Archive for August, 2010

India: Economic Growth Contrasts With Political Unrest in a Forgotten Enclave

August 31, 2010

Long sheltered by its remote location, the capital of Mizoram state must learn to manage the maelstrom of modern India

By Paul Grogan

Letter from Mizoram
Aizawl, capital of Mizoram state, at dusk. Photograph: STR/EPA

I am sitting on a balcony looking out on one of the more extraordinary places on earth.

Teenage girls and boys “hang out” beside the headstones in the graveyard below me. Pigs squeal and grunt in their little pens amid the banana trees and corrugated iron houses.

I am in Aizawl, capital of Mizoram state, which extends like a peninsula into one of the farthest corners of northeast India. Burma lies about 50km to the east, and Bangladesh is nearly as close on the western side. Steep bamboo-forested hills descend deep below me on almost all sides.

Aizawl’s houses are built on stilts that cling to the hillsides – even the mildest earthquake would surely destroy this place in minutes. The city sprawls across several ridge tops that are connected by steep narrow roads and hundreds of hairpin bends.

Driving for the uninitiated is definitely not recommended. In fact, the state banned alcohol in 1995 apparently because there were so many road accidents involving inebriated young drivers.

Right now, Aizawl seems to be undergoing extraordinary tensions and changes. The Mizo people are of Chinese/Mongolian origin, and were converted by Presbyterian missionaries at the beginning of the last century. They live simply, using the slash-and-burn form of agriculture that has been outmoded in most of the rest of the world.

These million or so people live at least 30 hours by road from mainland India. Their distinct ethnicity, culture, religion and location might make them easily forgotten within the intense maelstrom of Indian politics.

But while the Mizos are a friendly and relatively peace-loving people, the state’s international borders may provide an easy conduit for the movement of arms, fighters and drugs into other parts of India.

Over the past decade, Delhi has poured billions of rupees into Mizoram, and Aizawl now has an airport and a new university. But how can a city with such an extraordinary geography support these developments over the long term? There isn’t enough space, the slopes are too severe to widen the roads much, the agricultural base is weak, and an industrial base is almost unimaginable.

The teenagers in the graveyard below have now disappeared – no doubt gone indoors to watch CNN or Bollywood or some such. May they be pacified.

via Guardian Weekly

Science Village Coming in Tripura

August 31, 2010

science Agartala, Aug 31 : A Vigyan Gram, or a science village, is to come up on the outskirts of Tripura’s capital, complete with a museum, library, planetarium, botanical garden, bird sanctuary and other attractions to popularise science among the masses.

The Vigyan Gram, to be modelled on the lines of science cities in various cities in India, would be set up at a cost of Rs.35 crore in western Tripura’s Badharghat, a village on the outskirts of Agartala.

The National Council of Science Museums (SCSM), an autonomous society under the ministry of culture, has extended all out supports in setting up of the ‘science village’,’ Tripura Science and Environment Minister Joy Gobinda Deb Roy told IANS in an interview.

The Tripura State Council for Science and Technology (TSCST), an autonomous body under the state’s government’s science, technology and environment department is the nodal authority to look after the management of the proposed science village, which would be a regional level science hub.

Deb Roy said: ‘The science village will have a museum, library, planetarium, botanical garden, heritage park, bird sanctuary, aquarium, auditorium, children’s park and a laboratory.’

‘It would also have an exhibition zone, educational demonstration arrangement, playing zone for children and science book stalls.’

Already 9.20 acres of land has been earmarked for the science village, which is scheduled to open in the next 33 months, when the first phase gets completed. The entire Vigyan Gram would be completed by four years.

‘The science village project seeks to develop awareness among people, the literacy and outlook of young students and people, specifically with respect to science,’ the minister said, adding that it will help people to learn about science and scientific works through recreational activities and promote research works. The project will also contribute towards generating employment opportunities and promote eco-tourism.

According to the project report, the Vigyan Gram is envisaged to attract students and science enthusiasts from Bangladesh, especially with the government of India planning to enhance connectivity with the neighbouring country by setting up rail, road and water ways links through the northeastern state.

‘The Vigyan Gram would attract students, science enthusiasts, teachers, researchers and tourists from different parts of India and neighbouring countries,’ the project report said.

