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Chief minister Lal Thanhawla plants a cherry blossom sapling in Aizawl on Tuesday. Telegraph picture

Silchar, July 27: Cherry blossom will soon add to the scenic beauty of Mizoram.

The state government launched the first ever cherry blossom avenue plantation programme in Aizawl yesterday.

Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla laid the foundation stone of the cherry blossom avenue, a joint initiative of Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) and the state government, at the state capital with a view to promote eco-tourism and sustainable development.

Lal Thanhawla planted the first sapling of the cherry blossom at the New Secretariat Complex in Aizawl. He said an extensive tree plantation programme had been carried out in the state since 1998.

Lakhs of trees were planted across the state under the Green Mizoram programme with a view to conserve the forest, which is very vital for addressing the issues like climate change, he said.

The chief minister expressed his hope that cherry blossom avenue programme would also help the state in reaping the benefits in the near future.

Lal Thanhawla pointed out that though Mizoram has a good forest cover, its dense forest was only around 0.65 percent of the total area of the state. He laid stress on quality planting especially in the villages of the northeastern state.

Explaining the concept of the programme, Dinabandhu Sahoo, director of IBSD, an autonomous institute under the department of bio-technology of Union ministry of science and technology, said Mizoram’s climate was suitable for different trees, including cherry blossom, and thus the programme was launched.

He added that a cherry blossom festival also could be organised in the coming days in the state and it would attract many people from within and outside the country.

Cherry blossom, popularly known as Sakura in Japanese, is also considered a symbol of peace and tranquillity. Japan’s cherry blossom festival is very famous and draws tourists from different countries of the globe.

The country has been planting cherry blossom trees for the past many years.

Sahoo said cherry blossom is considered to be native to the Himalayas, but different other countries like the US, Holland, Brazil, Turkey, New Zealand, South Korea, Germany, Australia, among others, had adapted the concept and built cherry blossom avenues in their respective countries.

Sahoo, who is spearheading a movement to promote cherry blossom in India, said the avenue plantation programme in Mizoram would not only enhance the sustainable eco-tourism, but also would provide employment opportunities to the youths.

The IBSD, under the leadership of Sahoo, had organised cherry blossom festivals in two northeastern states – Manipur and Meghalaya – last year.

The IBSD director said the United Nations had declared the Year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and thus the launching of the programme in Mizoram would help the state in getting a special place globally.

 
By Nilotpal Bhattacharjee

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Chief minister Manik Sarkar meets BGB additional director-general Brig. Gen. Md Habibul Karim and BSF officials in Agartala on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos

Agartala, July 27: Cross-border infiltration and smuggling of contraband have come down drastically, the border guards of India and Bangladesh said here today.

The four-day regional commander-level meeting of the BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh, which concluded here today, also stressed on better co-ordination.

At a joint media briefing held at the BSF’s Tripura Frontier headquarters in Salbagan, BGB additional director-general Brig. Gen. Md Habibul Karim, who led the 20-member BGB team, said issues relating to better border management through coordination, cooperation and exchange of information for achieving peace on both sides of the border were discussed.

He said Bangladesh was also benefiting from the barbed wire fencing constructed by India along the border. “There should be fencing all around and we never deter the Indian government from erecting the fence. It is definitely required and if you would not have constructed it, we would have jointly constructed it. It is required to check criminals.”

He said barbed wire, tight vigil of the BSF and other initiatives taken by the Indian government have shown positive results, especially regarding smuggling of contraband like Phensedyl which was one of the major worries of the Bangladesh government and the BGB.

Asked if the quantity of contraband and drugs smuggling has reduced, Gen. Karim said, “Of course and we have the statistics. We have also successfully undertaken anti-narcotics drive in our country. The campaigners are going to schools, colleges and holding public meetings. They are asking social organisations and NGOs to carry out campaigns to reduce drug consumption and I think they are doing it successfully. I thank the BSF also because they have extended help to us. Some of the assembling units have been dismantled, some have been demolished and the smuggling of Phensedyl has come down.”

