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Committed to sealing border with Bangladesh in next year and half, says Rajnath Singh

Guwahati: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the security of the more than 200-kilometre-long Indo-Bangladesh border was a priority for the BJP government and it will be completely sealed in next one and a half years.

“We are committed to sealing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh border and the process is on. It is expected to be completed within the next year and a half,” Singh said addressing BJP workers in Guwahati.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

“Bangladesh is our neighbouring country and we share a good and warm relation, which we will continue to pursue and remain committed to in the future,” he said.

The Union minister, without referring to the issues of illegal migration and granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees, assured the people of Assam that BJP was committed to protect the interests of the indigenous population of the state as per Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

“We are committed to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and will protect it even if we have to amend the Constitution,” he said.

Referring to the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Singh said the process is underway and the state government should complete it soon.

The Union minister said the Centre will make no compromise on the issue of insurgency as he claimed that violence has considerably come down in the state.

“If any people or group have any grievances, problems or issues, we are ready to talk to them. We are ready to embrace them and talk. But if there is violence, there will be no compromise,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 16:59 IST

Varanasi: Over 700 kg ganja, around Rs 9 lakh in cash seized, 5 held

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Five persons have been arrested here and over 700 kg of ganja along with around Rs 9 lakh in cash were seized from them, police said.An ambulance was intercepted at Chaubeypur Police Station area. During the checking, 737 kg of ganja, in 134 packets, worth around Rs one crore in domestic market was recovered from the vehicle, police’s Special Task Force Inspector S K Singh said.Rs 9.42 lakh in cash, of which nearly Rs eight lakh was in new currency notes was also seized from the vehicle, the officer said.The five arrested have been identified as Triveni Gupta, Srinath Yadav, Bunty Gupta all from Azamgarh, and Jakir Hussain and Altaf Hussain both native of Assam, he said.They used to transport ganja from Assam to Uttar Pradesh and other states in the vehicle, Singh said.

Assam: Locals resist privatisation of oil fields in Geleki amid fear of losing benefits

Civil society organisations in Assam have vowed to resist the privatisation of oil fields at Geleki in the Shivsagar district of the state fearing it may have a negative impact on the interests of natives and the development of the region.

Speaking with Firstpost, Aswini Chetia, advisor to All Assam Tai Ahom Students Union (AATASU), a students body that is a part of a joint committee of the eight groups that are opposing the privatisation, said, “As per existing policy of the Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC), Assam is provided with corporate social responsibility fund for socio-economic development of the region. We want the Government of India to make clear its stance on what will happen to those benefits after the new arrangement comes into force.”

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The resistance has come at a time when the Government of India is envisioning a target of reducing its dependency on oil and gas import by 10 percent by the year 2022.

Chetia also said that the civil society organisations have been repeatedly demanding the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to clarify its stand on the issue, but have not received any reply so far. He also asserted that unless the Central government assures to protect the interests of the natives, the resistance movement will not be lifted.

Anupam Borgohain, president of the Geleki Sangrami Joutha Mancha, a joint committee formed to protest the privatisation of the oil field said, “On 19 December, the committee made a decision to resist the exploration of crude oil from the Geleki oil field. But, on Wednesday, the ONGC invited us for a discussion on the issue. The ONGC officials told us that the company has not signed any agreement with any private party to privatise the Geleki oilfield till now.”

However, the ONGC has reportedly entered into a production sharing agreement with Schlumberger, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of technology and services in the oil and gas industry to work on an ageing ONGC field in Assam.

Borgohain said that the joint committee has demanded that ONGC should make its stand public on the issue. “We have given ONGC three days time to make its stand clear on the issue of privatisation (of the Geleki oil field) and the rights of the locals, or else we will resist any exploration in the Geleki oilfield,” he added.

Crude oil exploration has long been an integral part of Assamese identity politics aimed at economic self-determination through exercising the indigenous population’s rights over natural resources.

The historic Assam Accord of 1985 that was signed after the Assam agitation is considered a guiding document of Assamese identity politics. It led to the creation of Numaligarh Refinery that manages the state’s crude oil resources besides standing as a symbol of Assamese pride.

There is a growing discontent among many in Assam that the crude oil rich state is receiving a raw deal from the two major oil extracting giants Oil India Limited (OIL) and ONGC in terms of royalty to be paid to the state on oil extraction.

It was only recently that the Oil and ONGC paid Rs 1,450 crores to the state as royalty on a pre-discounted price and that too after much persuasion by the state government.

“The only benefit of oil extraction that goes directly to the hands of the local people is the corporate social responsibility fund,” says Ashwini Chetia.

Apart from spending millions of rupees in education and health care sector in the state, thus leading to the creation of indirect employment, the ONGC’s social responsibility fund has created more than 4,000 direct employment in the self-help group sector, says a research conducted by Prof PK Halder and Bidhu Kanti Das.

However, in June 2016 Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas declared that privatisation of 12 small oilfields in Assam will add Rs 4,000 crores as revenue to the state coffers.

The oil industry has also contributed in creating downline industries and services in Assam that are contributing to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“But this set up tends to get disturbed if the oil fields are privatised, which is why we are against such privatisation. But if the government has to privatise the oil fields then the rights of the locals have to be protected,” Chetia told Firstpost.

Borgohain informed Firstpost that apart from AATASU, the joint committee protesting the privatisation of the Geleki oil field also includes All Assam Students Union, All Assam Tea Tribes Students Association, Brihottar Asomiya Yuba Mancha, the local committee of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, Geleki Byabosaee Sanstha and AJYPP.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 09:15 IST

Assam Muslim bodies defy order to keep madrassas open on Fridays, govt not amused

New Delhi: The recent notification issued by the Assam government to keep all schools open on Fridays has resulted in a stand-off between the education department and Islamic organisations of the region.

The stand-off has provided the Congress with an opportunity which has been seen trying its best to flare the issue up by infusing secular versus communal debate.

Representational image of a madrassa in New Delhi. ReutersRepresentational image of a madrassa in New Delhi. Reuters

Representational image of a madrassa in New Delhi. Reuters

A meeting held among Islamic leaders at Badarpur in Assam last Sunday, decided to defy the order that they perceive as infringing upon the rights of Muslims. The meeting decided to keep madrassas closed on Fridays and open on Sundays in contravention to the government order on the weekly holiday of schools.

The government of Assam in an order issued last week said that all schools under the state government are to remain open on Fridays and closed on Sundays in a bid to bring in uniformity in the weekly holiday system in all the schools under the government.

The order on holidays did not go down well with the Islamic organisations as madrassas have been following the tradition of remaining closed on Fridays to perform mass prayers.

Ataur Rahman Majharbhuyan, secretary of North East India Naduwa Tu Tamir, an Islamic organisation of the region told Firstpost that the meeting decided that madrassa students will not attend classes on Fridays and will sit in classes on Sundays.

“Even if the government opens the madrassas on Fridays no student will attend classes. If no madrassa teacher  turns up on Sundays given the government order to remain closed on Sundays, the senior students of madrassas will teach the junior ones and will continue the classes defying the order,” he said.

In the sidelines of the meeting, some students of a madrassa in Badarpur on Sunday flung open the doors of Deorail Title Madrassa marking the beginning of the movement.

Siddek Ahmed, former Congress minister, who was also present at the meeting threatened to take the issue to the high court if the government of Assam did not roll back its decision.

“In the last six months of BJP rule in Assam, we have noticed that Muslims have been denied the right to do business and get appointed in government jobs turning them into second class citizens of the country,” he said without stating any empirical evidence as to which jobs and businesses have Muslims been denied and how.

Ahmed further added, “Now trampling upon the right to religious education of the Muslims the government has issued the weird notification to keep madrassas open on Fridays.”

Maulana Fazlul Karim, general secretary of Jamiyat Ulema E Hind said that the BJP-led Assam government has issued this blanket order in violation of existing rule which says that madrassas will remain closed on Fridays.

“The order is passed to appear anti-Muslim. Madrassas remain closed on Fridays even in Gujarat, the home state of the Prime Minister, let alone Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab,” he said.

“Like madrassas even Sanskrit schools have a different rule for weekly holidays. Why the government is not compelling the Sanskrit schools to follow the same notification?” Karim asked.

Pranab Goswami, principal of a Sanskrit School in Assam informed told Firstpost that Sanskrit Schools do not follow the rule of having weekly holidays like other schools.

“We have holidays on every eighth day after full moon and new moon and next day after full moon and new moon. That way we have two holidays every fourth week,” he informed when asked about the holiday system followed by Sanskrit schools.

But the resistance from the Islamic organisations did not go down well with the government that is keen to implement the order.

Ramesh Chandra Jain, secretary to the department of education in Assam said, “We have ordered the madrassa teachers that it will be difficult for them if they do not follow the order. So they have to fall in line.”

When asked since Sanskrit schools have different rules for weekly holidays whether the new order is applicable to them also he said, “The rule is applicable to all schools. But Sanskrit schools do not  remain closed on Fridays.”

The stand-off between the weekly holiday of  madrassas is likely to make an impact on the Uttar Pradesh assembly election.

Haider Hussain Bora, secretary, All India United Democratic Front said, “The question is not about politicising the issue, but about the rights of our fellow citizens to practice their religion.”

He further questioned, “We are asking when Himanta Biswa Sarma was the education minister in the Congress regime he did not find any flaw about the weekly holiday system of madrassas. He found fault only after joining BJP. Does not this very fact signify that there is an intention to create differences in communal lines behind the order?”

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 21:00 IST

Assam: 2 NDFB(S) militants killed in encounter, AK 47 & ammunition seized

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two NDFB (Songbijit) militants were neutralised in an encounter with a joint team of state police and Army in the deep jungles of Assam’s Kokrajhar district along Indo-Bhutan border on Saturday.On a tip-off, Assam Police personnel with troops of Rajput Regiment launched an operation inside Kochugaon reserve forest at Oksiguri area in the wee hours, Additional Director General of Police L R Bishnoi told reporters here.A group of four insurgents exchanged fire with the security team and two of the militants were killed on the spot, Bishnoi said.An AK-56 rifle with 21 rounds of live ammunition, one 7.6 mm pistol with one magazine containing three rounds live ammunition, cash worth Rs 6,000 in new Rs 2,000 notes, four bicycles and some ration items were seized, he said.The slain extremists were identified and search is on to track the other two absconding rebels, police added.

Police, Assam Rifles catch 8 militants near Mizoram-Myanmar border

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The state police and the Assam Rifles caught eight militants along with a cache of sophisticated weapons during a joint operation at Mizoram-Myanmar border area.A police report here said the militants were caught from Mizoram’s southernmost Siaha district on Thursday.All eight militants were taken to the Siaha Police Station and booked under the Indian Passport Act and Arms Act, the police report said.The seized weapons comprised one Lathode Grenade Launcher, one 7.62mm Assault rifle, one 5.56mm M-16 rifle, one M-11 Assault rifle, one G-3 rifle, ten Lathode grenades, two Chinese-made hand grenades, large rounds of ammunition and magazines.

58% of rail tickets are sold online; Who says India isn’t ready for e-monetisation?

On 8 December, 2016 while announcing a slew of rebates for encouraging digital payments, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave an interesting statistic—-as much as 58 percent of rail bookings are done online. If this is true, India certainly is ready to go digital brushing aside the skepticism of the critics and detractors. He also said since 8 November, 2016 when demonetisation was announced, digital payments have grown at a healthy clip—from 20 percent of the overall transactions to 40 percent.  The 0.75 percent rebate on petrol bunk bills for digital payments is nothing to scoff at just as 10 percent rebate to electronic toll payments shouldn’t be if only to reduce standing traffic at busy tolls. Private insurance players of course would be peeved by 8 percent and 10 percent rebates offered on life and non-life premia by public sector insurers. Be that as it may, the soft digital push comes on the back of hard push i.e. leg-up to swiping machines.

Representative image. ReutersRepresentative image. Reuters

Representative image. Reuters

Banks take their own decisions on installation of ATM machines without needing any permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for this purpose. However when it comes to swiping machines aka POS machines, the call is normally taken by the shopkeepers. But the central government has cleverly shifted the initiative from them to the banks with which the establishments have current accounts. Yes, the government has urged banks to push for installation of swiping machines at retail shops that dot our landscape. To start with, it has urged the banks to install 10 lakh such machines by 31 March, 2016 on a war footing that could be daunting given the fact that the existing number of such machines across the country is only 14.6 lakh. But the SBI alone has volunteered enthusiastically to install 6 lakh machines during this short period.

The Assam BJP government has gone one step ahead and is seriously mulling whether it can make installation of swiping machines mandatory at retail establishments. While that could meet with some resistance and criticism, the central government initiative is an example of government using its persuasive power for the welfare of the nation. Banks after all know what their customers are into. If a customer is a trader, it can always call him over and impress upon him the need for installation of the POS machine at his establishment.

The wheel has come full circle. Come to think of it, banks till recently were supinely and passively offering a service to big retail establishments that they should not have— deputing their personnel for collecting cash. It sent wrong signals. It encouraged both the establishments and their customers to prefer cash as the prime mode of doing business. And more importantly, it encouraged transactions ‘outside the books’ in layman’s terms because on the flipside bulk of the expenditure was also incurred in cash that often hid the identity of the payees.

POS machines has benefits for everyone—automatic accounting at both the ends — i.e. the establishment and bank, besides rendering the tedious process of counting redundant at both the ends.  It was an eyesore to witness wads of currency notes tumble out of traders’ untidy bags in front of bank cash counters every morning.

The government must be complimented for converting the current cash crisis born of demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes into an opportunity to go digital and less-cash. The Congress party calls this rationalisation because it says initially the government called demonetisation a counter to counterfeit notes and black money. But what the heck, emphasis on cards and digital payment comes at the right time. Strike the iron when it is hot. The economy is reeling under currency shortage. Now is the time to change entrenched habits.

The government has waived 12.5 percent basic excise duty and 4 percent special excise duty on swiping machines and is likely to waive of the import duty as well given the fact that bulk of the machines are currently imported.

The Modi government indeed has cleverly dovetailed digital payments with demonetisation. And if it is an afterthought, so what?

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 08:32 IST

Aadhaar-based biometric attendance machine to be introduced for JEE-Main

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aiming to end possibility of impersonation in the JEE (Main) examination, candidates are likely to be marked by an Aadhaar-linked biometric attendance system from next year. Few cases of impersonation are detected every year during the examination, sources said.With these issues in view, the CBSE, which conducts the examination, has decided to use the Aadhaar-based biometric attendance machine at the examination centres, they said. Joint Admission Board (JAB), a high-level body which oversees the exam, had reviewed the system in a meeting on Thursday.However, there will be some relaxation for candidates from some areas of the states like J&K, Assam and Meghalaya where the permeation of Aadhaar card is not upto the same level as other states. While the aim is to ensure proper and transparent conduct of the exam, it is also intended that the process is inclusive and no eligible candidate is left out, the sources said. The CBSE is also expected to use a new advanced image technology-based method – Digi Scoring – to capture responses marked on OMR sheets in examinations.

Assam madrassas sulk as govt knocks off Friday holidays calling it ‘unofficial’

New Delhi: BJP-led Assam government’s recent decision to keep the state-run madrassas open on Fridays has created ripples as it is seen as a move to restrain the religious freedom of the Muslims by many.

The decision that is likely to have a long-lasting effect comes at a time when the saffron party is raring to hold the reins of power in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming assembly election.

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Image: Sarma's Facebook pageAssam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Image: Sarma's Facebook page

Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Image: Sarma’s Facebook page

Though the education department of Assam has repeatedly said this move as an attempt to bring in uniformity in the weekly holiday pattern followed by the schools, many view it as a move targeted at the madrassas.

Ramesh Chandra Jain, a top official in the education department of Assam told Firstpost, “We are planning to notify very soon that weekly holiday, in schools under the government will not be allowed on Fridays. It is not specifically targeted at the Madarsas.”

But critics say that since only madrassas and schools in the Muslim-dominated areas of the state remain closed on Friday for mass prayer, the notification may affect only such educational institutes.

Abdul Qayyum Alam, former director of Madarsa board of Assam said, “I have no objection about what the government wants to do about the weekly holiday in madrassas. But as per rule madrassas are provincialised as institutions for religious education, and they are governed by separate laws.”

He further says that, as per law, educational institutions provincialised under Madrasa Board of Assam as senior madrassas, title madrassas and Arabic colleges can follow the norm of remaining closed on Fridays.

“This law has been followed since the year 1955 and was brought into force to facilitate not only prayer but also to provide the madrassa students the opportunity to learn conduction of mass prayer,” he said.

The former official said that these madrassas remain open on Sundays conforming to the norm of one weekly holiday followed by any other school.

There are also views that partially support this move.

Maulana Fazlul Karim, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s Assam chapter said, “The institutions known as high madrassas which have no separate laws for holidays can definitely follow this instruction.”

