Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Economy related news of Assam in 2007

Rs 205 cr for NE roads sanctioned
NEW DELHI, April 26 – The border areas of the north eastern states may be suffering on account of lack of connectivity, but Ministry of Defence has claimed to have sanctioned Rs 205.59 crore to Border Roads Organisation (BRO) last fiscal, for construction of roads in the region. In addition, expenditure of Rs 70 crore has been also incurred by the BRO on construction of roads included under Special Accelerated Road Development Programme North-east (SARDP-NE), Minister of Defence, AK Anthony said in a Lok Sabha reply to a question by Narayan Chandra Borkotoki.The BRO has constructed 233.17 km of roads in the region during the last financial year. No road of operational and strategic importance had been constructed by BRO in Assam last year, Anthony added. The BRO has undertaken work on 113 km of roads in the region under SARDP-NE, out of which 56 km of roads falls in Assam, Anthony said.Meanwhile, the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways has ruled out the possibility of declaring an alternative highway connecting Nathula to Siliguri citing declaration of more highways as national highway was not in the priority of the Government due to financial constraints.

Joha rice heads for European markets
GUWAHATI, May 4 – In what is expected to be a big boost for the State’s farming sector, the first consignment of organic joha rice, meant for export to Germany, Switzerland and the UK, left for Delhi today. The paddy, known for its aroma, was processed at the state-of-the art unit at Amingaon, North Guwahati. “For marketing of this organic paddy, Agriculture Products Exports Development Agency (APEDA) had invited organic exporters, and Sunstar Overseas Limited of Haryana showed interest to by the produce. The joha will be exported to Germany, Switzerland and the UK,” sources in the Agriculture Department told The Assam Tribune. The pilot project of organic paddy cultivation was initiated by the Agriculture Department in Darrang (Udalguri), Sonitpur and North Lakhimpur districts over 91 hectares of land with the involvement of 154 farmers. “The farmers and departmental officials were given exposure to organic farming practices in Uttaranchal with support of the APEDA,” the sources said. Formally flagging off the 17.5-MT consignment at Amingaon today, State Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said that organic cultivation of potato and onion would be started soon in Bongaigaon district. “We want to give a boost opt the organic farming sector,” she said.Brahma said that a terminal market would also be set up in Guwahati soon. “We have got the green signal from the Centre for the venture, and are looking for a suitable plot of minimum 150 bighas,” Brahma said. The State produced 60 MT of organic produce this year (2006), as against 133 MT of last year. The decrease is due to the drought in 2006. Organic farming, of late, has been boosted by the growing health consciousness and a concern for protecting the environment. Organic farming is a self-sustaining agricultural practice that does not involve chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The Government of India had launched the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) in 2000, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for export under the FTDR Act.The total area under organic management worldwide is 26 million hectares and there has been a ten per cent increase to it every year. In India, the area under certified organic farming is 2.5 million hectares, which produces over 3,77,859 MT certified products. The major products are tea, honey, rice, spices, walnut, sesame seeds and pineapple.

Solar energy used to electrify village
GUWAHATI, May 3 – Country’s first rural electrification programme using solar energy source was launched in Puthimari Gaon Panchayat (GP) in Darrang district of the State today. The programme has been implemented as part of the country’s resolve for 100 per cent electrification of the remote villages by 2009 and to cover all the households through the initiative by 2012. The State has 2,139 identified villages as yet to be electrified remote villages, which are not accessible from the existing conventional grid. Of them 1,084 are located in the plains areas and 1,055 are located in the hills districts of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills. Altogether 1,23,918 families live in these villages.Launching the programme at a function at Hillaikhunda village of the G P, State’s Power Minister Pradyut Bardoloi announced that the Power Department’s proposal for making mandatory the appropriation of ten per cent of State’s power from renewable energy sources by 2012 and raising it to 15 per cent by 2015 was approved by the Chief Minister today. The 10-MW biomass-based power generation unit being undertaken by the Kolkata-based private firm Amrit Biofuel being set up at Baghjap, near Jagiroad in Morigaon district is expected to come up within the next time. The company has been asked to complete the project within the next two years, he said.The Baghjap project will use bamboo dust, rice husk etc as the raw materials to generate power. The Nagaon Paper Mill of the Hindustan Paper Corporation at Jagiroad has been asked to supply its bamboo dust to the unit, while rice husk is available in around the site of the project abundantly. The project is likely to get incentives under the new NE Industrial Policy, said the Minister.He also told the gathering that the State Government had decided to introduce Gurlov turbines for setting up mini hydel projects to generate power from the rivers of the plains areas. Applying this technology, countries like Brazil have been able to harness hydel power from the rivers of their plains areas, he said.To mark the formal launching of the scheme, the Minister presented a set of solar energy device to Md Keramat Ali of No 4 Nanglichar. Altogether ten beneficiaries were presented the solar energy devices in the function and of them, the other beneficiaries received their devices from the other dignitaries.These dignitaries included the Jagiroad MLA Bibekananda Doloi, Managing Director of the Lower and Central Assam Electricity Distribution Companies Anil Kumar Sachan, Managing Director of the Assam Power Generation Company Ashim Kumar Bhuyan, Chief General Manager (CGM) of the Renewable Energy (RE) wing of the ASEB Debotosh Das, Regional Director of the Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources Dr D R Das and Director of the Assam Energy Development Agency AK Baruwa, among others.Addressing the function, CGM of ASEB’s RE wing Debotosh Das urged the beneficiaries not to use their devices for running TVs. As, he said, this might lead to the premature breakdown of the batteries of the devices. Each of the devices has the capacity to support two CFL lamps and the lamps are more important for the children to continue their studies, he said.The premature breakdown of the batteries may also lead to the refusal of the suppliers of the systems to replace them. Each of the batteries has a guarantee period of five years, while the other implements have a guarantee period of two years. The suppliers of the devices M/S Tata BP Solar India Ltd has a commitment to provide maintenance services for five years.After the expiry of the said period, the beneficiaries will have to maintain the devices themselves and for the purpose village level energy committees should be set up and the beneficiaries should get themselves trained in maintenance of the devices, he said.Anal Bhagawati, Senior Manager, ASEB RE wing, announced in the function that the Puthimari GP electrification programme through solar energy devices was the first of its type in the country.The ASEB implemented the Puthimari electrification programme. The ASEB is authorized to implement the electrification programmes through non-conventional energy sources in 1,058 villages, while the AEDA has been authorized to implement such programmes in 914 villages and the State Forest Department has been authorized to implement such progrmmes using biomass fuels in 167 forest villages.The Central Government has already sanctioned implementation of such schemes in 600 villages. The Puthimari GP has 13 revenue villages and four non-revenue villages. The GP comprises the worst erosion affected villages and most of the villages are in the char (riverine) areas of Brahmaputra.The GP has about 17,000 families and about 8,500 voters. It has no health centre and two Government ME schools, 13 Government LP Schools and 23 Sarba Siskha Abhijan Mission centres are located within its area. People of the GP claimed today that the visit of the Power Minister was the first visit by any Minister to the GP since Independence.

NE Budget allocation hiked to Rs 14,365 crFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, May 3 – Amidst a demand to ensure that benefits under the North East Industrial Policy reach the grassroots level, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram reiterated that budgetary allocation for the north-eastern region has been increased to Rs 14,365 crore. Replying on the Finance Bill, Chidambaram referring to points raised by Khagen Das, clarified that the Budget allocation has indeed increased from Rs 12,041 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 14,365 crore in 2007-08. Any amount out of the 10 percent of the Budget allocation to a Ministry, which remains unspent, will go into a non-lapsable account and will be made available to the Ministry of DoNER. That is what has been done for 2007-08 too, he said.He also added that some official amendments are also being introduced to give effect to certain Budget announcements such as the new North East Industrial Policy.On pan masala, against the mean CENVAT rate of 16 per cent, pan masala with tobacco continues to attract an excise duty of 66 per cent. “It is only in the case of pan masala not containing tobacco – which includes mouth fresheners – responding to suggestions, I had reduced the rate to 45 per cent which is still nearly three times the mean CENVAT rate,” he clarified.Pan masala has been put in the negative list in the new North East Industrial Policy.Meanwhile, Congress MP Kirip Chaliha made a full-throated call to take back the excise concessions given to the ghutka companies under the NEIP. He claimed that certain companies have taken excise benefits to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore without the State getting any benefits. The gutkha companies were mere packaging companies and they did not use the local betel nuts. No employment was generated by them, he charged.There is some scam and since no public interest has been served, the entire amount of Rs 2000 crore given as excise duty exemption should be recovered from these companies, he demanded.Chaliha further drew the attention of the Finance Minister to the soaring prices of cement in the region because of hike in excise duty. Taking advantage of the situation, traders have hiked the prices of cement manufactured locally. He said because of the high transport cost, prices of imported cement have touched Rs 250 per bag. He suggested transport subsidy for imported cement and ceiling of Rs 190 for locally manufactured cement. The local cement companies are as it is taking the benefit of the concessions granted under the NE Industrial Policy, he said.He claimed that benefits given under the industrial policy have not percolated down to the masses.

Centre surrenders Rs 475 cr meant for NE
NEW DELHI, May 8 – Even as most of the State Departments in the North-east were gasping for funds, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) surrendered a whopping Rs 475 crore sanctioned to the North Eastern States. The surrender came to light during the hearing of officials by the Parliamentary Panel attached to the Ministry Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER). The schemes under the HRD Ministry, which had surrendered funds, were Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Mid-day Meal Scheme.In her submission, Secretary DoNER referring to the anomaly said that the Centre gives 75 per cent of the grant under the Scheme and 25 percent is to be raised by the States. The States could not raise even that and Ministry DoNER was asked to give 15 per cent and, accordingly, Rs 100 crore was given. Yet, the Ministry of HRD had surrendered Rs 475 crore.The secretary stated that according to the norms for the population of the North Eastern Region, which is four percent of the population of the country, it is difficult to utilise 10 per cent allocation in the North-east, unless the norms are modified.However, HRD was not the only Ministry. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare too had surrendered funds allocated to the NES.The spending on health by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s the secretary said was improving. The Health Ministry officials intimated that they were trying to break away from the national norms and affect certain relaxations for programmes in the North Eastern region.The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been surrendering 40 to 45 per cent funds, primarily because of the poor absorption capacity, lack of adequate man power and lack of additional infrastructure in the Region.Due to this, the North-East Division was formed in the Ministry of Health and it came out with a strategy for the Region. But, the Planning Commission did not approve them because they were outside the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The Ministry further informed Planning omission that NRHM alone cannot address the issue and they have to adopt certain Mission’s norms such as strengthening district hospitals, State civil hospitals, medical colleges and training.The Planning Commission, however, told the Health Ministry that an umbrella programme had been brought and it should try to implement that first. With a sizeable increase in budget, the allocation to the North-east also went up considerably. It has gone up from Rs 350 crore to Rs 1100 crore last fiscal.However, out of this, the Health Ministry was able to spend about Rs 1,000 crore and surrender the rest.Meanwhile, acting on recommendations of the Parliamentary panels and following the hue and cry raised by the North Eastern States, allocations for BTC and SSA have been made separately, instead out of Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR).In its report to the Parliament, the Standing Committee expressed its concern at the surrender of large sums of money by different ministries, which ultimately go into the NLCPR. Even Ministries of social sector was not able to spend 10 per cent of their budget in the Region.“If national norms for any particular programme are found to be unsuitable for the NER, the Ministry should relax the norms, so that the allocation made is spent in the year, in which it was allocated,” the Panel suggested. The year 2005-2006 saw the highest accrual of Rs 1960.12 crore to the NLCPR out of the total Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 7,325.39 crore allocated for the NER, which is about eight per cent of the budget. Till March 31, 842 projects, worth Rs 5,967.97 crore have been approved and Rs 4,358.77 crore released from the NLCPR.

ONGC reiterates commitment to region’s development
SIVASAGAR, May 15 – In a rare gesture, a full-member Board of Directors of the Navaratna company ONGC arrived at Nazira on Monday to convey to the people on the festive occasion of Basant Utsav ’07 in the ONGC township that the company stands committed to the region’s development. Led by the chairman-cum-managing director, R S Sharma, the Board of Directors reviewed the operation and performance of the Assam Asset, Nazira and Assam Arakan Basin, Jorhat besides issues related to the revamping works in the aging rigs, Assam renewal projects, hiring of O & N services, on/off on work-over rigs and the welfare policies as a corporate citizen.The CMD accompanied by the other members of the Board, Dr AK Balyan, director, HR, A Hazarika, director, Off-shore NK Mitra, director, On-shore NK Mitra, director, Off Shore Pandey, director, Exploration, UN Bose, director, Technical & Field Services, BK Nayak, director, Security Services, BM Singh ED & Asst Manager, Assam Asset, JG Chaturvedi, ED & Asset Manager designate, Assam Asset, Takir Hussain, GM, HR, Assam Asset took part in an interactive session with the mediapersons in the evening. The CMD announced that the company has contributed Rs 495 crore to the State exchequer as royalty during the last financial year besides contributing generously to the health care sector, entrepreneurship development schemes and Yuva Samriddhi schemes of district administration.RS Sharma declared an amount of Rs 46.2 lakh for the incomplete works of the Sukapha Indoor Stadium, Sivasagar, and Rs 48.2 lakh for a mobile cancer treatment unit. The board of directors in response to queries, agreed to consider the suggestions for setting up gas-based mini power project in the power-starved Sivasagar district and a model hospital in the area to facilitate general public.The Board said that the revamping effort at a cost of about Rs 2000 crore will soon begin to yield result and as there is no longer the natural support the crude output is not as high as expected earlier in spite of using high-tech rigs in specific areas. The CMD said that the crude production of the Assam Asset reached 2 MMT from 1.2 MMT during the 11th Five Year Plan. The CMD refused to compare ONGC with Oil India because the former is a much bigger company than the latter and problems of managing a global company are diversified and complex. It was pointed out that Oil India, working in the same socio-cultural environment, is producing more oil than ONGC in Assam.The CMD, R S Sharma also gave away the prize money of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 to the best Hussori team and the best Bihu Kunwari and other winners in the Basant Utsav ’07 in ONGC colony, Nazira.

Chinese move to divert Brahmaputra water
GUWAHATI, May 16 – Amidst growing apprehension among the people of Assam about the possibility of China diverting the river Brahmaputra, the Government of India has assured the State Government that all necessary steps would be taken to protect the interests of the State in this regard. Official sources said that following newspaper reports about the possibility of China diverting the course of the river Brahmaputra, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi wrote to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh expressing the apprehension of the people of the State. He requested the Prime Minister to take up the issue with the Government of China.Sources said that after taking up the issue with the President of China, the Prime Minister informed Gogoi that the issue would get due attention from the Central government.The Prime Minister said that he took up the issue with the President of the People’s Republic of China and it was decided that an expert level mechanism on the issue would be formed. He said that such a mechanism would provide a means to exchange views on this important issue with the Government of China on regular basis on the trans-border rivers. Dr Singh also assured the Chief Minister that the Government would protect the interests of Assam in this regard.

Rs 710 crore sanctioned for NE roads
NEW DELHI, May 18 – An amount of Rs 710 crore has been allocated for works under the Accelerated Road Development Programme in the north-eastern region during the current fiscal. Under Phase 'A' 1310 km of Road have been approved for implementation and under Phase 'B' roads aggregating to 6,306 km have been approved, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highway, KH Munniyappa said.

Rs 45 cr Central fund lying unutilised
NEW DELHI, May 18 – In a glaring deficiency, over Rs 45 crore of Central fund sanctioned for development of tourism infrastructure in the north-eastern region has been lying unutilised.The Ministry of Tourism and Culture's plan outlay for development of tourism in the NER in the Tenth Plan was Rs 179.56 crore. Against this amount, Rs 134.19 crore was utilised, Union tourism and Culture Minister, Ambika Soni said.In the 11th Plan the main thrust areas include maintenance and conservation of the country's heritage, ancient monuments. The Ministry proposes to make all endeavour to protect, develop and promote culture of the region by strengthening its existing activities in the NER. There is no new scheme exclusively for the North-east sector.The Silpagram Complex at Guwahati under the aegis of North East Zone Cultural center, Dimapur has been completed, the Minister added.
No dearth of funds for NE projects: Aiyar
AIZAWL, May 19 – There is no dearth of funds for viable projects in the North East, but the projects should be conceived and implemented sensibly, Union DONER Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said today, reports PTI. “I can assure you there will be no delay in release of funds for well-conceived and properly planned projects,” he said inaugurating the Greater Aizawl Water Supply Scheme Phase-II. He asked the Mizoram government to enlist the services of experts and consultancy firms while preparing the detailed project report (DPR) to avoid “hiccups and delays” in the implementation work. “Submit the DPRs in advance and come to Delhi after 30 days for discussing the project face to face to ensure speedy implementation and solution of the problems on the spot,” he added.

Gogoi seeks 3 bridges over Brahmaputra
GUWAHATI, May 19 — Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today urged the North Eastern Council (NEC) to improve Lakhimpur-Kamalabari-Jorhat road communication by constructing a bridge over the river Khabalu. He also made special requests for inclusion of the proposals for three bridges over the Brahmaputra at Dhola, Jorhat Neamtighat and Dhubri Phulbari. The Chief Minister was addressing the concluding session of the two-day sitting of the Council at Aizwal.According to an official press release here, the Chief Minister called for steps to include the above proposals in the Eleventh Plan proposals of the Council. The above measures would contribute in a great manner to the socio-economic development of the NE states, he argued.He also laid stress on development of the region’s tourism and industry sectors. For it, he said, air connectivity in the region should be improved taking Guwahati as the hub. The region should be provided with night parking facilities and its terminal system should also be modernized, he said. He also pleaded for green field airports at Kokrajhar and Rupsi. While lauding the proposal adopted by the Council for improvement of the Brahmaputra and the Barak river ways, he urged for early release of the required funds for the proposed inter-state truck terminus in the city and the proposed inter-state bus terminus at Jorhat. The Council should also continue its grants to the B Borooah Cancer Institute and the Sankaradev Nethralaya.The Chief Minister expressed his satisfaction over the decisions taken by the Council to set up an international business mission and a regional design institute in the region for the purpose of establishing business connections with the South Asian countries and employment generation. The decisions of the Council to set up an institution for fashion technology and adventure sports were also lauded by the Chief Minister.He pleaded that the design institute should be set up in the city to benefit all the states of the region. He also called for steps to set up branches of various national institutions in the region.The meeting, which was presided over by DONER Minister Mani Shankar Ayier, was also attended by the Governors and Chief Ministers of the North Eastern states.

Australian HC meets CM
GUWAHATI, May 21 – Australian High Commissioner John McCarthy today met the Chief Minister and discussed with him the issues related with State’s agriculture, health, higher education, tourism, Information Technology, power generation and AIDS prevention etc. In the discussion, the possibility of cooperation between the State and the Australian Governments in these areas also surfaced, said an official press release.On the issue of ULFA insurgency, the Chief Minister told the Australian High Commissioner that the people of the State did not support the demand of the militant outfit for a sovereign Assam. They also do not support the violent activities of the militant organization, the Chief Minister told the High Commissioner.

Rs 1,758 cr income tax revenue from NE in ’06-’07
GUWAHATI, May 22 – The earning of the Income Tax Department in the NE region had witnessed a rise of 2.80 per cent last fiscal, that is, 2006-07, compared to the previous financial year. The Department earned an amount of Rs 1,758 crore in the region last fiscal.Disclosing this at a press conference here today, Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT), Guwahati, R Bharadwaj, who is also the CCIT in-charge of Kolkata and Shillong, said that the Department had altogether 5,29,689 assessees in the region. Among them, the Oil India Ltd (OIL) is the top income tax payer, he said.During the 2006-07 fiscal, the Department conducted general surveys for detection and disclosure of tax evasion worth around Rs 10.81 crore involving 97 assessees in the region. It also conducted specific surveys for detection of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 32 crore involving 381 assessees during the same fiscal, he said.The Department has allotted 10,16,602 PAN cards in the region. In all, 10,23,758 persons applied for the card. But 7,151 of the applications were found to be defective, he said.Home Raikhan, the Commissioner of Income Tax, Shillong, told the newspersons that all indigenous scheduled tribes (STs) living in the scheduled areas of the region were exempted from income tax and hence the number of assessees and PAN card holder in the region was less compared to other regions.He also apprised the newspersons of the fact that a division bench of the Gauhati High Court had said in a ruling that the STs from other areas of the country living in the scheduled areas of the region should also be exempted from income tax. The Department is going to contest this ruling of the Gauhati High Court in the Supreme Court of India. As, Raikhan said, the section 10 (26) of the Income Tax Act had provided for income tax exemption to the indigenous STs living in the scheduled areas of the region.Charitable Trust: CCIT Bhardwaj said that the Finance Act, 2007 had removed the provision of the 1961 Income Tax Act for mandatory registration of the charitable or religious trusts with the Department within one year of their creation for availing income tax exemptions.It has also removed the power vested with the Commissioner for condonation of delay with the stipulating that for any application made on or after the first day of June, 2007, registration will be granted from the financial year in which the application is made.Now, he said, in order to avail the benefit of condonation of delay for earlier years, any trust or institution, which has not filed its application within one year of its creation or establishment, may file such application before the first day of June, 2007. Applications filed on or after the first day of June, 2007 will entitle the applicant to claim exemption of income last from the financial year in which the application is made and not for earlier years, he said.In reply to a question, he said that the Department could cancel registration of any trust if its sources of funding were found to be wrong, not for the welfare of the society. Contributions from unknown sources would be taxed now on, he said.

Spanish envoy meets Gogoi
GUWAHATI, June 1 – Spanish Ambassador to India Rafael Conde De Saro today called on Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at the latter’s official residence here. During the meeting both Gogoi and Saro exchanged opinions on various aspects related with the State’s socio-economic development. They also discussed the potentials of the State’s agricultural, trade and commerce, industry, power, sports, tourism etc sectors. Saro’s wife Maria BD Conde, State’s Parliamentary Secretary for PWD Bibekananda Doley and Commissioner and Secretary to the Chief Minister TY Das were also preent during the disucssion, said an official press release.

Assam needs separate time zone for uplift
SIPAJHAR, May 30 – ‘Separate time zone is the urgent need for Assam to boost the economic development of the region’, said Adip Phukan, editor, Edin Sambad.Addressing an interaction programme organised under the joint auspices of Dalongghat branch samittee of AJYCP and Lakhimpur Anchalik Meen-Mahal samittee recently at samittee’s auditorium. Sri Phukan appreciated the efforts of the samittee for the economic upliftment of the locality from income earned through pisciculture.Both Darrang and Udalguri in BTAD have declared as pisciculture districts. Dithakananda Hazarika, circle officer, Kalaigaon revenue circle, in his speech stressed on the need of tolerance of thinking.Other speakers included MLA, Kalaigaon LAC Maheswar Bodo, Jagadish Sarkar, Brazen Sarma, Birendra Baruah, Khitendra Sarma and Keshav Dutta.The programme was chaired by Kandarpa Kalita.The programme also include felicitation and tree plantation.Central adviser, AJYCP Dwipendra Narayan Konwar, journalist Diganta Sarma and Naba Kr Saikia also attended the programme.

NTPC to set up 750 mw plant in State
NEW DELHI, May 30 – There may be some respite in store from power woes, with Assam Government and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) inking a tripartite agreement paving the way for transfer of all assets belonging to Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station (BTPS) to the Central public Sector undertaking. The formal signing ceremony attended by Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, State Power Minister, Pradyut Bordoloi, Union Power Secretary, Anil Razdan, CMD of NTPC, D Shankarlingam, State Chief Secretary, PC Sarma, besides top officials of Central Government and State Government, was held at Assam Bhavan here this morning.As many as three agreements were signed among Assam Government, APGCL and NTPC. Agreements included a power purchase agreement. The 750 MW Project is envisaged to be completed during the 11th Plan period. First two units are projected to be completed in 2010-2011, while the third unit is scheduled to be commissioned by 2011-2012.The State Government handed over all land, project facilities and clearances of BTPS at a nominal value of Rupee one. Addressing the function, the Chief Minister said that the commissioning of the Project would go a long way in mitigating the power shortage in Assam. This would also reduce over dependence on hydropower, he added.The power generation in North-East is dependent on hydro. Once the Project is commissioned, the State could boost of hydro-thermal mix of 40:60. The current peak demand of the State is pegged at 800 MW and the State has a peak shortfall of 150 MW, which goes up to 200 MW in lean hydro season. Gogoi further added that the State Government was also trying to boost its own generation capacity to reduce its dependence on Central Government’s undertakings. NTPC has stated they would commission the Project in shortest possible time, he added.The State’s power demand is projected to go up to 2500 MW because of the new industrial policy. “The North East Investment and Industrial Promotion Policy 2007, is attracting more investments.”For Assam Government, agreement is seen as a win-win deal because apart from generating employment, use of local coal would fetch substantial royalty to the State. Assam Government is scheduled to get 400 MW of power from the Project. The 240 MW BTP has remained inoperative since 1998 owing to myriad of problems including irregular supply of coal. The low plant load factor left the Project in the red.The NTPC, which is entering the State for the first time, would set up a new 750 MW coal based power plant with Flue Gas De-sulphurisation (FGD) technology, which would enable it to use Assam coal. NTPC has obtained the coal linkage of 1.65 MTPA from North East Coal Fields (NECF) and additional 0.97 MTPA from Eastern Coal Fields. Later talking to newsmen, NTPC CMD said they are striving to lower the cost of per unit of power. According to their estimate, per unit cost is Rs 4.75. “We are trying to sell power at Rs 2 per unit,” he added.Replying to a question, Shankarlingam said the cost of security has not been added into the project cost. “The State Government is going to help us. We are confident about this and we know how to involve the local people,” the CMD said.
Naturenomics can help NE developmentBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, June 12 – A new economy based on sustainable use of nature could help the North East acquire about Rs 300,000 crore of investment in several areas including agriculture, energy, transport, tourism and infrastructure. Stating this at a press conference held in the city today, Ranjit Barthakur, chairman Globally Managed Services (GMS) revealed the key to such an approach is a concept called naturenomics, which balances ecological priorities with economic activities.Barthakur reasoned that while present models of growth might give immediate results, the strategy would fail to deliver in the long run. Naturenomics, on the other hand, could spur more econmic development while ensuring that the ecology and the environment of the region remained intact for future generations. Under the naturenomics framework GMS has favoured that the North East should move towards a green revolution, a clean revolution and a blue revolution. These would ensure sustainable development in biodiversity assets, clean environment, and water assets respectively. Forcefully arguing against attempts at industrial development in the North East, Barthakur said that industrial policies have failed for more than five decades in the region, and the relevance of an industrial policy simply did not exist.He asserted that the time was just right to move towards naturenomics, in which case the natural resources of the region like water, biodiversity and soil quality, among others could become assets of immense value. Citing organic faming as an example, he mentioned its potential to meet huge demands in the country and abroad. Likewise, pisciculture and floriculture could fuel rapid and sustained economic growth. Because of the very nature of the activities under naturenomics, employment generation would be the other important spin-off. Appealing to the media and the people to appreciate naturenomics, the GMS chairman said, “if we miss the boat, we will miss it all…practice of naturenomics is critical to securitize the land and water and it would result in the formation of nature capital in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, clean energy and tourism.”When asked about the expectations that GMS had from the Assam Government, Barthakur mentioned a positive outlook and faster response especially from bureaucrats. He bemoaned the fact the transfer of senior officials from one department to another, and their long leaves acted as impediments to entrepreneurial efforts. Addressing the media, Dipak Kripalani co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GMS said, “Our objective is to have environmental leadership, to make sure that environment becomes the engine of growth and also all of this leads to social regeneration.”Kripalani emphasized that the internal mandate of GMS was get over Rs 300,000 crore of “eco-investment into the North East to build and sustain nature capital in the next five years or so.In such a situation doubling the GDP and the employment opportunities in the region would not remain a problem. One of the unique aspects about the GMS endeavour would be building bridges between ecology and economy, he added.At present GMS has made successful forays in organic farming, fisheries, horticulture and tourism in the North East. Around 1200 farmers have already forged an alliance with the company to carry out sustainable agriculture. GMS founded by Ranjit Barthakur and Dipak Kripalani in 2002, is co-located in Mumbai and Singapore. It has already helped several corporate majors, including Tata Tea, to adopt new business models, which have been appreciated in different quarters.

Steamer service set to roll between Kolkata, Badarpur
BADARPUR, June 10 – Good news for Barak Valley! After train, bus and flight services, the region is going to have a steamer service within a very short period. The steamer will operate from Kolkata-Haldia port via Bangladesh.Official sources said that the steamer will run between the months of June and October and the travelling time will be two weeks. The steamer will transport essential commodities like rice, cement, paper, tea, bamboos, coal, iron etc. The final preparations for the regular movement of the steamer service have already begun.For this purpose, the construction work of the Badarpur river terminal, begun in February 2003, on a plot of land measuring 2.5 bighas has already been completed. The contractor, Kalipada Chakraborty told this correspondent that though the construction of the whole project including two RCC jetties was due to be completed within June 2004 but due to the devastating floods in the Barak Valley that year, the project got delayed. However, before the target date, the construction work of one godown of the steamerghat, officer’s guest house and a watch tower of the steamer were duly completed.Chakraborty also mentioned that for construction of the river terminal, the North-Eastern Council had sanctioned Rs 8 crore and the work was inaugurated in October 2002.Inland Water Transport (IWT) department sources said the pucca godown was constructed after pulling down the earlier godown built in 1940 at the Badarpur ghat. During the British rule, there was regular steamer service from Badarpur to Calcutta and goods like tea leaves, bamboo, coal, iron, cement, rice were regularly transported. The steamer service however came to a close in 1965 after relations between India and the then East Pakistan took a nosedive. After a gap of nearly 42 years, the service is again going to restart and will have a definite impart on the economic development of both the nations, IWT department sources felt.Meanwhile, the Cachar district administration, has inaugurated an AC diesel engine ferry service on the banks of the Barak river at Fulertal village near Lakshmipur town of Cachar district. The ferry was inaugurated by the Minister of Urban Development and Rehabilitation, Dinesh Prasad Gowala. Anyone can travel to the Barak river on the ferry, by paying the fare, which however has not yet been fixed. This 16-metre long boat cost Rs 15 lakh given by the district administration. There are 60 seats in the luxury boat services of which though kept reserved for VIPs, leading citizens and tourists, can be availed by the common people in the event of the non-availability of the former.

Thai delegation on NE tour
GUWAHATI, June 22 – A Thai business delegation headed by Krik-Krai Jirapaet, Minister for Commerce, Thailand, is on a visit to the North East since June 21 with an aim to explore the investment potential of the region. The delegation will be in Guwahati on June 23 to attend a high-level government meeting at Assam Administrative Staff College, Khanpara, a press release said.To establish future business alliance and linkages, North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi) is organising an exclusive exhibition-cum-display of exportable silk, handloom, handicrafts, natural dye products of the North-East for this delegation on the premises of Assam Administrative Staff College, Khanapara. In this exhibition, 15 participants are expected top showcase silk items under Silkmark Organization of India. Eight other organizations will showcase mainly muga home furnishings, bamboo cutlery, sheetal pati bags, kouna products, handmade-paper products, handicraft items, silk bags and dry flowers, etc, the press release said.

Thailand Commerce Minister to visit Sualkuchi today
SUALKUCHI, June 22 – DoNER Minister, Government of India, Mani Shankar Aiyar along with the Commerce Minister, Thailand and high level officials from the Handloom Development Commission will visit Sualkuchi on June 23 to study the hurdles of export marketing of the products of the handloom industry of the village. They will land at Sualkuchi around 1 pm on that day. Health Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma will accompany them.
NE can provide access to one fifth of world population NEW DELHI, June 20 – Northeast India’s proximity to Southeast Asian countries can provide foreign investors with an excellent opportunity of intra-regional trade and an access to nearly one-fifth of the world population, a new book says, reports PTI. “The Northeast has the unique locational advantage of being a gateway to the fast-growing ASEAN countries and China. It has the potential to emerge as a strategic base for foreign and domestic investors to tap vast potential of contiguous markets of East and Southeast Asian countries,” authors P L Sanjeev Reddy and P C Shekar Reddy write in “Peace and Development in Northeast: A Virtual Spiral”. The book is the outcome of a multi-disciplinary study undertaken jointly by the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the North Eastern Council. The responses from police departments have brought out a very unique fact that over 71 per cent of the villages in the region have not reported any incidence of crime for the past couple of years, the writers say. The people of the region expect greater transparency, accountability and monitoring in governance, strict control on corruption and freedom to determine the developmental priorities since they know the local needs better. The key to improving the quality of life of the people of the region lies in shifting the focus from charity to promoting creativity and fostering confidence and capacity building, the writers say. The authors also rue that the “sensational news-driven” national media is prone to be negative towards the northeast — totally ignoring the positive aspects of the region. The book explores the socio-economic profile of the eight states and analyses reasons for villages being crime- free through statistical methods of analysis. “Since most of the crime in the region is insurgency- related, various factors that have led to militancy had to be highlighted, including the ‘foreign angle’ as well as complex solutions for their effective containment,” Sanjeev Reddy says. The authors feel the government should think beyond allocating more resources and announcing tax holidays and subsidy packages for a solution to the problems in the northeast. “The administrative machinery has to be geared up and there should be greater degree of transparency.” Measures like more people-to-people contacts need to be taken to minimise the emotional divide. Industry activity should be geared up to local needs and which substantially utilises local manpower, talent and expertise. There is also a need to overhaul the education system, it suggests.In carrying out these recommendations, the writers say, the policy makers may be confronted with a number of challenges like facilitating different ethnic groups to co-exist peacefully, developing employment-led growth, tackling problems of drugs abuse and insurgency, ensuring greater involvement of women and making optimum use of technology resource organisations.

Bio-diesel project raises hope in Barak valley
SILCHAR, June 19 – The bio-diesel project in Barak Valley has been launched by D1 William Magor Bio Fuel Private Limited. D1 Oil Plc is the UK-based global producer of bio-diesel from renewal energy crops. The company is pioneer in bio-diesel production all over the world. Williamson Magor is the largest tea plantation group in the world producing over 70 million kgs which represent 18 per cent of total tea produced in Assam. The joint venture hopes to be a good producer of bio-diesel in Barak Valley.In Barak valley, one of the biggest nurseries in India has been created. At present the project cover 6000 hectares but by August it will have 100,000 hectares. Basically the company has not purchased any land but has rather supplied seeds to the farmers. They have an agricultural team. The project is working on a contract farming model.The company has been assisting the farmers to receive bank loan under the umbrella of D1 Williamson Magor. The project is duly approved by NABARD and the company has entered into an MoU with all leading banks for the purpose. Since the project is a massive one, it requires huge manpower. So, it will help unemployed youth to get jobs. At present they have 90 staff. In Barak valley the work is going in a very organised manner.Production of bio-diesel requires the plant Jatropha Curcus. It has been identified as the primary non-edible oil seed, most suitable to Indian agro-climatic conditions, with a productive life cycle of 40-50 years. The plant starts yielding seeds varying between 30 per cent to 40 per cent depending upon the species and agro climatic conditions. It is found in the tropics and subtropics from very dry climate to regions having good rainfall. It also improves soil fertility due to shedding of leaves in the winter months.Bio-diesel is a clean burning alternative fuel produced from vegetable oil seeds. It can be used directly in any diesel run engine without any or very little modification and can be blended at any level.The demand for diesel in India was about 49 million metric tonnes in 2005-06 and likely to rise to 67 million metric tonnes in 2012. The land required for 5 per cent blend recommended by Government of India is about 2 million hectares and that for 20 per cent blend as practiced in advanced countries will be about 8 million hectares.The bio-diesel project has been undertaken on plantation on about 8000 hectares spread over Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The company has signed an MoU with the Mizoram government for development of Jatropha plantations. 7500 kgs of seeds per hectare yield is expected on maturity of seeds per hectare. This will improve further with the leading edge plantation techniques. The cost of plantation and maintenance in initial 2 years is about Rs 30,000 per hectare. The sale proceed of seeds on maturity is Rs 5 per hectare pa on superior plantation material. Net annual income to the farmers is Rs 32,500 per hectare on planting material provided by the company.PK Chakraborty, area incharge said that they are expecting that bio-diesel will come to the market by 2009. He further said that it will provide more employment to the youth of Barak valley as in future it will require refinery and distributing unit. In Barak valley to sustain a long-term project is tough due to the communication and geographical problem. If the project continues it will be an asset for the people of the area.

Punjab group keen to take up jatropha plantation
GUWAHATI, June 18 – A Punjab-based high-tech group led by Dr AS Bindra met Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi here today and expressed its willingness to take up jatropha plantation as well as bio-fuel extraction projects. Official sources said that the group also expressed eagerness to undertake value added bamboo projects in the State, besides expressing interest in the organic food sector. Chief Minister assured the group all help and proposed even joint ventures with it in the above areas, said sources.

Mass movement taking shape in Barak Valley
KARIMGANJ, June 26 – A mass movement demanding an economic development council for Barak Valley is crystallising in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Although the demand for economic autonomy was first mooted in 1961 in the erstwhile undivided district of Cachar, the movement could not gather momentum in the subsequent years due to many reasons including lack of able political leadership and peoples unawareness in 1998 when Assam was under AGP rule for the second term. The autonomy movement in Barak Valley districts had shown the sign of rebuilding in the wake of economic deprivation of the people of the valley. But the movement did not last long. This time a well organised movement in support of the Economic Development Council for Barak Valley is being planned for and several political leaders belonging to various parties have come forward to patronise the movement. Not only this, general people are openly backing a movement for creation of a separate autonomous economic council for Barak Valley under relevant provision of the Constitution.On September 18, 2006, a mass convention of the representatives of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi supporting the demand for an autonomous economic council was held in Silchar and a resolution was unanimously passed to launch a mass-based peoples movement under the banner of Barak Upatyaka Economic Development Council Demand Committee. It was also decided to go to the people at every nook and corner of the valley and to make them aware and organise them for the movement later on. District-level demand committees for economic development council were formed in all the three districts covering representatives from all communities living in Barak Valley.Recently, in a joint meeting of the office bearers and representatives of three districts, an adhoc central committee has been constituted in Silchar to steer the cause of movement and to expand organisational base at grassroot level. The daylong meeting was held in Milan Mandir of Silchar with Manas– Bhattacharjee, former ADC in the chair. At the outset Kishore Bhattacharjee, a trade union leader and the president of Silchar Block Congress Committee explained the objective of the meeting. Quoting various figures and statistics from the Planning Commission’s documents and government papers he set out many examples how people of Barak Valley were being economically deprived compared to the people of other regions of the country. He cited examples of Vidarbha Development Council in Maharastra, Gorkaland Council in West Bengal and Bodoland Territorial in Assam.Bhattacharjee said only an economic development council as envisaged in the Constitution could remove the regional disparity and economic underdevelopment of Barak Valley people. He requested the people to rigidly stand behind this demand and take forward the movement till the goal is achieved.Presidents of Karimganj and Hailakandi districts units of the Demand Committee, Jyotirmaya Das and MR Chaudhury and other speakers including TB Nath, Jyotish Das, Paritosh Paul Chaudhury spoke in the same tune favouring a strong movement for the purpose.Apart from constituting an adhoc central committee, the meeting decided to extend organisational base at every block and town level within next two months by organising meetings at the behest of respective district committee. The meeting authorised the central committee to constitute two sub-committees one for by laws and registration and other for preparing memorandum. An advisory committee including leading doctors, advocates, teachers, retired govt. officials; politicians and businessmen from Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts was formed in the meeting. Representatives from different communities have been covered in the formation of the central committee.

Assam prospering in every aspect
DIPHU, June 26 – In a packed gathering of a cross-section of people at KASA Stadium, Diphu, the Karbi Anglong District Congress committee (KADCC) headed by Biren Sing Ingti, MP celebrated one year of the Tarun Gogoi government. On this occasion, aid from different government schemes were distributed among beneficiaries from Lumbajong MAC constituency at the initiative of Kuntila Ronghangpi, executive member (EM), Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC).Speaking on the occasion, Dr Nazrul Islam, Minister, Food and Civil Supplies, Govt of Assam said that Assam is prospering in every aspect. The Gogoi government has undertaken a number of welfare schemes for the development of the people of the State. Launching a scathing attack on AGP, he said that during Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) regime there was a financial mess. There was no develop and peace in the State but after the Congress came to power the Gogoi government has done commendable job and as a result peace and prosperity has come back. Mangal Sing Engti, CEM, KAAC urged the gathering to get inspired by achievements of Sanjiba Rongpi, footballer to excel in life. Bidya sing Engleng, parliamentary secretary, govt of Assam said that people from ASDC and CPI (ML) are joining the congress in large numbers and soon there will be nothing called ASDC and it can only be found in the pages of history.Biren Sing Ingti, MP, Diphu stressed the need for a co-operative movement in Karbi Anglong. He cited the example of successful co-operative movement in Gujrat, Punjab, west Bengal and other developed states. He also informed that the KAAC is soon coming up with many initiatives for improvement of power scenario in the district.On the occasion, the beneficiaries under Lumbajong MAC constituency were given widow pension, LPG cylinder and stove, sewing and knitting machines.

Advent industry workers in dire straits
PATACHARKUCHI, June 24 – More than 500 employees of Advent Industries Limited working in the polyester mill at Nathkuchi No.-2 are totally in a helpless state. The workers alleged that it was a great conspiracy to close the mill. On the other hand the authority tried to put the blame on the workers.The once profit-spinning company, the Assam Syntex Limited was setup in 1982 and the mill produced polyester blended yarn with an installed capacity of 17,280 spindles from 1986-87 at an estimated cost of Rs 996 lakh.The mill heralded high hopes for the people of Nalbari and Barpeta district, specially as over 500 people got job opportunity in the factory. After performing well initially the subsidiary units of Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) was paralysed due to a lot of reasons. The workers were forced to leave the mill and look for other jobs. Their hardship began with the management declaring that it could not afford to pay salaries to them. In that situation the workers left the mill to take to cultivation and even manual jobs.The mill remained non-functional for at least nine years. After floundering for nine years it was leased to Guwahati-based Advent Industries Limited. The decision brought hopes that the popular polyester yarn would start rolling out of the mill again. Similarly the distressed employees would also get back their jobs for livelihood.As the mill got new lease of life the situation also changed. The workers started working with hopes and new spirits.But also the hopes and spirits of the workers once again floundered as the authority failed to keep its promises for running the mill smoothly. The workers informed that all the muster roll workers were discharged by the authority w.e. of 30.5.07. They also alleged that authority of Advent failed to supply fuel for running the generators during power cuts. As a result production was affected badly. The Advent Industry which signed a memorandum of understanding with the State government to run the sick mill at an annual rate of 18 lakh has failed to pay lease rent to the State government for the last two months. The company has failed to pay the arrear dues of nine months and similarly the government has also failed to pay arrear dues 92 months, they alleged. The company has also not been able to clear the last months pay of the workers.The ‘Assam Sintex Limited Karmi Santha’ a registered union bearing Reg. No. 1504, informed that they were informing about all the irregularities from time to time to the higher authority, but have failed to get fruitful results. The view of the union is that the Advent Industries is trying to blame the efficiency of workers were responsible for the present state of the mill, with a view to close the mill again. It is interesting that the managing director of Advent Industry kept himself absent from an important meeting recently which was held by Labour Officer, Nalbari to discuss the causes of slow running of the mill. The said meeting resulted as the union appealed to the Labour Commissioner.The union informed that at such a condition of the mill surprisingly the general manager, production manager, had already managed to leave the mill campus. The canteen of the worker has also been closed from June 9 last.

Move to industrialise fishery sector
HAILAKANDI, June 24 – The Government of Assam has taken some innovative steps to industrialise the fishery sector in the State. Recently two meetings were organised in Guwahati to review the newly-taken decisions about the development of fisheries in various districts.The State Fisheries department has decided to appoint Matshya Mitra in all the districts of the State soon to provide door step information on fisheries to the fish farmers regarding the scientific fish cultivation. At least three Matshya Mitra will be engaged in each district. They will not receive any salary from the government but they will be paid a token money for every visit. The Fishery Department sources informed that immediately after getting the call from the fish farmer they will visit and make necessary arrangement for soil and water analysis. They will be trained in the every aspects of the scientific fish cultivation after their engagement. The District Fishery Development Officer (DFDO) of Hailakandi, Gopal Chandra Bhowmick, who attended the meeting, informed that Commissioner and Secretary of the Fishery Department, PK Borthakur announced the scheme of Matshya Mitra. These review meetings were also attended by the Director of Fisheries, Dr. AK Roy and the State Project Director of the Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services (ARIAS), B Kalyan Chakraborty also attended the meeting.Besides, Matshya Mitra, another post Aquarium Expert has also been created to give better guidance to the residents for maintaining aquarium in the houses properly. Another major objective behind the introduction of aquarium expert is also to popularise local ornamental fishes usually meant for the aquarium. Similarly, at least three experts will be engaged in the district initially and they will also not get any salary and will be provided a token incentive after their every visit.The Fishery department has already started the selling of packed local fishes through the fish sellers to provide better quality fishes in the market. The scheme has recently been launched in the Dispur market and all the district fishery development officers have been asked to introduce such scheme in all the districts also. DFDO Bhowmick also informed that the department has also taken major initiatives to bring revolution in the local fish production. He said that huge fund is available for the development of beel fisheries but due to the problem of the possession of land the schemes are not being implemented properly. To achieve physical target the government has decided to constitute a committee in each district with the deputy commissioner as chairman and the DFDO as member secretary and also involving all the land related officers in the block for the easy possession of the land for the development of beel fisheries. The committee will sit in the regular interval to discuss the problems of the possession of the land. DFDO Bhowmick informed that in Assam, a total of 3000 hectares of water areas have been taken up for the development of beel fisheries but only 300 hectares have taken up for practically for fish cultivation due to similar problem.Besides, the government has also asked the district authorities to start banana plantation in the banks of all the fisheries constructed under the World Bank funded Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project (AACP) as an identifying character.