The report also states: ‘The outreach programmes of the Vigyan Gram are likely to change the mindset of terrorists and surrendered militants by imparting knowledge on various scientific issues pertaining to day to day life and making a habit of logical belief.’

Minister Deb Roy said the Vigyan Gram would also offer ‘excellent non-formal educational facility’ to supplement the formal science education imparted in educational institutions.

‘Setting up of Vigyan Gram would be an integrated approach towards free-choice learning of science for all concerned,’ the minister said adding that the main objectives of setting up of the Vigyan Gram includes, to grow, nurture and stimulate a culture of science and develop a scientific temper among the people in the northeastern region and to promote innovative and experimental activities through a hands-on learning process.

‘The Vigyan Gram would also help to promote and exhibit interaction of science, technology, energy and environment with human life and to enhance scientific awareness among the people at large and to showcase the latest scientific and technological breakthroughs.’

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

Northeast Bar Girl Alleges Molestation by Boss in Delhi

August 31, 2010

sexual molest New Delhi, Aug 31 : An employee of a restrobar, hailing from northeast India, has alleged that her boss tried to molest her after he found her watching television during duty hours inside the bar located in L-block of Connaught Place.

The accused is the manager of the bar. New Delhi district police has registered a case of molestation.

The victim, a resident of Manipur, has alleged that her manager first hurled abuses at her and then pushed her off her chair before trying to molest her.

“I was alone on the first floor of the restrobar when he attacked me with a fork. I suffered bruises,” the woman told police.

She added that when she raised an alarm other employees of the restrobar rushed to her rescue.

“The accused has accepted that he did scold her but refuted all other charges. We have taken the victim, who has been working at this restaurant-cum-bar for the past three months, to RML Hospital for a medical test. We are investigating the case,” said an officer.

Additional commissioner (New Delhi) Shankar Dash said, “As it is a case of molestation against a girl from northeast, we are treating the case seriously.”

The girl, who lives with her brother and cousin at Kotla Mubarakpur in south Delhi, vowed that she will never set foot on the restrobar again.

“Now, I do not want to go back to duty. They did not remove me from my post. I left the job on my own volition,” she said.

Livelihoods And Environment: The Pnar Conflict

August 31, 2010

By Sonata G Dkhar

What mining has done to ‘these hills which we call home’ is unimaginable. The prodigious alterations caused by the extraction of coal and limestone have changed the very environmental, social and cultural precincts of the place. It has engulfed the land and slowly and stealthily whelmed in the people of Jaintia hills, a mineral rich district in the North Eastern state of Meghalaya.

On one of my visits to this coal and limestone rich region, I met Lad Phawa. In 2002, he began what he calls a “thriving business” that of sourcing out water and selling it in this water deficit region, caused by the excessive mining and its associated activities. As we stood overlooking his barren fields he had stopped cultivating in for the past eight years, Lad said “I don’t think I will farm again, I make a much better living by selling water”.

Lad Phawa’s Fields – now a water storage area

What he said left me thinking – is this what is engulfing the entire region, is mining going to overtake this agrarian society, what will be the outcome of such a mass shift in livelihood and why are people making the shift, will this not lead to further destruction of the environment of this ecologically diverse land.

In Jaintia hills many men and women are turning to the mining industry, if not directly then indirectly associating themselves with this fastidiously growing economically viable industry. Many from the well- off local Pnar population have either started mining in their own land or have leased their land to other private coal mine owners, this in the absence of any regulation and the existence of a complex land ownership system that grants direct control of the land to the tribal people, qualifying Meghalaya as the only state in the country where mining is done privately. While many working the coal mines are migrant labourers, a number of the local folk work as supervisors of the coal dumps or as daily wage labourers loading trucks. There are those like Lad who utilise sources at hand and market water, while others work in making and selling the small tools needed for mining.

“Why should I even consider stopping mining” says Kong Rit (name changed) from Sohkynphor village who overlooks the loading of trucks at Kongong, a coal dumping ground adjacent to national highway 44. “I can now feed my family properly, send my children to school and even have enough money for medicines” she adds trying hard to explain to me why mining should not be stopped in these hills. This may not be a unified voice of the Pnars/Jaintias but it is a powerful dominant opinion, which many are fearful to contradict. It is this opinion that has allowed the rampant spread of mining and overlooked the harm and destruction caused by unchecked, unscientific mining to the land and the environment.

