge and a bit difficult but even in that one can achieve success.

“This is the time of media proliferation. If the bosses in the media can decide, they can send and get report extensively,” Pandey said.

He said there are commonality as well as differences in the homogenous group of northeastern states, which are home to over 200 tribes.

Pandey, who also served for over a two decade in Nagaland as Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer acknowledged that infrastructure development in the region is still a big challenge, though the region showed good in Human Development Index (HDI).

He expressed confidence that the things were improving compared to 30 years ago, but they still need more focus.

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Pre-Paid Power Supply Soon in Manipur

March 31, 2010

maphou dam Maphou Dam Site (Manipur), Apr 1 : In a move to control power theft and monitor loss of power in transmission, a new mechanism of power supply in a ‘pre-paid’ system is likely to be introduced in the State of Manipur.

Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh informed this to a group of media persons on the sidelines of his day-long inspection visit at the Thoubal multi-purpose project site on Monday.

“We’re planning to introduce a pre-paid mechanism of power supply,” Ibobi said while replying to a question on shortage of power supply due to loss in it’s transmission process and frequent report of power theft. “Laying of underground cable is also in full swing in this regard,” he added. Manipur received around 100-110 MW against it’s requirement of 145-150MW of power in the peak hour.

The Chief Minister is confident of getting 145MW as the State’s share once the 2000MW Lower Subansiri (Arunachal Pradesh), 750MW Bongaigaon (Assam) and Palatana (Tripura) projects are commissioned in March next year (2011).

He also expressed need to upgrade the existing 132 KV Yurembam power supply transmission station, 8 km west of Imphal, and appealed to the people of Yurembam village to cooperate with the government in the interest of the State by allowing to acquire necessary land for the project.

Mizoram Govt To Assists Anthurium growers

March 31, 2010

Anthurium Aizawl, Apr 1 : As per the latest record, there are 472 families in Mizoram engaged in anthurium cultivation who get financial assistance from the horticulture department, government of Mizoram.

Aizawl district tops the list in family wise with as many as 313 families while Lunglei seconded with 67 families followed by Serchhip district with 43 families.

Horticulture department also assisted anthurium growers from Kolasib, Mamit and Lawngtlai districts. The department estimated a sell of 9,60,000 anthurium flowers to various customers.

The flower, which has a unique beauty with lasting charm is not only fascinated by the Mizo people, rather it has a very high demand from other states of India and even from abroad.

In fact, decorated and medicated anthurium flowers have been exported in huge numbers to countries like Japan, UAE, European countries through an agency called Zo Anthurium Growers Society (ZAGS) working for marketing and others improvement of anthurium farmers in Mizoram.

Besides this, ZAGS also organized anthurium exhibition-cum-sale in various places of the state to promote farmers and selling the flowers at reasonable prices to the public.

Earlier, Lalhmangaihzuali, secretary, Zo Anthurium Growers Society (ZAGS) informed that the society has exported 13,81,629 stems of anthurium worth Rs. 96,69,123 during 2008-09. She added that during 2008, the society sold anthurium stems worth Rs. 53,00,639.

“During 2009, ZAGS has sold anthurium stems worth Rs. 3,01,118 to Puja Florist & Himalayan Florica, New Delhi and also exported Rs. 1,02,400 worth to the Sutton & Sons (I) Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata during 2008-09”, Lalhmangaihzuali said.

A single flower could usually fetch between Rs 5 to Rs 10.

via Newmai News Network

SC Asks NCPCR to Inquire Into Trafficking of Manipur Children

March 31, 2010

india trafficked kids New Delhi, Apr 1 : The Supreme Court today ordered an inquiry by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) into the trafficking of children from Manipur and Assam to Tamil Nadu.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, asked the Commission to place its report within four weeks and posted the matter for hearing in May.
The court asked the Tamil Nadu government to furnish names of the children who were rescued from Kanyakumari district and and their parents.
It was hearing an application based on a media report about recovery of 76 such children.

Chidambaram on 4 Days Arunachal Trip

March 31, 2010

pc1 Itanagar, Apr 1 : Union Home Minister P Chidambaram will visit the Buddhist town of Tawang close to India-China border tomorrow as part of a four-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh, officials said today.