He said taking a cue from the positive impact of fencing along the India-Bangladesh border, the Bangladesh government had taken an initiative to fence its border with Myanmar. “The Bangladesh government has undertaken a project to construct 271 miles of barbed wire fencing along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border at its cost.” He said they had also set up 17 border outposts along the Myanmar border in the past year and hoped to cover the rest of the areas by December. He said Bangladesh has also constructed outposts along its border with India and many more were in the pipeline to stop illegal movement of criminals and terrorists.

“We are trying to tighten border security. In the past year, we have constructed 35 outposts. We have apprised the government of the ground situation and it has already approved the construction of 50 more outposts,” he said.

He, however, said India should be more vigilant about stopping cattle smuggling that takes place from Bengal and often leads to death in incidents of firing. He said they had requested the government of India and the BSF in this regard because if cattle smuggling stops, it would enable cattle farmers in Bangladesh, who incur huge losses every year, to grow.

On the growing fundamentalist activities in Bangladesh, he said there was no foreign involvement and the Bangladesh government was dealing it with an iron hand.

“We do not have any foreign involvement in our territory. The growing terrorism is because of some home-grown activities. They may be inspired by some ideology or something from other places but our government is capable enough and our security forces competent enough to tackle it. In the last few weeks, operations have been carried out to contain the situation.”

Indian BSF team leader, inspector-general (Meghalaya) P.K. Dubey, said because of better border management and improved relations between the border guards of the two nations, major border issues like infiltration, transborder crime, movement of militants and drug peddling had drastically come down.

“There have been problems since ages and every problem could not be brought down to zero level. However, we have been able cut it down drastically. Illegal immigration was a major problem but now there is no major illegal immigration from any part of the Bangladesh border in the entire Northeast. This is a major achievement. Fence breaching, which used to be high, has been reduced considerably. Transborder crimes, like movement of militants, is now negligible.

He said border haats had also helped to reduce illegal trade and smuggling. “Fencing and floodlights along the border has helped us to reduce crime drastically. Moreover, if you facilitate trade with more border haats in the Northeast and in Bengal, crimes can be reduced.”

This BSF-BGB meeting was a preparatory ground-level conference for director-general-level talks of the border guards to be held in New Delhi soon.

India and Bangladesh share 4,096km border, of which Tripura shares 856km. Most of the border is now fenced, except for a few small pockets and the riverine areas.

 
By Our Special Correspondent

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Silchar, July 27: Police today recorded the statement of Afaz Uddin Laskar, who accused an imam of trying to send him to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS).

Laskar, a resident of Berenga near this town, yesterday filed a case before the court of the chief judicial magistrate here, making some sensational allegations against Maqbul Hussain Choudhury, an imam of a mosque here.

Cachar superintendent of police Rajveer Singh today said they had recorded the statement of Laskar. He added that the police would soon interrogate Choudhury, who was temporarily suspended by the Mudharbond Dargah Masjid.

Sources said a team of police personnel visited the residence of Choudhury at Berenga here this evening but did not find him and his family members there. Their house was found locked, the sources added.

Laskar had alleged that Choudhury had sent him to Saudi Arabia with the promise of a driver’s job. After landing there, he was asked to drive a 22-wheeler vehicle, but he refused as he had never driven any heavy vehicle. Later, he was sent to another man – Ibadur – who happened to be a resident of Karimganj and stays in Saudi Arabia.

Laskar said Ibadur initially locked him up in a room. He alleged that Ibadur had pressurised him to join a camp of the Islamic States (IS) in Syria and when he refused, he was subjected to harassment. Laskar, who did not have a local SIM card, informed his family members via WhatsApp, as the building in which he was locked up had WiFi facility.

His family members then approached Silchar MP Sushmita Dev, who took up the matter with Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Laskar returned home on July 19 following the intervention of Union ministry of external affairs.

Singh said they were also trying to locate the residence of Ibadur in Karimganj and trying to get in touch with him.