But Karim also said that institutions provincialised under the Madrasa Board have separate rules.

“Madrassas in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab also follow this norm of remaining closed on Fridays. So why a separate law is needed for Assam?” he asked.

In the meantime, the Assam Madrasa Co-Ordination Committee has submitted a memorandum to state Education Himanta Biswa Sarma requesting to roll back the decision, which it says he rejected right away.

The Education Minister came up with a tweet after the meeting which read, “Met Madarsa teachers to inform that government’s decision on keeping educational institutional institutes open on Friday is non-negotiable. Willing to discuss all other issues.”

Interestingly the Jamiat-Ulema-E Hind does not show much support to the Madrasas aggrieved by this decision.

Mehmood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind told Firstpost, “We have been taking a stand against registering of Madrasas under the government in the name of modernization of Islamic education. But some madrassas did not pay heed to our appeal and now are suffering because of that. For taking aid and grant from government eventually leads to this. We have no problem with what they are facing on account of a decision taken at their own discretion.”

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 22:48 IST

India to raise awareness on adoption after ‘heinous’ baby smuggling racket uncovered | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India plans to launch a public awareness drive on adoption procedures to curb the buying and selling of children after the police found stolen babies and infant skeletons during raids on charities, clinics and homes for the mentally ill and elderly.Thirteen babies have been rescued, and the remains of two other infants uncovered, in a series of raids in West Bengal over the last 10 days, as police investigate a suspected international human trafficking racket.Eighteen people, including doctors, midwives, owners of charities and clinics in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts have been arrested, suspected of stealing babies from women who delivered at clinics, but told they were stillborn. The babies were then smuggled by road in cardboard biscuit boxes and kept in homes for the elderly and disabled until they sold for adoption within India and overseas, say police.

Ministry of Women and Child Development said on Wednesday the discovery had prompted Maneka Gandhi to take action to stem the crime of baby smuggling.”We are convening meetings to sensitise (the) public about adoption procedure as laid down by law to avoid such heinous incidents,” said the statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page and on its Twitter account. The social media post also included photographs of the some of rescued babies, all under 10 months old, lying in the intensive care unit of a local hospital, where they are being treated for malnutrition, skin and respiratory infections.

Reports of human trafficking in India increased by 25 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with more than 40 percent of cases involving children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves, government crime data showed.There were 6,877 cases related to human trafficking last year against 5,466 in 2014, with the highest number of cases reported in the northeast state of Assam, followed by West Bengal, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Thousands of children are lured to big cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into domestic or sex work or to industries such as textile workshops.Often they are unpaid or held in debt bondage in sectors such as construction and agriculture. Children are also abducted for slavery or for sale for adoption using fake documentation. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 23:09 IST

Government approves inclusion of 15 new castes in Central OBC list

The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended a total of 28 changes in respect of 8 states — Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Government on Wednesday approved inclusion of 15 new castes and modification in 13 other castes in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal. The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended a total of 28 changes in respect of 8 states — Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.Out of these 28, 15 were new entries, 9 were synonyms or sub-castes of the castes which were already in the list and 4 were corrections. “The changes will enable the persons belonging to these castes/communities to avail the benefits of reservation in Government services and posts as well as in Central Educational Institutions as per the existing policy,” according to an official statement.They will also become eligible for benefit under the various welfare schemes, scholarships etc being administered by the Central Government, which are at present available to the persons belonging to the Other Backward Classes, it added. On the NCBC recommendation, a total of 2479 Entries for inclusion, including its synonyms, sub-castes, etc in the Central List of OBCs have been notified in 25 States and 6 Union Territories. The last such notification was issued till September, 2016.NCBC examines requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in such lists. Its advice is binding upon the Central Government. Meanwhile, the Centre is already considering to relax the creamy layer norms for the OBC and note in this regard was already under consideration.

SP, BSP, Congress, Mamata and Kejriwal angry because their loot has become ‘raddi’: Amit Shah

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Buoyed by BJP’s win in civic elections and bypolls, party chief Amit Shah said it showed people’s support for Prime Minister’s demonetization move and claimed some opposition leaders were upset as their money “looted” in scams has turned into trash. “While opposition is organising Bharat bandh and Akrosh Divas,… every where BJP posted unprecedented victory. People are with the government’s decision on demonetization,” he said at party’s parivartan rally here, referring to victories in bypolls in Assam and Madhya Pradesh and civic polls in Maharashtra and Gujarat.”Poor do not have black money…Rahul baba, Akhilesh babu, behen Mayawati…it is the one that was lying with you all that has been lost…what will happen now…those who are caught with black money will lose 50 per cent and this money will be put in the treasury of the country,” Shah said at the election rally.The polls result favouring BJP showed that people of the country support demonetization, he said and promised that any ill gotten money deposited in banks will go into government treasury so that it can be used for the welfare of the poor.Stepping up attack on parties opposing demonetization, Shah said certain leaders were angry with demonetization as all the wealth accumulated by them is gone due to a single stroke of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”SP, BSP, Congress, Mamata (Banerjee), (Arvind) Kejriwal are all angry with Narendra Modi today. Do you know why this is so…what was amassed through loot has been turned into ‘raddi’ (trash) by Modiji on November 8,” he said “Modiji has announced that those depositing large amounts in their accounts like Rs 5 crore or Rs 10 crore … the looted money will be used for welfare of the poor,” he said. His remarks came in the wake of passage of a bill in Lok Sabha to amend Income Tax Act to impose tax on deposits made post-demonetization. The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016, provides for paying 50 per cent tax on unaccounted deposits, or 85 per cent if caught.”For ten years those amassing trillions of rupees in their homes through scams are today angry with Modi,” Shah alleged said. “Till the morning of November 8, they all used to ask Modiji, what have you done against black money and today they are asking why have you done this,” he said.”The country is with Modiji… it is in favour of the decision of demonetization,” he stressed.Striking a dialogue with the audience, he asked whether they supported the decision of demonetization or ‘bua-bhatija’, a reference to BSP chief Mayawati and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.Over the last few days, BJP won one Lok Sabha seat each in Assam and Madhya Pradesh besides bagging a number of assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh.The saffron party also emerged victorious in local bodies polls in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Shah alleged that fake notes had made their way into India during 10 years of UPA rule.Hitting out at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for his ‘khoon ki dalali’ remark on surgical strikes across the LoC, Shah said Modi government took action within ten days of the Uri attack unlike the previous Congress-led government “but Congress shehzada (prince) says Modiji indulges in ‘khoon ki dalali'”. “Rahul baba how will you know the value of army jawans’ bravery…how will you know the value of their sacrifice…it is invaluable,” he said, claiming that no one can dare touch the boundaries of the country under the BJP government.

Demonetisation: Move restricts black money and insurgency in North East, albeit temporarily

Wearied by the long journey from Manipur to Delhi, Dina walked into the Chinese restaurant in Indra Vihar with heavy feet. He ordered a plate of chicken momos before joining two other friends from the north east, who were discussing the recent move of demonetisation by the government, over a cup of tea.

“Added to the tediousness of the journey is the suffering I went through by standing four hours at a stretch in a queue in front of a bank to get some money before I left for Delhi from Imphal,” Dina said, as if he was talking to himself. His friends Anirban Gogoi from Assam and James from Nagaland acknowledged his pain.

Times, they are often very difficult in the north east. Massive mismanagement in implementation of government schemes in many of the states and widespread terrorism have crippled economic growth and led to joblessness in the region for a long time. The recent addition to the list of problems is the suffering that demonetisation has caused.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“But you cannot equate the pains caused by demonetisation with those of insurgency and economic slump the region,” said Dina with conviction.

The sales executive of a marketing company in Delhi explained why both these sufferings were different, “Demonetisation is meant to solve our problems created by black money and terror economy. So the pain we are going through while standing in a queue, is for a greater cause of our region.”

Dina’s view reflects the feelings of millions of north easterners who are happily standing four to five hours a day outside the banks hoping that their co-operation with the government of India in demonetisation will bring good days to the region by weakening terrorism and eliminating black money.

Black money and insurgency in north east India has a not-so-unknown relationship. The National Investigation Agency is probing cases of huge chunks of development money going to the hands of insurgent groups in North East India.

“There are also reports of some business organisations supporting insurgency financially,” said GM Srivastava, former DGP of Assam, who is presently in Delhi, Firstpost.

It is suspected that a chunk of black money earned by business houses go to the insurgent groups. But demonetisation has tightened the noose, both around the necks of black money hoarders and insurgent groups.

Imran Ali (name changed), an ex-cadre of ULFA said to Firstpost that some of his former colleagues in the insurgent outfit are eager to convert the old currency into new.

“Certainly, the insurgent groups are facing tremendous fund crunch after demonetisation,” said Srivastava, a renowned expert on north-eastern insurgency. “Insurgent leaders in the north-eastern parts of India have big cash reserves. Now those reserves have become useless overnight,” he added.

He added that most of these outfits keep their reserves outside the political territory of their country. Since most of these reserves are in old currency, they are facing severe cash crunch. “Some may try to convert currency in small amounts through persons close to them. But that does not fulfill their needs,” he further said.

But another top police official in Assam Police has some other more inputs. He said that though demonetisation has hit the insurgent groups, this situation could be temporary, for it is believed that loads of terror money has also been parked in banks in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“This money, which is in foreign currency right now can be converted into Indian currency later on. So the risk caused by terror money persists,” he added

GM Srivastava also agreed that terror groups have invested chunks of their money in business outside India. “Though demonetisation has pushed the insurgent groups to the wall, these effects could very well be short term. We need some more time to assess the situation in depth,” he contended.

Whatever the final effect of demonetisation on terrorism and black money in north-east India, the tightening of noose on terrorist outfits have raised hopes among many like Dina, in the region.

No wonder the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the CPM hardly made any impact in the state capitals of the region except at Agartala in Tripura, a state ruled by the party itself. The ‘Akrosh Divas’ called by the Congress too failed to attract much attention in the peripheral region.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 11:15 IST

Gen AK Bhatt to replace Ranbir Singh as DGMO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lt Gen A K Bhatt has been appointed as the country’s new Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and will be in charge of all army operations including on the LoC which has seen heightened tension. Bhatt, a Gorkha officer, replaces Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, who has been appointed as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Mathura-based Strike 1 Corps — one of the three assault forces of the army — which is mandated to cross into Pakistan in a short notice. It was during the tenure of Lt Gen Singh that India carried out surgical strikes at five separate locations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to target terrorist launch pads. Bhatt is at present posted in the Army Headquarters as the Additional Director General of CAB (Complaint and Advisory Board). The appointment was cleared by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan, who headed the Strike 1 Corps, has been appointed as the new chief of the Assam Rifles.

Assam: 6 dead as SUV falls off bridge

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least six people died and two others were seriously injured when their vehicle rolled down a bridge at Nine Mile in Assam’s Sonitpur district this evening, police said.The group, consisting of eight people, was returning from a picnic when their SUV hit the edge of the bridge at Bhalukpong near Arunachal Pradesh border and fell from it, Superintendent of Police, Sonitpur district, PP Singh said.While six of them died on the spot, one of the seriously injured was being brought to district headquarters Tezpur and the other was admitted at Bhalukpong Civil Hospital, he said. The deceased hailed from Tezpur’s Katekibari area, Singh said, adding that the bodies were yet to be identified.

Demonetisation: Assam tea sector adopts innovative model to disburse wages

“We have been facing difficulties because of this banning of notes. We got one round of wages, but it was delayed by three to four days. We have families and it becomes tough for us to run the house without timely wages,” Tarun Soreng, who is a worker at the Mahalaxmi Tea Estate in Assam’s Golaghat district told Firstpost.

For someone like Soreng who earns Rs 1,380 as his fortnightly wage, the sudden financial upheaval to his life is understandable. The sudden demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes — leading to a shortage particularly of Rs 100 notes as a cascade effect — has indeed plunged lives into hardships for a large section of citizens.

A tea garden in Assam. AFPA tea garden in Assam. AFP

A tea garden in Assam. AFP

Soreng’s colleague in the same garden, Bimoni Induwar is probably a little better off than him as she has a rough idea why the government took the step to “save money”. At the same pay scale as Soreng, Induwar shared the difficulties her family was facing but hoped that an ATM would help them more.

“For people like us, a timely wage is very important. We now only want an ATM nearby. Although there was a delay, we were lucky that we got the money in Rs 20 notes. Otherwise, there is no change available,” she said.

Dipu Nath, who is an office-bearer in the tea estate, was hopeful of timely wages in the next round.

“We normally pay every fortnight but this time we had to pay on the next Wednesday instead of the Saturday. We are trying hard to pay on time in the next round,” Nath said.

There are roughly 10 lakh tea garden workers in the state including both permanent and casual. Assam also contributed majorly with a production 652.95 million kilograms of tea in 2015-16 helping the country with a highest ever tea production during the fiscal year of 2015-16. This even led to the breaching of exports
mark of 230 million kg after 35 years, as per a Tea Board of India report.

Plucking the bud and two leaves — which also forms the soul of Bhupen Hazarika’s famous song Eti Kunhi Duti Paat as well — for the millions of cups of tea drank in India and abroad every day, workers like Tarun Soreng and Bimoni Induwar are the most vulnerable citizens of this country, who were probably among the worst hit in the demonetisation exercise.

They hardly have any clue as to what is happening other than that it is happening for good which has kept them and the rest from their community working in tea gardens patient, so far.

The tea industry in Assam still follows the British regimen of running the gardens with the wage based on cash and kind either on a weekly or fortnightly basis depending on the choice of individual gardens or companies owning them. The wages are usually paid in cash and normally on Fridays and the lightning demonetisation on 8 November, which was a Tuesday, was no less than a shocker for the management and workers alike.

“There was no major problem. The government of Assam under Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was proactive and helped us tide over the situation. We got the money in 24 hours. The gardens are slowly returning to normalcy and the chief minister is keeping a tab on the situation by constantly being in touch with the officials,” Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA), secretary, Sandip Ghosh told Firstpost from Guwahati.

The words of the ABITA secretary sounded hopeful and “no major problem” could easily be decoded as there is no instance of violence so far in these times of uncertainty. Apart from the timely disbursal of wages which has become an issue in some gardens, he admitted that gardens are facing a dearth of currencies in smaller denominations.

“There is a shortage of currencies in smaller denominations. Larger notes are available now. The payment process has to be streamlined and we are working on it,” he said.

Assam has a total of 792 tea gardens, out of which 685 falls in the Brahmaputra valley and the remaining 107 are located in the Barak Valley. Out of the total tea gardens, 277 are members of ABITA.

What worried the tea management in the gardens more was not the ban on the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, but the restrictions on withdrawing money beyond a certain limit.

“The cash withdrawal notification imposing restrictions on the amount is a problem for us. Tea gardens across the state taken collectively need Rs 50 crore on an average to pay wages on a weekly basis. The average math comes down to around Rs 10 lakh per garden on a weekly basis which may vary depending on the size and employee strength of the garden,” said Tea Board of India vice-chairman and advisor, North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Bidyananda Borkakoty.

Bharat Ka Rajpatra 02 by Firstpost on Scribd

“Some gardens opt to pay the wages on a fortnightly basis as well. The wage is a two part component comprising of cash and kind which includes ration. The limit on withdrawal, which was earlier Rs 20,000 a week and now raised to Rs 50,000, was an immediate concern. Only the government could withdraw beyond the stipulated limit,” he said.

In view of the unprecedented crisis to which the state’s tea sector was fast going, urgent consultations were held among the stakeholders — the tea garden owners/management, the government and the banks — and what came out was an innovative way to follow all the RBI guidelines on withdrawals but yet to keep the wages coming. This is now what is being portrayed everywhere in the country as the Assam model. Traditionally, wages have remained a sensitive issue in tea gardens and there are numerous instances where disputes and delays in wages have even led to brutal killings. To prevent the situation from snowballing into a major law and order situation across the state, it was abundantly clear from past experiences that the cash flow should not stop.

“When we approached the government, Sonowal intervened into the matter and a method was devised to release salary to tea garden workers through the deputy commissioners of each tea-producing district. Accordingly, all deputy commissioners opened an account in the State Bank of India and the tea garden management would transfer the amount needed for wages through RTGS (real-time gross settlement) to that account. After the deputy commissioner is satisfied with the reason for withdrawal, the amount is returned to the management in cash for disbursal of wages,” Borkakoty said.

Although the promptness from all quarters salvaged the situation for the state’s tea sector, the unavailability of physical banking services within commutable distance was glaring.

“Although we are helping every worker to open bank accounts, banking facilities provided to the workers are not sufficient. So many of them have bank accounts already but they could not use them. Either the nearest ATM was 12 kilometres away or the branch was 20 kilometres away. It does not make economic sense for the banks to set up branches in these remote areas from which most of the tea gardens operate. But then due to this physical distance what the country is missing out most is the financial inclusion of this category of people,” said Aideobari Tea Estates (P) Ltd, director and member of the Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA), Raj Barooah.

