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All Assam Mandal Kanangu Sanmilani general secretary Amulya Kalita in Jorhat on Monday. Telegraph picture

Jorhat, Aug. 29: Work in all land and revenue department offices across Assam came to a halt today following a three-day ceasework call given by the All Assam Mandal Kanangu Sanmilani, demanding action against Baghbor MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed, who allegedly abused and assaulted a revenue department employee in Barpeta district in lower Assam last month.

The Sanmilani has threatened to undertake a series of protests, including launching an indefinite strike from next month, if Ahmed is not arrested and disqualified from the Assembly.

The state apex body of land and revenue department employees, which was formed in 1926, has nearly 3,240 members posted in 188 revenue circle offices across the state. Its central office is in Guwahati.

The organisation’s general secretary, Amulya Kalita, today said it was “really appalling” that even after a month of the incident, the police had not taken any action against the Congress MLA, who has been charged with abusing and assaulting Nurul Islam, who was on flood relief duty.

A criminal case against Ahmed under Sections 294, 365, 506 and 353 of the IPC was registered at Kolgosia police station on July 31 after Islam lodged an FIR. He alleged that the MLA had hurled verbal abuses at him and also assaulted and threatened him before a crowd on July 30 when Ahmed visited Kismat Mayanbari riverbank to take stock of the flood relief measures.

Kalita said Islam, who was involved in relief work since July 27 and had been spending nights on a boat, was publicly abused and assaulted by Ahmed. The MLA had falsely accused him of negligence of duty when Islam went to another adjoining village to provide relief materials to a camp.

Kalita criticised the “police and government inaction” in the case.

“The home department is under chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. So is the revenue department that has an MoS but still the government is not doing anything. They are indirectly protecting the accused. How could the police sit over the case?” he questioned.

Kalita said memoranda on the issue were sent to the chief minister, governor and Speaker just after the incident.

Demanding Ahmed’s immediate arrest and a statement from the government in the case, Kalita said the Barpeta district unit of the AAMKS had suspended work on August 4-5 after which the district administration assured that legal action would be initiated after Independence Day celebrations but to no avail.

In the next few days if their demands were not met they would launch a five-day ceasework from September 6. The association would resort to another ceasework for an indefinite period from September 14, he added.

Kalita said they would write to AICC president Sonia Gandhi about the incident and urge her to take disciplinary action against Ahmed, who had joined the party before the Assembly polls. Before joining the Congress, Ahmed was an AIUDF legislator.

 
By Wasim Rahman

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Guwahati, Aug. 29: The Assam transport department will soon notify a new set of rules and guidelines for cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, and even go beyond the routine enforcement mechanism to ensure safety of commuters availing of the services.

“We have framed a new set of rules and guidelines, particularly for cab aggregators operating in the state, based on the Centre’s advisory, which will come into force very shortly. A notification in this regard will be issued accordingly,” state transport commissioner Puru Gupta told The Telegraph today.

He said all the guidelines concerning and governing such category of vehicles will be taken care of by the department.

“We are looking at various options, including devising a mechanism to make enforcement better. While we will continue to operate jointly with police in keeping such services honest, be it through formation of committees or random checks, basically, we are looking at solutions beyond the routine enforcement mechanism,” Gupta said.

The number of cabs under app-based aggregators such as Ola and Uber operating across Kamrup metro district alone are swelling by the day, running into a few thousands. In June, Ola had introduced an inter-city service (Ola Outstation) in the state as well. Uber, however, is yet to start an inter-city ride, sources said.

While there’s no denying their accessibility, prompt and easier-on-the-pocket service, barring the odd hiccup, security remains a prime concern among commuters.

Only recently, a driver reportedly working with an app-based service here was alleged to have played a role in the abduction of a seven-year-old from the Joyanagar area of the city. The person is still absconding.