Aiyar for more NE-Thailand exchanges
SHILLONG, June 24 – There should be more exchanges between the India’s northeast and Thailand to promote trade and commerce, Union Minister for Development of Northeastern Region Mani Shankar Aiyar said today. Mooting the idea of observing 2008 as the Northeast-Thailand year, Aiyar said increased interaction between the region and Southeast Asian nations would end the sense of alienation and neglect prevalent in the northeastern states in consonance with the Centre’s ‘Look East’ policy.He told a high-power Thai delegation to the North-Eastern Council, led by that country’s Commerce Minister Krirk Krai Jirapaet, that India and Thailand enjoyed a centuries-old relationship which could be further strengthened by mutual cooperation.However, Aiyar felt that for the relations to flourish, Jirapaet needed to visit the region again for a longer stay to cover more states. Similarly, visiting Indian business delegations would need at least six weeks to study conditions in that country.Aiyar described the Thailand minister’s visit to the region as significant because it was the first time that a minister of that country had visited the northeast.Speaking to reporters later, Aiyar said the northeast was peaceful barring a few pockets in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur and this is conducive to the growth of trade and commerce.Jirapaet said Thailand ranked 18th in world tourism and pointing out that development of tourism required good connectivity, catering, hotel management and hospitality services.Meghalaya Chief Minister DD Lapang said his state was ideal for private investment as there were no law and order problems. – PTI

Thai delegation visits Sualkuchi
SUALKUCHI, June 23 – The Thai delegation headed by Krik Krai Jirapaet alongwith DONER Minister Mani Sankar Aiyer today visited Sualkuchi, the nerve centre of Assam Silk fabrics. They also had interactions with the local weavers.The team that landed at 11.15 a.m. was rushed to the Kushum Silk Factory. They visited the handloom factory of Sailen Kalita, and finally were taken to the Sima Weaving Factory and the Rionky Weaving factory to have a first hand experience of the process of silk production.The team was very much impressed with the handwoven and natural dyes. The Thai Minister interacted with Ghanashyam Baishya, Ganesh Das and Kunja Das, all weavers.Later, the delegation also visited the Assam Samabai Resham Pratisthan a primary co-operation society of the village and saw their products. The delegation was felicitated by Mahendra Kalita, secretary of the Society. The Kamrup District Administration also felicitated the members of the delegation offering muga shirtings and muga sarees. Ramesh Chandra Jain, DC, Kamrup welcomed the guests for their august visit to Sualkuchi.Replying to a question, Jirapaet said there is some similarity between the people of the North-east and Thailand in term of dress materials. He will examine the possibilities of exporting and trade between the two India and Thailand, he said.Mani Sankar Aiyer, while replying to a question not declaring Sualkuchi as an industrial zone said that he is not aware of the matter. He said, ‘You have pointed it out and I will look into it.”Thai business delegation includes Somjan Pleng Kham, Deputy Director General of Export, Thailand, Jom Jiapact, son of the Commerce Minister, Thailand. They were accompanied by Shushma Sing, Secretary to the Minister of DONER, Harish Sonowal, Commission, Industry, Govt. of Assam, Prafulla Bharali Deputy Director, Handloom and Textiles, NN Rana Patgiri, MD, ARTFED.

Thai-NE trade can boost ties, says Jirapaet
GUWAHATI, June 23 – Stressing that the North-east and Thailand could give a boost to thier historical ties by way of mutual trade and commerce, Krik Krai Jirapaet, the Minister of Commerce, Thailand, today said that tourism, handloom and handicrafts, infrastructure, oil and gas, health, agro-based and food-based industries, etc., were the areas that held promise for bilateral cooperation. “The north-eastern States and Thailand have enjoyed close historical ties, and the time now has come to build further on that. We can be partners in development, as there is great scope for promotiing mutual trade and commerce between the two regions,” Jirapaet said at a press conference.Jirapaet happens to be the first minister from a foreign country who has visited the North-east with a business promotion mission. He is leading a contingent of representatives from the biggest trade and investment promotion agencies — both private and government — of Thailand.The Minister for the Department of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Mani Shankar Aiyar, while terming Jirapaet’s visit as a historic occasion, said that Thailand had the expertise and experience to invest in different sectors, especially infrastructure, in the North-east. “Thailand has emerged as a prosporous nation in the past 25 years through private sector collaboration with other countries. The North-east can well emulate the example of Thailand,” he said.Pointing out that the 11th Plan envisages an investment of Rs 50,000 crore on roads in the North-east, Aiyar said that the question now was whether the region had the required absorptive capacity. “The construction companies of Thailand can invest in this sector, as Thailand has excess construction capacity,” he said. Aiyar further said that the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP)-2007 had accorded unprecedented tax subsidies for private investment in the region. “I would like to appeal to the Thai investors to take advantage of the situation and invest in the North-east,” he said. The Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, and Assam Commerce and Industry Minister Pradyut Bardoloi also addressed the press meet.

NE can generate 60,000 MW of power
GUWAHATI, June 23 – The North East region has the potential to generate 60,000 MW of hydro-power althow at present the power generation in the region is less than 2000 MW, said the Minister in charge of the Department for Development of North east Region (DONER), Mani Shankar Aiyar. Speaking at a meeting with the Thailand delegation here today, the Minister said that Thailand could invest in power sector in the North East. He said the Government of India is investing Rs 50,000 crore for the development of road communication in the North East in the next five years and Thailand could provide equipment and expertise to ensure timely completion of the projects. He said that foreign direct investment in the sectors like road communication, water transport and railways are totally tax free. He said that efforts should be made to give a boost to inland water transport, but night navigation facilities are not available in the region, while, most of the jetties are in bad shape. He pointed out that Thailand could lend its expertise to India in improvement of the inland waterways system. He also announced that a team would be taken to Thailand from this region shortly.The Union Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, addressing the meeting, said that there is enormous scope for developing trade ties between the North East region of India and Thailand. He said that steps should also be taken to improve trade ties with Myanmar and Bangladesh through the North East region. The North East must get the full benefits of the look east policy of the Government of India.Ramesh announced that for the first time, an international tea festival would be held in Guwahati in November. He revealed that a major scheme for re-plantation in the gardens would start from Monday, which would improve production and quality.Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that Thailand could assist the North East in the health sector in a big way. He referred to the close age old ties between North East and Thailand and said that Thailand could invest in the sectors like food processing, oil and natural gas, etc.Meanwhile, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Indian Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Thai Industries today.
82 TEs in State avail special tea fundBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, June 28 – Though the Government of India has created a special purpose tea fund to assist the gardens to go for re-plantation and rejuvenation of the tea bushes, it remains to be seen whether all the gardens of Assam manage to take the help of the fund to improve quality of tea. Moreover, the Government of India is yet to release the full amount of capital investment and interest subsidy due to the gardens under the North East Industrial Policy despite repeated requests by the Tea Associations.Tea Industry sources told The Assam Tribune here today that so far 82 gardens of Assam have signed loan agreements to take the benefits of the special purpose tea fund. The fund has been created by the Government of India following a proposal from the Tea Board to assist the gardens. According to a report of the Tea Board, the aging tea bushes led to declining quality and productivity, which in turn, increased cost of production. The cost of production of tea in India is the highest among the tea exporting countries of the world. The objective of the special purpose fund is to cover 2.12 lakh hectares of tea plantation over a 15-year period. Under the scheme, 50 percent of the assessed cost of re-plantation and rejuvenation would be provided as loan and 25 percent as subsidy and the borrowers are to bear the balance 25 percent of the expenses.Industry sources said that majority of the gardens of Assam are in urgent need for re-plantation as the ageing of the tea bushes led to decline in production and the overall production of tea in the state has not gone down only because of the small tea growers. Sources said that re-plantation of the tea bushes require a six-year cycle and the economic life of a tea bush is said to be about 35 years. However, there are gardens in the state, which are plucking leaf from nearly hundred-year-old tea bushes. Sources pointed out that ageing of the tea bushes led to deterioration of the quality with increased fiber, which the productivity has also come down drastically, which meant that some gardens are not economically viable. The slump in the tea markets also led to further deterioration of the condition of the gardens, particularly those owned by individual owners.Sources said that the Special Fund would, no doubt, be beneficial to the gardens, which wanted to go for re-plantation and rejuvenation, but it remains to be seen whether all the gardens of Assam would be able to take advantage of the same to ensure improvement of productivity and quality. There are gardens which have not been able to pay the salaries and wages of the labourers, not to speak of clearing the provident fund dues and it would be difficult for those gardens to fulfill the eligibility criteria for obtaining benefits under the fund.Moreover, tea industry sources said that the Government of India has not paid the dues including the capital investment and interest subsidy due to the tea gardens under the North East Industrial Policy. The Tea Associations including the Tea Association of India (TAI) wrote to the Government on several occasions to clear the dues since July, 2005, but till date, the Government has not taken any step in this regard.

A tale of raw deal and woes of deprived childhood
MIRZA, June 29 – Elimination of poverty – the main impediment to all-round development is still a distant dream for the rural areas. And worse still, children in the age group of five to 14 are reported to be engaged as underpaid wage earners to provide much-needed relief to respective needy families.Interacting with this correspondent, a few children who are supporting their families by various wage earning means held abject poverty responsible for their incomplete schooling in the early part of their lives. “I sell fish for Rs 15 to 20 only to enable my father to buy basic edibles,” Sambaru, 10, of village 3 No. Amtala under Palasbari constituency lamented. Confirming his son’s facts of life, Kartik Das said the trivial earnings of my son come in handy to run my needy family.Poverty the constant companion of this schedule caste village with a smattering of a few government employees was reported to have cost the schooling of many children. And lackadaisical attitude of the government has made the matter worse for them. Going by the ground realties of the rural areas, this menace has raised the spectre of bleak future of the new generation.Of the reported fastest increase in primary school enrolment between 1999 to 2004, South including South West Asia accounted for 19 per cent of this spurt. But the overall picture is still dismal as children of the marginalised section have been reported to have shouldered the heavy burden of running their families. Ujjal, 12, and Jainaty, 7, are two brothers who reportedly work in tantem to support their family besides acting as cook following the death of their mother.Moreover, apart from regular angling some are reported the labourious job of earth cutting. “Per earth load of pushcart fetches us Rs 30 and excluding the hired rate of the handcart, we realize Rs 180 as benefit,” a three-member group of children said. Also, the pathetic view of children carrying and loaded sacks from tributaries is a scene which has to be seen to be believed. “At first we bring the sand from the river bed and later on sell them,” said a four-member group of children including a girl child of Balahidi under Chhaygaon constituency.Further, children such as Nayan, Anil Newla to name but a few were reported to have played traditional musical instrument such as cymballs, nagara etc in Chaitali naam which earn them Rs 10 to 15. “We could not help going for angling besides playing our part in during traditional cultural functions,” said Bidyut Das and his company. They further added that paltry contribution serves the much needed purpose of rather simple living.Rapid decline in income generating avenues in rural areas has emerged as a cause of concern and people are solely dependent on the sale of their labour power which is exploited. “It is an uphill task to run my four member family without the meagre contribution of my two sons,” Uday said expressing his sordid tale of woes.According to an ILO report, 250 million children in the age group of five to 14 years were working as labourers in the developing nations including India where out of five children, one of 10 is engaged as a labour. And the number of child labourers in rural areas working as helpers of masons was on the rise. They have taken to spadework to the detriment of not only their health but also of mental development.Chakra, a 14-year-old school dropout took recourse to the job of welding utensils here at Bijoynagar, four years ago, when his father died prematurely Moreover, the girl children are not lagging behind boy children in terms of domestic help to weaving for which they are extending financial help to their family of battered economic status.What needs to be mentioned is that taking the gigantic problem into account, scores of laws enacted to protect the interest of the children have failed to curb the menace.And so the laws — Factories Act, 1948, Mines Act, 1952, Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 — are in dire need of more teeth to deaccelerate the rapid growth of this social evil. And the owners of industrial units including brick kilns should refrain from exploiting the child work force to the hilt.

Stress on level-playing field in tea sector
JORHAT, June 30 – The Assam Tea Planters’ Association has made a case for a ‘level-playing field’ for the organized tea sector in the face of the advent of small tea growers. Speaking at the 70th annual general meeting of the tea planters’ body, formed way back in 1935, at the Jorhat Gymkhana Club here today, its chairman Raj Barooah acknowledged the increased presence of the small tea growers and their contribution to the State’s economy. The ATPA chairman, however, felt that the organized sector of the tea industry in Assam, which is over 100 years old, is burdened by ‘draconian laws’. Barooah presented a ‘wish list’ for the consideration of both the Centre and the State Government. Chief Economic Adviser to the Union Government Ashok Lahiri was the chief guest at the AGM. Barooah called for a relaxation of the provision, which requires a tea estate owner to be free from all statutory liabilities, for availing of the benefits under the Special Purpose Tea Fund introduced this year by the Union Commerce Ministry and the Tea Board of India for the rejuvenation and replantation of tea bushes. “We urge the Government to ensure that small and medium-sized gardens are not deprived of the loans available under the SPTF,” the ATPA chairman said. This sector needs the benefits the most, he stressed. The ATPA chairman also underscored the need for the early implementation of the proposed e-auction process initiated by the Tea Board to ensure fair price recovery and rid the tea industry of the glitches of the age-old manual auction system. Maintaining that the Centre and the State Government should share the social costs borne by the organized tea sector in the State, Barooah made a plea for the suitable amendment of the relevant sections of the Plantation Labour Act in this regard to provide relief to the tea managements. He also asked the Government to ensure that there was no dislocation in distribution under the new public distribution system introduced in the tea estates from June this year. Welcoming the Centre’s North East Investment and Industrial Promotion Policy, 2007, the ATPA chairman stressed that the funds under all the schemes envisaged under it should be released in time. Barooah made a pointed reference towards the non-release of funds for two years under the Central Interest Subsidy on Working Capital provided for in the North East Industrial Policy, 1997. The ATPA chairman also argued for reforms in the power sector to cut down on transmission and distribution losses, permission to use natural flavours in tea, exemption from the levy of cess on green tea leaves and a waiver on the payment of agricultural income tax for at least a few years. The Chief Economic Adviser to the Union Government, in his speech, harped on the need for upgrading the quality of tea, which he termed as a ‘highly differentiated product,’ in order to withstand the fierce competition in the global market. Quoting the report of a sub-group on plantation sector constituted under the 11th Plan, Lahiri said that the Indian tea sector, particularly Assam tea, should follow the example set by Brazil which has been able to maintain its overwhelming superiority as the largest exporter of coffee while achieving manifold increase in its domestic consumption. The tea industry needs to take a proactive and aggressive stance to re-establish India as a tea super power, the Chief Economic Adviser said.

China posing threat to Indian silk industry
GUWAHATI, July 8 – The Indian silk industry is facing a big challenge from the Chinese silk industry. China is pumping in its mulberry and tassar silk products to India at rates much below their production costs. This is aimed at destroying the Indian indigenous products, which have the potential to throw veritable challenge to Chinese silk sector. China is thus trying to pave the way for its future monopoly in the world sericulture market, said Scientist-C of the Central Silk Board (CSB) S N Mishra.At present, India is producing over 15,000 metric tonne (MT) of silk goods per year, against China’s 45,000 MT. In this respect, India is second to China. Brazil is following it with an annual production of 7,500 MT.The three countries have their own distinctive styles of production in this sector. China has small farms and large factories for yarn production and cloth making, while India’s farms and industries for yarn and cloth production are small. Brazil is hosting Japanese farms and industries. They are using the latest technologies.Japanese silk industry has shifted its farms and factories to Brazil, as, big plots of land and cheap labour are easily available in this Latin American country.Brazil is not a competitor to China in the silk market. For, it is sending its entire products virtually to Japan. But for centuries, India is sending its products mainly to the Western countries. Its main buyers are the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. Of the total Indian silk export worth over Rs 1,100 crore per annum, 50 per cent go to the USA and Canada.China is pursuing a very aggressive marketing strategy to eliminate India from the race. Earlier, China was not able to export its goods to any country other than the South East Asian countries. But by learning production and marketing strategies from India, it is now exporting silk goods that outmaneuvre India.Again, to take the bull by its horns, China is making its creppe fabrics available at Bangalore, Benaras and Kolkata Srirampur at Rs 120 per metre. At these places the Indian silk fabric painting units are located.However, the redeeming feature is that the silk printing industry has only ten per cent share in the total Indian silk products. Hence, Chinese intrusion in this area is not successful so far to stifle the Indian silk industry. China is also eyeing the Indian silk embroidery sector. But here also, the sector has a share of around five per cent in the entire Indian silk industry, said Mishra. And to make its assault more effective, China is making its raw silk yarn available at cheaper rates at places like Sualkuchi, Kanjivaram (Tamil Nadu), Dharmavaram (Andhra Pradesh), Benaras and even at Bangalore. These are the places where Indian designed silk fabric products are woven.It is estimated that of the over 500 MT of mulberry silk yarn annually used in Assam, 100 MT are Chinese mulberry silk yarn. These yarns are mostly used as warp threads. Since the Chinese yarns cannot be dyed in bright colours for their poor colour absorbance, hence, in Assam the Indian weft yarns will remain in use, said Mishra. But, it now appears that on an average, India is using around 5,000 MT of Chinese raw silk yarn annually. This amount was around 2,500 MT around 1990 and now it has doubled. The post-World Trade Organization (WTO) developments have kept this trend rising particularly in the weaving sector, said the CSB scientist

State likely to lose Rs 15,000-cr ADB loan
GUWAHATI, July 3 – The delay of the State in adopting its water policy may prevent it from securing around Rs 15,000 crore Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan. This may also impede its efforts at asserting its rights over the inter-State and international rivers coursing through the State.Meanwhile, States like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan have adopted their water policies and the Government of India (GoI) has also approved them. But Assam’s Cabinet Memorandum for constitution of the State Water Resources Council and the State Water Board for formulating the State Water Policy has remained to be adopted.According to official sources here, Chief Engineer of the Water Resources Department had submitted the draft of the memorandum to the Department’s Secretary on August 21,2006. The final copy of the memorandum was submitted to the then Chief Secretary in November last year.In the counterpart meeting held between the representatives of the ADB and the State Water Resources Department in May last, the Water Resources Department claimed that the framing of the State Water Policy was in process and formalities for the constitution of the State Water Council and the State Water Board awaited Cabinet’s approval.It perhaps needs no mention here that the meeting was held in connection with the State Water Resources Department’s proposal with the ADB for the North Eastern Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Management (NEIFREM) Project, Assam.In the said meeting, the State Water Resources Department also claimed that its Flood and Riverbank Erosion Management (FREM) strategy was ‘more reactive rather than being reactive, particularly in regard to erosion control.’The State Government also assured sustainable maintenance of FREM infrastructure during the ADB representatives’ discussion with the State’s Chief Secretary and Finance Department. From the minutes of the counterpart meeting it is also learnt that the NEIFREM vision 2020 envisaged the basis of an institutional and investment road map. But if the State fails to have its own water policy, it will not bode well for all these exercises, said the sources.

Goalpara has vast farming potential
DUDHNOI, July 2 – With a view to bring awareness among the rural farmers, an agriculture awareness campaign meeting under the aegis of Indian Agriculture Research Centre and organised by Dudhnoi Agriculture Science Centre was held recently at ‘Dudhnoi Gyan-dayeni Puthibhoral’ premises, where a good number of local farmers were present.Addressing the meeting, which was conducted by Dr Hitu Chowdhury, scientist of the Dudhnoi Agriculture Science Centre, Ananda Karmakar, agriculture extension officer of the Dudhnoi agriculture subdivision, said that Goalpara district has vast potential for development of farming, horticulture, kitchen-gardening and also producing other seasonal crops.He also specifically mentioned that in Goalpara district, areas like Dhupdhara, Ambari and Nishangram are most fertile land for producing kaju badam.Another agriculture research specialist Haricharan Kalita explained the aims and objectives of Indian Agriculture Research centre towards extending all possible helps to the rural farmers. Meanwhile Kamang an agriculture specialist of domestic science, explained the methods and techniques of preserving fruits and vegetables, produced by the rural farmers in their kitchen gardens, for household use.Attending the meeting Tarun Sangmai, lecturer of Dudhnoi College also mentioned about the feasibilities of production and growth of piggery in the tribal settlements of Goalpara district.Rabha Divas: Bishnu Rabha Divas, organised jointly by Goalpara district units of All Rabha Students’ Union (ARSU) and All Rabha Women Council (ARWC) was held at Baida in Goalpara district on June 20.Besides holding literary competition among the participants, felicitations to as many as 19 meritorious students belonging to Rabha community for scoring high marks in HSLC/HSSLC exam were also given on the occasion. An open meeting held under the chairpersonship of Siraj Rungdung, president of Goalpara district ARSC was also addressed, among others, by Mani Rabha, litterateur and former speaker of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, Dr Molina Devi Rabha. Principal-in-charge of Bikali College of Dhupdhara, Gouri Shankar Rabha president of Sixth Schedule Demand Committee (SSDC) and Deepali Rabha of ARWC.

Sarthebari bell metal industry struggling for survivalFrom Our Correspondent SARTHEBARI, July 1 – Bell-metal industry, the second largest handicraft of Assam, is now struggling for survival. Shortage of raw material is the main problem today.The bell-metal industry of Sarthebari has a prestigious past. The people of Assam are emotionally and culturally attached with the utensils of the bell-metal industry. But, in the last two years, this industry has faced some serious problems threatening its existence.The present condition of this industry is very critical. Hundreds of artisans are forced to leave the industry. Some are even unable to earn their livelihood. The shortage of broken bell-metal utensils as well as the hiked price of this raw material have created problems for the artisans.In the last few months, the price of broken bell-metal utensils has increased substantially and it is now about Rs 400 per kg. Even if one manages to purchase it at this price, he is unable to get it sufficiently due to shortage in supply. The problem is appararently more critical due to the hiked price of charcoal. Because of all these reasons, the price of the bell-metal utensils have increased. However, due to shortage of the raw materials, the artisans have to leave this industry and are forced to look for some other source of income. Hundreds of workers are being unemployed. If it continues, the bell-metal industry will be history soon.The State government and some other agencies are providing some financial help to this industry sometime. But, no government has tried to realise the core problem of this industry. A comprehensive policy to save this industry is the need of the hour according to all concerned. The government should not ignore an industry like bell-metal which is providing engagement to nearly 20,000 people directly or indirectly. People of Sarthebari artisans of the industry are eagerly waiting for government intervention to save this industry.Bohagi Bidai : Bohagi Bidai Utsav was celebrated with a day-long programme recently at Bhakuwatepa under the aegis of Tribeni Club. The Club also celebrated its 27th annual conference of establishment in the same programme.On this occasion, the club distributed uniforms to the poor school-college students and distributed mosquito nets among the poor.Social services and prize distribution programme were held.An open meeting was also held on the occasion. Dr Nakul Talukdar, principal, Bapujee College, Sarthebari, Dr Tara Prasad Das, local MLA and Karuna Kanta Ojha were the appointed speaker, chief guest and guest of honour respectively.Dwijendra Nath Sarma, president of the club, presided over the meet.

Eri farming can boost State’s economyBy Ajit Patowary GUWAHATI, July 13 – Eri, the neglected warm silk of Assam, has the potential to boost the State economy provided due importance is attached to it. Eri has an advantage over wool. Unlike the latter, it is a non-itching or non-allergic fabric. It can beat wool in the area of exotic designs also. The results of a latest experiment on the fabric have proved the veracity of the above assertions.According to SN Mishra, Scientist – C of the Central Silk Board (CSB), a test was conducted recently at Bangalore by the CSB on eri cocoons from Assam to examine its potential in the mill sector. Shawls were woven from the yarms produced in Bangalore on power looms in Jammu and Kashmir. And buyers readily agreed to pay higher prices for these shawls compared to the Kashmiri pashmina woollen shawls.The results of this experiment may be used for the benefit of all those connected with eri sector in Assam. It is expected that such efforts will create a situation in which eri yarn production will have to be raised by several times to meet the foreign demand. And significantly, as of now, there is none to compete with Assam’s farmers in this sector, said the CSB scientist.At present Bangalore, Bhagalpur, Delhi and Mumbai are important eri silk exporting centres of the country. Entrepreneurs from Assam have also set up their export units at these places.Eri is being promoted by the Central Government under the brand of ‘Ahimsha Silk’. As, it is produced without killing the pupa, said Mishra.Assam produces around 600 MTs of eri silk yarn per year. It is estimated to be around 60 per cent of the total eri yarn produced by the country. Meghalaya follows Assam in this respect.The exact production status of eri is, however, yet to be known. Since, most of the farmers are located in inaccessible areas and they raise eri worms as their food items. The cocoons produced by the worms as their shelter at a stage, are only secondary items for these farmers.The decentralized and non-commercial level of spinning of this variety of silk yarn is also a major constraint in the growth of industrial ventures based on it. In addition to this, there is no organized or centralized eri cocoon market where bulk quantity of eri cacoons can be purchased.However, despite all such constraints, the industry is thriving in clusters like Bijoynagar in Kamrup District, Udalguri District, Kokrajhar District and Karbi Anglong District of Assam and around Patharkhama in West Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, Mishra said.For development of this sector, an organized cocoon market in both Assam and Meghalaya is the first condition. Mini or micro spun silk mills for eri should support this, he said.
Muga yarn shortage makes way for tassarBy Ajit Patowary GUWAHATI, July 15 – About 3,000 muga sector handlooms in Assam are depending on the cheap Chinese tassar yarns. This is due to the shortage of indigenous muga silk yarn. According to Scientist- C of the Central Silk Board (CSB) S N Mishra, there are about 5,000 handlooms in the State engaged in muga sector. Each of these handlooms needs, on an average, about 50 kgs of muga yarn annually. Assam produces around 100 MTs of raw muga silk yarn annually. With this amount of raw muga yarn, only 2,000 handlooms could be operated.This has compelled the operators of the rest of the handlooms to depend on Chinese tassar, as, it is the nearest alternative. Again, Chinese tassar yarn is available at a much cheaper rate of around Rs 1,500 per kg, against Rs 4,500 of muga yarn.This practice cannot be prohibited abruptly. Since, such steps are feared to spell disaster for the people engaged in these looms. There should be viable alternative for their employment.To overcome this, Mishra said, “ We should raise our annual muga yarn production to 250 MTs. This will be more beneficial for the State’s economy too.”Moreover, tassar cannot compete with muga, since it does not have the appearance, touch and quality of muga, he said.The Assam Government and the CSB have plans to produce 250 MTs of muga silk yarn and 1,000 MTs of eri yarn annually by the end the Eleventh Five Year Plan (EFYP), he said.On the other hand, Chinese mulberry silk yarns are also making inroads into Assam. State’s own mulberry silk yarn production has declined drastically. Till recently, Karnataka used to meet most of the State’s raw material demand. Now, Chinese mulberry raw silk yarns have started entering Assam. But their poor colour absorbance has confined their role only to warp materials. In the State, there are around 20,000 commercial silk handlooms engaged in this sector. These handlooms are concentrated in Sualkuchi, Bamundi, Bangsor and Ramdiya in Kamrup district, Mukalmuwa in Nalbari district and Jajori in Morigaon district. Some of them are producing kecha paat fabrics using indigenous raw materials, he said. However, he warned that the Chinese mulberry silk yarns had the potential to outmaneuvre Indian yarns in the power loom sector for their higher tensile strength. It now appears that on an average, India is annually using around 5,000 MTs of Chinese raw silk yarn. This amount was around 2,500 MT around 1990. The post-World Trade Organization (WTO) developments have kept the trend rising particularly in the weaving sector, he said.India is trying to thwart this challenge by developing bivoltine mulberry silk races. Now, 10 per cent of the country’s total mulberry silk yarns are coming from these races. These varieties of comparatively high-tensile-strength mulberry silk yarns are now produced in Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, North Bengal’s Kalimpong and Meghalaya’s Jayantia district.India’s domestic mulberry silk yarn production is about 90 per cent of the 15,000 MTs of silk yarns it produces annually. Its annual silk yarn demand is about 25,000 MTs. This fiscal, India has targeted an annual silk yarn production of 17,500 MTs. By the end of the EFYP, the country is planning to achieve the target of 25,000 MTs annually, said the CSB scientist.

Rs 2,000 crore for State’s rural road networkBy Prabal Kr Das GUWAHATI, July 16 – A substantial investment to extend the state’s rural road network is in the offing with the PWD (Roads) finalizing a plan in which funds to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore would be expended. Provided by the Union Ministry of Rural Development the funds would be utilised in constructing roads, which would connect every habitation with a thousand plus population under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) 2007-2008, well placed sources in the PWD (Roads) informed The Assam Tribune. In its final stages of preparation, the new plan is likely to be a boon to people living in remote villages and towns across Assam, which do not have all weather road connectivity. With a total road length of 4,000 km to be constructed, it is expected that almost ninety per cent of habitations would be connected within a short period.“We are certain of receiving the amount that we have estimated for the 4,000 km road length. It could actually be more than Rs 2,000 crore if the number of bridges to be erected is high,” revealed a senior engineer. The official was confident that funds would not be a constraint, because their source is a Union government entity. The required amount would be routed through the National Rural Roads Development Agency. The roads, to be built in all the districts of the state except Guwahati Metro would have a formation width of 7.5 metre of which 3.75 metre would be hard crust width. They would have a thickness of 30 cm with additional bituminous carpeting of 2 cm. The road geometry would be scientific, with adequate provision of drainage where necessary.Among the 26 districts Nagaon would possess new road length of 351 km, while Barpeta would come to possess 228 km of new roads. Jorhat would have additional roads of 211.44 km in length. The shortest new road construction would be in Karimganj district with a length of 64.11 km. It has been expected that the new undertaking would engage around 500 contractors in different parts of the State, and would indirectly involve work of many more sub-contractors. The entire tendering process would be done through e-tendering so that transparency and probity was maintained in finalising the contracts.As part of the continuing PMGSY programme 2006-07, the PWD (Roads) has meanwhile started allocating funds in the region of Rs 1,548.63 crore towards constructing 2,853.40 km of roads in various parts of the State.Among the vital roads to be built this year are one connecting Barpeta Road with Bansbari in Manas National Park and one connecting the Pobitora National Park with NH 37.At present Assam has a total road network of 50,933 km of which 30,745 km is categorised as rural roads. The major district roads total 3,839 km, while urban roads extend to 3,696 km. State highways and National Highways measure 2,820 km and 2,755 km respectively. Project and other roads include an additional 7,078 km.
Bamboo crafts need patronageFrom Kishore Talukdar GUIMARA (Palasbari), July 17 – Supplying different kinds of bamboo-made products, a few localities, mostly uncared for, of the erosion ravaged Guimara under Palasbari constituency, have earned fame. Being home for accomplished artisan both of japi and bamboo crafts, these localities are cynosure of all traders of the state. The practitioners of bamboo craft of village Guimara have been striving hard to catch on the summer sale by making bamboo fans. Notably, the hundred-odd families living in penury here on the embankment for the past two decades are eking out a meagre living by selling bamboo-made fans.Expressing his untold tale of woes, 56-year-old Jatin Ch Das lamented, “I took to practise this craft after being rendered homeless by massive erosion 20 years ago.” He further rued the fact that he was reduced to poverty when Brahmaputra gobbled up his 15 bigha cropland besides his residence.Mention may be made that Kalpana Das (17), Mayono Das (15), Desajani Das (13) are leaving no stone unturned to support their family. “We complete 300 fans in a week and sell them for a rather paltry profit of 50 paise per fan,” the siblings said.Indeed, these bamboo artisans are deprived of realising the real benefit, but as two spartan meals matter more to them than the profit, they put their skill to good use.Arup Das, who failed to complete his graduation due to abject poverty, burns the midnight oil making fans. “While sunlight is a boon for our trade, inclement weather is a bodyblow to the business,” speaking to The Assam Tribune Jogen Das (60) said.Mentionably, sunlight is must for drying the dyed bamboo-made strips.Bamboo stretchers designed to serve multiple purposes are the lone source of livelihood for artisans of Hakarapara, well-known for the making of mats. “Our products have a lot of demand in all seasons,” said Paresh Sarma (52), adding that the five-month-long boom time earned him the wherewithal to run his four-member family.Another village Sanpara is in a class of its our in making all kinds of bamboo products such as sieve, bamboo scoop, kheloi, dukula, etc. including the products needed in weaving. Septuagenarian Nandiram Das said jakoi, the indegenious fish-catching trap, fetches them Rs 20 as benefit per peice and recalling the profit making years, Das rued the present time when the price of jakoi has nosedived to an all time low.Notably, the selling of the fish catching devices used by the rural womenfolk reportedly received blow with the rapid dwindling of waterbodies.Dalepara becomes proverbial so far as the making of fishcaptaring devices are concerned. Barcepa, and barsisha, two of the much used devices for dewatering the swallow waterbodies are supplied from this village. “Traders from Punjab had come to my house to purchase products in 2006,” Jogesh Doloi (60) said, adding that the profit they reportedly realize ranged from Rs 10 to 20.But, all these bamboo-made products, which compliment the skills of the artisans, undeviably need a proper market that could serve their purpose of living well. And going by their battered economic status, the craft need patronage without further delay.

30 cos to invest Rs 100 cr in StateBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, July 18 – Buoyed by the incentives given by the new North East Industrial Policy (NEIP), several companies have lined up projects to invest in the State. According to available information, about 30 companies have already got their names registered for investment of Rs 100 crore in the State. Of the 30 companies, Emami and Eldorado will invest about Rs 50 crore. The cosmetics major Emami has decided to expand its existing unit located at Amingaon while Eldorado will set up a new plant in Rangiya with an investment of nearly Rs 20 crore.It is learnt that several detergent manufacturing companies have also shown keen interest to invest in the State to tap the North East market.Highly-placed official sources while talking to this correspondent informed today that these companies have come forward to invest in the State to avail the incentives provided by the new industrial policy and to harness the North East market. “The North East market is still untapped for which the companies are trying to strengthen their foothold by way of setting up of production units here,” they observed.Citing reasons for the companies keenness to invest in the State, the sources said that the new NEIP has given a lot of incentives to the companies and, therefore, they are keen to explore the situation.The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), North East chapter, has welcomed the move saying it is a positive sign for the development in the State. Bishwajit Chakraborty of ICC, North East chapter said that after announcement of the new industrial policy several companies have shown keen interest in investing in service and infrastructure sectors. “We have received queries from Thailand and Spain to invest in the region. That is a good sign,” he said, adding that ICC has received over 100 queries from different companies. The Industry and Trade Fair Association of Assam (ITFAA) observed that a pro-active and aggressive campaign are required to woo investment in the region. “The Mayor of Bouchan City of China wanted to adopt Guwahati as its sister for industrial development, but unfortunately we could not capitalize on the situation,” Rajesh Das of ITFAA said.

Organised market system can help farmers’From Our Correspondent UDALGURI, July 24 – “If the market control system is well organised and updated as per the requirements under the set norms, only then our poor farmers would be benefited. It is a matter of concern that we hardly know how far our farmers are getting benefits from their fertile soil.” This was stated by Promila Rani Brahma, State Agriculture Minister, while speaking here on July 22 at a meeting on the occasion of the foundation laying ceremony of proposed marketing shed at the Udalguri daily market complex. The marketing shed construction worth Rs. 18.24 lakh will have four auction platforms. Such other six marketing sheds would be constructed in Udalguri district paving the way to the poor farmers of the district to purchase and sell their agro products at government rates. In Mazbat, similar type of marketing shed with four auction platforms worth Rs. 15.20 lakh would be constructed while in Bhergaon, construction of marketing shed with two auction platforms worth Rs. 9.12 lakh is already in progress and in Ghagra market also a marketing shed worth Rs. 9.12 lakh with two auction platforms was reported to have been under construction. In the same way the construction of another marketing shed at Lalpul market worth Rs. 9.12 lakh with two auction platforms is in progress and in Tangla bazaar and Kalaigaon market, the marketing shed are said to have been under consideration.Laying the foundation of the marketing shed, the Agriculture minister further observed that production of agro based goods should go hand in hand with the set up of marketing auction centre. “ Market and production are the two sides of a coin, one is said to be incomplete without the other,” she added.Speaking on the occasion, Rihon Daimari, PHE minister of the State said that even though Udalguri district is basically an agriculture-based area, but its farmers are deprived of their due price of their agro products and with setting up of the market auction centre, the farmers would get maximum benefit from it. He also urged the farmers not to depend upon rice cultivation only but suggested to go on cultivations of other crops like sugarcane, pineapple, orange etc. He also disclosed that he encouraged a self/help group to cultivate sugarcane in 70 bighas of land, pineapple in 200 bighas of land. He also informed his plan to plant 6000 saplings of margosa (neem) in Udalguri district and 3000 saplings in and around Udalguri town to make it a neem town.The foundationlaying ceremony was organised by the Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board in association with the Darrang district Marketing Committee and Udalguri Town Committee. Among many others the meeting to this effect was also addressed by Debeswar Borah, chairman of Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board.

State Central Excise revenue up by Rs 105 crBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, July 20 – Despite poor industrial growth due to inadequate infrastructure and perennial militancy problem, excise duty collection in the State is on the rise. According to available information, the Central Excise, Guwahati division has alone realised Rs 685 crore revenue during 2006-07 (upto March) which is Rs 105 crore more than the revenue collected in 2005-06. During the period, about 3,585 assesses has paid Rs 69 crore as service tax.What is more significant is that service tax assesses in the State have been increasing gradually and they have been paying a huge revenue to the Government exchequer.In 2005-06, the division had collected a revenue amount of Rs 580 crore and 3,535 assesses had paid Rs 50 crore as service tax, while in 2004-05 the revenue figure was recorded at Rs 435 crore.The Guwahati Division was set up in 1966. In 1993 it was bifurcated into Central Excise and Customs. The division mainly covers four districts-Kamrup, Barpeta, Nalbari and a part of Morigaon. It deals with petroleum products, paper, yarn, fabrics and calcined petroleum coke. Petroleum products and paper have been contributing a huge chunk of revenue over the years. In 2006-07, Guwahati Refinery has paid Rs 280 crore as excise duty while in that period; the Hindustan Paper Corporation has paid Rs 19 crore.In view of increasing excise duty, the State has been benefited to a large extent. Of the collected revenue, the State gets 45 per cent share.Encouraged by the revenue collection, highly-placed State Government sources said that though the State has not received any big investment due to poor infrastructure and law and order problems, yet entrepreneurs have set up industries with small investments. “Another significant part is that the number of service tax payee have been increasing and they are also contributing a huge revenue”, they added. They also observed that a conducive atmosphere is a must for better investments. “ The new industrial policy has provided several incentives, and therefore the State will receive more investments in the near future”, they added.
Massive growth in key sectors envisaged NEW DELHI, Aug 5 – The Rs 5,460-crore Assam Gas Cracker Project, which will become fully operational by 2011, is expected to drive massive growth in key sectors, including packaging, textiles and agriculture, and boost industrial activity across the northeast. The Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology has projected that 500 plastic processing industries will come up in the region once raw materials are readily available from the project at Lepetkata in Dibrugarh district.The potential areas expected to witness rapid growth are packaging, agriculture, irrigation, construction, real estate, horticulture, healthcare and textiles. The project will also provide a major opportunity for investment, a government official said. The Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited or gas cracker project is a joint venture promoted by GAIL (India), which has 70 per cent stake in it. The remaining equity will be shared equally among Oil India Limited (OIL), Numaligarh Refineries and the Assam government.The Planning Commission has projected the net benefit from the project at about Rs 720 crore a year and the net income generation over a period of 15 years at Rs 4,200 crore, assuming a zero shadow wage rate which will more than offset the project’s subsidy requirement. OIL is to supply six million standard cubic metres of gas a day from its Duliajan field to the project. ONGC will give 1.35 mmscmd of gas till March 31, 2012 and one mmscmd thereafter.The plant will also use 160,000 tonnes of petrochemical grade Naphtha a year from NRL. The existing LPG plant at GAIL’s Lakwa plant will be modified to process gas for recovery of ethane and higher hydrocarbon fraction, which will be transported to Lepetkata by a pipeline.The land required for the project is 3,300 bighas (1,100 acres). A total of 3,030 bighas (274 bighas of government land and 2,756 bighas of private land) has been acquired by the Assam government, and 1,641 bighas has already been transferred to BCPL. The balance is likely to be handed over to BCPL shortly.Some highlights of the project are:Grant of capital and feedstock subsidies which are to be considered under the assumption of internal rate of return of 10 per cent at constant prices. Debt-equity ratio of 2:1 and polymer pricing of Rs 40,000 PMT at constant prices.Capital subsidy of Rs 2,138 crore for the project on fixed cost basis (phased during the construction period of five years at constant prices), which will be sought by the department of chemicals and petrochemicals from the finance ministry and planning commission by way of additional budgetary support.Feedstock subsidy of Rs 908.91 crore for the project spread over a 15-year operational period (beginning from the sixth year and continuing up to the 20th year).Review of pricing of feedstock to be supplied for the project every five years from the date of production. – PTI
State potters facing bleak futureFrom Kishore Talukdar PALASBARI, Aug 3 - Feeling the pinch of modernity following a glut in cheap plastic substitutes, a steep fall in demand and steadily increasing cost of production, potters all over the State have in recent times been pushed to the edge of survival. Devoid of official patronage, the trade may soon become a thing of the past. In Kamrup district for example, Binandiram Kumar (65) of Gargara narrated the community’s collective plight. “Backed by variety to suit any taste or pocket, the factory-made durable plastic or thermocol substitutes in the form of cups, plates and other utensils have punched gaping holes in our sales over the years”, disclosed Kumar. “With easy-to-handle plastic items flooding the markets, hardly anyone cares to purchase our traditional earthenware, save for auspicious occasions like religious festivals, marriages and the like”, he added.“On the production front, escalating cost of raw material has pushed the selling price of our products even higher despite decreasing demand”, he lamented. “Crippled by low revenue intake following sluggish sales, we barely manage to keep body and soul together these days”, he admitted.Though customers in general are aware about the detrimental effects of using recycled plastic material for serving food, besides its long-term impact on the ecology, convenience, easy availability and competitiveness have spawned ever-increasing demand, he justified.Hira community womenn normally make products like dabar and patcharu after pounding the malleable earthen utensil into the required shape with a wooden club. Opening up before this newspaper, Sabita and Sunati, both Hiras, confided that their sales today were mostly confined to the tribal population. “They purchase our wide-mouthed earthen utensils for brewing country liquor”.While the Hiras use black clay mixed with sand, the Kumhars use red clay in their wheels for moulding pottery. The earthenware is sun-baked for five days, dyed and finally fired. The fuel used for firing includes paddy husk and cowdung cakes, or paddy straw and firewood.Voicing apprehension over the Government’s nonchalant attitude towards their predicament, potters of the Hira and Kumhar communities felt their days were numbered.As their brethren at Sikarhati, Dhopguri, Dhantola, Rajapukhuri, Nahira and Bongana struggle to keep their home fires burning, a steady declinee in their regular pickings may finally bring the potters wheel to an abrupt stop.
Commercial bamboo farming started in JorhatFrom A Correspondent JORHAT, Aug 2 – Farmers in four development blocks here will have access to advanced technology in the cultivation of improved varieties of two indigenous species of bamboo – bhaluka (Bamboosa balcooa) and jati (Bamboosa tulda) – in their fields. The Jorhat district administration is executing an ambitious scheme to promote the commercial growing and harvest of bamboo at Koliapani, Selenghat, Baghchung and Titabor blocks within the district. The New Delhi-based National Mission of Bamboo Applications (NMBA) is sponsoring the project, which has been envisaged by retired professor of the Assam Agricultural University Dr Tapan Dutta. Dr Dutta is also the agricultural adviser (honorary) to the Assam Chief Minister.The funds to the tune of Rs 5.90 lakh are being released in phases. An amount of Rs 1.62 lakh had been earmarked for training alone for both experts associated with the bamboo cultivation project and farmers. During the first year of its implementation in 2006-07, three training sessions and a seminar were held.The purpose of the training was to expose the farmers and self-help groups to the various details relating to the commercial cultivation of bamboo through intensive management regimes, Jorhat District Agricultural Officer Ajit Sarmah, who is the nodal officer for the project, said. He claimed that the bamboo cultivation project under implementation was the first of its kind in Assam involving the direct participation of the government machinery.Spelling out the objectives for undertaking the project, Sarmah pointed out that it was aimed at promoting bamboo cultivation in a professional manner on one hand and giving a thrust to the bamboo-based industries on the other. “We will provide bamboo cuttings developed at the Sotai-based Rain Forest Research Institute (RFRI) and fertilizers to the farmers,” he said, adding that there would be incentives for setting up vermi-compost units in the project area, too. As of now, the bamboo will be planted in 20 hectares of land. The RFRI is collaborating in the project by providing technical support and imparting training to officials of the Agriculture and Soil Conservation departments, personnel of the District Rural Development Agency, scientists of the Assam Agricultural University, members of self-help groups and farmers who are involved in the bamboo cultivation project.As bamboo is a fast-growing woody grass and has 1,500 well-documented uses, its cultivation may yield handsome profits to the farmers from the third year of growing itself, the Jorhat DAO stressed. The use of advanced technologies will lead to a greater output, thereby improving the financial benefits which will accrue to the farmers going for the cultivation and other entrepreneurs, Sarmah added.The NMBA-aided bamboo project here will, hopefully, usher in economic development of the rural areas by throwing up avenues for exploring the full commercial potential of bamboo, regarded as the ‘green gold’ of the forest, the Jorhat DAO summed up.The bamboo cultivation project is slated for completion in 2008. Jorhat Deputy Commissioner LS Changsan is the chairperson of the implementation committee formed for monitoring the progress of the project.

