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Tarun Gogoi

Guwahati, July 23: Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today accused the BJP-led government in the state of being “a mute supporter” of the “anti-Assam decisions” taken by the Centre, including auctioning of oil fields and non-release of funds for flood control.

“They (the state government) are saying that the decision to auction oil fields was taken during the Congress government’s rule. But our (Congress) government in the state opposed it and so the process to auction oil fields in the state was postponed. But they are keeping silent and not opposing even their own government at the Centre over auctioning of oil fields,” Gogoi said at the party’s state headquarters here.

His statement comes a day after industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the Assembly that auctioning of oil fields started in 1998 under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp) formulated in 1992 under the Congress rule and 23 oil fields in Assam were auctioned between 1998 and 2012.

The leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Debabrata Saikia, had recently said Nelp was formulated in 1998-99 but oil fields in Assam were not auctioned keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue.

There were widespread protests against the decision to hand over oil fields during the Assam Agitation (1979-1985).

Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s announcement of the Centre’s decision to auction 12 small and marginalised oil fields in Assam has come under scathing criticism by many organisations.

The issue has been politicised as the Congress and other Opposition parties slammed the BJP government both at the Centre and the state. The BJP’s ally, AGP, too is against the decision.

Criticising the Centre for neglecting the problems of flood and erosion in Assam, Gogoi said the BJP government in the state had failed to impress upon the Centre to release Rs 1,200 crore pending with the latter for flood relief.

“They (the Centre) are spending thousands of crores for Ganga rejuvenation, but they are not bothered about the flood and erosion problem caused by the Brahmaputra in Assam. The state government does not have the guts to demand funds from the Centre to tackle floods and erosion in our state,” Gogoi said.

AIIMS plot

On allegations that the land allotted by his erstwhile Congress government for AIIMS at Changsari was a waterbody, Gogoi said the state government had only offered the plot and the decision to select it was taken by the Centre after inspection. “They (Centre) could change the plot if it was not proper,” he said.

 
By SUMIR KARMAKAR

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Haflong, July 23: A 19-year-old girl who went missing from this town in Assam’s Dima Hasao district on July 2 was rescued by Haflong police today.

The girl said she was lured by her uncle Krishna Shahi, 24, and his friend Laxman Chetri, 24, with the promise of a job in Sikkim.

She went with them without informing anyone in her family and also took with her Rs 3,50,000, which her family had recently got after selling a piece of land in Haflong.

After reaching Sikkim, her uncle asked her to marry him so that they could stay in a rented house, as he would not get one as a bachelor. Thereafter, they got married in a temple.

On July 6, the girl’s family members lodged a missing person diary and the police registered a case under Section 366 (A)/380/34 of the IPC at Haflong police station.

Both Shahi and Chetri are from Gobinda Nagar, Umrangso, 112km from Haflong town.

The police traced the mobile numbers of the duo and found their location at Jorethang in South Sikkim district, 84km from Gangtok, the state capital.

The police sent a team to Sikkim and with the help of their counterparts in that state managed to arrest the duo and rescue the girl on Thursday.

All three were brought to Haflong police station today.

Shahi and Chetri are now in police custody.

The police have recovered Rs 40,000 from them.

 
By Samsul Alam

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LURE OF THE SEVEN SISTERS

(Top) Dzukou Valley in Nagaland; (above) a tea garden in Assam

Shillong, July 23: The northeastern states, except Mizoram, have recorded a positive growth in the number of visits by domestic tourists in 2015.

During the same period, most of the states also witnessed an increase in visits by foreign tourists.

A marginal growth was seen in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, while Mizoram witnessed a slight dip in the number of domestic tourists. (see chart)

As per statistics compiled by the market research division of the Union tourism ministry based on data received from tourism departments of various states, during 2015 the number of domestic tourists’ visits to the states was 1,432 million compared to 1,282.8 million in 2014, registering a growth of 11.63 per cent. However, none of the northeastern states featured among the top 10 states.