“The banks will have to come closer to the people in rural India. Until we have something like a mini bank for the workers, the scenario is not conducive for the workers to avail banking facilities. It has to be near workplace or the residence. The banks need to be more proactive. A new mechanism is needed for the remote corners of the state,” he said.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in a meeting with all the banks, tea garden associations and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha to discus the wage disbursal issue in the state's tea sector. Image courtesy Sonowal's Facebook pageAssam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in a meeting with all the banks, tea garden associations and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha to discus the wage disbursal issue in the state's tea sector. Image courtesy Sonowal's Facebook page

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in a meeting with all the banks, tea garden associations and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha to discus the wage disbursal issue in the state’s tea sector. Image courtesy Sonowal’s Facebook page

On 21 November, in a meeting held by Sonowal with all banks, various tea garden associations and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha it was decided to open Jan Dhan accounts for tea labourers who do not have bank accounts, by 5 December. The meeting also unanimously agreed “to prepare a roadmap for disbursal of wages of the tea labourers through their bank accounts.”

MinutesMeetingAssamCMMinutesMeetingAssamCM

“We are seriously trying to meet the 5 December deadline in all ATPA gardens. The workers have been quite cooperative with this demonetisation process but the unavailability of sufficient new Rs 500 notes is causing some problems as a Rs 2,000 is too big a currency for daily use,” Barooah said.

There are 180 tea gardens under ATPA.

Although not linked directly, the demonetisation exercise has propelled the banking sector in Assam to look for ways to get closer to the tea gardens, which in itself is no less than a revolution given the isolation that is imprinted in every leaf of the history of the tea community.

“In the 21 November meeting it was decided that the banks would set up ATMs nearby tea gardens and the management have been urged to provide with land directly to cut the red tape. Till the permanent ATMs come up, mobile ATMs will fill the gap. The need for customer service points was also stressed upon,” Borkakoty said.

The Assam model of disbursing wages has already been successfully replicated in the tea and coffee gardens of Tripura and Kerala.

“The implementation in West Bengal is not 100 percent. It has been used in Darjeeling district but could not be implemented in Jalpaiguri and the wages are yet to be distributed,” the advisor to NETA said.

Perhaps West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee will do better to look into these matters rather than tutoring her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal on disruptive street protests.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 15:22 IST

BJP by-poll victory indicates people support PM Modi’s war on black money: Assam CM Sonowal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal termed the BJP’s win in one Lok Sabha and one Assembly seat in Assam as the “mandate” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to demonetizethe Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes.”BJP’s victory in by-polls is a clear indication that people are fully supporting the decision to demonetize Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. It is people’s mandate for the Prime Minister’s decision of demonetization ,” he told reporters here.The Chief Minister said people responded overwhelmingly in support of Modi’s call for eradicating black money and a clear indication that the BJP-led governments at the Centre and Assam were performing well.BJP has won the recently held by-polls in Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency and Baithalangshu Assembly seat.Sonowal, who is in the national capital, met the Prime Minister and appealed him to ensure monitoring of construction of fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border through Army for speedy completion.The Chief Minister also discussed with the Prime Minister a spectrum of issues ranging from demonetization to law and order situation in Assam.Sonowal apprised Modi of different steps that the state government has taken with the help of the Reserve Bank of India to facilitate smooth flow of new currency notes in every nook and corner of the state in the wake of demonetization of high currency notes. He also informed the Prime Minister that the state government machinery with the help of RBI, SBI and other Banks has made adequate steps to ensure smooth flow of new currency notes to all sections of people including tea garden workers.Sonowal also informed the Prime Minister of the progress of NRC work and Indo-Bangla border fencing. Modi also assured all help from the Centre in successfully completing these exercises for the betterment of Assam.

Counting of votes begins for bypolls of 4 Lok Sabha and 8 Assembly seats

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Counting of votes has begun for four Lok Sabha and eight Assembly Constituencies, spread across six States and one Union Territory where by-elections were held on Saturday.The Lok Sabha seats are Lakhimpur in Assam, Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh and Coochbehar and Tamluk Parliamentary seats in West Bengal.The Assembly seats are in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and the Union Territory of Puducherry.In Assam, the counting of votes for Lakhimpur Lok Sabha and Baithalangso assembly by polls is being held today amid tight security. Over 66 percent polling was reported at Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat while over 74 percent voters exercised their voting rights at Baithalangso assembly seat.Five candidates are in the fray for the Lakhimpur seat while political fate of three candidates will be decided at Baithalangso assembly seat. Both the seats are likely to witness straight contest between the NDA and the Congress.The outcome of the bypoll will be the first test for the Sarbanand Sonowal led BJP government as well as newly appointed state Congress President Ripun Bora.In Tamil Nadu, the results will be announced today for Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Tiruparakundram Assembly bye-elections held on 19th of this month. The results are expected to be known in the morning itself as voting was held through Electronic Voting Machines.In Puducherry, counting of votes of the Nellithoppe assembly by-election has begun. Election Department has made all arrangements for counting.Police has put in place a three-tier security for Bharathidasan Women’s College in the city where counting is underway. As by-poll was held in a single constituency the result is expected by 10 am.The by-election saw fierce electoral battle between congress candidate and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and AIADMK’s Om Sakthi Sekar.Narayanasamy who is not a member of the territorial assembly emerged as compromise candidate for Chief Minister’s post after May 16 assembly elections.This election is crucial for him as his continuance in the post depend on the outcome of the by-poll. For Om Sakthi Sekar, two time MLA from the constituency, the electoral battle was an opportunity to prove himself after the defeat in the last Assembly elections.In Tripura, the counting of votes for by-poll in Barjala and Khowai assembly constituencies began at 8 am today amidst tight security.In Barjala, the counting is being held at Umakant Academy complex whereas in Khowai the counting is being held at SDM Office campus hall. Counting will be done in 4 rounds.First postal ballots and then EVM votes will be counted under the supervision of central election observers. Both the centres will be having CCTV for surveillance during counting of votes.In these constituencies polling was held on 19 November. Mainly four parties i.e. CPI (M), TMC, Congress and BJP are in the fray. There are around 39,000 voters in each constituency.

ULFA(I) claims responsibility for attack on Army convoy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attack on an Army convoy in Tinsukia district in which three soldiers were killed on Saturday. The 15 Kumaon Regiment of Indian Army at Burhi Dihing, Tinsukia, was on Saturday morning, the banned outfit said in a statement, adding at least four jawans were seriously injured in the ambush.The attack was carried out by ULFA(I) and the Coordination Committee (CorCom), an umbrella body of militant groups People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Progressive), Revolutionary People’s Front and United National Liberation Front, the statement said.Tinsukia district Superintendent of Police Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta said the ambush was carried out jointly by NSCN(K) and ULFA(I) militants and they used sophisticated weapons, including Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), AK-47 rifles and mortars.

Assam: Four minors killed in a train accident

Sun, 20 Nov 2016-10:18pm , Tezpur , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Four children were killed when a train hit them at Biswanath district of Assam in the wee hours on Sunday. Saruj Gowala (13), Ganesh Ghatowar (12), Ganesh Munda (10) and Lakhindar Kalkomar (11) were crossing the railway tracks while returning from a Kartik Puja mela in Borgang area of the district when the incident happened, Biswanath district SP Brojenjit Singha said. “They were hit by the Intercity Express at around 2 AM, around one km from Borgang railway station. The bodies have been handed over to the families after post-mortem,” he said.Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal condoled the deaths and directed irrigation minister Ranjit Dutta to visit Borgong and talk to the victims’ families.

Assam: Rajnath Singh speaks to CM Sarbananda Sonowal after militant ambush in Tinsukia

Assam: Rajnath Singh speaks to CM Sarbananda Sonowal after militant ambush in Tinsukia

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New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and took stock of the situation in the wake of ambush by militants in which three army personnel were killed and a few others injured.

During the 10-minute telephonic conversation, Sonowal briefed the Union Home Minister about the militant attack, the situation arising of the incident and the steps taken to nab the culprits.

File photo of Rajnath Singh. AFPFile photo of Rajnath Singh. AFP

File photo of Rajnath Singh. AFP

“I am deeply anguished by the death of army soldiers in an attack in Tinsukia and pray for speedy recovery of the injured. We are monitoring the situation,” Singh said.

Three jawans were killed and four others seriously injured in the ambush by a joint group of ULFA(I) and NSCN(K) militants at Pengeri in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district on Saturday.

A group of about 15 militants attacked an army convoy early this morning and severely damaged two vehicles killing one jawan on the spot and seriously injuring six others, a defence spokesman told PTI.

Two of the injured succumbed to their injuries on way to the hospital, he said.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 13:33 IST

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Assam: Three soldiers killed in IED explosion in army convoy

Guwahati: Three soldiers were killed after suspected militants fired at an army convoy in Assam’s Tinsukia district on Saturday, defence officials said.

The incident took place at around 5.30 am, in the Pengeri area, Defence public relations officer Lt. Col. Suneet Newton said.

“They (the militants) had planted an improvised explosive device (IED) on the road. When the IED exploded, the convoy stopped. Then the militants fired indiscriminately,” Newton said, adding that although the forces retaliated, four soldiers were injured of which one succumbed in the hospital.

Locals said that the militants had fired upon the vehicle from both the side of the road, which are forested areas.

On Wednesday, militants attacked a van of the Pengeri tea estate killing one person and injuring two others.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 10:42 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: Litmus test for BJP in bypolls over demonetization; encounter in Assam; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Post demonetization, litmus test for BJP as bypolls underway in Assam, Bengal, MP, Tamil Nadu todayBypolls are underway in eight assembly and four Lok Sabha constituencies across the four states. Read more.2. Pak syndicates may flood India with fake Rs 100 notes: NIA officialThe NIA, tasked to investigate terrorism cases including those related to FICN, has in its investigations ascertained Pakistan to be the principal source of printing high quality counterfeited notes of three denominations: Rs 1,000, Rs 500 and Rs 100 and smuggling it in India. Read more.3. One jawan killed in encounter between army, suspected ULFA terrorists in Assam​An encounter is underway between the army and suspected ULFA terrorists in Assam’s Tinsukia, DGP Mukesh Sahay said on Saturday. Read more.4. F-16 fighters sold by US to Pakistan are nuclear-enabled: ScientistIt is only a matter of time before Pakistan can launch short-range missiles to counter conventional attacks. Read more.5. US President-elect Donald Trump nears settlement in Trump University lawsuitThere are three lawsuits relating to Trump University. Read more.

Assam: Encounter between army & suspected ULFA militants, IED blast in Tinsukia; 3 jawans martyred

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three jawans were martyred and several others injured in an ongoing encounter between the army and suspected United Liberated Front of Asom (ULFA) militants in Tinsukia district of Assam on Saturday. The soldiers were killed while another was injured in an IED blast in Assam’s Digboi area, which took place as the soldiers were travelling in an Army vehicle. Another soldier was injured in the IED blast, a Defence spokesperson said. According to ANI, after the incident took place, the army launched a combing operation to nab the terrorists.In a deadly ambush by suspected ULFA militants on army convoy at around 5.30 am, Multan Singh of 15 Kumaon regiment, aged 43, attained martyrdom. The incident took place inside a reserve forest near Digboi in Tinsukia district. According to sources, the injured soldiers were airlifted and admitted to a hospital, where Singh succumbed to his injuries.Meanwhile, the Army has cordoned off the jungle in Tinsukia’s Pengri and the operation launched is still going on.Tinsukia’s Pengri and the operation launched is still going on.ULFA is a separatist outfit operating in Assam banned by the Government of India in 1990, citing it as a terrorist organisation. ULFA seeks to establish sovereign Assam with an armed struggle in the conflict. ULFA seeks to establish sovereign Assam with an armed struggle in the conflict. With inputs from PTI.

Post demonetization, litmus test for BJP as bypolls underway in Assam, Bengal, MP, Tamil Nadu today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>By-elections being held in Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have assumed significance as the first major ground test for the ruling BJP after demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Voting is underway for bypolls in eight assembly and four Lok Sabha constituencies. According to officials, elaborate arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the pollsAssamBypolls in Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency and Baithalanso assembly constituency in Assam will decide the electoral fate of eight contestants. An estimated 16,91,313 voters, including 8,21,199 women, are expected to cast their franchise in two seats.In Lakhimpur, the five candidates included Amiya Kumar Handique (CPI-M), Pradan Baruah (BJP), Dr Hema Hari Prasanna Pegu (Cong), Hem Kanta Miri (SUCI-Communist) and Dilip Moran (Independent). 15,11,110 voters are expected to exercise their franchise in 1954 polling stations spread across the Assembly constituencies of Majuli (ST), Naoboicha, Lakhimpur, Dhakuakhana (ST), Dhemaji (ST), Jonai (ST), Chabua, Doomdooma and Sadiya.In Baithalanso (ST) – 20 three contestants are in fray including Dr Mansing Rongpi (BJP), Ruponsing Ronghang (Cong) and Rajen Timung (Independent), the Election office said. Boithalangso (ST) Assembly constituency, in West Karbi Anglong district, comprised 1,80,203 voters, including 86819 women and 246 polling stations. Lakhimpur had earlier been represented by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who was fielded as an MLA from Majuli in May last and winning. Boithalangso had fallen vacant with the resignation of Mansing Rongpi from Congress who joined the BJP on July 12 last. Polling will be held from 7 am to 4 pm and the election shall be completed before November 24, according to the Election Commission of India notification of October 26 last. West BengalBy-elections are underway in Cooch Behar and Tamluk Lok Sabha constituencies and in Monteswar Assembly constituency. Ruling Trinamool Congress, BJP, Left Front and Congress have fielded their candidates in all three seats. Although the Congress and CPI(M)-led Left Front had contested the Assembly polls held earlier this year, the two decided to part company in this round of by-elections.Demonetization became a key issue in the last lap of campaign for the by-polls. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not campaign for the by-polls and left it to the other leaders of her party. Apart from state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, Union minister Babul Supriyo canvassed for his party. WBPCC chief Adhir Chowdhury and CPIM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra spearheaded campaign for their party candidates. TMC MLA and party candidate from Tamluk seat Dibyendu Adhikari told PTI, “Demonetization move has affected every citizen of this country. The common man is suffering.””Demonetization has also impacted our campaign as we are unable to pay the decorators, sound organisers. In Tamluk, most of the rural areas still don’t have proper banking facilities, what will the poor farmers do?” he asked.According CPI(M) and Congress leaders, demonetization has all of a sudden come up as an issue for the polls as they are receiving feedback that people are inconvenienced due to the new decision. CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said demonetization became a prominent issue as the people faced huge problems and added that the situation was much worse in rural areas.The BJP, on the other hand, said that by-elections would be a litmus test for political parties. “What TMC, Congress and CPI(M) are saying is not right. People of Bengal are happy with the decision and will give a hands down victory to our candidates,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.”It’s not a question of black money or white money. All of a sudden if you scrap high value notes how will you meet various expenditures for the campaign,” Congress candidate from Monteswar Bulbul Ahmed Sheikh said.By-election in Cooch Behar was necessitated by the death of TMC MP Renuka Sinha while the by-election in Tamluk in East Medinipur district was caused by the resignation of TMC MP Suvendu Adhikari who also won the Assembly poll and joined the state cabinet as transport minister. The bypoll to Monteswar Assembly seat in Burdwan district is due to death of TMC MLA Sajal Panja.Madhya PradeshBy-elections are being held in Shahdol Lok Sabha constituency and Nepanagar assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh. “Total 17 candidates are in the fray for the Shahdol LS seat, while four are trying their luck for Nepanagar,” an election official said. Both the seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.Thirty companies (15 each) of armed police forces have been deployed in the two constituencies to provide security during the polling. “Over 4,000 EVMs will be used to seal the fate of the candidates. The EVMs also carry the photographs of the candidates to facilitate the voters,” the official said. In Shahdol, total 16,00,787 voters, whereas in Nepanagar, 2,30,420 people can exercise their franchise.While Congress has fielded Himadri Singh, daughter of former union minister Dalbir Singh and ex-MP Rajesh Nandini Singh, from Shahdol Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has given ticket to tribal leader Gyan Singh, a senior minister in Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet from the reserved seat. The Shahdol bypoll was necessitated due to death of BJP MP Dalpat Singh Paraste. In 2014, Paraste had wrested the seat from Congress’s Rajesh Nandini Singh by a margin of over 2.14 lakh votes. The present BJP candidate Gyan Singh had earlier won the Shahdol seat twice in 1996 and 1998.In Nepanagar, Congress has reposed faith in tribal leader Antar Singh Barde, while BJP has fielded Manju Dadu, daughter of late MLA Rajendra Shyamlal Dadu, whose death caused by an accident, necessitated the by-poll to cash in on the sympathy vote. Besides these prominent names, several other candidates have also filed their nominations for the by-polls.Communist Party of India’s Parmeshwar Singh Porte, Lok Janshakti Party’s Krishna Pal Singh Pavel, Gondwana Gantantra Party’s Hirasingh Markm and Apna Dal’s Sajjan Singh Paraste, among others are in the fray for the Shahdol LS seat. Besides them, total nine persons are contesting as independent candidates in Shahdol.In Nepanagar, Republican Party of India (A) nominee Revanta and Lok Janshakti Party’ Ber Singh are also trying their luck. However, there is no independent candidate in the fray, the official said. The counting of votes will take place on November 22 and the entire poll process will be completed by November 24.Tamil NaduPolls for Thanjavur and Aravakkurichi and bypoll in Thirupparankundram and in Nellithope constituencies are being held on Saturday.In Aravakkurichi constituency, V Senthil Balaji (AIADMK) and KC Palanisamy (DMK) and in Thanjavur, Anjugham Boopathy (DMK) and M Rengasamy (AIADMK) are among the candidates. In Thirupparankundram, AIADMK has fielded A K Bose, while P Saravanan is the DMK nominee.Besides, the AIADMK and DMK candidates, PMK, BJP and DMDK and independents are also contesting the polls. PMK is not in the fray in Thirupparankundram as it did not get its mango symbol in that segment. The four-party combine, People’s Welfare Front, comprising MDMK, CPI(M), CPI and VCK, has boycotted the polls. In Nellithope assembly constituency, it will be a crucial test for Congress nominee and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, a non- member of the house, at tomorrow’s bypoll tomorrow when he crosses swords with AIADMK candidate Om Sakthi Segar. Narayanasamy has the support of DMK and VCK while AINRC, whose founder N Narayanasamy is the leader of the opposition, is backing Segar. The bypoll is being held to fill vacancy caused by the resignation of Congress legislator A John Kumar on September 15 to facilitate Narayanasamy, a non-member of the house, to contest the poll and get elected to the assembly to fulfill the constitutional obligation. Narayanasamy became Chief Minister on June 6 and formed a six member ministry under his leadership with the support of DMK (having two members) from outside. The strength of Congress in the 30 member assembly was 15 before John Kumar quit the post of MLA.

