Timeline – Effort to Bring back black money

November 1991: Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte names former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi among 14 politicians, alleging he had some $2.2 billion in a Swiss bank account in his name.

March 2009: Senior lawyer and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani files a PIL seeking Supreme Court’s intervention in bringing back over Rs. 70,000 crore in black money stashed in tax havens abroad by Indians.

June 2010: The apex court raps the government for doing little to bring back the money.

February 2011: The BJP–led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) releases a booklet, “Indian Black Money Abroad in Secret Banks and Tax Havens”, which contains allegations against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her late husband Rajiv Gandhi.

March, 2011: The Supreme Court says: “No consistent efforts have been made to trace the sources of money (stashed away). Fact remains that even today we have not made any progress in tracking the sources of money.”

June 2011: Then prime minister Manmohan Singh questions the calculation behind estimating black money stashed by Indians abroad ($89.16 billion) but said all possible steps were being taken to bring it back.

June 2011: High–level committee headed by MC Joshi, then Central Board of Direct Taxes chairman, appointed to study the generation and curbing of black money.

July 2011: Supreme Court sets up Special Investigation Team (SIT), to investigate the stashing away of black money in foreign banks and to take steps bringing it back in the country.

November 2011: India makes a commitment to G20 that it will remain an active member of the global battle against black money and will soon sign the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters to curb it by sharing information.

February 2014: Manmohan Singh says his government shared the opposition’s views on getting back the black money stashed by some Indians in foreign banks, adding it would sit with political parties to seek help and see how the black money problem can be dealt with.

March 2014: Then finance minister P Chidambaram says he had taken up the issue of black money of Indians stashed abroad.

March 2014: The Congress election manifesto said it will appoint a special envoy on black money.

March 2014: SC rejects the Centre’s plea seeking the recall of its order setting up SIT to probe into the flight of unaccounted money in foreign banks.

April 2014: Government discloses to the Supreme Court the names of 26 people who had accounts in banks in Liechtenstein – as revealed to India by the German authorities.

April 2014: The BJP suggests setting up a task force to retrieve black money.

April, 2014: The court pulls up the government for doing nothing to comply with its July 2011 order and goes on to say: “In the name of the review petition you (government) don’t carry out our orders. This is nothing but the contempt of court.”

May 2014: Narendra Modi government announces the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money, headed by retired justice MB Shah.

July 2014: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley informs parliament that there is a positive response to requests made by India to Swiss banks.

July 2014: In its first budget, the government says the problem of black money to be fully addressed.

October 2014: Jaitley says the government won’t hold back any information on black money or names of account holders in tax havens, but the latter will be revealed after “following due procedure”.

October 2014: The government discloses names of businessmen Pradeep Burman and Pankaj Lodhiya, as well as Timblo Private Limited and its directors Radha Satish Timblo, Chetan S Timblo, Rohan S Timblo, Anna C Timblo and Malika R Timblo who are said to hold bank accounts abroad.

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/

Chinese fireworks still sparkle in city

Despite a ban and a crackdown by the administration, Chinese fireworks smuggled into the State illegally are taking its toll on the local products in the market.

Some local businessmen and customers said there is lot of creativity among fireworks manufacturers in China. “There are a lot of miniature varieties of all fireworks. The fireworks, manufactured entirely through mechanization, give good results,” they said.

Though Chinese crackers are not much available, but a variety of pyro–techniques and colour combination of aerial fireworks manufactured in the neighbouring country are giving a tough competition to the locally made products, industry sources said.

“We will know impact of Chinese fireworks once Diwali is over after we get feedback from our dealers across the country,” they said.

The influx of Chinese goods into Assam is a regular phenomenon, given the proximity with the neighbouring country.

Import, possession and sale of fireworks of foreign origin are banned in India.

The Government has information that fireworks of foreign origin are being illegally brought into India under false declarations. Various Fireworks Associations have informed that these smuggled items include the chemical ‘potassium chlorate’ which is a dangerous and hazardous chemical and can ignite or explode spontaneously.

