Burning Assam - Back Issues

Earlier issues

File download

File 1

File 2

File 3

 

 

 
 

Open flow of narcotics in N-E posing threat to nation 

Unrestrained supply of narcotics like ganja, heroin, etc. to the North-east through the grey market is posing a serious threat to the country at large. Facing difficult situations, investigating teams of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), recently recovered a huge quantity of ganja in different parts of the state. In most cases, destination of the trucks carrying ganja are either Bihar or Uttar Pradesh.

In a major breakthrough, the DRI officials seized about 12,000 kg. ganja worth Rs. 2.37 crore in the last couple of months. They also arrested 15 persons and recovered 7 trucks. The price of one kg of ganja is Rs. 2000 in the city and about Rs. 5000 in the international market. The seizure is a massive blow to the operators of the grey market in the far-flung region.

In the meantime, the DRI officials have also recovered huge quantities of gold biscuits, foreign cigarettes, Emphindrin powder during the last couple of months. Interestingly, the deadly narcotics Emphindrin powder, which has a high demand in the international market, goes directly to Burma as a raw material and its finished product, Amphetamine tablets, is brought to India through North-east.

The small unit of DRI, North-east, could seize such a huge quantity of ganja as its officials are working with a vision and full-dedication. If all the concerned departments of the State and Central Governments work properly in this sphere, open flow of deadly narcotics can be checked easily.

In fact, ganja is supplied from the Okhrul district of Manipur and Bhutan. In terms of demand both in the domestic and foreign markets, Manipur's ganja is considered superior to the ganja of Bhutan. Again, Bhutan's ganja is smuggled by different lobbies via Udalguri and Rowta areas of Darrang district of Assam. The lobbies take the ganja mainly by trucks carrying coal from the region, which pass through Baxirhat and Srirampur Gates. Sometimes they also export ganja by trains. In the meantime, the DRI officials have caught as many as 28 trucks carrying ganja since the inception of the Guwahati office. Out of 28 trucks, two trucks were released on court order. On November 3, 2001, the DRI officials caught one of the two trucks carrying about 2870.5 kg. ganja at Rangia, which were released on court order about four years ago. The number of the truck is AS 25 7067. Registering a case the DRI officials arrested one person, seized 1862 kg. ganja worth Rs. 37 lakh and caught a truck during the period between November 1997 and March 1998. They arrested 9 persons, seized 8363 kg. of ganja worth Rs. 1.63 crore and caught 5 trucks during the financial year 1998-1999. They arrested 9 persons, seized 8363 kg. of ganja worth Rs. 1.63 crore and caught 5 trucks in 5 cases during the financial year 1998-1999. Registering 5 cases, they arrested 6 persons, seized about 3000 kg. of ganja worth Rs. 68 lakh and caught 4 trucks during the financial year 1999-2000. In the very next financial year, the department registered two big cases, arrested 3 persons, seized about 4000 kg. of ganja worth Rs. 80 lakh and caught 4 trucks.

It is worth noting that the DRI officials file cases under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, for every ganja seizure case. They also file cases against the culprits who smuggle gold biscuits and foreign goods illegally under the Customs Act, 1962. The concerned State Governments also execute other Acts which are considerably offender-friendly. Moreover, it is reliably learnt that the department destroys the recovered ganja in the isolated places in the presence of a judge of the Session court, custom officials and others. Meanwhile, it has destroyed a huge quantity of ganja in the city.

State struggling to curb adulteration of food items

While two ministries of the State Government are fighting each other on the food poisoning issue, two parties of the business communities dealing in mustard oil began their battle forming conspiracy between them in the city. The State public analyst prepared a report on 'deficiency in the quality' of a particular brand of mustard oil, has the highest market share in the North-east. But this report is subjected to be challenged by the company. In the eye of law, report submitted by a public analyst is subject to challenge by defenders or offenders. In that case, the report of the Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata, will prevail. The judgment will be vitally based on the report of the Central Food Laboratory.

Allegedly a certain lobby with vested interest is trying to damage the leading company and its goodwill by misinforming the people that the mustard oil has some poisonous chemical ingredients which is not true.

The lobby wrongly said that, the company has been supplying poisonous mustard oil for the last and half month. "If the oil brand was poisonous then why there had been no report of casualty or dropsy epidemic case in the State? " enquired a city-based market strategist. The company supplies mustard oil, refine oil to the defence camps in addition to the open market in the entire region.

"Very few samples were dropped by the public analyst. Its a routine work. Cancellation or acceptance of samples is a regular event. There are many cases against a number of leading companies on sampling at the additional chief judicial magistrate," said the market strategist.

In a sense, common people should not be misinformed and misguided for earning mere profits by any lobby. Meanwhile, the State government formed a three-member committee to review the 'panic situation' arising out of contaminated gram deals in the State in the recent past. In a high-level meeting at the Chief Minister's office, Dr. Ardhendu Kumar Dey, Food & Civil Supplies Minister, and Dr. Bhumidhar Barman, Health & Family Welfare, jointly took a resolution for co-ordination between their respective ministries. The committee consists of the DC, Kamrup; Joint director, Health Services; and Deputy Director, Supply Department. Official sources said that, the arrested businessmen were released on bail as they had been arrested under the Prevention of food Adulteration Act. Had they been arrested on cognisable offences under different Sections of the Indian Penal Code by the police, then they would not have secured bail. Generally, the reports of the cases under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act are verified by the state public analyst.

"Report submitted by a public analyst is subject to challenge by defenders or offenders. In that case, the report of the Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata, will prevail. The judgment will be vitally based on the report of the Central food Laboratory. On the other hand, report submitted by the Forensic Science Department is also accepted by the court. Thus, any arrest under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act is offender-friendly," the sources added.

Sources further stated that taking advantage of the apathy of the State Government, businessmen have turned the State into a dumping ground which should not be allowed for the greater interest of the common people.

Certain officials offered approval orders to the businessmen dealing in gram in the city even after finding 'Malathion positive' cases in the packets of gram (Malathion is a pesticide which is used for the preservation of food items). For this lapse on the part of the State Government, food-poisoning incidents could take place in Nalbari, Rangia, Tezpur and Baihata Chariali close on the heels of the incident in Barpeta.

Notably, a toxicologist of the State Forensic Science Department and the Nalbari DC today held an important meeting on the food-poisoning incident that took place in the district. The toxicologist presented a detailed report about findings of the investigation on the contaminated gram supplied to Nalbari. In the meantime, all the affected district administrations sent a good number of sample packets to the State Forensic Science Department for tests on the contaminated gram. According to the Department sources, most of the cases have been found positive. They said that the suppliers had mixed an excess quantity of Malathion and hence the tragedies. A highly-placed official of the Food and Civil Supplies Department said that, the food inspectors, who were suspected to be involved in the issue of approval letters to the businessmen dealing in gram, belonged to the Health Department. On the contrary, an official of the Health Department said that, those officials involved in the contaminated gram deals hailed from the Food and Civil Supplies Department.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, reviewed the status report on food poisoning in the State caused by edible oil and grams at a meeting held at the Janata Bhawan today, a press release said. The Minister of health and family welfare and minister of food and civil supplies participated in the discussion and the following instructions were suggested. (1) All whole- sellers and importers of edible oil and grams shall obtain a certificate from the authorised State/ Central food laboratory at source. (2) Immediately after the arrival of the consignments they must submit an arrival report to the Director, food and civil supplies and deputy commissioners, sub-divisional officers and joint director health services of the district (3) Thereafter, the food inspectors shall take the sample of edible oil/grams immediately and shall obtain the certificate of public analyst. The expenditure for testing of such sample will be borne by the importer/ whole seller. (4) only after clearance from the public analyst the district authority will take necessary action. (5) If the sample is found to be adulterated / substandard / unfit for consumption, the Joint Director, health services and Food Inspector shall take immediate action under provision of PF and A Act. (6) During the intervening period from the date of arrival of the stock of edible oil/grams and the date of receipt of the analysis report, the importers /whole seller shall be directed by the food inspector not to sell the stock. (7) The food and civil supplies department shall issue instructions to all Deputy Commissioners/ sub-divisional officers to submit a copy of the arrival report of edible oil/grams to the joint director, health services for necessary information and action.

(8) Health and family welfare department will take necessary steps for upgradation of regional food laboratories in the state and also encourage establishment of private food testing laboratory in the state. (9) There shall be a co-ordination committee in each district under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner and Joint Director of Health Services and Deputy Director, civil supplies, as member to monitor the entire activity under the direction of the state government. Senior officials of health and family welfare and food and civil supplies departments also attended the meeting, the release added.

Urban development in Guwahati hit hard by fund shortage

Not to speak of visitors, residents of Guwahati often express shock and disgust at the terrible state of civic amenities and communications here. Even major schemes undertaken for development of the city are limping now.

Non-release of funds in time is adversely affecting most of the development schemes of the city nowadays. Some of the schemes are construction of Fly-overs at Ganeshguri, at Ulubari and at Athgaon, construction of GS Road, construction of Express Highway and construction of Sankardev Kalakshetra Road.

Out of these six schemes, Ulubari fly-over is the worst affect. This project has been taken by M/s Amea Developers Pvt. Ltd. Construction work of the project was started on September 9, 2000 and the date of completion as per tender agreement is December 15 this year. The revised date of completion is June 25, 2002. However, the project cannot be completed by the revised month as only 30 percent of the construction has been completed on September 27, 2001, i.e. in one full year. Total estimated cost of the project was Rs. 1794.96 lakh while the tender value (bridge proper) was Rs. 1107.59211 lakh. Its financial progress attains at Rs. 332.80 lakh as on September 27, 2001. Apart from the financial shortfall, the project is facing some other hardships like the existence of Urban Ground Water Supply pipelines of GGC, PHE and Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Board, non-shifting of electrical lines, poll etc. including post and telegraph cables etc.

Likewise the construction of fly-over at Athgaon is facing some key constraints for failure in timely release of funds by the concerned authority. DD Sarma is the contractor of the project. The date of issue of formal work order was October 26, 1999. However, its construction work was started in December, 1999 and the date of completion as per tender agreement was July this year. The revised date of completion is July 2002. However, the construction cannot be completed by this month as only 50 percent of the construction has been completed on September 27, 2001. The estimated value of the project is Rs. 15.00 crore while the tender value (bridge proper) is Rs. 118432239.00. But the revised estimated value is Rs. 22.22 crore. No payment has been made from August 2001, and hence the progress stalls.

According to a white paper of the State Government, the construction of fly-over at Ganeshguri is facing a few impediments owing to non-release of funds by the concerned authority. M/s L&T, is the contractor of the project. The date of issue of formal work order was February 22, 2000. However, its construction work was started on February 27, 2000 and the date of completion as per tender agreement was August 22 this year. The revised date of completion is fixed by this month. 95 percent of the construction has been completed on September 27, 2001. The estimated value of the project is Rs. 2128.00 lakh while the tender value (bridge proper) is Rs. 1387.80 lakh. But the revised estimated value is yet to be submitted. No payment has been made from May 2001 and hence the physical and financial progress has been hit, hard too.

The white paper also mentioned that the concerned of Express Highway is facing a few obstacle because of non-release of funds by the concerned authority. DN Chaudhury, Yough Construction, AK Jain and Dilip Kumar Dutta are the contractors of the project. The date of issue of formal work order was June 12, 2000 and February 2001. Its construction work was started in June 1991, and balance work from June 2000. The date of completion as per tender agreement was February 2001. The revised targeted date of completion is March 2002. However, 72 percent of the construction has been completed on September 27,2001. The estimated value of the project is Rs. 3.38 crore while the tender value (bridge proper) is Rs. 854.99 lakh. But the revised and re-revised estimated values are Rs. 7.57 crore and Rs. 16,82 crore respectively. Delay in payment and pending LA cases have adversely affected the physical and financial progress of the project.

The construction of Sankardev Kalakshetra Road is reeling under fund crunch situation. Yough Construction (AK Jain) is the contractor of the project. The date of issue of formal work order was May 29, 2000. Its construction work was started on the same day. The date of completion as per tender agreement was November 29, 2000. The revised targeted date of completion is March 31, 2001. However, 60 percent of the construction has been completed on September 27, 2001. The estimated value of the project is Rs. 2.40 crore while the tender value (bridge proper) is Rs. 574.15 lakh. But the revised estimated value is Rs. 6.08 crore. Delay in payment and pending LA cases have adversely affected the physical and financial progress of the project.

Proxyvon addiction ?

Multinational companies take N-E as main market

As many as eight multinational companies (MNCs), dealing in proxyvon drugs, have reportedly captured the North-east as their main market in the country. The MNCs occasionally hold meetings among their medical representatives to widen the market share of the proxyvon in 'seven-sister States'. Now time has come to strengthen the monitoring system by concerned Department of Drugs Control in every State with special reference to proxyvon sales and marketing.

Among the varied branch of proxyvon only two types are popular among the drug-addicts of the North-east. These two categories are Spasmo-proxyvon and Buta-proxyvon. They are, indeed, the pain-killer drugs. Again, between these two drugs, Spasmo-proxyvon is the most popular category among the drug-addicts of the city, said a pharmacist here today.

Official sources said that, all addicted girls and boys of the North-east prefer low-priced proxyvons to heroine as the latter is a costly drug. The price of one gram heroine is approximately Rs. 500 in Imphal, and Rs. 2500 in Guwahati. The price of heroine is lower in Imphal than any of the parts of the region, because Imphal gets cheaper drug directly supplied by Burmese smugglers.

They also alleged that certain MNCs occasionally hold meetings among the medical representatives in the city for the rapid market development of proxyvon drugs. The MNCs are laying greater emphasis on 'aggressive marketing' in the North-east keeping in mind, the massive consumption of proxyvon pills by the drug-addict in the North-east.

Sources further claimed that, a drug-addict could purchase proxyvon from certain shops in an around the city. However, he or she should know the code number of the shops and 'the secrets of approaching' for the purchase deal between a dealer and a drug-addict. A pharmacist could earn a handsome income by selling proxyvon brands. However, the State Department of drugs control is keeping a constant vigil of the drugs transaction. Of late, the State Drugs Control department has closed a particular pharmacy in the Fatashil Ambari area of the city.

"One may find the blank packets of proxyvon drugs in the areas of Chandmari, specially in the isolated areas like railway-lines, Lakhtokia, Bamunimaidan, Railway Stations etc.", sources said.

Though Mizoram is a State with highest literacy rate in the region and the second highest in the entire country, it is suffering the maximum number of deaths relating to drug-addiction. Most of the Mizo drug-addicts prefer morphine to heroine, as the price of morphine is much lower than that of heroine. 