NE emerges as major transit pointBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, Aug 26 – North-east India has become a major transit point of precious stones smuggling. Precious stones – ruby and sapphire are generally smuggled from Myanmar across the border and then sent to various destinations as per demand of the market. In view of growing demand in the market, gem stones smuggling are on the rise in the North-east. During the past 10 years, the law enforcing agencies deployed along the border have made several seizures of precious stones of Myanmar.“There have been several incidents of gem stones seizures at Champhai, bordering Myanmar. These stones are generally ruby and sapphire,” Jora Moiya, a senior police official of Mizoram Government told this correspondent over telephone today. According to him, Burmese people living along the border are involved in the smuggling to earn their livelihood.These stone mines are scattered in Sagying Division, Myitkyina and Mogok of Myanmar. But now Myitkyina mines are controlled by the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) as per the agreement with the Burmese Junta. Mogok area is famous for rubi from which Myanmar Government earns a huge chunk of revenue. As these areas are geographically very close to the North-east border, smugglers easily run their business.In North-east, stones are generally brought from Mogok and Myitkyina areas by the Burmese women and then sent their consignments to the region with the help of carriers. The carriers later dispatch to these to Jaipur and Delhi as per demand of the customers.“We have confiscated several consignments of precious stones during the past several years and these stones have good demand in the Delhi and Jaipur markets,” a Customs official, who did not wish to be named, said. He further informed that these stones are generally brought in ‘impure form’ which are sent to Delhi and Jaipur for refining and marketing the product. Myanmar rubi has already made its strong presence in the global jewellery market because of its purity. In India, gem stones market has been picking up following increasing demand of the customers. According to a survey, the jewellery market in the country has been growing at a rate of 20 per cent annually. To meet the demand, stones are brought from Myanmar. Moreover, the porous North-east border is also helping the illegal traders to run their business without any hindrance.
East meets West at handloom fairBy A City Correspondent GUWAHATI, Aug 26 – This fall the fairer sex can look chic and yet entrenched to their roots by donning themselves in apparels that flaunt the ethnic in the western cuts. Traditional fabric of the State as well as the entire North east have truly come of age with entrepreneurs of the region putting in their innovativeness and diligence together to blend the best of the East and the West.The weeklong North East Handloom and Handicraft Fair, which got off on Monday at NEDFi Haat has a superb collection of products on display ranging from eri long skirt to muga shoes and sandals, a real treat for the fashion conscious.“I am not a professional dress designer, but I have always wanted to take the materials of my State like muga, eri and pat to an international platform,” said Utpala B Bhuyan, an entrepreneur whose collection boasts the latest in the sartorial wardrobe all done with an assiduous eye on the traditional.The collection comes in the form of eri long skirt, eri coat, eri overcoat, toss long skirt etc. Utpala revealed that some of her products like the eri overcoats had been inspired by none other than the renowned author Mamoni Raisom Goswami. “It was for Mamoni baideu that I first made an eri overcoat,” recalled Utpala.When a Thai minister bought an eri punjabi a couple of months back from Utpala, she knew that her hard work had paid off at last. “ It was a recognition of our own materials and I am confident that eri will catch the global fancy if it is used to make outfits that are in demand at present,” observed Utpala.On the other hand, Hemanta Kumar Adhikary’s stall has been neatly arranged with muga sandals and shoes. A girl’s most essential accessory, bags come in muga and in five different designs within the range of Rs 500 to Rs 700. “ People are still a bit hesitant about the muga sandals, wondering whether it could be worn in the dirty conditions of Guwahati,” said Adhikari. But nevertheless, Adhikari is confident that his muga sandals and shoes would be a huge hit.Handloom and handicraft products from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim and other States of the region were also seen to have the touch of the trendy.
Centre to invest Rs 28,000 cr in NE power sectorFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Aug 24 – In a bid to boost power generation in the north-eastern region (NER), the Centre plans to pump in Rs 28,000 crore to add 5,615 MW of power during the 11th Five Year Plan. The figure, however, is less than what was reported. Media reports suggested that the Central Government proposed to invest Rs 50,000 crore to generate 5,600 MW of power in the region.In a Lok Sabha reply, Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that of the 78,755 MW capacity additions planned in the 11th Plan, 5615 MW was expected to be developed in the North-east including 4,055 MW of hydro and 1,560 MW of thermal power.A matching investment is expected to ensue for strengthening the corresponding transmission and distribution networks, Shinde added.Currently, there is no separate power policy for the NER. However, the 1998 policy on hydro power development has incorporated several steps and measures.
25 yrs of IOC’s LPG marketing in StateBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Aug 17 – The elation over a successful venture and the promise of a new beginning were in ample evidence in the silver jubilee celebration of LPG marketing by the Assam Oil Division of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). At a function marking the 25 years of LPG marketing, the rank and file of the ‘Indane family’ came together to mark the occasion at the city’s Pragjyoti auditorium today.The joy of the IOC officials and the dealers and distributors of the LPG brand Indane stemmed from the fact that their efforts have resulted in effective market penetration of the product in various parts of the North-east and beyond. Beginning from a humble 18 distributorship, the number of Indane distributorship has grown to 276 covering different states of the North-east and also West Bengal. Similarly, the safety record of Indane has been impeccable over the years. But if it was a stellar effort at expanding business opportunities, new challenges lie ahead. This was the thrust of the keynote address delivered by PL Baruah, the Executive Director of Assam Oil Division. In a lucid explication, Baruah attributed the success of LPG marketing to team effort and foresight and said that LPG use has gained grounds across the North-east. He underlined the recent emergence of auto-gas as the new territory in which LPG could make inroads considering that demands for automobiles are growing at 20 per cent every year. He urged the dealers and distributors to take advantage of the new development. Baruah revealed that already one dispensing station of LPG has been commissioned in Guwahati, and three more are in the pipeline. Significantly, he pointed out that countries like South Korea, Japan, Turkey, USA and the Netherlands are already adapting LPG as a mode of automobile fuel. In the present scenario India has a long way to go in using LPG in the automobile sector, but States like Maharashtra and Karnataka have already made great strides. He, however, sounded a caution about diversion of LPG from one type of use to the other and called on distributors to ensure that heavily subsidised LPG meant for domestic consumers was not routed to other uses. Speaking as the guest of honour, State Minister of Commerce and Industries Pradyut Bordoloi congratulated the Assam Oil Division for its success in marketing Indane and recalled his own fond memories of working for the company. Also speaking as the guest of honour, BK Das, Managing Director of NRL, mentioned several innovative steps taken by the Assam Oil Division that saw the growth of the LPG network. Several other dignitaries also attended today’s function, including RK Dutta, CMD of Stewart and Lloyd, G Bhanumoorthy, ED Guwahati Refinery, among others. Several notable figures associated with LPG Marketing were felicitated on the occasion.

Centre admits NE’s slow pace of developmentFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Aug 16 – The Centre has conceded that the pace of economic development of the North Eastern Region has been slow. In a Rajya Sabha reply, Minister, Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Mani Shankar Aiyar said there have been variety of reasons, including geographical location and repeated natural calamities, lack if basic infrastructure in almost all the major sectors of connectivity, as well as power, health, education, tourism, inadequate entrepreneurship, lack of sufficient employment opportunities, among others. To address the problem of economic backwardness of the region, the Government of India has initiated various special measures. Notwithstanding the fact that the NE comprises only four percent of the country’s population and about eight percent of its geographical area, all Central Ministries, except those exempted, are required to spend 10 percent of their plan budget for the North Eastern States, the Minister said.The Minister further said that apart from funds allocated through annual plan of the State, the Ministry DoNER has released Rs 5778.96 crore.
Foreign companies to tap oil sector in NortheastBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, Sept 3 – In a bid to explore the oil and gas sector, several foreign companies have lined up a series of projects in the Northeast. These companies have entered the region under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). According to official statistics, the total foreign investment in the oil and gas sector during the last five years stands at around Rs 150 crore, of which Assam has received a lion’s share from foreign investment.Canoro, a Canadian company which has been operating in Sivasagar, Golaghat and Jorhat with an investment of Rs 45 crore, is now in the process of procuring oilfield in Nagaland. “Our discussions with the Nagaland Government are heading towards right direction and we will be launching our operation soon,” highly-placed official sources told this Correspondent today. They also informed that Canoro is trying to expand its wings to other parts in the region. Similarly British company Premium Oil, which has invested around Rs 30 crore, has been exploring in Cachar area. Premium is also keen to venture into the new areas in the region. Another French company — Geo-Empro — has made an investment of Rs 70 crore in Arunachal Pradesh.It is learnt that GeoPetrol, a French company, will soon launch operation in the Northeast with a huge investment. The company has already procured necessary license from the Petroleum Ministry to start operation.Expressing satisfaction with the flow of foreign investment, the leading trade body Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER) said that it is a good sign for the region. “We always welcome private participation in the oil and gas sector considering its potential, but at the same time these companies should properly handle the local issues like employment and environment,” FINER CEO Ajoy Borthakur told this Correspondent today. He further said that the entry of foreign companies would boost the growth of ancillary industries. “Oil and gas sector in the region is still untapped for which more companies should come to this region,” he added.The size of Indian oil and gas sector is estimated to be around $90 billion. The oil and gas sector is also one of the largest contributors to central and State Government exchequer amounting to $13.58 billion.
Ambitious livestock project in StateBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Sept 3 – The Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department has undertaken an ambitious project for development of cooperative initiatives in the livestock sector in north bank areas of the Brahmaputra valley. To start with, it has taken up Bezera Development Block of Kamrup district. The State Bank of India is financing the project, while the Department is providing technical assistance to the farmers’ cooperatives in implementing the project.The purpose of the initiative is to provide the families of these areas with income-generating capacities through livestock farming. The local livestock farmers’ cooperatives will implement the project.The project is designed to utilize the optimum potential of the rural areas in livestock farming as an alternative to tilling or as an additional means of income and thus to alleviate poverty through self-employment and also to ensure supply of pure milk, egg, meat and other livestock items to the consumers.It has developed a strategy to provide a well-organized market network to the farmers and to familiarize them with modern farming techniques. It has the provision for assisting the best entrepreneurs in expanding their market to other areas. In the first phase of implementing the project, the Department has taken up the dairy sector. Initiatives in other sectors will follow the successful implementation of the first phase, said sources in the Department.The areas covered under the project are – Bezera, Mandakata, Satgaon and Lenga. In these areas, the Department will identify the livestock villages. The cooperatives of the livestock farmers there will organize their farms in clusters at designated places of their respective villages. The bank will provide 85 per cent of money as loan component, while the participating farmers will bear 15 per cent of the total investment. Dairy, poultry, pig, goat, duck, integrated cropping and marketing units are its components. So far, five farmers’ cooperatives of Baihata Chariali, Bezera, Mandakata, Satgaon and Lenga have been enlisted as the member units for implementing the project. The State Bank has already sanctioned an amount of Rs 1,00,000 each to 30 members of these cooperative societies, said the Department sources.However, the Dairy Development Department should play a major role in making the project successful. The West Assam Milk Producers’ Association Ltd (WAMUL) also can play a significant role to make the project successful and thus to get rid of the crisis it (WAMUL) is facing now, said the sources. It needs mention here that the farmers’ cooperatives are yet to have bulk coolers to preserve their milk. At this stage, ensured daily procurement of the producers’ milk is vital for the success of the project. The bank authorities are insisting on proper marketing of the items. They are maintaining that basing on the success of the first phase, they will double the financial assistance to the cooperative societies in the second phase. Money is not a constraint for the project if the recovery of the investment is ensured, said the sources.

NE may get road links with SAARC nationsFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Aug 31 – Isolated North-east may get a boost of extensive road linkages with neighbouring countries with India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka recommending new pilot sub-regional and regional projects to the SAARC Member States. The proposed road linkages include Birgunj-Kaatihar-Singhabad-Rohanpur-Chittagong with links to Jogbani, Biratnagar and Agartala, besides Agartala-Akhaura-Chittagong, and Kathmandu-Birgunj-Kolkata. Air-connectivity between Malé-New Delhi and Islamabad-New Delhi has also been proposed.The new projects were recommended by the first meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Transport Ministers here today. The meeting elected Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, TR Baalu, as chairperson. The conference is being attended by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.The Second Meeting of the Technical Committee on Transport and meeting of the Intergovernmental Group on Transport preceded this meeting. The SAARC countries deliberated on the Report of the SAARC Regional Multi-modal Transport Study prepared and funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB).The pilot project also includes proposal for linkages from Phuntsholing to Hashimara, besides procurement of customs related equipment for faster clearance of cargo. Other proposals include rail corridor between Colombo and Chennai, ferry service between Colombo and Cochin and Colombo and Tuticorin as pilot projects. Addressing the meeting, Baalu said it is inevitable that connectivity was selected as the core theme for the 14th SAARC Summit as against the current forces of market liberalisation and technical advances in communication. “Why should we as members of South-Asia be left behind”, he emphasized. Baalu said that there should be a focussed list of road, rail, water and aviation corridors, which could be easily implemented. The Minister said that, we should strengthen the air connectivity with the SAARC capitals not yet directly linked to accelerate the connectivity.SAARC countries would be examining the viability of the projects for reporting to the Third Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Group on Transport scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in second week of March 2008.
GI mark for Assam tea soon: JairamBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Aug 31 – Predicting better days ahead for Assam tea, Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh today said that it should also be able to secure the all-important geographical indication (GI) mark soon. “For the first time, Pakistan has allowed rail movement for importing Assam tea and this should facilitate swift movement of tea consignments from Assam to Pakistan,” Ramesh said at a press conference.India exported 16 million kg tea to Pakistan last year (2006), with Assam’s share being 2 million kg. The transit to Pakistan from Assam, however, had been a major constraint, as the consignments had to take the Guwahati-Haldia-Singapore-Colombo-Karachi route resulting in wastage of time and cost-escalation. “With this irritant removed, the prospects of tea export to Pakistan have brightened,” Ramesh said.The minister revealed that the formalities for accordance of GI for Assam orthodox tea as a brand were being completed, and it would become the second item after muga to have that status. “I had been hoping all along that tea would be the first product from Assam to get the GI mark, but muga has beaten tea in the race,” he added in a lighter vein. Ramesh also underscored the need to put thrust on both value and volume of tea. “Traditionally our emphasis has been more on volumes than on value. This needs to be changed and our approach should encompass both value and volume,” he said. On the forthcoming international tea conference in Guwahati and Jorhat, Ramesh said that the event would open up new vistas for Assam tea, especially in areas relating to export. He said that the biggest foreign contingent was expected from Pakistan. The Minister also revealed that the recently-launched Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) was having the desired impact in rejuvenation of old tea plants.
Rs 327-cr OIDB loan for Gas Cracker ProjectFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Aug 30 – Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) has offered a term loan of Rs 327 crore to the Assam Gas Cracker Project, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dinsha Patel said. Providing a progress report of sorts, the Minister said various pre-project activities have been initiated. Project offices have been opened in Guwahati and Dibrugarh. Assam Government has transferred 890 acres of land to Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL).The OIDB has offered a term loan with certain conditions and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is being inducted, the Minister said.The mega Gas Cracker Project is estimated to cost Rs 5460.61 crore. The Government of India will provide a capital subsidy of Rs 2,138 crore, while the remaining cost would be borne by BCPL. The project is a joint venture among Gas Authority of India (GAIL), Oil India Limited, Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) and Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC).The project is envisaged to produce 2.20 lakh tonne per annum (TPA) of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and 60,000 TPA of polypropylene.Patil today said that essentially, polymers produced from the plant would be consumed downstream plastic processing industries in the North-eastern region. After meeting the demand of the region, the balance products would be sent to other parts of India or would be exported to neighbouring countries.
State ginger to hit German market soonBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, Dec 28 – Ginger cultivated in Karbi Anglong district of the State is all set to hit Germany soon. The first consignment comprising 20 MT will be exported to Germany by next month.Sresta Natural Products Private Limited, a Hyderabad-based firm has taken the initiative to export ginger from Assam. The firm has tied up with Ginger Growers Co-operative Marketing Federation Limited (Gin-Fed), a Karbi Anglong-based group to carry forward the deal.In this context, he said that this is a new beginning of ginger export in the State. “We will export organic ginger which does not have any chemical for which the German firm has come forward to buy our products. Considering the response from the firm and the demand in the German market, we have set an export target of nearly 1,000 MT for this session,” he informed.Last year Sresta exported around 20 MT of organic ginger from Manipur to Germany. “We have received queries from the United Kingdom and we are working on it,” Borgohain said.Ginger is one of the earliest known oriental spices and is being cultivated in the Northeast both as fresh vegetable and as dried spice. Karbi Anglong is one of the ginger-producing belts of Assam. In Karbi Anglong, nearly 5,000 farmers cultivate ginger in Ridung, Umlapher and Singhason hills. The district produces about 40,000 MT ginger per annum. As the farmers are not fully aware of post-harvest treatment, the firm is facing problems while procuring ginger. Moreover, the communication bottleneck has created a major hurdle in this regard.It may be recalled that Assam alone produces around 70 per cent of the total ginger production in the country. Despite its vast potential, the authorities concerned are yet to take any concrete step in this regard.“Ginger has a good market across the world and hence we can tap the foreign market by motivating the farmers towards scientific cultivation,” Borgohain said
Global trade centre opened at SutarkandiFrom Our Correspondent KARIMGANJ, Feb 15 — An international trade centre was inaugurated at Sutarkandi under Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh by Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh recently in presence of Union Minister for Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Deb and Asom Excise and Border Development Minister Gautam Roy.In his inaugural address Ramesh said the trade centre will increase the volume of trade between India and Bangladesh and benefit the general public including the local youths, exporters and importers. He laid stress on the development of infrastructure in the entire North East including Barak Valley districts of Asom. He said Rs 16 crore more would be spent in coming 15 months for giving a full-fledged shape to Sutarkandi Trade Centre. Besides, International Trade Fair would be organised every year at this centre expenditure of which would be borne by the Centre.Ramesh declared that Centre has allocated Rs 252 crore to be spent in next ten years for revival of tea garden in Barak Valley. This will benefit 10000 tea gardens labourers throughout the valley also, he added. Ramesh said, Centre is exclusively mulling a proposal to introduce bus service from Silchar to Kolkata via Bangladesh and it will be implemented soon. He assured to give rubber and pineapple cultivation in the valley to boost with the Central government aid.Deb released a souvenir published on the occasion in the inaugural meeting. Addressing the meeting, Deb said goods worth of Rs 100 crore are exported through Sutarkandi to Bangladesh every year. He expressed the hope that the trade centre would be able to facilitate more export and import and it would reduce illegal border trade.The meeting was attended, by among others by Lalit Mohan Suklabaidy, MP, MR Das, MLA, A Haque MLA, KA Majumdar MLA and A Goel , DC, Karimganj, among others.In his inaugural speech, Gautam Roy, revealed that trade fair would be organised every year at the trade centre. This trade centre has been constructed by Assam Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, a government of Asom undertaking.
Plan to boost exports of region’s handicraftsFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Feb 20 – Buoyed by the success of its marketing strategy, the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has identified the Northeast among five destinations to set up sourcing hubs for handicraft products. Interest in handicraft products of the Northeast might have taken root, however, the sector has miles to go to meet up with the Northern Indian States. The entire Eastern Region including the Northeast contributes less than 10 per cent to the handicraft market. On the other hand, a major chunk of the USD 33 million market comes from North and Central India.However, the traditional markets for handicrafts products having reached saturation point, the focus has been trained to source products from new areas like the Southern and north-eastern region.Scripting a success story for handicrafts products of the region, the EPCH has decided to set up exclusive pavilion of products for thematic display of handicrafts of the North Eastern and Southern Regions, in the forthcoming Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair (Spring) 2007, announced the executive director of the Organisation, Rakish Kumar.An estimated 7000 buyers are expected to come calling in the four-day Festival to be held at India Expo Centre and Mart, at Greater Noida Expressway.Identifying sourcing of the products as one of major hurdles, Kumar said six sourcing hubs are proposed to be set up all over the country. In the North-East, the sourcing hubs are proposed to be set up either in Guwahati or Agartala, he said.The Government of India would be spending about Rs 10 crore on each of the sourcing hubs, while land is expected to be provided by the State Government, the executive director said. Describing the international marketing project for export of North Eastern handicraft products as nothing less than a success story, the executive director said that inspired by the outcome, several States like Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal have requested them to replicate the model in their States.Kumar said none of the schemes and plans for promotion of handicrafts ever took root in the NER. A unique project of aggressive international marketing project with infusion of components of human resources development, training, and design and product development was introduced.Since then 400 budding entrepreneurs turned into successful handicrafts exporters in the years with an average export turnover ranging from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 1crore. Over 300 containers of handicrafts products have been exported. Export orders of over Rs 100 crore have been executed within first three years, he said."We have put the NER in focus and Phillipino designers have been engaged and aggressive marketing of products of the Region have been set in motion," he said.In the last few exhibitions, EPCH has been focusing on products of the NER. The concentration has been mainly on the raw material base of cane and bamboo besides fabrics. Exporters of handicrafts from the region have been able to develop a vast range of cane and bamboo utility products covering decorative, gifts, furniture and other utility items with the help of international designers. Overseas buyers find the products an excellent source for increasing their profit margin and diversifying their products range, he said.Kumar estimates the world market for handicraft and gift products at USD 234 billion. The target for exports of Indian handicrafts products has been fixed at Rs 25,000 crore by 2010-2011, he said.Presently, the sector is growing at a rate of 14-17 per cent. The exports of handicrafts from India were of the order of Rs 1412 crore in 1992-1993. In the year 2005-2006, the exports of handicrafts from India were of the order of 16,186 crore, Kumar said.
ARTFED bid to go globalBy A City Reporter GUWAHATI, March 4 – Having affirmed its identity in the local handloom market and winning the hearts of the guests of the 33rd National Games, ARTFED is now going global with assertive marketing policies in the export and retail sale sections.The positive response from the customers across the globe is giving further fillip to the idea of accelerating the international trade. NN Rana Patgiri, Director, ARTFED, who has just returned after a successful business at the Indian Trade Exhibition held in Port Luis of Mauritius explains, “From the entire stock of Rs 11 lakh we carried with us, not a single yarn is left. We are eyeing a good market in Mauritius.”“We have a presence in the international market from the last 7-8 years but the expectation of the desired results is rising high from last few years and we are all set to complement it with the good marketing policies,” he said.Last year, ARTFED participated in the Frankfurt Hand Textile Exhibition at Germany. Till date, it has ventured in the markets of the Sao Paulo in Brazil, some of the Latin American countries and also in the East European countries apart from central Europe. “In many parts of the world, we undertook our first attempt in 2006 and were amazed to see the response there,” he said.Novelty of Assam handloom in the markets abroad and purity of products lure the international buyers, thus feel experts. But a targeted approach to tap the in-house resources to supply according to the taste and preferences of the international market is also equally felt in the indigenous handloom market. Last year, we did an export business of Rs 7 crore and this year we have a target to extend it up to Rs 10 crore, said Patgiri.The people of Indian origin settled abroad are very much interested in buying Indian products and now a days the tilt is more towards the Northeastern handloom, he said, adding “for such countries we have two-way policy of export as well as retail sale through exhibition as it is not that simple to open an outlet abroad.” Recently, in a silk show at Vienna, a representation of eri and muga was made before the traders of Austria in presence of Indian Ambassador SK Sarma. The muga fabric is highly in demand in Japan as it is used to make the traditional royal outfit kimono and the popularity of eri stoles and the quilt items is also on the rise, according to the traders of international fabric market. “In an intensely competitive global market, we are trying to create a need of the handlom of this region among the primary consumers which will boost up the demand,” Patgiri added. The ARTFED is about to complete the first phase of its global business tour with a visit to Australia in March-end, hoping to tie business alliances with the fine fibres of Assam handloom.

global fest to help State tea sectorBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, March 10 – The International Tea Convention being held in the State in November next is very important for the development of State’s tea sector. This is more important for the growth of the State’s small tea garden sector, which has brought a revolution in the State’s tea industry silently. Today, the State has a share of about 55 per cent in the country’s total tea production, said Industry and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi in the State Assembly here today.The Minister, who was replying to a call attention motion moved by Independent MLA Pranab Kalita, said that the Union Commerce and Industries Ministry had laid stress on production of orthodox and organic tea, which have a great demand in the Western countries. While one kg of CTC tea produced in Assam fetches Rs 68 on an average in the international market, one kg of orthodox tea produced mainly in Darjeeling and in the Southern part of the country fetches between Rs 800 and Rs 1,500. Assam mainly produces CTC tea and 85 per cent of its tea is consumed in the country, he said.Assam produces orthodox tea too, but it has good liquor, while the orthodox tea produced in Darjeeling has the flavour. Meanwhile, the demand of the organic tea, which is produced without using chemical fertilizer and pesticides, is also growing in the international market, said the Minister.The International Tea Convention is very important for Assam, as, the experts from various countries converge in the convention. The State Government wants to make the small tea growers of Assam familiar with the international standard, the Minister said.He however, denied there having any pressure from a Kolkata lobby to shift the Tea Convention to Kolkata. Rather it was the apprehension of some of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) officials about the law and order situation in the State that the ITA-dominated Consultative Committee of Planters (CCPA) was hesitant to hold the convention in Assam. The January violence in the State also discouraged the organizers more. But the success of the State in holding the National Games smoothly changed the situation.He also clarified that neither the Central Government nor the Assam Government was organizing the convention. It is organized by the CCPA.He also told the House in reply to a question from Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) Chandra Mohan Patowary that the Union Commerce Ministry had banned use of chemical fertilizers etc in the tea gardens through a directive in 1998. Tea planters are bound to abide by it. But there are problems in implementing this directive in the small tea sector, which is unorganized, he said.

State to host global tea festBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, March 9 – Setting at rest speculations, the Union Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, today said that the forthcoming first India International Tea Festival would be held in Assam in November. Announcing this at a press conference, Ramesh said that the tea festival would be held in Guwahati, besides Jorhat. “The festival will be held in Guwahati and Jorhat in November this year,” he said.Terming the controversy over the venue of the tea festival as uncalled for, Ramesh said that security and infrastructure concerns were the reasons behind the shifting of the venue to Kolkata earlier. “There were security concerns and accommodation problems. But the State Government has made a commitment to address all the issues effectively, and now Assam will host the event,” he said. The tea festival will feature a number of foreign countries including Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, UAE, etc. Ramesh also had good news for the small tea-growers. “The 50,000-odd small tea-growers, who produce 20 per cent of the State’s total tea produce, will be getting land possession certificates within a month’s time,” he said.Lauding the small tea-growers, Ramesh said that the Government was keen on extending every possible help to them. “The small tea-growers are first-generation Assamese entrepreneurs and they are contributing significantly to the State’s economy. We are ready to help them in every possible way,” he said. The Union minister further said that the Tea Board had proposed to set up a separate cell for small tea-growers, besides starting a scheme to train up small growers. Stressing the need for quality control for capturing overseas markets, Ramesh said that Assam tea had a good chance of making inroads into the markets of Pakistan and Iran. “Over two million kgs of Assam tea were sold in Pakistan last year,” he said. Ramesh revealed that the Special Purpose Tea Fund would cover one lakh hectares of tea garden land in Assam. “Countrywide it would cover two lakh hectares. And of the total Rs 4,760 crore to be invested under the fund over a period of 15 years, the share of Assam alone is Rs 2,300 crore,” he said, adding that it would benefit 700-800 tea gardens of the State. Ramesh, who spoke to the media during the three-day special meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC) that started today, was enthusiastic about the prospects of rubber and spices in Assam and other north-eastern States. “At the moment, Tripura is making rapid strides in rubber production, accounting for 9.8 per cent of the country’s total produce, which is second highest after Kerala that produces 82 per cent,” he said. Urging the State Government to replicate the Tripura model in rubber cultivation, Ramesh said that apart from boosting the economy, its most visible impact was on insurgency. “Rubber cultivation has effectively weaned away youths from insurgency in Tripura. This can be replicated in Assam as well,” he said. Pointing out that the North-east till date exploited just 13 per cent of its potential for rubber production, Ramesh said that it was to be doubled in the next five years. “A task force has been constituted today and it will submit a detailed action plan by April 8 for harnessing the immense potential for rubber cultivation in the region,” he said. “We are making a comprehensive review of the offices of the Rubber Board, Spices Board, Coffee Board, Tea Board and the Agricultural Products Export Development Agency (APEDA). A determined push by the State governments is also required,” he added. Earlier, Mani Shankar Aiyer, the Minister of the Department for Development of Northeast Region, stressed the need to tap the immense scope for rubber cultivation in the region.

Thailand, Egypt to promote productsBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, March 6 – The crisis-hit handicraft sector of the North East is likely to get a boost as Thailand and Egypt have decided to promote the products by way of involving their designers.Thoradol Thongruang, Counsellor of Thailand while attending a ‘Buyer-Seller Meet’ in Guwahati today, said that handicraft items have a good demand across the globe and, therefore, this region can reap the benefit. To capture the global market, he observed that the artisans should introduce new designs as per the taste of the foreign customers.The ‘Buyer-Seller Meet’ organized by the Industries and Trade Fair Association Assam (ITFAA) was attended by 150 artisans from different parts of the North East. The meet was aimed at providing a platform to the artisans to have direct talks with the foreign buyers.Thoradol also appealed to the governments in the region to send artisans to Thailand so that they can get knowledge from the Thai people about the design and technology. “Our handicraft products have made strong presence in the world market because of our quality and designs. We are keen to provide help to the artisans to promote the handicraft items in the North East,” he said. Participating in the meet, Muhammad Abdullah, Counsellor, Egypt, asked the artisans in the region to participate in the trade fairs of Egypt to showcase their products. “Handicraft items have good demand in Egypt and therefore the artisans of the region can capture our market,” he said.Among Setiaharta , managing director of Pt Adhi Manunggal Prana, a leading company of Indonesia, also asked the artisans to introduce latest design in their products. “We manufacture the products as per taste of the Western people and hence handicraft sector has emerged as a major industry in the country. If North East wants to capture the global market it has to follow us,” he opined. Asked whether he would buy handicraft products of the region, Setiaharta informed that he would carry out a feasibility study. U Khin Maung Kyi, vice chairman of a leading company of Myanmar expressed satisfaction with the products displayed by the artisans of Tripura.Though handicraft plays a major role in the North East, yet the artisans have not been able to take the advantage due to poor marketing system. According to an estimate, there are about five million artisans in the region.

Physically-challenged farmer shows the way to being self-reliantFrom Surajit Khaund PANBARI, March 18 – Panbari, a small village of Kamrup district, has now become a focal point of orange buyers. A physically challenged farmer has brought about a sea change to the village by motivating the people towards orange cultivation. The Panbari villagers are now self-reliant and economically vibrant thanks to farmer Rajani Kanta Das.The 40-year-old farmer has attained godfather status in the village for his dedication and commitment in the field of horticulture.“Disability is not a barrier for me, rather I am more active than a normal farmer,” Rajani said confidently while sharing his views with this Correspondent. The farmer had to get his left leg amputated at the age of 10 following a tragic accident. But that did not make him any less able.It was in November 2000, Rajani had opened an orange garden on a hillock in Panbari village covering 80 bighas of land with an investment of Rs 3 lakh. The garden had started production from last year.“This year I am expecting more than Rs 4 lakh from my garden. For orange, it takes seven years time for complete production”, Rajani said. To carry forward his plan, the dedicated farmer spends at least 10 hours in his orange orchard. “Despite the misfortune, I do not want to be a burden on my family members and therefore I had opened the garden to earn my livelihood”, he added.Rajani wants to expand his garden keeping in view the growing demand for orange in the market. Elaborating his plan to export his produce abroad, Rajani said that Panbari oranges are free from fertilizer. “We do not use any chemical fertilizer for which we can easily export our products to western countries”, he informed.Inspired by his commitment and dedication, several unemployed youths of Panbari area have come forward to involve themselves in orange cultivation. “For us Rajani is the pathfinder in our life as we have learnt a lot from him about orange cultivation,” a group of youths said unequivocally.Meanwhile, the Organic Farmers’ Association of Assam (OFAA), an NGO closely associated with the farmers of Panbari and Dimoria, has been promoting organic orange cultivation in the areas considering the growing market potential. Saurav Gogoi of OFAA said that Panbari area is suitable for orange cultivation and hence it needs more attention from the authorities concerned. “Since Panbari oranges are free from any chemical fertilizer, the farmers can easily capture the global market. But to materialize the plan, the existing marketing system needs to be strengthened,” he observed.According to available statistics, Assam produces 60,000 MT oranges annually in which Tinsukia district contributes a lion’s share. In Kamrup district, people cultivate orange in Sonapur, Khetri and Panbari.
indian tea exports going upFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, March 20 – Has the ailing tea industry recovered? It may have, albeit marginally, if the latest export figures are to be believed. The tea exports have improved during the period from to April-December last year, both in terms of quantity and value terms, as compared to the same period in 2005. In April-December last year, 158.90 million kg of tea was exported at value of Rs 1453.63 crore.Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Kamal Nath admitted that quantum of tea production has increased by 7.15 million kg during April-October period. However, export earning has marginally declined. India exported 114.27 kg earning Rs 1048.50 crore. Significantly, though India exported only 107.12 million kg during the same period in 2005, its earnings were marginally higher at Rs 1052.66 crore.The Minister said that the Tea Board is implementing a scheme for providing incentive for production of orthodox tea for ensuring the availability of export quality tea in adequate quantity. The Government is also assisting the tea exporters towards meeting the additional transport and handling charges incurred for tea exported through Inland Container Deport (ICD) Amingaon in Assam.The Government of India through Tea Board has been taking various steps to boost export of tea, which include conducting promotional activities in the foreign markets. India has been able to maintain its share in global market, Kamal Nath said in a Lok Sabha reply.About 20 countries have been identified as focus markets for exports. The export performance of Indian tea has improved in countries such as Pakistan, Arab, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Japan, Australia and South Africa among others.Meanwhile, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Jairam Ramesh said that Centre after considering all aspects, has announced setting up of Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) for funding the re-plantation and rejuvenation wherein 25 per cent subsidy from Central Government and 25 per cent owner’s contribution and 50 per cent loan from the SPTF for the entire tea sector.

New NE Industrial PolicyFrom Kalyan Barooah NEW DELHI, March 29 – With less than 72 hours remaining for expiry of the old policy, Union Government today announced the North East Industrial & Investment Promotion Policy, 2007 (NEIIPP). Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Kamal Nath described it as a landmark policy that will accelerate the pace of industrialisation and development of the North-East. The new industrial policy cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) here today, after much churning is envisaged to trigger a quantum jump in industrialisation. The new industrial policy that has12 features will provide great opportunity to reap the harvest of industrial development,” said, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi announcing the CCEAs decision.The new policy while retaining some of the incentives like excise duty exemption, has includes a few new attractions like removal of the area restriction. The new policy would be valid for 10 years as against the seven years validity of the old policy. The provisions of the NEIIPP, 2007 would provide the requisite incentives as well as an enabling environment to speed up the industrialisation of the North Eastern Region, which is otherwise less than four percent per annum against a national average of eight percent.Another feature of the Policy is that the Integrated Infrastructure Development Scheme will become part of it. The grant per location will be Rs 50 crore. Nine locations in eight North East States will benefit by this, said Kamal Nath.“Central Government will also take proactive measures to speed up industrialisation of the Eastern and North-Eastern region”. For coordination and monitoring of the policy implementation, a high level committee and an advisory committee along with an Over Sight Committee is proposed to be set up.A most significant aspect of the new policy is that the concessions granted to pan masala and ghukta industries besides, carry bags and goods produced by refineries have been withdrawn. “The inclusion of tobacco processing, plastic bag manufacture and refinery products in the negative list goes with this positive approach towards environment,” said Kamal Nath.The Commerce and Industry Minister further clarified that in addition to industries which cause environmental pollution and are hazardous to health such as tobacco processing, pan masala, manufacture of plastic bags would not be eligible for benefits under the policy. “In order to ensure that genuine industries come up in the Region, the Policy disallows concessions on goods in respect of which only peripheral activities take place,” he said.For the first time, the Policy would also cover Sikkim. Under NEIIPP, the CENVAT paid on the raw materials and intermediate products going into the production of finished products is higher than the excise duties payable on the finished products, ways and means to refund such overflow of CENVAT credit will be separately notified by the Ministry of Finance.However, the new policy has not spelled out anything on the fate of the transport subsidy scheme. The transport subsidy was extended for a period of seven years and expires on Saturday. According to sources, the Government of India is mulling extension of the scheme for another year.An empowered committee is planned to be set up to examine the issue of transport subsidy and recommend to the Government of India. The Transport subsidy scheme has come under lot of cloud following allegation of misuse of the scheme. Benefits under North East Industrial Policy (NEIP) will be available to new units on their substantial expansion irrespective of their location. A graded system of incentives will be introduced for the purpose of substantial expansion to attract investment towards expansion. In a bid to boost investment, the Capital Investment Subsidy has been doubled to 30 percent from 15 percent with an increase in the cap of assistance to Rs.5 crore. The interest subsidy of 3 percent on working capital local is also going to continue.Incentives have being extended to service sectors and others like biotechnology industry and power generating industry in addition to manufacturing sector. The new policy has gone down well with the trade groups and bodies. The CEO of Federation of Industries North Eastern Region (FINER), Ajoy Borthakur said they welcome the new policy as some of their expectations of FINER have been fulfilled. The entrepreneurs were pleased with the removal of the area restrictions clause. The new policy is expected to come into effect from April 1 after the old one expires on March 31. The draft policy was referred to the Group of Ministers constituted by the Prime Minister, earlier this month, following reservations expressed by the Ministry of Finance.
Policy highlights
Sikkim will be included under NEIIPP, 2007 and the ‘New Industrial Policy and other concessions for the State of Sikkim’ announced earlier in December, 2002 will be discontinued from the date of notification of NEIIPP, 2007.
Under NEIIPP, 2007, all new as well as existing units which go in for substantial expansion, unless otherwise specified and which commence commercial production within the 10-year period from the date of notification of NEIIPP, 2007 will be eligible for incentives for a period of 10 years from the date of commencement of production.
The incentives under the NEIIPP, 2007 will be available to all industrial units, new as well as existing units on their substantial expansion, located anywhere in the North Eastern Region. Consequently, the distinction between ‘thrust’ and ‘non thrust’ industries made in NEIP, 97 will be discontinued from the date of notification of NEIIPP, 2007.
Under NEIIPP, 2007 incentives on substantial expansion will be given to units effecting ‘an increase by not less than 25 percent in the value of fixed capital investment in plant and machinery for the purpose of expansion of capacity/modernization and diversification’ as against an increase by 33 ½ percent prescribed at present.
Under NEIIPP, 2007, 100 per cent excise duty exemption will be continued as at present on finished products made in the North Eastern Region. However, in cases, where the CENVAT paid on the raw materials and intermediate products going into the production of finished products (other than the products which are otherwise exempt or subject to nil rate of duty) is higher than the excise duties payable on the finished products, ways and means to refund such overflow of CENVAT credit will be separately notified by the M/O Finance.
100 per cent income tax exemption will continue under NEIIPP, 2007 as at present.
Capital investment subsidy will be enhanced from 15 per cent of the investment in plant and machinery to 30 per cent and the limit for automatic approval of subsidy at this rate will be Rs. 1.5 crore per unit as against Rs 30 lakh at present. Such subsidy will be applicable to units in the private sector, joint sector, cooperative sector as well as the units set up by the State Governments of the North Eastern Region. For grant of capital investment subsidy higher than Rs 1.5 rore but up to a maximum of Rs 30 crore, there will be an Empowered Committee.
Interest subsidy will be made available @ 3 per cent on working capital loan under NEIIPP, 2007 as at present.
Under NEIIPP, 2007, new industrial units as well as the existing units on their substantial expansion will be eligible for reimbursement of 100 per cent insurance premium under the Comprehensive Insurance Scheme.
To include tobacco and tobacco products, pan masala, plastic carry bags and goods produced by refineries, in a host of industries, which would not be eligible for incentives under NEIIPP, 2007.
To provide incentives to service sector, bio-technology and power generating industries.
To continue North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd. (NEDFi) as the nodal agency for disbursal of subsidies under NEIIPP, 2007.
13. Modern textile designs must for world market’From Our Correspondent SIVASAGAR, March 30 – Minister of Law, Sericulture, Handicraft and Textile, Pranab Gogoi, addressing hundreds of beneficiaries under CM’s Karmajyoti scheme at Sivasagar Natya Mandir on March 22, said that modern fashion designs only can take Assam’s handicraft and textile to a world market. It needs certain amount of research work about the market, people’s taste, especially about the present generation of buyers, he added.The minister also expressed with concern that only 1.5 m cloth is woven by a weaver in Assam, whereas 13 lakhs weavers are engaged in 12.5 lakh looms in the State. The minister said that schemes are being prepared to organise the weavers for working in clusters to augment the product. Plans are afoot for establishment of two mini spun mills at Sivasagar and Lakhimpur for producing threads locally.The minister called upon the weavers to produce shirtings, trouser cloths, curtains, bed sheets etc essential articles for more profits and use of locally made earthen cups in hotels and restaurants. The meeting was presided over by Prabhat Konwar, PD, DRDA and was attended by Devala Devi, ADC, Sivasagar, Haren Biswas, DDM, NABARD, MU Ahmed, Manager, DIC and Rajen Lagachu, asstt manager, DIC.Looms distributed: Minister of State for Chemical Fertiliser and Parliamentary Affairs, Bijoy Krishna Handique on March 24 distributed looms, threads and other weaving aids to about a hundred beneficiaries under Chief Minister’s ‘Karmajyoti Scheme’ under Gaurisagar Development Block at Gaurisagar. Addressing the meeting held for the purpose, the Central Minister cited the example of Dr Md Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner, who has brought about a revolution in Bangladesh through micro-credit system. The minister also stressed upon changing one’s attitude and an urge to emulate what is best around and commercially viable.Power Minister Anjan Dutta also addressed the meeting and said that Karmajyoti scheme can bring back the glory of old traditional craft and textile industry in Assam. He distributed one quintal of raw cotton thread to seven SHGs each.Anu Kalita, Subarna Dutta and Prabhakanti Bora were awarded Rs 25,000, Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively for weaving quality cloths in the block area.
14. Igniting business passion among prospective entrepreneurs GUWAHATI, Jan 15 – ‘Entrepreneurs are the fountainheads of economic prosperity.’ Growth of entrepreneurship is synonymous with growth and prosperity of any region. This underscores the importance of training young graduates and professionals and enabling them to give shape and visage to their entrepreneurial dreams.Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati, an organisation of the Ministry of Small Scale Industries, Government of India, has taken the initiative to impart entrepreneurial skills and knowledge to budding entrepreneurs of the North Eastern region through a full time course in Entrepreneurship & Management (Post Graduate Diploma in Management & Entrepreneurship). The first batch of prospective entrepreneurs will complete their course in June 2007 and embark on their respective business ventures.The postgraduate programme prepares competent young men and women to become entrepreneurs in their own right or as corporate entrepreneurs to work in a competitive corporate environment. The course aims to equip the students with managerial and entrepreneurial competencies to face stiff competition in this era of globalisation. The one-year full time programme, a unique initiative in the North Eastern region provides candidates knowledge about various aspects of entrepreneurship and hones their entrepreneurial skills to enable them to start their own business after they complete the course. The course is designed for Graduates/Post graduates, professionals and diploma holders in engineering who aspire to be entrepreneurs and also those who own family businesses.A well-qualified and experienced core faculty backed by academicians and practitioners from the industry ensure that the students get the best of the inputs so as to create a foundation for successful entrepreneurial careers.IIE gives the students the powerful advantage of forming lasting relationships with faculty, students, and alumni and networking with various governmental and non-governmental organisations. It helps them discover their business passion and convert it to successful ventures.The first batch consists of 16 students aspiring to be entrepreneurs. This first batch attracted students from other regions like Tamil Nadu and Orissa as well as it is unique and very few premier institutes in the country offer such a course. The course offers three specialisation papers viz; small and medium enterprise management, agri-business management and service sector management, a press release said.
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17. GTAC for Guwahati as world tea hubBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Feb 21 – The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) is of the view that Guwahati should be the tea hub of the world and not Kolkata as envisaged by the Union Commerce Ministry. In a pre-budget memorandum to the State Government, the GTAC pointed out that the Union Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh recently stated in Kolkata that Kolkata would be made the hub of tea activities in five years. Reacting to the Statement, the GTAC expressed the view that the fast growing city of Guwahati should be the hub of world tea. The GTAC said that Assam produces 55 per cent of the total tea produced in the country and the State Government should strongly put forward its views before the Government of India to make Guwahati the hub of world tea trade including auctions.It may be mentioned here that Assam Industries and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi yesterday had a difference of opinion with Jairam Ramesh on the decision of the Commerce Ministry to shift the proposed international tea convention from Guwahati to Kolkata.The GTAC said that at present only about 30 percent of the tea produced in the State is sold through the auction centre. The centre has the infrastructure to handle about 45 percent of the tea produced in the State and the capacity of the centre is now under-utilized. The memorandum said that the State Government should introduce differential cess on green leaf for tea sold within Assam or through the auction centre and tea sold elsewhere. The memorandum pointed out that Dr Jayanta Madhab committee had also envisaged such a move to encourage sale of tea through the auction centre.The memorandum said that to encourage sale of tea produced in other states through the GTAC, the Government of Assam should offer concessional rate of tax. The Government should consider providing incentives under the North East Industrial policy to promote tea-blending industry within the State. Tea blending industry can be a major employment generator and it would also boost sales through the GTAC as the blenders would buy more tea through the auction centre.The memorandum said that at present, about 100 million kilograms of tea is manufactured by the brought leaf factories within Assam and 12 percent of that is sold through the GTAC. Since the brought leaf factories enjoy subsidy under the North East industrial policy, a mechanism should be evolved to ensure that such factories get the incentives only if they sale their tea within the state or through the GTAC. The GTAC also demanded that the Government should allow registered exporters located outside the state to buy tea through the GTAC without sales tax registration in Assam to generate more export buying through the auction centre.The GTAC further said that the Government of Assam can consider temporary waiver of the agriculture income tax to the producers selling tea through the auction centre and the government can also consider waiving of one percent CST to encourage more buying through auctions.
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19. Plan to boost exports of region’s handicraftsFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Feb 20 – Buoyed by the success of its marketing strategy, the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has identified the Northeast among five destinations to set up sourcing hubs for handicraft products. Interest in handicraft products of the Northeast might have taken root, however, the sector has miles to go to meet up with the Northern Indian States. The entire Eastern Region including the Northeast contributes less than 10 per cent to the handicraft market. On the other hand, a major chunk of the USD 33 million market comes from North and Central India.However, the traditional markets for handicrafts products having reached saturation point, the focus has been trained to source products from new areas like the Southern and north-eastern region.Scripting a success story for handicrafts products of the region, the EPCH has decided to set up exclusive pavilion of products for thematic display of handicrafts of the North Eastern and Southern Regions, in the forthcoming Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair (Spring) 2007, announced the executive director of the Organisation, Rakish Kumar.An estimated 7000 buyers are expected to come calling in the four-day Festival to be held at India Expo Centre and Mart, at Greater Noida Expressway.Identifying sourcing of the products as one of major hurdles, Kumar said six sourcing hubs are proposed to be set up all over the country. In the North-East, the sourcing hubs are proposed to be set up either in Guwahati or Agartala, he said.The Government of India would be spending about Rs 10 crore on each of the sourcing hubs, while land is expected to be provided by the State Government, the executive director said. Describing the international marketing project for export of North Eastern handicraft products as nothing less than a success story, the executive director said that inspired by the outcome, several States like Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal have requested them to replicate the model in their States.Kumar said none of the schemes and plans for promotion of handicrafts ever took root in the NER. A unique project of aggressive international marketing project with infusion of components of human resources development, training, and design and product development was introduced.Since then 400 budding entrepreneurs turned into successful handicrafts exporters in the years with an average export turnover ranging from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 1crore. Over 300 containers of handicrafts products have been exported. Export orders of over Rs 100 crore have been executed within first three years, he said."We have put the NER in focus and Phillipino designers have been engaged and aggressive marketing of products of the Region have been set in motion," he said.In the last few exhibitions, EPCH has been focusing on products of the NER. The concentration has been mainly on the raw material base of cane and bamboo besides fabrics. Exporters of handicrafts from the region have been able to develop a vast range of cane and bamboo utility products covering decorative, gifts, furniture and other utility items with the help of international designers. Overseas buyers find the products an excellent source for increasing their profit margin and diversifying their products range, he said.Kumar estimates the world market for handicraft and gift products at USD 234 billion. The target for exports of Indian handicrafts products has been fixed at Rs 25,000 crore by 2010-2011, he said.Presently, the sector is growing at a rate of 14-17 per cent. The exports of handicrafts from India were of the order of Rs 1412 crore in 1992-1993. In the year 2005-2006, the exports of handicrafts from India were of the order of 16,186 crore, Kumar said.
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21. Rs 4,760 cr tea fund from JuneFrom A Correspondent JORHAT, Feb 20 – The Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTE) meant for rejuvenation of tea bushes will be made available to planters from June 25 this year onwards. Announcing this at a press conference at the Assam Agricultural University campus here last evening, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Jairam Ramesh said that a total of two lakh hectares of tea land has been marked for replantation in the country. The SPTF is likely to benefit tea plantations running into 80,000 hectares in Assam.The SPTF will formally open at Guwahati, Ramesh said, adding that as much as 50 per cent of the Rs 4,760-crore Fund would be utilized in Assam alone. Under the Fund available to the organized tea sector only, tea bushes which are more than 40 years old will be replenished, the Union Minister of State pointed out. The rejuvenation will increase the output by 30 to 50 per cent in seven years, he added. However, the planters have to sign an agreement to the effect that all outstanding dues relating to the provident funds and gratuity of their employees and workers will be liquidated within a specific timeframe in the event of any default on these counts, Ramesh said.The Minister disclosed that the Tea Board had already received 300 applications – 200 of them from Assam alone – from tea planters across the country for the SPTF. In another important policy decision, the Government has decided to secure a geographical indication for the tea produced in the State. Ramesh said that the process for this had been initiated and would be accomplished in four months’ time. The Assam tea will be known as ‘Assam orthodox tea’ once the geographical indication is secured. This is a sort of brand name which will make the brew produced here an exclusive commodity like Darjeeling tea and raise its stakes in the global market. Earlier, the Union Minister of State for Commerce inaugurated a mini green tea processing unit at the AAU campus. The Rs 22-lakh plant, which has the capacity to process 200 to 500 kg of green tea every day, has been funded by the Tea Board. It is part of the pilot project envisaged by the Tea Board to help the small tea growers gain access to state-of-the-art factories for processing their produce at low costs, Ramesh said. Four more similar plants – two more in Assam – will come up under the pilot project, he added. If the present plant under the Department of Tea Husbandry and Technology of the AAU yields the desired outcome, many such mini processing factories will be set up to assist the small tea growers, the Minister said. Ramesh urged the small tea growers to form self-help groups and cooperatives to avail of government assistance. Only 49 tea SHGs are functioning in the State though 55,000 small tea growers are producing 90 million kg per annum on plantations totalling 60,000 hectares.