Despite the Kamrup (Metro) district administration keeping a watchful eye on the sales of Chinese crackers in the State, traders are still selling the items.

Sources said in order to evade penalty, the traders are not displaying the crackers openly but selling them clandestinely.

Seven teams of police led by a magistrate each have been conducting drives in areas like Pandu, Panbazar, Chandmari, Dispur, Chandrapur, Sonapur and Ajara in the city and its outskirts.

“Chinese fireworks have sneaked into the Indian market long back and players who smuggled them will find every way to sell them off. If enforcement agencies like district administration and police act tough, the merchants will be dissuaded from purchasing fresh stocks next year,” said a concerned citizen.

Another local, Durlav Das said, “What is the point in taking action now? The crackers were not air–dropped. The enforcement agencies should have checked the influx at the entry points – like airports and land routes. What were they doing when the goods were brought in?”

“Why only ban crackers from China? If the Prime Minister is really serious to give impetus to the Make in India campaign, all goods, including cloths and electronics that are making way to the Indian markets from China should be banned,” said another citizen, Bikash Agarwal.

Meanwhile, the Kamrup administration today sealed a godown at Kalapahar for illegally storing firecrackers.

(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/

In Assam, 28 Netas have 324 cases against them

BPF MLA Pradeep Brahma alone has 231 cases against him at Gossaigaon Police Station

Astounding as it may sound, twenty eight parliamentarians and legislators in the State have 324 cases registered against them in various police stations.

BPF MLA Pradeep Brahma lead the tainted pie with 231 cases against him, registered at various police stations of Kokrajhar. Most of the cases relate to the ethnic violence in the Bodo belt, according to documents received through RTI by activist Dulal Bora.

Brahma is followed by his party colleague Majendra Narzary (39) and social welfare minister Akon Bora (20) who are second and third in the pack.

Congress MLA from Mariani Rupjyoti Kurmi has five cases against him at various police stations of Jorhat district.

Minister Basanta Das, Congress MLAs Girindra Mallik, Rumi Nath, Enamul Haque and BPF MLA Hitesh Basumatary have two cases each against them.

Ministers Nilamoni Sen Deka, Khorsing Engti, and Gautam Roy, MLAs Durlav Chamua (INC), Sarat Saikia (INC), Rajendra Prasad Singh (INC), Rekibuddin Ahmed (INC), Binanda Saikia (INC), Anjan Dutta (INC), Raju Sahu (INC), Bolin Chetia (INC), Prafulla Kumar Mahanta (AGP), Phani Bhusan Choudhury (AGP), Prashanta Phukan (BJP), Swapan Kar (AIUDF), Ataur Rehman Majar Bhuyan (AIUDF), Hafiz Basir Ahmed (AIUDF), Mojibur Rehman (AIUDF) and MP Susmita Dev (INC) have one case each against them.

Assam government had last month reviewed the status of the cases pending against MLAs and MPs in the State in a bid to fast–track them as per recent directives of the Supreme Court.

The DCs and SPs have been asked to submit a status report of the pending cases against the elected representatives.

On March 10 last, the Supreme Court had directed that in relation to sitting MPs and MLAs who had charges framed against them for offences specified in various sections of the Representation of People Act 1951, trials against them should be concluded in a year from the date of framing of the charges.

Following the directive, the Union home ministry has asked all the state governments on September 4 to monitor the progress of such cases.

The ministry asked the states to speed up cases against MPs and MLAs facing charges that attract disqualification. Any sentence, which attracts punishment of two years and above, can lead to disqualification from Parliament or the state legislature.

However, according to a report of the watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), only 12 MLAs had declared pending cases against them which they stated in their affidavits during the 2011 assembly elections.

The ADR had also stated that Naba Kumar Sarania, Badruddin Ajmal and Rajen Gohain – have pending cases against them. Sarania has three cases against him, and nine IPC sections slapped against him are “serious”. Badruddin Ajmal has two serious IPC sections slapped against him.

RTI activist Dulal Bora accused the Assam Police of going slow on the investigation of the cases. “To cleanse democracy, the police must ensure that the investigations are expedited. Those facing non–bailable sections must be arrested immediately,” he said, adding that many elected representatives have allegedly given false information regarding the cases in their affidavits to the election commission.