The buzz on social media is about drivers operating with private licences instead of the mandatory commercial document, which sources said, can be acquired only after undergoing relatively tougher driving tests and shelling out more as brokerage.

“Given the lucrative offers given to drivers by a cab aggregator here, the demand for the job has increased considerably, particularly with a growing number of vehicle owners associating with the service,” said a Rehabari resident, requesting anonymity.

Cab operators, however, claimed that it is only after a thorough background check and document verification process that a driver is hired.

“We are very strict in this regard. It is mandatory that the driver provides his background information, including permanent residence certificate, and documents such as a commercial license,” said an official of a cab aggregator here.

Asked whether manpower was a hurdle to effective enforcement, the transport commissioner said, “Manpower is never in surplus but the issue is not at a staggering level that we cannot manage.”?

Currently, Kamrup district transport officer (DTO) Gautam Das, posted in Amingaon, on the outskirts of the city, is holding an additional charge of DTO enforcement in Kamrup metro district.

“The Kamrup DTO is holding dual charge and we are looking into it. We will ensure that the enforcement mechanism is effective,” Gupta said, when asked whether additional responsibilities of an official posted in Amingaon were hampering enforcement in Kamrup metro, where a majority of the cab services operate.

 
By SAURAV BORA

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Nagaland governor P. B. Acharya meets his Odisha counterpart S.C. Jamir in Kohima. Telegraph picture

Kohima, Aug. 29: Nagaland governor P.B. Acharya today urged all sections of people to work for permanent peace in the state.

He said peace was now a distinct possibility after the signing of the framework agreement with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) on August 3 last year. Acharya felt that the Naga political problem would be resolved under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He also urged political parties, NGOs, student organisations and civil societies to take a positive and transparent step for meeting the different group leaders for a positive dialogue and a respectable solution.

The governor issued a statement this afternoon after meeting his Odisha counterpart S.C. Jamir, who has been critical of the peace talks.

Jamir was critical of the peace talks being led by Nagas from outside Nagaland, particularly from Manipur. He was now the only living signatory to the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 which gave birth to Nagaland state.

Jamir in his controversial booklet, Bedrock of Naga Society, stated that the Naga people’s demand for sovereignty was a “myth”, which generated largescale criticism among the people of the state.

Acharya did not say anything about meeting with Jamir but it was understood that the two governors had discussed the Naga political issue vis-à-vis the ongoing talks.

“All the political parties in a democracy, NGOs and civil organisations have to open up their minds and retrospect what they are doing at this crucial hour to bring all the groups to a negotiating table. Our action should be transparent to win the confidence of the people of Nagaland,” Acharya added.

“We have to show our capacity and sincerity to convince all the group leaders concerned to have a dialogue with the Centre for a permanent solution of the Naga problem.”

He said civil society, Naga political groups and NGOs have to express themselves unanimously for a respectful solution.

“Let us hope that the ongoing visit of Myanmar President U. HtinKyaw will surely help to bring the NSCN (K) to the talks table,” Acharya said.

 
By Our Correspondent

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Pramila Rani Brahma lights the inaugural lamp at the programme in Silchar on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Silchar, Aug. 29: Assam minister for welfare of plain tribes and backward class Pramila Rani Brahma today called on all the indigenous communities to maintain unity.

Addressing the gathering at the tribal social meet here at district library auditorium, Brahma said the leaders of indigenous communities should maintain a cordial relationship among themselves and work for the larger interest of the people.

She expressed concern over lack of development in the tribal-dominated areas in Assam.

“There is a settlement of Rongmei people in the middle of Silchar town. I personally visited the area a few years back and the scenario was abysmal there,” she added.

The minister today urged the BJP leaders to take steps to improve the condition of tribals in the state.

“Tribal communities are the original inhabitants of Assam. It is our land. The irony is that we are the most deprived lot. But I am sure that the new government in the state will work for the welfare of these communities,” she added.

The minister today arrived here for a daylong visit.

