Archive for the ‘Meghalaya’ Category

Cavers Join Meghalaya Villagers against Lafarge Cement Plant

November 16, 2010

By Rahul Karmakar

meghalaya-caveGuwahati, Nov 16 : An organization of cavers has joined villagers in opposing French cement giant Lafarge’s plan to set up a Rs 1,000 crore plant in limestone-rich Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. In a letter to environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday, the National Cave Research and Protection Organization

has sought outright rejection of Lafarge’s proposal. This, it argued, is not only because the proposed plant site is perilously close to two reserve forests – Narpuh and Saipung – set to become wildlife sanctuaries.

Some 500 hectares of land in Nongkhlieh village has been transferred to Lafarge India for the plant. Villagers are protesting this transfer, which they say was done “undemocratically and forcefully” by the Dolloi or local chieftain.

“The area already has eight cement plants within a 5 km radius. Obviously, the norms must have been flouted in setting up of these plants,” said the save-cave organization’s Raipur-based president Jayant Biswas. One more would add to air pollution and contamination of the groundwater system in the area, he feared.

But more importantly for the organization, Lafarge’s proposed site comes under one of the world’s most sensitive cave systems. “The Jaintia Hills system is considered the Mecca of cavers the world over. Some are listed among the longest and deepest caves on earth. We have already seen how over-extraction of limestone for a cement plant has led to the caving-in of the Mawmluh cave system (also in Meghalaya, near Cherrapunjee),” Biswas said in an email to HT.

Prior to the caving body’s plea to Ramesh, Nongkhlieh villagers had petitioned to Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma to cancel Lafarge’s application. “The land on which the plant is to come up is community land that includes besides forest paddy fields. Our land is as important as the air we breathe, and we will cease to exist without it,” the villagers’ petition read.

They also sniffed an underhand deal between Lafarge and the village chieftain and Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council to “evict us from our ancestral land”.

Lafarge has refuted the charges, stating some locals were “killing the child (proposed plant) before it was born”.

Wine Festival Intoxicates Shillong

November 15, 2010

meghalaya wineShillong, Nov 15 : As many as 14 home-brewers from all over Meghalaya descended in this hill city to give wine enthusiast a unique opportunity to raise a toast to the ensuing chill in this unique festival held for the seventh consecutive time in the state.

Ginger, mulberry fruit, strawberry, passion fruit, blackberry, plum, banana, jackfruit or even cashew apple, name it and they have been fermented to produce a sensual variety of wine.

An all pervading passion descended at the Crinoline Swimming Pool here last night, the final day of the only-of-its kind festival, with people, including foreign tourists, thronging the place in hordes.

“The ginger wine we make is soothing to a soar throat and is appropriate for the cold climate in Shillong,” said A Marbaniang, who has been fermenting wine in the backyard of her house in the city. “The wine we make is only for family and friends not for commercial purpose.”

Most of these brewers make wine as a hobby and not for commercial purpose.

“We have been making wine from the local fruit sohiong for years now. People from all over the country, especially those in the medical profession take our wine for its medicinal properties,” says J Laloo.

Laloo, who sells his wine under brand name of ”Mummy’s wine”, said “There should be legal outlets for locally made wine.”

“This festival will create awareness not only on the art of wine making but also its commercial potential as an industry which will in turn encourage the farming community to grow more fruit trees thereby realise the full horticultural potential of our state with an economy to match,” Michael Syiem, president of Forever Young Club, the organizers of festival told PTI.

He rued that wine making is still to be legalised by the Meghalaya government.

Meghalaya CM Lay Base of ICFAI University at Tura

November 15, 2010

meghalaya-icfaiTura, Nov 15 : Meghalaya’s state capital Shillong, labeled as the ‘Scotland of the east’ for ages has been known as the educational hub in the North East India. Meghalaya government realizing the importance of education sector has decided to promote investment in the education sector and three new private Universities have been granted permission to set up their base in the state. Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma today laid the foundation stone of ICFAI University at Tura in West Garo Hills, marking the beginning of this initiative.