(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/

’Happy Diwali, you make it possible for Indians to celebrate’

Modi marks Diwali with soldiers in icy Siachen

Wrapped in thick woollens, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to the icy heights of Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday where he lauded the armed forces and promised a national memorial for Indian soldiers.

“From the icy heights of the Siachen Glacier & with the brave Jawans & Officers of the Armed Forces, I wish all of you a Happy Diwali,” he tweeted to the nation.

The Siachen halt marked the start of a visit on Diwali day to the state where he later met victims of the recent floods – the most destructive in 50 years – at the Raj Bhavan, an event boycotted by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

“I have come to spend my first Diwali as prime minister with you. 125 crore Indians can celebrate Diwali today and go about their lives in comfort because the jawans guard the borders, prepared to make every sacrifice for the nation,” PM Modi told the troops.

“I am fortunate that as a servant of the nation, I got to see in what circumstances the soldiers have to live here,” Modi said, addressing troops in Hindi in freezing temperature at the world’s highest battlefield.

Dressed in battle fatigue woollen jackets, a red scarf and goggles to protect the eyes from blizzards, Modi promised to enforce a one–rank–one–pension scheme for the armed forces during his tenure.

“It is my duty to see that you and your family live in pride.”

The Siachen conflict between India and Pakistan has reportedly claimed more than 2,000 lives on both sides since 1984, with most soldiers falling victim to inhospitable weather and altitude problems.

“Everyone is aware of the extreme conditions at Siachen. Overcoming every challenge our soldiers stand firm, protecting our motherland,” Modi earlier tweeted.

“Be it the altitude or bitter cold, nothing deters our soldiers. They stand there, serving our nation. They make us truly proud.”

He said he had “a message from each and every Indian to our soldiers: that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you…

“We realise how and in what difficult conditions you are deployed here.”

From Siachen, Modi extended Diwali greetings to everyone — including President Pranab Mukherjee, the commander in chief of the armed forces.

“Perhaps this is the first time a prime minister has got the wonderful opportunity of spending time with our jawans on this auspicious day… Am sure this would be among the most unique greetings Pranabda received.”

Every Indian stands “shoulder to shoulder” with soldiers in Siachen, he said.

As Modi flew to Siachen, Pakistan Rangers fired at Indian paramilitary positions on the international border in Jammu region 365 km away while a strike called by separatists hit life in Srinagar.

A police officer told IANS that Pakistan Rangers fired at the Narain border post of the Border Security Force at Ramgar in Samba district. The firing started at 10.30 a.m.

Indian and Pakistani forces have been routinely firing at and shelling each other in recent times.

“We sleep peacefully because you are awake night and day,” Modi said in his speech. He added that all three wings of the armed forces — army, air force and navy — were the nation’s pride.

“This is my first Diwali after becoming the prime minister… I am very happy to be with these bravehearts.”

After underlining that soldiers always helped people during disasters, Modi said he wanted to build a national war memorial for the military.

Meanwhile, buses went off the roads in Srinagar but some private vehicles and autorickshaws plied during a shutdown called by separatist groups that are opposed to Modi’s visit.

Most shops and businesses were shut in Srinagar, the urban hub of a dragging separatist campaign that has claimed thousands of lives in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989.

Police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in visibly large numbers all across Srinagar.

Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani accused Modi of rubbing “salt on our wounds” by visiting Kashmir on Diwali but not extending Eid greetings to Kashmiri Muslims.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik said Modi was “politicising a human tragedy” — a reference to Modi’s meetings with the flood victims.

(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/

Politics set to spell doom for book fairs

According to sources, Bordoloi has made it a point that only book publishers can take part in the Guwahati Book Fair, not distributors. It does not slot into place as to why the minister has taken such a decision in a country where a large number of people have been engaged in distribution of books as their main sources of income. This apart, most of the big book publishers generally do not take part in book fairs. They get their books sold through distributors. In such a situation, if only publishers are allowed to take part in a book fair the book lovers will be deprived of many books of big publishers which they are fond of.