Moderate earthquake of magnitude 5.0 hits North Eastern states

Shillong: A moderate earthquake, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, rocked the North Eastern states on Tuesday, an official said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

There were no reports of any casualties or damage.

The tremor was felt at 7.40 am with an epicentre located in Assam’s Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh, an official of the Regional Seismological Centre in Shillong said.

The seven North Eastern states — Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur — are considered by seismologists as the sixth major earthquake-prone belt in the world.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 09:39 IST

Thanking the Sun God of Fertility

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Wangala festival, also known as the Hundred Drums Festival, is a harvest festival celebrated by the Garo tribe of Meghalaya and in the neighbouring areas of Assam and Bangladesh. Marking an end to the agricultural year and the beginning of winter, it is an annual festival usually celebrated in the second week of November.Thousands of people gather together in dance, music, rituals and festivities to give thanks to Misi Saljong — the Sun God of Fertility, also known as the Great Giver, and offer prayers for the next cultivation cycle. Manseng Gitok, Assistant General Secretary of North East Students Organisation and Adviser of Garo Students Union, gave an overview of the three-day festival which begins with a ritual called Rugala on the first day.“In this ceremony, the village chief — called Nokma, offers produce from the first harvest to Misi Saljong in the form of a non-refined brew of rice known as Chu along with cooked rice and vegetables,” he explained. Since the Garos do not have idols, the ritual takes place in front of the Nokma’s house. Cha’chat So’a is performed on the second day in which the Nokma scatters rice all over his house, as drums beat in the background to symbolise rain and celebrate the sowing season. He then burns incense sticks, the smoke signifying rain clouds.The final day is marked by Dani Doka which involves singing folk songs describing Wangala, followed by the Wangala dance competitions in which one can witness the ultimate culmination of the best in traditional Garo wear known as dohkmanda.The name ‘Hundred Drums Festival’ derives from this competition, in which 10 troupes of 10 drummers are selected from different settlements every year. “The dance competition lasts through the entire third day and the participants are judged by the Nokma,” said Gitok.They wear traditional feathered turbans called kotips, colourful cotton scarves called pandras and are seen beating oblong drums called damas. A parallel queue of young women dance to the rhythmic sound of the drums, bamboo flutes and ancient trumpets made of buffalo horn.Birth of WangalaThe Garo tribe identify themselves as ‘people of the hills.’ Their traditions are inspired by nature. As legend goes, Wangala is the dance of creatures inhabiting water bodies, and many of the original styles are inspired by crabs.It is said that humans didn’t know how to dance so the crabs taught them on land. Although Wangala forms the cultural identity of the Garo tribe and has been practised since time immemorial, the first Wangala Hundred Drums festival was held in 1976 as an effort to preserve the culture.Ever since, the festival has been a grand carnival of celebration for both the young and old of the tribe. It has also become an annual congregation for those of the tribe who have migrated to cities and metros.The traditional festival is organised at Asananggre, 15 km from Tura, the largest town in Garo. This year, V. Shanmuganathan, Governor of Meghalaya is the chief guest at the festival which began on Nov 10 and ends today.

Citizenship Act: BJP’s religion-based amendment threatens the secular fabric of India

The Union government has proposed certain changes to India’s citizenship laws, in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The present legal framework has no provision for religion-based citizenship and the proposed amendment plans to change that.

At present, an illegal migrant entering the territory of the Indian Union is prohibited from becoming a citizen. The amendment proposes that illegal migrants belonging to six specific religious minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be prohibited from attaining citizenship, even if they migrated to the territory illegally.

The move, to mark out illegal migrants of specific religious minorities originating from neighbouring sovereign territories for special treatment, started a little while back. In a series of orders between September 2015 and July 2016, the government exempted from deportation the illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religion. These previous moves laid down the framework for the present proposed amendment.

The BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. ReutersThe BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. Reuters

The BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. Reuters

Illegal migrants from these countries belong to all religions. However, the reasons of illegal migration are not similar across all religions. Having said that, the reasons are also not similar across all adherents of a particular religion.

The elephant in the room is that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are Muslim majority sovereign territories. But that’s not all. These are also territories where in the last many decades the population proportion of non-Muslims has continually fallen, in contrast to the Hindu majority Indian Union where the population proportion of Christians and Muslims have sharply risen over the last few decades.

By this basic factor, it can be surmised that the minority situation in the Indian Union is far from ideal and that the situation differs from its neighbours. Population proportion surely cannot be the only measure of welfare of a community but, as far as growing and thriving in numbers is concerned, India’s situation is better compared to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Given the reality of the communal partition of British colonial territories of the subcontinent, the post-colonial fragments maintain in its body politic that ‘partition’ ideology of communal homelands. This imagination shows up in practice in various ways, overt and covert, in a continuum of toxic destructiveness.

It is probably not accidental then that the subcontinent’s only post-colonial fragment that has seen a decrease in population proportion of those belonging to the majority religious community is also the only one where the Constitution does not mention any specific state religion.

Many powerful political parties, all with Hindus constituting a majority of their voter base, have expressed their opposition to this proposed amendment precisely on that count – the way it names who it includes and by implication, who it excludes.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which rules West Bengal, a state that is probably host to the largest number of illegal immigrants, has opposed the proposal. Veteran Trinamool Member of Parliament (MP) Saugata Roy said, “We have decided that we will oppose the amendment on the floor of Parliament. This amendment is an attack on the secular fabric of our country. How can there be discrimination on the basis of religion? If you are Hindu, you will be eligible and if you are Muslim, you will be kept out? Our Constitution does not allow this. The West Bengal government will also oppose it.”

Roy is correct. The proposed amendment does include and exclude on the basis of religion. But it is not as if this was unprecedented. Various other legislations or proposed legislations have done that in all but name – including the almost irrelevant Enemy Property Act (which discriminated against Muslims, without mentioning that explicitly) or the proposed and shelved Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill (which discriminated against Hindus, being the commonest majority community in most territories of India).

In practical political terms, the TMC probably has calculated that it cannot appear to support a legislation that clearly excludes members of a religious community who form nearly 30 percent of the population in West Bengal and is represented even more disproportionately higher in its supporter base.

Such a stance is a game of extreme brinkmanship given West Bengal is also host to the largest number of Hindu refugees, who keep on coming from Bangladesh in incessant trickles and spurts to this day – a phenomenon that will continue into the foreseeable future.

The recent large-scale anti-Hindu attacks by Muslim radicals in Brahmanbaria district in Bangladesh, in collusion with a section of the local branch of the ruling party, inspires little hope that migrations into West Bengal triggered by persecution of religious minorities in East Bengal (present day Bangladesh) will stop anytime soon.

The reverse, that is, migration to East Bengal from West Bengal due to religious persecution has not happened in any significant numbers since the mid-sixties. Thus, in a post-Partition state which is tacitly conceived as a permanent Hindu Bengali majority homeland since 1947, the non-acknowledgment of the special status of non-Muslim, primarily Hindu, Bengalis vis-à-vis West Bengal and worse still, the narrative of parity that TMC seems to advocate might be used to consolidate the already existing communal divisions in West Bengal. This divide has gotten much worse since the rise of BJP in the state, especially in pockets with significant non-Bengali populations. The recent communal disturbances in Chandannagar are a case in point.

For all practical purposes, India denies citizenship to those who crossed over from East Bengal after 25 March 1971, the day when major atrocities by the Pakistan army started in Dhaka. The 2003 Citizenship (Amendment) Act took away the possibility of birth right citizenship from the children of many of those who fled persecution in East Bengal.

Due to the amendment, many Dalit Bengalis were identified as ‘infiltrators’ and deportation proceedings were started. The Matuas, one of the largest low caste groups of primarily East Bengali of the Namasudras origin settled in West Bengal, have long been protesting this 2003 amendment, passed by a BJP-led government.

Ultimately, the persecuted Hindus of East Bengal (refugees and residents) are mere pawns.

The prime beneficiaries of Partition crafted the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950. Many did not move due to the false sense of assurance (including the assurance of the door being permanently open) that came with this largely ceremonial gesture.

By this, India effectively washed off its hands from the ‘minority problem’ in Pakistan. ‘Shutting the door’ has been the Indian policy post-1971 (similar to what Pakistan did to stranded Pakistanis in Dhaka); something it cannot implement – one of the natural consequences of claiming full monitoring abilities over an absurd frontier.

For decades, India has systematically discriminated against the Eastern frontier refugees (mostly Bengalis) on questions of compensation, entitlement, relief, citizenship, etc compared to the Western frontier (Punjabi and Sindhi) refugees. The Indian Union owes reparation to these people, for the Indian Union’s creation and its geographical contours are intimately tied to their migration and impoverishment.

In Assam, the other state that will be most affected by this decision, the fault-lines are different.  All strands of Assamese nationalism, from the independence seeking United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) to the BJP-collaborator Asom Gana Parishad, oppose the proposed amendment. Powerful Assamese nationalist student bodies like AASU and AJYCP also oppose it.

However, here the fault-line is more along ethnic lines. As per the terms of the Assam accord of 1985, all illegal migrants who have entered Assam after 24 March, 1971 are to be identified and deported. Even with its Muslim exclusion, this proposed amendment will pave the path to citizenship for many Hindu Bengalis who are illegal migrants in Assam.

The BJP hopes that its anti-Muslim plank (couched not so subtly under the anti-Bangladeshi slogan) will help “unite” non-Muslims across ethnic lines. That is precisely the uniting factor in its much-touted North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

Himanta Biswa Sarma, former AASU activist, a Congressman till recently and now top BJP organisation man in Assam, has clearly learnt the communally divisive political lines of his new party when he says, “The whole thing is that we have to decide who our enemy is. Who is our enemy, the 1-1.5 lakh people or the 55 lakh people?”

Those numbers ostensibly correspond to numbers of Hindu Bengali and Muslim Bengali illegal migrants in Assam respectively. This tactical accommodation of Hindu Bengalis into the fold shows the existential crisis of Assamese nationalism, whose homeland imaginary has always been so over-stretched that it now cannot stand up effectively to the BJP.

The BJP, meanwhile, has taken on the mantle of Assamese demographic anxiety with an obligatory Hindu unity twist to suit its Delhi headquarters.  The proposed amendment thus is a direct contravention of the Assam accord – arguably the biggest achievement of the Assamese nationalist current.

While it is true that Delhi-centric political forces never wanted the Assam accord to be implemented, no one has declared the accord to be null and void yet. As of now, the proposed amendment contains no Assam exception clause which it ideally should, if the government thinks that it should not renege on the pledge given to the people of Assam in the turbulent days of the Assam movement.

The problem with “accords” is that they are done in good faith between entities who expect each other to keep their word. If there is no Assam exception in the final bill, it will mean that the Assam accord was a fraud executed by the government on the people of Assam.

With regards to the illegal migrant issue, one has to distinguish between victims of human rights violations (including but not only religious persecution), that is, refugees, and those who migrate due other reasons. Such cases can be assessed on a case by case basis. A blanket inclusion for non-Muslims and a blanket exclusion of Muslims is clearly discriminatory.

The citizenship debate is primarily a demographic dominance and anxiety debate. The Indian Union is primarily made up of Hindu majority homelands or part homelands of ethno-linguistic nationalities. Thus, the fear of being swamped in their own homeland in a demographic and economic sense is behind many of these debates.

Given the hugely different fertility rates between Hindi and non-Hindi states in the Indian Union, another demographic invasion that is presently not illegal also threatens the socio-cultural-political fabric of many parts of India. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has boldly opened this debate.

The reality is that it is not within the feasible limits of ability of the Indian Union administration to deport all existing illegal migrants who are simply economic migrants. Nor will it be possible to stop such illegal migration in the near future.

A possible solution in such a scenario can be in the form of amnesty for all Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan origin illegal migrants with the possibility of dual or tiered citizenship and expanded work permits schemes.

At the same time, other demographic anxieties that exist between different parts of India can also be addressed within such citizenship frameworks that keep Indian Union citizenship as a common framework and also give state governments expanded control of residency rights, property ownership, entry and settling rules so that diversity is robustly preserved in the united framework.

A model for this already exists in various states of India in the form of residency based property ownership laws and entry control mechanisms through permits. Such initiatives need to be expanded as part of a thorough reform of the citizenship question.

After NDTV India, govt orders Assam channel to go off air on 9 November for violations

New Delhi: After NDTV India, the government has also ordered that an Assam-based news channel be taken off air for a day, following the recommendations of a high-level panel which felt it had “violated” programming guidelines on more than one occasion.

Screenshot from PratidinTime's YouTube pageScreenshot from PratidinTime's YouTube page

Screenshot from PratidinTime’s YouTube page

An I&B ministry order dated 2 November, has sought that the channel ‘News Time Assam’, be taken off air on 9 November, for a day.

One of the allegations against the channel relates to telecasting a programme which revealed the identity of a minor who had been brutally tortured while working as a domestic servant.

Observing that the visuals telecast by the channel appeared to compromise the privacy and dignity of the child
while also exposing him to harm and stigma, a showcause notice was issued to the channel in October 2013.

Having listened to the channel’s version, the Inter-Ministerial Committee which looked into the matter felt that
the channel may be taken off air for a day.

According to the order, the matter was reconsidered as some other channels had also shown similar content for which they had been issued warnings, but the IMC looked at all the circumstances and again recommended taking it off air for a day.

The same order also lists two other cases of alleged violations by the channel which were considered by the IMC.

One of them related to telecast of gory visuals of dead bodies for which a recommendation was made to take off the channel for a day.

In another case, the channel telecast a programme which allegedly appeared to defamatory towards to women and in bad taste. The IMC had asked the channel to run an apology scroll but since it did not comply, in this regard, taking it off air for a day was recommended.

The I&B ministry order, dated 2 November, mentions all the three cases and says that the “IMC clarified that the TV channel can be allowed to carry out the three awards of one day off air concurrently.”

Quoting rules under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, the ministry order said that the government “orders to prohibit the transmission or retransmission of News Time Assam TV channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hours on 9th November, 2016 till 00:01 hours on 10th November, 2016.”

NDTV India has also been ordered off air for the same date over its coverage of the Pathankot attack, which has
resulted in a massive controversy.

Afspa extended in Assam and 20-km belt of Meghalaya by six months

New Delhi: The controversial Afspa has been extended by six months in entire Assam and the 20km-wide belt in Meghalaya bordering the state with the Centre declaring that the “disturbed area” status, which has been in force since 1990, will continue.

In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said the law and order situation in Assam has continued to be a matter of concern due to the violent incidents by underground outfits and during January-September 2016, different militant groups were involved in 66 incidents of violence in Assam which resulted in killing of 29 people.