Fresh stir by Customs and Central Excise staff :

The joint action Committee of Central Board of Excise and Customs has started a three-day long agitational programme in protest against the proposed restructuring of pay and promotional package for the employees here today.

In pursuance of agitational programme of Joint Action Committee in Central Board of Excise and Customs against the restructuring proposal in the present format, all the officers and staff in the grade of Group - B, C ( Ministerial and Executive) and Group - D of Customs and Central Excise, Guwahati, has been observing 'dharna' and 'lunch hour' demonstration from October 17, at the divisional headquarters of Customs and Central Excise, Guwahati. It continued upto October 19. Officers and staff of the same grades at Shillong, also observed the same agitational programme at Commissioner headquarters.

It may be recalled here that, Union Finance Ministry, had come up with a restructuring plan of the said department. It is broadly alleged that, the restructuring plans will benefit only group - A officers in their service career. But the promotional and other service prospects of the lower level officers Group - B, C and D were not considered properly in the proposed restructuring plan in its present format.

The association is also demanding to create a full-fledged Central Excise Commissioner and Customs Commissioner at Guwahati, on the basis of revenue collection and better administration of the Department out of four new Commissioners demanded for North-east. The body is also demanding a chief Commissionerate office, at Guwahati, for the North-east region.

The next phase of agitation is poster campaigning from October 24 to November 18, 2001, following walk-out and strike on December 14. The source also added that, they will also go for further agitation which will hamper export/import and the tax payer in manufacturing and service sector. 

Afghan war : A major blow to tea industry 

The tea industry's bottomline has been plummeted by several notches in the wake of the US blitzkrieg on Afghanistan. Many merchant ships carrying tea consignments could not resume voyage from the coastal waters of Western Ghat to the Gulf countries as all shipping routes have been closed for security reasons. Which means all tea-related trading activities across the sub-continent have been virtually freezed in view of the Afghan offensive.

Earlier, the sealing of trade activities along the Indo-Pak border, after Kargil War, had steeply dropped both price and sales turnover of different tea brands. As a result, the demand for both Assam and Cachar tea witnessed a rapid fall.

According to a report of Contemporary Target Ltd., total tea exports from India to Afghanistan was 0.07 million kg during the period between January to June 2000, and 0.08 million kg during the period between January to June 2001. The total tea exports from India to Pakistan was 1.73 million kg during the period between January to June 2000, and 0.17 million kg during the period between January to June 2001. Obviously, while Afghanistan increased tea import from India, Pakistan decreased the same. Pakistan is importing tea from Kenya at a higher price. Pakistan stopped the purchase of India brand for diplomatic reasons. Pakistan can alone save Indian tea industry from the current depressed conditions as its domestic consumption is around 200 million kg per annum. Though India gave Pakistan a status of Most Favoured Nation, yet the latter is not smoothening trade ties with the former.

Prior to the Kargil War, many tea traders used to smuggle tea from Amritsar, Punjab, to Afghanistan via Pakistan. Interestingly, the traders used to send tea loaded trucks to Pakistan which never came back. After the Kargil War, India banned all trade activities along the Indo-Pak border and hence, the tea traders went to the Pakistan bordering area of Gujrat. From Gujarat they used to smuggle tea to Pakistan and from Pakistan tea brands were distributed in Afghanistan. These were all unofficial sales. Though there is no record of such sales, yet it is believed that a huge quantity of tea was exported to Pakistan from India.

Pakistan and Afghanistan, usually consume orthodox type tea, while, India consume CTC (crushed, teared and curled process) tea. The cost of production of the orthodox tea is little higher than the manufacturing cost of CTC tea. India produces about 820 million kg tea in total per annum. Its domestic demand is around 600 million kg. That is, India is going with an excess production of 220 million kg tea.

According to a report of Planters' Chronicle, the per capita tea consumption of India is low compared to neighbouring countries as it hovered around 645 gram per annum. This is very low compared to Pakistan's 900 gram and Sri Lanka's 1,000 gram.

On condition of anonymity a few tea buyers, who supply State tea brands to Punjab and the border areas of Gujarat, said to this reporter that, they had been suffering huge losses for the Afghan war.

Unofficial business deals with Afghan traders via Indo-Pak border is now completely closed down. We used to supply huge quantity of tea brands, especially packet tea, to Afghanistan and other adjacent countries.

It is worth mentioning that, a 10-member delegation led by RS Jhawar, Chairman, of Indian Tea Association (ITA), visited Pakistan with the 'key objective' of increasing exports in early this year (2001). Mr. Jhawar was accompanied by leading members of the tea fraternity.

A report of the Tea Time goes : "Export of tea from India to Pakistan has remained at extremely low levels at 1-2 million kg against Pakistan's total requirement of 140 million kg. The countries had earlier exchanged delegations in 1997, but since then, while contact with the Pakistan Tea Association (PTA) has been maintained, actual business has not shown any significant improvement. The Indian team visited Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore and met the members of the PTA and the tea trade. The main constraints towards the development of tea trade was found to be the mind-set in the current environment and lack of effort on both sides to change the situation. There was also a perception among the Pakistan tea traders that was not interested in catering to them due to their own large home consumption and commitment to Russia. The problems in movement of tea by surface transport particularly at the Wagha border, the sea route taking longer and less frequency in availability of vessels was another area inimical to free trade".

In fact, the tea industry of the country is currently in a crisis. Rising production costs, plummeting prices and now imports, have created a 'no-win situation' for all tea planters, producers, brokers and buyers. Over dependence on Russia, a certain competence regarding the massive domestic market and falling quality standards have all been responsible for the present imbroglio. Accordingly, the Indian tea traders are getting low price from Russia as the Rupee-Rubble rate was fixed much earlier.

However, a few tea entrepreneurs still seem optimists. Increasing orthodox tea production, adhering to quality parameters and finding new markets for Indian brands are the solutions to the depression in the tea market, according to many tea professionals. A corpus fund of Rs. 6 crore has been created by the CCPA and Tea Board for the generic promotion and advertising of health properties of tea drinks. But this fund is not enough to complete with the soft drink brand giants like Pepsi and Cocacola.

However, a few observers said that the local tea market posted peak season, since September last. So, the aggregate sales on the floor of the Guwahati Tea Auction (GTAC) witnessed an increasing trend last week.

There was good demand for 1,15,045 (No sale) on offer. The best varieties sold well following good enquiry from all sections and generally sold at levels which were barely steady to around last. Medium Rs. 2.00. fannigns & Bolder brokens of all descriptions continued to meet limited enquiry and declined sharply over the previous week. The major blender was active on the brighter teas whilst being selective on the remainder. The other major packeteer operated on the exportable fannigns and some medium sized brokens with others providing useful support. Western India agents competed for the brighter teas on offer whilst other internal sections preferred the clearer categories. There was some CIS enquiry on the bolder brokens upto Rs. 68.00, while Poland was restricted to levels between Rs. 38.00 to 45.00. It is worthwhile to mention that, there are nine big broker-members of the GTAC. They are Eastern Tea Brokers (P) Ltd., A.W. Figgis & Col Ltd., Contemporary Targett Ltd., Carritt Moran & Co (P) Ltd., Tea Brokers (Guwahati) (P) Ltd., Assam Tea Brokers (P) Ltd., Paramoun Tea Marketing (P) Ltd., J Thomas & Co (P) Ltd. Out of them the last broker-member is the largest one. They all participate in the auction of tea products in GTAC.

A.K.Paul

Insurgency in North-east has taken shape of 'cottage industry': Home Ministry Report 

a 1. 170 common people killed in Assam in militancy-related incidence during last three years.

a 2. 713 militants killed by security forces in Assam in three years. 

According to a report available from the Union Home Ministry, insurgency has taken the shape of 'cottage industry' in the North-eastern region. The report said that the various terrorist organisations operating in the region, have the only aim of making money and amassing wealth. Killings, abductions and extortions are being, carried out with the sole aim of making money and the terrorist groups have no specific ideology. It also said that economic development of the States - Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur - has already suffered a jolt and even the democratic system of these States is being affected.

The North-eastern part of India, comprising mainly seven States - Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal and Meghalaya, constitutes 8.6 percent of the total geographical territory of India. The Central government by a notification earlier declared some areas falling under the territory of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, (Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh) and also 20 kms area belonging to Assam- Arunachal Pradesh- West Bengal border as 'Disturbed area' under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958. Tripura Government, at the same time, declared 27 police stations as 'disturbed'.

The Home Ministry report informed that between 1997-2000, altogether 1,170 common people died in Assam in militancy-related incidences. Militants killed in the hands of security forces during the same period stood at 713. The number of abduction cases reported, was 388. The number of militants surrendered before the government was 2,279. 1,969 terrorists were arrested and 1,722 insurgency-related cases, were reported. The below tables will make things more clear:  

Militancy in Assam

From 1998 to 2000 

 

1998

1999

2000

Total

Terrorist incidence

735

451

536

1722

Militants killed

180

212

321

713

Militants nabbed

724

804

423

1969

Security Personnel killed

72

79

76

227

Arms Looted Incidence

125

44

11

180

Arms Recovered

191

168

223

582

Militants Surrendered

227

797

1755

2279

Public died

531

220

419

1170

Abduction Cases

164

119

105

338

Source: Home Ministry Report, Govt. of India

Terrorism in other North-east States

From 1998 to 2000 

 

Nagaland

Manipur

Tripura

Meghalaya

Mizoram

Arunachal

Cases Reported

691

781

2010

141

18

121

Militants killed

271

275

86

25

1

30

Militants nabbed

184

526

1532

149

13

95

Security personnel killed

2

177

84

30

12

3

Arms Looted

28

345

46

56

5

12

Arms Recovered

119

238

367

55

5

21

Militants Surrendered

67

88

155

22

62

17

Public killed

65

269

837

28

6

12

Source : Home Ministry Report, Govt. of India

The Home Ministry report clearly clarified that the condition of police forces in the North-eastern States is quite poor. Many of the militant groups have far more modern arms and equipment that the State Police. "The financial position of the State governments in the North-east is also such that it has not been possible to equip their forces with modern arms and equipments," the report stated.

The Home Ministry report also pointed out that due to alarming rise in expenditure to meet the non-plan requirements like payment of salaries etc., the State Governments of the North-eastern region are diverting funds are given for developments, the same are not properly utilized. Various reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, have pointed out that works are awarded by some North-eastern States without inviting any tender, materials are procured at exorbitant prices and money is fundamentally withdrawn............large scale irregularities have been detected........."

Insurgency has so far affected highest number of people in Assam. It has claimed more than 1,170 lives, highest figure in the North-east. But, Tripura is also not lagging behind. In Tripura, 897 common people died in militancy-related cases in last three years.

Insurgency has affected the development process of the North-east and Assam is perhaps the most worst victim. Alarm bell has already ranged. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), People's Liberation Army of Manipur, United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People's Liberation Party of Kangleipak (Pripak) - are the main groups which are spearheading violence in the North-east, the Home Ministry report stated. These groups have already been declared as 'outlawed' by the Govt. of India.  

The table will indicate more :- 

Militant Organisations

Area of Operation

United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)

Assam

National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)

Assam

People's Liberation Army (PLA)

Manipur

United National Liberation Front (UNLF)

Manipur

People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak

Manipur

Kangleipak Communist Party

Manipur

Kanglei Yuol Kanba Lup

Manipur

Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF)

Manipur

National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) (Isak-Muivah)

Nagaland

National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang)

Nagaland

All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF)

Tripura

National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT)

Tripura

Achik National Volunteer Council

Meghalaya

Hynmiewteep National Liberation Council

Meghalaya

Arunachal Dragon Organisation

Arunachal

Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLT)

Assam

Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF)

Mizoram

Source : Home Ministry

Steps taken by the Government of India :

The Centre has already declared that for centrally managed security forces like military and para-military arms send in disturbed areas to fight terrorists, the expenditure will be borne by the Central Government. But, only Assam has to pay 10% of the total cost.

The Centre will also assist in creation of Indian Reserve Batallion or Armed Police Force in North-eastern States by giving long-term loans and financial supports. So far, 16 Armed Police forces have been created in the North-east, and among these four are in Assam.

For modernisation of police forces, the 10th Finance Commission has given Rs.114 crore to the North-eastern States. The 11th Finance Commission has allotted Rs. 71 crore in this regard and Assam will get Rs. 24 crore out of this.

The Central Home Ministry at present has been spending Rs. 105 crore every year as an additional amount for the North-east. The following table will show the financial assistance given to the North-eastern States by the Central Government to control militancy:

Monetary Assistance from the Centre to control militancy in Northeast

From 1998 to March 24, 2001

States

Amount ( in Rs.)

Nagaland

61 crore

Manipur

37 "

Tripura

61 "

Meghalaya

3 "

Arunachal

1 "

Assam

327 crore 

Special assistance Scheme 

Assam at a glance 

Year

Amount (in Rs.)

1997-98

131 crore

1998-99

79 crore

1999-2000

52 crore

2000-2001

64 crore

Source : Home Ministry Report & PIB

By: Kunal Kanti Bhattacharya  kunalbhat2000@rediffmail.com

Limitations of Right to Information Bill 

Experts and analysis expressed mixed views on "The Assam Right to Information Bill, 2001" which was presented in Assam Legislative Assembly on September 28, 2001. The much-awaited Bill has to ensure effective participation of people in the administration making democracy more meaningful. Except, a handful of subjects like security of the State, strategic, scientific and economic interests of India and conduct of international relations, all other subjects had been made open to public.

The Bill, which figured prominently in the Congress manifesto, had made sweeping changes, bringing in complete transparency in all government matters. Except, a handful of subjects like security of the State, strategic, scientific and economic interests of India and conduct of international relations, all other subjects had been made open to public. Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, laid the Bill in the floor of the House amidst applause.

The preamble of the Bill states: "Whereas it is expedient to provide for right to information to the citizens so as to promote openness, transparency and accountability in administration." As regards the history of the Bill, it says, "It is hereby enacted in the 52nd year of the Republic of India as follows: (1) This Act may be called the Assam Right to Information Act, 2001. (2) It shall come into force on such date, as the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint."

In order to make democracy meaningful and effective, 'Right to Information' is a necessity, subject to the safety, security of the State and maintenance of good relations with non-hostile countries. This Bill is an extension of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the provision of Article 19, of the Constitution of India. Article 19, is available against State action for the protection of freedom enumerated in the Article. Some controversy existed in the past as to whether the operation of this Article is ruled out where Articles 21 and 22 apply, but the current trend is not to regard these Articles as mutually explosive. Thus, to take one example, a person whose freedom of movement has been taken away by imprisonment or detention, does not thereby lose his freedom of expression or information, so long as it is expressed within the valid conditions relating to imprisonment or detection. Hence, a detinue cannot be prevented from sending outside the jail for publication of matters, which contain nothing prejudicial to the grounds for which he had been detained. Let us now consider the test of reasonableness. In applying this test (which is the most crucial consideration) the broad criterion is whether the law strikes a proper balance between the social control on the one hand, and the rights of the individual on the other hand. The court has to take into account the following aspects: (a) nature of the right; (b) underlying purposed of the policy restriction imposed; (c) evils sought to be remedied by the law, its extent and urgency; (d) how far the restriction is, or is not proportionate to the evil; and (e) prevailing conditions at the time.