‘Politics without principle’ is one of the seven sins identified by Mahatma Gandhi. The politics concerning book fairs that are held in Guwahati reminds one of the famous lines of Gordon R. Dickson: “Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you the Kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger.”

The book fair that first started in Assam is the Guwahati Book Fair which is organized by the Assam Publication Board. It was the Guwahati Book fair that quenched the thirst of a large number of bookworms in Assam and the entire Northeast. It was the most sought–after fair for many book lovers of Assam and other states of the region who could not but throng the Judges’ Field when it was held there.

The bookworms then hit a hurdle — holding fairs was barred in the Judges’ Field. Then the book lovers of the state wanted the Guwahati Book Fair to be held at the Assam Engineering Institute (AEI) Field at Chandmari in Guwahati for its advantageous location. In his first term as the Education Minister of the state, Himanta Biswa Sarma was instrumental in taking the book fair to Maniram Dewan Trade Centre near Lokhra amidst much opposition from book lovers.

This prompted the book lovers to persuade the All Assam Publishers and Book Distributors’ Association to shift the Northeast Book Fair from Bharalumukh to AEI Field at Chandmari. The Northeast Book Fair has since been successful in doing real business at its new venue.

Since then a cold war has been brewing up between the state government and the organizers of the Northeast Book Fair.

The state government then made no delay to shift the Guwahati Book Fair to Chadmari from Maniram Dewan Trade Centre, causing serious problems in book fair schedules. This year the state government first gave the organizers of the Northeast Book Fair permission to hold its fair from December 25 to January 5. The organizers of the book fair were making everything ready with their eyes set on December 25.

However, all of a sudden in the last week of September, state Education Minister Pradyut Bordoloi flip–flopped and made an announcement that the Guwahati Book Fair would start from December 25, putting the organizers of the Northeast Book Fair in troubled waters. This announcement made the organizers of the Northeast Book Fair to reschedule their fair in haste. Now they have are going to hold their book fair from November 1 to 12.

The organizers of the Northeast Book Fair then moved the Education Minister seeking some helps like granting of concession in the rent of the field where the fair will be held. The present rent of the field is Rs 15,000 a day.

Minister Bordoloi, according to sources, sent back the organizers of the book fair without agreeing to give any concession they sought.

According to sources, some decisions taken by Bordoloi prove to be dampener for the Guwahati Book Fair as well and hence for bookworms. The decisions have baffled everyone, especially book lovers in the state.

According to sources, Bordoloi has made it a point that only book publishers can take part in the Guwahati Book Fair, not distributors. It does not slot into place as to why the minister has taken such a decision in a country where a large number of people have been engaged in distribution of books as their main sources of income. This apart, most of the big book publishers generally do not take part in book fairs. They get their books sold through distributors. In such a situation, if only publishers are allowed to take part in a book fair the book lovers will be deprived of many books of big publishers which they are fond of.

According to sources, Bordoloi has asked the presses that publish textbooks to pay donations for the book fair. Such decisions on the part of the minister, circles concerned in the state feel, will only spell doom for book fairs and bookworms as well.

(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/

Green signal to Kaziranga bypass

The new route will increase the distance between Kaliabor and Numaligarh by 95 km

Assam government today approved a four–lane highway that will bypass Kaziranga National Park, days after the National Green Tribunal imposed restriction on movement of heavy commercial vehicles on the stretch of NH 37 that passes through the Unesco World Heritage Site.

The new route will increase the distance between Kaliabor and Numaligarh by around 95 km.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today chaired a meeting of the State Wildlife Board which gave its nod to the proposed road, that will include two new bridges over the Brahmaputra – one near Kaliabor and the other near Numaligarh.

The four–lane project has been approved from Uria Gaon (Nagaon bypass point) and will touch Kaliabor, Dolabari, Jamugurihat, Biswanath Chariali, Gohpur before connecting Numaligarh via Kalabari. The bridge on the Brahmaputra that will connect Gohpur and Numaligarh will be around 10.05 km.