“The militant outfits operating in the area continue to have been making constant efforts to regroup, re-strengthen and intensified their efforts for recruitment/infiltration of new cadres into the state and indulging in coercive extortion targeting businessmen, tea garden owners, contractors, commercial vehicles, timber smugglers, transporters and even government officials and politicians.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW) has been formed in April, 2015, and two of its constituents viz ULFA(I) and NDFB(S) have been desperately making efforts to perpetrate demonstrative acts of violence and during the current year they have been responsible for 57 per cent of the incidents of violence and 84 per cent of the deaths in the state,” the notification, issued by Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Satyendra Garg, said.

NDFB(S) militants shot dead 14 civilians and injured 19 others in a busy local market on the outskirts of Kokrajhar town on 5 August, 2016, while ULFA(I) cadres also shot dead two Hindi-speaking persons in Tinsukia district and orchestrated five and two IED explosions in Tinsukia and Charaideo districts, respectively, on 12 August, 2016.

“Now, therefore, the entire state of Assam and the 20 kms wide belt in the State of Meghalaya bordering Assam shall continue to be ‘disturbed area’ under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 up to six months beyond 3 November, 2016, unless withdrawn earlier,” it said.

The central government had first imposed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act — Afspa — in Assam by declaring the entire state as “disturbed area” on 27 November, 1990 when insurgency led by ULFA was at its peak.

The then Prafulla Kumar Mahanta-led AGP government was subsequently dismissed by the Centre and the President’s rule was imposed.

The Home Ministry’s gazette notification said ULFA(I) is coordinating joint action with other underground outfits, including NSCN(K) and KYKL, along Arunachal Pradesh-Myanmar border and with GNLA and HNLC along Meghalaya-Bangladesh border also providing training to cadres of KPLT/UPLA in its camps in Myanmar.

The Karbi militant outfits viz. UPLA, UKPLA and various factions of KPLT have been actively involved in extortions and abductions for ransom in the hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao; and the hilly and densely forested border areas of Assam provide an apt location for camps/shelters/ hideouts to ULFA(I), NDFB(S), NSCN(IM), NSCN(K), GNLA KPLT and several Meitei underground outfits and cadres of these outfits take advantage of crossing over to neighbouring states in order to evade security forces actions, it said.

How West Bengal became an easy transit point for terror outfits

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal with its porous borders has turned into an easy transit point and secure hideout for the agents of terror outfits like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Pakistani secret service ISI.”West Bengal’s border is porous and this was used by militant groups to get an entry into the country and spread to other states. This is nothing new. The state has became a safe and secure shelter for them,” a top CID officer said. Militant outfits like JMB, IS and ISI operatives are recruiting agents and training them here, he added. A special task force of Kolkata Police had arrested six top JMB militants, including four wanted, in connection with the 2014 Khagragarh blast case, from West Bengal and Assam in September.”Taking advantage of the unemployment situation, the agents have been recruiting people with ease. These groups also have recruitment cells which look for possible youths either studying in senior schools or looking for job as their possible targets,” the CID official said, adding social networking sites have played crucial roles in this connection. “Now one can scan through anybody’s profile sitting thousands of kilometres away in another country to choose a possible candidate. Then the message goes to the outfit’s local agent to do the needful to get the person under its umbrella,” he said.The officer cited the arrest of 18-year-old student of a private polytechnique college in Durgapur in Burdwan district, Ashik Ahmed by NIA for his links to the ISIS in March. Ashik, who was trying to build an unit of ISIS in West Bengal, was the second youth to be arrested from the state after Mehdi Masroor Biswas, for his links to the Pakistani agency. A senior officer of Kolkata Police told PTI that the state’s strategic location along the international border and the slack security arrangement at a few places have made such incidents possible through the last decade or more.In December last year Kolkata Police STF had arrested one labourer, a couple of passport agents, a college student and a bartender for alleged links with ISI. The arrest of the bartender from the central part of the city had revealed that a network of ISI agents were working in the state, he added. The officer said, “Specific roles were given to each of these agents by ISI. Some are here to recruit agents, some others to collect information from areas where either the Navy, Army or the Air Force have their base.” “There are people who smuggle in high quality fake Indian currency notes and spread them here with the aim to devastate the economy,” he said. Intelligence sources here said JMB and the IS have spread their network in Howrah, and North and South 24 Parganas districts.”They have set up organisational bases in districts like Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan and Birbhum and we are probing whether they have spread into other states like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya etc,” the officer said. “The ISI agents first bring outsiders into the country through Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and help them settle by providing fake passports, fake voter identity cards, Aadhar cards and ration cards,” the CID officer said.The cultivation of illegal poppy in the state and smuggling it to other parts even across the border to foreign lands has become one of the principal source of funds for terror outfits like ISIS and JMB. Districts like Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Burdwan and Bankura have seen a spurt in illicit poppy cultivation mainly because of the easy way of producing it, he added.

Assam: AASU launch mass stir against Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central government’s decision to revise the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 1955 to grant citizenship to the persecuted Hindu migrants from Bangladesh is facing stiff opposition in the BJP-ruled state of Assam. As many as 26 ethnic organisations, along with influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), have launched a statewide stir to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 which they say directly contradicts the historic Assam Accord which was signed in 1985 between AASU, Centre and state.These groups say the Bill of 2016 is directly conflicting the 1985 Assam Accord, which prohibits citizenship to any person whether Hindu or Muslim if found having entered the state from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.The bill is likely to be presented for debate in the winter session of Parliament next month. It gives the right of citizenship to Hindus who claim they are fleeing persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Even the BJP’s alliance partner, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), said, it will not allow the dilution of clauses of Assam Accord and wants every illegal migrants irrespective of caste and religion to leave Assam.”There cannot be a selective approach. We are committed to protecting the Assam Accord, which stipulates that anyone illegally entering Assam has to be deported to the countries of origin,” Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, senior leader Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and one of the signatories of Assam Accord told reporters in Guwahati.Many MPs at the parliamentary select committee now examining the clauses of the new bill have also voiced opposition. If passed, the bill would give the right of Indian citizenship to over 150,000 Bangladeshi Hindus who are currently residing in Assam and many more that would enter without any valid documents. The state Congress, has also threatened to join the statewide stir. The move is sowing dissensions between Hindu Bengali and Assamese leaders. The BJP, however, defended its move, saying the bill would ensure that Assam does not become a Muslim-majority state.”India is a natural home for persecuted Hindus. Where will they go? And granting citizenship to Hindu Bengalis will benefit Assam as it would stop Muslims from becoming a majority,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP’s senior cabinet minister said.

Ministry sends a cabinet note on Human Trafficking Bill with new definitions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A new definition of trafficking, rehabilitation as a right for trafficked survivors and streamlining of cross-border issues are some of the key highlights of the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill (2016) sent to the cabinet. The women and child development ministry had sent the cabinet note on the human trafficking bill in the first week of October, said a senior ministry official, following an inter-ministerial consultation with the ministries of home, labour and employment, external affairs, overseas Indian affairs, health ministry and the department of legal affairs held on September 20.Some of the highlights of the bill, as per the cabinet note, are the closure of places used for exploitation and time-bound trials of trafficking cases in exclusive trafficking courts. Under the new bill, placement agencies will need to register themselves with the government, to ensure a regulation of such agencies.The bill also widened the definition of trafficking after the first draft invited a lot of flak for not having a functional definition. Under the new definition, trafficking for any purpose, trafficking that results in pregnancy and grievous hurt of the survivor, buying and selling of people, trafficking a person for forced or bonded labour as well as the administration of narcotic drugs, alcohol, psychotropic substances, chemical substances, or hormones for the purpose of attaining sexual maturity and exploitation are punishable up to life imprisonment.The new draft, which is the tenth one, also includes provisions for a structural institutional framework at national, state, and district level for the prevention of trafficking, and the protection and rehabilitation of the survivors of trafficking. There are also provisions of a national anti-trafficking body with contemporaries in every state.The draft bill also has provisions to ensure cross border issues for economic sanctions and overall monitoring and coordination between various states and neighbouring countries. Other provisions include the creation of district bodies to ensure rehabilitation and to create access to support and follow-up for survivors of trafficking.As per NCRB data, in 2015 there were a total of 6,877 cases of human trafficking in India. Of these, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Haryana made up 85% of all the cases. Out of these, and 3,490 cases (51%) involved children. And out of all the cases of child trafficking, 3,087 (88.5%) cases were registered in the Indian Penal Code under Section 366A for the procuration of girl to force her into sex.PM Nair, chairperson at TISS, who was part of the drafting committee says that the step is crucial. “We have been pursuing the government to come up with a comprehensive law since May 2011, when India ratified to the UN’s convention against transnational organized crime,” said Nair.

4.7-intensity quake hits Assam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A medium intensity earthquake, measuring 4.7 on the Richter Scale, on Sunday hit Assam.According to National Center of Seismology, a unit of Ministry of Earth Sciences, the quake hit the Dhubri region of Assam at 9.27 pm at a depth of 10 km.However, there were no immediate reports of loss of life or property. The north-east region is known to be a high-seismic zone.

Manipur polls 2017: Cheaper rice, easy availability of LPG will be game-changer, says Javadekar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Easy availability of cooking gas cylinders and cheaper rice due to the efforts of the Narendra Modi government will be a “game-changer” in Manipur assembly polls, Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is BJP’s in-charge for the state elections, said on Wednesday. He also asserted that anti-incumbency sentiment against the 15-year-old rule of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh of Congress was strong and his government will meet the same fate as that of former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was voted out of power after a continuous reign of 15 years.BJP is making a concerted bid for power in the northeastern state where it has never run government. However, BJP’s victory in the assembly polls in neighbouring Assam has boosted the party’s morale.”Cooking gas cylinder was earlier difficult to get (for the common man) and available in black market. Not it is easily available. People are also happy with the central government due to availability of rice of Rs 3 against Rs 5.60 earlier under the PDS. It will be a game-changer,” he told reporters.Cheaper rice is available for tribals, who are in large numbers in the state. “We are sure to win because of BJP’s rising credibility as people have benefited from the Modi government’s programmes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity has only risen. Able leaders from different walks of lives are joining the party,” he said.The central government has given focus to the northeastern region and people appreciate it, he said and also cited programmes like Mudra and Jan Dhan scheme which have benefitted them.

India signals aggressive border policy in Ladakh and Arunachal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indicating that India would be pursuing an aggressive border policy on its eastern borders too, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir on Thursday said China will not let India utilise its resources until the country takes steps to secure borders effectively.Giving example of Ladakh, Ahir added that huge mineral reserves in border areas must be utilised which we are unable to do due to the insecure borders.”China and Pakistan will not let us claim our own properties. We could not claim our share of the waters of the Brahmaputra river as we delayed utilising it. Mineral reserves in border areas must be utilised which we are unable to do due to the insecure borders.””If we succeed in making use of these minerals and natural resources, I do not think our country will remain poor,” said Ahir speaking at a seminar on Border Management and Illicit Trade organised by FICCI in collaboration with the BSF, country’s leading border guarding force.Ahir comments come in the backdrop of China blocking a tributary of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet as part of the construction of its most expensive hydro project last month.The Chinese move has caused concern in India as it can impact flow of water in Brahmaputra in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam where India is keen to build hydroelectric projects to harness 57,000 MW of power supply.Last year, China had operationalised the $1.5 billion Zangmu Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, again built on the Brahmaputra river, which has raised concerns in India.Though full impact studies are yet to be done, there are fears that the these power project on Tsangpo or Yarlung Zangbo (Chinese names for Brahmaputra) may leave the fertile plains of Assam parched by restricting the water flow.India has already declared raising mountain strike corp and deploying a regiment of Brahmos supersonic missiles on India’s eastern borders overlooking China.Ahir assured the government will procure the most modern equipment to secure our borders. Cautioning against overdependence on imported technologies such as from Israel, the US and South Africa, the minister said our robust indigenous industry must overcome this deficit.

Too big a trade partner: Why Indian politicians’ call to boycott Chinese goods will fail

By Abhishek Waghmare

Indian politicians are currently leading a campaign to boycott Chinese goods. But an IndiaSpend analysis shows why this will fail: China is India’s largest trade partner, a sixth of India’s imports are Chinese, up from a tenth in 2011-12, while India’s exports to its rival have halved over the same period.

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Images like these are now being commonly shared on Whatsapp

Imports from China grew at 20% over two years and 5% over five years, to $61 billion. These goods range from power plants and set top boxes to Ganesh idols. This is despite the fact that India’s imports have generally fallen over the last five years — from $490 billion (Rs 23 lakh crore) to $380 billion (Rs 25 lakh crore)—because of a fall in global oil prices.

India’s exports to China have fallen from $18 billion (Rs 86,000 crore) in 2011-12 to $9 billion (Rs 58,000 crore) in 2015-16. Apart from cotton, copper, petroleum and industrial machinery, India does not export much to China. This means that India buys six times the merchandise it sells to China.

The Export-Import Imbalance

Cellphones, laptops, solar cells, fertilisers, keyboards, displays and communication equipment — including earphones — these are India’s chief imports from China, according to our analysis of ministry of commerce data.

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Other major imports from China include tuberculosis and leprosy drugs, antibiotics, children’s toys, industrial springs, ball bearings, LCD and LED displays, routers, TV remote controllers and set top boxes.

The political storm

Despite this, political leaders including Sharad Yadav of Janata Dal (United) from Bihar, Himanta Biswa Sarma, the newly inducted finance minister of Assam, and Anil Vij, health minister of Haryana, are appealing for a boycott of ‘Made In China’ goods.

“People should not buy Chinese goods. Instead, Indian goods should be used. Trade with China is affecting our country. China is not our friend nation. China can buy weapons with whatever money it earns. There is a possibility that the weapons are given to enemy countries…We should focus on Make in India,” Vij was quoted by Indian Express on 4 October, 2016.

Stagnant manufacturing figures

China was referred to as the ‘world’s manufacturing powerhouse’ by former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan and chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian in a February 2006 research paper. India, however, “failed to match its neighbor in this process”, asserted the paper, published by the US-based National Bureau of Economic Research.

Stagnating indices for the manufacturing sector show that India is still struggling to compete with China. Despite a record foreign direct investment of $55 billion in 2015-16, private investment in manufacturing is still sluggish.

Why China bazars are popular

IndiaSpend visited Manish market, the hub of imported Chinese goods in Mumbai’s heart. Chinese products here are cheaper, available in bulk, neatly packaged and easy to buy.

“If the 50 different types of LED lamps that I sell were available from say, Surat, at a cheaper rate and at my doorstep, why would I go for Chinese lamps?” asked a lamp distributor and retailer, requesting anonymity. “If I had to buy these in India, this collection would cost me double.”

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China moved forward with rapid market reforms from the 1980s, propelled by the establishment of special economic zones. Land and labour reforms helped it ramp up its production capacity. The result is that India’s iron, steel and fertiliser production is a tenth of China’s.

China’s export story is also driven by ease of market access. Take the example of Sumant Kasliwal, who runs an apparel e-commerce start-up in Mumbai. After two years of shopping for merchandise in India, he switched to China two years ago. His sales have tripled since.

Market access is easier in China

Customers rarely have to waste time in China searching for markets and products, said Kasliwal. It took him less than a week to buy a three-month consignment that ranged from jewelry to fabric.

“Even small market-towns like Yiwu — comparable to Varanasi in terms of population — have a one-stop, dedicated market for all consumer durables, from fashion to home accessories, with cost and quality options,” he said. “In India, it would take us weeks.”

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(Abhishek Waghmare is an analyst with IndiaSpend)

Dam row: China for mechanism with India, Bangladesh to share Brahmaputra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Refuting reports of China joining water wars between India and Pakistan by blocking a tributary of Brahmaputra river, Chinese official media said on Monday that Beijing is ready to join a multilateral cooperation mechanism with India and Bangladesh to share the waters. Relations between China and India should not be affected by “imaginary water war”, an article in the state-run Global Times said, adding that Beijing is unlikely to use Brahmaputra river water as a potential weapon. The article said China is willing to have multilateral cooperation with India and Bangladesh to share the waters. The proposal is significant as China has no water treaty with India to share the river waters. “It is easy to understand the anger of Indian people as they read recent news reports saying China had blocked a tributary of the Brahmaputra river, which is a trans-boundary river flowing from Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region into the northeastern Indian state of Assam and later into Bangladesh, serving as an important water source for the regions,” it said.”The move by China to temporarily blockade the tributary to construct a dam sparked widespread concerns in India, but people in the downstream country may be ignoring one thing,” it said, adding that the reservoir capacity of the dam on the Xiabuqu river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, is less than 0.02 per cent of the average annual runoff of the Brahmaputra. “Frankly, there is no need for India to overreact to such projects, which aim to help with reasonable development and utilisation of water resources,” it said. However, what is worrying is that some local Indian media outlets linked the blockage with India’s recent water dispute with Pakistan, trying to create the false impression that China may be interested in taking part in the “so-called water war between the two South Asian countries to give Pakistan silent support,” the article stated. “However, construction of the dam project on the tributary of the Brahmaputra started in June 2014,” it added. “It is clear the blockade to construct the dam does not target India, and relevant countries should not read too much into the move,” the write-up maintained.While it is understandable that India is sensitive to China’s water exploitation on the Brahmaputra as a downstream country, “China is unlikely to use the waters of the river as a potential weapon,” it said.