North East, which is often projected as landlocked and a region which has not much potential for development and investment to boost to its fold is now gaining limelight as investors are now coming to North East India. The hill state of Meghalaya is proud to have the foundation laid for a 20 Crore self financing private University in Tura, the educational and business hub of Garo Hills region. The foundation of ICFAI University Meghalaya was laid by Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma in presence of theVice Chancellor of the University Mr Y K Bhusan and Pro Vice Chancellor Dr. Milton Sangma.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Mukul Sangma said that emphasis is being accorded by the government to tap the potentiality in the education sector. Dr. Sangma observed that Meghalaya has the atmosphere and a reputation of being the educational hub for ages and a pool of youth resources.

The CM said that the state government is making every effort to create a conducive atmosphere. for investment. He also observed that development must spread to all parts of the state and not just remained confined to the state capital.

The Vice Chancellor of the University Y K Bhushan stressed the importance that North East is full of potential and there was a need to set up institution to provide employment oriented programmes. He informed that ICFAI is in touch with various educational institutions, including American Universities to tap the opportunities in education sector.

The Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India also known as ICFAI was established in Meghalaya under the provision of an Act in 2005. The University believes in creating and disseminating knowledge and skills in core and frontier areas through innovative educational programs, research, consulting and publishing, and developing a new cadre of professionals with a high level of competence and deep sense of ethics and commitment to the code of professional conduct.

A number of educational programs are offered in management and science & technology at bachelor’s and master’s levels at the university.

Garo Drums Fest Gets Off to Thunderous Start

November 13, 2010

100 Drums Wangala FestivalAsananggre (Meghalaya), Nov 13 : The 100 Drums Wangala Festival – the harvest festival of Garos – entered its second day on Friday in this sleepy hamlet 17 km north of Tura in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district.

Catapulted to prominence following its performance at Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, the thanksgiving harvest dance, was converted into a community event 32 harvests ago under the patronage of then chief minister Capt Williamson A Sangma.

The festival which has grown exponentially in size and popularity is organised in a competitive format to integrate the scattered ethnic group across state and national borders while preserving and promoting indigenous A’chik culture globally.

Each year 10 contingents drawn from as many a’king or community-owned clan holdings converge on the community development block of Rongram where they wow domestic and overseas audiences with their percussive skills.

Initially restricted to the drum-dance competition, the 100 drums festival is increasing in popularity as audiences continue to be enraptured by the mesmeric staccato of the 2-2-1 beat of the dama – A’chik long-drum, and the saber-rattling war-cry of the ‘nokma’.

Tailored to meet the requirements of a spectator ‘sport’, the competition increases in intensity by the second day with teams vying to out-drum and out-dance their rivals.

According to the Organising Committee Chairman and A’chik elder L K Marak, the organising committee had been presented with a ‘brand identity’ by the Shillong-based corporate consultancy, Cognet Solutions.

Eminent litterateur and poet-musician, Llewlyn R Marak, a key personality in the organising committee, expressed happiness that the festival was finally getting its due prominence in the outside world, which was long overdue.

Welcoming the introduction of a brand identity for the Festival, parliamentary secretary in-charge industries, Ismail R Marak said this would put a ‘face’ on the annual event and help market it to tourists in India and overseas. He said the 100 Drums Festival was suitably poised to become the flagship festival of the state.

State Medicinal Plants Board chairman Tony TC Marak, who is steering an ambitious state venture to promote its rich non-timber forest resources, said publicity and packaging played a vital role in the promotion of tourism, art and culture.

His organisation is showcasing herbal remedies that promise painless and permanent ‘organic cures’ for a host of diseases and afflictions. He said herbal oil massages by indigenous ‘ojas’ – barefoot doctors – would provide tourists the opportunity of experiencing the legendary curative powers of A’chik medicine.

Meanwhile, the festival is to conclude on Saturday with the grand 100-drums tattoo in the presence of Chief Minister Dr Mukul M Sangma and other prominent members of government and civil society.