The 41.35–km stretch between Kalabari and Numaligarh, however, requires environment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

“The rest of the stretch has got all clearances. The tendering process has begun on that stretch,” an official source said.

The National Green Tribunal had earlier disallowed traffic on the NH 37 stretch that passes through Kaziranga. Following an appeal by the Assam government which cited connectivity bottlenecks, the restriction was relaxed and the ban was imposed only on heavy commercial vehicles.

The four–lane road, which is part of the East West Corridor, touches Uria Gaon before diverting towards the East.  Officials say on an average 50 animals are killed by speeding vehicles on NH– 37 every year near Kaziranga National Park. The number increases during floods when the Park witnesses large–scale animal migration to the highlands across the highway.

Conversion of that stretch into a four–lane express highway would have posed a greater threat to animals.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee had termed the highway as a “potential threat to the integrity” of the Park. The Heritage Committee, in its 32nd report, noted that “upgrading the national highway will transform the already problematic road crossing into an impossible barrier for the wildlife of the property.”

Following the concerns, the Centre had shelved plans to upgrade the portion of the highway passing through the Park.

During floods, the park authorities have been enforcing time card system along the highway passing through the park, limiting the speed of vehicles to less than 40 km during night time. But instances of vehicles speeding during the day and hitting animals on the road have been reported every year.

Sources said that the NHAI is being approached for providing flyovers at vantage points for the traffic on NH 37. This would prevent road hits, while providing safe passage for wild animals from beneath.

(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/

Jihadi outfits training Assam youths: DGP

‘We have received information against some youths who have been visiting Bangladesh for getting training under the Islamic terror networks such as the JMB to carry out terror attacks’

In a startling revelation, Director General of Assam Police Khagen Sarma today said youths from the State have undergone training under the Islamic terror network Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

“We have received information against some youths who have been visiting Bangladesh for getting the training under the Islamic terror networks such as the JMB to carry out terror attacks,” Sarma told reporters while attending a function organised to observe the Police Commemoration Day at the 4th Assam Police battalion at Kahilipara area.

The JMB links have been traced to places in Lower and Middle Assam besides the Barak Valley.

The DGP also described as “baseless” a statement from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) that “innocent people” were being branded as terrorists and arrested by security forces. The AIUDF had slammed the Assam government recently denying presence of any Jihadi modules in Assam.

“We were also criticised when we had arrested 24 people in a day in 1998 for having links with the Islamic terror network. Most of them had confessed their links with the network. Some of them had even confessed their links with the HuJI and Harkatul Mujahideen,” said the DGP.

“Some of those arrested recently from Barpeta district have been under surveillance for a long time. However, we did not have any evidence against them. Now police have arrested them as they have the evidence against them,” he said.

“After a crackdown by Bangladeshi authorities, the JMB has been able to establish some base in West Bengal due to its geographical proximity with the neighbouring country. It might also try to expand its network in Assam,” Sarma said.

A suspected module of the Jamaat–ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was busted in Lower Assam’s Barpeta district earlier this month, following the accidental blast in a hideout of the terrorist organization in West Bengal’s Burdwan on October 2 last.

The six suspected JMB activists were picked up from various locations, including Barpeta town, Kalgachia and Chenga.

Intelligence sources said the accused had been maintaining communication lines with those suspects arrested in connection with the Burdwan blast.

NIA and other central agencies suspect the modules in India were spreading the terror outfit’s ideology. The accused regularly visited Madrassas. The Indian wing of JMB provides logistical support as well as guns and bomb–making equipment to the activists based in Bangladesh.

(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/

Diesel price lowered, hiked city bus fare to stay!

Fares of city buses and other vehicles in Assam have been on a one–way traffic that causes only hike in fares even when there is scarcely any reason behind maintaining a steep hike.

In the past five years there have been three hikes in city bus fares, and the immediate reasons shown for the hike was hike in diesel prices. The minimum city bus fare was Rs 3 in 2008, and it was hiked to Rs 3.50 in 2010 and then jumped to Rs 5 in 2012 as if in leapfrog. However, a section of commuters now question the rationale behind maintaining the hike bus fares when the prices of diesel have gone down. “The reason behind the hike in city bus fare was hike in diesel prices. When the diesel prices drop, the authorities concerned should be prompt to lower bus fares,” a section of commuters said.

