Akhil demands study on B’putra, drainage project

KMSS squarely blames GMC and GMDA for rampant permission for buildings in Guwahati

GUWAHATI, June 29: Krishak Mukti Sangram Samittee (KMSS) president Akhil Gogoi demanded on Sunday that the government should ensure a proper study on the behaviour of the Brahmaputra and a proper drainage and sewerage project for Guwahati in the first place if the government is all interested to keep artificial floods in the state capital at bay.

Talking to newsmen in Guwahati on Sunday, Akhil Gogoi said: “The political parties in the State have engaged themselves in a blame game after the flash floods that lashed the city badly. What the parties talk about the artificial floods won’t lead us to the solution to the problem. The ground reality remains that the bed of the Brahmaputra is very shallow, and as such the river cannot hold the volume of water which the Bharalu river feeds it when there is heavy rains. A proper study on the behaviour of the mighty river is a must.”

The second reason behind the devastating deluge in Guwahati, according to the KMSS leader, is that there has been no drainage and sewerage system worth the name in Guwahati since the shifting of the state capital from Shillong to Guwahati. “In the absence of a proper drainage and sewerage system, such artificial floods are inevitable,” Akhil Gogoi said, and added: “The city needs a proper drainage system.”

The third reason behind recurring artificial floods in the city, according to Gogoi, is the erection of high–rise buildings in the wetlands in and around the city by big companies. Citing some examples, he said: “Tata Company has erected its Zinger Hotel on the Bahini river in the city. The canal which connects the Bahini river with the Shilsaku beel has been blocked by the building of Maria Public School. There was a beel between Gandhibasti and Silpukhuri near the rail line. Now three persons – Kailash Lohia, Birendra Kumar Choudhury and Phani Talukdar – have been erecting a seven–storeyed building there.”

The KMSS leader squarely blamed the GMDA and the GMC for the rampant issuance of permission for high–rise buildings in the city.

The KMSS leader also admitted the fact that rampant encroachment of land and digging activities by people also added to the problem. He said that the civic sense among the city denizens needed to be boosted to as to ensure a hassle–free civic life.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Experts for national action plan to tackle flood, erosion

GUWAHATI, June 29: Experts, intellectuals, educationists and scientists in the State opined that flood and land erosion problems can’t be solved single–handedly by the Assam government. To solve the twin problems permanently, a national level action plan should be mooted with the support of the Assam and Central governments. To discuss the flood and erosion problems affecting Assam and to find a permanent solution to the same, a seminar was organised by the All Assam Water Resources Contractors’ Association here on Sunday, in which, noted experts from different fields took part.

Under the leadership of Tarun Chandra Borgohain, ex–executive director of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO), some important decisions were taken in the seminar: To take the issue of flood and land erosion problem in Assam to the national level, a unique platform under the name “Brahmaputra” was formed. The newly formed platform will put pressure on the Central government on this issue. The “Brahmaputra” will also submit an action plan on this issue to the Central government through the State government within three months.

Muhi Borgohain, convener of the newly formed platform, said, “A thorough study is needed for mapping the movement of the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries before making the national level action plan to solve the flood and land erosion problems permanently in the State. It will not be possible for the Assam government to carry out such a vast and complex study single–handedly,” adding, “Without a national action plan, flood and erosion problem in the State can’t be solved.”

He also appealed to all the departments of the Assam government to work together for taking a strong step against the flood and erosion problems.

The Brahmaputra River has wiped out nearly 4,000 square kilometres of area at a rate of 80 square kilometres per year, destroying more than 2,500 villages and affecting more than five million people in Assam.

State Water Resources Department has identified 25 vulnerable and very severe erosion–prone sites and estimated that the Assam valley portion of the Brahmaputra has lost approximately 7.4 per cent of its land area due to river bank erosion and channel migration.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Rs 6879 crore Plan fund lapseS in Assam

Fund–lapse reveals poor performance of the State departments

GUWAHATI, June 29: Due to the callousness of the departments of the Assam government, Plan fund approved by the Central government lapses almost every financial year, hampering the implementation of development schemes/projects in the State.