Meghalaya: Where The Chowkidar ‘Prescribes’ Medicines

November 11, 2010

health_center meghalayaShillong, Nov 11 :  The chowkidar allegedly prescribes medicines at a health subcentre in West Khasi Hills. The only nurse appointed to  attend to patients there is hardly seen on duty.

Taking a serious note of the matter, Federation of Khasi Jaintia Garo People (FKJGP)’s Umshynrut unit today demanded that the State Government should take urgent steps to ensure proper functioning of the health subcentre at Umshynrut, 32 km from Nongstoin, in West Khasi Hills district. 

The organization pointed out that except the chowkidar, there were no staff, medicines and other basic facilities at the Umshynrut health subcentre.

Addressing the media here today, FKJGP’s Umshynrut unit President of W Langrin said, “A nurse has been assigned to take charge of the health centre at Umshynrut but she never attends to her duty. She leaves the work of prescribing medicines to the chowkidar. This has created a lot of problems to the local people.”

“The health centre started functioning way back in 1992, but it has been left abandoned by the Sate Health Department till date,” said Langrin.

The Umshynrut health subcentre is supposed to serve the people of six villages which include Umjajew, Tlon, Photjalei, Mawjienlang, Mawlyngkew and Umshynrut.

The FKJGP said the people of Umnshynrut were also facing problems like water shortage, bad road condition, absence of electricity etc.

“With no motorable road in this part of West Khasi Hills, villagers have to go on foot for four hours to reach the motorable road,” said Langrin.

Anti-Mining Groups Vows Not to Allow Uranium Mining in Meghalaya

November 11, 2010

meghalaya minesShillong, Nov 11 : Anti-mining groups in Meghalaya today said that they would continue to oppose the proposed uranium mining in West Khasi Hills district, even as the Centre has made it clear that the project will go ahead once the Meghalaya government gives clearance.

The groups reiterated their stand on the controversial mining issue after attending the awareness briefing presentation of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) on the proposed uranium mining as per the international safety standards in the state.

”We have made them clear that we will not allow uranium mining project. We have also conveyed a strong message to New Delhi through them to carry the same that no interest parties should again come in future trying to convince the people on the issue,” Khasi Students Union (KSU) general secretary Hamletson Dohling told reporters.

Echoing the KSU leader, the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People president Emlang Lyttan said, ”We are not convinced that uranium mining poses no health hazard and they should refrain from adopting this kind of desperate approach.” Meghalaya People’s Human Rights Council leader, DDG Dympep, who walked out of the meeting, alleging that the awareness programme was held only to convince people to allow uranium to be mined from the State.

The team of UCIL officials and Atomic Mineral Division led by S K Malhotra, head of public awareness division of the Department of Atomic Energy, was on a two-day visit to the city for an awareness programme on the importance of uranium mining.

Mr Malhotra said the DAE was patient enough to wait and would continue the process of conducting such awareness programme in future to convince that the project is for the benefit of the people.

Though the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had given clearance to the UCIL to start mining in the state, Mr Malhotra said that the project would be started once the state government give them a go-ahead on the project.

”We are patient enought and we wanted the project to go as per procedures and get people involved through community participation,” he said.

The UCIL proposes to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant in Meghalaya. The state is estimated to have 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

It has also plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes a day.

Meghalaya: First Municipal Polls Called Off

November 9, 2010

meghalaya electionsShillong, Nov 9 : Meghalaya government called off the proposed first municipal elections in the state after the election authorities were compelled to postpone the polls twice in two months since September in the wake of large scale protests.

“There were a number of disturbing incidents that had led to the postponement of the polls twice since September. There was a strong possibility of disruption of the polling process as well as serious implication on the law and order,” Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said after a cabinet meeting.

While the election process has been called off, the municipal affairs department has been asked to examine and take a call on the issue as to when the government can set in motion the process, he said.

Sangma said the government has also decided to file cases in the court against the Joint Action Committee to recover the losses suffered by the public and government during their series of agitation against the polls.

The JAC, a conglomerate of several organisations, had called for a three-day bandh in the three districts of Garo hills where the proposed polls were slated for October 29 last.