Laskar’s father Jamal Uddin, headmaster of Rabidaspara MV School at Berenga, thanked Sushmita and Swaraj for their efforts to bring his son back home.

 
By Nilotpal Bhattacharjee

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Participants in the rally in Tseminyu on Wednesday. Telegraph picture

Kohima, July 27: The demand for a separate district of Tseminyu sub-division has intensified as thousands of people came out on the streets today asking the government to bifurcate Kohima into two districts.

Sponsored by the Rengma Hoho, thousands attended the rally at Tseminyu town, 50km from here, demanding a separate district carved out of Kohima. They also submitted a memorandum to Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang.

Several prominent leaders, including former Deputy Speaker and the current parliamentary secretary for housing, Levi Rengma, attended the rally and vowed to continue the movement. Rengma said he is for the common cause of the Rengma community and would not bother even if he is dropped from the government. He said the government has ignored the rights of Rengma people for too long and time has come for the people to stand united and fight for their place in Naga society.

He urged the people of Tseminyu sub-division to remain united. He, however, said disunity among the people was the main cause for the government to ignore Tseminyu despite being the oldest sub-division in the state. #Former minister Nillo Rengma also spoke on the occasion urging people to fight for their legitimate rights.

The memorandum stated that Nagaland was created not on the basis of population or territory but out of necessity of tribal consideration on political grounds and to meet the sentiments and aspiration of the Naga people. “All the 11 districts in Nagaland were created purely out of necessity, not on the basis of population, territory or MLA seats. In the same way, upgrade Tseminyu ADC (additional deputy commissioner) headquarters on ground of necessity and on tribal consideration like other cases,” the memorandum said.#

The memorandum stated, “Rengmas, like other Naga tribes, have equally contributed to the cause of Nagas, if not more. During the First World War, Naga Hills sent 2,000 labour corps to France and Rengmas alone were 200.”

It said after returning from Europe, they formed the Naga Club in 1918 to raise Naga voice to the outside world and Rengma tribe was one of the founding members of the club. The club submitted a memorandum to Simon Commission in 1929 to exclude Naga Hills from the proposed reforms scheme. The Rengma community also took part in the formation of Naga Hills District Tribal Council, which later changed to Naga National Council (NNC). The Rengma tribe had sent a representative when Nine Point Agreement of 1947 was discussed and signed with Sir Akbar Hydari, the then governor of Assam.

NNC president A.Z. Phizo began the Naga National Movement from Rengma land by hoisting the first Naga national flag at Parshen on March 22, 1956, by declaring Nagaland a sovereign nation, the memorandum said. The Rengmas were signatories to the 16 Point Agreement of 1960, which gave birth to Nagaland state.

“Tseminyu is the fifth administrative headquarters of Naga Hills but still remains a sub-division,” the Hoho said. The Hoho first submitted a memorandum to the government on April 28 though they planned to demand a separate district for the past couple of years.

 
By Our Correspondent

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The lecture series in progress at the Rajiv Gandhi IIM in Shillong on Wednesday. Telegraph picture

Shillong, July 27: The Rajiv Gandhi IIM (RGIIM), Shillong, today fondly remembered “people’s President” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on his first death anniversary. The institute plans to set up a centre for public policy in his memory.

Strangely, the state government did not hold any public programme to honour the former President although last year none other than chief minister Mukul Sangma suggested that the state should have a “beautiful programme” to annually commemorate Kalam’s death anniversary.

Today, the commemoration began with the first lecture of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Lecture Series. The topic was “To lead change and the changed way of leading”.

On July 27 last year, Kalam, who had been a guest lecturer at the RGIIM since 2013, was delivering a lecture on “Creating a liveable planet”, moments before he collapsed. He was rushed to Bethany Hospital in Nongrim hills where he was pronounced “dead” at 7.45pm.

Scientist and director-general, Life Sciences, DRDO Manas K. Mandal, delivered today’s lecture and the topic revolved around non-traditional forms of leadership.

He mentioned how Kalam inspired him and the nation and spoke about how he had a different approach towards leadership and how he subtly changed the thought process of people. “A leader can integrate context, content and intent,” Mandal said.