As per the report of the Planning Commission (Financial Resources Division), in the 11th Five–Year Plan (2007–08 to 2011–12), Plan fund amounting to Rs 6879 crore lapsed due to poor utilisation of the same by the government departments.

The Central government approved Rs 31,457 crore of the Plan fund for the Assam government in the 11th Five–Year Plan, but of the approved amount, Rs 24,578 crore was actually spent and the remaining balance of Rs 6879 crore lapsed.

In the 11th Five–Year Plan, of the Rs 3,800 crore Plan fund approved in the financial year 2007–08, Rs 2,669.27 crore was spent by the State government departments. Similarly, of the Rs 5012 crore Plan fund approved in the financial year 2008–09, Rs 3593.75 crore was spent, of the Rs 6,000 crore Plan fund approved in the financial year 2009–10, Rs 5023.08 crore was spent, of the Rs 7645 crore Plan fund approved in the financial year 2010–11, Rs 6883.09 crore was spent and of the Rs 9,000 crore Plan fund approved in the financial year 2011–12, Rs 6408.85 crore was spent by the government departments.

The report of the Planning Commission (Financial Resources Division) further states that the rates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as per CSO 2004–05 series (current prices), were 3.76 per cent in 2007–08, 4.43 per cent in 2008–09, 5.23 per cent in 2009–10, 6.12 per cent in 2010–11 and 5.06 per cent in 2011–12.

It is really sad that when the Assam government is putting stress on rural development, the Plan fund lapse actually reveals the way the departments utilise the Central fund in the State. The poor utilisation of Plan fund is the main reason behind the Central government’s reluctance to release sufficient fund for development work in Assam.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

From the Orient to the Middle East, a rhino horn’s journey

Guwahati, June 29: As authorities continue to grapple with the deeply entrenched racket of poaching of the famous one–horned rhinoceros in Assam, the demand for its horn in markets abroad refuse to die down.

The State symbol of Assam, the rhinoceros has been listed as endangered due to extensive poaching.

Two–thirds of the great one–horned rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Pobitora , Orang and Manas National Parks. Kaziranga is home to an estimated 70 percent of the entire population in the world.

These rhinos have been listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

In Assam, rhinos were hunted from as early as the 1800s when a single military officer would kill some 200.

It was in 1904 that after a visit to Kaziranga Baroness Mary Victoria Leiter Curzon alerted her husband Lord Curzon, the then viceroy of India, about the declining number of rhinos due to excessive hunting.

The next year, Lord Curzon declared Kaziranga a reserve forest and in 1908, when the number of rhinos was just 18, the area was officially closed for shooting. In what subsequently turned out to be the world’s greatest conservation effort, the number rose to over 1,600 by the time Kaziranga celebrated the 100th anniversary of its official status in 2005.

Despite this, the menace of poaching continues over time. In 1983, 41 rhinos were killed in Assam’s Laokhowa National Park, which was practically the entire population of the park, and led to the total extinction of the species in the area.

“Of Assam’s four national parks, Kaziranga is the most easily accessible. The poachers can either come in from the northern side through the Brahmaputra river or from the southern side through Karbi Anglong. These two sides are not well guarded,” Amit Sharma, coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Rhino Conservation, told IANS.

“Most of the traders are from Nagaland who deploy poverty–stricken locals to kill the animals for a large sum of money. Finding of AK–47 bullets indicate that the rhinos are killed by using these guns,” Sharma said.

According to an official of Assam’s Department of Forest, the main market for the rhino horn continues to be Southeast Asia, especially China, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

“The horns are transported out of Assam mainly through Nagaland out to Myanmar or from Arunachal Pradesh to China. The carriers are mainly females and guards do not really check what is hidden in their clothing,” the official told IANS.

“Female guards have been recently posted at border checkpoints, but their training does not meet the necessary requirements. The government should deploy highly trained professionals in the forests to tackle the poachers,” he added.

According to Bibhab Talukdar, chief executive of wildlife conservation NGO Aaranyak, there has been an increase in poaching of this endangered pachyderm since 2012.

“In 2012, around 22 rhinos were killed in Assam and in 2013 the number increased to 41,” he said.