Many paddy fields have been left barren; the Jhum (Shifting) cultivation has reduced. Even though 70% of the state is dependent on agriculture, in Jaintia hills personal stories of people tell us of a shift in livelihood. According to a study by Dr K Sarma with the help of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, the cropped area in the coal region of Jaintia hills has reduced from 2.65% in 1975 to 1.62% in2001 while the mining area has increased from 3.26% in 1975 to 10.75% in 2001. The dense forest cover in Jaintia hills has also dramatically reduced from 22.5% of the total area in 1975 to a mere 12.34% in 2001

Coal dumped and extracted next to what once paddy fields

Jaintia hills is undergoing major environmental changes due to private coal mining and the extensive limestone quarrying and the many cement plants that have mushroomed in the past couple of years. The water bodies in the area are polluted, the water table is declining, there have been changes in land forms, and the numbers of forests have decreased. In fact according to the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board air pollution levels have increased leading to warmer temperatures in the coal belt region of the state. The report states that the average concentration of suspended particulate matter is 200 micro gram per cubic metre while sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen is 6.5 and 25.5 micro gram per cubic meter respectively. Shortage of rainfall over the years in a region famous for heavy rains is another indicator of the changing climatic conditions in the region.

The situation is worsening by the day and the effects on the environment and the people deleterious. “Every year we used to collect rain water for our daily use” says Puson Gympad, a resident and the secretary of Lumchnong village. “…but this year things are different, ever since the year’s first shower till now the rain water is so dirty we do not even dare use it for anything” he adds while showing me the water collected from the rain that poured as we were sitting and having tea. This is the plight of people residing in Lumchnong village which is situated along the national highway 44, whose two main sources of water – the kotsati cave and the Wah(river)Larung were polluted ever since a staggering 9 cement plants and a few captive power plants were set up within a five kilometre radius around the elaka (area) within the span of 10 years.

Unfortunately despite that most of the problems the elaka is facing is because of the setting up of the many cement plants in the region, most people still opt to work in the factories. “None of the youngsters know how to go and cultivate, they all lie by idle or even if they work they go to the factories” says Thrin Lamare, Lumchnong’s oldest woman and the last generations of farmers in the village. Puson looks at this as people “being short sighted” as one day the resources will be exhausted, the factories will close and nothing will remain, but the situation is far more complex.

Nearly 60% of the village land has already been leased to the different cement plants and this is not the situation only in Lumchnong. Vast areas of the limestone rich Narpoh elaka as well have been leased off for a mere RS 30 – 40/kmsq. While walking around some of the villages, numbered rocks and cut trees and untended orange orchards are witness to the transactions that have already been made, transactions where benefactors will always remain a handful. For the rest, earning a livelihood is of key importance, even if it means working in those very places that are causing harm to the land and environment they live in, even it means to move away from a practise integral to their way of life.

“Our land will be stripped naked” Puson’s indignant words resonate in my head. They tell me of a Jaintia hills that is being destroyed and desecrated, they tell me of the infinite woes that the people are confronting and they tell me of the irresponsible extensive mining that is killing the people and the environment

**Sonata G Dkhar is an independent film maker, currently based in Shillong. sonata84@gmail.com

** Sonata is Panos South Asia Fellow 2010 whose current work deals with conflict and environmental changes in Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya.

via Countercurrents.org

Chilli Festival Observed in Ukhrul, Manipur

August 31, 2010

By Sobhapati Samom

chillies1 Imphal, Aug 31 : While neighboring Assam is initiating large scale cultivation of the world’s hottest chili, ‘Bhut Jolokia’, demand for which is said to be on the rise in the Arabian and European countries, a small hamlet in Manipur’s Ukhrul district has started to preserve and promote an exclusive chilli variety.

In a move to showcase the sensational look and taste of the chilli having the most distinguishing character besides setting up a collection centre in the markets of Northeast India, the first-ever Chilli festival or Hathei phanit was held at Sira-Rakhong village, 80 km from here in Ukhrul district, on Tuesday last.

The festival was held under the aegis of Sira-Rakhong Sinao Long (SSL) – a women’s body of this western village of the Tangkhuls. International Fund for Agricultural Development’s official Ticychicus Vashum was the chief guest of the festival.