Chidambaram is also scheduled to visit the famed 400-year-old monastery in Tawang and Lumpo and Chuna border outposts.

Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Dorjee Khandu will accompany Chidambaram from Guwahati in Assam to Tawang.

The home minister will also visit Itanagar on April 2, according to official sources here.

He would also visit Tirap and Changlang districts, declared disturbed under the Armed Forces Special Power Act because of militants activities from neighboring Nagaland and Assam.

He is also likely to visit some Assam Rifles outposts there.

He will review the overall law and order situation with Army

Ripe For Talks?

March 31, 2010

By Rupakjyoti Borah

With most of the ULFA leadership either in prison or on the run, the militant outfit is in bad shape – an opportunity for New Delhi and for peace.

ULFA Chairman Rajkhowa arrives at court

The controversial ‘arrest’ of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Raju Baruah in early December caused a localized storm that nonetheless quickly died down.
Whether Bangladeshi authorities picked up the two leaders and handed them over to Indian authorities, or whether they surrendered in India itself remains shrouded in mystery.

But what is certain is that apprehending such prominent leaders represents a turning point in Assam’s separatist politics. Past attempts at peace have consistently fizzled out, leading the insurgency to rage for more than three decades.

Indeed, much water has flowed down the mighty Brahmaputra since the ULFA was founded on 7 April 1979 at the historic Rang Ghar in upper Assam, an amphitheatre dating back to the Ahoms, the pre-British monarchs who ruled for some six centuries.

In the early 1990s, after successive operations by the Indian Army attempted to root out the outlawed group, the ULFA began to shift its bases to Bhutan.

By 2003, there were about 30 camps inside Bhutan, housing around 3500 militants. In December of that year, however, the Royal Bhutan Army launched Operation All Clear against ULFA as well as cadres with the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) holed up in the country.

During this action, around 650 militants were either killed or captured. Subsequently, many senior ULFA leaders fled to Bangladesh, again operating from across the border, until Dhaka began a serious crackdown late last year. This has now led to the arrest of eight prominent leaders, including Rajkhowa and Baruah.

Even as this changed context has sparked hopes of peace in Assam, any optimism is tinged with a sense of the numerous past failures in this regard. When on 7 September 2005, for instance, ULFA nominated an 11-member group, christened the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), led by writer Indrani Goswami, to prepare the groundwork for eventual talks with New Delhi, this turn of events likewise raised hopes. Yet while the much-awaited first round of talks between the PCG and the Centre were held soon after, the peace process quickly ran into rough weather.

The ULFA leadership put forth three conditions for the talks: that sovereignty be the core issue; the release of five ULFA Central Committee members; and information on the whereabouts of cadres who had been missing since Operation All Clear. The interlocutors in New Delhi, however, were unwilling to accept any of these. After a yearlong stuttering relationship, the PCG pulled out from the peace process, alleging lack of sincerity on the part of the government. Thereafter, ULFA resumed its armed tactics and army operations resumed.

All the same, the militant outfit suffered a significant setback on 24 June 2008, when the ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies of its 28th Battalion – ULFA’s strongest unit in terms of both military and fundraising prowess – announced a ceasefire. Some 200 cadres, led by five high-ranking commanders, came aboveground and advocated continuing the talks with the government.

But whoever thought that the ULFA epitaph had been written were quickly  proved wrong when, four months later, on 30 October, serial blasts rocked Assam, claiming at least 66 lives and injuring over 450. Though ULFA denied involvement, security officials have refused to buy the argument.

Against this backdrop, there are many reasons why New Delhi should take the initiative to resume talks with ULFA in the current context. To begin with, ULFA is arguably farther on its back foot than at any time in the past, with ties between India and Bangladesh showing a notable turnaround after Sheikh Hasina took over the reins last year in Bangladesh.

In a significant step, during Prime Minister Hasina’s official visit to India in January, the two neighbors signed three major agreements dealing with mutual law-and-order concerns, which have surely made life increasingly difficult for ULFA leaders remaining in Bangladesh.

Indeed, matters are already moving forward. In addition to the earlier arrest of Rajkhowa and Baruah, Dhaka has hinted that ULFA General-Secretary Anup Chetia, who was arrested in Bangladesh in 1997, could soon be handed over to Indian officials. Further, on 1 November last year, ULFA Foreign Secretary Sasha Choudhury and Finance Secretary Chitraban Hazarika were also arrested in Bangladesh, and are already in jail in Assam. As such, with most of the senior leaders under arrest, and the group in shambles, New Delhi may well have the upper hand if negotiations ensue.