The statistics, which were released recently, revealed that the top 10 states in terms of number of domestic tourists’ visits (in millions) during 2015, were Tamil Nadu (333.5), Uttar Pradesh (204.9), Andhra Pradesh (121.6), Karnataka (119.9), Maharashtra (103.4), Telangana (94.5), Madhya Pradesh (78), West Bengal (70.2), Gujarat (36.3) and Rajasthan (35.2).

Loktak lake in Manipur

The contribution of the top 10 states was about 83.62 per cent to the total number of domestic tourists’ visits during 2015, the statistics revealed.

Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have maintained the first and second ranks respectively in terms of domestic tourists’ visits in 2015. Andhra Pradesh has gained the third position, leaving Karnataka and Maharashtra at the succeeding fourth and fifth positions respectively. Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal have retained their previous rankings at sixth, seventh and eighth. Gujarat has risen to rank ninth, leaving Rajasthan at the 10th and causing Jharkhand to slip out of the top 10 most-visited states. In terms of foreign tourists, Tripura, Manipur and Assam recorded the highest growth while Meghalaya and Mizoram witnessed a decline in 2015 as compared to 2014. While 1,17,543 foreign tourists visited the northeastern states in 2014, the corresponding figure for 2015 is 118,644.

In terms of percentage, the foreigner visits to the Northeast in 2015 was a miniscule 0.5 per cent of the number of foreign visits which were recorded in the country. Region-wise, the foreign tourists’ visits during 2015 was the highest in western India (30.6 per cent) followed by the south (29.1 per cent), north (28.4 per cent), and east (11.4 per cent).

 
By Andrew w. lyngdoh

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Guwahati, July 23: Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has advocated frequent dialogues, including sports and cultural meets, to bridge the growing distrust among the people living along the Assam-Nagaland boundary.

In a meeting with a delegation of Naga Hoho, the apex body of all tribal communities of Nagaland, here last evening, Sonowal emphasised the need for a proper platform where outstanding issues confronting both the states could be discussed in a congenial atmosphere.

He also urged the people living on both sides of the Assam-Nagaland border to maintain peace and harmony and thwart all nefarious designs of criminals who have been trying to blow up the small incidents to large inter-state confrontations. The Naga Hoho president invited Sonowal to Nagaland, which he had accepted “in principle”.

The six-member Naga Hoho delegation was led by its president P. Chuba Ozukum. Its general secretary, Mutsikhoyu Yhobu, secretary (administration), Chitho Nyuso, secretary (assembly), Elu Ndang, secretary (customary and cultural affairs), Mhonchumo, and secretary (finance), Riinguto.

The civil society initiative was undertaken by Nanda Talukdar Foundation, an NGO here.

 
By A staff reporter

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Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal speaks at the programme in Guwahati on Saturday. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, July 23: Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal today said the Centre and the state government had initiated steps to seal the India-Bangladesh border in the state on the lines of the international border in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

Addressing the first convention of Simanta Chetna Mancha, Northeast, an NGO here, Sonowal said measures had been initiated to fence the 70km porous riverine border in Dhubri, Karimganj and Mankachar districts to check infiltration and cross-border smuggling. The convention was held at the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati.

“People of the state are now alert against jihadi activities through the Bangladesh border. Both Centre and the state government have already sought help from people living along the border to seal the India-Bangladesh border in Assam. The border will be protected like it is done in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. A secure border will ensure safety and security of the people and the sovereignty of the country,” Sonowal said.

The process to update the National Register of Citizens 1951 is under way in full swing to detect the illegal migrants and protect the citizens of the country, Sonowal added. The NRC is being updated in the state and those proving their or their forefathers’ existence in Assam on or before March 24, 1971, would be included in the updated NRC. The NRC is being updated under the supervision of the Supreme Court. “The state government is trying to solve the problems confronting our state with the help and assistance of the people,” Sonowal said.

The Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Dilip Paul, BSF additional director-general Ramesh Kumar Singh, co-ordinator of Akhil Bharatiya Simanta Chetna Mancha, A. Gopalkrishnan, and deputy chief executive member of Bodoland Territorial Council, Kampa Borgoyari, were some of the dignitaries who attended the convention.

 
By A staff reporter

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A woman wades through an innundated stretch outside her house in Majuli on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos

July 23: More than five lakh people have been affected in 13 districts of Assam with the Brahmaputra flowing above the danger level in Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur and Dhubri.