Uttam Saikia, honorary wildlife warden of the Kaziranga National Park, said that till the time the international market demand for the rhino horn continues, the supply would not stop.

“In China, the horn is used in powdered form mainly as an aphrodisiac and there have been claims without any explanation that its use can also cure cancer. In the Middle East especially in Yemen, the elite use the horn as a knife handle as a status symbol,” Saikia said.

Though organised wildlife crime workshops are being held in Kaziranga to give a basic understanding of poaching, the problem continues.

“Since Nepal started the anti–poaching mechanism, poaching cases have decreased to zero percent in the country and so Kaziranga faces the pressure now,” Rathin Barman, deputy director of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), said.

Assam’s Minister for Forest and Environment Rockybul Hussain, when contacted, said that earlier this month, two poachers were killed in Kaziranga.

“Due to translocation, the number of rhinos in Manas National Park increased to 31. We have launched an Anti–Rhino Poaching Task Force and have installed CCTV cameras all over the national parks,” he said, adding that a new battalion has been deployed with better training to guard the parks.

Conservation efforts like the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020, a joint effort with the Assam Forest Department, the Bodoland Territorial Council, the WWF, the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, have aimed to attain a population of at least 3,000 great one–horned rhinos in Assam by the year 2020.

In order to achieve this, the existing population will have to increase by over 600 rhinos in the next eight years, which amounts to an average annual increase of about three percent.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Visa rules relaxed for below 13 and above 65 years old Bangladeshis

Dhaka, June 26:  Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday said that New Delhi seeks a comprehensive and equitable partnership with Bangladesh for a secure and prosperous South Asia.

In a speech at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies following her meetings with President Md Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bangladeshi counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Sushma Swaraj said that India was focussed on productive partnerships with its immediate neighbours.

“We are convinced India’s development cannot be complete and sustainable unless we succeed in building productive partnerships with our immediate neighbours,” she said.

“We will therefore devote our energy to working much more closely in pursuit of our development goals.”

The visiting minister said: “We will walk the extra mile to create opportunities and to build virtuous cycles of prosperity in the region.”

“We will pursue the goal of economic integration and inter connectiveness through trade, investment, transportation, capacity building, environment–friendly practices and means that promote equitable development in the region.

“Building a comprehensive and equitable partnership with Bangladesh is essential for realisation of our vision of a stable secure and prosperous South Asia,” she said.

Earlier, Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said in a statement that Sushma Swaraj’s discussions with Prime Minister Hasina and her Bangladeshi counterpart “have been constructive and productive, fruitful and successful”.

“…The entire gamut of issues that constitute the ‘staples’ of India–Bangladesh relations were all discussed,” he added.

Regarding the easing of visa norms for Bangladeshi nationals, Akbaruddin said: “The external affairs minister has today conveyed the decision of the government of India that Bangladeshi nationals below 13 and above 65 years of age will be eligible for five–year multiple entry visas as against the current practice of multiple entry for one year.”

Stating that the issue of energy cooperation also came up during the day’s parleys, he said India has agreed to supply an additional 100 MW of power from the Palatana project in Tripura.

According to the spokesman, Sushma Swaraj has confirmed India’s willingness to increase the frequency of the Maitree Express and the number of air–conditioned coaches between the two countries, provided Bangladesh is agreeable.

She also proposed that India and Bangladesh should work on a possible Dhaka–Shillong–Guwahati bus service, Akbaruddin said.

Earlier on Thursday, addressing the media after his meeting with Sushma Swaraj, the Bangladeshi foreign minister said that she had told him that the Indian government was trying to reach a consensus on a water sharing formula for the Teesta river so that a treaty could soon be signed, bdnews24.com reported.

The visiting minister, he said, was hopeful about implementing the long–pending Land Boundary Agreement very soon.

Ali said that Sushma Swaraj has requested him for a special economic zone for Indian investors.

The two ministers also discussed matters like security, trade, border issues and counter–terrorism.

During her meeting with Prime Minister Hasina, Sushma Swaraj handed over a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi inviting her to visit India.

Swaraj met Hasina at the latter’s office at 11.30 a.m.

“Swaraj handed over the letter during a meeting at the prime minister’s office,” Xinhua quoted the Bangladeshi foreign minister as saying.