The JAC is apprehensive about holding the municipal elections because it “would be violating Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and lead to erosion of powers of the traditional bodies like Council of Nokma (Village Council).”

Meghalaya Varsity Students Call Off Protest

November 9, 2010

NEHUShillong, Nov 9 : Students of Meghalaya’s North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) Monday called off their indefinite strike against the appointment of A.N Rai as the vice chancellor after Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said he would take up their demand with the central government.

The Meghalaya Tribal Students Coordination Committee (MTSCC) and NEHU Students Union (NEHUSU) has demanded that a local should head the varsity.

NEHU, which was set up in 1973, is one of India’s premier central universities.

‘We have decided to call off our indefinite strike and will resume our classes tomorrow (Tuesday),’ Meghalaya Tribal Students Coordination Committee (MTSCC) Chairman Kynpham Kharlyngdoh told IANS after a meeting with Sangma.

He, however, warned that the students would intensify their agitation if the demand was not met.

Although the state government has a limited role in the appointment of vice chancellors of central universities, Sangma said that the state government would take up the students’ demand with human resource development ministry to find an amicable solution.

‘My meeting with the students was aimed at to ensure that their normal classes are resume in the university and we have assured them to take up their demand with centre,’ Sangma told reporters.

President Pratibha Patil appointed Rai, former vice chancellor of Mizoram University, as the vice chancellor of NEHU on the recommendation of the search committee headed by Abid Hussain, former Indian ambassador to the US.

The other two members of the committee were R. Chidambaram, principal scientific advisor to Prime Minister’s Office, and former chief election commissioner James Michael Lyngdoh.

However, the students feel that David Syiemlieh, a tribal Khasi and an eminent historian, should be appointed to the post.

Meghalaya to Set up Satellite Township

November 8, 2010

township plan meghalayaMeghalaya will invest Rs 1028. 30 crore for building infrastructure in the satellite township which will accommodate about two lakh people

Shillong, Nov 8 : Meghalaya will soon have its first satellite township in order to tackle the growing population pressure on its scenic capital Shillong.

The state government will invest Rs 1028. 30 crore for building infrastructure in the satellite township which will accommodate about two lakh people.

The township will cover an area of 2030 hectares in which the government intervention will be limited to provide the core services and the institutional requirements covering 500 hectares.

“The state government has already acquired 370 hectares of land and the process for acquiring 130 hectares was on. Out of the total estimated cost for infrastructure, the first phase will require an amount of Rs 540.30 crore in next five years,” Meghalaya Urban Affairs Minister Founder Strong Cajee said here recently.

Shillong at present has an estimated three lakh population and official sources say number could be more as there is thousands of floating population staying in the state capital.

In order to provide better connectivity to the residents in the new township and the capital town of Shillong, the government is also planning an expressway. The expressway will require about Rs 206 crore.

“The expressway will go a long way in reducing the time and cost of commutation between the existing city and the township,” the Minister said.

Cajee moved New Delhi seeking financial and technical support for implementation of the two projects of satellite townships and the expressway.

Lafarge’s Meghalaya Plant in Trouble

November 7, 2010

LafargeShillong, Nov 7 : Lafarge’s Meghalaya plant is in trouble due to protest against the company at the plant location. Lafarge is the cement giant of France and it is all set to set up its own plant in Meghalaya. More than Rs 1000-crore has been sanctioned by the firm to establish the same.

But now the project has met the major obstacle when the locals have protested against the plant.

They are saying that the plant would cause environmental hazards and they will protest against the company. More than hundreds of people were gathered at the proposed plant location on Thursday and demanded the officials of the district council not to issue the no-objection certificate (NOC) to the company to set up plant at that location.

The Meghalaya project of the firm contains a 1.1-million tonne Greenfield integrated cement plant. Lafarge has decided to establish the plant at the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya which is the filled with rich limestone. However, the project is at its initial phase and the technical and feasibility studies are going on at this point of time.

The company sources have also said that after the technical survey, the company will decide the further possibilities.