In respect of the present Bill regarding Right to Information in particular, the first factor to be considered is the Press. Freedom of Press and its right to procure and publish Government at information is not expressly mentioned in Article 19 of the Constitution. It has been held to flow from the general Freedom of Speech and Expression, guaranteed to all citizens. As judicially construed, this freedom now includes not merely the freedom to publish what the writer considers proper, (subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by Law for specific purpose), but also the freedom to carry on the business, that information may be collected and disseminated. Excessive and prohibitive burden restricting circulation has to be avoided, he stated.

The stupendous and obnoxious restrictions under the Official Secret Act, are still there at large. If the government really meant to enlarge the scope for interested public in general and the Press in particular, to make the right to information really effective, the restrictions ought to be made very few. Right to information ought to be made easily available; the restrictions ought to be exceptions matter than the rule. Only those matters which were absolutely necessary for the safety and security of the country ought to be enlisted as exceptions. As the courts have held in many cases that right to secrecy of the citizens ought to be considered as a Fundamental Right, this also could have been mentioned in the list of exceptions. The provision for paying fee and waiting for a period of 30 days is a blatant negation of the principle of the right to easy information. These ought to be reasonably nominal and infitisnal. On the whole, in spite of many weaknesses, the bill is a move in the right direction, said Mr. Pachugopal Baruah.

To sum it up, the Right to Information Bill will provide opportunities for the people to know how Government functions and how the welfare schemes are implemented. This will, however, depend on how the very Bill is implemented. If there is unnecessary delay in providing information and if people have to pay for it then they will not be benefitted by it. If properly implemented, it will help in curbing corruption and wastage of public money. Transparency is welcomed by all. But the bureaucrats have been conferred with discretionary to withhold information on certain grounds. If the power is not exercised judiciary then in that case the aggrieved party shall have to prefer and appeal. It will be a time-consuming process and in that case, the whole purpose of the Bill may be defeated.

A.K.Paul

Can Assam tea recover market slowdown ?

Good news: The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) is going global directly with the aid of on-line tea auction system by launching its own website portal. Bad news: Many un-organised tea sellers, who never maintain records of their sales outside the State, evade sales tax. As a result, the State Government has to incur a huge sum of revenue.

Sad to say that the domestic tea industry is passing through a 'critical phase' nowadays. It is the outgrowth of a rapid fall in demand for packet tea, slump in exports and entry of soft drink brands. Now a pertinent question arises here: Can the GTAC alone usher in a new era in the tea industry of India today? At the State level, tea economy has been the most organised private sector industry for long. It is the mainstay as well as the backbone of the State economy.

To sell the tea products of the State in global market directly, and also to commemorate the 31st Foundation Day of the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC), the first website portal on tea market and industry of the world has been launched in Guwahati recently. The name of the portal is assamteaexchange.com., which is a joint venture between the tea producers and buyers or brokers. The tea producers of the State should improve quality to complete with the tea brands of Sri Lanka and Kenya. The tea industry giants of the State to start comprehensive research and development activities in order to upgrade both flavour and quality of this product.

Historically, the vision of establishing a tea auction centre in Assam was conceived by far sighted personages, like Late BP Chaliha, former Chief Minister, Late Dharmananda Das, former Chief Secretary, Late RG Baruah, Shri Mahadeo Jalan, Shri HP Barooah and a host of talented and dedicated tea professionals and others. The GTAC has come a long way since the first lot was knocked down for sale in Guwahati on September 25, 1970. The auctions were started in the Stadium Guest House in a small way in the face of many difficulties and hurdles. The fledging centre successfully overcame stiff opposition from vested interests which did not want to see a successful auction system developed outside the then existing centres. The sincerity, hard work and sacrifice of the pioneers of the GTAC has yielded rich dividends by way of continuous growth of the Guwahati auctions and development of enormous infrastructure and growth of employment. Today, it is the largest auction centre in the country and the third largest in the world.

All business barons of the tea sector of the State should disclose voluntarily the exact data on un-organised sales made outside the State as there are lacunae in the statistics of Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA). This will enhance revenue sources of the State. Whatsoever, it is, the GTAC is only centre in India which has been established with the active support of the State Government. It has grown to its present stature through the struggle and hard work of all those who have been committed to its development. The State Government has been trying over the years to urge major tea corporate bodies to relocate their head offices to the State. Motivated by the success of the GTAC several major players have in recent years made large investments in assets and infrastructure in the State. This has in large measure contributed to the vibrant growth and success of the GTAC.

The sales turnover of the GTAC also increased significantly. During the financial year 1970-71 the tea auction volume was 9.1 million kg, valued at Rs. 5.17 crore and total tax collected by the State Government was approximately Rs. 5 lakh. On the other hand, during the financial year 2000-2001, the tea auction volume was 141.6 million kg, valued at Rs. 1019 crore and total tax collected by the State Government was approximately Rs. 20 crore.

In fact, the GTAC has an unblemished record of operating the auctions in a smooth and disciplined manner through national calamities like war and natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. With the advent of internet based commerce the GTAC rose to the challenge and successfully took steps to leverage net technology to modernise and strengthen its assets and preserve its unique selling point in the changed global technology scenario. The GTAC correctly recognised that the consequences of not taking urgent steps in this direction would be fraught with grave risk and danger to the Assam Tea industry. Any adverse effect on the GTAC would directly impact upon the huge infrastructure built up in Guwahati and Assam through the growth and development of the centre. More than eight thousand people are employed in the various organisations working in the auction system.

The GTAC is of the best administered auction centre in India where cost of sales is the least. A primary reason for this has been the establishment of the GTAC by the government of Assam as an autonomous auction committee with members from all the participating segments of the tea trade and industry, viz. Producers, buyers, brokers and warehousemen. The administration and functioning of the GTAC under the chairmanship of a seniormost level appointee of the government of Assam has directly contributed to its stature.

With the advent of internet based commerce the GTAC rose to the challenge and successfully took steps to leverage net technology to modernise and strengthen its assets and preserve its unique selling point, in the changed global technology scenario. The GTAC correctly recognised that the consequences of not taking urgent steps in this direction would be fraught with grave risk and danger to the Assam tea industry. Any adverse effect on the GTAC would directly impact upon the huge infrastructure built up in Guwahati and Assam through the growth and development of the centre. More than eight thousand people are employed in the various organisations working in the auction system.

Thus, the launching of assamteaexchange.com symbolizes a landmark achievement for the GTAC. The subsequent developments to the web will provide total connectivity not only to all its registered members but also to the growing number of small producers, sellers and buyers in all parts of Assam and the country. The advantages of an efficient and transparent online tea trading system that is administered with integrity, are enormous. Prices of teas in the auctions provides the benchmarks for all players in the trade and industry to assess their performance and improve competitiveness which will benefit them, specially the small producers and buyers. The growing legion of small tea growers in Assam gauge the market trends from auction prices which in turn ensures that the growers get a remunerative price for their green leaf.

The launching and management of assamteaexchange.com is a unique venture that is equally supported by the producers, buyers, warehousekeepers and brokers. The success of the website will take Assam's tea to the world markets quickly and efficiently and give them an exposure which they did not have in the past. This will directly help to sharpen the competitiveness of the Assam tea industry which is presently experiencing most trying times in the face of the unprecedented crisis that has hit the industry.

To conclude, the tea industry can be said to be the life and blood of Assam's economy, in the private sector. Its growth and success is vital to the economic health of the State and its people. The GTAC is determined and focused on re-inventing its operations and systems with the objective of providing the best market platform for Assam teas in the emerging global scenario.

A.K.Paul

How 500 pillars along Indo-Bangla border missing ? 

It is a mystery that around 500 pillars are missing along Indo-Bangla border, near the Korigram village of Bangladesh and Sonarhat of Dhubri district, where a series of battles were fought between Bangladesh Rifles and Border Security Force, in April this year. It has also been alleged by certain quarters that the re-installation of missing pillars remained a "far cry" due to the apathy of the State Government and Centre.

In the meantime, Bangladesh invited the State Government and Indian delegation, and held meetings several times during the months of January and April in 2000, in Dhaka. Now it is the turn of the State Government and the Centre to invite the Bangladesh counterpart to hold meeting in India and draw a concrete conclusion on the issue. But the State Government remained silence (?).

Talking to this reporter, a highly-placed official close to the Land and Revenue Department, who was one of the members of Indian delegation to survey the border areas and attend two meetings in Dhaka, told that, missing pillars bearing numbers from 1001 to 1039, inclusive of minor and subsidiary pillars numbering about 500 were installed by the erstwhile British Government.

In fact, the pillars have been missing due to many reasons. Some of them are -- natural calamities, mishandling, durability exhorted, vested interest and so on.

"Both the Bangladeshi delegation and Indian delegation, comprising some officials of the State Department of Land and Revenue, conducted an extensive survey and sorted out the missing pillars using a theologize machine (an equipment of survey). They covered the areas bordering Korigram of Bangladesh and Sonarhat of Dhubri district.

It is reliably learnt that, there was a conference between the Director General of Land records and Survey, Bangladesh and the Directorate of Land Records, Assam (India), held in Dhaka in January, 2000.

Now the said sources ask, "What steps have been taken by the State Government on the outcome of the conference ? What was the outcome of joint-field inspection of international boundary in Korigram-Dhubri sector during the month of April 2000? "

It also proposed that a joint-field inspection report should be ratified in the second conference to be held in India (Assam). This meeting has not been held till date.

"Are the State Government and the Centre interested in protecting the international boundary? If it is so, why they have not held meeting? " he inquired.

He further said, "Conference should be held at the earliest. The Centre should make available fund for the construction of pillars, since Bangladesh has already shown interest in releasing 50 percent fund for total expenditure. The detailed report is still lying with the Revenue Department at Dispur."

With a view to preventing infiltration into India and in pursuance of the Assam Accord, a project for construction of roads and fence along the Indo-Bangladesh border in States of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, North-east and West Bengal has been taken up since 1987. During his visit to Shillong, on January 22, 2000, the Prime Minister, AB Vajpayee, announced the decision to fence the remaining portion of Indo-Bangladesh border and construct border roads with a total outlay of Rs. 1335 crore. The proposal for construction of additional roads or fence along the remaining portion of Indo-Bangladesh border has also been okayed by the Centre on June 12, 2000. These works are expected to be completed by December 2007. With this, the entire Indo-Bangladesh border (where technically feasible) will be fenced. The Technical Committee held three meetings on August 17, 2000, September 15, 2000 and January 23, 2000, to accord administrative approvals for the works. A High Level Expert Committee under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary, in its meeting held on November 20, 2000, decided to enhance the financial powers of DG, Central Public Works Department from the present Rs. 5 crore to 15 crore. This was stated in a report of Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

Grievances against Central employees' health-care scheme

No prescribed rate of reimbursement for card-holders in NE

A large number of card-holders of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) in the city have brought allegations against the concerned officials of the Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare saying that, the mandatory scheme, for which there are monthly deduction from their salaries, has not been of much help to them. However, Dr. B Saikia, joint-director of the CGHS, refuted the allegations against the officials by the card-holders, here today.

There are three dispensaries at Hengrabari, Narengi and Bharalumukh. They have been rendering health-care services to over 8,500 card-holders and about 42,000 beneficiaries in the city since inception (1996). There are 11 doctors in total. Each dispensary has 14 employees including a nurse, a few general doctors, other employees and 4th grade staff. The treatment period starts from 7.30 a.m. and continues up to 1.30 p.m. Since this scheme is a mandatory for all departments of the Central Government hence the employees have to pay a monthly fee ranging from Rs. 15 to Rs. 150.

Mr. D Das, a card-holder, told this writer that there is no clinical laboratory in any dispensary under the CGHS, creating acute problems for Central employees.

"Though the doctors refer to the SkyLab for any diagnostic test yet the cost is to be borne by the card-holders itself as there is no prescribed rate of reimbursement for the North-east, like other parts of the country. That is, the reimbursement is always lower than cost," said Mr. Das.

"The rates of clinical tests are higher in Guwahati than other cities or metros like Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. Therefore, there should be special rate of reimbursement of the north-eastern states. There is no specialist physicians too," said NC Basumatary, another card-holder of CGHS.

"Confusion arises when the head of the department allow to provide the expenses of clinical test but the auditors of the accounts deny to give the same assigning clear-cut rule. There are a number of examples here, the auditors oppose of the reimbursement from the concerned departments of the card-holders," informed Mr. AK Dey, a sufferer.

A highly-placed official of a particular Central Government office said on condition of anonymity that, most of the medicines prescribed are issued with indent.

"In many cases, it has been found that the doctors give indents of certain medicines which should be accompanied by an important medicine. For example, antibiotic medicines are generally prescribed along with vitamin pills. However, one of them issued with indent giving an authority letter in case of emergency patients which adversely affect the health of the ailing person," he alleged.

He also asserted, "There are only two referral hospitals viz. Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) and Mohendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) for the CGHS beneficiaries."

A circular (No.A.60011/1/98-CGHS(GHY)/41 dated 19-7-2000) issued by Dr. Saikia goes : "Some Central Government offices of Guwahati have raised queries (1) Neurological Research Centre, Guwahati, (2) Sankardeva Nethralaya, Guwahati and (3) Satribari Christian Hospital, Guwahati - stating that, these hospitals are not recognised under CGHS and whether the heads of departments are authorised to permit their employees for treatment in these hospitals. In this connection, it is to say hereby that, CGHS is unable to comment on this matter, and decisions on such cases have to be taken by the heads of departments. Further, it is added that, CGHS doctors will refer to none other than GMCH and MMCH for specialised treatment and opinion, as there are no recognised private hospitals/diagnostic centres under CGHS, Guwahati."

At the present juncture, Dr. Saikia said that the process of recognising a few reputed private hospitals like Down Town Hospital and International Hospital as well as a few leading diagnostic centres is going on. The process is hopefully completed by six months and most of the grievances of the card-holders will be met soon, he quipped.

He further admitted that the dispensaries have been suffering from irregular supply of medicines from the Central Medical Stores, Guwahati, since the first half of 1999. To meet the demand-supply gap of medicines four chemists have been appointed so far for two years, Dr. Saikia said.