“Our objective of organizing such a gala festival is to re-introduce the sensational look and taste of the chilli having the most distinguishing character in the region”, V Aphi, President of the SSL told The Assam Tribune.

Sira-Rakhong is known for it’s exclusive variety of chilli, brinjal, cotton and an endangered rice variety called –changlei-thi in Tangkhul dialect.

“We are trying to impart awareness about the status of our age-old agricultural plants as the villagers here have started to face continuous invasion by the exotic varieties”, a functionary of the organiser body felt.

The dry red chilli powder of Sira-Rakhong village has it’s own colour. Though the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged Assam’s ‘Bhut Jolokia’ as the hottest spice in 2007 for measuring 1,001,304 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which means it contains the highest naturally occurring amount of capsaicin (the pungent chemical in chillies) in the world, according to the Guinness Book, Sira-Rakhong villagers believed the chilli variety which was available in their village since time immemorial is one of the best health concern chilli.

Also known as Hathei in Tangkhul dialect was one of the four main agricultural crops in the hill village. Unlike the past the village has been harvesting a minimum of 10,000 kilograms every season without any technical inputs or chemical fertilizer.

via The Assam Tribune

Meet Sub-Rs 10,000 3G Mobile Phones

August 31, 2010

3G services are finally set to revolutionize Indian telecom landscape. With 3G spectrum allocation over, telcos are now gearing up to roll out the services to users. And very soon Indian consumers will be able to do so much more than just voice and text messaging.

3G will allow mobile users to watch TV, play online games, download videos and listen to streaming music straight on their mobile screens.

But in case your handset is still not 3G ready or you are struggling to find one that suits your pocket, here are some 3G phones in the sub-Rs 10,000 range.
Meet sub-Rs 10,000 3G mobile phones

Samsung S5620 Monte

Samsung S5620 Monte

Samsung recently expanded its touchscreen phone line-up in India with the launch of 3G-ready S5620 Monte.

Featuring a 3-inch TFT touchscreen display, the phone comes equipped with Smart unlock, accelerometer sensor, 3.15 megapixel camera and geo-tagging.

Other features include smile detection capability, Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio jack, Google Maps, Stereo FM Radio and image editing applications.

The phone promises to offer 9 hours, 42 minutes of talk time. The phone’s internal memory is 200MB which can be expanded using a microSD card. Samsung S5620 is priced at Rs 8,850 approximately.

LG GU285

LG GU285

Korean electronics giant LG has extended its mobile portfolio with the addition of 3G capable LG GU285. Sporting a 2.2-inch touchscreen screen, the phone packs two cameras – a 1.3 megapixel at the back and a VGA camera on the front side for video calling. The phone supports GPRS/EDGE and is 3G ready.

Other features include expandable memory upto 8GB, music playback, FM Radio and ‘Try & Games’ which has games like Sudoku, and Ferrari GT.

LG GU285 is priced at Rs 6,000.

Nokia 2730 classic

Nokia 2730 classic

Finnish cellphone maker too offers a low-price 3G phone in its India line-up. Called Nokia 2730 classic, the phone is equipped with Nokia’s Ovi Mail, Nokia Messaging, Nokia Life Tools and browsing. The phone also comes with an integrated Opera mini browser.

Available in black and dark magenta colour, the handset measures 109.6 mm x 46.9 mm x 14.4 mm and weighs 87.7 grams. The battery life offers maximum of 7.4 hours talktime and 16.5 days standby time.

The 3G capable phone comes with A2DP Bluetooth, USB port with microUSB but with no WLAN and infrared. The handset also packs a 2 megapixel camera with 1600 x 1200 pixels with video recording of 176 x 144 at 10 fps(frames per second).

As for memory, Nokia 2730 Classic has 30MB internal memory which supports microSD card upto 2GB. The handset is priced at Rs 4,499.

Samsung Metro 3G

Samsung Metro 3G

Samsung recently added another 3G phone to its India line-up. Called Metro 3G, the phone has metallic exterior and is 11.9mm in thickness.

Samsung Metro 3G provides users with easy access to nine social networking sites, including Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Picassa, Friendster and Photobucket.