So, who is worried if China builds a dam on Brahmaputra?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval met the new Chinese ambassador Luo Zahohui on Monday, the question on everyone’s mind was whether the NSA had conveyed New Delhi’s concerns to Beijing.According to reports by Chinese news agency Xinhua last week, Beijing was building its biggest-ever dam, the Lalho project, on a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo (Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra).Indian officials are not worried. For one, water resources ministry officials say that India is not as dependent on China as far as water is concerned. A large proportion of the catchment areas of the Brahmaputra lies within Indian territory. The rivers draw most of the waters from streams in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. So, any Chinese activity would not have much adverse effect on India, they say.”A large volume of water is available to us. It is important that Arunachal Pradesh and Assam harness and utilise the waters of Brahmaputra. It has nothing to do with China,” they said.Also, the dam was in the list of construction activities Beijing had publicised in 2014. “Re-running this story must have been designed to convey a message, but there is not much discharge of the Xiabuqu tributary into the Brahmaputra,” said an official.The water resources ministry is monitoring all developments on the river. Since the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and China on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers in 2013, the two sides have been holding expert-level meetings, officials said.On the silence of Indian officials over the meeting between the NSA and the Chinese ambassador, sources said that it could be because India will be playing host to the BRICS summit in New Delhi in October.China’s president Xi Jinping is scheduled to attend the summit and both sides will be anxious to see that his India visit and interaction with Prime Minister Modi will be be a smooth and cordial affair.So far, Beijing has maintained a guarded stance in the recent heating up of tensions between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC). Apart from advising both sides to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue, Beijing’s silence on the issue has been seen as positive by New Delhi.While India may be trying to downplay reports about the Chinese dam, there are confirmed reports that Chinese engineers are engaged in building a railway network at break-neck speed. The network runs close on the borders of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, along the river.So far though, neither side is speaking publicly on the issue. Like their counterparts in South Block, the Chinese embassy also refused to comment. Indian officials pointed to a statement by China’s foreign ministry in November 2014, when Beijing attempted to soothe New Delhi’s concerns, saying, “the dams being planned will not affect flood prevention and the ecology of the downstream areas”.Originating from a glacier from the Kailash ranges of the Himalayas, the Brahmaputra, or the Yarlung Zangbo, flows over 1,600 km in Tibet, before falling into India. It then travels over 900 km to flow into Bangladesh.

Juvenile Justice Act to be applicable to person offering tobacco to minor

Guwahati: CID of Assam Police has issued a directive that the Juvenile Justice Act was applicable to any person offering or selling tobacco products to any minor.

Under Section 77 of the amended Act, if any person, other than a qualified medical practitioner, gives tobacco products or intoxicating beverage or any other narcotic or alcoholic products, he or she will be liable for imprisonment up to seven years and fine up to Rs 1 lakh.

Representational image. Getty images.Representational image. Getty images.

Representational image. Getty images.

According to a circular issued by DIG (CID) Rounak Ali Hazarika, those selling tobacco products to minors, those promoting the use of tobacco products by minors in any manner will also be liable to face criminal proceedings.

Particular attention should be paid against such offenders within 100 yards of any educational institutions.

Action should be taken against such offenders and the matter included in the Monthly Crime Review (MCR) reporting of The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).

All Deputy Commissioners of Police of Guwahati and Superintendents of Police of all districts of the state have been directed to implement the provisions of the Act, an official release said on Monday.

Hazarika has also instructed that one police officer in each police station should be designated as a child welfare officer under Section 107(1) of the Act.

On an average, every day 140 children start tobacco use in Assam with 39.4 per cent people in the state having tobacco addiction.

Government approves Rs 1,660 crore highway projects across 8 states

The 454 km highway project will cover Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government, on Friday, approved Rs 1,660 crore worth of highway projects in eight states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Assam. “The standing finance committee (SFC) on Friday cleared eight projects worth Rs 1,659.96 crore for 454 km length for eight states,” a road transport and highways ministry official said.Of the eight projects, five will be undertaken on the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode.The other states covered by the projects cleared are in Andhra Pradesh, Tripura Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland. The project for Uttar Pradesh pertains to upgradation of 37 km stretch of Allahabad-Mirzapur section of NH 76E at a cost of Rs 219 crore, while Rs 323 crore Maharashtra project involves upgradation of Malewada to Chimur stretch on NH-353E.The Andhra Pradesh project covers widening of Machilipatnam to Avanigadda section on NH- 214A under National Highways Development Project (NHDP). In Tripura the Rs 172 crore project pertains widening to two lane with paved shoulder on Churaibari Agartala section of NH-44 while Sikkim will see construction of 1000 metre length viaduct at Rangpo on NH-31A. There will be two-laning of Nongstoin – Shillong Section of NH-44 and Nongstoin – Rongjeng – Tura road while in Nagaland the project aims at four-laning of Dimapur to Kohima Section of NH-39.The Assam package contains shifting of Electrical line and operational cost for compensation trees for construction of Dhola – Sadiya Ghats Bridge.

After surgical strikes across LoC, India and Bangladesh security forces to hold meeting

Hours after the announcement was made that India conducted surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) last night, sources in the Border Security Force (BSF) said that a high-level meeting will be held with the Border Guards Bangladesh in Bengaluru on Thursday.

The director generals of both the BSF and the BGB are going to participate in the meeting that will be held in an undisclosed location and discussions on issues related to strengthening of security on both sides of the Indo-Bangla border will be held.

Though the meeting may be seen as a strategic move, but according to sources, it is a routine exercise.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Director General level meetings of both the forces in India and Bangladesh are conducted twice a year. It is a mere co-incidence that this time around the meeting is being held just after the surgical strikes in PoK,” said the source and added that it is a friendly exercise and everything is fine on the Indo-Bangla front. The Public Relations Officer of the BSF, however, denied of any such meeting.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a series of terror attacks carried out by homegrown militants outfits like
Jama’at ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). The porous Indo-Bangla border that makes transit of terrorists, arms and ammunition easy has been a major concern for both the nations.

Only two days ago, Kolkata police nabbed three Bangladeshi nationals connected with the JMB from Assam and West Bengal, who allegedly were planning subversive attacks in the North East and south India.

After the Dhaka attacks, the Bangladesh government said that militants connected to the attack could have crossed the border and sneaked into India.

The porous Indo-Bangla border, which is seen as a cause of illegal infiltration from Bangladesh to India, has been a major political issue in North East India. Elections are fought and won in Assam on this issue, as many believe that illegal migration from Bangladesh is changing the demographic pattern of the state.

In the last Assembly election, the BJP made the issue of illegal infiltration the main election plank to win over Assam.

Even in the 2014 general election, illegal infiltration was a major issue raised by Narendra Modi.

Bangladesh has also alleged that Pakistan has been infusing terror in the nation as it does in India. Bangladesh also pulled out of Saarc Summit stating, “Repeated interference of a member state in it’s internal affairs,” in an oblique reference to Pakistan. Last year, Bangladesh expelled Pakistani Envoy Mazhar Khan for funding JMB militants.

However, Subhendu Bharadwaj, the Public Relations Officer of BSF said, “There is no such meeting today. A delegation from Bangladesh is going to arrive in the first week of next month.”

Permits for foreign travellers visiting northeast will now be valid for 2 years

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Special permits, that are now required to enter into the restricted areas of certain states of the Northeast, will soon be eased for foreign travellers travelling to India. The tourism ministry has written to the home ministry and it is understood that the latter will ease the process for registrations of these permits. The duration of these permits will also be extended to two years from the existing one year. Currently, a foreigner needs a protected area permit (PAP) to enter Arunachal Pradesh and certain parts of Sikkim. In Arunachal Pradesh, a foreigner cannot exceed stay for more than 30 days, it costs $50 to acquire a PAP and it needs to be registered from the Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office in India. Restricted Area Permits (RAPs) were eased in Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland in 2013, but travellers need to register themselves at the local Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) of the districts they land in, within 24 hours of arrival. RAPs are still required in certain parts of Sikkim among the Northeastern states. Tourism secretary Vinod Zutshi told dna that travel trade bodies were keen on extending the validity of these permits from the existing one year to five years as they were worried about the yearly renewal. “The home ministry deliberated over the issue and noted, rightly so, that the validity of these entry permits can be extended to a period of two years. The travel body’s concern, too, were valid as foreigners can easily plan ahead if the validity of the permits are longer than a year,”said Zutshi. Pronob Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, says that in the last meeting the travel trade bodies had with the tourism ministry, on July 13, 2016, several points were taken up. “RAP for Arunachal Pradesh for foreign nationals is also a big issue in terms of fees, and requirements. The amount varies from time to time and the time limit of issuing a RAP is never known. Also, a single person cannot get the RAP,” said Sarkar. He added that Manipur and Nagaland had withdrawn PAP for foreigners, but on a yearly basis, and that they can be reintroduced if the state feels any need.Sarkar said that some of the talking points in the meet were also the need for commercial drivers in every state to pay road tax and that the government should introduce a single registration process. Forex is also an issue with only Guwahati, Kaziranga and Dibrugarh (all in Assam) having registered agents. Bad roads, network connectivity, reluctance to give out bills, are also some of the issues. Jeep and elephant safari rates are also not fixed by the Department in Kaziranga National Park, which is a major tourist destination, said Sarkar. This means that on most days due to a last moment change, the travel bodies pay from their own pockets.In 2014, Sikkim registered the highest number of foreign tourist arrivals with 49,175. However, it fell by 21.75% in 2015 with 38,479 arrivals. Tripura registered the highest growth rate of 30% between 2014 and 2015 with 26,688 and 34,886 arrivals. “There is huge interest among foreign travellers to visit Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and other Northeastern states, but the facilities in poor condition does not encourage movement of leisure tourists from abroad or from within India,” he said.
FTA (foreign tourist arrivals)
2014
2015
Growth (%age) Arunachal Pradesh
5,204 5,705 9.63 Assam
21,537 24,720 13.78 Manipur
2,769 3,260 17.73 Meghalaya
8,664 8,027 -7.35 Mizoram
921 798 -13.36 Nagaland
2,585 2,769 7.12 Sikkim
49,175 38,479 -21.75 Tripura
26,688 34,886 30.72

Six top Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh activists arrested from Bengal, Assam

Kolkata: Six top Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) activists, including four wanted in the 2014 Khagragarh blast case, were arrested from West Bengal and Assam.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Of the six, three were Bangladeshi nationals, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Vishal Garg said in Kolkata.

“These people were not in West Bengal after Khagragarh blast. They had left the state and moved to South India and North Eastern states. They were planning subversive activities in some South Indian states. We are trying to find out the details,” Garg said.

The JMB activists arrested by the Kolkata Police Special Task Force included Anwar Hussain Farooq, the head of the outfit’s West Bengal unit, and Yusuf Sheikh, the second in command in the state.

Sheikh, also the JMB chief motivator in the state, carried a Rs 10 lakh reward on his head announced by NIA.

The four others who were wanted in connection with Khagragarh blast of 2 October, 2014, were Shahidul Islam, Mohammad Rubel, Abul Kalam and Jadidul Islam.

Kalam and Rubel were carrying on their heads a reward of Rs 3 lakh and 1 lakh respectively.

Yusuf and Shahidul were arrested from Natun Bazar under Basirhat area of North 24 Parganas district on Sunday while Farooq and Rubel were picked up from Bagda Road in Bangao in the same district, Garg said.

Kalam was held from Coochbehar station in north Bengal yesterday while Jahidul was arrested from Cachhar district of Assam on Saturday.

Forged ID papers, 2 kg white powdery substance, one laptop, mobile phones, detonator, wire cutters, batteries Bangladeshi and Indian currency, letters written in Bengali, travel guide, books on chemicals and memory cards for camera were seized from them.

Assam: Army neutralises six KPLT militants in East Karbi Anglong

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Acting on a tip-off, as many as six Karbi People Liberation Tigers (KPLT) militants were neutralised by the Army on Friday in East Karbi Anglong’s Nambar Reserve Forest in Assam.In a joint operation launched by the Army and Assam Police, in the dense Nambar Reserve Forest on Thursday night, stretching upto Friday morning resulted in the neutralisation of six militants and busting of the KPLT camp.Amidst the operation, the militants opened fire at the Army troops. The cross-firing between Army troops and the militants resulted in the injury of one Army jawan.Of the total six militants, who were neutralised, two were top leaders of the KPLT – Operation Commander and Area Commander, respectively.A huge cache of arms and ammunition were also recovered from their possession and the camp. The recoveries included one INSAS Rifle, one 7.62mm Self Loading Rifle, one country made rifle, Hand Grenades, large quantity of ammunition of all types, fired cases, solar chargers, blankets and other war like and survival stores.“The operation has been one of the most successful one in the recent times in the North East and has lead to near decimation of KPLT which has been the most prominent anti-national group active in both – West and East Karbi Anglong, Assam. This has been the result of well coordinated and relentless operations being conducted by the Army in conjunction with Assam Police. This has resulted in creation of constant pressure on the terrorist groups thereby preventing them from carrying out any activities like extortion, kidnapping for ransom, inference in civil development activities and killing of innocent civilians in the populated areas,” said a senior official of the Army troop engaged in the operation.

From Manipur to Kashmir, security forces a major target of terror groups

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sunday’s attack allegedly by Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, on an Army brigade headquarter in Uri, killing 18 soldiers is one of the most brazen acts of terror, inflicting a high number of casualties on armed forces. All the major terror strikes, this year, show that security forces have been the main target of insurgent and terrorist groups in all the three theatres of conflict in the country: Kashmir, Left Wing Extremism (LWE) zone and the North East.So far in 2016, there have been eight major terror attacks in the country (with five or more casualties) with seven on the security forces, military establishment or convoys, claiming 61 lives of security personnel. The other attack was carried out by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland in Kokhrajhar, Assam, killing 14 civilians.World over, there has been an upward tick in terrorism attacks linked with global Islamist extremist groups the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram responsible for some of the violent and brutal acts of terror. The 2015 Global Terrorism Index by the Institute for Economic and Peace think tank states that IS and Boko Haram are responsible for 51 per cent of all terrorist deaths in the world. The IS, in particular, has carried and co-ordinated over 70 attacks not just on its turf in Syria and Iraq but also exported it to Europe, America and Africa and Asia, earning it the tag of the deadliest terrorist group. The unpredictable nature of attacks spurned by lone wolves, suicide bombers, radicalised individuals on social media and returning foreign fighters killing a large number of civilians as seen in Paris, Orlando, Baghdad and Dhaka have marked the new reign of terror.In India, which ranks sixth in the terror index’s inflicted countries in the world, this trend is turned over its head as the threat of violence is not manifested from the unknown enemy, random lonewolves or radicalised jihadis — though state police and the National Investigation Agency has busted half-a-dozen IS-inspired cells and arrested over 40 individuals before any attack could take place. Instead it is the known enemy, terror groups facilitated from Pakistan and insurgent groups operating in the Naxal areas, North East, which continue to inflict maximum damage and remain the biggest threat to the security.Major General Dhruv Katoch (retired), former director Centre for Land Warfare Studies, who has served in both Kashmir and North East, says the marked rise in attacks on military establishments, convoys and security forces is a strategic move by Pakistan to bring focus back on Kashmir, create a flashpoint and force the international community to step in to resolve the ‘dispute’.”This strategy suits the interests of Pakistan military to maintain leverage on their ‘assets’ and keep the conflict in Kashmir simmering,” he says. Gen Katoch adds that while jihad and radicalisation continue to be a threat, it is secondary in nature. “The biggest threat comes from the known enemies.” Data on South Asia Terror Portal (SATP) records casualties of 64 security forces in J&K as against 9 civilians in terror attacks.Attacks against security forces are also symbolic and directly targeted at Indian government and sovereignty, says Animesh Roul, strategic analyst studying terrorism and security at the Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict. “Non-state violent actors think that targeting security forces is legitimate act of war. They want to show the world they are fighting against an occupation army.”Naxals, insurgent groups in the North East and militant groups based in Pakistan, believe they are fighting to overthrow the Indian government. In LWE affected districts civilians– 91 casualties this year– equally face the wrath of Naxals who are targeted for being police informers.Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic outreach in the region has not brought the stability and peace on India’s border fronts as militant groups in Pakistan and Myanmar frequently targeted the armed forces in Punjab, Kashmir and Manipur this year. The ambush on the convoy in Chandel, Manipur last year, killing 18 soldiers, was met with retaliation, where the Indian army for the first time carried a surgical strike by crossing into Myanmar in the hot pursuit of NSCN (K) militants. This did not deter other militant groups a coalition of PLA, UNLF and PREPAK from plotting another ambush in Chandel district on a convoy of Assam Rifles killing six men, in the month of May.Although insurgency in the North East is on a decline, active rebel groups of Nagas and Kuki’s in the Indo-Myanmar border continue to draw support from pockets of local population in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya. It is this little people’s support the insurgent groups fear to lose, says Col Vivek Chadha, scholar at Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), if they attack civilians. “It is a carefully calibrated move to target security forces and infrastructure. Targeting civilians is not in favour of these groups as they will lose popularity and can’t justify their movements.”