The director of the RGIIM, Amitabha De, announced that the institute would undertake various initiatives in Kalam’s memory.

He said the permanent campus, which is under construction, will house a 2,000 square metre and 800-strong auditorium to be named after Kalam, with a bust of “Kalam Sir” outside the auditorium.

A centre will also be opened in his name to be known as the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Centre for Public Policy, De said.

Two days after Kalam’s death last year, Mukul Sangma, while addressing a programme to pay homage to the “missile man”, had said: “I had suggested that the state should have a beautiful programme of this nature to observe his death anniversary every year because this gives an opportunity to all our young friends to remain connected with the ideas of such a great man.”

In Dhemaji district of Assam, a daylong programme to remember Kalam was organised at Dhemaji Higher Secondary School. It was sponsored by the department of secondary education. Various children’s events were held besides a talk on the life of Kalam.

In Dhubri, the district administration had organised a meeting at district elementary education office conference hall where floral tribute was offered to Kalam’s portrait.

Additional reporting by Vinod Kumar Singh in Dhemaji and Bijoy Kumar Sarma in Dhubri

 
By Our Correspondent

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The car set on fire by locals in Agartala on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos

Agartala, July 27: A person died and three more were critically injured when an allegedly inebriated and speeding driver of a Maruti Wagon R hit them at a busy crossing on the airport-Agartala road this morning.

Police said after the vehicle overturned on impact, he driver managed to extricate himself and flee the spot.

The officer-in-charge of New Capital Complex police station, Pannalal Sen, said the car, running at high speed, was going towards Agartala from the airport.

As the car reached the busy Khezur Bagan area, the driver hit several people crossing the road, inflicting serious injuries on four of them, later identified as Sanjit Roy, 35, Mukesh Roy, 33, Dhiru Roy, 41, and Dhital Roy, 40.

A large crowd immediately gathered on the spot and sent the injured persons to the nearby GB Hospital by another vehicle and then set the Wagon R on fire.

“The mishap took place around 10.15 in the morning and we took nearly 15 minutes to reach the spot from the police station. It seems the driver was in an inebriated condition and driving the vehicle at high speed. He managed to flee before we could reach the spot but we will get him soon after we identify the owner of the car, said Sen.

He added that among the four injured, Sanjit died of his injuries around 1pm in the hospital while the condition of Mukesh and Dhiru was still critical. The accident led to a two-hour-long traffic congestion on the busy airport-Agartala road till it was cleared by police and TSR jawans.

The SP (traffic) S.R. Das said traffic control would have to be tightened to curb road accidents. “We are trying to curb the number of accidents by using advanced technology. We are expecting results but human error must be tackled through awareness campaigns,” said Das.

Road rage has of late replaced militant attacks as the major killer in the state.

The death toll in road mishaps has been steadily rising over the past few years for lack of traffic control and abnormal rise in the number of vehicles on the under-developed road network.

In 2014, altogether 239 people, including women and children, had died in accidents while the death toll last year marginally rose to 249.

Though the statistical data for the current year is still not available, road mishaps continue to take a toll almost every day in one part of the state or the other.

 
By Sekhar Datta

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Himanta Biswa Sarma

Jorhat, July 27: There was a lot of stress on education in 2016-2017 state budget tabled in the Assembly yesterday but one of the state’s fledgling women-only universities is feeling left out.

The BJP government’s first budget allotted funds to set up three new universities and assigned grants for many existing varsities but the two-year-old Assam Women’s University, which was set up by the earlier Congress government, didn’t have anything to cheer about.

A dream of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who wanted to level the playing field for women and create an educational institution on the lines of the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai, the varsity offers 13 postgraduate courses and two graduate courses.

A university source said the services of teachers was yet to be normalised and all the assistant professors were working on an ad hoc basis, thus being deprived of several service benefits enjoyed by professors in other universities.