Misuse of 'Red Cross' by private pharmacists, veterinary doctors should be stopped

The large-scale misuse of the emblem of "Red Cross" by private pharmacists and different un-authorized doctors like veterinary surgeons should be stopped in India as well as elsewhere in the entire world, soon. This was stated by Mr. James Reynolds, Deputy Regional Delegate, a Delhi-based official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in an exclusive interview with this reporter, on September 11.

According to the guidelines of an ICRC Convention, the emblem can be used only by the authorised and government physicians; not by the so-called RMP doctors, private pharmacists, veterinary surgeons etc.

At this juncture, he advocated formulation and implementation of proper policy parameters and rules by the local government and other concerned authorities to regulate the large-scale misuse of the emblem by RMP doctors, private pharmacists and veterinary surgeons at the earliest.

It may be recalled that, a seminar on the ban of misusing the Red Cross emblem, was held in association with the ICRC at Jalukbari, in June this year.

The ICRC is facing a number of impediments in various countries of the world with special reference to the Military Rules of the nation concerned.

When asked about the difference between the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and ICRC he averred that, the latter is an apex body of all Red Cross Societies and the former IRCS was formed by an Act of Parliament. Both IRCS and ICRC have their own constitutions and hence they work as per their statute columns. The ICRC never controls and directs the IRCS directly. However, it seeks proper reporting of the funds sanctioned and released to the IRCS under different projects. There is no specific guideline of the ICRC for auditing the IRCS accounts. The latter Amy audit and scrutinise their accounts as per their own constitution.

Commenting on the role of the ICRC in India, Mr. Reynolds quipped, "The ICRC co-operates with the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) by providing support for its development in the fields of tracing, dissemination, information and conflict preparedness. Various workshops, seminars and training sessions are organised each year, in order to create capacity within the IRCS so that it may independently become active in these fields."

" In Assam, the IRCS is supporting State and district branches on setting up a network of emergency first-aid teams. The ICRC and the IRCS had planned to provide emergency first-aid training in four States- namely Assam, Nagaland, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir, in 2000. About 100 volunteers were imparted training in each State. For now, the ICRC has some special projects for the North-east, which will be implemented through Assam Unit of the IRCS and others, he stated.

As regards the ICRC he said, "The ICRC is an impartial, neutral and independent organisation whose exclusive humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. It also endeavors to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles. Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the origin of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement."

"In order to prevent and alleviate human suffering in situations of armed conflict and internal strife, the ICRC strives to bring protection and assistance to victims of conflict by visiting detainees, re-establishing family links and providing medical and material assistance. It acts as a neutral intermediary between parties for strictly humanitarian issues. It promotes understanding of International Humanitarian Law, reminds parties to the conflict of their obligation to respect it and works for the development of that law. It contributes to the development of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Moreover, it acts as guardian of the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Since the Red Cross and Red Crescent, work all over the world in every different social, cultural and political situations, it is necessary to have unified moral doctrine, like a constitution, which can ensure coherence. They are vitally based on seven fundamental principles such as humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality," he narrated.

Northeast Bleeding : Economic Backwardness Swelling Insurgency

'Insurgency' has become a buzz word in the bazar as the latest ceasefire extension move by the Centre for National Socialist Council of Nagalim, Issac Muivah NSCN(I-M) faction, has developed a 'horrible situation' in the Northeast especially in Manipur, Assam and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. That is, the common life is adversely affected in the countryside of these states. Congenial atmosphere for entrepreneurs seems to have been evaporated from this far-flung region for good. Since violence is chasing investors and businessmen away from the region. The insurgent groups have shown a speedier mushrooming growth than that of industrialisation of the regional economy.

Recent trends in the economic development of the region have triggered a lively debate among the intelligentsia. Some argue it has been unable to sustain a rate of rapid growth as the fruits of long term policies are being eaten up by opportunists and the needy are being deprived of them. But others dismiss this as sheer pessimism.

A stable law and order situation is vital for fostering both secular change and gradual growth; also for tapping the NE's natural resources and endowment. But the region lacks adequate entrepreneur-friendly atmosphere in the prevalence of terrorism.

The Union Home Ministry published a report 'Bleeding Assam' (The role of ULFA) in an apparent bid to mobilise public opinion against the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), giving a detailed account of the activities of the banned outfit.

Says the report, 'had people thrived where militant section had taken to gun? Apart from bringing death and distraction to the area, do such movements achieve anything? There is a climate of uncertainty in the region. The economy suffers. Investors become hesitant to plough back any money into the area; transporters stop plying in the region ; economic activity dwindles and people stop stirring out after sunset.'

In a sense, the report also states that the activities of the ULFA were primarily responsible for the economic backwardness of the state as in this clitoris of violence, the investors are scared of investing their money in the state and the existing industries are struggling to survive because of the extortions, killing, etc. The tea industry is also facing crisis as senior officials of the industry are abducted or brutally killed for ransom.

A Major chunk of the funds earmarked for development works also go to the coffers of the rebels, the report says. Similar is the plight of the banks and the oil industry.

The NGOs committed to the development of the state were also not spared by the militants and the main reason for the killing of the AVARD-NE general secretary Sanjoy Ghosh was money and not any ideological difference.

Addressing a seminar in memory of noted journalist Rabijit Choudhury at Gauri Sadan in Guwahati recently, Minister of State for Home, Pradyut Bordoloi said it was the economic condition of an individual rather than ideology which made him take up arms. The topic of the seminar was 'Roots of insurgency, remedies'. There are over 19 lakh unemployed in the state.

Bordoloi said, 'After going through the interrogation reports of six rebels hailing from different districts of Assam, it became clear to me that they were not driven by any ideology to join either the NDFB or the ULFA. It was their economic condition that compelled them to take-up arms. Staring at an uncertain future, the boys found an escape in insurgency. We cannot provide jobs to all, but we will try to create opportunities for self-employment by implementing the economic agenda we have prepared over the past three years. We will be concentrating on the agriculture sector, on which over 70% our population depends, improve road connectivity and storage facilities. It will not be easy, but we will have to try to wipe out insurgency from the grassroots.'

Whatsoever, the government had failed to contain ethnic clashes in Kokrajhar district, which were continuing for the past five years. It is, indeed, difficult to bring the misguided youths into the mainstream. But they should be made to realise that the state economy is being adversely affected by their chosen field of activity.

An able administration and a stable political establishment are preconditions for the progress of an economy. History shows us that the growth of Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the US can be attributed to their political stability and strong administration since the 19th century.

Nationally, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and West Bengal could maintain their efficient administrative will and political stability in the post-independence era. Such political stability stimulates entrepreneurs, who boosts economic development in conjunction with the necessary policy prescription, made by the governments over the last five decades or so.

Even today Assam is considered a backward state like Bihar in the economic sense despite its huge reserves of natural resources. It produces around 50 % tea products and petro-products of the country.

However, soaring pressure of extremism on the state stalls the developmental deeds in the infrastructure sector such as development of energy sector, development of transport and communication systems, improvement of health and Medicare, expansion of education and literacy and empowerment of managerial skills that have remained a dream beyond the reach of Assam.

Although the state has a vast potential for power generation, it has lagged behind the rest of the country in generation and consumption of power, mainly because of the dearth of investment in the energy sector following the tense insurgency activities here. It has enough water resources for hydel power projects and enough natural gas, coal and petroleum for thermal power stations as well. Large amount of natural resources, which can be utilised for generating power, are wasted regularly in the state.

There is a vast potential to set up hydro-power stations across the Brahmaputra and other tributaries of NE. Unfortunately the region has no big hydel power station.

Pointing out the causes of backwardness of power sector of the entire Northeast India, Dr M.R. Srinivasan a member of Planning Commission (energy sector) after visiting the 'seven sister states' opined that Northeast power sector was plagued by various problems like lack of power infrastructure and the difficult terrain which increase the production cost of power.

According to him, militancy, ethnic problems, overall law and order situation have also affected the functioning of power sector organisations like NEEPCO and other Power Grids in Assam.

On the front of road transport and communication, the state has made little development since the inception of insurgency activities.

Assam tea industries are also fighting for survival. The tea barons have virtually ruled their estates through remote control from Kolkata and Siliguri.

Even since Surendra Paul, owner of the Assam Frontier company and brother of Lord Swaraj Paul, was gunned down, very few have the guts to visit their tea gardens.

Many economic analysts feel that the tea production is mounting in Assam and it is largely due to the local work force. Nonetheless, getting good managerial talent is quite difficult as no one is willing to come to Assam. Right now the families of executives working here live in a shadow of constant fear.

Railway tracks are a soft target of the ultras in Assam, especially in the Bodoland Autonomous Council areas. Destruction of bridges both by ravaging floods and insurgent units damages the road transport system carrying primary food articles to the state.

Owing to continuous threat from militants, many public sector units have stopped their projects in Northeast. For example, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission Ltd suspended its operations in Nagaland in April, 1994. Till now, it has not been able to resume work there in wake of the threats from the ultra units. Moreover, it has lost two rigs there.

In spite of grim economic situation following insurgency in few, optimists even claim there is room to promote the growth process of the state on many fronts. First and the foremost among them being development of agriculture, which is the mainstay of Assam. The large number of unemployed youth should employ themselves in cultivating unused cultivatable land so as to promote productivity as well as to raise the output.

This should work, despite the shortage of working capital in NE. There is paucity of literate cultivators and the educated unemployed youths should modernise the agrarian output.

Investment in infrastructure, including investment in transport and communication, power and energy; generation of saving, capital formation, free entry of foreign direct investment etc. are essential to boost NE`s economy.

Last year, the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, unveiled a massive economic package worth Rs. 10,271 crore to pump start the socio-economic development of the Northeast. Everybody knew it. Every body felt elated to hail the PM for announcing this "huge package". However, critics raised a few thought-proving question: Did Mr. Vajpayee really announced the mega package? Had he not ballooned the package adding a part of the Ninth-Five Year Plan outlay to it? What is the exact amount of the Package? Did the PM not took the masses for a ride?

The current package has, indeed, engineered some "food for thought" with skepticism and apprehension. The reason is not far to seek. During his visit Mr. Vajpayee openly stated that the package bears a lion share of the Ninth Fifth-Year Plan outlay.

The crux of the matter came to the surface when he was briefing the media persons in Shillong. Asked whether the economic package, he announced, was a part of the Ninth Five-Year Plan outlay, the PM said; "It is only a part of the outlay. The exact amount meant for the special package will be worked out appropriately."

As on record, the North Eastern Council has brought Sikkim under its umbrella and, hence, the region gets Sikkim as the youngest sister state. And, Mr. Vajpayee tapped tactfully the advantage of widening the economic package figure for the region as a whole "to please the people" too.

The erstwhile Prime Minister of the UF Government, Mr. H.D Deve Gowda, also did come out with a massive economic package involving a total amount of Rs.6,100 crore for the Northeast during his weeklong visit to the region in October, 1996. Again, his successor Mr. I K Gujral raised the Gowda package to Rs. 7,500 crore on August 1, 1997. However, the package remained on the paper due to political instability at the centre. That is, judging from the virtual non-implementation of the much media-covered Rs. 6,100 crore Deve Gowda package and - known Rs. 7,500 crore Gujral package nobody can point to an iota of doubt that has been generated among the think- tanks of the regions today.

It is worthwhile to recall that the high-powered committee headed by Mr SP Shukla made many recommendations for removing the infrastructure backlog and improving the basic minimum services to the Northeast region. The Shukla panel prescribed an amount of Rs. 3,951.80 crore for gearing up strides in basic minimum services and Rs. 4,492 crore for infrastructure development programmes in the Ninth Five-Year Plan. All the economic packages of three Pms tried to concentrate their grants on the basis of the Shukla commission recommendation. Since to prioritised the improvement of socio-economic overheads like roads, banking, commerce, health, education, power etc. of the region.

Meanwhile, many economic analysts and business strategists nodded that the PM`s latest package lacks time frame for its implementation. They are also skeptical to note how far the state government translate the schemes into action with their respective governance mechanism.

The focal point is that the centre is raising the outlay of every Five-Year Plan for the North -East. For instance, the centre increased the outlay of Ninth Five Year Plan for the region by Rs . 10,000 crore as its total amount for the NE is Rs. 25,283.52 crore while the Eight Five-Year Plan`s outlay was Rs. 15,438 crore. It is logical to aver that the center does always work for balanced regional growth. Both the Deve Gowda`s and Gujral`s, economic packages could not be streamlined on account of the departure of UF Government at the center. Right now, every optimist may look forward to realising the systematic implementation of Vajpayee`s package as his government is more stable than UF`s one. Above all, the centre should come out with better monitoring system and auditing in the implementation process of NE package under the supervision of both North Eastern Council and the Central Implementation Commission to avoid misuse of central funds and other incentives. All the tainted persons lead the underground guerrillas of the region for sustaining corruption which does adversely effect the socio-economic welfare of the people and even national integration of the country. This is undoubtedly the saddest part of the story. However, CBI probe into the wheat scam, palmoline oil scam, Nagaland lottery scam etc. Are quite mention worthy to caution the corrupt dignitaries of this far-flung region, to check their credentials. To speak in a wiser vein, the funds will reach the targeted groups subjected to strict vigilance and proper audit.

Having said that the growing problem of unemployment in the seven-sister states is primarily responsible for militancy which is the catchword of the day. Only jobs can wean youths from violence. The unemployed person loses both dignity and confidence. His stature, both in society and at home, is hit hard. Massive unemployment disturbs the peace and security of the community. It is sad commentary on planning that even after five decades of Independence, the menace of " unemployment trap" is still there throughout the nation. The Implementation Commission, an integral part of the Planning Commission, should avail various employment-generating schemes and other economic development agendas in the insurgency-prone states of India as a whole. Otherwise the grim economic condition of the underdeveloped NE states will be grimmer.

To sum it up, the ultras had forgotten country's independence in 1947 for the culture of AK-47. They should stop antinational activities initiating peace parleys for the sake of regional economic development. This is the need of the hour. Otherwise, the NE states will fail to catch the bus of economic growth and to compete with other regions of the country. Since it is the age of 'Competition' and the 'Survival of the fittest'.

A.K PAUL

'Applied peace' for Assam development 

Peace means 'absence of violence'. It is the freedom from civil disorder too. In a broad sense, the term 'peace' may be defined as a psychological means of all social, economic, political and ethical advancement in a state or country.

Though different analysts have defined 'peace' differently from time to time, yet in the context of 'development' of socio-economico and politico aspects, it can be better explained as a 'key' to the overall improvement of a poor economy like Assam. On the other hand, the term 'development' denotes a few good words like advancement, betterment, improvement, promotion and up gradation.