At the same time, even as Thimphu and Dhaka appear to be cooperating fully with New Delhi, it is important to keep ULFA’s ties with Burma in mind. Indeed, reports are currently circulating that the group’s military chief, Paresh Baruah, is hiding in Burma.

This may not be particularly problematic for New Delhi, however, considering its close ties with the junta, and the latter’s brutal treatment of its own homegrown insurgencies.

Indeed, Naypyidaw and New Delhi even staged a joint operation, codenamed Operation Golden Bird, in 1995 to hunt down ULFA operatives hiding in Burma. There is no reason to believe the junta would shy away from a similar exercise now, should New Delhi be keen on the idea. 

Gateway
With New Delhi in such a strong position, analysis must now be pointed to the future. Much would be gained from talks between government officials and the ULFA leadership.

If these were to succeed, the state and the central governments could finally devote their energies to addressing the pressing concerns of the people – unemployment and illegal migration from Bangladesh, and offering a concerted effort to deal with the devastating annual floods.

Meanwhile, tourism could prove to be a big earner for the state and its populace if potential visitors can be assured of their safety. On a larger level, peace in Assam would have a positive spill-over effect into the other parts of the Northeast, where many of the states are also reeling under violence.

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), for instance, has operated under a ceasefire with New Delhi since 1997, while its leaders, Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu, recently held more talks with Home Minister P Chidambaram. If ULFA follows a similar track, there would be pressure on the other insurgent groups in the area to do likewise.

A period of peace could also help to turn Assam and the Northeast into a gateway to Southeast Asia. Under its Look East policy, New Delhi has for years been trying to figure out how to develop closer ties with the economies of Southeast and East Asia, even mooting a highway project involving Burma and Thailand and a rail link between New Delhi and Hanoi. The possibility of the re-opening of the historic Stilwell Road, which runs from Ledo in Assam to Kunming in China via Burma, is also being discussed. Assam and the entire Northeast have much to gain from better ties with the Southeast Asian countries.

In late February, Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, stated that his government was indeed willing to talk to the rebels, but on the condition that the issue of sovereignty is taken off the table. To back its rhetoric, and pave the way for peace talks, the state government also did not oppose the bail appeal of two senior ULFA leaders in custody, Pradip Gogoi and Mithinga Daimary.

In the current context, the only hold-up appears to be the Dispur government’s insistence on bringing in ULFA Commander-in-Chief Paresh Baruah, as no peace deal is likely to last without his nod.

Rupakjyoti Borah is a doctoral student at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

100 Percent Job Placement at Shillong IIM- Cheers Allover

March 31, 2010

By Syed Zarir Hussain

IIM-shillong Shillong, Apr 1 : All the 63 first-batch graduates of the youngest Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Meghalaya have got job offers, with an annual average salary of around Rs.10 lakhs and the highest pay package worth a whopping Rs.34 lakhs.

The mood is upbeat and one of utter jubilation at IIM Shillong (IIM-S).

“We are indeed very happy with the placements considering the fact that we are the youngest IIM and had to overcome several odds like logistical problems,” Arijit Majumdar, the institute’s corporate relations and external affairs head, told IANS.

Not many outside India’s northeast probably know that there is an IIM in the Meghalaya capital named after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. It started in 2008 from a makeshift campus and still functions out of an interim facility.

Surrounded by pine trees, lush green lawns and mountains in the backdrop, the institute is functioning from the Mayurbhanj Complex — the erstwhile summer palace of the kings of Mayurbhanj, Orissa.

“We may be logistically handicapped in terms of the distance and location, but we can boast that IIM Shillong is one of the best tech savvy campuses in the country and more than 35 percent of the recruiters offered jobs by way of video conferencing,” Majumdar said.

In the just concluded placements, recruiters, both domestic and foreign, offered good pay packagaes to the young managers.

“The highest domestic offer annually was around Rs.1.8 million. A few of the students were offered jobs by foreign firms with salaries ranging from Rs.3.3 to 3.4 million,” Majumdar said.