“No funds have been allocated for recruitment of associate professors or professors nor have posts been created for the same. Funds have also not been allocated to bring in guest faculty. No funds have been given for infrastructure development but the existing building, a converted grain storage, is sufficing for the moment. The girls after being admitted here are showing a lot of potential which would most likely have remained hidden under shyness in a co-educational institution,” the source said.

On the justification for having an women-only university, the source said there were all-women banks, all-women police stations and now even all-women polling booths. What was the need for all these?

The source said the Assam Human Development Report, 2014, had stated that gender inequality had impacted about 37 per cent potential human development in the state and that it was a barrier to growth. In this regard, empowerment of women through education in an institute solely meant for them was justification enough.

The source said the university did not have a vice-chancellor and the vice-chancellor of Assam Agricultural University was acting as the mentor vice-chancellor since inception. He alleged that the university did not even have funds to hire any peons or employees or any petty cash to even hire a car when necessary.

The angst against the government was evident when a teacher blurted out that the priority of the BJP-led government could be clearly understood in the allocation of Rs 10 crore to Shreemanta Shankardev University in three years while nothing had been given to further women’s education.

Another teacher alleged that when a group of teachers met state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on July 3 to tell him the problems of the varsity, he had hinted that the university had become like a venture school, a liability to the government.

“We were asked whether new departments were being opened and on being told that three new departments were on the anvil, Sarma sir said no departments could be opened without approval of the government,” the teacher said.

“Sarma also told us that as the university was under the directorate of technical education, only courses which had technical basis could be opened,” the teacher added.

After this, the principal secretary wrote a letter to the university authorities not to open or recruit any teachers for the proposed mathematics, Sanskrit and biotechnology departments or any other department without the approval of the government.

The teachers said Sarma had told them that he would see what could be done and would get back to them after 15 days.

“Sir did not get back to us and now it seems there is nothing for us in the budget either,” the teacher said.

The Telegrah tried to contact Sarma through messages but there was no response.

Assam Chair at JNU

Sarma yesterday said the executive council of the Jawaharlal Nehru University had resolved to approve the establishment of an Assamese Chair at the Centre of Indian Language, Literature and Culture Studies of the university.

The decisions to set up three new universities were welcomed by students.

“Although the budget is middle-class friendly the state government’s decision to set up three new universities is a welcome move. It was also good to see that the benchmark of giving laptops to class X pass students have been raised to star marks as against first division. The increase in prices of cigarette and liquor can be said as a reformist measure,” said Abhinav Borbora, a research scholar in Guwahati.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY A STAFF REPORTER IN GUWAHATI

 
By Smita Bhattacharyya

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A wild elephant crosses National Highway 37 in search of dry land on Sunday. (PTI)

Kaziranga, July 27: The rhino calf emerged from the water and ambled up to the highway, then broke into a trot and re-entered the flooded Kaziranga National Park about 50 metres ahead where it had spotted a patch of green.

Forest guards on boats shooed it back to the highway and over to the other side – to safety.

The nearly 30km stretch of National Highway 37 from Haldibari in Golaghat district to Baghmari in Nagaon now presents a picture of peaceful co-existence of man and animal, both driven out of their homes by floodwaters, both seemingly empathising with each other and one ensuring the other’s uninterrupted passage to safety.

While for the human the highway, which stretches from east to west on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, has become a temporary shelter, the four-legged ones are using it to cross over to the safety of the adjacent Karbi Anglong hills.

“We have learnt to live with the animals…we can understand how they feel when their home is inundated,” said Badal Chowtal, a resident of Baghmari located along the highway near Kaziranga National Park.

Chowtal’s house got submerged three days ago as did those of many others, forcing them to pitch tents on the highway, their lifeline till the water recedes from their villages. With most of the national park under water, it is the lifeline to its denizens, too.

A woman in front of temporary shelters that have sprung up on the highway. Picture by Ankur Borgohain

“We are at peace with the animals. No one disturbed the rhino this morning, nor do we bother the scores of deer that cross the highway,” Chowtal said.

“The flood situation is critical in Kaziranga. It’s not only the animals which are suffering but also the villagers residing adjacent to the park,” divisional forest officer Suvasish Das told The Telegraph.