Prof. J. A. Schumpeter in his treatise 'The Theory of Economic Development' writes, "Development is a discontinuous and spontaneous change in the stationery state which forever alters and displaces the equilibrium state previously existing, while growth is a gradual and steady change in the long run, which comes about by a general increase in the rate of savings and population".

In the book 'Economic Progress and Policy in Developing Countries' Prof. A Maddison quips, "The raising of income levels is generally called economic growth in the rich countries, and in poor ones it is called economic development."

It follows from above, people knowingly or unknowingly use the terms development for peace and peace through development in Assam today. So to say, the two terms 'peace' and 'development' are co-related. They are just like two sides of the same coin. In other words, peace cannot be attained without development and development cannot be sustained sans peace.

It is time, the Tarun Gogoi-led government of Assam and the Assam State Congress committee started trying to translate into reality, the massive "economic agenda" which they harped upon before the assembly election. The Congress has come back to power in Assam after a long interval and the new government has its long list of promises in order to "restore peace".

While economists, investors, traders, entrepreneurs and business barons for more than a decade have been insisting that, "peace is the precondition" for development in the state, the Congress has decided to shift the paradigm to "peace through development". The party holds that, economic advancement alone can usher in an era of permanent peace in Assam. It would be worth noting that, the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta-led Asom Gana Parishad government had also made similar promises before the Assembly Elections. However, it had emphasized that peace was a pre-requisite to development. The AGP and Congress, thus, differed in their agenda.

The Congress, in accordance with its claims, has to promote development to curb insurgency and to balance the law and order situation. Gogoi, has to remember that the defeat of the AGP ministers in charge of key departments like education, transport, agriculture, food and health indicates that the electorate expects his party to set things right in these sectors.

Fiscal imbalance, large scale corruption, backwardness of the rural sector, low private investment and the sinking fortunes of the public sector units are just a few for the issues the Congress will have to look into. In fact, the state is reeling under a virtual debt-trap. In order to rescue it, the new government has to fulfil its promises besides undertaking intelligent strategies and tactics when confronted with the actual problems.

The fiscal health of Assam has gone from 'bad' to 'worse' given the failure of the AGP-led government to address the issue. The situation has become precarious with the revenue deficit, primary deficit, the growing interest burden - all indicators of fiscal health- soaring to alarming levels. Though the underlying factors for this dismal condition are largely structural in nature and cannot be wished away by waving a magic wand, the Congress believes that it will be able to achieve a turn-around by pursuing the right set of policies and a proper ground plan for economic engineering. The Congress leaders and economic analysts now have to take utmost care in implementing the agenda.

There are certain priorities that need to be looked into right away to salvage Assam economically. One is reduction of revenue deficit. The state government cannot depend on any gimmick to better the fiscal health of the state. Fiscal responsibility involves hard decisions and for this, the revenue deficit has to be reduced to three percent of the state's gross domestic product by 2003. One important constraint to this, is, the progressively mounting interest expenditure. The public representatives will have to be educated about the indispensability of reducing the revenue deficit.

The second area that needs urgent attention is expenditure reforms. The government has to review all non-plan expenditure and initiated effective expenditure reforms by slashing avoidable public expenditure, that is, expenditure by the government itself.

The third target should be a Zero-deficit budget. The state has to undertake this kind of budgeting to finance development, that is to see that cost-effective and proper resource allocation is made in the desired areas. The government has to keep a record of the gap in its attainments so that it is eventually easier to take decisions on rational resource allocation.

The government also has to try adding new dimensions to resource mobilization. The resource potential of the state has to be re-assessed, covering all directions, for a "thorough" rationalization and expansion of the revenue base.

Administrative reforms in revenue collection departments, is another target. The government departments involved in the collection of various forms of revenue will have to be reviewed before reforms are undertaken for a more efficient revenue collection and the plugging of all possible leakages. One has to remember that a large proportion of the sales within Assam are not accounted for. There should not be any complacency in this regard. Even by conservative estimates, the revenue collection should be Rs. 5,625 crore for a population of 2.7 crore in the state. Assuming that 50 percent of the expenditure is on non-taxable items, the total turnover should approach the figure of Rs. 2,812 crore. However, figures of the total sales tax revenue collection taken from the Commissioner of Taxes, Assam, for the financial year 1999-2000, put it at Rs. 950 crore.

Reforms in public sector units are a must. The government has to review the management policy of the weak 46 PSUs out of 48 PSUs to encourage professionalism. Only the Assam Petrochemical and Assam Gas Company are making profits. It should also look into the functioning of all PSUs and try to make them commercially viable.

There should also be development appraisal and monitoring. All government expenditure on development projects should be brought under an effective system of appraisal and monitoring with the onus of accountability fixed on the executives.

More emphasis should be laid on trade and commerce. Major contributions to the state exchequer have always been through the sales tax. That the total revenue from sales tax amounts to close a thousand crore in 1999-2000, only shows that the state's economic strength lies in better trade and commerce. The government must adopt a policy to encourage consumers to spend, making Assam the hub of trade and commercial activities in the North-east.

At the same time, it should be kept in mind that there is a huge gap between tax realization and its actual potential. Tax rates are different in different northeastern states. Consignments from outside the region are booked for the state where tax rates are low. Most of the consignments are off-loaded and sold off in Assam. Moreover, consignments are booked for other north-eastern states which charge at Central sales tax rates, which is much lower than the Assam sales tax rates. These consignments are also off-loaded and sold within Assam and for this, traders often do not maintain records. This modus operandi causes huge revenue loss to Assam.

Apart from the above mentioned tasks, the new government has to chalk out a comprehensive plan for tackling large scale corruption and malpractices by police officials, particularly for those, posted at the gates. A truck driver has to pay over Rs. 10,000 to reach Guwahati from Srirampur or Bauxirhat as he has to pay the amount both to the police and goons on the national highways.

The new government has to create a congenial air for business entrepreneurship in order to boost economic growth. More employment opportunities for the educated unemployed should also be made. The infrastructure also has to be paid proper attention. For one, drinking water supply schemes should be revived.

Underdevelopment and unemployment are the root causes of militancy in the state. The Gogoi-led Congress government has to douse the fires. Gogoi means while he has announced that a comprehensive plan would be drawn and implemented to cope with insurgency in the state. But until and unless the government minimizes corruption and nepotism in the administration, which includes both the bureaucracy and the political leadership, all issues on their agenda will remain on paper.

To conclude with the North-east Chamber of Commerce and Industry: "Economic stagnation distorts social equilibrium. It results in chaos and also anarchy at all levels of society. For breaking the economic impasse a stable and also sustainable economic re-engineering process is urgently called for. On the success of the ground plan, only Assam could think in terms of a take-off to an accelerating growth process. These States of North-east have a cherished vision for the future. It has also got a great mission to integrate the whole of India with South-East Asia, East Asia and Asia Pacific. All these regions are historically and also geographically the allies of India. It is a mandate of the time on Assam to fulfill its great mission, thereby transform itself into a leading player in global economy and business." 

Flood freezes Assam economy

Thomas Robert Malthus, a pioneer Cambridge economist, rightly said long back that over population leads to natural clamities. So is the case of India today. Indian states occasionally face natural calamities like earthquake (Gujarat), cyclone (Orissa), hailstone, famine and flood (Assam). These can be considered as the outcomes of population explosion and nothing else.

People have been so distressed and upset by the annual ravages of flood leading to increasing loss of lives and massive destruction of crops and properly that they had long been demanding an integrated scheme for controlling the river system - the Brahmaputra and the Barak-besides drawing other benefits like irrigation and power generation for economic welfare. That is, devastating floods have become a regular feature during the monsoon months damaging the standing crops and bringing untold misery to the masses of Assam every year. The recurring floods cause a crippling effect on the agrarian state economy. Prolonged and heavy rains do too adversely affect industries by limiting the physical construction period to few months in the winter season.

The Brahmaputra river is braided and unstable in its entire Assam Valley except for a few places. The instability of the river is attributed to high sediment charge, steep slope and transverse gradient. Apart from these, the entire area is aseismic zone and recieves earthquake shocks of moderate to severe intensity from time to time. The problem of siltation has been further aggravated due to landslides caused by high rainfall. Some man-made avoidable actions in the form of shifting cultivation and non-scientific commercial exploitation of forests etc. Have also accelerated the process of soil erosion in the catchment. The slit brought in the process gets deposited as the river descends into the plains with sudden reduction in slope, with the consequent reduction in the flow velocity and its sediment has also given rise to braiding and meandering pattern in the alignment of the river system. The world's largest river island "Majuli" in upper Assam withan area of about 900 sq.km.lies in the river. The left bank tributaries of the river Brahmaputra pass through stable reaches with flat slopes and carry lower sediment load of finer size. By hypsometric analysis of the tributaries, it has been confirmed that the hypsometric curve with a plateau in case of the right bank tributaries indicates relatively young stage while the basins of the left bank tributaries indicate a mature state. This has given rise to inherent tendency of river Brahmaputra to shift its course towards south and the river flows by the side of hills at many places along its bank.

But what is the genesis of the Barak Valley economy? The river Barak is an important arm of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna system and is the second largest river of the N.E. region having eight major tributaries. The Barak is joined by a number of hill streams on both its banks. The flood occurs frequently in this valley causing extensive damage to lives and properties. In order to manage the problem of flood, erosion and drainage congestion, various measures have been taken from time to time by way of construction of embankments, bank protection and drainage improvement works etc. These measures have provided adequate protection to the people of the valley against low and medium floods. In case of high floods, the embankments are not able to withstand heavy pressure, consequently number of breaches occur which cause devastating flood in the valley. In order to deal with the problems of flood, bank erosion drainage congestion etc., the Brahmaputra Board, a statutory body of Union Ministry of Water Resources has prepared a Master Plan for the Barak sub-basin.

That is, the chronic flood and erosion problem in thsi state has washed out all colours from public lives which shattered basic economy of the state. Harins, said taht, the unprecendented flood havoc has caused expensive damage to human lives, livestock, standing crops, homestead land, engineering structures, communication net-work besides entailing untold misery and suffering to the people at large.

The state flood havoc, as has been explained by the experts, is due to the following reasons : the mysterious behaviour of South-West monsoon and most unwarranted hydro-metrological situation; continuous, incessant and heavy rainfall in the hilly catchment areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan and Nagaland; synchronization of flood both in Brahmaputra and its tributaries is creating acute drainage congestion for a very long duration; and the flashy and heavy silt-carrying river debauching from Arunachal Pradesh caused the country's worst flood havoc in the districts of Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur and Sonitpur.

The main crops grown in the Brahmaputra valley are paddy, jute, mustard, pulses, wheat and sugarcane. Paddy and jute are mainly grown and harvested during monsoon period. Out of four types of paddy crops viz. Ahu, Sali, Bao and Boro which constitute about 92% of the cropped area, the first two namely Ahu and Sali are substantially affected by floods.

In fact, flood in Assam occurs from May to September. It affects an area of about 3 to 5 lakh hectares of land under cultivation depending on magnitude. The year 1999 was marked by an unusual drought like situation which prevailed from November, 1998 till 3rd week of April, 1999. The unusual drought like situation spread over a period of almost 6 months, damaged standing crops and drastically reduced the yield to 40% to 50% of Rabi Summer/Pre Kharif crops. Total area affected was 2,35,775 ha. Covering 3,48,206 farm families. This drought like situation was followed by the regular feature of flood affecting 1,09,878 ha. Of crop area and also by the attack of Rice Hispa in Kharif paddy affecting 72,727 ha. In this financial year (2001-2002) too, the state is witnessing a drought as the monsoon rain delayed and the farmers failed to transplant seedling by July 10.

During the year 2000-2001, the state experienced three waves of flood. The first wave of flood came in the middle of June 2000, 2nd wave was in the later part of July and last wave was in the early part of September 2000. During Kharif 2000 total cropped area affected was, 92,903 ha. And total family affected was 6,36,102. The similar situation is now prevailing in the current yea5r 2001-2002. Loss of standing Kharif crops both early and late flood is apprehended.

FLOOD DAMAGE OF LAST FIVE YEARS IN ASSAM

Year Crop area affected (in ha.) Farm family affected (in nos.)

1996-97      2,65,905                                       5,82,794

1997-98     3,14,799                                        6,40,142

1998-99     3,54,080                                       8,30,775

1999-2000 1,09,878                                        1,78,343

2000-2001 2,92,903                                        6,36,102

The flash floods are most common in the districts of Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Gohpur Sub-division of Sonitpur district, Majuli Sub-division of Jorhat District. In recent times these districts are also facing acute problems of sand deposition converting fertile land to barren land over night. Heavy river bank erosion is also causing concern to the large numbers of farmers.

The preliminary assessment of flood-loss is worth more than RS.1000 crore in the state. There is no doubt the fact that flood management measures so far created by the deptt. Are not capable to withstand such a natural disaster. As a result, there had been breaches in embankments causing damage of the protracted areas.

Every government of the state persuades Centre to recognize this complex, colossal and gigantic flood problem of Assam as a "National Problem" and also pressing the concerned Union ministry to implement the multi-purpose mega projects which will substantially reduce the flood havoc if required by arranging funds from the international financial institutions. The former prime minister H. D. Deve Gowda, announced that all flood control works in the state would be on Central grant and also declared a special package for the development of the North East with Rs 500 Crore for flood control sector during the 9th five year plan . That is , the Assam government has been urging Centre to recognise the flood and erosion problems of the state as a "national problem" for long. It is still now urging the Central government to extend liberal financial assistance to implement short term and long term flood management measures. The nature of the flood problem is so gigantic that the state government is unable to tackle it on its own. Meanwhile, New Delhi, has agreed to provide grants for Central sector Flood Management Schemes to the tune of Rs. 20 crore each year for the remaining two years of the Ninth Five year plan. Importantly, 10 institutions are examining the ways and means to check the recurrent floods in Assam. They are Central Water Commission, Brahmaputra Board, Flood Control Department (Assam), PWD(Assam), Concerned District Administration, Geological Survey of India, National Institute of Hydrology, Guwahati University, Bureau of Soil (government of India) and Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune. The centre has promised to complete Pagladia Multi-purpose Dam completed, this project will benefit vast areas of this district. So that experts say the ultimate solution to this vexed problem would largely depend on the construction of multi-purpose dam projects.

The short term floods management measures can only contain the flood havoc to a reasonable degree and hence of the long term measures for a permanent solution to this vexed problem is of utmost importance for the overall economic development of this state. 

HSLC candidates sue Assam Govt. to court

Ten examinees of HSLC (repeaters) examination of the Sonitpur district have sued the State Government and some officials of the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA), to the Gauhati High Court in connection with a case relating to withholding of their results "due to submission of false documents" here recently.