The recruiters include big names such as Deloitte, Infosys, Power Finance Corporation, Jumbo Electronics of Dubai, Hewlett Packard, Essar, Shipping Corporation, TELCON, Tata Motors and Escorts.

The job categories were varied – from IT to finance, human resources to marketing, besides other domains.

“I am thrilled to be part of the first batch and get a reasonably good job offer. The facilities or other logistic support may not be at par with the other IIMs in the country, but the faculty here is simply exceptional,” said a graduate from Assam, requesting annonymity as his recruiter demands privacy.

The institute offers a two-year post- graduate programme in management (PGP) and plans to offer other courses like the fellow programme in management (FPM), management development programmes (MDPs) and research and consultancy, along with some short-term certificate courses.

“Our goal is to achieve excellence in the field of managerial education, training and research. Beginning with the meticulous short-listing of candidates till the finalizing of electives for the students to specialize in, there is just one word to describe the methodology here – rigour,” Ashoke K. Dutta, director of IIM-S, said.

“The 63-strong student force, an army of corporate generals, has been trained under ‘eight day’ weeks, in cutting edge finance and economics, as well as on sustainability and governance,” Dutta added with pride.

The Meghalaya government has allotted a 120-acre plot on which work is under way for a state-of-the-art academic-cum-residential campus.

(Syed Zarir Hussain can be contacted at zarir.h@ians.in)

Biometric Card For NREGA Schemes in Assam

March 31, 2010

NREGA Guwahati, Apr 1 : The Assam government will soon launch a biometric smart card for ensuring transparency in the payments made under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

“For ensuring transparency and speed in making payments under NREGA, my government is planning to launch a biometric smart card”, chief minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters in Guwahati on Monday.

“The government is going to bear a two per cent service charge for making the system helpful for rural workers and for better supervision of schemes my government has taken a decision to provide a vehicle to all the block development officers”, he said.

For generating avenues of self employment in rural areas under the chief minister’s special employment programme of 2010-11, an amount of Rs 35.50 crore has been allocated to the State Institute of Rural Development (SITD) to assist around 12000 farmers, women weavers and unemployed youths, Gogoi said.

“My target is to generate eight crore man-days under NREGA in the next financial year”, he said.

Unsustainable Traditional Land Clearing in Northeast India

March 31, 2010

jhum cultivation Guwahati, Mar 31 : Traditional land clearing for planting of hill rice and vegetables (jhum) in Northeast India is now a part-time job.

Looking at the extent of burning on the hillsides, jhum has gone beyond its sustainability as a way of life. There are too many people practicing it with too little land for a 15-year cycle.

And this means that people can no longer simply live off the land in order to survive, send children to school, and meet the basic needs. They now need some level of government employment as some sort of “multi-cropping”1 to augment their income needs.

Of course for those families that don’t have one member employed at a basic level by government, it is a different story. Half the year is spent first clearing the land and burning just before the rains, then planting and guarding until the harvest of rice. For the other half of the year, they will wait or look for other work on a construction site or labor elsewhere.

The hills are burning today as people expect rain in early March. For two months there has been no rain at all and that is unusual. The first flush of leaves on the tea farms in Assam will be lost if rain does not come in a week, and also much of the ash from the burnings will have blown away.

The burning is extensive, and fires go way beyond the area to be planted in a season. In a nearby village, part of a tea farm burned along by the road and a transformer close to the scrub also burned. Often, a catchment area for water gets burned and in the last few days someone’s house also got caught up in the fires.

Marginal trees get sapped of their life when they could have been a source of production. Bananas are scorched and people have to wait for a new sucker to emerge. When the hillsides burn, much of the nutrient goes up in smoke and the ash gets blown away. When the rain comes, it often carries off any ash left on the surface.

[ via ESSC News ]

Nagalim: NSCN (IM) Celebrate Republic Day As Talks Continue

March 31, 2010

nscn-photo Kohima, Mar 31 : The celebration of 30th Naga Republic Day on 21 March 2010 in Nagaland by both NSCN factions are significant in view of New Delhi’s ongoing peace process with the NSCN (IM) and also its ongoing truce with NSCN (K).