Yesterday, the forest guards rescued 70 people from Rongalugaon and Rojamari village near the Agarotoli range of the national park. “These villagers were stranded with most of their houses under water. We had to take them to a safe place,” Das said.

He said the villagers have been of tremendous help to the forest department for the safety of the animals. “We have been receiving regular information from the villagers when they spot an animal in distress,” Das said.

It is not only the villagers, but members of various NGOs engaged in Kaziranga who have been conducting regular patrols on the highway instructing drivers of vehicles to be careful and helping animals cross the highway.

“We have people on the highway all through the night and day and members of NGOs and students’ organisations take turns in helping us,” Das said.

Despite the successful story of the man-animal co-existence on the highway, a large number of animals, mostly deer, were hit by vehicles. The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation has attended to nearly 50 animals in the last two days alone.

“Most of these animals are hit by vehicles, a few here are brought dead and many have little chance of survival,” said Pranjit Basumatary, a veterinarian at the centre.

An official of the rescue team said it was not easy to provide safe passage to all the animals and many of these are dying after ramming into vehicles on the highway.

For now though, the highway appears to be the safest bet.

 
By PULLOCK DUTTA

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UNBROKEN SPIRIT

A woman tries to collect drinking water from a handpump in a flooded village at Hajo in Kamrup district on Wednesday. (PTI)

Guwahati, July 27: The flood situation in Assam remained grim today with 16.68 lakh people affected in 21 districts as the surging waters of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries inundated more areas.

The floodwaters have claimed five persons since yesterday while two world heritage sites, the Kaziranga and Manas national parks, remained submerged. Dabal Mili, 8, was washed away by the surging waters of Boginadi in Lakhimpur district yesterday. In Dhubri district, the body of Wazed Ali, 50, of Jhagrarpar village, who had gone missing yesterday while fishing in floodwaters, was recovered last night. A one-and-a-half year old baby drowned at Bilasipara last night. In Chirang district, ailing Jogesh Roy, 55, and Naba Roy, 24, who were marooned, died for want of medical treatment.

The army, NDRF and the SDRF today rushed to Majuli to evacuate people from flood-affected areas. More than a lakh people in 110 villages have been displaced there.

Jorhat deputy commissioner Virendra Mittal also rushed to Majuli to take stock of the situation.

He wrote to chief secretary V.K. Pipersenia, recommending departmental action against 11 officials (of different departments like education, agriculture and veterinary) posted on the island for leaving without intimation or permission from the sub-divisional administration.

Vittal told The Telegraph over phone from Majuli this evening that the officials were not found on duty at a time when the island was in the grip of severe floods. He said he had received complaints that these officials, including engineers, leave Majuli every weekend without informing or taking the approval of the sub-divisional administration, which is compulsory. He also directed Majuli sub-divisional officer (civil) Narsing Pawar to issue showcause notices to nine other officials for not attending flood-review meetings in the past few days in Majuli. He has issued a directive that no government employee posted in Majuli can leave station till August 15.

In Golaghat district, the Brahmaputra breached the Halodhibari-Besamara embankment near Bongaon last evening. Punya Saikia, a resident, said the houses of 14 families were washed away. They somehow managed to save their lives. “About 15,000 people took shelter on the embankment. The only food they got was flat rice and jaggery. Till 11 this morning, no one from the administration had visited the site. My house is also flooded and all my clothes and other articles have got damaged,” he said, adding that those stranded on the other side of the embankment had not got any relief.

In Dhubri district, more than three lakh people, including those in urban areas, reeled under floods as the water level of the Brahmaputra showed a rising trend. Of these, about one lakh people remained trapped in floodwaters despite rescue operations by the SDRF and the NDRF, administration sources said.

A senior official of Dhubri district said the situation was likely to remain critical for the next 24 hours with more areas getting inundated. “Floodwaters in Dhubri are heading towards the highest level (30.36m) recorded in 1988. It is predicted to cross 30m, which will be a matter of great concern,” Dhubri additional deputy commissioner Debojit Khanikar said.