In Jorhat district alone, 88,621 people have been affected by the deluge. Seventy relief camps have been opened for 21,549 people. The number of affected villages is 1,039 while nearly 47,000 hectares of cropland has been damaged.

According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, the Ajan Pir Dargah in Sivasagar is inundated, while a number of schools have been submerged.

The National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force are conducting relief operations on boats. Around 695 people have been evacuated in Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s ancestral village in Dibrugarh district has been submerged as the flood situation took a turn for the worse today with two persons washed away by the floodwaters. Residents of Bindha Kata Muluk Gaon are desperately looking for help.

ASDMA project officer Dipjyoti Hatikakoty said 33 villages in Dibrugarh district have been affected. Altogether 9,482.1 hectares of land, including 1,751.06 hectares of cropland, have been submerged. Two relief camps have been set up in Chabua, where 77 people are taking shelter.

In the worst affected Dodhiya area, two SDRF teams have been deployed for rescue operations, he said.

The ferry service from Bogibeel to Karengbali has been temporarily suspended owing to the rising Brahmaputra.

Many villages in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district have been submerged, affecting nearly 10,000 people. Most of the residents have taken shelter in schools and relief camps.

Nearly 60 villages have been partially submerged in Salmara, Kamalbari and Ahotguri areas of Majuli in Jorhat district. Ferry services to the island have been stopped indefinitely.

The Shingara has inundated more than 12 villages in Nowboicha in Lakhimpur district.

In Dhubri district, An NDRF team was deployed to rescue marooned people in Dhubri.

Golokganj revenue circle officer Sabyasachi Kayashap said over 100 villagers were rescued by the team and lodged in 25 relief camps. “I have requisitioned relief materials and these will be distributed from tomorrow,” he said.

The Dhubri-Kachugaon road, one of the links between Dhubri and Kokrajhar district, has totally snapped owing to breaches at several places. Two bridges – an under-construction RCC and a wooden bridge – were washed away, an official said.

Over 80 villages in Kokrajhar and Chirang district have been submerged by the rivers flowing downstream from Bhutan and incessant rainfall. A flood alert has been sounded in both districts.

In Kokrajhar, the Banglajhora, Saraguri, Janakigaon, Tattara, Kwirwguri, Balapara and Saralpara villages were flooded by the rising waters of the Saralbangha. Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma and deputy commissioner M.P. Sarma today surveyed these affected villages.

In Gossaigaon subdivision, the Gangia, Sankosh and Bura Chara rivers have flooded 12 villages in Kashiabari. Over 1,000 people are taking shelter at two relief camps in Ghaksa (717) and Kashiabari (493).

Over 2.5 lakh people in Bongaigaon Kokrajhar and Chirang district and several villages in Goalpara and Nalbari districts are reeling under floodwaters.

An enbankment constructed recently at Bidhabasi in Bongaigaon district is on the verge of being breached by the rising waters of the Manas. The river is also threatening embankments at Narayanguri, Tinimile and Panchmileunder Basbari forest range in Barpeta district.

The rising waters of the Nizla river has flooded Santipur, Samodwisa, Samodwisa, Kusungdwisa and Nakedhara, affecting over 500 families. A medical camp was held today in Chirang for flood-hit families by the army.

The overflowing Nangalbangha has damaged several acres of paddy in villages like Nepalpara, Sishubari, Patabari, Dolorpara, Khomabari, Sonapur, Udaipur, Choibari Gedhabazar, Khungkrajhora, Makgragami, Malipara, Gobdapara, Nepalpara and Aie-Powali.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the rising Noa-Dehing has submerged Lekang circle under Namsai district and affected Piyong, Namsai town and its adjoining villages, reports PTI. The Jengthu is rising rapidly and has affected Mukron, Chessing Nongtaw, Jenglai and Wagon-IV villages. In Changlang district, several low-lying areas at Diyun circle and Jairampur sub-division have been submerged.

In East Siang district, torrential rain has thrown life out of gear in many parts of Pasighat. Tezu, district headquarters, remained cut off from the rest of the state as the administration suspended ferry services at Alubari ghat owing to the rising waters of the Lohit.