Talking to this reporter, sources alleged that, the Lohitmukh centre head of HSLC (repeaters) examination-2001 "has issued false documents along with application forms for appearing the exam. Having verified latter on the matter came to light and hence their results were withheld. Generally, the failed candidates appear for the repeaters exam. Their previous admit cards are used in the examination. Either knowingly or unknowingly, the exam centre head, made many mistakes by putting one candidate's roll number to another. For instance, the roll number of Mr. Pallab Baruah (R 7 304 No. 0103) has been used by another examinee Mr. Nipen Baruah, whose result is withheld".

So, these candidates of the Lohitmukh Higher Secondary School, Gohpur in the Sonitpur district, have sued the State Government (represented by the Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Assam, Education Department), Chairman of SEBA, Controller of SEBA and the Principal of Lohitmukh Higher Secondary School, Gohpur at the Gauhati High Court in the Civil Extra-ordinary Jurisdiction, case vide WP (C) No. 5711/2001. A Petition under article 226 of the Constitution of India for issuance of writ in the nature of Mandamus and or or directions of like nature has been addressed to RS Mongia, Chief Justice (Acting), Gauhati High Court recently. The writ petition mentioned the violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, violation of the principles of natural justice and non-declaration of results of HSLC (repeaters) examination 2001, in respect of the petitioners.

According to the writ petition, the petitioners submitted their application forms appearing in the said examination which was commenced from December 4, 2001.

"They filled up their forms at Lohitmukh Higher Secondary School. The application forms of the petitioners, were duly sent to the SEBA, Guwahati within the prescribed time period. They were issued admit cards for the HSLC (R) examination 2001 which commenced from December 4, 2000 on Monday," stated in the petition.

The petitioners have been represented by Mr. Mritunjay Saikia, (an examinee bearing Roll R-7 304 No 0211, son of Kinaram Saikia of Lohitmukh village, Gohpur). Other petitioners are Md Nakibuddin Ahmed, Nabajyoti Konwar, Ms. Dipa Bhuyan, Golap Das, Nipen Baruah, Jun Borah, Gangaram Das, Hirumoni Borah and Jadab Borah.

A.K PAUL

Human rights violation by CBI DIG alleged 

Mr. Harikrishnan Yadav, a constable inducted in CBI, on deputation from Arunachal Pradesh Police, has reportedly become the victim of Mr. KC Kanungo, DIG, CBI, Guwahati. Violating human rights, Mr. Yadav was forced to do the personal works viz. working in kitchen, cleaning utensils and others, by the DIG, at his residence.

Sources close to Arunachal Pradesh police said that, Mr. Yadav, was mentally depressed and therefore left his job and went to his native village in Haryana.

He has intelligently sent a registered letter in INLAND LETTER to the DIG elaborating that he was highly harassed by the latter. He is unable to continue his job. The DIG was, thus, urged to inform his parent department in Arunachal Pradesh and the SP office of CBI at Sundarpur, Guwahati," sources said.

That is, the original letter, which has been written by Harikrishan Yadav in Hindi and sent to the DIG/CBI/Guwahati, goes : "I have been tortured mentally by your above order. Though I was continuously present, yet, I was threatened to make absent from duty. While ordering me to go to your residence, I had been ordered to clean your dirty utensils, cook food, sweep your house and bring groceries from market. These works do not fall within the ambit of normal duties in the CBI. By your aforesaid order, you have attempted to take away my life, as I am unable to have food in time. You must be aware that, lunch means mid-day meal which cannot be had at 10 p.m. Further, you are also aware that, I am staying here without family and after rising in the morning one could finish cooking etc. not earlier than 8.30. However, you, by misusing your office, ordered me to come to your residence for aforesaid job from 7.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. continuously."

In another letter addressed to the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, concerned quarters of the city said that, Mr. Yadav resigned his post for the 'alleged' exploitation by Mr. Kanungo.

"Mental torture, violation of human rights and dignity, misuse and abuse of official position in extraction of domestic works, like cleaning of floor and utensil, washing of clothes, cooking, sweeping etc. are under guise of security aid duty from constable of CBI by Mr. Kanungo," the specific letter, which was sent to the Human Rights Commission, stated.

"Constable Yadav came on deputation to CBI from Arunachal Pradesh Police in July 2000, and was illegally and in blatant misuse and abuse of official power, was deputed at the hired residence of Mr. Kanungo to perform domestic works like cooking, cleaning of utensils, sweeping of floor, washing clothes etc. from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. As the timings of the said illegal duties severely hampered the victim's meal timings, he requested for the change of duty or at least duty by rotation with other constable, but the request was refused, and instead, the victim was threatened with disciplinary proceedings and premature repatriation to parent department with spoilt ACR," the letter said. 

A.K PAUL

Why Assam Forensic Science Dept. lagging behind in lab up-gradation race? 

A section of school teachers, under plan category in the state are demanding to the authorities concerned that they should be absorbed under non-plan category. Ironically, the Science Department of the State is on the other hand urging the State Government to convert its non-plan budgetary expenditure into plan expenditure.

"The full-fledged office of the Forensic Science Department, here is the only one of its kind in the entire North-east. However, Manipur and Meghalaya are the other two states in the region where offices of the department have been started recently. Thus, the Forensic Science Department, an important wing of the State police Department, has been playing an important role in investigating into crimes in the investigation of about 1,500 crime cases per annum," said Dr Kamaleswar Goswami, former Director of the department.

At present, the office has ten departmental sections, such as, General Chemical Analysis, Narcotic, Drugs & psychiatric, Toxicology, Explosives, General Physics, Ballistics, Photography, Instruments, Biology, Serology and Documentation.

"All white colour crimes, like signature forgery, handwriting, figure addition etc. are being investigated by the Documentation section of the Forensic Science Department. However, most of the cases are related to the Documentation section," remarked Dr Kamleshwar.

Talking to this reporter he informed, "there was a time when other states used to accept the Forensic Science Department of the state as a model department for its modernisation drive. Unfortunately, it has failed to cope up with the advancements in forensic science compared to other states.

The laboratory equipments of the Forensic Science Department, which are widely used in investigating crimes, have become outdated nowadays. In fact, the forensic laboratory needs to be upgraded and hence the department requires regular financial assistance."

"Generally, development funds for the department comes from the Central Government in different ways. The State Government keeps them under the head of plan budgetary expenditure. As a result, the department does not get fund in time and fails to cope up with the fast upgradation spree brought to other states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc. The department, in other states, is getting assistance under the head of plan expenditure and hence their progress rate is faster than Assam," said the former Director. He also quipped, "The equipments for Deoxy Driebo Nucleic Acid (DNA) Test have been already installed in different states of the country. But Assam could not install these equipments for DNA Test due to fund crunch situation. However, the state is sending cases to Kolkata of DNA Test. The cost of a DNA Test is about Rs. 15,000 to 20,000".

Notably, the Centre directed the State governments to decentralise the activities of the Forensic Science Department. The Central Government has also asked the states to start mobilise unit of the department in every district. The employees of the department are urging both the State Government and Central Government to set up three regional or zonal forensic science laboratories in Jorhat, Silchar and Bongaigaon. 

A.K PAUL

Anti-Assam policy of public sector banks hits industry captains hard 

It is quite a routine for a general loan applicant to face disappointment when he applies for a bank loan even with sufficient collateral/guarantee. But applications submitted by a certain section of loan aspirants on the North-east are generously approved without anybody asking for any mortgage? This has thrown the banking business in the region into complete disarray. It is widely alleged that bankers are not coming forward to initiate 'adequate steps' for the speedy recovery of doubtful debts in the hope that the Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) will make all arrangements for recovering debts in cases involving amounts of Rs. 10 lakh and above.

Sources said that in most cases the banks do not have adequate collateral papers or the mortgage documents of the doubtful borrowers.

Shockingly, in a number of cases the banks have not even bothered to record the address of the defaulting loaners.

The DRT is reputedly fed up of sending notices to such borrowers. Some loaners have taken loan from the same bank under different names as well. This is one of the root cause that has adversely affected the "loan advancing mechanism" of public sector banks and allied financial institution.

Sources further pointed out, "When common man approaches a banker for a loan, the latter observes many formalities even after an employer issues a guarantee for government employee applying for a loan, the banker refuses to grant the loan. But how a big influential and man of lower integrity gets loan speedily. Everything is fixed. This is the real scene."

Citing an example, the source averred that a particular defaulting borrower has taken two loans of Rs.5 lakhs each from the Uco Bank in Nagaon. The DRT was dealing the case last year. The DRT could not find sufficient collateral against the loans. If the defendant (loaner) runs away, the tribunal would not be able to recover the doubtful debts.

Contradicting these allegations a senior banker of the State Bank of India said that the management takes internal disciplinary actions against officers found guilty of flouting norms while sanctioning loans. But due to fear of disciplinary actions many bankers do not sanction loan to genuine and honest borrowers and hence the economy of the state has completely come to standstill. On the one hand, there is no generation of employment, whereas, on the other hand willing entrepreneurs and son of the soil are denied credit on one pretext or other. everything lies in the mercy of the Branch Manager of the bank.

Whereas bankers say that the alarming increase of Non-Performing assets (NPA) of Rs. 60,000 crore ( approx) has blocked their funds.

So to rescue the banks from the NPA burden, Union Ministry of Finance set up the DRT in 1993. The NPA burden is the reason for PSU banks imposing a "ban-type-bar" on advancing loans ordinary loan applicants and closing their loan sanctions in certain branches. Taking shelter of NPA and fear of disciplinary actions, approach of the bankers in the State is completely negative and horrible.

Importantly, the entrepreneurs and industrial captains of Northeast have already voiced their concerns about the inadequate flow of funds from the banking institutions in the respective States. The dismal performance of the banks in the N-E states is a cause of concern for the government and people.

The bank deposits in Assam has shot up from Rs.3620 crore to Rs.9762 crore in the last six years. But the credit deposit ratio( CD ratio) has unfortunately slide down to 33.09% from 37.88 % during the same period.

The CD ratio is one of the important measuring rod to assess the role of banking system in an economy. It is the difference between quantum of credits and the quantum of deposits. Notably, a few bankers claimed that the CD ratio is not the actual indicator of bank performance in an economy. To assess the actual performance of the banks, investments under different heads by the concerned banks should be taken into account. Credit + investment : deposits ratio stood at 44.66% as in December 2000, again showing a decline of 1.42% over the previous quarter. This was stated in a report of State Level Bankers Committee Meeting.

But they failed to explain what investment they have done in Assam and other North-Eastern states. None of the big projects coming under the North East Industrial Package are taken quickly. As a result, the cost overburden due to delay in sanction and delay in disbursement increased extremely and gave a death blow to the units.

Understanding from the Assam Financial Corporation sources it is learnt that they have no money to lend as they depend on the government for funds and annual collecting of Rs. 8 crore (approx) from recovery of old dues is paid in salaries and establishment expenditure. This fund is utilised for development activities in the State which could have promoted industrialization and generate more employment opportunities.

Having said that the CD ratio in Assam fares poorly in comparison to all India average. Many think-tanks says the CD ratio is down in the State due to poor recovery rate of the loans for the loaners.

On the whole, the Assam banking sector is heading towards a bleak future. 

Performance pointers

 

Total deposit

Total credit

CD Ratio

Assam March   2000                   

8478.04 crore       

2668.90 crore     

31.48

 

 

Assam September 2000  

8890.76 crore     

2933.18 crore

33.00

North-east March 2000       

13236.19 crore   

3668.94 crore

27.71

North-east September 2000

13804.58 crore

3397.29 crore

28.96

 

 

 

 

All India March 2000

822132.28 crore

469031.71 crore

57.05

All India September 2000

867984.22 crore

496006.03 crore

57.14

Source : RBI Buletins

First Multipurpose Project Of North-East - Rehabilitation Problem Hits Hard Pagladiya Project

The 100 % Central  Government-sponsored Pagladiya Dam Project, the first multipurpose Dam project in Northeast, is reeling under a standstill situation as a certain section of people of the project site has directly opposed the Centre's call to leave the villages in return resettlement and rehabilitation (R & R) package. The Centre is ready to pay Rs 47.89 crore under the R & R scheme to the 3,271 families living in 26 villages of the project. Notably, 19 villages have been fully affected and 7 villages have been partially affected. In fact, majority section of the masses want to take the advantage of R & R package and let the Centre to start the project work at the earliest. It is only the section of few big landlords, who will not get the compensation under the R & R scheme, is obstructing the work. These landlords have also set up a body 'Pagladiya Prakalpar Khatigrastha Alekar Sangram Samity' on the line of Medha Patekar's body on Kaveri water dispute. This was stated by a highly-placed official of the Brahmaputra Board.

'The Project envisages construction of a 26.20 metre high rolled fill earthen dam at Thalkuchi village, about 26 km north of Nalbari district town of Assam. The total length of the project is 23 km. The catchments area intercepted at the dam site is 570 square km of which 381 square km lies in the Bhutan territory. A concrete ogee shaped spillway with 10 bays of 10 metre each will be provided with radial gates of size 10m*10.5m. The crest level of the spillway has been fixed at E1 77.00m,' said the official.

Regarding the benefits of the dam plan, he averred the Pagladiya River has been causing immense miseries to the people living in 190 villages of 5 revenue circles of the Nalbari district by inundating about 40,000 hectare of cultivable land almost every year. The rail and road communications are also snapped as a result of flood thereby cutting off the entire Northeast from the rest of the country for days together disrupting movement of essential commodities. On analysis of the flood damage data available with the Brahmaputra Board for nearly 20 years, it reveals that the average annual direct flood damage is of the order of Rs 16.42 crore at 1999 price level. The losses are mainly crop damage, damage to private property and loss of livestock etc. With the Pagladiya Dam in position, the entire area of 40,000 hectare land is likely to be provided protection against chronic flood problem of the river.

The existing irrigation schemes in the right bank of the Pagladiya are inadequate and the area is badly in the need of assured irrigation. The project will create an additional irrigation potential of 54,160 hectare. About 22,000 households in 149 villages in the Nalbari district will be benefited. The average annual extra cereal production would be 1,39,858 metric tonnes. In economic terms, an additional output if Rs 83.27 crore is expected, said the official.

The incidental hydropower generation of the project is 3 MW at 50 % load factor. The annual energy generation will be of the order of 8.64 Gwh. The revenue from the incidental hydel power is expected to be about Rs 2.94 crore per annum, he remarked.

The project will also cater direct and indirect jobs arising out of a rise in the cropping intensity. The total employment generation will be around 215 lakh man-days. The R&R package is also to provide for training and institutional finance for the 'Project Affected People (PAP), which will also be provided with better accommodation with all necessary infrastructures in the R&R sites, which is likely to improve their overall socio-economic health. In short, the implementation of the first ever multipurpose project will bring all-round development in the entire sub-basin, claimed the official.