Speaking at the programme, Assam Assembly Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul today said illegal migrants from Bangladesh had forcefully taken the lands from the tribal communities, thereby turning them “homeless” and “landless”.

He also laid stress on the introduction of the legacy and cultural heritage of the indigenous communities of the Northeast in the school curriculum.

Brahma, who also holds the environment and forests and soil conservation portfolio, held a meeting with the department officials here this evening.

The minister was supposed to address reporters at circuit house in the evening. But the journalists boycotted the news conference as the minister did not arrive at the venue even one-and half-hours after scheduled time.

 
By Nilotpal Bhattacharjee

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Bandh supporters burn a tyre in Baksa on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Kokrajhar/Bongaigaon, Aug. 29: Today’s 24-hour Assam strike, called by the Pradip Ray faction of the All Assam Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU) in support of their demand for a separate Kamtapur state and Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the community, evoked a mixed response in the western districts of the state, including in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).

There was total shutdown in the Rajbongshi-dominated areas but the strike, which began at 5am, had little impact in Kokrajhar town, where markets and educational institutions stayed open.

Traffic was thin along NH 31 with long-distance buses and other public transport staying off the roads.

The strike hit traffic movement in parts in Rangiya, Baksa, Udalguri, Morigaon, Chirang, Sonitpur, Goalpara, Barpeta and Dhubri districts. Bandh supporters blocked the Rajdhani Express at Basugaon in Chirang district around 9.30am. But the blockade was lifted after a few minutes by security forces.

Bandh supporters staged protests by burning tyres in many areas. There was a mixed response in Morigaon town of central Assam.

Besides Scheduled Tribe status for Koch Rajbonghsis, the students’ union has been demanding the creation of a Kamtapur state by bifurcating six districts from north Bengal and 15 districts of Assam.

The AKRSU called the strike days after several groups representing the existing ST communities opposed the Centre’s move to grant ST status to Koch Rajbonghshis and five other communities of the state.

The Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations, at a convention in Guwahati on August 22, decided to approach the Supreme Court and launch a movement to stop the Centre from granting ST status to Koch Rajbongshis, Tai Ahoms, Sutias, Morans, Muttocks and tea tribes. These six communities have been demanding ST status for decades.

Absu has announced a five-hour national highways blockade in different parts of Assam, starting from 6am tomorrow, in support of its demand for a separate Bodoland.

Absu president Promod Boro said through the blockade programme, the groups would once again urge the government to resolve the Bodoland issue without further delay.

The blockade is supported by other groups, like the NDFB (P), People’s Democratic Movement for Boroland, and People’s Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement.

Though short distance buses plied, all other long-distance ones, including Bengal-bound vehicles, remained off NH 31 and PWD roads in Dhubri.

Additional reporting by Bijoy Kr Sharma from Dhubri

 
By Preetam B. Chowdhury and Tejesh Kumar

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Ibobi Singh

Imphal, Aug. 29: The controversy over the cancellation of recruitment of police constables by the Manipur government has taken a political hue with the BJP, the main rival of the ruling Congress, threatening to stall fresh recruitment process.

The Ibobi Singh government cancelled the physical and written examinations along with the viva voice proceedings for recruitment of 2,000 riflemen on August 20, saying many irregularities were committed during the entire process.

The cancellation angered more than 10,000 candidates, who appeared for the viva voice. The recruitment process began in 2013.

The government cancelled the process after the chairman of the recruitment committee, Th. Radheshaym Singh, who was the commandant of the 1 Manipur Rifles, resigned earlier this month to contest the state Assembly elections next year.

The state government is preparing to initiate the process afresh and the fresh physical test examination is scheduled to begin tomorrow. The Ibobi Singh government is rushing things as the election code of conduct for the February Assembly elections may come into force soon.

Gaikhangam

“We will not allow the government to conduct fresh recruitment examination for the same post of 2,000 constables. We will do whatever we can to prevent the fresh process. We have chalked out our line of action,” BJP spokesperson S. Tiken Singh today said.