Metro 3G also comes equipped with a chat messenger and supports GTalk, AIM and Palringo chat. Other features include 3.2 megapixel camera, with Smile shot and Panorama shot technology, and Bluetooth 2.1 which offers wireless connectivity to headsets, printers as well as mobile and PC devices.

The mobile phone has 105MB internal memory and a microSD support for upto 16GB. Metro 3G is also the first phone in Metro series to offer support in nine regional languages.

The phone is priced at Rs 8,250 approximately.

LG Cookie Plus GS500v

LG Cookie Plus GS500v

LG has refreshed its touchscreen lineup in the country with the launch Cookie Plus GS500v.
The 3G-capable model LG Cookie Plus GS500v sports a 3-inch LCD touchscreen display and has a 3 megapixel camera. The phone’s key features include one touch social networking, editable screen shot, MMS and a 3-way user interface.

The phone comes with 3.5 mm jack and connectivity options include Bluetooth 2.1 and micro USB. The handset also comes with Facebook auto update feature. The phone has 30MB of internal memory that can be expanded up to 8GB.

LG Cookie Plus GS500v is priced at Rs 7,999.

Nokia C5

Nokia C5

Nokia recently added 3G phone to its C-series in India called Nokia C5. Sporting a 2.2-inch display with 240 x 320 pixels, C5 comes with 3.5 megapixel camera with LED Flash and video recording VGA at 15 fps (frames per second).

The phone also offers support for Nokia Ovi Maps which enables free global navigation. Running on Symbian OS 9.3, the phone comes pre-loaded with a 2GB memory card. The memory can be expanded upto 16GB.

Other key features include front-facing VGA camera, Class 32 GPRS and EDGE, FM radio, 3G support, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP and microUSB 2.0 port.

The phone is priced at Rs 7,999.

INQ Mini 3G and Chat 3G

INQ Mini 3G and Chat 3G

UK-based handset maker INQ recently added two 3G handsets in India — INQ Mini 3G and Chat 3G. Measuring 114.5 x 61 x 12.8 mm, INQ Chat 3G mobile comes with QWERTY keypad. The device supports push email, Facebook, Twitter and IM.

The other key features include QVGA display, music player and a 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera. The phone has 100MB of internal memory and can be expanded upto 4GB. INQ Chat 3G is priced at Rs 7,600.

The second handset Mini 3G comes with a 2.2 inch QVGA TFT display. The integrated INQ apps boast of Facebook, Skype, Twitter, and Instant Launcher.

The device features a 2 megapixel camera, on board 128MB memory and expandable memory card slot support upto 4GB capacity. It also comes with Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, USB 2.0 and 1150 mAh battery. INQ mini 3G is available for Rs 5,400.

HTC Smart

HTC Smart

Priced below Rs 10,000, HTC Smart is the cheapest device ever launched by the company in the Indian market. Sporting a 2.8-inch TFT-LCD touchscreen with QVGA resolution, the phone comes with 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, HTC Sense UI and a 3 megapixel camera.

Other features include GSM/GPRS/EDGE, Bluetooth 2.0, HSDPA/WCDMA and microSD memory card with SD 2.0 support. Smart promises 370 minutes of talktime for WCDMA and upto 450 minutes of talktime for GSM.

The phone has a 300 MHz processor with 256MB RAM and 256MB ROM. The mmory can be expanded upto 16GB. The smartphone is powered by Qualcomm’s Brew operating system.

Smart offers support for Bluetooth withA2DP, 3G, Mini USB connectivity, 3.5 mm headphone jack, FM radio with RDS and music player. However, Smart is not Wi-Fi enabled.

Mizoram to Export Incense Sticks

August 30, 2010

incense Aizawl, Aug 30 : The Bamboo Development Agency of Mizoram here today struck a deal with India’s largest incense sticks company for marketing the stated-produced square incense sticks.

Executive Director of Bamboo Development Agency and Director of State Industries Department Shurbir Singh and Chief Operating Officer of N Ranga Rao & Sons, Mysore, M S Suresh, signed the memorandum of understanding at the office of commissioner and secretary of industries.

According to the agreement, Mizoram will supply 50 tonnes of square incense sticks to N Ranga Rao & Sons on monthly basis. The company will also give necessary training to incense stick-makers of the state.

Samples of square incense sticks produced in Mizoram was shown to the CEO and he was satisfied with the quality.