Having said that the project stands in 26 villages of two circles of Nalbari district. They are Polokata, Uparcharia, Barbhera, Roumari, Kadanga, No.1 Darangapar, Charan Jungle, Kandulimari, Namchariya, Simlabari, No. 2 Darangapor, Ambari Sarubhera, Katahbari, Paddapara, Matangapar, Kumar Para, Kuhipar, Borkajuli and Sirishghutu under Tamulpur circle. The Baska circle comprises Gerua, Thalkuchi, Adla, Borikadanga, Madaltana, Simlabari and Uttarpara. The Brahmaputra Board has also chalked out a model village at Angarakata for rehabilitation of the PAPs.

Importantly, the Union Cabinet (Cabinet Committees on Economic Affairs) has already approved the project at a cost of Rs 542.90 crore for implementation by the Brahmaputra Board.

The Board officials approached the Congress Government of the state for extending adequate support to execute the project. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi hinted at positive response to the proposal of the Board in execution of the project soon.  

A.K PAUL

Public-private debate bugs bank workers in North-east  'Non-repayment of bank loans by surrendered militants of NE is becoming a matter of concern'

Going private or remaining nationalized? The opinions are sharply divided. While the Union government is a strong advocate of privatization, the employees are dead against it. 

The employees in the North-east, especially Assam, too apparently hold the same view. They are also of the view, that the North-east itself will be a great loser, not to speak of the employees.

Talking to Vedanti.com, General Secretary of the Assam Provincial Bank Employees Association, Ajanta Bordoloi said, the main motto of private companies is profit maximization and they will cater only those areas which are already developed. Social consideration of extending banking facilities in rural areas, will have to take a back-seat. More and more branches in backward areas will be closed down, deposits will be diverted and the North-east, because of its geographical and economic isolation, will be deprived of banking benefits, he said.

The credit deposit ratio (CDR) in the North-eastern region, will decline further if liquidation of government stake in the banking sector is approved, Bordoloi, feared.

He said the CDR, in backward States has already fallen and regional imbalances are increasingly becoming visible, during the last three years due to liberalized policies of the government. The States in the North-eastern region, received lesser credit from the banks.

It may be mentioned here, that in 1997, the CDR in the North-east was 32.1 percent, while in 2000, it came down to 27.7 percent. In comparison, the CDR for Northern region which was 48.4 percent during 1997, which went up to 58 percent during 2000. The western part also recorded a higher growth rate- from 67.2 percent in 1997, to 74.1 percent in the year 2000.

In this year's Union Budget, Union finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, spelt out the government policy on public sector banks-first, the reduction of government share to 33 percent and second, restructuring of identified weak banks as per recommendations of the Verma Committee report.

Though the finance Minister, assured that even after reduction of government equity to 33 percent, the public sector character of the banks will be maintained, yet the most of the 13 lakh employees think the step will be a disastrous one and at the same time will be misleading the people of the country.

The United Forum of Bank Unions, in a memorandum submitted to the President of India, earlier, has opposed privatization on the ground that giving multinational companies substantial access to domestic savings and selective privatization, where there is "privatization of profits and nationalisation of losses" , will ultimately weaken the ability of the State to efficiently intervene in the economy in favour of vast majority of the people.

Reducing government equity in public sector banks to 33 percent will virtually transform the present 27 nationalised banks into private banking companies and in that case the very purpose of banks' nationalization will be defeated, the memorandum pointed out.

The memorandum also said that, privatization will deprive the poor and down-trodden of the banking services. It alleged that, the depositors are being driven out in a calculated manner to other profitable investment avenues like mutual funds, share market etc. By reducing the interest rates on various deposits.

Bordoloi alleged that, the bank deposits are being increasingly diverted from backward areas and invested for more profits in lucrative areas, which have improved infrastructure facilities and as a result the regional disparities are rising.

To a question as to why are some nationalised banks suffering losses, Bordoloi said, the major defaulters of loans are the industrialists and big businessmen. Non-performing assets (NPA) of the public sector banks were around Rs. 53,000 crore, as on March, 2000. Of this about Rs. 35,000 crore are owned by big borrowers and large corporate houses. They have the capacity to repay but are not repaying. If the amount is recovered the public sector banks in India will not suffer shortage of capital and will be healthier, he said.

He said the private sector which contributes only 3.6 percent of the bank deposits enjoy more than 50 percent of the banks advance. "If banks are privatised they can assume absolute control over the deposits of nationalised banks".

It may be mentioned that, 69.2 percent of the bank deposits are contributed by household sector, comprising individuals and small depositors. Out of Rs. 7,37,310 crore, total deposits of the nationalised banks as on March 2000, the household sector contributed Rs. 5,10,000 crore whereas, the share of private corporate sector was only Rs. 26,000 crore.

Bordoloi said, for recovery of non-performing assets and to check indiscipline and favoritism in disbursing loans, the United Forum of Bank Unions, has proposed setting up a 'national audit commission' for independent audit system. But the government has paid no heed to this.

On the loans recovery rate in Assam, he said like in other States of the country, the non-recovery of loans here mainly lies with the big businessmen. But, in recent years, the non-repayment of bank loans by the surrendered militants of the North-east, whom loans were given as part of rehabilitation package and where the State Governments stood as guarantor, is becoming a matter of concern.

Bordoloi said, there can be no parallel to public sector banking as it is the lifeline of our economy and a symbol of faith and confidence of common masses. "We cannot think of Indian economy without public sector banking just we can't think of Indian agriculture without Ganga, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri."

He went on to add that the two main reasons for preparing the nationalised banks for ultimate sell-off-- to cleanse the balance sheets of the burden of non-performing assets and to reduce manpower.

Refuting the allegations, that a section of bank employees are apathetic to customers and rude in their behavior, Bordoloi, replied that his union has accorded utmost priority to customer-services and asked all employees to improve services to customers.

He said as number of bank employees is being reduced day by day and with no further recruitment, the work pressure has increased manifold and it has also become difficult to render timely services to the customers at counters.

On computerization of banking services, Bordoloi, said his union is not against computerization, but it should be done in a rational manner. Massive computerization will render thousands of employees as surplus and the scope for expansion of banking services to non-banking areas will be hampered, he pointed out.

Ex- ATC CMD misused NABARD loan 

The annual production of the tea estates of Assam Tea Corporation has been decreasing since 1996. According to ATC records, the annual sales turn over of the ATC was 68.53 lac Kg in 1996, 63.49 lac Kg in 1997, 67.88 lac Kg in 1998, 60.98 lac Kg in 1999, 52.55 lac Kg in 2000, and 10.80 lac Kg upto the first week of August, 2001. The average auction rate per Kg of the ATC tea is also not encouraging. The average price of ATC tea per Kg was Rs.51.30 in 1996, Rs.74.93 in 1997, Rs.71.62 in 1998, Rs. 75.27 in 1999, Rs. 62.49 in 2000, and Rs.70.14 upto the first week of August, 2001.

It is quite unfortunate that the ATC has to store about 12 lac Kg of tea in the garden as it could not purchase jute bags for packaging, due to present fund crunch situation. The ATC is seeking Rs. 15 crore for new plantation in the unused plots of land in 15 tea estates as a long term measure.

The ATC Employees Union has alleged that Mr. Abani Bargohain, the former Chairman-cum Managing Director of the ATC had misused a major share of the NABARD loan of Rs. 13 crore during the period from 1993 to 1996.

"Actually, the NABARD granted the loan for plantation purpose. But Mr. Bargohain diverted a major part of the loan in purchasing cars, buying land, constructing building etc. As a result, the liabilities of the ATC has gone up to over Rs. 54 crore, to date. The ATC was in a better position in a rented house at Housefed, where the monthly maintenance expenditure was only Rs. 14,000. The present building has been constructed, in such a way that its maintenance charge shot up to Rs. 22,000 per month. This is the root cause of present financial crisis of ATC," claimed Mr. Tirthanath Das, General Secretary and Mr. Robin Das, vice-president of the ATC Union.

Even though, the employees of the ATC has not yet received salaries since last six months, still, they are struggling to work hard in association with Mr. Lakhinath Tamuly, Managing Director of ATC, who has already initiated a set of drastic measures recently, in order to revive the loss making PSU (Public Sector Unit).

"There are many loopholes in the ATC. Currently there is a greater share of unused plots of land in fifteen tea estates of the PSU. Tea plantation can be widened to these plots of land in order to raise the total production. However, there is no flow of fund. The ATC is still to obtain Rs.2 crore from the State Government. Again, most of the tea plants are over hundred years old. The corporation failed to meet the increasing requirements of inputs like fertilizers of the tea estates. That is, the production as well as the quality of the tea gardens are decreasing day by day, due to inadequate supply of inputs to them. Owing to the overcrowded nature of the ATC gardens, the cost of production of per kilogram of tea, at present, is higher than the output of private tea estates in the state. The production cost of per kg of tea is Rs. 75-80 in ATC tea estates and Rs. 55-60 in private tea estates. There is 20% leakage of ATC fund towards the labour and wages too. Above all, the ATC has to buy inputs at a higher prices on account of previous debt liabilities. That is, the companies charge higher prices including the invisible interest on the outstanding debt. In plain language, both the quality and output of the ATC gardens have fallen and hence the prices for finished tea products also declined," they informed.

"In the meantime, the Managing Director has initiated a set of drastic measures relating to a reduction in the unnecessary expenditure on the heads of fuel expenditure, outgoes for servants, entertainment and contributions towards provident funds. This has led to a significant reduction in expenditure. Mr. Tamuly is all set to utilise the staff in marketing. These are out and out commendable steps for reviving the ATC. We will also co-operate him in the future. We have already urged the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, to keep him as a full time MD for four years,"stated, the Union leaders.

A.K.Paul

Job plan of ex-CM likely to be dropped

The much-publicised Chief Minister Swaniyojan Yojana for 2000-2002 on generation of self-employment for unemployed youth, is likely to be dropped by bank officials in the State soon. On the eve of last Assembly polls, former Chief Minister, P.K Mahanta, launched it in the hope to generate 39,409 direct employment opportunities in the state. The financial involvement of the scheme was to be to the tune of Rs. 161.79 crore. For the balance amount assistance from the Central Government would have been sought.

Since a few nationalised banks, like the Central Bank of India, have decided not to participate in the scheme, as they did not receive any approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Some senior bank officials told this reporter that, the previous State Government introduced the job without the consent of the Central Government and the RBI. As a result, the bankers think it is better to drop the scheme as it contains many shortcomings.

Sources close to the RBI said that the apex bank wrote to the Commissioner of Planning Department of Assam, seeking a few requirements like the consent of the Central Government about the scheme.

" Since the scheme has no consent of the Central Government, hence we could not write to our head office in Mumbai. That is, the Central Office of the RBI will not give approval to the scheme until and unless the Planning Commission has reply to our queries. Therefore, the scheme may die between announcement and implementation of the same. Launch does not mean implementation," sources remarked.

They also informed, " The state-level Bankers' Committee meeting which was held on June 29, decided to reject the self-employment scheme on the ground of some shortfalls. According to bankers, the scheme does not depict the maximum limit (or monetary ceiling) of a particular loan. It does not focus on how the beneficiaries will be identified. A clear-cut picture on the share of margin money or seed money by the State Government has not been spelt out. The Central Bank of India, has decided not to participate in the absence of the RBI. The recovery rate of the loans under rehabilitation of the misguided youth is almost nil. Considering these limitation, the bankers declined to participate in the proposed scheme."

Another bank official said that the scheme has no new impetus in it as all sub-clauses of the scheme could be better realised in the PMRY, SHGs, SJGSY and so on.

Mahanta played with graft games with tribal fund: Tribal Sangha

The leaders of All Assam Tribal Sangha (AATS) have severely lambasted at P.K Mahanta, former Chief minister of Assam alleging that his government had misappropriated a huge amount of funds allotted for the socio-economic upliftment of the tribal areas during the last three financial years.

Talking to this reporter Mr. Aditya Khaklari, general secretary of the AATS said, " It has been observed that during the past three years crores of rupees meant for the development of tribal sub-plain (TSP) areas have been misappropriated or not utilized."

He said that the previous government had carried a large scale misappropriation of funds meant for TSP development.

"The amount meant for infrastructure and socio-economic development of the TSP villages was Rs. 40,978.94 lack during the financial years 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-20. Although, an amount of Rs. 33,925.89 lack was shown to have been spent for development works, no significant and mentionable development can be seen in these areas. On the other hand, there is no mention of the un-spent balance, amounting to Rs. 7,053.05 lacks in the utilisation reports. The integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) being the sole implementing agency for TSP areas development schemes, these schemes have not been successfully implemented due to administrative and ministerial callousness and intervention. Therefore, improper utilisation of these schemes has lead to massive stagnation of any development works in the tribal area," he observed.

" It has become a practice of the State Government to integrate Special Central Assistance (SCA) funds into the State Plan Budget, thereby diverting these funds towards other departments or refund entire allotted amounts to the central Government unutilised. Lastly, the State Government has not released the SCA money to various implementing agencies (viz. Assam Plains Tribes Development Corporation, Assam Tribal Development Authority, Welfare of Plain Tribes & Backward Classes) amounting to Rs. 1,627.00 lack meant for 2000-2002," he remarked.

A team of delegates of the Co-ordination Committee of Tribal Organisations of Assam will leave for New Delhi tomorrow, to discuss and take up matters concerning : withdrawal of office memorandum No. 2011/1/96 Estt (D) dt. 30/01/97 regarding discrepancy in promotion and seniority of ST & SC Government employees ; to demand a special recruitment drive for ST & SC to normalise back-log position ; to demand high-level inquiries to investigate misuse/misappropriation of SCA and TSP funds ; to urge for immediate solutions to various long-standing socio-economic and development problems," Mr. Khaklari added.

Landmark Judgment against CBI

In a significant move, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Guwahati bench, passed an order directing the Central Investigating Bureau (CBI) to pay salary for the month of October 1999 to Mr Suresh Pal Singh Yadav, an inspector on deputation from the Uttar Pradesh Police in connection with a case vied 'Original Application ' No. 137 of 2000, recently. The court has also ordered the nodal investigating agency to pay a sum of Rs. 1,000 as cost to Mr Yadav. The order was passed by justice D.N. Choudhury, vice-chairman of CAT and Mr K.K. Sharma, an administration member of the court. The suit was moved by advocates Mr B.K. Sharmah, MR P.K. Tiwari and Mr S Sarmah for Mr Yadav. Contrariwise, Mr B. C. Pathak pleaded for the respondents (of CBI). The respondents include the Union of India through the secretary to the government of India, Ministry of Personnel and Training, New Delhi, Director, CBI, New Delhi, deputy inspector general (DIG), CBI, Guwahati; superintendent of police, CBI, Anti-Corruption Branch, Guwahati and administrative officer (East), CBI, Government of India, administrative division, New Delhi.