He said BJP workers would hold sit-ins at venues of the recruitment process and also disrupt any examination – be it physical or written.

BJP legislator Th. Biswajit Singh demanded that the state government should come out with a white paper on the recent recruitment process.

A joint action committee of the candidates today held a meeting along with their guardians and resolved to prevent tomorrow’s physical test.

“The meeting warned candidates against appearing in tomorrow’s physical test and if anyone violates the ban, the candidate should be held responsible for any untoward incident,” Md Jahir Khan, spokesperson for the joint action committee, said.

Condemning the government’s move, the committee said if any irregularity was committed at all during the recruitment process, it was not the fault of the candidates.

“The government – from chief minister, ministers and all those authorities involved in the recruitment process – are the ones who committed the irregularities. The candidates are innocent. Why should we be made to suffer for no fault of ours?” Khan asked.

As a continuation of its agitation against the cancellation, the joint action committee has called a 24-hour bandh of Imphal East district from midnight tonight.

Home minister Gaikhangam today appealed to the candidates to appear in tomorrow’s physical test.

 
By Khelen Thokchom

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An oja beats a dhol. File picture

Guwahati, Aug. 29: Dhol maestros from all across the state will come together in Sivasagar district this October and perform with the hope of inspiring future generations to become ojas.

Ojas are experts at playing the dhol, who after years of training gain the ability to narrate events or describe certain objects through their instrument. Such renditions are called haat. Ojas believe that a dhol can “talk like a man”.

The Northeast centre of the Sangeet Natak Akademi has decided to organise a three-day programme in a bid to assemble all these experts in one place. The director-in-charge of the Northeast centre of the Akademi, Raju Das, told The Telegraph that over 40 ojas representing four generations will attend the programme, including some prominent faces like Tulasi Oja and Sorukai Oja.

Bihu beats are considered the basic stage of playing the dhol. “People have become Bihu-oriented. The number of people willing to become ojas is dwindling. We feel that the craft, once popularised by Moghai Oja, is going to die. That is why we decided to organise a festival to revive it,” said Das.

“Different ojas will perform in the evenings during the three-day programme beginning on October 16. During the day, experts will deliver lectures on ojas. We will prepare six papers on different aspects of dhol,” Das said.

“So far, we are considering two places to hold the event: the courtyard of Rang Ghar in Joysagar and the open space near the Siva Dol in Sivasagar town. The lecture programme will be held in Sivasagar Natya Mandir,” he Das.

Das said the entire programme will be documented. “We will record the performances, seminars and interviews of the ojas.”

As requested by the Akademi, Dhaneswar Oja from Bokakhat has been contacting ojas for the past several months to ensure their participation in the programme.

Some of the ojas who are participating in the programme are 92-year-old Naren Bora from Golaghat, 77-year-old Hiteswar Hazarika, 78-year-old Haliram Bora from Majuli, Ambeswear Bora, 79, from Jorhat, Umesh Chetia, 78, from Jorhat and Golap Oja, 79, from Dibrugarh.

Dhaneswar said most of these ojas were struggling with their health and poor financial condition. “Of them the condition of Golap Oja is very bad. Yet he is so interested about the programme that he has decided to perform in the programme for a few minutes,” he said.

Dhaneswar said all the participants would play different haats. “This means that we are going to get at least 40 different haats. This can be preserved. And if someone wants to learn he or she will get a base to learn it,” he added.

 
By RAJIV KONWAR

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Guwahati, Aug. 29: The Meghalaya government’s alleged apathy has delayed construction of the North Eastern Council (NEC)-funded Gumrah-Rymbai road that will help commuters bypass an accident and landslide-prone stretch of National Highway 6.