R L Rinawma hoped that the MoU would revolutionize Mizoram’s rural economy.

The Bamboo Development Agency, Mizoram had on February 3 this year signed similar MoU with ITC, Chennai for marketing the Mizoram-produced round incense sticks.

The BDA have set up production centres for round incense sticks at Saiha, Lunglei and Haulawng. These units are now in operation. ”In addition to these units there are various units of this kind supported by BDA through National Mission on Bamboo Application, New Delhi,” officials said.

Once the venture is successfully operated, it will result in generating large scale employment opportunities in the state and shall provide revenue to the government of Mizoram at the same time.

Indian Govt Chase to Clear UNESCO Language Haze

August 30, 2010

endangered languages New Delhi, Aug 30 : Misgivings over a UNESCO report that has described 191 Indian languages as endangered and five as extinct have prompted the Centre to begin work on a white paper on tribal languages in each state.

Sixty-four languages that the latest UNESCO World Atlas of Endangered Languages describes as endangered are spoken in the Northeast and along the India-Nepal border. Thirty-nine are spoken in the Northeast alone.

“Many of the languages listed as dead or endangered are very much alive and kicking. The government has decided to send fact-finding teams to every state to document the tribal languages, especially those declared dying or dead by UNESCO,” a tribal affairs ministry official said.

The Centre for Tribal and Endangered Languages, a division of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, has been assigned the job. “The CIIL will bring out a white paper. That would be hard evidence which can be presented before any international body,” the official said.
Work is already on with the head of the Centre for Tribal and Endangered Languages, Prof. G. Devi Prasada Shastri, visiting the Northeast.

Tribal leaders had brought the matter to the government’s notice. “We received representations that the widely spoken Aimol and Tarao had been put on the Unesco list,” the official said.

The two languages figure on UNESCO’s critically endangered list, which would mean they are spoken only by the elderly and that too infrequently and partially. Aimol Literature Society chairman S.L. Warte termed the Unesco report “unfortunate” and demanded correction.

“The population that speaks Andro, Aimol and Tarao may not be large, but these languages are being spoken,” said Ch. Jashobanta, a linguistics professor at Manipur University.

Jashobanta, however, agreed that the languages would count as endangered by international standards because less than 10,000 people speak them.

The CIIL says there is confusion over the definition of language. “Most languages listed in UNESCO’s e-atlas are not considered languages but mother tongues in India. We go by the Census 2001 definition. If there are 10,000 or more speakers, it’s a language, else it’s a mother tongue,” a CIIL researcher said.

Mother tongues are not included in the Eighth Schedule, a list of 22 officially recognized languages. “Only if a language is in the Eighth Schedule will it be taught in schools as part of the three-language formula,’’ said Aravind Sachdeva, a specialist on tribal languages. He pointed to an increasing tendency among tribals to speak Hindi or English as the reason for their languages being labeled endangered.

But Asam Sahitya Sabha president Rongbong Terang and educationist Tabu Ram Taid believe tribals can protect their languages. “I don’t think any tribal language of Assam would ever become extinct. I can speak Assamese, English, Hindi and many other languages. But my mother tongue is Karbi and I speak Karbi with my family and friends,” Terang said, describing the UNESCO report as exaggerated. Karbi is on the list as a vulnerable language.

Taid, closely associated with the preservation of his mother tongue Mising, too disagrees with the UNESCO report. Mising, on UNESCO’s endangered list, is spoken by 517,170 people out of a population of 587,310, according to the 2001 census. “Mising today has a firm written tradition and has even been introduced in primary schools,” Taid said.

An email seeking UNESCO’s response went unanswered till Saturday evening.

Manipur Designs For Land of Versace

August 30, 2010

Manipur Government pushes for designers to showcase indigenous couture on international ramp

fashion Models at the fashion show, Living Looms, in Imphal on Friday.

Imphal, Aug 30 : Home-grown Manipuri designers are preparing to stitch up a storm in international couture when they travel to Italy and Germany with their designs later this year.

The Manipur Handloom Export Development Project, prepared to take the state’s designs to foreign shores, is being funded by the state planning board and undertaken by Manipur Development Society, a state government undertaking, and the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

“A team of Manipur Development Society and Indian Chamber of Commerce will be visiting Milan from September 9 to 12. We are taking the designers and their designs to find a market there. After Milan, the next visit is to Frankfurt in December. The project is taken up to export our handloom designs and find markets. We are hopeful that we will be successful in our attempt,” said chief secretary D.S. Poonia.