Global fest to help State tea sector
GUWAHATI, March 10 – The International Tea Convention being held in the State in November next is very important for the development of State’s tea sector. This is more important for the growth of the State’s small tea garden sector, which has brought a revolution in the State’s tea industry silently. Today, the State has a share of about 55 per cent in the country’s total tea production, said Industry and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi in the State Assembly here today.The Minister, who was replying to a call attention motion moved by Independent MLA Pranab Kalita, said that the Union Commerce and Industries Ministry had laid stress on production of orthodox and organic tea, which have a great demand in the Western countries. While one kg of CTC tea produced in Assam fetches Rs 68 on an average in the international market, one kg of orthodox tea produced mainly in Darjeeling and in the Southern part of the country fetches between Rs 800 and Rs 1,500. Assam mainly produces CTC tea and 85 per cent of its tea is consumed in the country, he said.Assam produces orthodox tea too, but it has good liquor, while the orthodox tea produced in Darjeeling has the flavour. Meanwhile, the demand of the organic tea, which is produced without using chemical fertilizer and pesticides, is also growing in the international market, said the Minister.The International Tea Convention is very important for Assam, as, the experts from various countries converge in the convention. The State Government wants to make the small tea growers of Assam familiar with the international standard, the Minister said.He however, denied there having any pressure from a Kolkata lobby to shift the Tea Convention to Kolkata. Rather it was the apprehension of some of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) officials about the law and order situation in the State that the ITA-dominated Consultative Committee of Planters (CCPA) was hesitant to hold the convention in Assam. The January violence in the State also discouraged the organizers more. But the success of the State in holding the National Games smoothly changed the situation.He also clarified that neither the Central Government nor the Assam Government was organizing the convention. It is organized by the CCPA.He also told the House in reply to a question from Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) Chandra Mohan Patowary that the Union Commerce Ministry had banned use of chemical fertilizers etc in the tea gardens through a directive in 1998. Tea planters are bound to abide by it. But there are problems in implementing this directive in the small tea sector, which is unorganized, he said.

State to host global tea fest
GUWAHATI, March 9 – Setting at rest speculations, the Union Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, today said that the forthcoming first India International Tea Festival would be held in Assam in November. Announcing this at a press conference, Ramesh said that the tea festival would be held in Guwahati, besides Jorhat. “The festival will be held in Guwahati and Jorhat in November this year,” he said.Terming the controversy over the venue of the tea festival as uncalled for, Ramesh said that security and infrastructure concerns were the reasons behind the shifting of the venue to Kolkata earlier. “There were security concerns and accommodation problems. But the State Government has made a commitment to address all the issues effectively, and now Assam will host the event,” he said. The tea festival will feature a number of foreign countries including Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, UAE, etc. Ramesh also had good news for the small tea-growers. “The 50,000-odd small tea-growers, who produce 20 per cent of the State’s total tea produce, will be getting land possession certificates within a month’s time,” he said.Lauding the small tea-growers, Ramesh said that the Government was keen on extending every possible help to them. “The small tea-growers are first-generation Assamese entrepreneurs and they are contributing significantly to the State’s economy. We are ready to help them in every possible way,” he said. The Union minister further said that the Tea Board had proposed to set up a separate cell for small tea-growers, besides starting a scheme to train up small growers. Stressing the need for quality control for capturing overseas markets, Ramesh said that Assam tea had a good chance of making inroads into the markets of Pakistan and Iran. “Over two million kgs of Assam tea were sold in Pakistan last year,” he said. Ramesh revealed that the Special Purpose Tea Fund would cover one lakh hectares of tea garden land in Assam. “Countrywide it would cover two lakh hectares. And of the total Rs 4,760 crore to be invested under the fund over a period of 15 years, the share of Assam alone is Rs 2,300 crore,” he said, adding that it would benefit 700-800 tea gardens of the State. Ramesh, who spoke to the media during the three-day special meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC) that started today, was enthusiastic about the prospects of rubber and spices in Assam and other north-eastern States. “At the moment, Tripura is making rapid strides in rubber production, accounting for 9.8 per cent of the country’s total produce, which is second highest after Kerala that produces 82 per cent,” he said. Urging the State Government to replicate the Tripura model in rubber cultivation, Ramesh said that apart from boosting the economy, its most visible impact was on insurgency. “Rubber cultivation has effectively weaned away youths from insurgency in Tripura. This can be replicated in Assam as well,” he said. Pointing out that the North-east till date exploited just 13 per cent of its potential for rubber production, Ramesh said that it was to be doubled in the next five years. “A task force has been constituted today and it will submit a detailed action plan by April 8 for harnessing the immense potential for rubber cultivation in the region,” he said. “We are making a comprehensive review of the offices of the Rubber Board, Spices Board, Coffee Board, Tea Board and the Agricultural Products Export Development Agency (APEDA). A determined push by the State governments is also required,” he added. Earlier, Mani Shankar Aiyer, the Minister of the Department for Development of Northeast Region, stressed the need to tap the immense scope for rubber cultivation in the region.

PM to lay Gas Cracker foundation in April
DIBRUGARH, March 26 – While not many are convinced that the Gas Cracker Project will finally be commissioned by the year 2012, hectic preparations are on for another foundation laying ceremony by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at Lepetkata during the first fortnight of April. It has been officially announced here today that the project has been named Brahmaputra Cracker & Polymer Limited, BCPL in short.Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Bijoy Krishna Handique and Assam Minister for Industries & Power, Pradyut Bordoloi, today met representatives of the land-affected families (those whose lands are being acquired for the mega project) to reassure them that the government has a very transparent compensation and rehabilitation package for them. The two leaders said “administrative procedures” are behind some delay in making out the compensation payments. Handique said the project has been delayed by almost two and a half decades and sought the cooperation of all in expeditious completion of the works, and that this alone would ensure accelerated industrialisation and economic development of the upper Assam districts. He mentioned that eight more Industrial Training Institutes are being set in Assam to train up entrepreneurs and skilled workers in plastic technology, to reap benefits from the gas cracker. “Five hundred downstream projects have been identified, local entrepreneurs have to acquire the skills to run these and contribute to national growth,” he said. The Union minister said work on setting up the Namrup IV plant by BVFCL at Namrup has been given the green signal by the Centre. He said the new urea plant would be set up at a cost of Rs 2400 crore, and would make use of modern technology to extract more urea from natural gas. Pradyut Bordoloi told newsmen here today that the apprehension by some people that they would not get compensation against their displacements “is unfounded and a result of some mischievous conspiracy by vested circles.” He said Rs 18 crore has been released by the State government for disbursement, out of the total compensation money of Rs 59 crore. The compensation money includes land cost and surface compensation, paid for houses, plants and trees. He said the State government is working to pay land compensation to all affected families, and that for this, a special Cabinet decision will be taken soon. This has become necessary since in the case of several families, the land belongs to tea companies which have been under encroachment for several decades now. Though the tea companies are the land owners, these have not been under tea cultivation or company possession for years together.At the instance of the Industry Minister, a district revenue official today disclosed the rates of land compensation to be paid to the affected land owners. The land to be requisitioned has been classified into four classes: 1500 bighas are high and tea land, to be paid Rs 1.42 lakh a bigha, 1000 bighas low land under agriculture at Rs 71,000 per bigha and 500 bighas of marshy land at Rs 57,000 per bigha. The surface compensation (for “zirat”) rates are as per government schedules, with different category of vegetation attracting different rates per tree/bush. Till today, 1100 bighas have been acquired by the civil administration here for the gas cracker, and the remainder 2000 bighas are under process of requisitioning. The main promoter of the project, GAIL, has been handed over possession of 761 bighas. Meanwhile, several local associations of Lepetkata said at a news conference here on Sunday that unless the government keeps its word on compensating affected families, they may resort to an agitation against the project. These include the Lepetkata Anchalik Krishak Dabi Samiti, All Assam Sonowal Kachari Students’ Union, Sonowal Kachari Youth Council, and the Sonowal Kachari Women’s Association. However, Bordoloi said he and Handique have spoken to the representatives of these associations today, and that their doubts have been cleared. The Chief Executive councillor of the Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council, Milan Sonowal, was present during the discussions.

PM to lay foundation on April 9
NEW DELHI, April 1 – The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh will lay the foundation stone of the gas cracker project on April 9. The Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi met Prime Minister here today and the date for the foundation stone lying ceremony of the mega project was finalised in the meeting. The Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Bjoy Krishna Handique today refuted media reports that the foundation stone laying ceremony was put off.PTI adds: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will lay the foundation stone for the Assam Gas Cracker Project at Lepetkata in Dibrugarh district on April 9, Gogoi today said.“Major problems regarding the project have been sorted out and New Delhi has cleared everything,” Gogoi told PTI here.The Prime Minister, in a telephone conversation with Gogoi this evening, said he would travel to Assam on April 8 and lay the foundation stone the following morning.“I am the most happiest man as the project is finally getting under way,” said Gogoi.He hinted that problems related to the accusation of land would be sorted out in the near future. Media reporters had earlier suggested that the foundation stone laying ceremony had been put off due to problems over land acquisition.Sources in the Assam Government said there were only a few problems related to the rehabilitation to be paid to people from whom some land was being acquired for the project.A majority of the land required for the project was owned by the government or tea gardens in the area and there were no problems in this regard, they said. State-run GAIL (India) Ltd holds 70 per cent interest in the Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymers, the joint venture company implementing the project. The remaining 30 per cent equity is shared equally among Oil India Ltd, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd and Assam.The project is to be completed in 60 months from the date of financial closure.The petrochemical complex will comprise of a gas separation plant, cracker unit, downstream polymer and integrated off-site/utilities plants. The complex has been configured with a capacity of 220,000 tons per annum of Ethylene and 60,000 tons per annum of propylene with natural gas and naphtha as feed stock.The products from the petrochemical complex shall be 220,000 tons of HDPE/LLDPE, 60,000 tons of Polypropylene, 55,000 tons of Raw Pyrolysis Gasoline and 12,500 tons of fuel oil every year.Assam Government has granted exemption from entry tax on capital goods, exemption from works contract tax during construction and sales tax/VAT exemption on feed stock and products for 15 years from the date of commencement of production.The existing LPG plant from GAIL's Lakwa plant will be modified to process gas for recovery of ethane and higher hydrocarbon fraction, which will be transported to Lepetkata through a pipeline.The Assam Gas Cracker Project was proposed as a part of the implementation of Assam Accord signed by Government of India on August 15, 1985. Originally, the project was to be implemented by Reliance Assam Petrochemicals Ltd (RAPL), a joint venture company of Assam Industrial Development Corp and Reliance Industries Ltd. RAPL was granted various concessions by Government of India for implementation of the Gas Cracker Project but the project never took off the ground.In 2003, GAIL was asked to examine the feasibility of taking up the Assam Gas Cracker Project on its own and the Cabinet in 2006 decided to allow GAIL to implement the project.

Transport subsidy misuse in NEFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Sept 12 – The Government of India is likely to examine the allegations of misuse of transport subsidy by the North East States before taking the final decision on clearing the backlog of Rs 600 crore. This was stated by Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Ashwini Kumar in a meeting with the NE MPs’ Forum. The meeting was convened by the Minister in charge of the Department for Development of North Eastern Region (DONER), Mani Shankar Aiyer. The MPs raised the issue of clearing the outstanding subsidy pending since 2000, but the Minister informed the MPs that there were allegations of gross misuse of the transport subsidy scheme, which forced the Ministry to withhold the payment.On the demand for inclusion of the service sector in the ambit of the North East Industrial Policy, the Minister assured to consider the matter positively.

MPs, FINER join hands for NE devp
NEW DELHI, Sept 13 – In an endeavour first of its kind, North East MPs’ Forum (NEMPF) and Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER) have joined hands to launch a Joint Coordination Group (JCG). A formal declaration was made formally at a joint meeting presided over by Union Tribal Affairs Minister, PR Kyndiah, here last evening. Members of the Forum and senior office-bearers of FINER attended the meeting. The six-member JCG would comprise three members each from either side. The move came after the joint effort of MPs and FINER yielded results, when they managed to negate all opposition to the new industrial policy through their effective lobbying. The North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy 2007 came into force from April 1, after the North Eastern States MPs and chambers of commerce of the region toiled hard to persuade the Centre.Yesterday, Kyndiah, who is also chairman of the NEMPF, said the JCG has been formed to fulfil five main objectives including bids to accelerate investments and industrial developments, identify developmental issues, to pursue various Central Government ministries and policy-making bodies, coordinate on various socio-economic issues and conduct studies on various issues pertaining to the region.“The main focus is coordination between MPs and industry. The move made today would start a new chapter. The Government of India has come up with a new industrial policy, which is an eye opener and has better prospects for the industry.Addressing the meeting, general secretary of Forum, Dr Arun Kumar Sarma said the JCG would be instrumental in giving feedback, which is essential to remove bottlenecks. He said the MPs representing the region got lots of valuable feedback from organisations like FINER following dilution of the North East Industrial Policy 1997. “In future, we will make joint coordination on border trade and put pressure on the Government of India,” he said.President of FINER SK Jain said, lauding initiatives to promote industrialisation of the North-east, pointed out that delay in implementation of policies leads to its dilution. He underlined the need to avoid delays in implementation of the Government of India’s policies.Joining him, FINER vice president, RS Joshi said the MPs would benefit from the various studies their organisation conducts from time to time. “We have been carrying out studies which could be very beneficial for the MPs,” he said.He said the Government of India has proposed to investment Rs 19 lakh crore for development of the country’s infrastructure in coming years. Ten percent of this amount comes to a mindboggling Rs 1.90 lakh crore, which could change the face of the region, he said.However, some of the MPs addressing the meeting pointed out the social obligation of the industry for development of the local area and recruiting local boys. “Our concern is not only for development of the North-east but also social responsibility of the industry as well,” said Dwijendranath Sarma, MP.He said unemployment was a grave social problem and it was the responsibility of the industry as well to recruit local boys.Congress MP Silvius Condpan said the MPs needed feedback from the industry. “We would like to know what are handicaps the industries are facing,” he said.The NEMPF, however, is in a fix regarding the release of the outstanding transport subsidy to the tune of over Rs 670 crore. While they were pressing for early release of the subsidy piling up since 2000, some of the MPs agreed with the Centre that there has been gross misuse of the scheme. Yesterday, Union Minister of State for Industry and Commerce, Ashwini Kumar told the NEMPF that they have withheld the payments following allegations of misuse. Some of the MPs concurred with him and said the Centre should identify the guilty and punish them. “It is true that there has been gross misuse of the subsidy scheme and Centre should act to stop such looting,” said Tapir Gaon.

NRL posts Rs 569-cr profit
GUWAHATI, Sept 14 – Numaligarh Refinaey Limited (NRL) has recorded the highest ever throughput of 2.504 million metric tonnes (MMT) and also registered the record profit after tax of Rs 568.80 crores, the highest ever in the history of its operation, a press release stated. The 14th annual general meeting of NRL held in Guwahati today also declared the highest ever dividend of 32.33 per cent of post-tax profit. The meeting was presided over by Ashok Sinha, chairman, NRL, who is also the chairman and MD of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and was attended by BK Das, MD and other directors of NRL.The resolution of declaring a dividend of Rs 2.50 per share for the year 2006-07 which is higher by 31.58 pc compared to the last year’s dividend of Re 1.90 per share, was adopted in the meeting. With this, the total dividend to be paid by NRL for the financial year 2006-07 to its stakeholders viz. M/s Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (61.65 pc), M/s Oil India Limited (26 pc), and Govt of Assam (12.35 pc) amounts to Rs 183.91 crores. Hence, the Govt of Assam shall receive Rs 22.71 crores as dividend for its equity in NRL. It is worth mentioning that during the year 2006-07, NRL contributed an amount of Rs 310.01 crores to the Government exchequer towards taxes and duties.During the year, NRL surpassed all previous records and achieved creditable growth in almost all spheres of its activities. The sales turnover witnessed a growth of 36.25 pc to touch a level of Rs 7,930.32 crores compared to Rs 5,820.37 crores during the previous year. The profit after tax at Rs 568.80 crores was also the highest achieved as against the previous highest of Rs 448.93 crores achieved during 2005-06, registering a growth of 26.70 pc. The rise in profit compared to previous year was mainly due to higher capacity utilisation and higher realisation of prices. This was further supplemented by an improved product mix on account of commissioning of the motor spirit plant.

GAIL goes slow on gas cracker project
DIBRUGARH, Sept 16 – Six months have passed since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid another foundation stone for the Rs 6,000-crore gas cracker project, and in this period, the majority player in the enterprise, GAIL (Gas Authority of India Limited) is yet to make any move to even constitute the new company’s board of directors. The gas cracker project has been named Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL), and is a joint venture between GAIL (70%), and the Assam Government, Oil India Limited (OIL) and Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) with 10% holding each. As per Companies Act stipulations, BCPL will have to have a board of directors with 15 members, headed by a managing director or chairman-cum-managing director. With 70% stake in the company, GAIL will have nine nominees on the board while the Assam Government, NRL and OIL will have two nominees each. According to sources, the Assam Government nominees would include former OIL CMD Ranjit Kumar Dutta and the State chief secretary, in his/her ex-officio capacity. The matter of GAIL not initiating the constitution of the BCPL board of directors was brought to the notice of Union Fertilizer and Chemicals minister Ram Vilas Paswan today by the Dibrugarh MP, Sarbananda Sonowal. The Union Minister was told that since the constitution of such a board would take upto six months, considering the procedure involved, the matter cannot be kept pending any more. Paswan told Sonowal that he is surprised that the matter has been kept pending and assured to take up the issue with the GAIL CMD, UN Choubey. On the ground here, work on BCPL is hardly visible, with everyone having his own version for the inactivity. GAIL engineers blame the weather and the district administration for being unable to fully hand over the entire land for the project. The district administration here has been found deficient in being able to clear minor local hurdles in handing over the entire land, measuring about 3,000 bighas (this includes land for the project’s township area). A major resentment among locals here is that GAIL is not at all transparent in divulging matters relating to BCPL. With no senior official posted here, getting information has become a daunting task. Currently, GAIL has deputed a general manager-level official, RK Kashyap as the project in-charge. Interestingly, this person functions out of a hotel room in Guwahati, which is declared as the BCPL “registered office.” There is a persistent public demand here to locate the corporate-cum-registered office of BCPL in Dibrugarh, for smooth functioning of the company, and in case GAIL is serious about time bound commissioning of the gas cracker project. Choubey and an entourage of GAIL officials are scheduled to visit the city on Tuesday, while the agenda of their visit is being kept a secret. Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Bijoy Krishna Handique, is likely to meet the GAIL officials here the same day.

FICCI wing pledges to empower women in NE
GUWAHATI, Sept 21 – The North East chapter of FLO, the women’s wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which was launched recently, committed itself to empower the women in the region by undertaking different activities at the macro and micro levels.FLO established in 1983 announced its presence in the region by organizing a two-day workshop on the topic ‘Enhancing Personal Effectiveness’ which kicked off soon after the launching function.Minister for Industry and Commerce, Pradyut Bordoloi who was present on the occasion called upon the FLO to spread its activities to the rural areas for better acceptance by the masses. Bordoloi while welcoming the FLO to NE said that women in rural areas were in need of a direction and words like women empowerment would be a reality in the true sense if the rural women were embraced by the FLO.Bordoloi further said that it was the duty of organizations like the FLO to bridge the gap between urban and rural women and assured the newly launched chapter of the FLO of all Government support. Kiran Gera, the National president of FLO who inducted the NE chapter’s executive board with Lalita Jain as chairperson, said that the primary objective of FLO was to promote entrepreneurship and professional excellence in women. It may be mentioned here that the FLO is comprised of entrepreneurs, professionals and corporate executives.“FLO has been endeavouring to enhance the skills of women through its educational and vocational training programmes, talks, seminars, panel discussions and workshops on a wide range of subjects,” said Kiran.

Online firm promises to alter investors’ blues
GUWAHATI, Sept 21 – There is no denying the fact that the real estate business in Assam is at its pinnacle. But despite this, a sense of uncertainty pertaining to the authenticity of the property, available on sale or lease, has been seen as a stumbling block in this booming enterprise.Scores of people have been duped in this business in recent times creating a sense of furore among the people who were harbouring plans to buy property in the State.However, finally, a woman of substance has raised her hand promising steps to counter this problem. Not surprisingly, she is a retired Army Captain, who braved all hurdles that had come on her way to float an idea, which is a first of its kind in the entire North east region. From the barrel of guns to a techno-savvy job where she will sort out the real estate blues of investors across the country, Captain (retd) Resham Ahlawat, has now decided to fit into a new role of bailing investors out, which, till now, was believed to be a domain of clever men.Captain Ahlawat along with her business partner is all set to launch the first online leasing and sale company, which will help interested people from across the world in buying any given property on sale in Assam, especially in and around Guwahati.“The partnership firm, which has been christened as Royal Leasing Company will be operational from later this month,” informed Captain Ahlawat while talking to The Assam Tribune.The 28-year-old lady, who will be chief executive officer of the company, informed, “In the recent past we have seen lot of cases where the buyer of real estate eventually discovers the seller as unscrupulous. Even the real estate brokers, in large numbers, have been found resorting to unfair means, which in a way has posed a severe threat to the booming business in the State.”“Now, any interested buyer can just log on to our website (www.royalleasing.com) and get all specifications about property, is on sale. Of course, the seller will also have to register their property with us to avail this facility,” said Captain Ahlawat, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Army services in the year 2006.Ashok Pansari, one of the partners of the firm, further said that the idea of floating an online agency was to facilitate the deal for buyers based in other parts of the country who are interested in buying property in Guwahati.“We, against a certain amount of fees, would ensure that the said property is free from any illegitimate bindings. The owner of the property will have to submit all valid documents including the GMDA permission note before it gets registered with our agency,” Pansari added.“The real estate business in the State was bearing the brunt of unorganised mechanism and with this new online feature, the business would definitely get mileage,” Pansari added.
BPCL signs feedstock supply pactFrom Ron Duarah DIBRUGARH, Sept 19 – Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Bijoy Krishna Handique today said that yet another major step has been achieved in implementing the Assam Accord, with the signing of the feedstock supply agreement, held here in the presence of a large gathering of top technocrats, bureaucrats, politicians and the media as witnesses. He said he sees a massive economic activity in the horizon and appealed to the youth of Assam to train themselves and reap the benefits from the gas cracker project. He said the gas cracker project is on its right track, and that the sensitive land issue has been settled. About 10 per cent of the project's land requirement remains to be handed over to BCPL. Revenue officials here said this would be executed very soon without any hiccup. About 300 bighas of land remain to be handed over to BCPL, to be used for the gas cracker township and security barracks. Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) today signed the 'feedstock supply agreement' with its associate stakeholders - Oil India Limited (OIL), Duliajan and Numaligarh Refineries Limited (NRL) at the Circuit House here. It is learnt that the Nazira-based Asset Manager cum Executive Director of ONGC has been authorized to sign the feedstock agreement by the ONGC Board today, at its meeting in New Delhi. GAIL Chairman cum Managing Director, Dr UD Choubey said BCPL has awarded the contract of project management consultant to Engineers India Limited (EIL). EIL Director Projects, R K Grover said the contract entails concept to commissioning of the mega project and that his company has already initiated the preliminary works. EIL is an internationally reputed Indian public sector undertaking with a highly skilled team of professionals and has successfully implemented several mega engineering projects within India and abroad. Our Staff Correspondent adds: BCPL singed the agreement separately with OIL and NRL in the presence of Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers B K Handique, Planning and Development Minister Prithbi Majhi, district of officials from among the stakeholders in the project. R K Kashyap, the Chief Operating Officer of BCPL, Gautam Mukherjee, the General Manager (Marketing) of NRL and Ujjal Borah, the General Manager (Marketing) of OIL signed the documents on behalf of their respective company while Dr U D Choubey, the Chairman of BCPL and Managing Director of GAIL exchanged the files ceremoniously with M R Pasrija, the Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD), OIL and D Chakraborty, the Director (Technical), NRL, respectively. As per the agreement, OIL is required to supply six million standard cubic metres a day (MMSCMD) of natural gas to the petrochemical complex BCPL while 160,000 tonnes per annum of naphtha will be drawn from NRL. Failing to meet the supply requirement, the defaulting stakeholders would be penalized, as per the agreement. "It is a marriage without the provision for divorce," Dr Choubey answered to a query. BCPL is also likely to sign the agreement for additional gas supply from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGCL). ONGC has approved to supply 1.35 MMSCMD of gas for the gas cracker, and will shortly sign the feedstock agreement.With the current level of feedstock, the complex is expected to produce approximately 2.6 lakh tonnes of high density polyethylene and low density polyethylene per annum as its main products, in addition to 20,000 tonnes of raw pyrolysis gasoline and fuel oil per year. "The project is significant in the history of Assam because it will turn the economy of the state in a big way", Dr Choubey said, assuring that the project would be completed within the time frame and within the estimated cost.BCPL is a joint venture company with GAIL as the lead promoter with 70 % equity shares The other joint venture partners are OIL, NRL and Assam Government, each having 10 % equity share.

Chalani fish findings in cold storage
GUWAHATI, Sept 25 – Delay on the part of the Government to act on the recommendations of the Task Force it had constituted several months back to monitor the quality of fish brought from outside the State would prove costly to the health of the consumers. The consumption of the fish imported from Andhra Pradesh, Howrah, Lucknow etc more popularly called Chalani fish is quite high in the State, but so far the Government has not come up with concrete measures to guarantee the consumers that their platter of fish does not pose any health hazard.In order to ensure the fish gourmets a risk free spread, the three- member Task Force has submitted its findings in connection to the source, system of packing, transportation and distribution of Chalani fish and has made some suggestions to the Government. It may be mentioned here that the most popular varieties like Rohu, Catla, Kos etc come from Andhra Pradesh by ten wheeler truck and takes five to seven days to reach the capital city. On the other hand, the varieties like Kanduli, Pavo, Hilsa come from Howrah, Lucknow and Kanpur by train and takes two days to reach Guwahati.The fishes are packed in tray or thermocol box with ice, each tray or box containing 30 to 35 kgs and each truck carry 220 to 240 such trays wrapped with polythene sheet and covered with a layer of paddy husk on top of it and then again wrapped with another sheet of polythene and finally covered with tarpaulin to prevent the melting of ice.“We visited the wholesale and retail fish markets to take stock of the quality of the imported fish,” informed Dr Makhan Chandra Barman, a Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) veterinary officer and a member of the Task force.The three major points of the wholesale fish market at Lokhra are: Usha Road Line, Siva Sai Transport and Bhawani Transport. The Paltan Bazar wholesale market is the main distribution centre for retail traders. The Task Force has asked the Government to provide very small kits capable of preserving fresh fish sample weighing 300gm by maintaining a temperature of minus 18 C for a period of three to four days before sending to the Public Analyst.“Collection of fish sample involves certain technical and legal concerns,” said Dr Barman.Dr Barman explained that the fish sample for testing could not be collected in ordinary way. “The sample has to be collected from fresh wholesome fish of any species with similar sensory properties in a frozen condition at a temperature of minus 18 C utilizing appropriate equipment,” he said.The Task Force suggestions point out to the urgent requirement of equipments ranging from small kits to collect the samples to deep freezers of different sizes for preserving the samples maintaining the requisite temperature.The Task Force has recommended to the Government to provide the necessary equipments to the Joint Directorate of Health Services, food inspectors and fishery department.

DoNER plans to promote NE in Thailand
NEW DELHI, Sept 28 – Buoyed by the response of investors in New York, Ministry DoNER plans to showcase the North Eastern Region (NER) in Thailand, with a special focus on the tourism potential of the region. The Ministry’s plan to float a dedicated airline has also taken wings, with the new regional air service likely to become operational next July, announced Minister, DoNER, Mani Shankar Aiyar.The region now has 226 daily flights but with the involvement of DoNER the number of intra-regional flight is expected to go up to 500 flights in the next two years, he said.Stressing on improving connectivity, Aiyer said that focus of the 11th Five Year Plan was going to be on improving connectivity in the Region. Around Rs 50,000 crore is going to be spent on highways and the Railways are going to invest Rs 15,000 crore. The Inland Water Authority of India is going to make Brahmaputra River navigable round the year, he added.About the forthcoming North East India Trade and Investment Opportunities Week in Bangkok, the Minister said close to 400 entrepreneurs from India and Thailand are going to take part in the week-long event. The primary reason for taking this initiative is to attract investment from Thailand in various sectors in the region. The main sector identified included road, rail, inland waterway, air connectivity and energy, he added.Aiyar who is leading the Indian delegation that also includes Minister of State for Industry, Ashwini Kumar. The Minister has been taken on board to explain the new North East Investment and Promotion Policy. The delegation also includes six Chief Ministers and State Ministers, besides top officials from Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Shipping, Road Transport and Highway among others. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who attended the New York Investment Summit, is not likely to participate.The Thai delegation would be led by the country’s Commerce Minister, Kirk-Krai Jirapaeth and includes deputy Minister of Commerce, who handles the country’s foreign investment.“We are taking initiative that will enable North Eastern region to attract investment and FDI from abroad, as well as, promote export led economic development, Aiyer said.The New York Summit has set the tone to what we are going to achieve in Thailand,” the Minister said.

Slump in OIL profit by Rs 49.94 cr
DULIAJAN, Sept 28 – In an age of stiff competition and at a time when many foreign multinational oil companies have entered the hydrocarbon exploration arena of the country after globalization, one of the premier oil company of the nation which is on the verge of issuing IPO by February next year with its registered office based at Duliajan has utterly under-performed in comparison to its performance which is evident from the balance sheet where there shows a difference of Rs 49.94 cores less profit compared to last fiscal. Though the management of this company has been claiming tall during the last few years to produce 7 MT crude oil to fetch the feed refineries of the State by 2010, but its performance-graph during last three years tells an opposite tale. Even after continuous soaring in crude oil price during the last few years in the international market, the annual report distributed among the shareholders prior to the 48th AGM to be held at Bihutoli here on September 29 during the fiscal 2006-07, OIL could net up with profit (after tax) of Rs 1,639.99 crores only compared to Rs 1,689.93 crores last fiscal which equates to a huge difference of Rs 49.94 crores. A close look at the datas stated in the annual report shows that the Central PSU which has all the time petting its own back claiming better performance has in fact had a total income Rs.6007.78 crores only, Rs 28.78 crores less than last year’s Rs. 6036.56 crores.
Stock market boom attracts State investorsBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, Sept 28 – With sensex scaling new heights, a large number of people in the State are now getting attracted towards stock market. The Gauhati Stock Exchange (GSE) has been witnessing heavy investment during the past several months. What is more significant is that the investors, aged between 20 to 35, have made substantial investments in the equity and the mutual fund markets. According to available information, the GSE has so far over 10,000 investors with an investment to the tune of nearly Rs 900 crore per month. The figure, of course, varies from time to time depending on the behaviour of the market. The investment in the stock market has been increasing gradually in view of good results of the corporate houses.“There was a time when only a handful of investors were associated with the GSE, but now the figure has increased substantially. We have, on an average, Rs 30 crore daily transaction in the State”, RS Joshi, vice-president of the Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region(FINER) and former president of GSE, told this correspondent today. Joshi, who is also a member of the stock market, observed that a large number of young investors are now associated with the stock market. Citing reasons for young investors’ involvement in the stock market, Joshi said that they (youths) have got good return from the market. “Since 2006, the stock market has been picking up due to heavy investments of Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs). The FIIs have pumped substantial amount into the Indian stocks resulting in the upswing,” he added. Joshi, however, said that the small investors should be careful while investing in the stock market owing to market volatility. “There is a possibility of technical correction, and therefore the small investors should go through the mutual fund market,” he informed.Bullish on the response from the youths, over 10 mutual fund companies have already made strong foothold in the North-east market. The companies have launched several products to lure the youths in the region.“Our business has been growing in the State due to a wide range of products for which we are targeting more growth,” a senior official of mutual fund company said. He said that several companies are in the process of entering the region by their wide range of products.The sensex hit a record high of 17,000 mark on Wednesday. It was the fastest 1000-point rally for the 30-share index, which took six trading sessions to reach the milestone.


Emphasis on public investment
NEW DELHI, Sept 26 – With militancy haunting the region, the ambitious new industrial policy may not turn the tide of investments towards the North Eastern Region (NER) and may be the public investments. This was an observation of the draft vision document ‘Peace, Progress and Prosperity in the North Eastern Region: Vision 2020’ prepared by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The 329-page, two volume report was commissioned by North Eastern Council (NEC) under Ministry DoNER.The comprehensive report deals extensively with all aspects of the problem plaguing the region including militancy and examines policies like the Look East Policy, has made various recommendations for its economic uplift.The Document questions the theory of the rapid economic development to bring to an end insurgency problem. “The current official position on the solution of problem of insurgency, also advocates rapid economic development,”“There is however, a serious flaw in the argument. It still does not answer the question: what is the mechanism that drives economic growth in the region? It asks.In the absence of any credible alternative to market system, profit signals provide the chief motivation for capital accumulation and growth. For this to happen markets need to exist, but in a politically volatile situation where insurgency and terrorism become normal rule to life, markets are unlikely to exist or provide the right signals.Insurgency continuously hampers the economic performance of the region. So a rapid economic development is not possible without a proper strategic and security policy by the Central Government.The Document concludes that under the prevailing circumstances profit-seeking private investment is unlikely to flow into the region and therefore public investments, has to play a more pro-active role in boosting the rate of economic growth. In particular, public investment must be made on such activities as creation of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railway coverage, power generation, flood control and water harvesting and irrigation among other areas.The Document that stresses on governances makes some interesting observations about the economic fallout of militancy on the States.“While significant progress in infrastructure development has been made in recent years, other developments have overtaken it and negated whatever cost advantage infrastructure development may have given. A moving truck loads of goods from Moreh to Dimapur, a distance of 316 km cost Rs 50,000.Part of these charges may be due to illegal taxesThese taxes must act as a significant disincentive to any one thinking of setting up industry in the North-East. The continuous violent upsurges and absence of law and order have had a formidable impact on the performance of the economy.In reality, there is no dearth of money in the North Eastern Region (NER), though its own propensity to save may not be sufficient. There are substantial transfers of development funds from the Centre to the Region as every Ministry exclusively earmarks funds for development of the Region. The Vision Document concedes that violence level in the region has been increasing. In 2001, 23.13 per cent of the total terrorist incidences in India, took place alone in the region, which has increased to 27 per cent in 2005 and further to 29.4 per cent last year. Assam shows the highest number of civilian killed due to terrorist violence, which was around 11 per cent of the total civilian killed in the country in 2006. The Report links militancy to the rise in police expenditures. The rise in terrorism has had impact on the strength of the police force being maintained in the NES. The number of police per 100- sq. km has increased sharply over the years in all States. Four States including Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland have higher number of police force per 100 sq. km as well as lakh of population in comparison to the national figure. Among the North Eastern States, although Assam spends a lower amount on police in comparison to the other NES, its expenditure is still higher than the national figure. It is clear that a huge amount of resources is being diverted for policing.

Khadi Board centres on the verge of closure
GUWAHATI, Sept 30 – The Assam Khadi Board Workers Union on Friday alleged that the production centres of the Assam Khadi and Gramyodyog Board were not getting sufficient raw materials on time, which was adversely affecting its output and sale. At present, the Board has 53 khadi production centres, 54 sales centres, 73 showrooms and 29 khadi gramyodyog attached (sanjukta) centres. Addressing media persons, Chittaranjan Baruah, general secretary of the union alleged that many centres of the Board were in bad shape and almost on the verge of closure. “If no measures are taken immediately to address the situation, things will further deteriorate,” said Baruah.In the year 2006-07, the sales target of the Board was 168.36 lakh, but it could only manage sales to the tune of 72.01 lakh. Baruah claimed that though the union has been repeatedly requesting the Board authorities to improve the state of affairs, its pleas have been ignored by the authorities.“We have been requesting the Board to give the responsibility of the centres to efficient workers, but the Board has not heeded to our requests and that is one major reason for the dismal performance of the Board,” alleged Baruah.Baruah said that the Board has deprived its employees of their gross salary, has not deposited Rs 19 crore in the CPF head and has not implemented the pension scheme for the employees.On the other hand, members of the union alleged that the Board was flouting the retirement rules by re-appointing retired employees.The union called upon the Board to utilise the funds coming from the Khadi Commission for reviving the production centres and showrooms.

Plan to increase horticultural growth in State
GUWAHATI, Sept 30 – The 14th biennial general conference of Assam Horticultural Society was held recently at the auditorium of Directorate of Agriculture, Khanapara. The day-long programme began with hoisting of the society’s flag and lighting of 14 earthen lamps.As part of the programme, valuable plant species were planted in the agriculture campus. The meet resolved to accelerate the process of horticulture development in the State in collaboration with the Government.

OIL pays 260 pc dividend
DULIAJAN, Sept 30 – In spite of slump in profit by Rs 49.94 crore compared to last fiscal, the board of Oil India Limited approved a total dividend of 260 per cent, five per cent less compared to last fiscal, to their shareholders during the company’s 48th annual general meeting held at Bihutoli, here on Saturday. The director’s report states that OIL which contributes to the Indian economy approximately 9.14 per cent of overall domestic crude oil production, 2.38 per cent of India’s overall crude oil consumption, 3.12 per cent of India’s total import of POL (crude oil+petroleum product) and .21 per cent of India’s GDP, could produce 3.1067 MMT of crude oil while the target was 3.55 MMT this fiscal, equating a difference of 0.126 MMT compared to last fiscal. It produced 2264.57 MMSCUM of natural gas against a target of 2365 MMSCUM and produced 43,750 tonnes of LPG whereas the target was 50,000 tonnes with a difference of 4570 tonnes compared to last fiscal. It made little improvement in terms of sale of natural gas by selling 1767.504 MMSCUM. But overall expenses stood higher at Rs 3525.15 crore compared to Rs 3362.16 crore last fiscal.

Ignorance adds to Barak Valley’s troubles
SILCHAR, Sept 29 – The Barak Valley which is situated in the southern part of the State contributes a huge amount of the per capita income. Any disasters in this region affect the State’s economy.The proposed visit of Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi to Barak Valley on September 11 was cancelled due to bad weather in the route. But then on September 19, he made an aerial survey of flood situation by helicopter and had a meeting with higher official. Everyone knows that the entire Barak Valley is facing a fierce flood situation. About four lakh people have been affected in Cachar district.There is always dissatisfaction regarding distribution of relief materials. But some people misuse these relief material. These relief materials are meant for poor people – people not having proper shelter, proper clothes, proper sanitation etc. Long queue are seen for food. But administration fails to meet the requirements despite making huge arrangements. The main problem is with the distribution system. A rickshaw puller who is presently in GC College relief camp said that one truck relief material came to the premises few days back. But ‘some’ persons said the material will be distributed later on.Since Barak Valley has been cut off from entire State since the last ten days, the price of vegetables and fish has skyrocketed. LPG cylinder are sold at Rs 500-600 instead of its usual cost of Rs 295/-. In some areas potato is selling at Rs 35 per kg. In a recent statement, MLA of Silchar, Bithika Dev said that it is not possible to control the price of vegetable and fish. According to her “it is next to impossible.” It is really surprising to hear an MLA’s say like this. Instead of sympathy, it will create panic among the people. As Bimalanshu Roy, ex-MLA of Silchar said that it will help the black marketers to exploit the situation.The role of NGOs is also interesting. Interesting in the sense that they are doing less activity, showing more. More the publicity, more funds come from the government. In business one has to invest. But in this business, investment is low, but the return is huge.The main thing that is required is public consciousness. Public consciousness from all sides from common people to intellectuals. It really cannot be imagined that railway line will be cut off from six months and today it is not known when it will be reopened. Road connection has been reopened after ten days. There is ignorance every where. It Rs 12 crore road does not last more than one year then definitely the people are responsible for not forcing. If we are not having proper electricity who is the authorities to take proper steps. The public is responsible for not being able to create an awareness about the Valley in the whole of the State.