Monsoon heading for a ‘normal’ performance: IMD

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The country’s long-period monsoon rainfall for the June to September period is heading for a ‘normal’ performance, in contrast to India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) annual forecast, said KJ Ramesh, director-general, IMD, on Monday. In April this year, IMD, the country’s state-run weather forecasting agency had said that the country is likely to receive above-normal rainfall, with a quantitative forecast of 106 per cent and an error margin of +/- 5. But, with just ten days before monsoon comes to a close, the countrywide monsoon deficit stands at 5 per cent.”Our assessment shows that long-period monsoon rainfall is likely to be in the normal range. One more spell of monsoon rainfall is likely to occur across Odisha, Jharkhand and neighbouring regions due to a low-pressure area,” said Ramesh. The IMD categorizes rainfall in the 96-104% long-period average range as normal and rainfall between 104-110% of LPA as above normal.Ramesh added that the neutral condition of La Nina weather phenomenon resulted in subdued rainfall during August. “As per our forecast, the La Nina weather phenomenon was going to strengthen at the end of August, resulting in excess rainfall during September. But, La Nina remained neutral and we witnessed a lean phase in August,” added Ramesh.The opposite of El Nino weather phenomenon wherein warmer than usual Pacific waters trigger droughts in south Asia, La Nina usually brings heavy rainfall in South Asia. According to IMD, Kerala, Coastal Karnataka, Central and Eastern Gujarat, parts of Assam and Uttar Pradesh have received below normal rainfall.

Centre to invest Rs 1,000 cr for 750-bedded Aiims in Assam

Guwahati: The Centre will invest around Rs 1,000 crore to set up a 750-bedded All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Assam, the land for which was handed over by the state government on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File photo. PTIChief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File photo. PTI

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File photo. PTI

“The Aiims in Assam will be a 750-bedded hospital. We have got the land today from the state government. Now once
the Union cabinet approves the plan, we will start work,” Union Health and Family Welfare Additional Secretary Arun
Kumar Panda told PTI in Guwahati.

The AIIMS, to be set up in Kamrup district, will house 18 super-speciality departments, he said.

Responding to a question about financing, Panda said: “It is likely to incur an investment of around Rs 1,000 crore for the construction and equipment set up work. This amount will be spent by the Centre.”

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday handed over to Panda more than 571 acres of government land at Changsari area of Kamrup district.

“This is a historic day for people of Assam as a long- pending dream is about to come true. People have struggled a
lot democratically for this institute in the state,” Sonowal said at the function.

With setting up of the Aiims in the state, Assam will now figure in the the list of healthcare destinations of the
country, he said.

Referring to the ongoing protest by people of Nagaon and middle Assam for not selecting Raha as the place for AIIMS, the chief minister said: “We do not have any role in selecting the place. We showed seven locations, including Raha, to experts from the Centre and they chose Changsari in lower Assam.”

He also said the state government will work towards giving better healthcare facilities to hill districts and
Barak Valley in future.

PTI

‘Rape’ remark: NCW to issue summons to actor Salman Khan

The National Commission for Women on Monday said that the body has taken Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s controversial rape remark “very seriously” and will issue summons to him soon.”We had written a letter to him last week asking why he made such a remark but he has not replied so far,” NCW chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam said.”We have taken his remarks very seriously and will issue summons to him immediately as he has failed to reply to the letter in which we had asked him to apologise within seven days,” she told reporters at the end of the day-long regional consultation on Draft National Policy for Women, 2016.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NCW has also taken the Motihari rape case along with the recent alleged incidents of four rapes in Bihar “very seriously and will pursue it very aggressively”.”The Motihari incident is a horrendous cover-up of justice by the police and we have sought an appointment with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and will take up the issue with him,” Kumaramangalam said.The matter will be also taken up with the NHRC as the recent four cases of rape in Bihar are serious violation of human rights with the role of the police being suspected.”In these particular cases, the police is mysteriously losing files, FIRs are not being filed and there has been a breakdown in justice. In these four cases, it appears that there is a lack of political will,” she said.Asked about online trolling, the NCW chairperson said online abuse was increasing alarmingly and there was a need to take action but most of those trolled registered no complaints.”If I get a complaint, I will act aggressively but none wants to complain. Even senior journalists have been trolled but there has been no complaints,” she added.The day-long consultation on Draft National Policy for Women, 2016 discussed various issues related to education and governance and decision-making, violence against women, health including food security and nutrition, environment and climate change to create an effective framework of developing a national policy. The consultation was organised by the Assam government and Assam State Commission for Women in collaboration with the NCW.

Jisha murder aftermath: Govt introduces social security scheme to protect migrants

Assam resident Ameerul Islam is accused of the gruesome rape and murder of a Dalit law student in Ernakulam, Kerala, and his arrest a week ago sparked off a torrid debate on whether there is a need to maintain a database for migrant labourers entering the state in search of livelihood.

Rumours abounded too, of an exodus of the migrant population, fearing a backlash. But the Kerala state government is all set to bring in a social security scheme to ensure that the migrants working in Kerala are assimilated into its society.

A pioneering effort of sorts in the country, this is undoubtedly a step beyond just a mere registration of migrants. An official announcement is expected soon.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

For the 40 lakh-odd migrant population in the state (as per 2016 records), which is growing at a fast rate of close to 2.3 lakhs every year, this step might come as a huge relief. “The government does not feel that all migrant workers are criminals. There may be a section which is doing mischief. But they have every right to work in Kerala just like in any other place. The problem is that till now we had no records of these people. So we have now decided to bring them all under one workers’ beneficiary scheme so that they enjoy all benefits at par with workers here. The blueprint of this will be ready soon,’’ said TP Ramakrishanan, Kerala’s labour minister.

The CPM-led LDF (Left Democratic Front) government hopes that this is the right step to bringing accountability amongst this large floating population. A separate allocation for this scheme may also feature in the next state budget. Also for the Left, the policy falls in line with their ideology of protecting the working class, be it migrant or local.

The state government hopes to make the scheme work for both sides. Not only will it bring the migrant workers under the usual benefits enjoyed by the local residents, including medical insurance and death claims, but it will also help the government keep a tab on their activities and sort out the mischief-mongers from the genuine workers.

Activists are welcoming the move. Many say this would help to break down the cultural barriers and make it easier for the migrant community to assimilate into the middle class fabric of Kerala.

“After all this is a land which believes in the slogan, ‘workers of the world unite’. So it is better we start this assimilation process and wipe away the cultural differences,’’ said CR Neelakandan, an activist based in Ernakulam. Neelakandan also adds that it is important for Kerala to realise why it needs to retain its migrant work force. “We all need to understand that Kerala’s economy will break down the moment these migrants leave. Almost every sector is dependent on them. That’s the reality,’’ he added.

Neelakandan’s words stand testimony to the huge influence the migrant population has on Kerala’s economy. It is also for the same reason that Kerala can never think of going the Maharashtra way in antagonising its migrant population. There is certainly more at stake here than just ‘twisted nationalism’, say Left leaders.

The arrival of the first batch of migrant workers to Kerala a decade ago was seen as a boon for the state’s struggling manpower. From then on it has been a symbiotic relationship that the state has enjoyed with the migrants. What the Gulf has been for the average Malayali, Kerala has been for the worker from Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and even Odisha for years.

While a worker in any of these states gets between Rs 100 to 150 after a day’s hard labour, in Kerala, the worker makes between Rs 800 to 1000 a day, allowing him to send out an annual remittance of Rs 25,000 crore from the state. Every year close to 2.35 lakh migrant workers land up in the southern state looking for jobs.

For the state too, their retention is crucial. Thousands of business establishments ranging from construction to hospitality, manufacturing to agriculture are run by migrant hands alone. Contractors admit that migrant workers are the lifeline of the state and one glimpse at the little town of Perumbavoor, the scene of the gruesome rape-murder, a stone’s throw away from Cochin, will prove why.

There is hardly anything in the town that would give away its existence as a part of Kerala. It is more akin to a busy Tier III town in West Bengal or Odisha.

Signboards in Bengali and Oriya greet the visitor to this little town. Theatres run Bengali and even Bhojpuri films. Churches have special masses in Hindi, Bengali and Oriya. Some migrants have bought lands, married from the local community and are settled here. But still the assimilation into local society has been painfully slow.

Father Sabu Malayil, who runs the Jeevika Migrant Workers Movement, says that it would take some time for the average Malayali to except the migrant worker as one of his own.

“Today if you want to build a house you need a Bengali or an Oriya to do your mason work. You need him to sweat it out for you, but when it comes to dealing with a problem that he faces, you will just turn away. This attitude of the Malayali has to change. We need to understand that a migrant worker is here because he needs work,’’ said Father Malayil.

People like Father Malayil who have been working for migrant workers’ welfare hope the new step by the government would sort out at least a few of the problems. But experts on migration studies are not ready to bite yet. They say social security measures need to be voluntary in nature and should never be enforced upon anyone just because the person hails from a different state.

Binoy Peter, who heads the Centre for Migratory Studies and Inclusive Development, says such measures need to be tailormade for the worker who will never stick to one place forever.

“Most importantly the schemes should be portable and voluntary. Otherwise it will never work because these people are seasonal in their movements. If a worker registers in, say Cochin, works here for five years and then goes back to Khandamal, he should be able to receive the benefits there too. Government should ensure this. Otherwise this will be a meaningless exercise,” added Peter.

While the state government strongly believes in the dictum that a few rotten apples don’t spoil the entire basket, it would also not like to ignore the concerns of the police force. According to the State Crime Records Bureau, in the last five years alone 1,200 criminal cases of various kinds ranging from theft to murder to rape have been registered against migrant workers. A sudden spurt in narcotic cases in the last two years is also attributed to the migrant population who are easy carriers.

All of this means the state government has on its hands a Herculean task, not to forget the sheer numbers of an ever-growing migrant population. Spirits, however, seem to be running high for now.

Two suspected Bodo militants arrested in Kerala

Kollam: Two suspected Bodo militants, who are believed to have been living in Kerala for some time, were arrested here on Thursday, police said.

The duo, hailing from Assam, was held in a joint operation by Kerala police and the military intelligence wing.

File photo of Kerala police. Getty ImagesFile photo of Kerala police. Getty Images

File photo of Kerala police. Getty Images

According to the state police, the duo had been living here in the guise of migrant labourers and they were tracked according to the request of the military intelligence.

“The military intelligence asked us to track them and we held them in a joint operation today. Interrogation is going on and we can confirm about their Bodo links only after that,” Kollam city police commissioner S Satheesh Bino told PTI.

“It is all up to the military intelligence. Our duty was only to support them to track the suspects and hand them over to them,” he said.

However, he did not divulge any further details of the arrested.

Sources said that both of them have been lodged in a police station here.

BJP Parliamentar Board to decide whether to project someone as CM face in UP: Rajnath Singh

The BJP Parliamentary Board will take a final decision on whether to project someone as Chief Ministerial candidate for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh scheduled to be held early next year, senior party leader and Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday.”As of now, there is no discussion at all in the Parliament Board (on the issue of Chief Ministerial candidate in UP). When the time will come, the Parliamentary Board will discuss and decide on it,” he told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Singh said the party will take a decision depending on the situation.When pointed out that BJP got power in Assam where it had declared a Chief Ministerial candidate and lost in Bihar polls where nobody was projected for the top job, Singh said despite not declaring a CM candidate, the party won Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand.There has been speculation that the party may project Singh, a former Chief Minister, as BJP’s face in assembly elections in UP.Singh himself, however, ruled out returning to the state politics saying there are many capable leaders who can be Chief Ministerial candidate.Asked about his personal opinion whether the BJP should project someone as CM candidate, Singh said he will place his view before the Parliamentary Board.

Karnataka: Siddaramaiah gets Sonia’s nod to go ahead with cabinet reshuffle

Karnataka Cabinet is all set to be revamped in a day or two with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah saying on June 18 that he has got the green signal from the Congress High Command to drop some ministers and induct fresh faces.”We discussed all the names to be dropped and inducted with Congress Party President and Vice President Sonia and Rahulji. We have convinced them. High Command has authorised me to go ahead with the reshuffle,” Siddaramaiah told reporters after the second round of consultations in as many days with the Congress Chief. “The list will be prepared in a day or two and will be submitted to the Governor,”he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid pulls and pressures for ministerial berths, the discussion held yesterday in connection with the much talked-about reshuffle had remained inconclusive. Before the meeting, Siddaramaiah discussed the matter with Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
ALSO READ Karnataka Cabinet reshuffle: CM Siddaramaiah may drop 8 ministersSources said that the chief minister has proposed dropping of at least 10-14 ministers from the Cabinet and inducting young legislators and senior Congress leaders in order to balance caste and regional factors.Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President G Parameshwara and Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh were present in the meeting. Gulam Nabi Azad, who was in charge of Congress affairs in Karnataka in 2014, joined the deliberations later.The exercise is being undertaken to tone up the government after Congress’ debacle in recent Assembly polls in four states, especially Assam. Karnataka is the only major state where the Congress is in power after being recently ousted in Kerala and Assam. “By tomorrow or the day after, I will prepare a list and submit it to the Governor, after which they will take oath,” the chief minister said. Siddaramaiah, however, declined to comment on names and number of Ministers who would be dropped. With 34 ministers, the Karnataka ministry is up to its full strength.Indicating ministry reshuffle before the Assembly session next month, Siddaramaiah had sought cooperation from his council of Ministers on June 15. Signalling that some ministers would have to take up party responsibility, he had said that the cabinet reshuffle would be done keeping the next Assembly elections in mind.The talk about the ministry reshuffle had been doing the rounds for long but various reasons like drought and elections to local bodies, Council and Rajya Sabha have been cited for its deferment.Siddaramaiah had earlier said that reshuffle would involve ‘dropping a few and inducting a few’, and yardstick for it is giving opportunity for new people. Several ‘like-minded’ Congress MLAs have held meetings and demanded reshuffle. They had also sought dropping of ‘non-performing’ ministers from the cabinet.

Kerala Dalit woman rape and murder: 23-year old migrant labourer arrested from Tamil Nadu

In a breakthrough in the brutal rape and murder of a 30-year old Dalit woman law student at Perumbavoor, a migrant labourer from Assam was arrested on Thursday, 50 days after the gruesome murder that had become a major issue in the recent Kerala Assembly elections.”We have got the accused in the murder case,” Additional Director General of Police, B Sandhya IPS, heading the Special Investigating Team in the case, told reporters here after the accused was brought to Aluva.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Refusing to produce the accused Ameerul Islam before media, Sandhya said police wanted to build a strong case against him.”We will collect more evidence, including identification parade, to build a strong prosecution,” she said.Police said 23-year old Islam, hailing from Dholda Gramam in Assam’s Nauga district, was taken into custody from Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu. He had left Perumbavoor soon after allegedly committing the murder on April 28. He was brought to Aluva Police Club for interrogation with his face covered amid tight security.The man was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when he committed the crime, police said, adding he had a “pervert” mindset. The woman, who hailed from a poor family, was raped and brutally assaulted using sharp-edged weapons before being murdered at her house on April 28.The rape and murder was in focus during the Assembly polls campaign with political parties attacking the then UDF regime for tardy progress in the investigation and failure to nab the culprits. The LDF government, after assuming power on May 25, had changed the investigation team and entrusted the probe to ADGP Sandhya in its first cabinet meeting itself.Police said the investigation would be completed after conducting the DNA test of the accused. Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thiruvananthapuram that the suspect in the murder of the Law student was in police custody.”Investigation team has received full information about the accused. From yesterday onwards, the accused was under police radar,” he said.”The development is a feather in the cap of Kerala Police”, he said.Police said a blood stained ‘chappal’ (footwear) found from a canal near the victim’s house was one of the key evidences in identifying the culprit.A DNA test conducted earlier on the saliva found from the bite mark on her back, the blood found on the chappal and the lock of her room had revealed that it was only one person who committed the crime, police said.Over 100 police personnel, who had launched a scientific investigation into the incident, had questioned over 1,500 people. They examined finger prints of over 5000 people and went through over 20 lakh telephonic conversations before reaching the culprit, police said.