Before hitting the Milan ramp, the designers showcased their work at an event at a hotel in Imphal last night.

Titled Living Looms, the show had nine designers, selected from 20 applicants, displaying a riot of colours and a range of natural fabrics.

Academicians, army officers including GOC 57 Mountain Division Maj. Gen D.S. Hooda, experts in handloom and Manipur government officials formed the audience.

In between the catwalk, Manipuri singer Mandakini entertained the audience with Sakira’s Waka Waka, while another girl grooved to the number.

“The show and designs were quite impressive and after seeing the designs our confidence rose that our designs could now find buyers on foreign soils. The designs displayed today are good enough for the national standard,” Manipur Development Society project director Y. Ningthem said after the show.

The regional director of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Mahesh Deori, chipped in: “The ICC’s effort in the project is to upgrade the designs and link the designers with buyers. We will extend our full support to the project and Manipur government in the effort.”

The designers are confident too.

“Our apparels are made of silk and cotton and are eco-friendly. The dyes are natural and not have chemicals. We can find a market outside if there is support,” one of the designers, Memyo Ningomba, said.

Indigenous Delicacies of Nagaland Out Of Reach

August 30, 2010

Naga_indigenous_delicacies_soar_850411716 A customer tries to negotiate the price of bee larva at the super market in Dimapur. (Morung Photo)

Dimapur, Aug 30 : Indigenous delicacies of Nagaland are no more a gourmet treat for most people. Of late, the prices of exotic meat, bee larva, aquatic creatures, domesticated birds etc, have risen beyond the common man’s budget. Most people don’t even want to contemplate buying the tantalizing food anymore.

In Dimapur’s super market, a plate sized hive of bee larva is priced anywhere between ` 600 to ` 1000. The price varies within the market. A wicker holding about ten chunks of banned exotic smoked meat is priced between ` 400 to ` 700.

A pair of local chickens, is sold for not less than ` 500, irrespective of weight; while dry river fishes is priced anywhere between ` 400 to ` 500 depending on the quantity. Silkworms come for a high price of ` 150 to ` 300 per plate.  

The vendors attribute the high cost of indigenous delicacies to ‘scarcity.’ “Moi khan bhi bishi dukh para ani ase (we are bringing it with a lot of difficulty),” most say. The vendors also try to make up for the different kinds of taxes they pay for renting stalls. Most people are now complaining about the high cost of indigenous delicacies.

“We understand it involves hard work…but ` 900 for a handful of bee larva is unreasonable,” a customer said. The vendors are having their way by fixing exorbitant prices on indigenous delicacies.

While it is amply clear such high rates exist in the market, yet there is no mechanism in place to prevent hoarding of any kind. There is no price monitoring system on such items and the prices are soaring every week. Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC), which is in-charge of fixing rates for all perishable items in the market, has not formulated the prices of indigenous delicacies owing to several factors. As a result, local vendors continue to fix rates according to their whims and fancies.

DMC Advisory member in-charge of market rate and quality control, Atovi Zhimomi said “It is difficult to fix rates for such items because they are not regular in the market.” Another problem he cited was prices for such food items are hard to determine. “Such products cannot be fixed in terms of kilograms or pieces,” the member said. Furthermore he said price for exotic meat is not fixed by DMC because there is ban on sale of such meat.

Zhimomi added he does not want to discourage local vendors because it takes a lot of hard work to bring the produce in the market. However, DMC would be compelled if it feels the prices are unreasonable, he said. Also taking cue of the complaints received, he assured the DMC would inspect the market and make sure the vendors don’t overprice their products. “Yes…if prices are unreasonable we may be compelled to take action,” Zhimomi said.

Unless a proper mechanism is put in place to check the random pricing of indigenous food in the market, vendors will continue to fix prices on indigenous delicacies unreasonably. . “It is a complete rip-off,” a lady opined.

A lover of silkworms, she stopped buying them due to high price. Prices of all food items- both local and imported- must be regulated by concerned authority to prevent vendors from hoarding.

via The Morung Express