Chief minister Pema Khandu has directed the legislators of Tezu, Namsai and Jairampur to monitor the situation and supervise relief measures.

 
By Our bureau

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Elephants try to enter the NRL township from Deopahar side. Picture by Smita Bhattacharyya

Jorhat, July 23: Buoyed by the jaati (community), maati (land) and bheti (home) call of the new BJP government in the state, Anirban Nature Club, an environmental organisation in Golaghat district, is planning to appeal to Dispur to declare Deopahar a reserve forest area.

The pristine Deopahar forest is contiguous to Kaziranga National Park and the Karbi hills and elephant movement in the area is a frequent occurrence.

Atop Deopahar, a hillock, on the Numaligarh-Dimapur Road, is the reconstructed ruins of an exquisitely carved base of a temple. Carved stone figurines of the temple, which the Archaeological Survey of India has dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th century AD, speak of a highly developed civilisation that existed during ancient times but has no mention in history.

Arnab Saikia, an executive of the organisation, said in 1999 the state forest department had proposed that the area be made a part of the reserve forest area but nothing materialised.

“We have stepped up our activities after Numaligarh Refinery began to acquire more land and began to encroach upon forest areas, which have a fragile eco-system,” Saikia said.

“It is not only the NRL but also tea gardens and a village which we would like to have removed as they are spoiling the environment,” he further said.

“We are hopeful that the new government will not only take care of the indigenous people of the state but also consider our demand as it is in connection with the state’s immense forest wealth, which is being gobbled up at a fast pace by so-called development and encroachment,” Saikia said.

The organisation hopes that the new government will take this matter seriously.

“A documentary we made showed how an elephant herd tried to negotiate a wall but could not do so. Several times they butted their heads against the wall but could not find a way to the Karbi hills and beyond. This drew worldwide attention after it went online in SanctuaryAsia last year. “The NRL might refute (this by saying)that it has taken what was allotted to it by the Golaghat district administration, but the fact remains that this area is as important to several wildlife species as Kaziranga and Karbi hills and even further up the Garampani reserve. It is the NRL’s expansion activities like golf course, housing colonies and now a biorefinery that are irksome and the administration is pandering to its demands for more land each time,” he said.

Samarjit Sharma, another executive, said he had filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court against the Centre, ministry of environment and forests, state government, the principal chief conservator of forests, Golaghat deputy commissioner and divisional forest officer and the NRL last year. The verdict is pending.

Another case against the NRL and others has been filed at the National Green Tribunal, Delhi, by Rohith Choudhury, against the four lanes passing through the national park, among others.

NRL senior manager (corporate communications) Madhuchanda Adhikari, in a point-by-point rebuttal, denied the allegations and said it would honour the tribunal’s verdict in letter and spirit.

 
By Smita Bhattacharyya

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Suresh Prabhu. File picture

Agartala, July 23: The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is all set to launch the broad-gauge passenger train service from Agartala to other parts of the country across Assam.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the broad-gauge train service between Delhi and Agartala from the national capital on July 31 while Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar will flag off the train at Agartala railway station, says PTI.

Suresh Prabhu will also lay the foundation for the 15km Agartala-Akhaura railway track on the same day. The service would connect the Northeast with Bangladesh.

Transport commissioner Samarjit Bhowmik said the new Agartala-Delhi broad-gauge train is likely to be named “Tripures#wari super fast express”, though the matter of naming was yet to be finalised. “The final decision will be announced by Mohammed Jamshed, member of railway board (traffic) by Tuesday,” said Bhowmik.

He also said Prabhu would stay for three days in the Northeast to inaugurate various railway services. “He will be in Imphal on July 30, in Agartala on July 31 and on August 1 in Kohima in connection with the inauguration of various railway services in the Northeast.

Apart from this, the NFR has taken a special initiative to rush essential commodities, including fuel, to Agartala, in view of the severe crisis and high prices faced by the people because of the collapse of road traffic through the Assam-Agartala National Highway 44. Two goods trains carrying essential items arrived last night at Jirania railway station near Agartala and are being unloaded,” Bhowmik added.