Swaraj called on Hasina to discuss key bilateral issues, sources said.

According to the sources, they discussed trade and investment, security, connectivity, and border management, among other issues.

Bilateral issues between the two countries came up for discussion during the meeting, which lasted for about one hour.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Modi accepts Hasina’s invitation to visit Bangladesh

New Delhi, June 26:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s invitation to visit Dhaka, a statement from his office said on Thursday.

In a letter handed over to the Bangladesh prime minister by visiting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Modi also has extended an invitation to Sheikh Hasina to visit India at her earliest convenience.

The Bangladesh prime minister invited Modi soon after he became the prime minister designate, following his Bharatiya Janata Party’s thumping victory in the Lok Sabha polls.

The statement said Modi thanked Hasina for her letter of felicitation on his assumption of office.

Stating that well–being of every nation is linked to its neighbourhood, Modi said he places special emphasis on India‘s engagement with its neighbours.

“I sincerely hope we can all work together to foster a new era of cooperation and connectivity across the South Asian region, which will ignite our collective surge to prosperity,” he wrote.

Modi has emphasized that for India, Bangladesh is “not merely a neighbour, but a nation with which we share history, culture, civilization, and enduring links between people”.

“The ideals of democracy, secularism, pluralism and rule of law also serve as a link between India and Bangladesh,” he said in his letter.

“My government will apply itself to further accelerating our engagement and strengthening the framework of our relationships,” he assured Sheikh Hasina.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

BPF severs ties with Congress

Minister Brahma, parliamentary secretaries to resign today

KOKRAJHAR, June 26: The eight–year–long Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)–Congress honeymoon in Assam came to an end today when the former decided to sever its ties with the government in the State. The BPF said in no uncertain terms that its alliance with the Congress was ‘not successful’ over the years due to ‘non–cooperation’ from the state government.

In an immediate follow–up of the decision of the party, BPF president Hagrama Mohilary urged Assam Transport and Tourism Minister Chandan Brahma, parliamentary secretaries Rakeswar Brahma and Maneswar Brahma, and MLAs taking portfolios in the Assam government to resign by Friday. The decision of withdrawing from the state government was taken at a policy–making body (PMB) meeting of the party held on June 24.

Talking to reporters at the PWD Guest House here, BTC Chief Hagrama Mohilary said that the people of the BTAD were deprived on all fronts due to non–cooperation from the state government. “It’s meaningless to stay with the government as it cannot protect life and property of the people in the BTAD,” Mohilary said. Mohilary said that there was no decline in extortion, killing and kidnapping in the BTAD. This, he said, has affected the BPF very badly as, being a coalition partner, it has no way out but to share the blame.

An emergent meeting of the party was held at the PWD Guest House in Kokrajhar on the acceptability of the PMB decision. Attended by Chandan Brahma, all the BPF MLAs and BTC executive members, the meeting took its stand on severing its alliance with the Congress. Mohilary said that the ST, SC and OBC communities in BTAD were the worst sufferers as the funds allocated for them had not been sanctioned by the Assam government since 2005. The issues, Mohilary said, were discussed with the officials and ministers concerned, but to no avail.

The BTC chief also pointed out the need for some amendments in the BTC Accord in connection with the Panchayati Raj in the 6th Scheduled areas. He said that the people of the BTAD were deprived of the facilities under the Panchayati Raj. He said that in lieu of the Panchayati Raj, the BTC had made modalities of Village Council Development Committees (VCDCs) but the Assam government did not approve it. He hoped that the July session of Parliament would make some amendments of the BTC Accord for the Panchayati Raj system in the BTAD. In such amendments of the 6th Schedule, Mohilary said, NC Hills and Karbi Anglong would also get the benefits of the Panchayati Raj system.

When asked on the impact of the dissidence in the state Congress, he said that the BPF had nothing to do with the dissident groups in Assam. He said that the BTC received only Rs. 380 crore from the state share of Plan funds. According to the population pattern, he said, the BTC has to receive 12.19 per cent from the state share on Plan funds, which should not be less than Rs 1,000 crore. He also said that most of the funds meant for the BTC were not released as per population pattern and on time.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/