NH 6 (earlier NH-44) is the road link not only for Barak Valley in south Assam but also between Tripura and Mizoram with the rest of the country via Meghalaya. The highway begins from Katakhal in Hailakandi district and wends its way through Karimganj and Cachar districts to reach Meghalaya.

People’s Society, a Silchar-based NGO, that had filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court in 2014 for early completion of the road, wrote to the chief secretary of Meghalaya on Thursday blaming the “indifferent” attitude of the state government towards the project that is crucial for the people of the three Barak valley districts of Assam – Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj – as well as Tripura and Mizoram.

This 102-km road will serve as an alternative to the stretch of NH6 from Rymbai to Gumrah via Jalalpur and will skirt the landslide and accident-prone Sonapur area in East Jaintia Hills district. Besides landslides causing severe traffic congestion during the monsoon, this stretch of the highway passes through torturous hilly terrain with unending curves, making driving on it a tricky affair.

“The alternative road will also shorten the distance by around 25km,” said president of People’s Society Bidyujjyoti Purkayastha in the letter.

In order to justify the need for the road’s completion, Purkayastha pointed to the June 15 accident that had claimed at least 29 lives and injured nine others. The mishap occurred when a passenger bus skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge near Sonapur village. The Guwahati-bound night bus was coming from Silchar.

“Innumerable lives were lost in frequent accidents on this stretch of the highway in Meghalaya in the last 60 years,” he said.

Secretary of People’s Society and advocate of Gauhati High Court Bishwajyoti Purkayastha said the NEC had sanctioned the project to construct the alternative road in two phases five years ago but the first phase (around 60km) is yet to be completed.

The Union ministry of finance has sanctioned around Rs 163 crore for the construction of the road but it is now feared that the project could be in jeopardy because of delay in execution.

Bishwajyoti said even though the chief secretary to the government of Meghalaya has been impleaded as one of the respondents in the PIL, nobody from the Meghalaya government turned up during the two hearings. In the letter, the NGO sought the intervention of the Meghalaya chief secretary so that the remaining portion of the road could be completed as early as possible. The NGO also suspects that the project could be delayed by misappropriation of funds.

Refuting the allegations made by the NGO, an official source in NEC said about 2.8km of the road of the first phase on the Assam-Meghalaya border near Natanpur could not be completed because of the inter-state boundary dispute and objections raised by local residents.

Meghalaya PWD officials, who were supervising the project, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

 
By Pankaj Sarma

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Guwahati, Aug. 29: Manas National Park has lost its 10th rhino with a carcass being recovered last night from an unmanned area.

Park director H.K. Sarma said a forest team on an elephant patrol yesterday spotted the carcass at Kuchiabeel under Bansbari range of the park. There is a camp with no staff at Sidajhar, 3km from the spot where the carcass was found. The nearest beat office is at Kahitema, 13km from the spot. “The carcass was found with its horn removed. The team could only find some nasal bones with cut marks,” Sarma said, adding that the carcass was three months old.

Sources said since there is hardly any patrolling in the area, which is infested by NDFB militants, the carcass was found long after the animal was killed. The area where the rhino was killed can be reached after crossing a river. The spot is near the site where rebels snatched arms from forest personnel in 2014. Since then, there is hardly any patrolling in that area. During the army operations at Manas, there was no patrolling by forest department and similarly during the polls in April there were none, resulting in no patrolling in the area for two years.

The rhino conservation plan states that there are nearly 60 anti-poaching camps across the park at present. “However, the camps are not uniformly distributed and there are several gaps in patrolling, especially along the northern and northwestern parts of the park. More camps are required as the terrain is difficult and inaccessible that hinder the uniform process of monitoring,” Sarma said. The sanctioned staff strength at Manas is 353 but there are 307 personnel at present, leading to a shortfall of 49. The last time a rhino was poached at Manas was on May 6 at Bhuyanapara range. All the adult males have fallen to unabated poaching.

The news of the killing of 10th rhino came as a bolt from the blue for the park authorities who were elated over the increase of the park area to 850 square km early this month.