An official of Dhubri division water resource department said the danger level of the Brahmaputra is 28.62m but it is flowing above 1.16m in Dhubri with a rising trend.

In Dhubri town, all shops downed shutters following inundation and private schools and institutions remained closed. Nearly 30,000 people marooned in the town demanded relief materials.

The situation, however, improved slightly in the lower Assam districts of Kokrajhar and Chirang with water levels of major river receding fast, though many areas remain submerged forcing people to stay in relief camps.

In some flood-affected areas of Chirang, the administration started rescue and relief operations today with the help of NDRF. Though the water level of the Aie and its tributaries receded, the low-lying and riverine areas remained submerged. Two medical teams have been sent to Sidli and Bijni revenue circles. Nine relief camps in Sidli and four in Bijni have been set up.

In Kokrajhar, 15,000 people in about 50 villages have been affected by the rising waters of the Sankosh, the Sormanga and the Gongia. Altogether 9,526 people are taking shelter in 11 relief camps.

 
By Our Bureau

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Guwahati, July 27: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured Assam that the Centre would do everything possible to help the state combat floods.

Speaking in the Assembly this morning, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the BJP MPs from Assam met the Prime Minister in New Delhi last evening and Modi assured them that the Centre was with the state in its hour of need.

“The MPs have called me and conveyed in detail the Prime Minister’s assurances,” he said.

Sonowal said his telephonic discussion with Union home minister Rajnath Singh yesterday was also very encouraging and he, too, promised to provide all help.

“Floods have engulfed an alarming proportion of the state this time. Twelve persons have lost their lives and 16 lakh people in 19 districts have been impacted. At this time of crisis, we must work unitedly and responsibly,” he told the Assembly soon after question hour.

Sonowal also declared ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the families of each of the deceased and said the amount would be paid this week.

He asked both ruling and Opposition party MLAs to submit detailed reports on the flood scenario in their constituencies so that more relief materials could be distributed immediately.

These reports will also be included in the state government’s report to the Centre to acquire funds for rehabilitation of victims during the post-disaster period, the chief minister said.

“As soon as the flood problem hit the state this time, we released funds to all deputy commissioners,” Sonowal asserted.

The Congress today asked the Centre to immediately release Rs 1,000 crore to provide interim relief to the flood-affected people.

“We want the Centre to immediately release an interim amount of Rs 1,000 crore to provide relief to the flood victims till the central team visits the state to assess the flood damage,” said Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia.

He said the Centre had promptly announced financial assistance of over Rs 1,000 crore in case of floods in Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir but, unfortunately, nothing of that sort had happened in case of Assam.

“There are reports that relief has not reached the people affected by floods in many areas and there is acute shortage of baby food, cattle fodder, etc,” Saikia said.

Echoing him, Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain said they had also received complaints about lack of medical facilities for the flood victims.

House adjourned

The budget session of the Assembly was today adjourned till August 7 to enable the legislators to visit flood-affected constituencies and monitor rescue and relief operations.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the business advisory committee after both ruling and Opposition MLAs appealed to Speaker Ranjeet Kumar Dass to adjourn the House so that they could visit their flood-hit constituencies.

Dass held the meeting by adjourning the House for 30 minutes and subsequently announced that the session had been adjourned with immediate effect. The budget session was, however, extended by a day till August 13. Earlier, the session was scheduled to conclude on August 12.

BJP legislator Tapan Kumar Gogoi requested the Speaker to adjourn the House immediately for some days as all the members wanted to visit their flood-affected constituencies. Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain extended his party’s support to the request. Other Opposition MLAs supported the move.

Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, supporting the move, said it was good that the legislators wanted to stand by the people at this hour of crisis. Sonowal is also scheduled to fly to Majuli, which he represents, tomorrow.

Hussain said the CLP, in a meeting held here this morning, decided to send teams to different flood-affected areas of the state to take stock of the situation.

 
By A STAFF REPORTER