State to fill 15,000 vacancies by March ’08
GUWAHATI, Oct 4 – Appointments to fill up the vacancies in the State Government offices will be done as per the schedule. The State Government will fill up 15,000 vacancies in its offices by March 31 next as proposed in the budget. State Government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma announced this at a press conference here today.He also clarified that the State Cabinet in its meeting yesterday had suggested that the Education Department should formulate a scheme to retain, in exceptional cases, the reputed superannuating teachers as a temporary solution to the problem of shortage of teachers in the schools until fresh candidates are appointed to replace them. The problem in making fresh appointments to fill up the vacancies against the posts of schoolteachers has arisen due to some court cases. Moreover, the process of appointing teachers is also a long one. Considering these, the possibility of making such an arrangement with the retired teachers of fame was discussed in the Cabinet meeting. However, the Cabinet did not adopt any decision on the issue, Sarma said. Meanwhile, the State Government has asked the Finance Department to clear the cases of appointment to expedite the process of appointment of teachers against the vacant posts in the schools, he said.Medical colleges: The Cabinet also approved the proposal to extend the retirement age of the medical college teachers to 62 years, said Sarma who is also the Health Minister of the State.He also asserted that the Gauhati Medical College would be better equipped within the next two months. Besides providing it with a Rs 8-crore worth MRI like the other two medical colleges within the current month, it will exclusively be provided with a 64-slide CT Scan machine worth Rs 8 crore before March next and a PET Scan machine worth around Rs 40 crore. The process for installation of the PET Scan will start in January next. This device has the capacity to assess the propensity of cancerous diseases in a patient ahead of the surfacing of the disease in his /her body, said the Minister.Meanwhile, the number of applications from the teachers of the medical colleges seeking retirement under the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) has come down significantly, said the Minister.He also apprised the newsmen that the State Government was working on plans to open evening OPDs in Government hospitals from January 1 next, to keep 300 ambulances in ready at the Development Block headquarters to carry patients suffering from heart attack and pregnant women to the hospitals free-of-cost. It is planned that five doctors will be placed in the CHCs and ten doctors in the District Hospitals to run evening OPDs. Besides, the Government is also planning to set up call centres with 20 doctors at each of these centres, to advice the sick ones on medications etc, he said.For the purpose of running the proposed ambulance service, Government has lined up the Satyam group. The company will invest 10 per cent, with the Government making 90 per cent of the investment to implement the scheme. Medical treatment will start as soon as the patient boards the ambulance, said the Minister. He however, made it clear that the above plans were yet to be finalised.

Govt hikes land revenue of tea gardens
GUWAHATI, Oct 4 — The State Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal to hike the land revenue of the tea estates to Rs 22 per bigha in Brahmaputra Valley and Rs 16 per bigha in Barak Valley against the existing rates of Rs 12 per bigha and Rs 9 per bigha respectively. Disclosing this at a pres conference here today, State Government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the Cabinet had also approved Rs 200 per bigha as the rate of fine on the tea estates for the Government land they had been encroaching upon pending disposal of the court cases on the issue.The Government is legally empowered to raise land revenue from the tea estates 30 times more over the existing rates. But it has refrained from charging land revenue from the tea estates at such a rate considering the condition of the tea industry.Moreover, the rate of hike in the land revenue was determined on the basis of a mutual agreement arrived at with the tea planters, said the Government spokesman. Reactions: However, the tea industry has expressed its displeasure over the hike in land revenue for the tea estates.Reacting sharply to the Cabinet decision secretary of the Tea Association of India, Guwahati Dipanjol Deka said, “ We vehemently oppose the hike in land revenue.’Continuing further, he said, “The tea industry has asked for total exemption from green leaf cess and also written to the Reserve Bank of India to adopt a lenient credit policy. Besides, floods ravaged the tea industry in Barak valley this time. Keeping in view all these factors, this hike in land revenue for the tea estates has come at a wrong time.”
Meet on India’s Look East Policy GUWAHATI, Oct 4 – To discuss issues related to India’s Look East Policy, the Public Diplomacy Division of Ministry of External Affairs, in association with Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social change and Development and Indian Council of Research on International Economic Relations will organise a conference on ‘India’s Look East Policy – Challenges for Sub-Regional Cooperation, at Hotel Vishwaratna here on October 8 and 9. The conference will broadly discuss issues related to India’s Look East Policy – political economy implication, governance and social issues and role of the civil society; regional connectivity and infrastructure, competitive business investment, informal trade and regional integration; challenges of poverty and human resource development in North East India.Union Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee will deliver the keynote address on October 7 at 6 pm. Governor of Assam, Lt Gen (Retd.) Ajai Singh and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi have also consented to grace the event in the evening on October 7. The conference will also see the participation of Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Minister of DoNER, Mani Shankar Aiyar, who will deliver the valedictory address on October 9.The conference will see the participation of academicians, thinktanks, representatives of the Industry, intelligentsia, civil society and senior officials.Ever since its creation in April 2006, the Public Diplomacy Division of MEA has been in contact with researchers, thinktanks, academia, civil society and industry, both within India and abroad, to highlight the contours of India’s foreign policy as well as initiate debate and discussion within the wider public about the key foreign policy issues confronting India, an official press release issued here said.

City to join global campaign against poverty on Oct 17
GUWAHATI, Oct 4 – Students of Guwahati will take part in a worldwide campaign against poverty to be jointly launched by The Art of Living and United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) on October 17.The joint effort is aimed at eradicating poverty and inching towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations. The MDGs include achieving universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.Art of Living’s North East coordinator Pinki Hazarika said that along with the rest of the world, the students of the city will take the pledge to eradicate poverty by standing up for two minutes.The ‘Stand Up’ campaign would seek to mobilise public opinion to support the UNMC’s initiative to achieve a poverty-free world by 2015. The Art of Living has taken the lead to mobilise over four million people across the globe to support the vision to defeat poverty.The Art of Living is going to organize several public events in over 100 countries for people from all walks of life to take the pledge. The ‘Stand Up’ events would be held all over the world, from the busiest square in the world, New York’s Times Square to the smallest school in the tsunami-struck Ache province in Indonesia. The events would be in different forms such as simple public gatherings, music concerts, group dances, rallies, carnivals, street theatres and satsangs. The idea behind the ‘Stand Up’ campaign is to remind the world leaders of their promise of achieving the MDGs and urge them to show the necessary political will. The rich countries would be enjoined to provide more aid, cancel debts and practice fair trade, whereas the poor countries would be requested to save the lives of the poorest citizens and achieve real transparency and accountability in utilization of resources.“In the North East we are mainly targeting the schools,” said Pinki. Schools with more than 500 students in the city are being approached for the forthcoming programme.The Art of Living, North East has requested the people of the region to come forward and make the world a more beautiful place to live.The ensuing event is a follow-up to an alliance finalised in May 2007 between the Art of Living and UNMC.

Myanmar crisis hits trade with NE
GUWAHATI, Oct 3 – The ongoing crisis in Myanmar has made a huge impact on the bilateral trade with North East India and this year the volume of trade is likely to drop to a large extent. This region has close trade links with Western Myanmar through Moreh point, but the traders of Myanmar are not willing to pursue export and import in the wake of political turmoil in the country.According to available information, the day-to-day trade between North East and Myanmar has dropped nearly 20 per cent during the last 15 days following heavy movement of military personnel in Western Myanmar. The traders of Myanmar are now apprehensive about involvement with the North East traders fearing harassment from their military personnel.“The volume of export and import has dropped significantly. This is apparently due to ongoing unrest in Myanmar,” Yumnam Dilip Kumar, president of Indo-Myanmar Border Traders Union (IMBTU) told this correspondent today. He said that if the situation continues then there might be sharp fall in bilateral trade between North East and Myanmar. Asked about the response from the Myanmar traders in wake of strong protest from the pro-democracy people, he said that they are worried over situation.The bilateral trade between North East and Myanmar stands at nearly Rs 100 crore per year. Moreover, about 300 traders are directly involved in export and import with Myanmar. But considering the situation, many North East traders have temporarily suspended their business.“We cannot pursue our export with Myanmar as the present situation is not at all conducive for smooth conduct of trade,” a group of traders unequivocally said. They also observed that India’s stand towards the crisis has also affected the trade.Namphalang which is said to be the focal point of business of Myanmar has been witnessing very little trade in the aftermath of the crisis. The traders of Yangon and Mandalay have stopped visiting the market in view of uncertain situation in the country. “We need a permanent solution to the problem as far as bilateral trade is concerned”, the traders added. To give a boost to the bilateral trade between North East India and Myanmar, the Manipur Government had signed a pact to import of rice from Myanmar to meet the demand of the people. The pact is likely to be hit if unrest contunes.

Thailand for better access to North East
BANGKOK, Oct 3 – The first-ever North East India Investment Opportunities Week concluded on a promising note with at least eight MoUs being sealed, even as the Thais called for better accessibility to the Region. Agriculture and road construction sectors have emerged as the key sectors, hot favourite with the Thais, if the number of MoUs and handshaking are any indication. The Thai entrepreneurs were interested in horticulture products, agriculture produce, tea, bamboo and tourism.Government of Assam is facilitating negotiations between three State-based construction companies and Thai equipment suppliers.An official of Assam Government told the Feedback Session that they are expecting at least 10-12 MoUs between local entrepreneurs and Thai companies. The most significant of the deal yet could be between State’s Inland Water Department and Thailand’s department of Marines.Assam Government was looking for an engineering solution to dredging and channel marking of Brahmaputra River. A delegation of Thai department is likely to visit Assam to evaluate the project. The official said they would like to involve the private sector in developing the jetties.Day Three of the Summit was encouraging to the DoNER Ministty and Indian Chamber of Commerce as reports tickled in of entrepreneurs and public sectors undertaking making hopeful beginnings. The summit was attended by 280 entrepreneurs from India and 150 Thai businessmen.DoNER Minister Mani Shanker Aiyar presided over a feedback session attended by senior Thai officials of Department of Commerce and Indian officials, Chief Minister of Meghalaya, DD Lapang, Secretary Sushma Singh, besides the entrepreneurs. The Minister summed up the three-day by asserting that a beginning has been made. If the volume of trade between North-east and Thailand increases then DoNER Ministry might explore the possibility of deputing an official in the Indian embassy in Bangkok.The power sector, however, had few takers as the Thais were not keen on getting into multi-million projects and were looking for only smaller hydropower projects. The National Hydro Power Corporation offer of 51 percent equity in power projects in Arunachal Pradesh had no takers. They were looking for Rs 14,000-15,000 crore investments, promising a guaranteed equity return of14 percent.The Thai Old Construction Equipment Suppliers have emerged as the most sought after group, as entrepreneurs mostly from Assam were looking for used equipment in road construction. National Highway Authority of India is pumping in Rs 50,000 crore for construction of roads.Six contractors including five from Assam and one from Nagaland were negotiating with Thai counterpart for joint ventures for sell and use of construction equipments.An entrepreneur from Assam is likely to sign a deal with a Thai company to supply fly ash and tiles to Thailand, while another group was in negotiation with a Thai hotel chain to set up a hotel in Sivasagar in joint venture.The financial institution NEDFI and India Thai Business Forum (ITBF) signed an MoU to facilitate promotion of business. The two agreed to set up information cell in each other's country, to identify potential entrepreneurs and coordinate with respective governments. The two sides also agreed to meet once in every six months.The Sikkim Government was in 'serious negotiation with a Thai company to set up casinos and five star hotels in the State.The Government of Meghalaya was negotiating with Thailand's department of Horticulture for technical know-how, capacity building, training, and packaging. Medicinal plants, roses and strawberry were identified as potential export items.A businessman from Manipur signed a deal for exporting sticky rice and another was in negotiation for supply of bamboo incense sticks and furniture manufacturing.However, the most luring offer came from a top official of Thailand's Department of Commerce, who said that his country could be very interested to import vegetables and fruits from North-east instead of China, once the Free Trade Agreement comes in force, scheduled late this year.The deputy Director general said that Thailand imports lot of agriculture produce from China, but they have discovered that these items are very cheap in North-east. Once the FTA is completed the North-east would have advantage over China.The country’s Director General Trade, Chutima offered the most significant suggestion stating that the biggest hurdle was very little was known about the Region in Thailand. A lot of business companies including some construction giants came to us and said the Summit was an eye opener for them.“The most common question was how do I get there and is there any means to ascertain and see what the Region has to offer,” the official said quoting the Thai investors.The Thai construction companies wants to do business in North-east because they see a lot of potential. But who do we go to seeking information, she asked, suggesting that Ministry DoNER should set up a focal point.

Murha-making industry growing in Bangaon
MIRZA, Oct 2 – When plastic-made products have already gobbled up some of the traditional earthen pots, the murha-making industry here of Bangaon area under Chhaygaon constituency is making rapid strides with the demand for this bamboo product reportedly on the rise. “Though we are sometimes forced to sell our products at a lesser price, it barely experiences a fall in demand,” said Krishnakanta Barman (45), an artisan who expressed his willingness to do the viable trade on larger scale.But grave financial constraints have acted as impediment to the growth of their trade. Speaking to this correspondent, Biren Barman, another artisan, said, “We would have made progress if we had been provided financial aid.” He further said that the business of making this sitting tool was reportedly spreading among the needy sections of the huge area.Mention may be made that every member of their family extended their helping hands in making this product. “My wife including my wards are the crucial parts of my trade,” said Rupeshawr (49). The whole Bangaon area inhabitated by Assamese, Rabha, Garo, Hazong, Bengali etc has witnessed growth of this trade, with the murhas extensively used in rural areas. Bangaon ‘dainik bazar’ has witnessed stacks of murhas – some 2,000 daily to be supplied to different areas of the State as well as Shillong. Of the reportedly three kinds of murhas different in heights and sizes, murhas nearly 10 feet in height are made in great numbers, following high demand in the hilly areas.“I go to Shillong twice in a week and by selling more than 3,000 murhas in a month, I earn Rs 5000 as profit,” said Devanath. Meghalaya has the largest demand for this kind of sitting equipment due to their extensive use.“The trade witnessed a spurt during the winter” revealed, Dipen Das and further added though summer has seen poor market for them, they continued to make the product throughout the year. Rukini, Akeshawr, etc reportedly sell their products in all parts of Guwahati including Changsari, Gouripur and some of them are seen even in the remote rural areas like Loharghat, Bagan, Rani, Nahira, etc.The price structure of a pair of murha varies at various areas and sometimes slide in price reduces the margin of benefit to Rs 20. The price of the components – bamboo, plastic including communication fare is rising but following the lack of good prices of their products, they hardly realise handsome profits, particularly in rural areas.Going by the prevailing situation, the needy families, some of them yet to get old age pension, are bending over backwards only to keep the home fires burning without having proper shelter. Akeshawr Barman is the case in point who lacks a proper house. For a few, the BPL card is reportedly a distant dream.The trade provides livelihood for thousands of deprived lot living in misery since long. Truly, their condition, by any standard, is the manifestation of sheer apathy on the part of the government.
Economic boom in North East predictedBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Oct 8 – There will be a big upsurge of economic activities in the NE region during the next five years, said Deputy Chairman of the country’s Planning Commission Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia here today. Dr Ahluwalia, who inaugurated the technical sessions of the conference on the country’s Look East Policy and the challenges for sub-regional cooperation, described the region as the “quite distinctive and important part of the country” and claimed that during the next five years, connectivity of the region would also improve largely.He said that a strategy was being incorporated in the Eleventh Plan approach with an allocation of Rs 12,793 crore from the Central Government, for development of roads in the NE region. Besides, there will be an investment varying between Rs 9,500 crore and Rs 10,000 crore, for improving rail connectivity of the region during the Eleventh Plan period. There are proposals to provide railheads to Meghalaya and Sikkim and airports to Kohima, Itanagar and Sikkim, said the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman.He apprised the gathering of thinkers, academicians, industrialists, senior officials from Delhi and North-eastern States and representatives of the NE civil societies that the Eleventh Five Year Plan would also focus on the efforts at exploiting the hydel potential of the region. Suggesting that there should be a Guwahati-based regional airline, he said that it was very important for the development of the region, as, national airlines with their big airbuses were not ‘ideally suitable’ for operating inside the region. There should be flexibility to allow other airlines also to enter the sector, he said. Inadequate investment during the pre-Independence era and the partition of the country placed the NE region in a disadvantageous position. At this moment, financial position of the NE States is not as strong as other parts of the country. For, they do not have the internal resource mobilisation capacity. Moreover, like the States of the other regions, these states also lack the efforts to absorb Central assistance. But the region has the resilience to emerge as the springboard of development, if proper care is taken, said Dr Ahluwalia.The Central Government has been making very significant efforts to ensure flow of fund to NE region, he said. However, he admitted that the country’s planners and policy makers had a lot to do for the region, saying, “We have not done much as we should for the NE region.”Presenting a picture of the transfer of funds to the region, he said that it was almost four times larger than the other regions of the country. While the per capita transfer of funds to the region is Rs 2,575, the average for other regions in this case is only Rs 684 per person, he said.From 9.1 per cent in 2002 the Central assistance to the region was augmented to 10.6 per cent in 2006 in terms of GDP ratio. However, in case of the other States of the same special category standing, the rise in the Central assistance from 9.3 per cent was restricted within 9.65 per cent during the said period. And, in the case of the non-special category States, the share of Central assistance declined from 2.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent during the period, said AhluwaliaFrom all sources, an amount of Rs 80,943 crore was spent on the NE region during the Tenth Five Year Plan, he said. The picture concerning utilisation of the Central assistance in the NE region is, however, not encouraging. The Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources has a total accrual of Rs 10,400 crore and so far, its utilisation is limited to Rs 4,660 crore, he said, adding, there should also be attempts at looking at the returns from such investments. The region has tremendous under-utilised development options. Its agriculture sector has recorded 50 per cent development with the known technology. This should be the thrust area for work during the next five years in the region. It is also possible to bring about a poultry revolution in the region, he said. The conference will conclude tomorrow with DoNER Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar delivering the valedictory lecture at 12-30 pm.

New insurance cos vying to cash in on expanding market
GUWAHATI, Oct 7 – The boom in insurance sector in the State has prompted many new insurance companies to invest in the North East. Now taking a cue from these companies, the professional institutes to provide manpower training in the insurance sector have also started exploring its turf. A local entrepreneur has started Insurance Academy- Northeast (INSAC-NE), affiliated to Insurance Institute of India (III), a big name in providing Insurance trainings.According to the Director of INSAC-NE, K.K Dutta, “there are four insurance companies in the public sector while nine are in the private sector having establishment in the North East.” “Insurance education in the North East has not grown keeping pace with the fast expansion of the insurance business in the region. As a result there is a dearth of qualified people to take up various jobs in the insurance companies, insurance education institutes as well as in exploring the various self employment prospects in the sector,” he added. III, Secretary General, S J Gidwani, speaking as the chief guest of the pre inauguration meeting of the institute in the city today, said that the academy will be able to train students through coaching for various exams of the III.” It will also provide coaching for the licentiate, associatship and fellowship. “Every year, more than 6000 students sit for our exams in 127 centre across the country. On an average, each year, 2000 students get associatship and fellowship,” he informed. Dutta further said that only 6 percent of the total insurance market is being explored. This entrepreneur had earlier set up the Advent Education and Welfare Society; only Insurance regulatory and development authority (IRDA) accredited Insurance Training Centre of North East India in Guwahati in 1993. This institute has earlier trained 4000 insurance agents. While this Centre has been imparting statutory insurance training to various groups of personnel from different walks of life, it has not been able to take up the other specialized courses in the insurance education sector.

All MG rail lines in NE to become BG
AGARTALA, Oct 7 – All metre gauge rail lines in the north-eastern region would be converted to broad gauge, railway officials said here today. Of the total 2,578 km railway line in the region, 1238.73 km is broad gauge. Of this, 1,227.6 km is in Assam and the rest is in Nagaland.Since 1992, about 1,079 km of gauge conversion was completed in the region and the Northeast Frontier Railway has laid 193 new lines within this period in the region, they said.Tripura has only 64.42-km railway track and the NF Railway is working for laying additional 89-km new line to connect the rail network with the state capital Agartala, the officials said.The new projects in the region include Kumarghat-Agartala in Tripura, Jiribam-Imphal in Manipur, Dimapur-Zubza in Nagaland, Azra-Byrnihat in Meghalaya, Dudhnoi-Deepa in Meghalaya, Harmuti-Itanagar in Arunchal Pradesh, Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge in Assam and Mainaguri-Joghigopa in Assam and West Bengal. – PTI

North-east can link India with ASEAN economy
GUWAHATI, Oct 7 – External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that the NE region of the country is a region into whose progress and development the country can dovetail its ‘Look East’ policy. With the gradual integration of this part of the country ‘through cross-border market access,’ the NE states can become the bridge between the Indian economy and South-East Asia, the fastest growing and dynamic region in the world, he said.Mukherjee who was delivering a keynote address at a three-day conference on India’s Look East Policy and the challenges for sub-regional cooperation here said that the country’s Look East policy was based on the vision of the first Prime Minister of the country Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to make India the pivot around which issues relating to economic and security in South East Asia would have to be considered.It has also the approach enunciated by former Prime Minister Late P V Narasimha Rao that the Look East policy is not merely an external economic policy. It is also a strategic shift in the country’s vision of the world and its place in the evolving global economy.“Most of all, it is about reading out to our civilizational Asian neighbours in the region who by emerging as regional economic powerhouses, also present us with a model worthy of emulation,” said Mukherjee. One of the major objectives of the policy is to develop ties with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). As part of its endeavour to strengthen its linkages with the region and reinforce its Look East policy, a sub-regional grouping, called BIST-EC, comprising Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand was established in 1997. With the addition of Myanmar and, in 2004, of Bhutan and Nepal, the grouping came to be known as BISTEC of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.With the paradigm shift from state centralism to interdependence and global and regional cooperation, India is aware of the geo-economic potential of its NE region as a gateway to East and South-East Asia. The very geographical location of the NE states has made it the doorway to Southeast and East Asia and vice versa, a doorway for these economies into India, said Mukherjee. He also apprised the audience, who included also the Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India Montek Singh Ahluwalia and senior bureaucrats of the NE States and Central Government and investors, that he had requested the Indian Ambassadors to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand to attend the conference and they had obliged him with their presence.The function, organised jointly by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development (OKDISCD) and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). It was also addressed by Governor Lt Gen (Retired) Ajai Singh, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, chairperson of ICRIER Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia and chairman of the OKDISCD Prof Ashok Jain , among others.

90 pc TEs to pay bonus by Oct 10
DIBRUGARH, Oct 6 – Much to the delight of the tea garden workers, almost all the tea majors including private enterprises have declared the bonus a percent higher than in the previous year. Leaving aside a few private tea companies, Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) has succeeded in settling the bonus issue amicably with almost all the concerned tea garden administrations. The bargain for bonus percentage, which otherwise sparks unrest amongst tea garden workers has not witnessed untoward incidents so far. Paban Singh Ghatowar, president, Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) told The Assam Tribune that 90 per cent of the tea gardens would disburse the bonus by October 10. To the peaceful settlement of the bonus issue, Ghatowar said goodwill has prevailed between the workers and the management because of late workers had understood the profit and loss status of the tea industry. Moreover, the ACMS has also moved out of its conventional arena to negotiate for bonus for the workers in the small tea plantations. It is making a determined effort to compel small tea growers coming within the purview of the Plantation Labour Act to give out bonus to its workers. Although some small tea growers were offering small amount of cash to its workers for the puja celebrations, Ghatowar said that the amount should come as bonus.

Indian delegation leaves for Geneva meet
HAILAKANDI, Oct 5 – Member of Parliament (MP) from Karimganj-Hailakandi (SC) constituency, Lalit Mohan Suklavaidya left for Geneva alongwith members of the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to attend the 117th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).The delegation is led by the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee. The other members of the delegation are deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, K Rahman Khan, deputy speaker of Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal, the Minister of State in the Human Resource Development Department, Daggubati Purandareswari, BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, BJP MP Su Thirunavukkarasar and officials of the Lok Sabha secretariat. The 17-member delegation will return on October 12 next.During the seven-day visit to Geneva, MP Suklavaidya will highlight the various issues of North-East India related to trade and commerce, cultural exchange etc. Suklavaidya informed The Assam Tribune that the rich traditional cultural heritage and the scope of trade in Northeastern states must be highlighted before the world leaders for the opening of new economic avenues and cultural exchange. The assembly will be attended by parliamentary teams of various countries.
US investment meet a success: CMBy A Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Oct 5 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said that his meeting with the investors, at the NE India Investment Conference held recently in the USA, for augmenting investment in the State, was seemingly fruitful. Of the eight investors he had met there, six have expressed their interest in investing in the State and most of them are likely to come to the State to assess the investment potential here by March next, he said while addressing a press conference here.The Chief Minister met Krishnan Khanna, chairman and founder of ‘iwatch’, Perry Ram CEO of COSYNE, Alok Appadurai and Teddy Kurtas of the Abhaya Global, Bharat Bhise and Rasik Chopra of the Bravia Capital Partners Inc, real estate developer Jaswant Lalwani, oil and gas extractor Bharat (Barry) Sehgal, Rajib Das of the Broadsheet Capital – Private Equity Group and Diana MacDowell, Director and Erica Helms, Assistant Director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.Krishnan Khanna met the Chief Minister with his proposal for vocational education in the NE region. He had promised 100 per cent literacy and 100 per cent vocational training for work force and de-control of higher and technical education, which will transform NE India, said the Chief Minister.Perry Ram of COSYNE has a plan for digital literacy courses. The COSYNE is the provider of Microsoft Office Certifications for the NE States of India. Ram requested the Chief Minister to support the programme by purchasing the Microsoft Office Specialist Test vouchers which students can use to validate their knowledge. The required investment is Rs 2.5 crore. It will increase the IT capability of the NE States and provide openings for the youth of the region.Alok Appadurai and Teddy Kurtas of Abhaya Global proposed creation of algae farms to develop bio-fuels from algae. They also have the proposals for bio-refineries to convert waste products into chemicals and waste cooking oil to produce bio-diesel. The processes are very labour-intensive and therefore suitable for us, said the Chief Minister. He desired that the feasibility study of the proposed projects should be carried out.The Bravia Capital Partners has a proposal for a regional airline for the NE region of the country with its 35-70- seater small aircraft. They are, however, apprehensive of the security scenario and requested the Government to take a stake in the airline, to grant concession in fuel price, an agreement with the NE states for purchase of a fixed number of seats on each of the flights. They are to send a proposal for regional airline incorporating charter flights, cargo flights also.Lalwani has a proposal for executing a real estate project for senior citizens in association with Dr Anjum Ahmed while Bharat Sehgal has a proposal for more profitable extraction of oil deposits and development of a joint venture with the international companies involving people with experience in the oil and gas sector, as for example, former CMD, ONGC, BK Bora.Rajiv Das of the Broad Street Capital - Private Equity Group has a proposal for setting up a kidney hospital and creation of a hub for aircraft maintenance for private aircraft. The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture had a proposal for sustainability farming.Of the investors who met the Chief Minister, the first six had shown interest in making investments in the State and a majority of them had also shown interest to visit the State by March next, said the Chief Minister.

Govt bid to tap NE export potential
GUWAHATI, Oct 11 – With the Government of India giving importance in opening the doors of trade and commerce with the South East Asian countries through implementation of the Look East Policy, the Directorate of Industries and Commerce of the Government of Assam has initiated steps to train up the local entrepreneurs so that they can reap the benefits of the new policy. Industries and Commerce Department sources said that as a step in this direction, the Department organised a two-day seminar on export and import, which concluded at the Assam Administrative Staff College here this afternoon. More than a hundred entrepreneurs from different parts of the State took part in the seminar, where efforts were made to give them the basic information about exporting goods.Sources revealed that the seminar was inaugurated by the Minister in charge of Industries and Commerce, Pradyut Bordoloi, while, the inaugural session was attended by the State Chief Secretary and other senior officials.Several key issues relating to exports including export and import documentation framework, role of Customs Department in promoting exports, export potential of agricultural products of the North East region, India’s foreign trade policy, methods of arranging finance for exports, role of EXIM bank in promoting exports, role of Directorate General of Foreign Trade in promoting exports etc were discussed and senior resource persons from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Directorate of Foreign Trade etc delivered lectures in the seminar.Sources pointed out that the North East has tremendous potential for exporting goods, particularly to the South-East Asian Countries and with the Government of India actively implementing the Look East Policy, there is tremendous scope for the entrepreneurs of Assam and other States of the region to take full advantage of the situation and for that there is urgent need to make them aware of the possibilities and potential. The seminar aimed at giving the basic knowledge about exports to the entrepreneurs of the State and a few exporters from the State also took part in the seminar and shared their experiences with the potential exporters.It may be mentioned here that the Department for Department of North East Region (DoNER) is also actively looking into the matter of economic development of the region by opening the doors with the South-East Asian Countries and recently a North East business summit was held in Bangkok. The External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Minister in charge of DoNER participated in a recent seminar on Look East Policy in Guwahati and highlighted the export potential of the region.

Move to usher in blue revolution
GUWAHATI, Oct 10 – With an aim to usher in the ‘blue revolution’ in State’s fishery sector, the Assam Fisheries Department organised a discussion among scientists, bankers and progressive fish farmers in the State at the Administrative Staff College here in the city. Over a hundred participants throughout the state took part in this discussion.In his inaugural speech, Nurjamal Sarkar, Minister of Fisheries, Assam emphasised on maximum production of fish from the available resources of Assam and for that he advised the farmers to come forward in collaboration with the Fisheries department.“The fisheries sectorhas great prospects but the need of the hour is to work positively towards it,” the minister said.PK Borthakur, commissioner, Fisheries Department while speaking on the occasion stressed on all round development in fisheries for employment generation as well as earning foreign exchange through adapting scientific fish culture.Borthakur also urged to lay stress on the prospects of ornamental fishes, which has demand across the globe.Dr BK Bhattacharjya, scientist and MT Bharatiya, general manager, NABARD explained the prospects of Fisheries in Assam and bank loan opportunity for fisheries development in the State.Dr AK Roy, director, Fisheries and D Malakar, managing Director, Assam Financial Development Corporation also advised the farmers for obtaining sustainable fish production in the State.

Land revenue hike to further hit tea industry
GUWAHATI, Oct 10 – Though the Government of India has announced incentives for the survival of the tea industry from time to time, the Assam Government has done just the opposite and the land revenue rates for tea estates in the State are now much higher than in other tea growing states of the country. On top of that, the Assam Government, despite repeated requests by the industry, has not reduced the rates of cess on green leaf, while, the other tea producing states have suspended the collection of the same in view of the recession faced by Indian tea industry.The Assam Government has recently decided to increase the land revenue rate for tea gardens from Rs 12 to Rs 22 per bigha in the Brahmaputra valley and from Rs nine to Rs 16 per bigha in the Barak valley with retrospective effect from July 1, 2003. The secretary of the Tea Association of India (TAI), Guwahati, D Deka pointed out that with the surcharge on land revenue, the total impact in the Brahmaputra valley would be to the tune of Rs 34.30 per bigha and it would be Rs 24.80 per bigha in the Barak valley. He expressed apprehension that majority of the gardens would find it very difficult to pay the increased rates, that too with retrospective effect. He said that the very survival of the industry would be at stake in view of the “untimely” decision of the Assam Government.Deka said that compared to Assam, the land revenue rates in other tea producing states of India are much less. He revealed that the land revenue rate in West Bengal, which includes road cess, rural employment surcharge, etc comes to around Rs 14.60 per bigha. The land revenue rate in Tamil Nadu is around Rs seven per bigha, while, it is around Rs 7.02 per bigha in Kerala.The secretary, TAI, Guwahati, further said that the gardens of Assam have to pay cess at the rate of 32 paisa per kilogram of green leaf for the Brahmaputra valley and 29 paisa for the Barak valley, while, the Government of West Bengal has given exemption to payment of cess for a period of five years and the other tea producing states never imposed cess. On the other hand, in last year’s budget, the Assam Government reduced the agriculture income tax from 35 percent to 30 percent, while, the West Bengal Government granted exemption on payment of same for five years.Meanwhile, in a memorandum to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the president of the TAI, Shashank Prasad strongly opposed the decision to increase the land revenue and said that the move would deal a lethal blow to the recession-hit industry, particularly the flood ravaged gardens of Barak valley.The TAI president said that the industry has been hit by recession since 1999 because of factors like fall in volume of exports, declining auction prices etc and in fact, the average price of Assam tea in the auction centres is still more than Rs 10 lower than the price in 1999. As a result of the recession, majority of the gardens in the Brahmaputra valley are finding it difficult to meet the statutory obligations, while, majority of the gardens in the Barak valley are running at loss. Devastating floods this year compounded the problems for the gardens in the Barak valley and threatened the very survival of the industry, the memorandum said.Escalating cost of production added to the problems and different committees including the Inter-Ministerial committee constituted by the Ministry of Labour and the Dr Jayanta Madhab committee constituted by the Assam Government observed that increasing cost of production and marketing precipitated the crisis in the tea industry. The memorandum further said that considering the gravity of the situation, the Government of India withdrew the excise duty on tea and created special purpose tea fund. The Government of West Bengal, on its part, waived cess on green leaf for a period of five years and exempted the tea companies from payment of agricultural income tax, while, the Government of Tamil Nadu also exempted payment of agricultural income tax.The memorandum said that in view of the present crisis, the decision to increase land revenue was untimely and it would put unbearable burden on the gardens and would put the viability of the industry at stake

Lack of infrastructure hits credit flow to NE
GUWAHATI, Oct 10 – Lack of basic infrastructure like roads, communications and transport facilities, adequate power etc are some of the major impediments in the smooth flow of credit to the North East, which has retarded the economic growth in the region. This observation was made by Usha Thorat, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday. The top RBI executive who is visiting the State to get first hand information on how the financial institutions have been performing in line with the Look North East policy of the RBI said that the need of the hour was better infrastructure and good connectivity in the region.Compared to the national average, the per capita deposit as well as credit in the region including Assam is quite low. The penetration of banking in the region, particularly in the rural areas has also been traditionally low. “The topography of the region, the dispersal of population, transport bottlenecks and law and order conditions inhibit branch expansion other than in certain commercial centres,” said Thorat stressing the need for an approach that is based on enhancing the capacities of the existing branches of commercial banks, regional rural banks and co-operative banks to realise greater financial inclusion in the region.Thorat said that that for banking to prosper in the region the State Governments should have strategies that would ensure growth in production and productivity, especially in agricultural and allied activities and promote genuine investment. The agriculture sector was one of the areas of study by the Committee on Financial Sector Plan (CFSP) for the North Eastern Region constituted by the RBI to address the constraints of the region in a more focussed and State specific manner. The findings of the committee reveal a gloomy picture with the production of the agricultural sector in the region being mostly at the subsistence level.On the other hand, Thorat emphasised the importance of the Banking Ombudsman, a forum to hear the complaints of the customers and redress the genuine grievances to take the Look North East policy to a new high. As on date, the RBI has appointed 15 Banking Ombudsmen with their offices located mostly in the State capitals and accommodated 45,000 complaints. All scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks and scheduled primary co-operative banks are covered under the Ombudeman.Thorat however expressed concern at the few number of complaints coming to the Banking Ombudsman in Guwahati and observed that lack of awareness might be the reason behind it.

NHAI asked to speed up works
GUWAHATI, Oct 10 – Non-completion of land acquisition, diversion of forest land, cutting of trees, shifting of telephone and power lines and security threat to workers and engineers have adversely affected the progress of the ambitious East-West Corridor project in Assam. The progress in fact has been a meagre six per cent so far on an average. The Department of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, meanwhile, has taken up the issue with the State Government so that the project is completed within the timeframe of April 2010. Brahm Dutt, Secretary, Department of Road Transport and Highways, recently had a meeting with State Government officials where the constraints affecting the East-West corridor came up for discussion. “The State Government has assured the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) of handing over possession of the remaining 43 per cent land of the project within a fortnight,” official sources said. The meeting also decided that the State Chief Secretary would direct ground-level officers of all the departments to complete tree-felling and shifting of electric and telephone lines on a war footing, with the NHAI prioritising the areas where such activities were to be completed first. The Union Secretary directed the NHAI officers to ensure that the contractors speeded up the progress of construction work on the ground. He further directed the NHAI to ensure proper repair and upkeep of the national highways under their charge. The East-West Corridor apart, work on a stretch of 7,616 km road in the eight north-eastern States under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme (SARDP-NE) to improve connectivity to all capital towns, district headquarters towns, and backward, remote and border areas, was also reviewed with State PWD, Border Roads Organization (BRO) and NHAI officials.While reviewing the progress of works relating to improvement and repair of national highways under normal plan with the BRO and the State PWDs, Dutt expressed dissatisfaction over the low expenditure on the sanctioned works and poor maintenance of some of the national highways such as Jorabat-Barapani-Shillong of NH-40, Jowai-Badarpur section of NH-44 and Churaibari-Agartala section of NH-44, and directed that the Meghalaya PWD should complete the IRQP of 24 km length on Jorabat-Barapani section (sanctioned during 2006-07) on highest priority. It was decided that State-level monitoring committees headed by the Chief Secretary would be set up in all the States to monitor the programme on a monthly basis, the sources said, adding that a task force was also constituted to examine whether the existing NH-31A from Sevoke to Gangtok should be improved or an entirely new two-lane road should be laid from Ranipul to Sevoke. The task force is to submit its report by this month. The Union Secretary also announced an increase in the allocation of funds for 2007-08 from the existing Rs 100 crore to Rs 203 crore for improvement of national highways and Rs 47 crore (against the existing Rs 27 crore) for periodical renewal of highway stretches to be executed by the State PWDs of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland (PWDs of Sikkim and Tripura do not execute NH works).
ONGC to invest Rs 4000 cr to boost outputFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Oct 10 – Faced with declining oil production in the State, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has chalked out an Assam Renewal Project with an investment outlay of Rs 4,000 crore. Briefing members of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Union Minister, Murli Deora said that ONGC plans to invest Rs 2500 crore in total revamping of old installations and pipeline net work to reduce the surface bottleneck and improve production.There is a plan to invest Rs 1500 crore to drill hi-tech wells and optimization of artificial lift. ONGC has engaged internationally reputed Halliburton for production optimisation, reservoir management and to enhance oil production in major oil fields of Assam Assets.The meeting today was on the topic of 'Performance of Oil PSUs during the last three years – the Way Forward'.The Government has sanctioned the proposal of Oil India Limited (OIL) for fresh equity issue of 10 per cent of its paid up capital through Initial Public Offer to enable the company to get listed on the stock exchanges. Approval has also been accorded to issue additional one per cent of its paid up capital to the employees of OIL, the Minister said.Fresh issue of 10 per cent of its paid up capital would meet SEBI requirement for listing of the Company's share on the stock exchanges. This would not only make OIL more amenable to market discipline but would also boost the company's image, Deora said.Besides, it would also help OIL to raise resources for its future expansion and growth. The additional allocation for its employees would motivate them towards better performance, he explained. About the agreement between Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) and Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC), Deora said his Ministry was trying to expedite the clearance to declare Silghat as the Port of Call by the Ministry of Shipping. NRL and BPL signed a Supply Agreement in May to supply 10 Million Metric Ton of diesel.The Minister further added that to improve the reliability of product evacuation in future, NRL has entered into agreement with OIL for transportation of white oil products from Numaligarh to Siliguri through a product pipeline.While the pipeline project is being implemented by OIL, NRL is setting up product Receiving and Dispatch Terminal at Siliguri at an estimated cost of Rs 149.57 crore and Dispatch Terminal at Numaligarh at a cost of Rs 4.32crore. About the company's future plans, the Minister said NRL has chalked out plans to set up a wax project, and a Naptha Splitter Unit. Preparation of feasibility report for production of Euro-IV MS/HSD in line with ‘auto fuel policy’ has been initiated

Thailand company likely to invest $10m in State
GUWAHATI, Oct 9 – In what is likely to be the first case of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the State, a major business concern of Thailand has shown keen interest in investing $ 10 million in Assam in the aquaculture and fishery sector. This apart, 25 companies of the State have entered into MoUs with business houses of Thailand for facilitating joint ventures in diverse areas such as infrastructure development, construction, food processing, handloom and handicrafts, tourism, etc. The State Government, too, had an agreement with the Thai Contractors’ Association — a conglomerate of 120 Thai companies — for enhancing bilateral cooperation in trade and commerce.Revealing this to the media today, State Commerce and Industries Minister Pradyut Bardoloi said that the Thai company, CP Aquaculture Pvt Ltd, was keen to invest to the tune of $ 10 million in sea food (fish) processing, fishery, etc., in the North-East, mostly in Assam. “The Thai company is also in favour of joint ventures and we can benefit by way of transfer of technology and expertise. It is also likely to start fish production in the State and also construct cold storages,” he said. Bardoloi said that the Thai company’s eagerness to invest in Assam stemmed from the fact that Assam had a huge demand for fish and fish products.Meanwhile, following the investment summit in Thailand last week, 25 companies of the State have signed MoUs with Thai business concerns. “As per the MoUs, there will be joint ventures in infrastructure, construction, tourism, food processing, handloom and handicrafts, etc., and both sides stand to benefit from this,” he said.Some of the companies that have entered into agreements are RAG Group (with Inmode Trading Co of Thailand), ARTFED (with Thai Silk Association), Williamson Magor (with Personal management Co and Inmode Trading Co), Manmohan Bricks and Tiles, Prihvi Diary, Purvanchal Banijya Bikash, Orient Processing Pvt Ltd, Welcome India Pvt Ltd, Super Infra-Tech Pvt Ltd, NK Constructions, etc.According to Bardoloi, the developments augured well for the State’s trade and industry, as under the agreement, the TCA would initiate steps for transfer of world-class construction technology and management practices to the Assam-based companies. “Moreover, they will also take steps for development and upgradation of skills for local manpower. The State Government will play the role of a facilitator in the process,” he said. Terming the Thailand summit as a success, the Minister said that the meet witnessed direct one-to-one interaction between traders and industrialists from the two regions, and the joint ventures were the immediate result of that interaction. He was particularly hopeful about the effects the business ventures would have on the infrastructure of Assam and the North-East. Bardoloi said that of late the DoNER Ministry, Union Minister Mani Sankar Aiyar in particular, was taking a lot of initiatives for linking the North-East with its South East Asian neighbours.

Banks not providing loans to rural poor
GUWAHATI, Oct 9 – Union Minister for Rural Development Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today said that the reluctance on the part of banks to provide financial assistance to the rural populace for engaging themselves in self-employment avenues has emerged as a constraint in the path of rural development. “Assam has 149 zero-lending banks, while the North-East as a whole has 118 blocks that are not even covered by banks. Moreover, many of the banks are reluctant to provide loans to the needy entrepreneurs from villages. This is despite the fact that rural people rarely become defaulters,” Dr Singh said at a press conference. Dr Singh, who has been in the State for an assessment of the ongoing rural development projects, did not seem to be much enthused with the progress, saying that “improvement was needed.” The minister also called upon the eight north-eastern States to take up self-help groups (SHGs) as a mission, as they can be of immense help in alleviating rural poverty. “All the States have been asked to engage NGOs as facilitators, monitors and enumerators for formation and empowering the SHGs so that by the end of the 11th Plan, all rural BPL families are covered under the SHG network,” he said.The minister said that the North-east would be getting a whopping Rs 1.74 lakh crore for implementation of different development projects in the next four years, 45 per cent of which would be spent for rural development. To a question regarding the widespread media reports of corruption in implementation of rural development projects in the State, Dr Singh evaded a direct reply, and said that corruption could be tackled by people’s awareness, people’s participation, strict monitoring and vigilance, and ensuring transparency and accountability. He added that application of the RTI Act could also be used as potent tool for fighting corruption. The minister also gave an account of the progress of the different rural development schemes in the areas of health, sanitation, road connectivity, electrification, telecommunication, housing and employment generation.