The park got back its heritage tag in 2011 and rhinos were translocated from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora wildlife sanctuary to increase the rhino population.

The World Heritage Centre meeting in Bonn last year had expressed concern over the report presented by the IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group that indicated a high risk of extinction of rhinos within 30 years if poaching is not eradicated. It asked the state to step up its efforts to curb poaching to secure the rhino and eastern swamp deer populations. The group also suggested that the number of frontline staff should be increased.

It had asked the state to take action to boost the morale of the forest staff and suggested that they should be properly equipped to protect the property from heavily-armed poachers and insurgent groups.

The group has requested the Centre to submit an updated report, including a one-page executive summary, on the state of the conservation process and implementation of the suggestions by December 1 for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.

 
By Roopak Goswami

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Himanta Biswa Sarma speaks in Guwahati on Monday.

Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Aug. 29: The Assam government today announced regularisation of jobs of 11,278 TET-qualified contractual teachers by the year end.

The announcement was made by education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at his official residence here this afternoon, saying the process will start on Wednesday and end by December.

“We will be issuing newspaper advertisements on August 31 for regularisation of 5,144 posts in the ME (middle english) and 6,144 posts in LP (lower primary) sections. In July we had regularised 7,234 posts. Regularisation of TET-passed candidates will be done on the basis of merit and against vacancies,” Sarma said.

Clearing the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) is mandatory for getting teaching jobs in government schools. Around 38,000 TET-qualified teachers are working under Sarba Siksha Abhijan in Assam on contract. Middle english covers Classes VI to VIII while lower primary means Classes I to V. The regularisation of posts will not cover the Sixth Schedule autonomous council areas — Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao and the Bodoland Territorial Council.

“They will be announcing their own schedules very soon,” Sarma said, adding that steps have been taken in accordance with the decision of the first cabinet meeting under chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, held soon after he took charge on May 24 , on phasewise regularisation of jobs.

Sarma, who is also handling the finance portfolio, said it is their commitment to absorb all TET-passed candidates in the government sector but appealed for patience on part of the candidates. “It’s a commitment we have made in the budget. But I appeal for patience. The budget is till March. You can ask us how much we have achieved or not in April,” Sarma said.

The minister presented the first full budget ( Rs 2,880.91 crore deficit budget) of the new government on July 26 and it was notified on August 23. With this round of regularisation, a total of 18,000-plus TET candidates will be permanently absorbed in government schools. “If we include the Sixth Schedule areas the number will go up by another 4,000 to 5,000,” Sarma said.

The minister’s announcement came within hours of the All BTAD LP and Upper Primary Contractual TET Teachers’ Association demanding that the BTC immediately pay them their salaries for the past 15 months and regularise their posts.

A total of 3,311 teachers were appointed for lower primary and upper primary classes through TET in the BTAD on February 10 last year. The BTC had appointed these teachers on contractual basis and they were paid a monthly salary of Rs 8,000. However, these teachers received salaries for only the first three months, after which they have been working without pay.

Around 800 teachers from among these have been transferred out of the BTAD and have been receiving salaries.

“We were appointed on a contractual basis and our contract was to be renewed every six months. While our contract has been renewed for the third time now, we have not received our monthly salaries for the past 15 months. We had approached the BTC to solve this problem. But it said our salaries are paid from the development funds of the council and at present it lacks sufficient funds. The BTC will pay us once it has the funds,” said Sanjay Sutradhar, a teacher and general secretary of the association, in Guwahati.

The association threatened to stage a protest at Kajalgaon in Chirang on September 5 if the state government and BTC do not respond to their demands.

“How long will we continue this way? We had even approached state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and he said he would take up the matter with the BTC. Since the BTAD is a part of the state, the state government should intervene so that we receive our pending salaries and our posts are also regularised,” Sutradhar said.

 
By OUR BUREAU