There are a number of unions and associations of bus owners whose city buses ply in the city. When contacted in this regard, a member of the Greater Guwahati City Bus Owners’ Union (GGCBOU) said: “The question of lowering bus fare doesn’t arise. We incur loss even at the lowered prices of diesel.”

If the statement made by the fellow member of the GGCBOU is taken at its face value, how come the city bus owners continued to ply their vehicles incurring loss? This is a pertinent question, yet those at the helm of affairs are reluctant to take such issues for reasons best known to them.

(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/

Uncertainty over Food Security Act implementation

Although the Assam government was supposed to implement the National Food Security Act in the State on August 2013, first deadline set by itself, it had failed to do so. The government has also failed to meet its September 2014 deadline freshly set in this regard. Now, it’s most likely that the ambitious Act of then UPA government can’t be rolled out by Dispur even in the first part of 2015.

After launching the National Food Security Act, then UPA government at the Centre put stress on rolling out the same in the Congress–ruled States as early as possible. Though the Act has already been implemented in some Congress–ruled States of the country, it is yet to be implemented in Assam. The process of implementation of the Food Secutity Act is now facing hurdles in Assam due to a directive issued by the new NDA government to all the States that cards issued under the Food Security Act need to be verified.

Sources said food security cards have already been distributed among 52 lakhs families in Assam and the process of their verification has become cumbersome for the State government.

On the other hand, the State government undertaking AMTRON, which has been given the task to make the information mentioned in food security cards available online, has been facing manpower shortage in some districts, making the data uploading process slow.

Another reason behind non–implementation of the Food Secutity Act in Assam till date is the lack of availability of scientifically–built godowns in the State, an important criterion mentioned in the Food Security Act. Of the available godowns in the State, only 5 per cent of these are scientifically built.

The availability of lakhs of bogus ration cards is also one of the several reasons which is creating a roadblock to the Act’s implementation in the State.

The Central government has clearly stated that persons having bogus rations cards should not be given food security cards. “On this issue, the Assam government is now facing problems as information on exact number of bogus ration card owners doesn’t available with the State government. Though the process of identification of bogus ration cards has been started, the overall progress is very slow,” sources added.

The Food Security Act will provide right to cheap food grains to 82 crore people of the country.

REASONS FOR DELAY

*    Verification of food security cards

*    Manpower shortage facing by AMTRON

*    Less number of scientifically–built godowns

*    Availability of bogus ration cards

(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/

Students’ body demands higher wages for tea workers

The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) has demanded higher wages for the tea garden workers in the State.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, AASAA president Raphael Kujur said, “The tea industry in Assam has been asserting through media and other forums that the demand for implementation of the Minimum Wages Act for garden workers is unrealistic. But we say that the demand for increased wages is realistic.”

Kujur further said, “The Plantation Labour Act (PLA), a Central legislation passed in 1951 for the welfare of labourers and to regulate the conditions of tea workers, applies not only to the tea industry, but also to planters who grow coffee and rubber. The PLA states that benefits such as medical, housing, water and education are provided free of cost to all workers. The Act also states that costs associated with these benefits cannot be included as part of minimum wage.”

Criticising Indian Tea Association (ITA) chairman Bobby Bhargava’s recent statement that the industry needs to be appreciated for taking care of workers from “womb to tomb”, the AASAA president said, “Are the tea garden workers bonded labourers? Are they captive slaves for which the garden owners have been using them from womb to tomb? Give the tea workers proper wages and they will take care of themselves.”

On the issue of poor healthcare infrastructure in tea gardens across the State, Kujur said, “The ITA chairman must also answer why infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are the highest in tea gardens of Assam.”

Despite an expected industry turnover of Rs 33,000 crores by 2015, tea garden workers earn the lowest wage among all organized sectors in the country, he added.

(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/