NE’s economic uplift must for nation’s security
GUWAHATI, Oct 9 – DONER Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today said that promotion of the economic interest of NE region was the best guarantor of the security of the country. The region has so far been the prisoner of its international borders that surround it. Because of this, the region is left out of the benefit of the country’s Look East policy even as the other parts of the country are reaping benefits from the policy, said the Minister. The Minister was delivering the valedictory lecture of the three-day conference on the Look East Policy and the challenges for sub-regional cooperation organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations and Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development here.With the above perspective in view, the Minister also underscored the need to consult the Chief Ministers of the States while formulating the foreign policy of the country. He also underlined the need to intensify the desire to increase trade with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Tibet for developing the NE region. However, he pinpointed Thailand as the launch pad for the NE region so far as its economic development was concerned.He said that the developments taking place in Yunan province of South China would have benefited the NE region much had there been no tension between India and China. The region is facing severe trade restrictions with Tibet, endless restrictions with Bangladesh and Myanmar does not hold enough potential for it at present.The Chief Ministers, the Union Commerce Minister, Defence Minister, Home Minister and the National Security Advisor of the country should sit together to workout a solution to the problems facing the region for its peculiar geo-political location, the Minister said.Referring to the oil pipeline and the Stilwell Road built by the British Government connecting Kunmin in South China, during the Second World War, he said that this helped the Allied forces defeat the Japanese forces. This defeat of the Japanese forces was possible as Assam was linked with South China, the Minister said and wondered as to why the country could not undertake a venture to defeat the Japanese economically by linking the NE region again with South China.China has decided to throw everything to build its southwestern part, he said and wondered why India could not throw everything to build its NE region, he said. He expressed his dissatisfaction over the way of formulating the policy of the country towards China. Had there been any consultation with the Chief Ministers of the NE states while formulating the policy, there would have been no reason for the region’s Chief Ministers to complain that their economic interests had not been taken into consideration while formulating the policy, he said, adding, this was because of the country’s policy makers positioning themselves in Delhi and not in the NE region.The Bangladesh port of Chitagong could well be the port of entry to the NE region. Bangladesh could very effectively be persuaded to realise its economic interest in allowing the NE Indian states to use this port. The reluctance of the neighbouring country could be overcome with making the Kaladan river in Myanmar navigable for the transiting NE Indian goods to the Bay of Bengal and this would make Bangladesh to rise to the opportunity of sharing Chitagong port with NE Indian states, said the Minister.Let the neighbouring countries of the NE states realise that trading with India is beneficial for them and trades with the neighbours should not be confined to border trades alone, it should penetrate much beyond the borders.He apprised the gathering of the function that the representatives of 21 NRI companies based in the USA will arrive at Guwahati on December 21 and the Thai Deputy Commerce Minister would arrive at the NE region on January 9 next to asses the investment and trade potential of the region.
ONGC, BCPL sign supply agreementOur Staff Correspondent NEW DELHI, Oct 15 – The formality of tying up the feedstock agreements has been completed, with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) signing the Gas Supply Agreement here today, clearing the last remaining hurdles in implementation of the mega Gas Cracker Project. The GSA was formally signed and exchanged in presence of Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Bijoy Krishna Handique and Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) GAIL Dr U D Choubey, Director (Business Development), GAIL, AK Purwaha, Director (Offshore), ONGC, NK Mitra, Director (Onshore), ONGC AK Hazarika, besides other top officials of the two oil companies.The Feedstock Supply Agreement was signed by chief operating officer, BCPL, R K Kashyap and executive director ONGC, G Chaturvedi in a brief ceremony at the Shashtri Bhavan office of Handique.Describing the signing of the Agreement as a long awaited event, Handique urged GAIL to go full steam ahead. GAIL now has in its bag the feedstock supply agreement with all the three suppliers. GAIL has already sealed deals with Oil India Limited (OIL) and Numaligarh Refineries Limited (NRL) last month in Dibrugarh. The Minister said focus now was on training adequate manpower to meet the requirement of the cracker project. Skilled manpower would be needed for the downstream projects, as well, he said, adding that the Project was biggest investment so far in Assam. Under the terms of the agreement signed today, ONGC would supply 1.35 MMSCMD gas till March 31, 2012 and 1.00 MMSCMD, thereafter for the Project. BCPL will source 6.0 MMSCMD gas from OIL, which would be processed to recover C2+ Liquid as feedstock for the Petrochemical Complex. The balance gas after recovery of C2+ Liquid shall be returned back to the gas consumers. The Petrochemical Complex would also utilise 160,000 TPA of petrochemical grade Naphtha from (NRL). BCPL is a Rs 5460 crore, joint venture company with GAIL picking up majority 70 percent stake. The other equity holders include Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), OIL and NRL. The petrochemical complex will comprise of a cracker unit, downstream polymer and integrated off-site utilities plants. The complex has been configured with a capacity of 220,000 tons per annum (TPA) of Ethylene and 60,000 tons per annum of propylene with Natural Gas and Naphtha as feed stock. The Products from the Petrochemical Complex shall be 220,000 tons per annum (TPA) of HDPE and LLDPE, 60000 TPA of Polypropylene, 55,000 TPA of Raw Pyrolysis Gasoline and 12,500 TPA of fuel oil. GAIL sources said its existing LPG plant at Lakwa would be modified to process gas for recovery of ethane and higher hydrocarbon fraction, which will be transported to Lepetkata through a pipeline.Meanwhile, talking to newsmen, GAIL CMD said that the project work would be completed within the stipulated 60 month periods. Replying to a question, he confirmed that all major hurdles have been cleared.“We have appointed Engineers India Limited (EIL) as the Project Management Consultants (PMG). A kick-off meeting between GAIL and EIL has been held last month,” said Dr Choubey.The CMD, however, denied that differences on rate of gas had held back the signing of the feedstock agreement with ONGC. Gas would be supplied by ONGC at the administered price fixed by the Government of India, he added.Dr Choubey also lauded the initiative of the State Government, disclosing that the land allotment has been completed.
Achievements of SIRD highlightedFrom Our Correspondent AZARA, Oct 15 – State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) has presently become a boon for the unemployed youths in the State. The schemes of SIRD have made the unemployed youths self-reliant. With the involvement of the SIRD schemes, the unemployed youths have done away with the government jobs. This was stated by Nurul Islam, principal, Extension Training Centre (Kahikuchi). SIRD, at the guest-of-the-month programme organised by Azara Journalists’ Forum recently. Islam, systematically and statistically highlighted the achievements of SIRD at the programme.Islam disclosed that SIRD is at present implementing the Chief Minister’s Jivan Jyoti Swaniyojan Yojna (CMJJSY) in the State. He said that altogether 4792 unemployed youths have been assisted under the yojna in the State adding that Rs 4660.37 lakhs bank loan were mobilised.Islam also mentioned that 10,393 youths were trained in orientation programme by SIRD. On the other hand, altogether 4917 youths were trained in management of enterprise & skill development, he said. The principal also said that about one thousand youths also underwent upgraded training outside the State.Islam further disclosed that under the yojna, youths were imported training in different activities such as agri-product transport dairy farming, piggery farming, integrated farming, poultry farming, rural transport, handloom, agro-processing, marketing, horticulture, tea plantation, handicraft, computer training etc.Islam also highlighted that 27,406 youths against 8725 swabalambi groups (SGs) in all the districts of the state were covered under the CM’s yojna. He said that 1515 proposals were sanctioned for loans by different banks adding that 4792 youths were assisted by the banks.The principal further disclosed at the programme that SIRD, Assam has topped in terms of activities in the country. SIRD has also stressed on convergent community action and community-based organisation, he said. He said that SIRD is imparting training, organising workshops, seminar, training on information education, communication, AIDS etc for the rural development officials from top to bottom and the representatives of gaon panchayats. The model agriculture farm set up in 1961 and GPSTC are now marked with the ETC, SIRD which has taken the administrative responsibility of the former, Islam further added.Earlier, Islam was accorded a warm felicitation by Azara Journalists Forum.Durga puja: Brisk preparations are on in full swing for celebration of Durga Puja in the entire Azara area. Durga Puja will be celebrated at Azara, Dharapur, Garal, Kahikuchi, VIP chowk, Air Force gate Patgaon, etc. Naam-prasanga, Ojapali, jatrabhinay, aarati, ananda mela will mark the puja festivals in the puja pandals. It is to be noted here that buffalos will be sacrificed on the occasion of the puja at Patgaon.

Seminar on NE autonomy
GORESWAR, Oct 14 – A national seminar, sponsored by the University Grants Commission (UGC), on ‘Autonomy and Ethnic Demography in North-East – A Futuristic Projection’ was organised by Goreswar College here in the college hall on September 29 to 30.The sub-themes of the seminar are ‘History of Ethnic Demography of the North-East and its Introspective View about Autonomy Movements’, ‘Historical Background of Different Ethnic Autonomy Movements in the North-East’, ‘Autonomy Movements of Ethnic Groups and Tribes of the North-East and its Future’, ‘Demographic Composition and its Various Autonomy Movements in the North-East’, ‘Impact of Different Autonomy Movements on Socio-economic and Socio-cultural Sphere of the North-East Region’, ‘Impacts of Globalisation on Different Autonomy Movements of Different Ethnic Groups’ and many other related issues respectively.Altogether 54 participants from different colleges in and outside the State attended the seminar.The seminar was inaugurated by Prof Niru Hazarika of Political Science Deptt of GU, while Dr Khargeswar Deka, Principal of the Goreswar College welcomed the participants to the seminar on September 29. The keynote address was delivered by Dr Shyam Bhadra Medhi. He highlighted the different autonomy movements on socio-economic and socio-cultural spheres of the North East region.He dwelt at length on the remedies of such autonomy movements by explaining the root cause of different autonomy movements of different ethnic groups of the North East.Prof Krishna Gopal Bhattacharya, Director, Academic Staff College, GU chaired the first technical session. Prof Niru Hazarika, took part in it as resource person which was followed by the second technical session where Prof KG Shyam Bhadra Medhi graced it as a resource person.On September 30, the third technical session held with Prof Apurba Kumar Baruah, Department of Political Science, North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, as chairperson while Monorama Sarma, Prof, History Department of NEHU, participated in it as resource person which was followed by a panel discussion. Prof Apurba Kumar Baruah, Dr Monorama Sarma Dr Debendra Chandra Das, selection grade lecturer and HoD History, Pub Kamrup College participated in it as panelists.

Govt focus on better road connectivity: Gogoi
JORHAT, Oct 14 – The State government is giving due importance to the development of road infrastructure to streamline transport.Stating this after inaugurating the works relating to the improvement of Na-Ali here on Wednesday, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi linked economic development with the upgrade of road connectivity. Apart from developing communication facilities, the government is also committed to solving the unemployment problem and promoting large-scale industrialization, Gogoi reiterated. The focus is also on improving the power scene, he added. The Chief Minister, however, admitted that the government has still a lot to do in all these areas. A project has been undertaken to improve the strategic Na-Ali running from here to Nagabat in Titabor subdivision. North Eastern Council has provided funds to the tune of Rs 52.80 crore. A total length of 50.86 km will be developed under the project. The road will be widened up to nine metre to include drains and footpaths at major stretches. Commenting on the dismal state of Jorhat Engineering College (a report of which appeared in Oct 10 issue of The Assam Tribune) on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony, presided over by Jorhat Deputy Commissioner LS Changsan, the Chief Minister claimed that the Government has provided ample funds for the development of the college. “We have allotted the maximum funds for the development of all educational institutions in the State,” he maintained.Gogoi said that he did not receive any reports from either the deputy commissioner or the principal of JEC about the “poor health of the institution”.The Jorhat and Teok MLAs were also present during the ceremony.
RBI move to expand banking services in NEBy A City Correspondent GUWAHATI, Oct 14 – In view of the limited success achieved in extending banking services in the Northeast including the States of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Triupura, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to address the constraints of the region in a more focussed and State-specific manner. As a first step, the banking services of Assam would be enhanced on a priority basis by opening new branches in the underbanked districts. The RBI-constituted Committee on Financial Sector Plan for the north-eastern region under the chairmanship of its deputy Governor Usha Thorat has stressed the need for branch expansion, infrastructure development and strengthening of the local banks for improving the banking scenario in the State.The committee has identified 12 districts in the State, which can be described as underbanked. These districts are Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Cachar, Darrang, Dhemaji, Dhubri, Golaghat, Hailakandi, Kokrajhar, Karimganj, Morigaon and Nalbari. The committee has suggested for extension of the rural outreach of the existing banks in these districts and has observed that the major banks like the SBI, UBI, PNB, UCO and the RRBs (regional rural banks) operating in the State should chalk out a time-bound action plan for opening of new branches.“We are expecting an over-all improvement in Assam as well as the entire region once all the suggestions of the committee are implemented,” said Thorat.For improving the credit- deposit ratio in Assam, the committee has underlined the need for public-private partnership and has encouraged the banks to go for funding of major infrastructure projects, which will also boost the economy of the State.The committee has suggested that the Assam Gramin Vikash Bank (AGVB) open one branch each at Nayeralga Development Block in Dhubri district, at Baska Development Block and Pub Nalbari Development Block, as these centres are unbanked.On the other hand, the committee has suggested several measures for strengthening the RRBs and the Assam State Co-operative Apex Bank.“The Assam State Co-operative Apex Bank Ltd is under financial burden due to huge accumulation of NPAs (non- performing assets),” said Thorat.The committee has recommended the only co-operative bank in the State to reconstitute its board by bringing in professionals for guidance in bettering its functioning.The committee has also mooted the need to develop the existing SHGs into primary co-operatives where the State Government could explore the possibility of bringing the Mutually Aided Co-op Act, already implemented in States like Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

Rs 6-cr plan for Tariyani Barbeel
GUWAHATI, Oct 13 – A voluntary organisation has drawn up an ambitious plan worth around Rs 6 crore, to develop the 75-bigha Tariyani Barbeel in Lakhimpur district into an attractive tourist destination. If materialized, the plan will be able to provide jobs to many people of the district, says Naren Sarma, secretary of Help, the voluntary organisation. The organisation has already submitted its plan to the State Government for the purpose. The inhabitants of the area, where the wetland is located are predominantly the Misings. People of some other ethnic groups also reside in the area. Thus, the area has a treasure of diverse culture to offer to the tourists, besides the natural setting it is endowed with, says Sarma, a teacher of the Lakhimpur Commerce College.Because of the contour of the area where the wetland is located, floods cannot affect the wetland and this is one of the reasons as to why the beauty of the wetland has remained unaffected despite its being located in one of the perennially worst flood-hit districts of the State, says Sarma.So far, the tourism potential of the wetland has remained unnoticed. Its capacity to boost the economy of the people living in its vicinity has also remained overlooked. This appears to be a mystery as to how the wetland and its neighbourhood with rich cultural treasures have remained unnoticed so far, while about 500 pilgrims on an average use to visit the famous Padumoni Than located close to it every day. Moreover, the distance of the wetland from North Lakhimpur town is only about 22.5 km, says Sarma.The Bogibeel Bridge over the Brahmaputra will make the wetland easily accessible from the south bank. With the recognition to the beel as a tourist destination, it is expected that the tourist circuit of the State, which ends at present at Tezpur, will get extended to Lakhimpur district.The scheme prepared by Help includes planned aforestation along the 2.5 km PWD road leading to the wetland bifurcating from the highway, a welcome arc at the juncture of the PWD road with the highway. It also includes boulder work along the banks of the wetland, construction of a number of sheds for display and sale of the ethnic food items, cultural and art objects, a floating restaurant and plantation of fruit bearing plants in the area, says Sarma.

NRL pays Rs 22-cr dividend to State
GUWAHATI, Oct 12 – Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) has paid Rs 22.71 crore as dividend for the financial year 2006-07 to the State Government, as the promoter holding 12.35 per cent share in the company, an official release said. BK Das, Managing Director, NRL, formally handed over the cheque to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today. This year’s dividend is 31.65 per cent higher than previous year’s dividend of Rs 17.25 crore.

$428 m ADB-aided road project in NE
GUWAHATI, Oct 12 – The work on a US $ 428.7-million Asian Development Bank (ADB)-assisted road project, named – North Eastern State Road Investment Programme (NESRIP) – is on to improve about 1,300 km of priority road sections in the eight States of the NE region. While the ADB is financing 70 per cent of the project cost, that is, up to US $ 300 million, the Government of India will bear the cost of the capital investment. The State governments of the region are to bear the expenses towards land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, environmental and mitigation measures and road maintenance for five years after the end of the construction contracts or part of the construction contracts.The funding modality for the project is a series of loans. The ADB component of the funds will be passed on to the Ministry of DoNER, which in its turn will disburse the same to the State implementing agencies – the State PWDs or their equivalents.Above were the revelations made by the representatives of the DoNER Ministry, ADB and the design and project management consultants (DPMC) – SMEC International Pty Ltd, which is having SMEC India Pvt Ltd and Vic Roads International as its sub-consultants at a workshop here today. The Joint Secretary of the DoNER Ministry is the technical assistance (TA) director at the national level and the nodal officers nominated from the State PWDs for preparation of the project are TA directors at the State level for project implementation. A coordination committee consisting of the TA directors, representatives of the related Central Ministries /agencies and ADB representatives, chaired by the Joint Secretary of the DoNER Ministry, is to discuss the outstanding issues and actions to be taken to address those issues for implementing the project, they said.The representatives of the DoNER, ADB and the SMEC International Pty Ltd also said that so far about 1,100 km of key road sections had been identified in the region for the purpose of implementing the project. Work is also on to build the capacity of the human resources of the implementing agencies (IAs). The implementation of the project will be in three phases – tranche 1,2 and3. Feasibility study for implementing the project has been carried out on 81 km of a road in Arunachal Pradesh, 423.7 km of 13 roads in Assam, 123.3 km of a road in Manipur, 212.8 km of three roads in Meghalaya, 136 km of two roads in Mizoram, about 100 km of a road in Nagaland, 70.5 km of three roads in Sikkim and on 62.7 km of two roads in Tripura.The project also has an environmental management plan (EMP), which is aimed at keeping it environmentally sustainable. To ensure this, it has laid stress on assessing the impacts of the project on ecologically sensitive areas like Wildlife Sanctuaries, Tiger Reserves, National Parks, reserved forests, etc., and to minimise the impacts.Besides, it has also called for steps to assess the impact of the project on air and water quality, etc. To make up the loss of trees resulted from implementation of the project, it has also suggested new plantations in the project areas.Acting Commmissioner and Special Secretary of the Assam PWD Mohan Chandra Boro inaugurated the workshop this morning. SC Sarma of the DoNER Ministry, Hideaki Iwasaki of the ADB, Gavin Strid, team leader of the DPMC and Akhilesh Agarwal addressed the inaugural session, among others.The technical sessions of the workshop will continue till tomorrow and representatives from the State PWDs of the region have been taking part in the deliberations of these sessions.

Pawar assures food security to State
GUWAHATI, Oct 12 – The Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar today assured the State Government that all the districts of Assam would be brought under the purview of the National Food Security Mission, and asked the Government to submit the relevant projects at the earliest. The Union Minister also laid stress on a five-year action plan to boost up agricultural production in the State, saying that funds would not be a constraint in this matter.Disclosing this here this evening, official sources said that the assurance of the Union Minister came in the wake of a request made by State Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma. At present only 13 districts of the State are covered by the project. The Mission covers wheat, rice, pulse and oil seeds. The Union Minister told the Chief Minister and his Ministerial colleagues Dr Bhumidhar Barman, Pramila Rani Brahma, Nurjamal Sarkar and Rockybul Hussain at the Chief Minister’s office chamber here that the matter of extending the Mission to all the districts of Assam would be taken up at the forthcoming ministerial-level meeting in Delhi. The Union Minister also requested the State Government to tone up the measures to irrigate the fields laying emphasis on micro-irrigation. He expressed the hope that the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Programme would be able to provide the required boost to the irrigation ventures in the State.The Union Minister observed that the coverage of the Kisan Credit Card in the State was not satisfactory. To cover more farmers steps to ameliorate the project are needed and banks should also be talked to, he said.He however, expressed deep satisfaction over the performance of the State in the horticulture sector, though in the seed production sector, he offered suggestions to adopt a long-term strategy.Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi apprised the Union Minister of the stress the State was laying on food processing units. A terminal market for products of these units is being set up and land for the purpose has already been allotted in the city. The State has also fixed a target for boosting agricultural production by two per cent during the Eleventh Plan, said the Chief Minister.The Chief Minister also pleaded for fuel subsidy to the farmers to facilitate farm mechanization in the State.

APL planning Rs 550-cr expansion drive
DULIAJAN, Oct 16 – At a time when no new industries are coming up in the State in the backdrop of militancy, one of the State PSUs which has been making steady profit during the last couple of years after a shump in profit after the closure of the plywood industries of north-eastern region, the Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) situated at Namrup is planning for expansion within 5 to 6 years at an estimated cost of Rs 550 crore. In an exclusive interview with The Assam Tribune, APL managing director OP Tailor said that the expansion proposal is in the final stage of approval with the State government which proposes to increase its methanol production capacity to 500 tonnes per day (TPD) from present 100 TPD and increase Formalin production capacity to 125 TPD from present capacity of 100 TPD, which can be completed in a span of five to six years.And as a short term planning, the State PSU is in the process of 30% revamp of the 100 TPD capacity Methanol plant and 25% revamp of the 100 TPD capacity Formalin plant considering the growing market which will increase APL’s present production capacity by 30%. Besides the PSU has also a proposal for installing two gas turbines of 3.5 MW power for captive consumption parallely with the expansion.Claiming to comply with all the norms of Pollution Control Board, the managing director gave a performance and financial status of the PSU during the last four financial years as during 2003-04 produced 30002 MT and sold 17111 MT of Methanol, produced 24690 MT and sold 24662 MT of Formalin with a net turnover of Rs 5428.01 lakh and profit after tax of Rs 298.72 lakh during 2004-05 produced 29616 MT and sold 17202 MT of Methanol, produced 26845, sold 26651 MT of Formalin with net turnover of Rs 5388.36 lakh and profit after tax of Rs 1036.02 lakh, during 2005-06 produced 32706 MT and sold 18461 MT of Methanol, produced 27040 MT and sold 27531 MT of Formalin with a net turnover of Rs 5619.97 lakh and a profit after tax of Rs 1001 lakh and during the fiscal of 2006-07 produced 26,797 and sold 15492.81 MT of Methanol, produced 25,975 MT and sold 25,882.73 MT of Formalin with a net turnover of Rs 5618.02 lakh and a profit after tax of Rs 1125.56 lakh.Informing that APL is going to hold the AGM on December 28 this year as the audited accounts are on the final stage of CAG approval Tailor said that the PSU management has approached the State government for the exemption of double tax which the Gujarat govt has facilitated the Gujarat-Narmada Valley Fertilizer Corporation (GNVFC).As APL is paying 20% non-refundable VAT on natural gas and also on the final products Methanol and Formalin and so on line of GNVFC APL also has approached the State government for a 12% refundable input tax credit facility which is under active consideration and if allowed will increase the profit rate of the PSU in near future.It would be worth mentioning that Assam Petrochemicals Ltd. (APL) is the first of its kind in India that was conceived and implemented with natural gas as the feed stock and which was promoted by Assam Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. and incorporated in 1971 and started its commercial production in 1976.

No concession to NE- bound goods in Railways
GUWAHATI, Oct 16 – Despite repeated requests by the Assam Government, the UPA Government at the Centre has not granted six per cent concession on goods brought to the State from different parts of the country by the Railways. Responding to a letter written to him by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav also said that development surcharge, terminal charge, etc., are levied uniformly all over the country and the Northeast could not be an exception.The Railway Minister said in the letter, “In line with the policy of the UPA Government to contain prices of essential commodities, I have decided to restore the concession of six per cent in freight rates on originating traffic of all commodities except coal and POL booked from the stations falling within Assam and other stations of the Northeast.” The concession will not be applicable on traffic booked locally between stations located in Assam and other States of Northeast.Interestingly, the Railway Minister did not specify as to how the prices of essential commodities in Assam and other States of the region would come down if concession on freight is not given to inward traffic. Moreover, coal and POL are the major items sent out of Assam and the Railway Minister did not grant concession on those.

Market crash worries State investors
GUWAHATI, Oct 17 – The small investors of the State who are closely associated with the stock market are worried over the volatility in the share market. Today, the market crashed nearly 1700 points, which is said to be the biggest ever fall (technical correction) in the stock market. Many small traders refrained from investing in the market fearing more volatility in the coming days. Though this is over due as per statement from the Finance Minister, yet the investors are scared to pump money into the share market.“The behaviour of the market has worried us and therefore we did not invest in the market”, a group of small investors told this correspondent today. According to them the volume of business in the State was low compared to last couple of days.According to available information the Gauhati Stock Exchange (GSE) has so far over 10,000 investors with an investment of nearly Rs 900 crore per month. The figure of course varies time to time depending on the behaviour of the market. The investment in the stock market has been increasing gradually in view of good results of the corporate houses. But, today’s crash has pushed many investors onto the backfoot.Talking to this correspondent here today, RS Joshi, vice president of Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER) and former president of the GSE , observed that today’s unprecedented turmoil in the capital market was most unfortunate as the panic was the outcome of misinterpretation of Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) statement. It may be recalled that SEBI yesterday issued a statement saying that it would contain the inflow of Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs).“This is the biggest ever fall in the history of the capital market, but this could have been avoided,” Joshi said. He, however, said that the volatility in the market is likely to continue for some time and hence small investors should be very careful while investing in the capital market.

City gets new overbridge
GUWAHATI, Oct 17 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today formally inaugurated the two-lane overbridge at Maligaon constructed under the Non Lapseable Central Pool Reserve Fund. Gogoi said that the 468.20 m new bridge would help in minimising the vehicular traffic chaos in the city and would also help in the movement of the pedestrains in general.“Construction of new roads and bridges is the sign of development and the newly constructed overbridge in Maligaon is one of them,” Gogoi said.

Rabi programme for flood-hit farmers
GUWAHATI, Oct 18 – The State Agriculture Department has started implementation of the Rabi programme for flood-affected farmers, which is expected to yield crop produce worth Rs 1,336.84 crore. Under the programme, seeds of black gram, green gram, pea, lentil, rajmah, assorted vegetables, potato, onion, rape seed, mustard, wheat and summer rice are to be provided to the affected farmers. The expected yield against the seeds is 5,810 MT, 1,937 MT, 16,500 MT, 12,089 MT, 949 MT, 1,50,7297 MT, 24,923 MT, 15,497 MT, 66,186 MT, 31,924 MT and 2,83,901 MT respectively. Revealing this, sources in the Agricultural Department said that distribution of seeds of some of the crops had already started, while some would be started soon. Different seeds have different timeframes for completion of the distribution process. For example, the distribution of rape seed and mustard is to be done between October 15 to November 15, lentil-Oct 15 to Nov 7, vegetable-Oct to Nov, wheat-Nov 15 to Dec 15, potato-Oct 15 to Nov, etc.“The Agriculture Minister has put maximum emphasis on timely completion of the distribution process. She has urged the farmers not to receive any seed if delivered even a day late,” the source said, adding that a high-level committee had also been formed to monitor the distribution. Most of the certified seeds have been procured from outside after due verification at government as well as non-government source by a joint team of officials of the Seeds Corporation of India and the Agriculture Department. Some seeds have been procured locally. The Rabi programme has been started with Rs 68.5 crore from the Calamity Relief Fund. Of this, Rs 5 crore has already been spent in the pre-Rabi programme that was implemented through the Deputy Commissioners of the districts.This year the State has been hit by three waves of flood – between June 16 to 28, July 16 to August 8 and September 5 to 19. The floods affected 10,245 villages in 26 districts. The number of farm families affected was 14.98 lakh and cropland 6.71 lakh hectare. The damage to agriculture was estimated at Rs 750-800 crore.

BVFCL records highest bio-fertiliser production
DULIAJAN, Oct 19 – With the growing popularity of organic farming among the farmers of the country, the only fertiliser producing plant in the eastern part of the State situated at Namrup, Brahmaputra Valley Fertiliser Corporation Ltd. (BVFCL) has started producing bio-fertilisers from the last fiscal year (2006-07) by producing 7.06 MT and selling 6.28 MT and expecting to increase the production with the growing market demand in the coming years.The chairman and managing director (CMD) of BVFCL, SC Dhawan in an exclusive interaction with this correspondent informed that besides starting bio-fertiliser production plant III of the PSU has achieved the highest recorded production since the inception of BVFCL and could make cash profit for the first time by producing 247302 MT urea increasing production by 40,725 MT with operating profit of Rs 68.70 crore and net profit of Rs 41.26 crore. Whiles the plant II commissioned on November 2005 could produce only 61001 MT urea totalling (plant II+III) the urea production to 3,08,303 MT. The CMD also said that due to inadequate and erratic supply of natural gas and with occasional fall in pressure, there was a shortfall in urea production of 10,572 MT in 2006-07.Briefing the financial performance of the PSU during the last fiscal, Dhawan mentioned that the company earned Rs 40.28 crore profit (before depreciation and interest) against loss of Rs 35.64 crore the previous fiscal which is mainly due to increase in urea production by 31.43% compared to previous fiscal, increase in urea sale of plant II and plant III by 143 per cent and 35 per cent respectively, and export of 14667 MT urea to Nepal under import parity price. The company also would export 10,000 MT urea to Nepal this year out of which 5000 MT is being already despatched.Taking over marketing from M/S KRIBHCO from December 2006, the company has brought down the marketing cost to Rs 100 per MT urea and market share of Mukta urea has increased significantly with sale of 3,14,678 MT urea during 2006-07 against 2,13,700 MT (2005-06) increasing by 47% besides adopting many cost control measures as – replacing the practice of manual bagging and dispatch by automatic material handling system, improved energy norms, introduction of VRS to decrease manpower, reduction in security expenses, by decreasing CISF strength, annual rate contract introduce export of urea for higher earnings, minimisation of freight expenses by despatching urea through Railways, etc.The CMD lastly mentioned that a proposal to set up a modern Brown Field Plant (Namrup IV) with production capacity of 9 lakh MT urea per year with the use of same 1.72 MMSCMD gas is under active consideration of Fertiliser Ministry.

New policy to boost State industry sector
GUWAHATI, Oct 22 – The North East Industrial Policy, declared by the Government of India in 1997, brought in investment worth Rs 3200 crore to Assam and the new policy declared this year with added incentives is expected to bring in more investments for the overall industrial development of the State. Talking to The Assam Tribune, State Industries and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi said that though the policy was declared in December, 1997, the operational guidelines came into effect only in the year 2001 and according to an estimate of the Government, the investments that came to Assam after the declaration of the policy generated employment opportunities for more than nine thousand persons. He said that around 1200 industries were established in Assam after the declaration of the policy and it gave a major boost to the industrial sector, but around 30 per cent of the industries established during that period were closed down subsequently.It may be mentioned here that the major benefits given under the policy included capital investment subsidy to the tune of 15 per cent of investment in plant and machinery up to the maximum of Rs 30 lakh, three per cent interest subsidy on working capital loan, 100 per cent income tax exemption for a period of ten years, 100 per cent excise duty exemption for ten years, transport subsidy, a comprehensive insurance scheme, etc.However, Bordoloi admitted that there were some major drawbacks in the policy, which acted as hurdles in the way of attracting investment to Assam and other parts of the North East region. He said that one of the major drawbacks was that service sectors including tourism, hospitality, health care, leisure etc were not covered by that policy. He pointed out that the state failed to attract large investment, as the maximum limit for capital investment subsidy was only Rs 30 crore.The Minister said that as the Government of India extended similar benefits to the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir, the North East failed to attract investments to the desired level and because of that, the potential investment was diverted to the “mainland states”. He further said that the incentives declared under the policy were available only for the industries established in the notified areas, which was another major hurdle in the way of attracting investments.Bordoloi admitted the delay in payment of the subsidy also created problems for the entrepreneurs. He pointed out that the entrepreneurs, while preparing the project cost, took into account the subsidies declared under the North East Industrial Policy. However, the delay in releasing the subsidy affected the viability of the projects. The delay also led to escalation of the bank interest rates and the subsidies received later were spent on payment of the interests and the effect of the incentives was negated.Replying to a question on the controversy regarding withdrawal of the benefits to tobacco industries, Bordoloi said that all goods falling under chapter 24, 21 and 27 of the first schedule of the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985 like tobacco, tobacco substitutes, pan masala, petroleum oil and gas, plastic carry bags of less than 20 macrons as specified by the Ministry of Environment and Forest , have been included in the negative list. So there should not be any fresh controversy regarding withdrawal of incentives to these industries, he added.

Lack of infrastructure, investors major hurdles
GUWAHATI, Oct 24 – The feeling of insecurity among the potential investors and lack of adequate infrastructure are two of the major hurdles in the way of industrial development of Assam, observed the Governor, Lt Gen (Retd) Ajai Singh. The Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the Universities of the State, expressed the view that the Vice Chancellors should be allowed to work without any interference. Talking to The Assam Tribune, the Governor admitted that despite having abundance of resources, both natural and human resources, Assam is still lagging behind and the State is also facing brain drain as brilliant youths have started leaving the State in search of better job opportunities. He is of the view that lack of development is a cumulative effect of events in history. He pointed out that Assam got integrated into India after the British came and when the country became independent, East Pakistan was created and the State was isolated geographically as it lost the waterways connectivity and is now connected only through the narrow corridor in North Bengal.Lt Gen Singh said that immediately after Independence, the rulers at Delhi were concentrating more on the overall growth of the country and the issues of the North East did not get the due attention and militancy started establishing its roots in the region. He said that the real development process in the region started only in the 1970s and by that time insurgency established its roots in the region and affected development. He pointed out that implementation of two mega projects- East West corridor and gauge conversion were affected from time to time because of insurgency.The Governor expressed the view that because of the activities of the militant groups, the potential investors are not feeling secure to invest in Assam and lack of industrialization resulted in the unemployment problem assuming alarming proportion. “we can only persuade investors to come to Assam, but we cannot drag them into the State,” he pointed out. He said that lack of adequate infrastructure is another major hurdle in the way of attracting investments and pointed out that the INFOSYS Chief, during his visit to the State, had sited lack of adequate infrastructure including Five Star Hotels were the reasons for non setting up units in the State.Lt Gen Singh said that Assam also has tremendous potential for attracting tourists but for that a massive campaign has to be launched. He said that he had submitted a master plan for promotion of tourism in the North East to the Government of India along with a proposal for creation of North East Tourism Development Council, but “I do not know what happened to the proposals.”Commenting on the recent controversy in the Gauhati University, the Governor said that the standard of education in Assam is much better than in many other States of the country, but political interference in educational institutions should never be allowed. He is of the view that the best way to improve the standard of the State Universities is to appoint a competent person as the Vice-Chancellor and give him a free hand. He said that the Government should only listen to the demands of the Vice Chancellors, which are realistic and necessary for the overall development of the universities.Lt Gen Singh said that the State Government has started supporting the Gauhati University and assured that he would also get in touch with the University Grants Commission and the Human Resource Development Ministry with an attempt to get funds for development of infrastructure of the University. “I admit that the infrastructure of the Gauhati University needs immediate improvement and I will do my best in this regard. I have already announced that any member of the University Community can approach me to discuss the problems,” he added. He also expressed the view that once the development process of the University starts with the Rs 25 crore promised by the State Government, it would be easier to approach the UGC and the Human Resource Development Ministry for more funds.Commenting on the demand for diversion of the National Highway 37, which runs right through the University campus, the Governor said that at present, it might be difficult for diversion of the Highway, but construction of two flyovers would solve the problems facing the University.

Indo-Myanmar bus service by year-end
GUWAHATI, Oct 24 – The Indo-Myanmar bus service is likely to get underway by this year end as the Centre has given green signal to the Manipur Government to start the process. Centre has taken the move following a report submitted by the Manipur Government.The bus service will be started between Imphal (Manipur) and Mandalay (Myanmar) covering a distance about nearly 800 km. The new service is aimed at boosting bilateral trade between North East and Western Myanmar.To carry forward the new bus service, a high-level delegation comprising Transport Minister of Manipur and traders will visit Mandalay soon to study the situation and explore trade potential in the Myanmar market.As the road passes through militancy prone area, both the Governments have agreed to provide full security including highway patrolling to the passengers for their smooth journey.“We are planning to start the bus service by December next as all formalities have been completed in this regard,” Yumnam Dilip Kumar, president of Indo-Myanmar Border Traders Union (IMBTU) told this correspondent today. In this context, he said that the Manipur Government had already submitted a detailed report to the Centre covering security aspect and trade potential. Giving more details in this regard, Kumar said that the bus service would give a boost the tourism sector in the entire North East. “The people of Myanmar are keen to visit the region, but communication has remained a major problem for them. The new service will definitely give a boost the crippled tourism sector,” he added.In a bid to cement the bilateral relation between North East and Myanmar, the Centre last year had decided to introduce a bus service between Imphal-Moreh and Mandalay. But, the bus operators of Manipur refused to ply their buses on the road fearing attacks from the underground groups operating in the area. The matter was later sorted out following assurance from the Manipur Government.
New bridge for better link with North BankFrom Our Correspondent SILBARI (Dalgaon), Oct 24 – Fulfilling a long-cherished dream of the people of Darrang in general and Dalgaon in particular, the much-awaited RCC bridge over the river Dhansiri connecting these areas to Orang National Park, the habitat of world famous one-horned rhino, has been sanctioned by the Government of India. Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi today, laid the foundation stone of the RCC bridge to be built at a cost of Rs 10.83 crore under PMGSY 2006-07 at Silbari village under Dalgaon-Sialmari development block some 3 km away from the national park.Addressing the special function held for the purpose, Chief Minister Gogoi said that without the development of the backward areas like Silbari where the farmers live on agriculture, the development of the State is impossible. He further said that infrastructure development of this area was a must as it would help the farmers to create a good market for their agri products and thereby increase their per capita income.Speaking on the occasion, Tanka Bahadur Rai, Speaker, Assam Legislative Assembly, termed the new project as a revolutionary step towards the development of not only Darrang district but the entire north bank making Tezpur and Chinese border in Arunachal Pradesh shorter by a distance of 26 km with the State capital Guwahati.Anowara Taimur, MP, Rajya Sabha also highlighted the importance of the bridge from the country’s defence point of view. Earlier, Ilias Ali, MLA, Dalgaon in his inaugural speech explained the problems of the remote area which has been deprived of any road communication with Dalgaon Kopati since 1962 after the wooden bridge was washed away by flood. Rockybul Hussain, State Forest Minister was also presnt at the function.

RBI call to develop ‘doorstep banking
GUWAHATI, Oct 24 – For improving the banking scenario in the North Eastern States, including Assam, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stressed the need for strengthening the regional rural banks (RRBs), State Cooperative Banks (St.CBs) and Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBs). The RBI has also called for a change in the attitude of the bankers to build up the banking relationship in the region.According to officials of RBI regional office, the RRBs with a total network of 645 branches cover 60 districts in the region, with Assam having the largest network of branches, covering the entire State. The largest RRB, the Assam Gramin Vikash Bank (AGVB) formed through amalgamation of four RRBs, the Cachar Gramin Bank, Lakhimi Gaonlia Bank, Pragjyotish Gaonlia Bank and Subansari Gaonlia Bank has won a pat of approval from the RBI for achieving sound financials and gaining good experience in SHG financing. “Though there has been a noticeable change in the performance of the RRBs, to improve the efficiency and facilitate better banking, the RRBs should use the benefits of IT,” said an official of RBI, regional office.On the other hand, the RBI has identified human resource management as the key factor, which is affecting financial development in the region. The RBI constituted Committee on Financial Sector Plan for North Eastern Region has suggested the need for development bankers for the region where bankers go to people, actively market their products and contribute to building of the banking relationship. “Banks here need to follow approaches that are different from those carried out in other parts,” Usha Thorat, deputy governor of RBI had said to The Assam Tribune on a recent visit to the capital city. Thorat had further said that the region with its difficult terrain, infrastructural bottlenecks and inclement law and order situation did not produce the ideal conditions. “But the banks cannot wait till someone creates the ideal conditions. They have to act as prime movers,” she had said, adding finding the right manpower was of utmost importance at this hour to provide the necessary leadership to take banking in the region to a new high.The committee report highlights the need for leadership quality, particularly the capacity to develop subordinates as the most important criterion of performance appraisal. It also emphasises the requirement of training to convert the traditional bankers to ‘doorstep’ bankers and use of local post offices, schoolteachers, and other intermediaries as banking correspondents and facilitators for increasing banking outreach.

North East needs unified market
GUWAHATI, Oct 30 – The first priority for developing NE India should be on building up a unified and integrated common market for the region, as, NE States are economically interdependent. This was the observation made by Prof Atul Sarma, a member of the Steering Committee for NE Region set up by the Planning Commission for the Eleventh Five Year Plan. He was talking to this correspondent on Sunday during a three-day visit to the city.Prof Sarma maintained that for establishing a common market of the above nature, intra-regional linkages in terms of various types of infrastructure should be built. He viewed that harmonization of different policies should be put in place simultaneously to remove all hindrances in the movement of goods and capital. For the purpose, elimination of the existing sources of irritation, like the border disputes, is also important.What’s more, there should be a permanent institutional mechanism for resolving the mutual disputes as well as for promoting mutual understanding of the peoples and their cultures as the region is the home to numerous ethnic groups, said Prof Sarma.It needs mention here that Prof Sarma is also a former consultant to the UNO’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He was Economic Advisor to the Eighth and Tenth Finance Commissions and served the Arunachal University as its Vice Chancellor.On the allocations made for the development of the region, he said that the Steering Committee for the NE states was told that Government of India had spent Rs 80,500 crore on the region during the Tenth Five Year Plan.The question raised was – where had the money gone. Because, the gap between the per capita income of the region’s states and the all India average continues to widen. Moreover, as far as the index of infrastructure is concerned, Assam’s rank has slumped from the 15th to the 16th among the major states between 2005 and 2006.There is no answer at all to this question, though everybody appreciates that this is the most vital question, particularly if one has to allocate resources prudently for the region during the Eleventh Five Year Plan. If there were no understanding on the issue, any resource allocation for the region in future would be a shot in the dark, said Prof Sarma.Making a circumlocutory observation on the leaders of the region, he said, “It is not money, but the ideas, that decides the fate of a society. New ideas for action are crucial for a society. A society or its leaders should articulate a dream that generates hopes and can be shared by the other members. “In my view, the major problem that has been confronting the NE region is the collapse of governance, since, there is no proper transparency and accountability in the system. For the information not reaching the people and the response of the implementing agencies towards popular grievances remaining obscure, particularly in Assam, people continue to remain silent, despite being aggrieved. Lest they face some untoward developments,” said Prof Sarma, also a Visiting Professor of Economics at the Institute for Human Development, New Delhi. He also criticized the role of the North East Council (NEC), saying that the NEC had not yet been able to come up with a vision for development of the region. Moreover, the Council does not have a clearly articulated action plan, he said.

Small investors asked to be cautious
GUWAHATI, Oct 29 – The share market today touched a record high of 20,000 mark. Despite the upswing market, experts who are closely associated with the share market have advised the small investors in the State not to enter into the capital market immediately. The upbeat market is apparently due to liquidity provided by the Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) in the capital market. According to available information the FIIs daily investment in the capital market is nearly $ 500 million that has pushed the market up.“Though market has scaled a new high, small investors should be careful while pumping money into the share market,” JK Jain, executive director of the Gauhati Stock Exchange (GSE) told this correspondent today. He said that there is a possibility of technical correction for which they (small investors) should be cautious. “Let the market stabilise first then they should go for investment,” Jain added.Replying to a question about the mood of the State investors after the sensex touching a new high, Jain informed that trading was normal in the GSE. “Investors are gradually increasing in the GSE in view of good results of the corporate houses,” he added.GSE has so far over 10,000 investors with an investment of Rs 900 crore monthly. The figure varies from time to time depending on the behaviour of the market.RS Joshi, vice president of Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region(FINER) and former president of the GSE is also worried over the prevailing mood of the market. He asked the small investors to be careful considering the volatility in the market. “There is a possibility of technical correction and therefore the small investors should be careful at present,” Joshi said. He advised the investors to go through mutual fund market instead of direct involvement in the capital market. Taking advantage of the situation, the mutual fund players have now lined up a series of products to woo customers in the region. “We are planning to launch a series of products for the customers,” a senior official of a mutual fund company told this correspondent today.

State seeks Rs 800-cr Central aid
NEW DELHI, Oct 29 – Devastated by three waves of floods, the Assam Government has asked for Rs 800 crore from the Centre for relief and rehabilitation of the victims and repair of damages caused by the surging waters. The estimates, described as preliminary were presented by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh when he called on the latter here this morning. Dr Singh assured him of Central assistance and conveyed that he was planning to visit the State sometime in December. The Chief Minister later told this newspaper that the State Government’s demand for Central assistance may go up further as those presented were preliminary estimates. Three waves of flooding since July left over 100 people dead and nearly 1.2 crore people displaced in the State’s 25 of 27 districts. The worst-hit districts were Kamrup, Nalbari, Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dhubri, Morigaon, Barpeta, Lakhimpur, among others. An estimated 10,000 villages covering an area of 825,000 hectares were affected by the raging floods that left the State devastated. The Prime Minister reportedly lauded the action taken by the Assam Government in providing relief and rehabilitation to the affected people. The Chief Minister’s meeting with the Prime Minister covered a whole gamut of issues like providing drinking water facilities, scheduling of several communities, relief to the sick tea gardens, construction of bridges over Brahmaputra and other rivers, etc.The wide-ranging issues brought up by the Chief Minister for discussion with Dr Singh leave little room for doubt that the Congress regime in the State has switched to poll mode. The ruling Congress faces the Panchayat polls in less than two months and may be Parliamentary elections next year. The Chief Minister said that he reviewed the political situation in the State, as well as the internal security scenario. He apprised the Prime Minister that division within the ranks of outlawed ULFA has come out wide open. A large number of its cadres have already surrendered and more are expected. Gogoi, however, clarified that the issue of revival of the peace process with ULFA did not figure in the discussion today.On the issue of recruitment of ex-servicemen by the State Government, the Chief Minister asked for directions from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to approve enhanced remuneration of Rs 4,839.65 per month according to the notice of minimum wages issued by Directorate of Sainik Welfare Board.Assam Government in consultation with the Centre had proposed to recruit the ex-servicemen as Special Police Officers (SPOs) to work in National Highway and Railway Gauge Conversion projects. The proposal was to recruit 1000 SPOs for NH and Railways gauge conversion projects on a monthly wage of Rs 3000. The plan has, however, failed to take off because of the demand for enhance pay package.Meanwhile, Gogoi’s poll-driven wishlist included according top priority to providing relief to the sick tea gardens. In this connection, he proposed that since National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been extended to cover all districts throughout the country, it be used to provide succour to the tea workers of the sick gardens.Another issue that was high on the list was the long-pending demand of scheduling of several communities including the tea tribes. “The Prime Minister has conveyed that the demand for ST status was still under consideration of the Central Government,” Gogoi said. Despite the Opposition failing to unite on a single platform to take on the Congress, which runs the risk of being hit by anti-incumbency factor, Gogoi is playing safe. The prospect of the Koch-Rajbongshi, tea tribes and others gunning for the government has jittered many a Congress-man. The Chief Minister, meanwhile, said that he has asked for Central assistance from the Prime Minister to construct at least four bridges including one over the Brahmaputra at Guwahati to improve connectivity. He promised that the State Government would also partially share the cost of construction.“We are willing to dish out Rs 500 crore for the bridge over Brahmaputra from our own resources,” he said.The Chief Minister also called for enhanced financial assistance of up to 100 percent to self-help groups in the State, as against the current norm of 25-30 per cent loan.Gogoi said his proposal to construct at least one good educational institutional in each block has found favour with the Prime Minister. The HRD Ministry may shortly act in this regard, he added.The Chief Minister had yesterday called on the Minister for Water Resources, Prof Saifuddin Soz. He is visiting Majuli island shortly. The Chief Minister said they were looking at the possibility of tying up Soz’s visit with the Prime Minister.