Uttar Pradesh elections 2017: Chirag Paswan hints at a possible BJP-LJP alliance

Expressing Lok Janshakti Party’s willingness to fight the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections next year as part of NDA, party leader Chirag Paswan said the final call over the issue would soon be taken by BJP.”LJP is part of NDA at the Centre and we would want to contest the UP elections as part of the same alliance,” he said. “Having said that, BJP is the bigger alliance partner, and they are the ones who have to take a final call over the issue. We will be meeting Amit Shahji soon and take a final call,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chirag, son of LJP founder and Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, also said the party definitely wants to contest UP elections, either as part of NDA or independently. Asked whether the decision to contest elections in UP as part of NDA was taken in view of the election results in Assam and other states, Chirag said, “Our alliance has performed really well. We managed to get into the North-East and form our government in Assam. That is an achievement for our alliance.”
ALSO READ UP Polls 2017: BJP to go it alone, Ram temple not to be on poll agenda, says Mahesh Sharma”We also performed well down south compared to our previous results, which is the reason why we want to continue the alliance.” he said.On accepting Rajnath Singh as the Chief Ministerial candidate, Paswan said, as a partner of NDA, his party will follow whatever decision BJP makes in this regard. “As an honest ally we will follow whatever decision BJP takes. Whether they want to project the Chief Ministerial candidate or not, we are okay with that,” he said.

Chinese media suggests India, China, Myanmar should restore Stilwell road

Beijing: India, China and Myanmar should establish a joint dialogue mechanism to restore the Stilwell
Road connecting the three countries to revitalise trade in the region, Chinese media said on Thursday.

“The Stilwell Road was called the Ledo Road, but renamed after Stilwell at the suggestion of Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek. Ledo, a small town in northern India, is the starting point of this legendary road,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.

Commuters move along Stilwell road in Lido town. ReutersCommuters move along Stilwell road in Lido town. Reuters

Commuters move along Stilwell road. Reuters

From Ledo to Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan province, the road is 1,800-km-long.

It is obvious that the road that connects China, India and Myanmar bears economic significance for South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, it said.

“Driven by the economic potential and the need to reinforce transport network in the region, an increasing clamour of voices in China, India and Myanmar is calling for the restoration of the road. It is time for the three countries to deliberate over project,” it said.

“The road is not intact. China has completed the reconstruction of the section from Kunming to the
Sino-Myanmese border and connected the road to China’s well-developed road system,” it said.

“With China’s help, Myanmar has also accomplished the section from the Sino-Myanmese border to Myitkyina. However, the sections from Myanmar to India and within India are barely usable. Some parts have already been deserted due to bad conditions,” it said.

“Myanmar has started to renovate part of the road, but the reconstruction is not smooth due to lack of funds and technologies and the presence of Indian and Myanmese ethnic insurgents in the area,” it said.

“India is worried about the reconstruction of the road for two reasons. First, the road starts from Assam, a state where local militants have become increasingly active. Second, China-made products can flood into the Indian market through the road,” it said.

“But India has toned down the two concerns because New Delhi has adopted a Look East policy, and the process of advancing the strategy requires the stability of northern India, in which a well-functioning road system matters a lot. Thus, recently Assam has started to fix part of the road,” it said.

China as a “more developed country” should play a major role in the reconstruction work, it said.

“All three countries should set up a joint dialogue mechanism, in which their concerns and problems can be put on the negotiating table, including how to make peace with ethnic insurgents, and the three countries can find out solutions together. China can be the initiator of the communication
mechanism,” it said.

“The restoration of the Stilwell Road will revitalise the promising path, which will interconnect Southwest China, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and merge the region into an emerging market. The ethnic groups living in this area can seize the chance and prosper,” it said.

Uttar Pradesh crucial in BJP’s calculations for next President

Amidst speculation that the ruling NDA could run short of votes required to have a President of its choice, the BJP has claimed that the ruling alliance had the numbers.According to high-level sources, the NDA has an edge of 22,078 votes in the electoral college comprising MPs and MLAs. The recent assembly polls have added around 11,000 votes to the BJP’s tally with the party winning 86 seats in Assam, four seats in West Bengal and one in Kerala. Besides, the increase of four seats in Rajya Sabha has marginally increased its share by 2832 votes. The Uttar Pradesh polls next year, ahead of the Presidential election in July, 2017, will be crucial for the party in garnering numbers in the electoral college comprising MPs and MLAs.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress, however, countered the claim that the NDA had the majority saying there has been no major change after recent elections in the electoral college. “It is definitely a close race. But NDA nowhere has an edge.Except Assam, there was no major change anywhere in the recent elections. But I don’t have calculations as yet. We have not yet done calculations so seriously..I don’t think the NDA has made up to 5.49 lakh votes as required in Presidential elections,” said party spokesperspon Ajay Majken.The BJP’s confidence that it would be in a position to have a say on who the next President will be also stems from its hopes on elections in Uttar Pradesh, where the party at present has just 47 MLAs in a House of 403. A senior party leader said the BJP’s numbers in the UP assembly could only increase in next year’s elections, and not fall. The state MLA has the highest value of vote among states at 208, nearly 30 times more than the worth of an MLA in Sikkim, where it is the lowest at seven in the electoral college. The other states which will be going to polls before the Presidential election are Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur.While the BJP is still elusive about projecting a face in UP, the party is banking heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under whose leadership it had swept the state in Lok Sabha elections. According to the leader, the BJP had the advantage of 87 per cent booths against 32 per cent in the state in 2014, 72 MPs against ten earlier and “100 per cent anti-incumbency now” against none in the general elections. The total strength of votes of UP MLAs is 83,824.The BJP is taking the Uttarakhand election “very seriously” and in Goa it was banking on the AAP to give it an advantage by turning the contest into a three-cornered one, the leader said. However, the party appeared to be unsure about Punjab, where there is an anti-incumbency wave against the ruling SAD-BJP, which has been in power for two terms.The sources did not spell out which parties it was counting on to support its Presidential candidate. As of now, the NDA is a coalition of around 30 parties. However, there are parties outside the coalition like Trinamool Congress, AIADMK and BJD, which the BJP could be pinning its hopes on for supporting its candidate. In the last presidential election, when the BJP backed PA Sangma, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and Naveen Patnaik’s BJD had supported him against the Congress-led UPA’s candidate Pranab Mukherjee.This election could be a replica of the 2002 presidential election, when the NDA had a thin edge. The NDA then put up a consensus candidate APJ Abdul Kalam. The Opposition’s support would depend on the candidate that the BJP puts up. If the NDA decides on a political nominee, the Opposition was likely to put up its own candidate.Of the total 10,98 lakh votes in an electoral college, the majority mark would be 5.49 lakh votes. While the value of MLAs varies from state to state, that of an MP is 708.

Assam CM Sonowal promises to preserve freedom fighter Kushal Konwar’s house

Guwahati: Seventy three years after Kushal Konwar laid down his life during the country’s freedom struggle, the Assam government has decided to preserve the martyr’s house.

This was announced by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday while paying tributes to the martyr.

Sonowal also said that the government would repair the road that leads to the house at Balijan near Sarupathar in Assam’s Golaghat district.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File photo. PTIChief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File photo. PTI

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. File photo. PTI

“Swahid Kushal Konwar, who wholeheartedly dedicated himself in the country’s freedom struggle and sacrificed his life, needs highest degree of obeisance from everybody,” Sonowal said while speaking on Konwar’s death anniversary at Nehru Park.

Born in 1905 at Balijan, Kushal Konwar was attracted towards the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and took part in the freedom struggle since 1921, when he was still in school.

A member of the Indian National Congress, Konwar was, however, accused as chief conspirator by the then British government for sabotage leading to the derailment of a military train in which several British soldiers were killed.

He was declared guilty by a trial court and was subsequently hanged in Jorhat jail on 15 June, 1943. Konwar accepted the verdict with dignity.

“His contribution to India’s freedom movement carved a niche for the state in the national landscape. Kushal Konwar inspired us to value honesty, morality and humanity and he exemplified his love for the nation through his valour and sacrifice,” Sonowal said.

Sonowal also attended an all-faith prayer meeting held on the occasion, where Jamuna Konwar, daughter-in-law of Kushal Konwar, other freedom fighters and senior citizens were present.

BJP National Executive: Party trumpets increased presence in political resolution, Modi sets tone for UP polls

Whipping up the issue of Hindu migration from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh and “casteism and communalism” of the ruling SP, the two-day BJP national executive concluded on Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching a blistering attack on the state government but skipping controversial issues.Though the two-day deliberations appeared to have focused on a victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections next year, the party also spoke of plans for its expansion along the East Coast where it hardly has a presence.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While party President Amit Shah and some other top leaders raked up the Kairana issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself focused on development and skipped the issue. Nor did he touch any other contentious issues.Modi skirts controversial issuesIn a two-pronged attack, Modi hit out at the ruling Samajwadi Party accusing it of practising casteism, communalism, nepotism and hooliganism while SP and BSP indulge in corruption in power alternatively. Addressing a public meeting after the executive session, he also made a veiled attack on the Congress referring to corruption in purchase of helicopter, aircraft, guns and cooking gas subsidy. Appealing to the people for an opportunity to rule the state, he invoked the greatness of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati and said the land of Prayag will mark a new beginning by taking to development.”For this, arrogance , casteism, poison of communalism, corruption, nepotism will have to be sacrificed in the holy fire (yagya) to start the new journey of development,” Modi said to the cheers of the party cadre and admirers who repeatedly shouted ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’. Not sparing the BSP, the other major player in the state, the Prime Minister said Mayawati and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav take turns to accuse each other’s government of indulging in corruption but take no action when each one comes to power.Earlier, in his concluding remarks at the executive, Modi advised his party workers to follow seven mantras including empathy and restraint in their conduct and said people are not content with mere slogans but concerned about how the nation is being strengthened. Kairana features prominently in discourse Kairana in western UP, where the BJP claims Hindu families have migrated out of fear of violence by another community, may be an issue on which political temperature is expected to rise in the poll-bound state. Briefing the media, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said Shah has set up a committee, which will go there and study the situation.”Such a migration is not good for democracy. The party is sensitive about it and proper steps will be taken after the report comes,” he said. Shah had yesterday expressed serious concern over “migration” from Kairana area in Shamli district, which had witnessed communal riots in 2013. Gadkari today said his party has taken up the issue with all seriousness.The seven-member committee consist of four MPs and three leaders from Uttar Pradesh. The executive adopted a political resolution which claimed that BJP is now the only pan-Indian party as Congress is “shrinking” by the day. It identified the Coromandal Coast spanning from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu and Kerala for its growth, asking workers to prepare the organisation for “big gains” there in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke of the future growth of the party to ensure a “bigger majority” in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.On Uttar Pradesh, he said if Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav accepts the next year’s elections as referendum on law and order, then it could hurt him badly. The resolution also accused Congress and Left of resorting to “petty and negative” politics. Congress mocked for ‘shrinking’ political space The resolution, ‘BJP is the party of Bharat’s present. It will be the party of Bharat s future’, said it is emerging as the natural party of governance in many states and all the other parties have limited regional presence amid the decline of the main opposition party. Referring to party’s win in Assam and rise in its vote share in Kerala and West Bengal, and “unequivocal rejection” of the Congress by voters in the recent assembly polls in five states, it said the National Executive notes with pleasure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Congress-mukt Bharat has today become a people s mission .BJP’s win in Assam signifies a major ideological victory for it, the resolution said, adding it came against the backdrop of the threat of demographic invasion the state has faced from an unchecked infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh for decades . It has reached Himalayan proportions and signalled a death-knell to Assam s identity Successive governments turned a blind eye to this problem with an eye on their vote banks.That is why the National Executive doesn’t look at this victory in the Assembly elections as just another electoral victory alone. It signifies a major ideological victory for the party. We dedicate this victory to Ma Kamakhya, river Brahmaputra and Shrimant Shankaradeva the symbols that epitomise Assamese identity, it said. Speaking of its performance, the party said, The BJP is today the only pan-Indian party in the country. The BJP is also emerging as the natural party of governance in many States too. Congress is shrinking by day and all the other parties have limited regional presence only.”

BJP National Executive: PM Modi asks workers to show restraint in their conduct

Skipping any mention of controversial issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked party workers to follow seven mantras, including empathy and restraint in their conduct, and said people are not content with mere slogans but concerned about how the nation is being strengthened.Delivering his concluding address to the party’s National Executive, which saw its president Amit Shah raising concerns over migration of Hindus from a communally-sensitive western UP town, Modi made no reference to the controversial issues and instead asked leaders to use power for the benefit of society.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He also invoked Maratha icon Shivaji, saying he did not enjoy the fruits of power despite being a ruler and sarcastically added that the country has on the contrary also seen those who enjoyed the fruits of power without legitimately owning it, a veiled dig at the Gandhi family of the Congress.The Prime Minister referred to the party’s win in Assam and growth in Kerala and West Bengal and had a word of caution for its leaders and workers.”We are witnessing history in the making. We are benefitting from the hardwork of crores of workers for over many decades in building the party. We are in power in the Centre and many states as well. We should not get affected by this power but think as to how we can use this for the society’s benefit. There is a need to strengthen the nation. People are no longer satisfied only with slogans. They are concerned over how the nation is being made strong,” he said.PM Modi outlines seven-point ‘mantra’Briefing reporters about Modi’s speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Prime Minister also laid down seven mantras for party workers to follow in their conduct and policy.PM Modi has put forth 7-point ‘mantras’ for party workers: Sevabhaav, Santulan, Sanyam, Samnway, Sakaratmak, Sadbhavana and Samvad (Service, balance, restraint, coordination, positivity, empathy and dialogue), Jaitley said. The Prime Minister stressed to the workers that all these seven traits should be reflected in their conduct and policy, Jaitley said.He had earlier used the word sadbhavna (harmony) but later clarified that it was samvedna (empathy). To sum up, the message from the National Executive is that when the party’s political power has grown, this power has to be used for the society, Jaitley said.To a question over what was the provocation for Modi to lay down seven point mantra, he quipped, “politicians make well-considered statements, not necessarily under provocation.” At the national executive, the Prime Minister spoke at length about the importance of sensitiveness, saying that it is not with words but with with continuous good behaviour and conduct, one can win over people.Citing examples like somebody helping others cross the road, Modi said a similar sensitivity can be shown in policies like vaccination of children. If we ensure that no child is spared vaccination as it will prevent them from developing health problems, then it is sensitivity, party sources quoted him as saying.Jaitley distances from commenting on Kairana issueJaitley quoted the Prime Minister as saying that India has missed a chance to grow during industrial revolution but has got another such chance now, which if utilized properly will strengthen the nation. Asked about the Kairana issue, Jaitley said that the party President had already referred to both Kairana and Mathura issues yesterday and the party has nothing more to say on it.His remarks came hours after Union Minister Nitin Gadkari dubbed the migration of Hindus from the area as bad for democracy and promising proper action after probe by a party team into the matter.Targeting Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Jaitley dared him to accept the results of 2017 assembly polls as a referendum on law and order in the state under his tenure.”If he is so confident about law and order here, then BJP is ready to accept the 2017 polls as a referendum on law and order. If this election is accepted as a referendum on 2017 polls, it will hurt Samajwadi Party very much,” Jaitley said.The Finance Minister also faced questions over the long-pending GST bill in Parliament on which he expressed confidence that the number of those supporting the bill is growing and made it clear that he will approach all parties on the issue including AIADMK to see the bill through.Underlining the significance of the timing of the National Executive, he said that it was happening at a time when Modi government has completed two years and assembly election results of five states have come in which BJP has registered victory and growth in those areas where the party was not traditionally very strong.”2014 Lok Sabha poll was an important occasion, when the BJP emerged as the largest party. 2016 has its own significance. If seen politically, the popularity of the Prime Minister and his government is not only in place but has risen. Geographically, the party was rising even in those areas, where it was weak historically, he said, noting that there was a particular significance of BJP forming government in Assam and increasing its vote share in Kerala and West Bengal. We believed so far that there are two important political parties in the country besides some other small parties. In 2016, a huge difference has come in the comparative power and popularity of the two. So from the political point of view, this is very important for the party to take the country forward while remaining in power and expand in North East analyzing the present political scenario there,” Jaitley said.Party Chief Amit Shah talked about the need to establish a party office in each district and inter connectivity among all of them.Unveiling future expansion target of the party, Shah said at the National Executive that the party needs to be strengthened further in seven states like West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.Jaitley said that one of the objectives of the meeting was also to deliberate on how to take the nation forward and credited Modi government for making India the brightest spot and fastest growing economy from a state of policy paralysis .

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