The broad-gauge passenger train service to and from Agartala was originally scheduled to begin from March this year but heavy landslides in the hilly section of the railway route, between Lumding and Silchar, stood in the way. Finally engineers from Austria and Germany arrived early last month on the invitation of the railway authorities and the line was set right by changing the alignment.

“Now everything is ready and the service will begin. #Similarly, work on the 15km Agartala-Akhaura railway line was pending and now that land acquisition on both sides is over the railway minister will lay the foundation stone of the railway connectivity. This track is being financed by the Centre at the cost of Rs 252 crores,” said Bhowmik.#

 
By Our special correspondent

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Haflong civil hospital. Picture by Samsul Alam

Haflong July 23: Patients in Dima Hasao district of Assam are forced to go to other districts for treatment as the Haflong civil hospital does not have adequate facilities.

The only 100-bed government hospital in the district, which was established in 1979 to provide proper medical care, has 20 doctors, including general surgeons, but specialist surgeons, including neurologists, urologists, orthopaedics, were never appointed.

According to the hospital authorities, there is shortage of four doctors, 40 nurses and 10 ward boys in the hospital.

The pathetic condition of the hospital came to light on Thursday night when Runa Debbarma, 22, an employee of Haflong bakery here, was hit by a car and shifted to the hospital around 8.45pm.

A doctor on emergency duty referred Debbarma to Nittananda Naiding, a general surgeon of the hospital, and left though the patient was writhing in pain because of severe head and lungs injuries.

When this correspondent approached the duty nurse to call the referred doctor, she asked the attendant of the patient to find him.

Naiding came around 10.30pm but he could not find syringes, catheters and other medical equipment.

After initial treatment, Debbarma was referred to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.

“We can only provide first aid to such type of injuries. We do not have any neurosurgeon in Haflong. We are helpless,” Naiding said.

In 2008, New Delhi had given its nod for a trauma centre to be built on the civil hospital campus. The building was set up in 2013 at a cost of Rs 65 lakh but the centre has not be started till date.

The Haflong civil hospital runs a blood bank in the building.

The hospital had purchased a harmonic scalpel machine worth Rs 32 lakh in 2013 to facilitate operations but sources said it has not been used till date.

 
By Samsul Alam

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Imphal, July 23: The Manipur health department today confirmed the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in the state with the detection of nine positive cases across six districts.

Director of the health department Okram Ibomcha Singh said nine positive cases had been confirmed so far and more blood samples are being examined. He, however, clarified that the outbreak has not taken the form of an epidemic.

The positive cases are reported from the districts of Thoubal, Imphal West, Churachandpur, Chandel, Ukhrul and Imphal East. One of the patients resides on the outskirts of Imphal city.

Of the nine patients, eight are undergoing treatment at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences and Regional Institute of Medical Sciences here free of cost, while the other patient is undergoing treatment at a# hospital outside the state.

Official sources said there are more suspected cases. The exact number of positive cases would be known after the laboratory test of the blood samples.

Ibomcha said it was not wise for Japanese encephalitis patients to seek treatment at private hospitals.

“All possible steps have been taken to control the spread of the virus causing the disease. There is no reason for panic. We are fighting the outbreak on a war footing,” Ibomcha Singh said.

The official said 3,000 vials or 15,000 doses of anti-Japanese encephalitis vaccine are in stock at present and 75,000 doses would be arriving in a few days to increase the stock.

Fogging has already been initiated to kill mosquitoes within a 2km radius of the localities from where the positive cases were reported.

Manipur has experienced an outbreak of the disease in the past. According to official records, there were 200 cases in 1995. Fifty affected people died that year. Out of 100 positive cases in 2010, 10 patients died. There were nine positive cases last year.

Health minister D.K. Korungthan, accompanied by the health director, visited primary health centres yesterday located in Chandel district, one of the affected districts and distributed anti-Japanese encephalitis vaccines. The team also supervised the ongoing fogging activities in the district.

The health minister appealed to the people not to panic, assuring them the state government had taken all possible measures. He also advised people to protect themselves from mosquitoes.

 
By Khelen Thokchom