Govt bid to rope in Tharoor as brand ambassador
NEW DELHI, Oct 28 — In a novel initiative, the Assam Government has proposed appointing former United Nations (UN) diplomat Shashi Tharoor as the State’s brand ambassador. At a time when States are vying with each other in a race to woo investors, the former UN under secretary’s name, who was India’s official candidate for the UN Secretary-General’s post, might help the State to market itself within the country and abroad.It was with this intention that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi hosted a dinner at Taj Man Singh here last evening in honour of Tharoor, who arrived in Delhi early this week. Joined by a select group of the Capital’s who’s who, Gogoi welcomed him with a traditional gamosa and had Ranjit Barthakur of Globally Managed Services (GMS) show him a presentation on Assam before inviting him to visit the State.Tharoor, who is now chairman of Dubai-based Afras Ventures, did not immediately say yes but did not say no either, though he accepted Gogoi’s invitation. He is likely to visit the State sometime next year. The Chief Minister met Tharoor in New York last month when he had gone to the US to take part in the investor’s meet on the Northeast as part of the India@60 celebrations. The Chief Minister wanted him in the State during the forthcoming one-day international (ODI). However, Tharoor expressed his helplessness saying that he made too many commitments and spread himself thin in the process. Gogoi suggested that the best time to visit the State is November, when one can truly experience Assam’s lushness and greenery.Tharoor watched the presentation with interest and was keen to know about various aspects including the problem of militancy. “I am very anxious to find out about Assam,” he told the gathering.But he said he was no stranger to the State either, as he had spent some time in a tea garden near Jorhat in 1974. “I will always have found memories of Assam because it was there that I learnt driving,” he told this newspaper.The former diplomat who is also working closely with the Kerala Government, said he agreed that economic development was key to resolve the problem of militancy. He said he was in agreement with the view that Assam may have suffered because of the wrong perception about the State. Under the circumstances how do you influence investors? He asked, acknowledging the State’s problem.Part of the secret is to change the perception among the people about this unexplored frontier. Earlier, Gogoi outlined the State Government’s initiative to tackle the problem of militancy and said that the thrust was on overall economic development of the State. Support for militant groups among the people is on the wane and credibility of these outfits has reached an all-time low, he added.Gogoi also strongly advocated India’s Look East Policy, asserting that trade and commerce with neighbouring countries was the key to economic uplift of the North-East.After the formalities were over, Tharoor mingled among the guests, catching up one or two old acquaintances. Gogoi who was accompanied by his wife played the perfect host and took pains in introducing everyone to Tharoor. The UN diplomat’s wife Christa, who is deputy secretary of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, however, could not make it, as she was unwell.

Int’l trade fair to promote agar
GUWAHATI, Oct 26 – The State Government is organising an international trade fair in the city on January 30 next to promote the fragrant agar oil. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting held by Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain with the representatives of the manufacturers of the agar oil here today, said an official press release here.The Forest Minister exuded the hope that promotion of agar oil business would help a sizeable section of the State’s small entretreneurs, besides helping the State to earn more revenue, added the release. The meeting also decided to pay Rs 100 as minimum daily wage to each of the labourers engaged in the agar trade.
Singpho tea to hit Thai markets soonBy Surajit Khaund GUWAHATI, Nov 4 – The traditional Singpho tea of Margherita is all set to hit Thailand markets soon. Two leading Thai companies – Green Tea and Holistic Company Limited and Trocadero Group – have evinced interest in purchasing tea from the State. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed by next month in this regard with the tea producers of Margherita for supply of tea to Thailand.Thai people generally consume organic tea and their demand is met by green tea and Olong tea of Malaysia, Japan and Singapore. The two companies have come forward to purchase tea from Margherita for its organic nature.The tea manufacturing method among the Singpho people is completely different compared to the normal procedure. The tea leaves are crushed inside a bamboo pipe and then smoked dry without using any machine, due to which the tea gets a special aroma.“Our tea will be sold in the brand name of phalap in Thai markets,” Rajesh Singpho, an organic tea producer and the man behind the deal, told this correspondent today. In this context, he said that initially they (the companies) had placed an order of 1000 kg and that would be completed by the end of next month, immediately after the signing of the MoU.Asked about the nature of Thai market, Rajesh informed that the demand for organic tea in the Thai market has been increasing gradually and therefore phalap can play a major role. “Since our tea is organic and traditionally processed, we will be able to explore the Thai market to a large extent. During my recent tea promotion campaign in Thailand, phalap attracted a large number of customers,” he added.Singpho tea has already made presence in the Canadian markets in the brand of name of phalap. The response in Canada is also very encouraging.Providing information in this regard, Rajesh said that altogether four consignments had been sent to Canada. “Phalap is sold in Canada in two forms – tea coin and bamboo tea,” he added.Buoyed by the response for the people, Japan Tea Association has also shown interest in Singpho tea. “The Association has invited us for making a detail presentation on Phalap,” Rajesh informed.

Automobile production unit at Chaygaon
GUWAHATI, Nov 2 — Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today laid the foundation of the proposed automobile production unit of the SAI Motors — a Chinese collaboration venture — at the newly set up Chaygaon Industrial Growth Centre at Satabari near here. The Rs 100-crore unit is the first such unit in the entire NE region. It will manufacture tractor, power tiller and two-wheelers— including motorbikes. It is expected to absorb around 1,000 youths of the State.The unit intends to sell its motorbike-Rhino— at an affordable price of Rs 25,000 per cycle.The Chief Minister also inaugurated the Rs 16.15-crore Chaygaon Industrial Growth Centre. Inaugurating the Growth Centre and the laying the foundation of the automobile unit, Gogoi laid stress on creating a congenial atmosphere to motivate investors from outside the State as well as the country to invest in the State.He exuded the hope that the relentless efforts of the State Government, together with the new initiatives of the Central Government would make Assam an advanced state within the next ten years.Gogoi said that investors from countries like Myanmar, Thailand Bangladesh and other ASEAN countries had expressed their interest to invest in the State. To facilitate their coming, a congenial atmosphere should be created, he said.Praising the Look East Policy of the Central Government, he expressed the hope that the policy couple with the financial policy of the Central Government would be able to attract more investors to the State.The Chief Minister also praised the efforts of the Industries Department to create an investment-friendly atmosphere in the State.Presiding over the function, Industries Minister Pradyut Bordoloi said that there was a possibility of fresh investment of Rs 3,000 crore in the State’s industrial sector in the coming year. Considering the progress in the industry sector it has made the State could be awarded Special Economic Zones in the near future. The Growth Centre has been developed over a plot of 400 bighas of land. A plot of 857 bighas of land has been allotted for the purpose, he said.
Aiyar agenda for NE developmentFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Nov 1 – Restoration of communication links between North Eastern Region (NER) and its neighbouring countries, besides the need for hard political decisions by Government of India are major hurdles standing in the way of growth of trade and commerce with South East Asian countries. When the Chief Ministers of the North Eastern States briefed the External Affairs Minister yesterday their foremost demand was development of the traditional communication links including road and waterways. Access to the bustling markets of the South East Asia is the only way to economic recovery.Several of the Chief Ministers pointed out that denial of the historical linkages with neighbouring countries led to their economic downslide.A factor brought to the notice of the Central Government by Minister DoNER, Mani Shankar Aiyar in his ‘Concept Paper’. “Ninety-eight per cent of the frontiers of the Region are with countries with whom we have had difficult relations over most of the past six decades.” “Imprisoned within this enclosed space, NER has slipped to less than half the current average all-India growth-rate. All that the Government of India is doing within the Region is proving inadequate- and will continue proving inadequate—unless we are able, through an imaginative leap in foreign, defence and internal security and international trade policies to spring the Region from the geo-political trap in which it has fallen since partition of 1947,” his paper said.Since NER was cut off from rest of the country in the aftermath of the 1965 war with Pakistan, a prison from which not even the liberation of Bangladesh has succeeded in liberating NER, in deed, in may ways, making even worse than the situation that prevailed at least till 1965,” he opined.In consequence, Assam, which at independence comprised most of what we now call NER, and used at the time to have the second highest per capita income in the country, has now slipped down the ladder to near the nether regions, he cited to buttress his claim. It was further pointed out in the paper how dramatic improvement of connectivity between main land China and Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) led to its prosperity. The improvement in connectivity is vividly demonstrating to the people of the sensitive border areas of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh how much they are losing out on account of New Delhi’s perceived insensitivities. The progress of Yunan and East Asian miracle also impacted on the thinking and mindset of the Region. While the welcome steps taken by Government of India like earmarking 10 percent of the Budgetary support has had a demonstrable effect on sensitising NER’s appreciation of the sincerity of Centre’s efforts, this has not yet done much to reduce the geo-political isolation of the Region from much of India and almost all of its immediate neighbourhood, he said.Given the enormous potential of the Region, both in terms of its natural resources and its human resources skills, if the Region is enabled to break out of its prison, it could well become the arrow-head of sustained double-digit growth for the country as a whole, Aiyar’s paper said.The paper called for hard political decision vis-à-vis opening trade with TAR. A political decision is required, with, of course, the required Central Government investment, for a time-bound programme to develop the transport infrastructure along and up to TAR so that it is restored as the natural economic hinterland of NER. All-India trade would transit through NER.Re-opening of as many land custom stations as might be feasible, on the lines of the opening at Nathu La, he suggested.

State likely to attract investors
GUWAHATI, Nov 9 – The Look East Policy of the Government of India has provided an opportunity to Assam to take part in the ongoing process of globalisation and the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy, declared by the Centre this year is bound to attract investors to the State, said the Minister for Industries and Commerce, Pradyut Bordoloi. In an interview with The Assam Tribune, Bordoloi said that Assam is already in the process of developing long-term business and trade relations with the ASEAN countries starting with Thailand and the State is trying to market itself in a “pragmatic manner” to attract investments in the infrastructure and construction sector. He said that once the basic infrastructure like transport and power are developed, investments are bound to pour in sectors like plantation, manufacturing and processing, tourism, healthcare etc not only from the ASEAN countries, but also from East Asian economic giants like Japan and South Korea. He also pointed out that the South East Asian Car rally, which was flagged off from Guwahati by Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, created awareness in the whole world about the unlimited opportunities and rich potential of Assam and other parts of the North East.Replying to a question whether the law and order situation in the State and lack of basic infrastructure like power will pose serious hurdles in the way of attracting investments, Bordoloi claimed that the situation in the State was very much under control. He said that the law and order situation was not considered a hurdle in the way of attracting investment. He said that the major changes in the power scenario in the State are on the way and hoped that the problem of shortage of power would be solved soon.The Minister expressed the view that the new industrial policy, declared this year, would encourage investors to come to Assam as the shortcomings in the old policy, declared in 1997 have been removed. He pointed out that the new policy included service sector recognising its importance in infrastructure development and promotion of tourism in the North East region. He said that tourism, including hotels, healthcare, recreational parks etc have been included as eligible sectors for availing incentives and the policy can go a long way in revolutionising the industrial investment scenario in the region.Pointing out the other major differences between the old and the new policies, Bordoloi said that the quantum of Central capital investment subsidy has been increased to 30 percent from 15 percent and there is no upper limit for the same, which would encourage setting up of big industries. The old policy had maximum limit of subsidy of Rs 30 lakh and the State failed to attract large-scale investments. He said that in the new policy, the area restrictions have been removed and the entire state is open for investors and there is scope for modernisation as incentives are open for investments on modernisation, diversification etc. Bio technology units will also get incentives under the new policy and power generation units will get incentives as governed by the provisions of Section 81 A of the Income Tax Act. Moreover, the plants generating up to 10 MW based on both conventional and non-conventional source will be eligible for capital investment subsidy ,interest subsidy and comprehensive insurance.Bordoloi further said that establishment of a monitoring mechanism for implementation of the new policy would help in implementation in letter and spirit, which was not there during the implementation of the old policy between 1997 to 2007. It may be mentioned here that in addition to the seven sister states of the region, Sikkim will also enjoy the benefits of the new policy.

Agro industries to be showcased at int’l fair
GUWAHATI, Nov 8 – The Directorate of Industries and Commerce, which is participating in the India International Trade Fair-2007 scheduled from November 14 in New Delhi, will showcase agro-based industries as its theme.An official release said that various other departments like Tourism, Agriculture, Assam Industrial Development Corporation, Assam Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Assam Government Marketing Corporation, AMTRON, etc., are also participating in the fair.In the last fair, the department received a good response from both domestic and foreign visitors, with 54 stalls from the Assam Pavilion making a record sale of their ethnic and indigenous products.
ASCARD Bank on verge of collapseBy A City Correspondent GUWAHATI, Nov 8 – The Assam State Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Bank (ASCARD) is on the verge of total collapse as the politicians, mostly belonging to the ruling Congress, have not returned their loans amounting to Rs 7.63 crore. Another reason why the bank, which came up in 1955 to extend credit to the farmers, is tottering is that it has not been able to do any business transaction since 1996 as NABARD has stopped providing refinance. These allegations were made today by the Assam State Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Bank Employees Union before mediapersons.The union further alleged that the bank had seen one of its worst phases during the tenure of late Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia from 1991 to 1996. “During this period, corruption became so rampant that the bank was totally devastated,” said Ramesh Nath, president of the union.Nath said that the Congress politicians including Hemoprova Saikia who took loans from the bank did not return it till date.Demanding to know about the findings of the CBI, which was entrusted with the responsibility of investigating the anomalies and corruption in the bank during the rule of late Saikia, Nath said that the Government must make the report public. “The people of the State must know the real culprits who have pushed the bank to a state of doom,” said Nath.Criticising the Tarun Gogoi Government, Nath said that the present Chief Minister has been talking big and giving assurances at various platforms to revive the bank, but so far had done nothing in this regard. “It is very unfortunate that the Government is holding the employees responsible for the present state of affairs in the bank when it knows that Congress politicians are to blame for the condition of the bank,” said Nath.On the other hand, general secretary of the union Pradip Kumar Sarma said that the bank would have got a new lease of life if it had been able to recover the loans taken by the politicians. “The bank would have got a package of Rs 104 crore under the recommendations of the Vaidyanathan Committee if it could have recovered about 30 percent of its loans. But the Government is least bothered about the loans not yet returned by the politicians,” said Sarma.Sarma said that the 300 employees of 33 branches of the bank do not get their salaries regularly. He also said that going by the indifference of the Government towards the problems of the bank, it was proved that the Government was not really interested to help the farmers through a cooperative banking system.

International tea festival in Guwahati
GUWAHATI, Nov 7 – The stage is set for holding of the India International Tea Convention at the Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium at Sarusajai with a three-day programme from November 22. The convention is expected to give a big boost to the tea industry in Assam, which is passing through a slump since 1999.Tea industry sources told The Assam Tribune today that more than 400 delegates from different parts of India and abroad would take part in the convention, where different issues relating to the industry would be discussed. Delegates from the countries like Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan, Egypt, Kenya and Sri Lanka have already confirmed their participation and the organisers are also expecting delegates from China and Indonesia. It is for the first time such a convention is being held in Assam, which produces around 52 percent of tea produced in India. In the last financial year, India produced 947 mn kg of tea and Assam produced around 484 mn kg of it.Sources said that as per the schedule of the convention, it would be inaugurated in the afternoon of November 22 and the business sessions would take place on the next day. Issues like Indian tea panorama, Assam tea, key markets, emergence of retailing, global sourcing of tea etc would be discussed in the business sessions. A tea tasting session of Assam tea by the prospective buyers will be one of the highlights of the second day. The valedictory session will take place on the third day and the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra has been entrusted with the responsibility of organizing the cultural programmes during the convention. The rich cultural heritage of the ethnic groups of Assam will be showcased before the delegates. The delegates will proceed to the Kaziranga National Park at the conclusion of the convention on November 24 and will be able to enjoy elephant safari the next morning before visiting Behora tea estate in Jorhat. Some delegates will also visit Tocklai Experimental Station under the Tea Research Association and efforts are on to organise a meet between the delegates and small tea growers.On the benefits of the convention, industry sources pointed out that it would give a golden opportunity to the tea industry in Assam to recover from the slump by increasing exports. Sources said that the foreign buyers, particularly those from the European countries, are not too willing to buy tea unless they see the production line and they would be able to satisfy themselves with visits to the gardens. As the best quality of tea produced in the State will be showcased before the foreign delegates, prices in the auction market are also likely to go up, sources pointed out.Sources said that at one point of time, the erstwhile USSR was one of the key buyers of Indian tea and used to purchase at least 140 mn kg of tea from India. But the breaking up of the USSR hit the Indian tea industry hard as now Russia is only buying only around 60 mn kg per year. The convention will give an opportunity to impress the prospective buyers from Russia and also from UK and Germany to increase exports to those countries. Moreover, India is planning to increase exports to Pakistan and presence of Pakistani delegates will give an opportunity to the tea companies to impress the buyers from that country.Sources said that a meeting of the tea producing countries to create a forum to regulate prices and production is also planned during the convention.It may be mentioned here that earlier such conventions were held in the metropolitan cities of the country and for the first time it is being held in the heart of a tea producing state. However, at one point of time, there was a move to shift the convention to Kolkata on the plea that the law and order situation in Assam was not conducive for holding such a mega event, but Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Industries and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi vehemently opposed the move, which forced the Commerce Ministry to give the green signal for holding the convention in Guwahati.
Over 10 lakh vehicles on State roadsBy Ajit Patowary GUWAHATI, Nov 5 – The State has now around 11 lakh registered vehicles and of them, around ten lakh are on its roads. Disclosing this, highly placed sources in the State Transport Department told The Assam Tribune that the length of the National Highway in the State was around 2,500 km, while that of the State Highway was 2,821 km. The major district roads in the State together have a length of 3,808 km. Besides, the State has urban roads measuring 1,193 km in length and its rural roads together have a length of 26,890 km, said the sources.Expressing helplessness in dealing with the traffic jams that have become a common feature in the urban areas of the State, the sources said that until the Urban Transport Policy adopted by the country’s Parliament was implemented, things were unlikely to change. The Policy has provided for Urban Transport Authorities for the states. These authorities with powers to deal with the problem, are expected to bring in a discipline in the urban road traffic movement, sources said.Commenting on the phenomenal rise in vehicle population of the State, sources said that since the 1988 Motor Vehicle Act coming into force, replacing the 1939 Act, owning of commercial vehicles by those who can afford, had become easier. For, the legislation liberalized the permit system by doing away with the lacking that impeded development of road transport in the country. It led to a boom in the inter state as well as intra state movement of goods and passengers. In the meantime, financial agencies also liberalized their funding norms.These two things led to an unprecedented growth of the transport sector and young entrepreneurs and single vehicle owners started crowding the sector in a big number.Simultaneously, the State also witnessed a boom in other areas of economy. Apartments, commercial complexes like shopping malls, too started coming up in significant number. But here, the authorities concerned were not strict enough in implementing the relevant byelaws that make it mandatory for the building owners to have their own parking places.On top of all these, the civic authorities have also not been arranging for parking places at busy places. All these have been contributing to the problem of traffic jams in the urban areas, said the sources.Parking places can be built along the riverbank and within the buildings at busy places of the urban areas like Guwahati, the sources said.On the jamming of roads by the commercial stage and contract carriage vehicles, the sources said that the route-related restriction for such vehicles could be imposed by the State Government, provided the criterion of five lakh population and road conditions are met. Though the rise in the number of automobile vehicles has created many problems for the common people, it has led to a significant rise in the earning of the State Transport Department. Today it is the second revenue-earning department, next only to the Tax Department, in matters of contributing to the state exchequer. In 2000-01, its earning was Rs 84.26 crore and last year, its collection went up to Rs 168 crore, said the sources.

State records 6% growth: CM
GUWAHATI, Nov 14 – The State Government under his stewardship is committed to grant autonomy to the ethnic groups, said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on the floor of the State Assembly here today. The Chief Minister, who was replying to a debate on the cut motion on the demand for grant of Rs 10 crore for the Police Department during the current fiscal, also praised the role of the State Police in maintaining law and order. Because of their efforts festival like Puja and Idd could be celebrated so peacefully. “I thank the police for rendering such commendable services,” he said, adding, the improvement in the law and order situation had been reflected in the faster pace of economic growth. The speed of progress attained by the State is faster than the other states of the country. It has now acquired a GDP growth rate of six per cent against the sluggish three per cent it had previously. News magazine India Today highly praised the State for this success recently, he said. He, however, maintained that the State Government was alive to the issues concerning dereliction of duty by the officers and staffs of the police force, their violation of human rights etc. The recent amendment to the Police Act has been done keeping all these points in view, he claimed.To keep insurgency under control, the State Government has attached top most priority to developmental activities. Unlike the AGP-led Government, it is demonstrating its sincerity in facilitating investment by outside investors through quick allotment of land they want. Going by the indications received so far, the investors who have come to the State are to stay here, he claimed.He also denied that the State Government had ever made any appeal to ULFA to allow peaceful conclusion of the 33 rd National Games hosted by the State. The Assam Cricket Association made an appeal to the militant outfit during the latest one-day cricket match between India and Pakistan in the city, to allow the match pass off peacefully, he clarified.However, the State Government believes in a negotiated solution to the insurgency problem, he said.The Chief Minister criticised the failure of the Opposition to recognise the fact that the demand for grant of Rs 10 crore to the Police Department was made by the Government in connection with the ensuing Panchayat polls.Earlier, moving the cut motion on the supplementary demand for grant for the Police Department, Leader of Opposition, Chandra Mohan Patowary expressed doubts on whether the Government wanted to keep the problem of militancy alive.Patowary said that militancy should not be treated as a law and order problem and efforts should be made to solve the problems through political dialogues. He said that provocative statements by Army officers would not help in creating a favourable atmosphere for talks and alleged that the Government was responsible for the derailment of the peace process to bring the ULFA to the negotiation table. He also demanded that the process of talks with militant outfits like NDFB, DHD, UPDS etc should be expedited.Citing a Central Government report, Patowary said that the law and order situation in Assam was even worse than Bihar and said that a political will was necessary to solve the problem. He pointed out that just before the recent oneday international cricket match in Guwahati, the Assam Cricket Association (ACA) appealed to the ULFA to allow the match to be held peacefully. “A Cabinet Minister Gautam Roy is the president of the ACA, while, its secretary is an employee of the Agriculture Department. This proved that a Minister and a Government employee do not have faith on the Government and they had to issue a public appeal to the ULFA for holding the match peacefully,” he added.Mission Ranjan Das (BJP), Drupad Borgohain (CPI), Aditya Langthasa (AUDF) and Uddhab Barman (CPM) also participated in the discussion, among others.

Rs 200-cr steel plant to be set up in city
NEW DELHI, Nov 14 – Union Minister for Steel, Chemicals and Fertilizer, Ram Vilas Paswan today announced a decision to set up a steel processing plant at Guwahati at a cost of Rs 200 crore. The Minister made the announcement while addressing the Editor’s Conference. The decision is part of the Steel Ministry’s move to set up 10 steel processing plants across the country. The Ministry is estimated to spend over Rs 2,000 crore, in this connection. The Detailed Project Report was reported to be ready and public sector giant Steel Authority of India (SAIL) is likely to take initiative to set up the processing units.The processing mill is slated to come up at Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, while Madhya Pradesh and Bihar will have two units each.
Govt inaction over NE industrial policy flayed
GUWAHATI, Nov 13 – An investment to the tune of Rs 4,000 crore is what the tardy approach on the part of the various concerned agencies in implementing the Northeast Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) has cost the Northeast in the last six months since the policy was announced. The investment commitments were mostly in power, cement and paper sectors.Talking to the media persons here today, the members of the FINER said, “There is a commitment of about Rs 1,000 crore now, but had the NEIIPP been implemented fully, it would have been up to Rs 5,000 crore.”The FINER today criticized the Government’s failure in speedy implementation of the NEIIPP 2007, thereby defeating the very objective of the pro-active industrial policy. A delegation of the body also called upon Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on November 8 as a last resort and Dr Singh assured of taking up the matter with the Ministry of Finance for resolving the issues in right earnest though he refused to give any specific time frame, FINER president SK Jain informed here. He also rued that huge investment would have flowed into the region after new industrial policy but the non-implementation of it in true earnest has emerged as the biggest drawback.Elaborating on the issues regarding the implementation of NEIIPP that the delegation raised before the Prime Minister, Jain said, “We drew his attention to two core issues at the moment. One is the delay in disbursement of funds by the Industry ministry towards various subsidies and the other regarding the problems faced in claims of income tax exemption.” An amount of Rs 600 crore is pending towards disbursement of subsidies with the NEDFi to over 400 companies and the ministry has no proper mechanism yet to streamline the disbursement procedure within a fixed time frame, he said. On the income tax exemption issue, Jain said that the total income tax exemption is not being granted and the department of Income Tax was calculating tax under various subsidiary heads as ‘income from other sources, against the very spirit of the NEIIPP. He said, “When we approached the Income Tax department, they pointed out that they are yet to receive the circular from the government and cannot exempt tax.” Citing these two cases, the FINER president pointed out that though the policy was announced in March, notifications for implementation of various provisions under it were issued much later. On the Prime Minister’s reaction on being apprised of the slow progress of affairs, Jain said that Dr Singh expressed concern over the inordinate delay, especially with the issue regarding income tax exemption. “Dr Singh was also taken aback that the Monitoring Committee for Implementation of the Policy has not been constituted yet,” he added.The Prime Minister also reportedly questioned the DoNER ministry’s role in this regard and assured of pursuing the matter. He also urged the FINER to keep continued focus on the NEIIPP’s implementation and create pressure at all levels for its success. The FINER delegation also met Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in New Delhi urged the latter for more aggressive steps for implementation of the NEIIPP.

Call for new economic block to promote NE
NEW DELHI, Nov 13 – Calling for out-of-box thinking, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Jairam Ramesh today mooted the idea of forming a new sub-regional grouping of the North Eastern Region and its neighbouring countries. The Minister was delivering the valedictory address at the Sixth High-level Conference on Asian Economic Integration: Agenda for the East Asia Summit, here today. The Minister’s address at the international conference of think tanks being attended by delegates from ASEAN countries besides Japan and UNESCAP representatives, assumes significance and reflects a change in New Delhi’s thinking . Addressing the meeting, Ramesh highlighted the need to look at new economic blocks along with the existing ones. The North Eastern Region could become part of an economic block.

Comprehensive plan for economic uplift of society mooted
SUALKUCHI, Nov 10 – The UGC-sponsored two-day national seminar on ‘Future of Assam in the perspective of present socio-economic conditions’ organised by Sualkuchi Budram Madhab Satradhikar College was held on November 2 and 3.Addressing the inaugural meeting presided over by Dr Bilash Chandra Das, principal of the college, Dr Amarjyoti Choudhury, Vice-Chancellor, Gauhati University, stressed the need of comprehensive plan for the economic uplift of the people of Assam. He said, Assam is a land of full of natural resources. To exploit all these resources for augmentation of the per capita income, new syllabi of different branches should be prepared and introduced in colleges.Kanak Lata Das, artiste and noted social worker illuminated the earthen jar to mark the beginning of the seminar.Earlier, Dr BC Das, principal of the college and Dr Jogesh Deka, convenor of the national seminar committee of the college read out their welcome address.In the first business session conducted by Dr Amalesh Chandra Banerjee, retired professor, Department of Economics, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, nine paper presenters including Dadul Borah of Maibang Degree College, Nibedita Baruah of Jorhat Kendriya Mahavidyalaya, Dipali Baruah and Tulika Buragohain of Pragjyotish College, Guwahati, DN Barman, Kartik Sarmah of Puthimari College, Dr Amalendu Nag and Arabinda Kherkatary of SS College, Hailakandi, Binita Das of Puthimari College and Tua Kataki, Nirmali Sarma, Nirmala Devi and Dipendra Kumar Sarmah of SBMS College, Sualkuchi presented papers on historical and present socio-economic, ethnic problems. All the paper presenters threw light on the problems and crisis of different ethnic groups of Assam and suggested some steps to tackle those problems for State’s development.In the afternoon, the second session was held under the presidentship of Dr Anup Kumar Gogoi, Professor, Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, IIT, Guwahati.Dr Mrinal Kumar Borah of Chaygaon College, Parag Chandra Kalita of Puthimari College, Soneswar, Phuleswar Deka of Puthimari College, Dr Dipak Das and Bhaskar Doley of Madhabdev College, Narayanpur, Dhaneswar Baishya of Barbhag College, Kalag, Nalbari, Minoti Khound of Jorhat Kendriya Mahavidyalaya, Syamanta Hazarika and Naranath Morang of Madhabdev College, Narayanpur, Prasana Medhi of Saraighat College, Changsari, Mamani Devi and Banti Bora of SBMS College presented their papers on recurring floods of Assam and insurgency.On the second day, the third session conducted by resource person Prof Dilip Kumar Baruah, former principal, Cotton College, was held and the theme of the seminar was on globalisation.Dr Rajani Kanta Das, Principal, SB Deorah College, Guwahati, in his paper dwelt on the topic of globalisation and its impact on present socio-economic situation very comprehensively. He observed that the adverse effects of globalisation like monetization and depersonalisation of daily life, alienation of work, unemployment, environmental catastrophe, etc have been responsible for destroying the stability of society in such a large scale as has never been observed in the history of human civilisation.Aswini Choudhury, lecturer of Economics, SBMS College while presenting paper on export potential of bamboo and bamboo-based products of Assam in the era of globalisation, hoped that the bamboo-based product like bamboo oil is effective against any kind of skin ailments including bacterial and fungal infaction. He added that bullet proof jackets, automobile parts, bandages, napkins etc as bamboo products are expected to be marketed shortly.The other paper presenters were Dr Gayatree Goswamee and Dipul Kumar Das of BB Kishan College, Jalah, Arati Deka of Suren Das College, Hajo, Seema Dutta of SBMS College, Nihar Ranjan Kalita of SBMS College and Hiteswar Das, assistant accounts officer, PWD, Chief Engineer Building, Guwahati, Dipali Kalita of SBMS College, Harekrishna Haloi of Pub-Kamrup College and Dr Parag Kalita of MRS Higher Secondary School, Titabor.The last session of the seminar on rural development – Problems and prospects was held under the supervision of resource person Prof Apurba Kumar Baruah, Department of Political Science, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Manjit Kumar Mazumdar of Pragjyoti College, Guwahati, Dr Ashima Sharmah Borah of KC Das Commerce College, Guwahati, Meena Kumari Devi of Suren Das College, Hajo, Narayan Chandra Kalita of MNC Balika Mahavidyalaya, Nalbari, Mantu Kumar Das and Banajit Baishya of SBMS College, Pranati Das Choudhury of Puthimari College, Bhupen Chandra Sarmah of SBMS College, Mousumi Barah and Saurabh Pran Sarmah of Arya Vidyapeeth College, Guwahati, Niva Deka of Pragjyotish College, Guwahati presented papers on the topic.The valedictory function presided over by by Bilash Chandra Das, principal of the college was held in the afternoon. Dr Niru Hazarika from Department of Political Science, Gauhati University took part as the chief guest while Dr Prabin Baishya, former Principal of SBMS College, Sualkuchi attended the function as the guest of honour.

Stress laid on infrastructure development in rural areas
GOLAGHAT, Nov 18 – Ajanta Neog, Minister for Social Welfare and Jails, said in a meeting held at Gomariguri Development block of Golaghat that the present government has been laying great stress on the infrastructural development for the rural economy. The formation of self-help groups has created inspiration and hope and the self-help groups would play a pivotal role among the educated unemployed youths through self-employment in rural areas. Neog had attended the meetings of Golaghat Zila Parishad, DRDA as the chief guest. In the meeting, held at Gomariguri development block, five self-help groups got an amount of Rs 4,75,000 and an amount of Rs 1,00,000 was distribute among 20 self-help groups. Further, seven beneficiaries were paid Rs 67,500 under Swarnajayanti Gram Srojgar Scheme. Moreover eight beneficiaries were distributed cheques of Rs 80,000.Golaghat’s Deputy Commissioner Deepak Kumar Goswami also attended various meetings held in different places. The minister attended a meeting held at Balizan Rajohowa Bhawan where storm-affected families were offered Rs 1,000 as financial assistance. All total 1050 families were offered financial assistance.In the meeting, freedom fighter Purna Kanta Phukan was also felicitated. The Agriculture Department’s seeds of paddy, and rabi crops were distributed among the farmers.DDC meet: The district development committee meet of Golaghat was held on November 5 last at the office of the conference hall of the Deputy Commissioner, Golaghat and was presided over by Deepak Kumar Goswami Deputy Commissioner, Golaghat. The meeting reviewed the implemented schemes in agriculture, health and family welfare, PWD (roads), veterinary, water resources, etc. The Deputy Commissioner asked the heads of the departments to extend their co-operation and co-ordination in implementation of the schemes of works.He told the District Agriculture Officer to distribute seeds and ploughing with tractors and asked him to superivise the works properly.In the meeting, the recent epidemic of diarrhoea-affected areas was reviewed and discussed. The Deputy Commissioner asked the Assistant Labour Commissioner to submit report on providing drinking water, health and hygiene in the diarrhoea-affected tea gardens and take proper steps after discussion with the management of the tea gardens.The Deputy Commissioner also instructed to the inspector of schools to select the best schools in the district which world be awarded on the Republic Day. In the meeting the act of knowing the right to information was also discussed. The meeting was attended by Sub Divisional Officer, Bokakhat, the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Dev) and other heads of the departments were also present.Miss Kaziranga: The year-ending function of the Kaziranga News Network is going to be held on November 25 under the KNN.In this function, the Miss Kaziranga 2007 beauty contest and Kaziranga bata and best journalist award would be conferred. A life and activities of the Bubul Dutta also would be released. In a press release, Pradyut Mahanta, secretary Kaziranga News Network informed and appealed to the people to attend the function to make it a grand success.Inquiry demanded: The scam of Rs 60 lakh in the Golaghat District DRDA and massive corruption in the district Zila Parisad, Golaghat has created great sensation in Golaghat district.The Golaghat district Krishak Mukti Sangram Sammittee has condemned the Golaghat Zila Parishad for its involvement in corruption. The working president and the secretary Pabitrabrata Doimari and Akhil Gogoi have demanded a judicial enquiry in the corruption of the Zila Parishad.The president of the BJP Golaghat district, Dr Mridul Dutta and secretary Satya Prasad Borthakur also demanded a high-level enquiry in the corruption of the Zila Parisad immediately.Strike observed: Along with the National Federation of Postal Employees’ nation wide strike the NFPE Golaghat branch also observed the strike of all central government employees, teachers and PSU workers on October 30 last. The charter of demands were setting up of a judicial committee for wage revision of Gramin Dak Sewaks in replacement of RS Nataraja Murti Committee, grant full trade union right including the right to strike to all government employees through appropriate legisltation stop the proposal to replace the CGHS by medicare insurance scheme implement all pending awards of the Board of Arbitration, remove the quantum ceiling of the Board of Arbritation, increase GPF and small savings’ interest rates and restore them their earlier levels.Cobra recovered: A six feet-long cobra was recovered recently at Boragaon from the roadside of the KNP by the Rescue Relief Missionaries Assam. The members of the RRM, M Ratan, K Goswami and Gautam Neog after recovering the cobra handed it over to the forest camp of Panbari. Dr Anjan Talukdar, then freed the cobra at KNP, the fort sources said.

No steps taken even after lapse of 10 yrs
GUWAHATI, Nov 18 – Ten years have passed since the Shukla Commission, formed by the Government of India to suggest measures for allround economic development of Assam, submitted its report. But unfortunately, majority of the recommendations remained on paper only, as no step has been taken to implement the same. The Commission, in its recommendations, laid stress on development of communication network within and outside the region, but those, unfortunately have not been implemented. The Commission recommended that Guwahati should be made a regional hub for Indian Airlines so that aircraft stationed in the city can operate services without delays on account of late arrival of aircraft from Kolkata or Delhi because of fog or other weather or technical problems. However, this recommendation is yet to be implemented. However, in recent times, air connectivity in the region has improved considerably and at least 35 flights operate daily from the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, which include seven flights each to Delhi and Kolkata and flights within the region. In fact, the civil aviation scenario changed after the private airlines companies came to the forefront.The Commission recommended that international flights should operate out of the region to destinations like Dhaka, Chittagong, Mandalay and Yangon in the first phase and tourist packages should be developed around the services. But this has not been implemented and at present, only one weekly flight to Bangkok is operating. However, on the positive side, a private airline company is planning to introduce a hopping flight connecting Guwahati-Kolkata and Dhaka shortly, said a leading tour operator of the city. The flight may be introduced within this month.Only one cargo flight is now operating from Guwahati even as the Commission had recommended preparation of an integrated plan for the utilisation of the Guwahati international air cargo facility. The Commission accorded high priority on development of Inland Water Transport and suggested that negotiations should be held with Bangladesh for transit and transhipment arrangements. The Commission called for close ties between the Brahmaputra Board, Central Water Commission and the Inland Waterways Authority of India so that the water resource development is meshed with the development of waterways. The Central Inland Water Corporation should be strengthened with a strong regional presence and at the same time, private operators should be encouraged to component segments of inland waterways development and operation. Modernised country craft development should be taken in hand to extend services to the feeder routes and some agencies should be engaged to study the matter and play promotional role. There should be some policy for waterfront development, the Commission suggested. However, no concrete step has yet been taken to develop the waterways and the Central Government has also not taken any initiative in this regard.The Commission had also called for a comprehensive transport policy for the North East. The Planning Commission should immediately commission and transport optimisation study for the North East, both in terms of capital and operational costs. Similar study should be made for international linkages for transit and transhipment arrangements with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan, the Commission suggested. But unfortunately even after more than ten years of submission of the report, the Government of India has not acted on the recommendations.

Bid to boost export of perishable goods
GUWAHATI, Nov 18 – In a bid to give a boost to export of perishable products in the North East, Centre has comeup with an ambitious plan to develop the infrastructure of the five major airports in the region. According to available information, over Rs 2 crore has been granted for setting up of perishable cargo handling facility at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi International Airport while Rs 8 Lakh has been given for Imphal, Agartala, Aizawl and Dimapur airports to set up ‘walking type cold storages’. The construction works of the new faciltities will be executed by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).For the last couple years flower export has been gaining momentum from this region. But due to lack of cold storage facilities, exporters associated with this business are facing hardships. To overcome the problem and to encourage floriculture, the Commerce Ministry has taken the initiative in this regard.Talking to this correspondent here today, Bidyut Baruah of APEDA, said that the new cargo facility at the Gopinath Bardoloi Airport would be equipped with all modern system so that exporters can smoothly operate their business. “We are also in talks with the other State Governments for setting up of walking type cold storages,” he said.Despite having immense scope for export of perishable goods in the North East, the region is yet to reap the benefit due to lack of infrastructure. Transportation and insfrastructure bottlenecks have impeded the growth of export over the years.Giving more information in this regard, Baruah said that the new facilities would help the exporters to a large extent as they are now banking on the neighbouring States to avail the benefit. In this context, he revealed that, APEDA in association with the AIDC has been executing a pack house project in the State.Though the North East has been accorded top priority in the field of export, the export growth in the region is still low. Statistics reveal that the export growth in the region is around 10 per cent.

Ramesh for aggressive approach
GUWAHATI, Nov 22 – The Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh, while urging the tea producers of the country to brand the ‘Great Indian Tea Party’ in a more effective manner, today rued the lethargic approach of the tea producers across the country and failing to market the Indian tea world-wide in the way it should have been done. The Union Minister stated that the marketing strategy for the Indian tea in the foreign countries lacks professionalism and it is high time that the people concerned should adopt an aggressive approach to change the face of the Indian tea.“We must think of exporting what people want, not just what we produce,” Ramesh categorically said while speaking at the inaugural function of the India International Tea Convention, which began here at the Sarusajai Sports complex today. “We need to produce new varieties of tea to meet the demand for our tea in the international market,” the Minister pointed out. Indian tea’s market in the foreign countries is under threat and we need to be pro-active to face the challenge by various other tea producing countries like Kenya and Vietnam.“There is a serious need to enhance the productivity of orthodox tea, which comprises eight per cent of the total tea produced in the country, to meet the demand of the international market,” he said.“It is really sad that India, which is the second largest tea producing country in the world, has hosted only five international conventions in the last three decades. I want to see it happening every alternate year,” he said.“Indian tea has great demand in countries like Egypt, Iran and even in Pakistan. But, we have failed to cash in on the demand, thanks to our lackadiaisical approach. There is no point in just being one of the largest tea producers. We would have to create new markets for which tea trade between other countries including the other tea producing countries, needs to be developed,” Ramesh opined.He also said that the country needs to accord special importance to aspects like tea research and tea engineering which are playing a very passive role in the promotion of Indian tea.“Research work on tea has almost come to a grinding halt and we need to revive it to come up with new varieties of tea,” he added.He also announced a subsidy of Rs 100 crore for producing orthodox tea in the State. “Besides, a centre for tea engineering would also be set up in IIT Kharagpur to ensure a cost-effective tea producing process,” he revealed.Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was present as the chief guest, echoed the sentiments expressed by the Union Minister, saying, “Indian tea, of which Assam is an important component, must prepare itself for the challenges that lie ahead, especially from other tea producing countries.” State Industry Minister Pradyut Bordoloi and Basudsev Banerjee, chairman, Tea Board of India, were also present on the occasion along with a host of foreign delegates and other dignitaries.

Shukla panel proposals still in cold storage
GUWAHATI, Nov 22 – Tourism potential of Assam and other North Eastern states has not yet been tapped fully and unfortunately, the Government of India has not implemented the proposals given by expert committees in this regard. The Shulka Commission, formed by the Government of India to suggest measures for the economic development of Assam, offered a series of proposals more than a decade back for the development of tourism sector, but most of the proposals have not been implemented.The Commission recommended that a North East Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) should be formed to plan and spearhead domestic and international tourism in the North East. The NTDC should sit with the North Eastern Council (NEC) and the State tourism departments to plan development of tourist sites and related infrastructure for marketing integrated tour packages, the Commission said. However, the suggestion remained on paper only and only recently the Department for Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) has started initiatives for development of the tourism sector in the region.With Guwahati becoming a busy international airport, steps should be taken to evolve special international packages in consultation with tour and travel operators in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and even Japan. The inner-line permits should be made readily available in all major tourist offices and State entry gates along the National Highways, the Commission had recommended. But these suggestions are also yet to be implemented and the flow of foreign tourists to this region of the country is yet to reach the desired levels. The Commission said that low-budget tours should be organised for trekkers, campers and young people. Of course, some tour operators have started such tour programmes, the initiatives from the Government departments are lacking in this regard.The Commission suggested that the Railways should offer special tour or travel concessions during the holiday season or festivals for all those visiting the North East. Charter flights should be permitted for the North East package tours and tourism potential in the region should be advertised through tourist offices, travel agencies and airlines in all States and abroad. Tourist training courses should be started in the region to turn out competent tour operators, guides, hotel staff and other personnel, said the Commission. But these recommendations are also yet to be implemented even after ten years of submission of the report of the Commission.

all to discuss tea workers’ problems in global meet
DIBRUGARH, Nov 22 – The two influential students' organization of tea garden workers of the state - Assam Tea Tribes Students' Association (ATTSA) and All Adivasi Students' Association of Assam (AASAA) have desired that the tea traders attending the international tea convention in Sarusajai Sports Complex, Guwahati also discuss problems of the tea garden workers. The last minute withdrawal of the decision to stage a mass demonstration in front of the venue of the international tea convention to draw attention to the burning problems of the tea garden workers by both the two students' body might unleash a consider deal of relief to organisers but the students' body has made it clear that if the workers' problems are not discussed before the close of the convention they might rethink. ATTSA president Prahlad Goala has advised that delegates attending the convention visit tea gardens first to get the actual feel of the situation prevailing in tea estates. Goala told The Assam Tribune that if ground problems such as providing safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, education and proper wages to the workers are not fulfilled tea planters or the tea traders cannot expect improved services from the workers. Corroborating with ATTSA's view, Raphael Kujur, vice president of AASAA said improving the condition of the tea garden workers could go a long way in giving a new lease of life to the tea sector. “If the tea management continues to exploit the workers and deprive them of their basic right to education, potable water, health services and other aspects as provided in Plantation Labour Act, workers have no other option than to resort to all forms of agitations”, the AASAA leader said. All efforts should be made to promote tea domestically and internationally but not at the cost of the workers, Kujur Warned. “We welcome all delegates for the convention but our request is that they also discuss problems of workers who toil hard under sun and rain to produce tea”, AASAA leader said.

Convention to boost face value of Assam tea
GUWAHATI, Nov 21 – With the State all set to host the India International Tea Convention for the first time, the face value of Assam tea is also expected to catapult to an unprecedented height of recognition, both within the country and across the globe.Besides, the Assam brew is also set to climb a major revival ladder, thanks to the initiatives that have been planned by the Tea Board of India (TBI) for the North East region in the near future. This was informed by Basudev Banerjee, chairman, TBI, while talking to The Assam Tribune here today, a day before the international tea convention is going to kickstart at Sarusajai sports complex in Guwahati.The TBI chairman, without mincing his words, said, “I feel that the convention is going to change the face of the Assam tea world-wide. During the convention, the international focus is going to be on Assam tea and finally it is going to get its due, which has eluded it for long.”“We have planned a major tasting session during the convention where participants, would get to taste the world class variety of Assam tea,” Banerjee said.Talking about the major revamp plan for the Assam tea, Banerjee said that the board is planning a series of uprooting and replanting projects in the State to uplift the level of tea production in the country.“As per our plan for the year 2007-08, an area of 11,000 hectares is to undergo uprooting and replanting process and I am glad to say that a major part (9,000 hectares) of the applications under this uprooting and replanting plan has been received from Assam and West Bengal,” he revealed.“We are the second largest producer of tea after China and Assam remains the major producer and therefore there is no room for laxity on our part,” he reiterated.He further informed that the Board has also decided to extend its presence in the entire North East region in a larger way.“To materialise our plan, the Board has planned to set up new offices in Assam and other parts of the region so that the modus-operandi of our work in the region is streamlined,” he elaborated.“We are trying to focus more on the small tea growers through these newly built offices, which would initiate concentrated efforts to do away all the bottlenecks that the small growers are facing in the region,” Banerjee stressed.“Nevertheless, the Board is also equally dedicated to fortify the position of the organised tea sector, which is accommodating a huge number of work force in the State. Even though, we are concerned about the small tea growers, steps are also taken to ensure that the organised sector remains healthy,” he opined.