Below is an article published by Asian Tribune :

The observance of the 30th Naga Republic Day Celebrations on March 21 in Nagaland by two NSCN factions is remarkable for the fact that the two celebrations organized in their respective Camps were addressed by their respective Prime Ministers.

Prime Minister of NSCN (IM) Th Muivah addressed the 30th Naga Republic Day Celebration at their Camp Hebron, while Prime Minister of NSCN (K) N Kitovi Zhimomi at their Camp Khehoi. The celebrations also assumed significance in view of New Delhi’s ongoing peace process with the NSCN (IM) and also its ongoing truce with NSCN (K).

Yet, if the speeches delivered by both the PMs of the two NSCNs are closely studied, things do not augur well. It appears that things aren’t going to the direction as expected, though there has been, no doubt, a marked progress in New Delhi’s talks with the NSCN (IM).

Because as per the statement made by NSCN (K) Prime Minister N Kitovi Zhimomi while addressing the 30th Naga Republic Day on March 21 at Camp Khehoi, the solution with one group would lead to another “bloodshed.” A veil threat indeed to New Delhi’s current talks with the NSCN (IM).

On the other hand, New Delhi’s talks with the NSCN (IM) have progressed to certain level and Muivah’s praising Indian leaders particularly Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram is “unprecedented” this time.

As soon as he arrived at Delhi from Amsterdam, he held fresh rounds of talks with Indian top leaders at Delhi. The Government of India and the NSCN (IM) were committed to solving the Naga problem and the Indian leaders were more serious this time to resolve the issue, he said while addressing the gathering on the occasion of the 30th Naga Republic Day Celebration on March 21 at Camp Hebron.

His remarks have plainly shown that both sides have reached to certain but crucial level as far as solution to the Naga political issue is concerned. The biggest hurdle coming on the way is its rival group—the NSCN (K), whose top leaders’ agenda to Naga solution is nothing less than the “Naga sovereignty.” Zhimomi even said their organization (NSCN-K) would welcome the “other Naga group” holding talks with New Delhi, if they could bring “sovereignty” to the Nagas. This is something New Delhi has out rightly rejected.

Historically, the Naga political movement was started for a “Naga sovereign nation.” The past leaders including legendary Naga freedom fighter AZ Phizo put their best to resolve the issue. Today, the issue has really become a critically complex one.

The situation of the current political negotiation, though the Government of India announced that solution would be found within 12 to 24 months, is still fragile. Having seen the warning sounded by the NSCN (K) leader Zhimomi, New Delhi’s political negotiation with the NSCN (IM) leaderships would face many hurdles and may lose its path in the maze of complex situations if they fail to handle the fast developing situation carefully. They both need careful study before making another move.

Zhimomi had even gone further in cautioning the Naga civil societies that in the event of their supporting to one group for solution, “they will also be (held) responsible for any bloodshed that comes.” He cited examples of the past accords—like the 16-Point Agreement, The Shillong Accord, etc—that led to more mistrust and bloodsheds among the Nagas. “An accord was signed with India and bloodshed had flowed,” he recalled and asked, “Do we need another accord to start another round of bloodshed.”

In recent times, of course, New Delhi has categorically told that final solution to the vexed Naga political issue would only come about when they could talk to the entire Naga underground groups. And NSCN (K) asserts that unity amongst the Naga underground groups should precede the talk with New Delhi.

It is a gruesome reminder that many Naga underground cadres belonging to various factions lost their precious lives due to fierce factional fights. This madness had not only widened gaps between them but also inflicted badly to the psyche of the innocent civilians.

Today, over the last one year, a semblance of peace is seen throughout the length and breath of Nagaland. The general publics feel more secure. Factional killings has almost stopped and in fact on many occasions, functionaries from both factions formed a team and played football match against the team drawn up from civil societies.

The credit of creating such environment should go to the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR). They have been playing a very important role in bring leaders of various Naga underground groups to come closer and even successfully constituted “Joint Working Group” of various underground groups.

However, the NSCN (K) leaderships are still asking the validity of the NSCN (IM)’s continuing talks with New Delhi, while searching for “Reconciliation.” They feel that real reconciliation can only come about if the other group withdraws from the talks with New Delhi.

It is still unpredictable as to where the talks will be heading to if one sees the hardening posture, contradicting to the agenda of the current talks. Unfortunately, nobody is around to mend their ways.