The only controversy included in this application pertains to the payment of salary of the applicant for October 1999. The applicant served as an inspector of police under the respondents on deputation. On completion of his deputation, the applicant was repatriated to his parent department, which was a subject matter of a separate original application since disposed of. By this application, the applicant has moved this tribunal for a direction for payment of his salary for the period from October 1, 1999 to October 28 1999. In the application, it was inter alia stated that on September 30, 1999 at late night the applicant felt severe chest pain and irritation. The nearest CGHS dispensary from the applicant's residence at Guwahati was located at a distance of 7 to 8 km. It has also been stated that the applicant was not registered in any of the CGHS dispensary and, therefore he was taken to the nearest available doctor of Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH), who stayed very close to the applicant's residence. He continued to be under treatment, and on being declared medically fit, he joined duty on October 29, 1999. He submitted his joining report on October 27, 1999 along with necessary documents and the medical papers requesting the respondent authority to grant him 28 days medical leave. Since the respondents didn't respond to it and salary for the aforesaid period was not paid, the applicant moved this OA for appropriate remedy," said the order.

However, the respondents including the CBI DIG, Gawahati, K.C Kunango, contested the case and disputed the claim of the applicant. According to the respondents, the leave of the applicant was unauthorized and, therefore, the respondent did not commit any irregularity. The respondent also contested the admissibility of medical leave for the aforesaid period.

"We thought that this matter could be sorted out by the authority, more so, in view of the fact that the applicant is now repatriated to his parent department and the matter should have been amicably resolved by the department. The respondent on the other hand, took a very obdurate stand and stated that the claim for medical leave was not permissible since the applicant did not submit any authorised medical certificate", remarks Justice Choudhary in the order.

According to the respondents, the leave was not permissible under the (C.C.S) Rule, 1972. Admittedly, these rules are not applicable so far as deputationist is concerned and deputationist are guided by the parent department. The very C.C.S leave rules, on which the respondents relied upon also indicate that leave can be granted on medical certificate made by a non-gazette government servant accompanied by a medical certificate in form 4 given by an authorised medical attendant or a registered medical practitioner (RMP).

"Admittedly, the applicant was examined and treated in the GMCH and also by one doctor Mrs. Rupali Baruah, an assistant professor of GMCH. Instead of relying on the medical certificate issued by the aforesaid assistant professor who treated the applicant, the respondents made certain queries and took time investigating the matter and obtaining a report from Dr. B.K Baruah, the superintendent of GMCH as to the credentials of Dr. Rupali Baruah. The communication dated May 4, 2000 sent by Dr. B.K Baruah to the SP of CBI also indicated that Dr. Rupali Baruah was an officer of the rank of assistant professor, GMCH and therefore, the medical certificate issued by her to the applicant was not related with the GMCH. The report, however, did not indicate that Dr. Rupali Baruah was not a registered practitioner. The respondents instead of engaging themselves to other important issues, were more confined to some irrelevant and extraneous issues", the order stated.

"On hearing Mr. R.K Tiwari, learned counsel of Mr. Yadav and Mr. B.C Pathak, learned additional CGSC, the respondents are directed to take necessary steps for payment of salary of the applicant on the basis of the medical certificate submitted by Mr. Yadav without insisting for any other certificate from CGHS. The respondents are directed to take necessary steps for payments of salary of the applicant for the aforesaid period within two weeks from the date of receipt of the order", it read.

The court further added that the suit is accordingly allowed and the respondents are directed to pay cost of Rs. 1000 to the applicant. It was thus a landmark judgment against CBI. 

Smugglers smuggling timber through goods trains, security problem hits hard Rly tracks before Aug 15

Rangia: Mobile employees of the Indian Railways working in the BAC area are passing through a uncertain life as the 15th August is fast nearing in these days. They are, indeed, suffering from "fear psychosis" that the ultras may explode bombs in the railway tracks before the celebration of ensuing Independence Day on August 15th next. Most of the employees coming from other states, especially from Delhi on the four-day-long duty in the Rajdhani Express, hesitate to come in this route before January 26 and August 15.

A mobile official told this reporter on the condition of anonymity that all the mobile staff of the Rajdhani Express belongs to the Northern Railways, Delhi.

"Since the railway tracks in the BAC area has become a soft target of the Bodo ultras, hence no staff intends to come to Assam. Generally, the staff decline to join their duties, especially on the eve of Independence Day and Republic Day. 'Though, we are passing through hard days yet we are bound to come to Assam. Our Company is running pilot engines just ahead of the train in between Fakiragram and Guwahati for safety. As a result, the Railways had to afford a huge expenditure," said the official.

He also added that most of the employees seek leave just before the I-Day and R-Day to avoid a possible attack on the railway tracks in the BAC area.

According to him, the Railways beef up security coverage when a major incident takes place, but lifts the security coverage a few days later.

"This is not good for the safety of the passengers and for us too," he remarked.

Regarding the smuggling in between Rangiya and Rangapara (from Mishamari to Goreshwar) a senior officer of the Government Railway Police Force (GRPF) said that it has been declined by adopting adequate security measures.

"The smugglers can no more smuggle timber logs in the passenger trains. The SPs of the respective districts had been instructed to initiate steps to curb this problem and hence it is on the decline. However, they smuggle through the goods train by disconnecting the air vacuum (hose pipe) of the train concerned," the GRPF official added.

In fact, the smugglers open a vacuum of the goods train and the train stops. Then they load the timber logs on the wagons, they then connect the vacuum pipes so the driver can run it. Interestingly, neither the driver nor the guard comes down from the train fearing attack bid by heavily-armed smugglers. Earlier, they used to smuggle even through the passengers trains too.

A.K PAUL

AIDS Assuming an Alarming Shape In North-East

Uleka Begam, a 21-year old sex-worker was not keeping well for the last days. Dressed in a synthetic sari and loud make-up, she was looking for a lady doctor around the streets of Paltan Bazar area in the city. Fortunately, she met a lady doctor and informed her about the physical problems she was facing. The doctor examined and found she was 'HIV positive'. The story is just an example of a dusky bane on human life-AIDS. There are many like painful stories occurring everyday which we donot come across.

According to a report of Assam AIDS Control Society, the number of AIDS cases reported in Assam stands at 95. So far, among the North-Eastern States, Manipur has highest number of AIDS cases 732. The next in Nagaland with 80 cases; Mizoram 16 cases; Meghalaya 9 cases; and Sikkim 2 cases. Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, till last year, officially have not reported any case. But unofficially, there are at least 25 number of cases confirmed in both the states.

AIDS cases in North-East (As on September 30, 2000)

State

AIDS Cases

Assam

95

Manipur

732

Nagaland

80

Mizoram

16

Meghalaya

9

Sikkim

2

Arunachal Pradesh

0

Tripura

0

(Source : Assam AIDS Control Society)

It is interesting to note that more than 31% are infected through sexual intercourse, which is the main area of focus for AIDS prevention and Control programme. In Manipur, 80% are affected due to inductive drug use, though the national figure in this case is 4.34%. In Nagaland also, the incidence of drug abuse is much higher. Transmission through blood and blood products came down from around 8% in 1990 to 5% in 2000. This may be due to increasing efforts of screening of blood.

Assam AIDS Control Society's assistant director Dr. H.C. Barman says, earlier the disease was almost limited within particular group of people like- commercial sex workers, injecting drug users, men having sex with men, patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STD), homo-sexual, heterosexual etc. 'Trend of HIV infection is now percolating towards general population. Transmission from mother of child is increasing, says he.

It may be mentioned here, in Manipur, 2% pregnant women and in Maharashtra around 4%, are found HIV positive. AIDS is now called as a social disease because its transmission is associated with the biological process of human life like, sexual acts, child birth and life saving measures blood transmission and treatment.

According to doctors, HIV virus which causes AIDS is transmitted through direct contract of blood and body fluids. This may happen in sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transmission, use of unsterilised needles and other instruments and from infected mother to child. As point out by a city-based doctor M.K. Dutta 'the spread of HIV in North-East is mainly due to sexual intercourse without using condom. However, efficacy of transmission is also high in men having sex with men (MSM). Here, the receptive partner is more likely to get infection because of injuries and larger exposure of rectal mucous membrane'.

The disease, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first identified in 1981. The first indication was observed at Los Angeles among five healthy homosexual male with profound fall of body's defense mechanism. In 1982, cases among recipient of blood and few heterosexuals, was discovered in Zaire. Various scientific studies have shown that the disease is of African origin and it started spreading to America, Western Europe, Australia and lastly to South-East Asia. At present, 122 countries have reported HIV infected and AIDS cases.

Surveillance of HIV infection cases in North-East ( Source : Assam AIDS Control Society)

( As on November 2000)

State

Total Screened

HIV Positive

Rate per 1000

Assam

35,508

319

8.9

Manipur

47,000

10,634

226.3

Mizoram

52,449

173

3.3

Nagaland

18,000

770

42.8

Meghalaya

15,000

66

4.4

Arunachal Pradesh

Not Available

Not Available

Not Available

Sikkim

Not Available

Not Available

Not Available

Tripura

Not Available

Not Available

Not Available

According to an estimate , over 34.3 million people in the world are HIV/AIDS affected of which 95 percent live in developing world. The first HIV positive case was detected in India in 1985 in Tamil Nadu. The very next year, 18 AIDS cases were diagnosed in Mumbai. It is now estimated that over 3.5 million people in India are HIV/AIDS patient.

Surveillance of AIDS cases in India (As on September 2000)

Age group

Male

Female

Total

0-14

359

193

552

15-29

4517

1585

6102

30-44

4900

1099

5999

Above 45

913

301

1214

Total

10689

3178

13867

(Source : National AIDS Control Organisation Bulletin)

The North-Eastern region is slowly being engulfed by the tentacles of deadly disease 'AIDS'. According to sources in the State AIDS Control Society, it proper plans and programmes are not chalked out immediately, the disease will assume an alarming proportions in the years to come.

Wake-up calls come only when a disaster strikes. North-East being dominated by tribal population is already prone to subversive activities like, drug abuse, trafficking, injecting etc. With Western living style present largely among different sections, 'free sex' is not very much uncommon here. What is therefore needed, is consciousness among the growing youngsters. It is also a high time for the government to recognize AIDS as a potential public health problem.

Kunal Kanti Bhattacharjee

Brahmaputra Board To Tap More Water Resources In North East

The Northeast is known as the storehouse of water resources. It has the highest hydel power generation development potential in India. Since agriculture is the mainstay of the region, there is ample scope for improving irrigation facilities as well. The Brahmaputra valley,Barak valley and a few riversides of Tripura are highly flood-prone areas. Like every year, in this rainy season too, the relevance of countervailing checks is gaining ground in these days. The Brahmaputra Board has to play a vital role in these 'three' areas of this far-flung region. That is, the Board is to tap country's maximum hydroelectricity here in this region, curb flood havoc and improve irrigation system for an overall development in the agrarian economy.

The Board has been working on Surveys, investigations and data collection, preparation of master plan and project reports for multipurpose development of water resources and drainage works since its inception in 1982.

'However, the execution of these projects was not taken up. Of late, development of infrastructure in the Northeast has been receiving considerable attention of the Central Government. Consequently, the expectation of the people of the region in regard to such projects have increased considerably,' said A D Mohile, former Chairman of the Brahmaputra Board.

The Brahmaputra Board, an autonomous statutory body was set up under an Act of Parliament i.e. Brahmaputra Board Act 1980 (46 of 1980) under the Ministry of Irrigation (Now renamed as Ministry of Water Resources). The jurisdiction of the Board includes both the Brahmaputra and Barak valley and covers all states of the North Eastern Region either in full or in part. The Board consists of 21 members out of which 4 are full time members and 17 are part time members representing seven states of the North Eastern, North Eastern Council, concerned ministries, viz. Ministry of Water Resources, Agriculture, Finance, Power and Surface Transport and few Departments of Government of India viz. Central Water Commission, Geological Survey of India, India Meteorological Department and Central Electricity Authority.

A high powered Review Board to oversee the work of Brahmaputra Board was constituted with the Union Minister of Water Resources as the Chairman and Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura and Union Minister/Ministers of state for Finance, Transport, Power, Agriculture, Water Resources, Secretary Ministry of Water Resources, Chairman, Central Water Commission as members and Chairman, Brahmaputra Board as member-secretary.

Thus the Board has to perform a number of functions such as :

(I) To carry out survey and investigations in Brahmaputra valley and to prepare Master Plan for the control of floods, bank erosion and improvement of drainage in the Brahmaputra valley.

(II) To prepare the Master Plan in part with reference to different areas of the Brahmaputra valley or with reference to different matters relating to such areas and may as often as, it considers necessary so to do, review the Master Plan or any part thereof.

(III) To prepare Master Plan on development and utilization of water resources of the Brahmaputra valley for irrigation, Hydro-power, navigation and other beneficial purposes.

(IV) To submit Master Plan/revised Master Plan to Central Government after consultation with State Governments concerned to approve the same, subject to such modification as it may deem fit.

(V) To prepare detailed project report and estimates in respect of dams and other projects in the Master Plan approved by the Central Government and indicate in each case the cost attributable to different purposes or uses.

(VI) To draw up standards and specifications for construction, operation and maintenance of such dams and other projects.

(VII) To construct with the approval of the Central Government, multipurpose dams and works connected there with proposed in the Master Plan as approved by Central Govt. And maintain and operate such dams and works.

(VIII) To prepare in consultation with State Govt. Concerned, a phased programme for the construction by the State Govt. Concerned, a phased programme of all dams and other projects in the Master Plan as approved by the Central Govt. Other than those referred in (VII) above.

(IX) The Board may maintain and operate any dam or project for so long as it seems necessary to do so.

(X) To perform such other functions as are supple mental, incidental or consequential to the functions as specified above.

AD Mohile : " Diversification of Board activities will play an increasingly important role in the next few years. The basic functions of investigation and planning requires strengthening. There is also a need for Board officials to specialise in the modern contract management concepts. Expertise in micro level planning for irrigation and drainage would have to be developed. Some persons would have to be specialised in hydraulic and material research in order to manage the North Eastern Hydraulic and Allied Research Institute (NEHARI) of the Board. These will present challenging task for the personnel of the Board.'

AK PAUL

 
 
Copyright SM Computer Consultants Pvt. Ltd, Guwahati, India '1998' -2016'