New book on tea industry
GUWAHATI, Nov 21 – For years, drinkers from across the globe have been swearing by the unique taste of Assam tea, which in a way, revolutionized tea drinking habits in the country, but when it came to having inclusive literature on it, there was none that the State could offer.Fulfilling this vacuum, Dr Pradip Baruah has authored The Tea Industry of Assam: Origin and Development, a book, which many believe, is the first ever comprehensive literature on the world famous tea industry of Assam. Releasing the book in the Guwahati Press Club today, Tea Board of India chairman Basudev Banerjee, praised the efforts of Dr Baruah, saying, “ The need of such a comprehensive book covering the tea industry of Assam was always there and with the India International Tea Convention beginning tomorrow, the release of the book could not have been timed better.” The 350-page book published by EBH Publishers (India), an imprint of Eastern Book House, has been priced at Rs 1,625.Speaking on the occasion, Dr Baruah said that the tea industry has always fascinated him and it was since his childhood that he nurtured a dream of compiling a book exclusively on the tea industry of Assam. Elaborating on the contents of the book, the author said he has tried to cover most of the major aspects of the industry, be it development in production of tea, labour matters, analysis of marketing of Assam tea and contribution of Assam tea industry to the State economy.

US group keen to invest in State
GUWAHATI, Nov 21 – Three prospective investors from the US met Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at his official residence here last evening and discussed with him the issues concerning prospects of adventure and eco-friendly tourism in the State. According to official sources here, the group of the US investors comprising Ms Christina Heyniger, Mr Shams Tebriz Habib and Ms Natasha Martin were impressed with the investment prospect in the State.The group also evinced interest in exploring potential opportunities to source organic products, including spices and exotic fruits and vegetables, besides tea for export, said the sources.The meeting was a follow-up of the meeting the Chief Minister had with the US investors in New York in September last. The Chief Minister assured the group all possible help, including incentives to support their investment ventures, said the sources.

PM favours integrated Asian market
SINGAPORE, Nov 21 – Describing relationship with ASEAN countries as the pillar of India’s Look East Policy, Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh unveiled a number of proposals envisaging an integrated Asian market linked by efficient road, rail, air and shipping services. Starting his day with a series of meetings, including ones with Prime Minister of China, and Japan, the Prime Minister addressed the India-ASEAN Summit and attended the East Asia Summit before visiting the Civilisations Museum exhibition ‘On the Nalanda Trail: Buddhism in India, China and South East Asia’.The early morning meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao was crucial for both the countries, as a number of contentious issues like the border dispute and the situation in Myanmar were discussed. The most important event was the India-ASEAN Summit, which has a bearing on the North Eastern Region. India and ASEAN countries noted with satisfaction the progress achieved so far. “The most striking achievement of our engagement so far is that the target of bilateral trade of US 30 billion that we had set for ourselves for 2007 has already been achieved,” said the Prime Minister addressing the Summit”.“Given the results so far, I propose that we set a bilateral trade target of USD 50 billion by the year 2010,” the Prime Minister said. Dr Singh noted that exports of ASEAN member countries to India have grown at a phenomenal rate of over 65 percent last year. The Prime Minister’s special focus was connectivity between India and ASEAN countries. “We have achieved progress in the key area of connectivity. Today, there are over 215 direct and indirect flights every week between India and Singapore, 115 flights with Thailand and 50 with Malaysia. “But we seek much more from our Open Skies Policy with ASEAN. We are keen to join the Open Skies regime amongst the ASEAN countries, when it is finalised,” Dr Singh.He also noted with satisfaction that tourists were increasingly looking eastwards and over 2 million tourists from India were expected to travel to ASEAN holiday destinations this year. The number of tourist arrival from ASEAN countries to India has gone up to 2.8 lakh, but it is evident that there was huge scope for expansion, he said.With an eye on exploiting the interest of ASAEN countries on the Buddhist circuit, the Prime Minister said India welcomed proposals that revive interest in the country’s ancient civilisation links and common heritage.On the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN countries, the Prime Minister announced that India would work together with ASEAN countries to conclude the negotiations as agreed by March next year. Yesterday Dr Singh told newsmen that India had some worries over demands on agricultural products which might affect Indian farmers.India also made significant number of proposals ranging from creation of a green fund to training the Parliamentarians of ASEAN countries. Proposing to set up an Indian-ASEAN Green Fund with an initial contribution of USD 5 million for pilot projects to promote adaptation and mitigation technologies. “Once the Fund is established I invite other countries to make contributions as well,” Dr Singh proposed.The Prime Minister further proposed setting up of India – ASEAN Network on Climate Change that would pool and share expertise, exchange best practices and submit recommendations for common positions taking into account national priorities. “Climate change has emerged as a major challenge, especially for developing countries. We can gain from a knowledge partnership in this area,” Dr Singh opined. Training his focus to another area, the Prime Minister said if India-ASEAN process is to take root, it must become a people’s movement. “I propose that we have a Special Programme for Regular Exchanges among our Parliamentarians. India conveyed that the exchange programme for students and diplomats has received enthusiastic response. Encouraged by the success, the Prime Minister proposed to make the training courses for ASEAN diplomats a yearly feature. “I would suggest that we organise seminars for such trainees with their peer groups from India in ASEAN capitals,” said the Prime Minister.An official spokesman later told newsmen that at the India-ASEAN Summit as well as the East ASIA Summit, India’ role was appreciated. India’s contribution in the filed of human resource development and health sector were particularly lauded. The Prime Minister also called for close monitoring of the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity.

Tea drinking still popular in Scotland
EDINBURGH, Nov 21 – The drink that revives is holding its ground in a nation far away from Assam, but one that has its own contribution to tea as it is grown today. Tea remains a popular drink in Scotland, even though many Scots might not be aware that it was one of their countrymen who had ventured to Assam and helped start commercial cultivation by collaborating with local Assamese. The intrepid Scot was Robert Bruce, and one of the Assamese was none other than Maniram Dewan. Even when other beverages — including the inimitable Scotch whisky — have their own followers in a place like Scotland, the popularity of tea can be gauged from the wide variety on sale everywhere from small convenience stores to mammoth super markets. In a typical super market, there could be at least 10 varieties of tea, and some of them Assam tea. Organic tea is also gaining in popularity nowadays along with iced tea. In convenience stores the variety is less, but some of them could be traced back to Assam. In offices and cafeterias tea dispensers are quite popular and for a pound or less one gets a cup of tea that is not very exotic in flavour. In a newspaper offices tea competes with coffee as the brew of choice. And it is a phenomenon noticeable beyond the borders of Scotland. In England and Wales too tea is very much a part of life, although according to a recent report tea drinking could actually be on the decline compared to 1997 trends. ‘Popular hobby blogs, such as the tea-drinking website Nice Cup of Tea and A Sit Down, are able to count thousands of fans: a Facebook group linked to the site has more than 115,000 members,’ states Bobbie Johnson of The Guardian. Interacting with a cross section of people in the UK, this reporter found that men and women who are settled in life are more likely to favour tea over other beverages like soft drinks or beer. On average they could consume three to four cups of tea a day. Ian, a student of the University of Edinburgh, was not very different from his counterpart in Assam when he said, ‘My tea consumption shoots up near exams...because I have to stay awake and slog for long.’ Tea is also popular among women, young and old. Amber Mottram, a young woman from Cardiff mentioned that girls past their school years were more into tea than their male friends. The reason being unlike boys when young women met at home, they would rather talk over a cup of tea or coffee than go for anything with alcohol. Amber further mentioned the fact that tea had therapeutic properties was drawing in new people. However, among the young only the moneyed few could afford expensive brands, she added. Recently nutritionists at Kings College London analysed studies on the health effects of tea . It was found that four cups of tea a day could reduce chances of heart attack. Other benefits included protection against tooth plaque and tooth decay.It is however, the older generation that has a deeper love affair with tea. More than just a drink, tea for the senior generation brings in nostalgia about a very different Britain from which people went to Assam and created their own blend of history.

Book on tea industry
GUWAHATI, Nov 20 – The Tea Industry of Assam: Origin and Development’ authored by Dr Pradip Baruah will be released in a function to be held at the Press Club here on November 21. The function will be attended by B Banerjee, Chairman, Tea Board of India and Dr Jayanta Madhab, a renowned economist of the country.The book is an in-depth analytical study of the tea industry of Assam since its inception based on extensive research of about seventeen years covering the broad period of 1823 to 2006. It will fulfill the long-felt need of an exclusive book on the tea industry of Assam, informs a press release.

PM for more FDI inflow into NE
ON BOARD AIR INDIA ONE, Nov 20 – Addressing the media on his way to Singapore to attend the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit, Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh on opening up of border links with the neighbouring South East countries, stressed on the need for consensus, expressing his hope that work on the project would continue with the cooperation of neighbouring countries. On FDI flow into the North Eastern Region, the Prime Minister said it was an ongoing process. We need more foreign direct investments, not only in North-east but also in other parts of the country, whereever there are opportunities of attracting FDI on terms and conditions which suit us. We will make India an attractive proposition for FDI,” he said.On the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN, the Prime Minister said there were certain sensitive issues concerning the agriculture products which have held up the negotiations. “We have some worries because demands are being made that may affect our farmers. We have explained it to the ASEAN,” he said.“Bilateral trade and trade with ASEAN countries are matters of importance for us,” he added.For India, the focus would be on delivering fresh thrust on improving ties with the South East Asian countries in keeping with its Look East Policy. Of late New Delhi has been talking about dovetailing the Look East policy with commercial interest of the North-east.The Centre has been scouting for investments for the Region and countries as far as Thailand are being tapped for investments.The Prime Minister during his 24- hour-long trip would be attending the ASEAN Summit, as well as the East Asian Summit to be attended by 10 nations beside Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea among others.Meanwhile, the Prime Minister today answered a volley of questions ranging from the nuclear deal, petroleum price hike, political developments in Karnataka to Nandigram. On the later issue, however, the Prime Minister played safe and read from a carefully prepared text. Barring a drift over expressing sympathy with the artistes and intellectuals, who were lathi-charged, rest of his statement was along expected lines.Replying to a question about Manipur, the Prime Minister said he has had held a number of rounds of discussions with Chief Minister, O. Ibobi Singh and took stock of the internal security situation in the State. He said the Chief Minister has been impressed on the need to tighten security measures in the State.“I have discussed with the Chief Minister the law and order situation very frequently, and impressed him that the situation needed to be handled effectively,” he said.A top official said the Centre has handed over an action plan to the State Government. “Wait to see the results in couple of months,” said the official.

Convention to boost State tea sector
GUWAHATI, Nov 20 – Nearly 500 foreign delegates from major tea producing countries are participating in the India International Tea Convention beginning from November 22 at the Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati. The three-day convention is aimed at giving a boost to the crippled marketing system and to showcase the products of the State.The convention jointly organised by Tea Board of India, Indian Merchant Tea Exporters Forum(IMTEF), Federation of All India Tea Traders Association (FAITTA), South Indian Tea Exporters Association (SITEA) and India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) will have a series of discussions covering various problems faced by the tea producing countries.What is more significant of the convention is that the Inter-Governmental Group on Tea is holding a marathon meeting in Guwahati. The group comprising the heads of all major tea producing nations is likely to chalk out future course of action on the tea sector across the globe.Addressing a press conference here today, Harish Sonowal, chairman of the local steering committee, India International Tea Convention, said that leading buyers from Russia, Germany, UK, Egypt and Pakistan have evinced interest to participate in the three-day convention. “We have also received confirmation from Kenya, Japan and China,” he informed. Providing more information in this regard, Sonowal said that the convention would definitely give an impetus to the marketing system of the tea sector in the State. “We have arranged a special tea testing session for the foreign buyers to take the flavour of our tea. This has been done to promote our tea in the global market,” he added.Chandrajit Saikia, executive director of Tea Board who was present in the conference, said that the convention would be a big platform for the tea producers in the country in which they would be able to initiate talks with the foreign buyers. “It will also largely benefit the tea tourism in the State that is yet to be explored,” he added.The Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi will flag off the session on November 22 that will be attended by Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh. The convention will have five business sessions.

Assam Carbon declares lockout
GUWAHATI, Nov 29 – The management of Assam Carbon Private Limited has declared ‘lockout’ on the functioning of the company from the wee hours today, following a conflict with the members of the Assam Carbon Workers’ and Employees’ Union (ACWEU) over the issue of induction of fresh workers on contract basis in various sections of the company. The conflict between the management and the workers reached its height on Wednesday and the Assam Carbon general manager, GP Chawla, in turn, according to the union members, abruptly ordered the closure of the company around 2:30 am today, when the night shift workers were still on work.“A notice of the lockout was hence pasted around 2:30 am,” informed Subrata Malla Buzarbaruah, president of the union. The union is now demanding unconditional withdrawal of the lockout.“It is a ploy of a few vested interest people including the GM, who are trying to hamper the work and production of the company,” said Dulal Talukdar, member, ACWEU.“Such an abrupt declaration of lockout is certainly unlawful and we urge the people concerned to take into account the woes of the employees for the better interest of the company,” Talukdar rued.“We have no problems with the management recruiting labours on contract basis in the company’s kiln but it is recruiting employees in all the sections including packing and production departments. Moreover, the management is also playing with the hopes and aspirations of the local people, who are not preferred for the new jobs,” he stated. The members of the union today also organised a protest meet in the front of the Assam Carbon premises today.“We would continue our protest until and unless our demands are met,” Talukdar added. Deputy Manager, Assam Carbon Private Limited, BK Saikia, however, informed that the members of the union have now started contradicting the provisions of the agreement, which it entered with the management of the Assam Carbon recently in the presence of the Assistant Labour Commissioner.“Yes, it also included the issue of contract labourers and everything was sorted out in an amicable manner. But for some reasons, the union is taking a U-turn on various settled issues,” he stressed.“Even the Assistant Labour Commissioner has written to the union to withdraw the strike it resorted to during the last three days but they are least bothered about it. Instead, they are creating an atmosphere of lawlessness,” Saikia said. “Finding no alternative, the management has decided to lock out the company,” he reasoned.
No demand from NE states for special financial aidFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Nov 27 – The Northeast may be reeling under power crisis but there was no demand from the states for special financial assistance from the Union Government, for construction of power projects.Unbelievable, but true. Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that according to information by Ministry DoNER, there was no demand from the State governments for special funding for power projects and for strengthening the energy accounting and auditing systems in their States. However, some projects have been sanctioned under the normal schemes of Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources and North Eastern Council.Shinde, however, added that according to information provided by Planning Commission, some of the NE states have sought financial assistance for construction of power projects during the 10th Plan and for current annual plan.In Assam, the Planning Commission has sanctioned additional Central assistance to the tune of Rs 155.73 crore since 2005-2006 for construction of Lakwa Waste Heat Recovery Thermal Power, Karbi Langpi Hydro Electric and Namrup Power Replacement Projects.DoNER has sanctioned highest number of 25 power related projects in Assam at an estimated cost of Rs 70.21 crore. The cost of 61 power related projects sanctioned in NE region is calculated at Rs 364.03 crore. The minister claimed that all 61 projects in the region have been completed.The minister further tabled a list of additional 66 power related ongoing projects. Of these, 18 projects in Assam were sanctioned at a cost of Rs 118.09 crore. In addition, NEC has financed transmission, distribution and power related projects worth Rs 363.10 crore.
No plan to extend NE tax rebate schemeFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Nov 27 – In what could deliver a serious blow to the investments in the North Eastern Region, the Ministry of Finance has clarified that it has no proposal to extend the tax concessions schemes beyond March 2010. It also ruled out the possibility of extending the Scheme to six districts of North Bengal. The Government is not in favour of area-based exemptions, as these create economic distortions affecting economic viability of units located in non-exempted areas. Such exemptions leads to shrinkages of tax base and adversely affect buoyancy in revenue collections, apart from breaking the CENVAT chain. “Durability of such investments beyond the exemption period is also doubtful,” said Minister of State for Finance, SS Palanimanickam. The North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Scheme was announced with much fan-fare early this year to attract investments in to the investment-starved Region. At the same time, it was clarified that the special concessions given to State like Himachal Pradesh, Uttranchal and Kutch region of Gujarat would not be extended. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has moved Union Finance Ministry to sanction the funds for settlement of the pending transport subsidy claims of industrial units in the North Eastern Region, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Ashwani Kumar said. Since inception of the subsidy scheme, Rs 733 crore has been released for disbursal to industrial units in the North Eastern Region. “Ministry of Finance have been requested to provide the requisite funds to settle the pending claims,” said Kumar. The subsidy is provided to such industrial units, barring plantation, power generation and refineries, which are engaged in production of any items. The MPs belonging to the Region had recently moved the Centre demanding expeditious clearance of the transport subsidy.
Govt move to tackle tea industry problemsBy Our Correspondent GUWAHATI, Nov 24 – Urging the need for taking Indian tea industry to a new height, the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath today said that the Central Government is making sincere efforts to reach out to the problems that have engulfed the industry. He, while substantiating his statement, said that the Union Government is moving ahead with the plan to share certain amount of social security cost, specific to the Indian tea industry only, to inject competitiveness into the plantation sector.The social cost, which is taking its toll on the growth of the Indian tea industry, has been featuring amongst the top demands being repeatedly placed before the respective State Governments and the Central Government.“The burden of social cost, unique to India only, is resulting in additional cost, which is proving detrimental to the growth of the industry,” the Union Minister said, while speaking to the media persons here today during the valedictory function of the India International Tea Convention, which ended here today.The need of sharing some portion of the social cost by the Union Government was also recommended by the committee, which was constituted by the Union Commerce Ministry recently.“We are taking up this matter with the Labour Ministry and the respective State Governments and would try to ensure that something concrete in this regard is materialised soon,” Nath asserted.“At a time when the Indian tea industry is pitted against competitive market scenario, especially from countries like Kenya and China, overburden of any cost would act as a hindrance towards its growth and development,’ the Union Minister pointed out.He further said that the Union Government is also likely to take all the necessary steps to streamline the Transport Subsidy Scheme, which has also been a major cause of concern. The Minister also underlined the need of rejuvenation and replantation plan for all the tea gardens with higher age profile in order to meet the challenges ahead. “We have at least 50 per cent gardens with higher age profile, which is not a encouraging sign for us. We need to overcome this, for which the Central Government has already put in place special replantation and rejuvenation schemes,” informed Nath.“Besides, steps are also being initiated to re-open the closed tea gardens,” he said.Nath went to inform that the Centre, with an aim to improve the marketing of tea, have also decided to modernise the tea auction system. “By early next year, the electronic auction system should become functional,” the Minister hoped, while adding that the new system apart from enlarging the market exposure, would also bring transparency into the state of affairs,” he reiterated. Further, deliberating on the new challenges that lies ahead of Indian brew, the Union Minister while stating that the Indian industry is facing challenges in terms of new markets, which endorses new taste, new flavour and new mixes, pointed, “Past sometimes is not the right model to follow.”Terming the current scenario as an age of changing trend, the Minister cited the example of ice tea, which has caught the craze of international tea market within no time. The Minister also underlined the need for reduction of duty on tea.

5,000 State PSU workers without salary for months
GUWAHATI, Nov 24 — At a time when the Government of Assam has increased the retirement age of its employees to 60 years and assured to constitute a pay commission, more than 5,000 employees of the State Public sector units are not getting their salaries and other dues for months, forcing more than 50 of them to commit suicide out of frustration. The Committee for Struggle to Revive Public Sector Undertakings, Assam, has alleged that the employees of 15 state public sector undertakings have not received their salaries for 50 to 175 months and a number of them breathed their last due to lack of treatment, while, the employees, who have opted for Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), have also not received their full dues. The Committee demanded that the Government should be sympathetic to the sufferings of the employees of the PSUs while giving incentives to the Government employees.Giving certain examples of the sufferings of the employees of the State PSUs, the Committee said that about 290 employees of the Ashok Paper Mills, Jogighopa have not received any salary since October, 1998. Two employees of the Mill committed suicide because of frustration, while, 27 died due to lack of medical treatment. The committee revealed that around 500 employees of Polytex, Jagiroad, have not received any salary for the past 150 months and two of them have committed suicide, while, 21 others died due to lack of treatment. More than 150 employees of Swahid Kushal Konwar Mills are not receiving salaries for more than 160 months, while, more than 500 employees of the Assam Cooperative Sugar Mills, Baruah Bamungaon, are not receiving salaries for more than 140 months. The same is the case with the employees of all the other state PSUs and around 400 of them already died because of lack of treatment.The Committee pointed out that following widespread protests, the Government announced VRS for the employees of a few mills, but in reality, the same was not implemented properly. It alleged that the Government closed down PSUs like the STATEFED, Assam Agro-Industries Development Corporation, Assam Government Construction Corporation etc and offered VRS to its employees, but majority of the employees of those PSUs are yet to get their dues in full because of the apathetic attitude of the Government.The employees of the State PSUs have also threatened to launch a movement if their dues are not cleared immediately.

State announces 3-tier package
GUWAHATI, Nov 24 – It’s curtains for India International Tea Convention but not before Assam, which hosted the prestigious event, announced a three-tier revolution, which would strive to project the State as the natural capital of the world. The new revolution, apart from stressing on sustainable growth of natural resources, would lay special impetus on bringing back the lost glory to the Assam tea in the global market. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, as a step towards achieving the goal, today went on to announce reduction of stamp duty to 5 per cent for women and 6 per cent for others.Gogoi also announced that the concession on agricultural tax for the tea exported from Amingaon ICD would now be Rs 1 per kg, which earlier used to be 50 paise.Regarding the concession on green tea leaf, which was one of the long-standing demands of the tea gardens, Gogoi said: “ As a case pertaining to this is being heard by the Supreme Court, the State Government is not in a position to announce anything in this regard.” “We are no doubt capable of meeting the challenges and the State Government in co-operation with the Centre would leave no stone unturned to create new markets for Assam tea across the globe,” the Chief Minister said, while speaking during the valedictory function of the Indian International Tea Convention here today.Announcing the three-tier revolution in the form of green, blue and clean revolution, the State Power and Industry Minister Pradyut Bordoloi today said, “ While the green revolution would aim at sustainable optimisation of our land, the blue and green revolution would strive for sustainable optimisation of water and technology respectively.” “This apart from ensuring optimum use of our natural resources would go a long in earning us the tag of world’s natural capital, thanks to the unique natural assets we possess,” he opined.“We have begun our silent revolution to attain optimum growth and development and we would soon gain it, provided we keep ourselves on our toes all the time,” the Minister said, while adding, “ We have a stiff challenge ahead of us to recapture the title of best producers and providers of tea in the world.”

Call to promote Assam tea as a beverage
GUWAHATI, Nov 23 – Asserting that tea drinkers worldwide are swearing by novel blend of taste and quality, CS Bedi, chairman, Tea Research Association today stated that Assam tea needs to win certain challenges that lie ahead in order to maintain its presence in the global market, especially pertaining to its taste. Terming seasonal variation as one of the major factors affecting Assam tea’s taste, Bedi said that even though Assam tea has been blessed with an intrinsic taste, there are many aspects that have been totally ignored, which results in variation in the finished product.“If Darjeeling tea is champagne, then Assam tea can easily be termed as the best cognac and brandy, provided certain small but significant aspects of tea production are accorded special interest,” he reiterated. He added, “the market is stable now and there is opportunity for Assam tea to cash in on the demand by way of taking the quality route.” “Quality is what the world is looking. Tea producing countries like Kenya have proved it,” he opined.“The high presence of chlorophyll, thanks to the seasonal variations, is influencing the taste of Assam tea in a big way,” he pointed out, while adding, “ Chlorophyll content is lowest in the month of May to July. That’s when the quality second flush crops come up.” “In search for higher yields, quality breeding programme is totally ignored. As a result, the presence of unique Assam characters diminish. It was need of the hour in 1980s and 1990s. But now things have changed,” Bedi said, while making a power-point presentation on, ‘Assam Tea: A unique proposition’ here at the ongoing India International Tea Convention. “The unique character of Assam tea is being masked by certain things like coarse plucking, use of wrong planting materials, poor handling of leaf, and of course indifferent manufacture.”Meanwhile, while speaking at the same forum, Franz Thiele of Germany called for promoting Assam tea as a beverage.

Assam tea not first choice in UK market
GUWAHATI, Nov 23 – For all those who are nurturing the belief that the Assam tea is enjoying a dream run in countries like United Kingdom, which has always been looked upon as a potential market for the Assam brew, here is an eye-opener. The statistics available with the R Twining and Co Limited, an UK-based organisation, clearly indicate that the total exports of Indian tea to the United Kingdom, of which Assam forms a huge chunk, have been totally flat for the last five years.In fact, the percentage of Assam tea amongst the main UK blends has also remained fairly constant presumably because it is not driven consciously by the preferences of primary consumers like housewives in the UK. “As far as pure Assam blend is concerned, the volume and the value have dropped marginally over the past 12 months,” said Nick Revett of Commodities and Technical Services Director, R Twining and Company Limited. “From the perspective of consumers intention to purchase, Assam tea scores low, especially if you compared them with the other classic and speciality blends,” Revett stated.“One might ask as to whether the consumers in UK really understands the Assam proposition, which for me, would be difficult to answer. But if you ask me as to how the Assam tea is faring in the UK market, I have very less to say. In fact, the best answer would be say that it is doing fair,” he said.“Having said that, the Assam tea has the potential to do better. For this, consumer values should be given priority, which can only be done by striking a producer-packer partnership and a readiness to invest to create areas of differentiation,” Revett opined. “The large percentage of Assam brew that is consumed in the UK is not because of its revered origin but because the UK packers utilise this tea in their major blends just for meeting their brand objectives,” Revett informed.“It is high time for Assam tea and the people concerned with the marketing of Assam tea in the UK, to first focus on the needs of the packers, who are inextricably linked to the consumers in the UK, without which, the platform and identity of Assam tea would continue to remain relatively weak,” suggested Revett. “Any product, in order to gain its ground in competitive market of UK, has to take into consideration aspects like the changing lifestyle, convenience in terms of packing, distribution and availability, and also environment friendliness.”“Moreover, health being the number one concern of the people needs to be given top most priority,” he added.

Int’l tea body readies draft to tackle issues
GUWAHATI, Nov 23 – The International Tea Producers’ Forum (ITPF), floated to address global issues relating to tea, has prepared a draft proposal for framing its constitution, rules and regulation and agreement. The draft proposal was prepared after a close-door meeting here at the India International Tea Convention on Thursday night.The new forum, which will act as controlling body for global tea production, also discussed various core issues pertaining to tea production, marketing and consumption. The draft plan would now be sent to 25 tea producing and consuming countries across the globe seeking approval and suggestion. According to sources, the meeting, though primarily was called to prepare the draft plan, also discussed various challenges concerning tea production worldwide, which the forum plans to address in the future.When asked as to whether the deficiency in taste and lack of wide array of Assam tea, which is one of the major concerns for the Indian tea production, sources said that the concerns of the Assam tea production, though under the umbrella of Indian tea production, did figure during the meeting.“The discussion was largely on country-to- country basis and nothing at length was discussed about any region or tea producing belt,” the sources confirmed. However, sources refused to divulge anything more in this regard, as the draft plan is in a very nascent stage.Though the meeting was physically participated by representatives of India and Kenya only, four other tea producing countries including Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh did sent their proposal in written.Talking to The Assam Tribune, Dunstan M Ngumo, chairman, Tea Board of Kenya, informed that the draft proposal would be sent to all the other tea producing and consuming countries for their approval and also to invite fresh ideas and concerns on any issue by these countries.Pinpointing that the labour issue of the tea industry across the globe did featured during the meeting, Ngumo informed that issues revolving around harmonization of maximum residue levels and their impact on tea consumption.Besides, aspects like international tea sector upgrading were also discussed during the meeting and an assessment of current market situation was also made during the meeting. Speaking on the tea production in Kenya, which is currently, producing arguably the best tea in the world, Ngumo informed: “ Kenya has yielded good crops this season, which was missing due to drought.”“We produce around 300 million kgs of tea annually but our impetus, as always, has been more on quality than quantity,” he said. The next meeting of the forum would take place in China in May 2008, where representatives of all the tea producing countries are expected to meet.

Weaving industry centre opened at Nityananda
PATHSALA, Dec 2 – A weaving industry centre under the aegis of Nityananda-Panbari Mahila Samiti was inaugurated at Nityananda recently.Dr Rabindra Nath Medhi, former vice-principal of Bajali College and Upen Medhi, former president of Nityananda-Panbari GP, inaugurated the section of the centre.Nabakumar Sarma, president Anchalik Unnayan Samiti, Nityananda, presided over the function held on the occasion.Dhruba Nayak, deputy registrar, co-operative, Subhrajyoti Das, inspector, cooperative Barpeta spoke as appointed speakers at the function.
Developing nations must strengthen rural base: expertBy A City Reporter GUWAHATI, Dec 3 – “To attain a sustainable growth, the developing countries would have to direct their investment to the rural sector and strengthen the infrastructure for the grassroot level of population and bridge the gap between different sections of people,” said professor Wen Tiejune – educationist from Beijing – who was on a visit to Guwahati and rural Assam to take an account of the education, economy and overall development in the State. Professor Tiejune, dean of the School of Agriculture and Rural Development at Renmin University, China, along with Dr Lau Kin Chi from Hong Kong visited the Raha, Goroimari, Sohori and Chaparmukh villages in the State with the team of State Resource Centre, Assam and Gyan Vigyan Samity, Assam. “It is said in the western world that the global economy of the 21st century will be driven by BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and three of these countries are located in the Euro Asian Continent. The speciality of these countries is that they have huge and dense populations,” he observed suggesting that these areas need urgent infrastructure construction. “Population can become real capital and contribute to building people’s economy more efficiently,” he said addressing a press meet here on Monday. Outlining the history of development in China, he said that in 1950s, China embarked on industrialisation with very scarce capital but completed it within a very short term. However, among the consequences were polarisation between the rural and the urban, rich and poor, and between the coastal and the hinterland population.“Now, China is readjusting its State strategy, promoting new rural reconstruction. From 2005 to 2010, the investments into rural development including infrastructure, education, social security and others have increased by 15 per cent per year,” he said.Dr Lau Kin Chi, who teaches Cultural Studies Lingnan University, Hong Kong, said that though the rate of development and growth is determined today on the parameters of the western countries, the developing countries need to find out a different concept of development which is more sustainable. “Not necessarily the number of five-star hotels, big shopping malls and nuclear weapons should determine the rate of growth everywhere,” she added.Dr Lau is also the board member of the association ‘Peace Women Across the Globe’. In the year 2005, the association selected 1000 women from all over the world, including 87 from India, who were collectively nominated for the Nobel Prize. Sharing her experience in different parts of the country, Lau said that every region has a problem of its own and similar is the case with India. “We were told about whatever happened here in Guwahati a week back and that truly disturbed us,” she said. “Conflict of any kind, be it ethnic or religious is related to different patterns of development and surely the modern democracy and electoral policy exercise influence on such conflicts like Godhra or Guwahati,” she said. The tour of these two scholars from China was arranged by Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA), a network for scholar activists from over 10 countries in Asia, said Debodutta Borkataki, vice president of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samity, which is also a member of the network.

Special scheme for NE to go on in 11th Plan
NEW DELHI, Nov 30 – The special dispensation for the north-eastern states would continue for the Eleventh Plan Period as well, and the states would contribute 10 per cent for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).The special dispensation for the NE states during 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 would continue for the 11th Plan, whereby each of the states would contribute only 10 per cent as the state’s share and the remaining portion would be met by the Government of India, said Minister of State for Planning, MV Rajasekharan.The NE states had represented about financial difficulties in contributing their stipulated share of 25 per cent under SSA. They have also demanded a uniform pattern of 90:10 for all centrally-sponsored schemes, the Minister said.These states were provided one-time special dispensation during the last two years of the Tenth Plan, whereby they contributed only 10 per cent and remaining 15 per cent was made available from Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources of the DoNER Ministry, the Minister added.It was funding of the SSA from the NLCPR that led to sharp reactions, with most of the states, as well as the Parliamentary Panel objecting to the use of the Pool, constituted to fund development project.

NE-specific economic policy sought
GUWAHATI, Nov 30 – The North East Chamber of Commerce & Industry has demanded a separate economic policy for the Northeast to ensure speedy development of the region.The chamber has written to the Union Finance Minister PC Chidambaram urging the latter to take steps in this regard so that the upcoming entrepreneurs can reap the benefits of the economic development.The chamber, while giving reference to a news item published in a national business daily on November 19, where it said that the Government has given the Reserve Bank of India the approval to put on hold overseas borrowings, said, “The news item has created a sense of panic and uncertainty in the minds of the business community, who have applied for funds through external commercial borrowings.“As the NE is already lagging behind the rest of the country, the Union Ministry must think in the line of drafting a separate economic policy,” stated a press release issued by the chamber.

AASU signs MoU with FASS for NE development
GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – In a bid to enhance the State’s development, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS), which works as a think-tank welfare organisation for the development of the NE region, today entered into an agreement and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Wednesday. The thrust areas for joint venture as propounded by the agreement include the education sector, career-related areas and generation of self-employment. The MoU, signed in presence of the representatives of the Assam Unnati Sabha after an interactive session here, has said in one of its clauses that the FASS would consider the request of the AASU to find out the ways and means for setting up a full-fledged technical university in Assam and to take necessary fruitful steps in this regard.The FASS, which has its international headquarters in Texas, USA and the Indian headquarters in the city, has said in the MoU that it would provide necessary information for studies, training opportunities abroad to the students of the State.It has agreed also to provide information for job opportunities abroad and to conduct workshops to benefit the school, college and university students in the area of career options available globally for gainful employment, to bridge the information gap for the State’s students.Again, the FASS has committed itself to possible cultural exchange programmes of the students and youth of Assam with foreign countries and to provide technical information and guidance for entrepreneurship development among the youths for self-employment.The FASS will rope in people who have settled abroad for interactive sessions to share their experience and expertise with the students of Assam, says another clause of the MoU.The MoU has stated that the AASU will provide necessary information on ground realities of the requirement of the students and youths of Assam. It will also organise necessary workshops, interactive sessions with foreign visitors or experts with the FASS co-ordinating with its pool of contacts abroad.The students’ body will seek and identify means and plans for propagation of education in Assam and will seek encouragement and guidance from the FASS in such matters, while both the parties will publish jointly necessary booklets or information kits on various items mentioned above, says the MoU in one of its clauses.Earlier, Rajen Barua (USA) the Chairman and Managing Director of the international committee of the FASS said during the deliberation that FASS was a non-Government organisation, nor it had any goal for making profit. It has been analysing the factors responsible for the backwardness of the NE region.If positive steps are taken with the right orientation, the NE region has all the potential to emerge as a role model for the other regions of the country. The role of money comes only after the attitude-related issues in this area are tackled with a positive approach, he said.FASS Executive Vice-Chairman Ankur Bora made a presentation on the FASS activities and said that it had helped the growth of many organisations dedicated to the uplift of the people in various parts of the State like Lakhimpur, Dhemaji etc. Several other members of the FASS, including Anurupa Medhi (Australia), Saumarjyoti Deka (Thailand), Kumud Dutta (Canada), Dilip Kumar Dutta and Jayanta Madhav Baruah (both from the city), also spoke on the occasion.The function presided over by AASU president Sankar Prasad Rai, was also addressed by AASU advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya, technocrat Abala Kanta Sarma and academicians Ranjit Narayan Deka, Dr Bhuban Baruah and Dr Umesh Deka.

CM woos Thai team to invest in State
GUWAHATI, Jan 10 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today held a discussion with a high-level Thai delegation led by its Deputy Industry Minister on prospects of Thai investment in the State besides bilateral trade transactions. Exhorting the Thai delegation to invest in sectors like power, road and air connectivity, tourism, tea, coal, oil, etc., the Chief Minister also stressed the need for enhancing greater bilateral business transactions in food-processing, handloom and handicrafts including muga and cane and bamboo. An official release said that the Chief Minister underscored the need for establishing a new relation between the North-east and South East Asia through economic cooperation. He also pointed out the traditional ethnic and cultural ties between the two regions since ages.The Thai Deputy Minister, in his speech, expressed satisfaction at the recent developments that predicted greater trade-related interactions between Thailand and Assam and the North-east. He was also of the view that the Look East Policy of the Government of India had paved the way for accelerated trade and commerce ties between India’s North-east and ASEAN nations including Thailand. State Industry Minister Pradyut Bardoloi gave an account of the measures initiated by the Assam Government in providing the prospective investors with an industry-friendly climate. The Thai delegation expressed satisfaction with the incentives offered by the State Government in wooing private investment to Assam, and assured the State Government that Thailand was keen to expand trade and business ties with Assam.Secretary, DoNER, BS Rao, State Chief Secretary PC Sarma and MK Sahariya of Indian Chamber of Commerce also took part in the deliberations.

Railway decisions leading to price rise of essential items
GUWAHATI, Dec 6 – The Railways have allegedly been making containing prices of the essential commodities in the NE region a tough proposition with their failure to realise the peculiar condition of the region. According to sources in the Supply Department, the Railways, besides withdrawing in 2006, the six per cent transport subsidy, have now introduced several new charges on the items they carry to the region. Moreover, they have also re-classified the goods they carry to revise their tariff rates.The re-classification of the goods done by the railways in March 2006, is feared to result in the hike of transportation cost of the items between 11 per cent and 36 per cent, said the sources.The transport subsidy for the region was applicable since 1983. But the Railways withdrew it unilaterally in 2006. The new charges the Railways have introduced are – busy season surcharge, development levy charge and terminal charge. While the development levy charge is two per cent on the normal tariff rate, the terminal charge is charged at the rate of Rs 10 per ton, said the sources.The busy season charge was introduced with effect from April 1, 2006, while the terminal charge was introduced with effect from July 1 last and the development levy was introduced in the intermediate period. On the withdrawal of the six per cent transport subsidy and introduction of the busy season charge and development levy, an all-party delegation of the State Assembly met the Prime Minister and other Central leaders pleading for re-consideration of the above measures to rein in the prices of essential commodities in the region. But a decision from the Central Government on the issue is still awaited.On issues of withdrawal of the six per cent transport subsidy and introduction of the busy season charge, development levy and re-classification of goods, an all-party delegation of the State Assembly met the Prime Minister and other Central leaders pleading for re-consideration of the above measures to rein in the prices of essential commodities in the region. The secretary level meeting held in the city mid this year, discussed the issue of re-classification of goods and other issues. It was decided in the meeting that the FCI, Food and Public Distribution Department of the Central Government and the State Government would take up the issues with the Railways and the State acted accordingly. The response of the Railways to the pleas made on the issues is yet to be known.The Railways have also introduced the 20 per cent surcharge on railway risk charge with effect from November last on the items booked by the traders with the provision of the Railways owning the risk for the consignments.The State Government is taking up the two issues of terminal charge and railway risk surcharge with the Central Government. The Chief Minister has already sent a DO letter to the Union Government on the issues, said the sources.All these measures on the part of the Railways have hit the food and construction sectors of the State and the region the most. The transportation cost of items to the region is usually higher due to the peculiar location of the region and the single-track facility provided to it by the Railways.Most of the items brought to this region are carried through the railways. Road is mostly used to transport the items produced in the states like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar to the region, said the sources.

Over Rs 70 cr Central fund for tribals unspent
GUWAHATI, Dec 6 – The State Government has failed to utilize Rs 7,058.61 lakh out of a total of Rs 33,663.26 lakh released by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, from 1999-2000 to 2006-07 (as on 31.8.06). Revealing this, Makhan Chandra Doley, secretary general of the Coordination Committee of ST and SC bodies today said that it was a matter of grave concern and regret that such a huge amount of Central grants had been left unspent by the State Government even as the tribal people continued to languish for want of basic needs.Doley also produced documents from the Union ministry, detailing year-wise allocations and utilization by the State. “The failure of the State Government to utilize over Rs 7,000 lakh meant for tribal welfare exposes all its claims of commitment for tribals as hollow. Moreover, a substantial portion of the Rs 26,608.65 lakh, which the State Government had shown as utilized, has actually been misutilized,” Doley said. Citing an instance of non-performance on the part of the State Government, Doley said that it had failed to establish a single Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) for providing quality education to ST students from Class VI to XII, even though the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry had sanctioned funds for the purpose.“It is the so-called tribal leaders of the State that have been depriving the tribals and not the Central Government. Not a single MLA ever raised the issue of the Eklavya model schools in the Assembly. A State like Rajasthan has already set up seven such schools,” Doley said, adding that the MPs of the State, too, had been oblivious to the interests of the backward tribal people of Assam.Urging the State Government to come up with a definite policy for tribals, Doley said that the absence of a specific policy was hampering the implementation of schemes and projects meant for tribal welfare. “The Union Tribal Affairs Ministry has been releasing substantial funds for creation and upgradation of infrastructure in critical areas such as health, education, small-scale industries, forests, forest villages, electrification, drinking water, communication, rural marketing, agriculture, animal husbandry, sport promotion, food processing and vocational spheres, water harvesting, rehabilitation of the displaced, tribal land management, etc., but the utilization has left a lot to be desired,” Doley said, adding that widespread corruption, too, had come in the way of securing more grants.Doley also regretted that the existing reservation system for scheduled tribes and scheduled tribes of the State was still based on the 1971 census, whereas the 2001 census had estimated 51 lakh ST and SC people in Assam. “Under the circumstances, there should be a review of the prevailing reservation system,” he added.

Gogoi’s bid to attract investments
GUWAHATI, Dec 5 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today assured all sort of help to the Swedish, Swiss and Irish authorities in case they show their interest to come forward to invest in tourism, hydroelectric power, solar energy, waterways, herbal medicine etc sectors of the State. He was talking to the visiting Deputy Chief Missions of the three countries at his office chamber here.Disclosing this, an official press release said here that the Chief Minister apprised the Deputy Chief Missions of Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland respectively Anderf Fjoberg, Olaf Kjelsen and Pat Bourne of the eagerness displayed by the private investors and financial institutions to invest in various sectors of the State. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have also shown interest in making investment in the State, he said.He mentioned the sectors such as agriculture, health, education and Information Technology, which have attracted the attention of these investors and financial institutions.The Chief Minister also exuded the confidence before the Deputy Chief Missions that the State would be able to attain self-sufficiency in the power sector in the next few years. Despite the problems caused by terrorism, agitations and strikes, frequent bandhs and natural disasters, among others, the State has been making bold strides ahead and registering development in all the fields, he claimed.He also told the visiting Deputy Chief Missions that the Government had been able to contain the ULFA problem and the militant outfit had already lost its mass base. The Government has by this time organised the Asian Car Rally with an aim at building economic relations with the South Asian countries, he said and made the desire of the Government to re-open the historical Stillwel Road known. He also told the visiting Deputy Chief Missions that though there were diversities among the peoples of the State, a bond of unity had been binding them together and this stood as the remarkable feature of the State’s society.The Deputy Chief Missions told the Chief Minister that for the first time they had been to Assam. They also told him of their desire to visit Shillong, Kaziranga National Park etc places to familiarise themselves with the socio-economic diversity of the region.

Prices of essential items up
GUWAHATI, Dec 5 – Prices of some of the essential items are still going up. The fortnightly survey conducted in the city markets by the State’s Directorate of Economics and Statistics during the second fortnight of November, found the price of the medium variety of rice to be 4.16 per cent higher than what it used to be in the first fortnight of the month. The middle class consumers mostly use this variety of rice. However, it was potato, which outshone the other items in the race to become dearer by being 18.60 per cent costlier compared to the first fortnight of November. Superfine Joha, the variety of rice used mostly by the upper middle class and middle class people was also found to be costlier by 2.95 per cent compared to the first fortnight of the previous month.The price of the big variety of masur dal was also found to be 1.26 per cent higher than what it used to be in first fortnight of that month. The price of the small variety of this dal was also found to be 1.82 per cent higher than the price of the item during the first fortnight of the month. While egg (hen) became costlier by 4.16 per cent, the classless green chilly also became dearer by 6.52 per cent during the second fortnight compared to the prices of the items during the first fortnight of the month, said the price chart prepared by the Directorate. But atta (.79%), moong dal (.97 %), gram dal (.36%), sugar (1.43 %), gur (8.08 %), onion (20%), packet salt (6.82%), packet mustard oil (1.70%), milk powder (3.51%), small variety of fish (5.89%), mutton (1.88%), cabbage (40%), pumpkin (1.89%), Malbhog variety of banana (4.02%) and apple (4.77%) recorded a downward trend in their prices, stated the Directorate chart.

Panel to monitor industrial policy implementation
NEW DELHI, Dec 4 – A 12-member high-level advisory committee has been constituted by Ministry of Commerce and Industry to monitor the implementation of the North East Industrial Investment and Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) 2007. The Committee headed by Secretary in the Department of Policy and Promotion has been set up for monitoring of various schemes under the NEIIPP including release and utilisation of funds, said Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Ashwini Kumar in reply to a question by Dr Arun Kumar Sarma.The Minister further said the high level committee has been mandated to overcome difficulties in implementation of the Policy, which may arise from time to time.The Minister, however, denied that there was delay in implementing the new Policy, claiming that it was notified within six months. Conceding that a number of claims were pending disbursement, the Minister said adequate provisions are required for release of subsidies under various schemes.

NESO seeks special status for NE States
GUWAHATI, Dec 4 – The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has demanded special constitutional status for the NE states and their peoples. It has also demanded introduction of the inner line permit system for all the region’s states.Addressing a press conference here today, NESO chairman Samujjal Bhattacharyya, its secretary general Gumjum Haider and vice president Lalmuampuia Punte apprised the mediapersons that the new executive committee of the students’ body in its first meeting here yesterday, had also demanded an economic commission as well as a special education commission for the region.The NESO, which is a confederation of the students’ organisations of the indigenous peoples of the region, has also demanded a technical university in each of the region’s states and to resolve the boundary disputes among the region’s states, it has also demanded a boundary commission, said the NESO leaders.They further apprised the mediapersons that the federating units of the NESO would observe December 17 as the demand day and send memorandums addressed to the Prime Minister, through their respective Governors that day listing the above demands.The memorandums will also include the demands for an effective mechanism to deport the foreign nationals from the region; updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC); treating region’s flood and erosion as a national problem and steps to develop NE region as a special employment and economic zone. The demands for scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act; utilisation of all natural resources of the region, except uranium; dealing the region’s political issues politically; re-opening the Stillwel Road and reserving the C and D categories of jobs in the region’s Central Government establishments for the local jobseekers will also feature in the memorandums, they said.They resented the tagging of Tripura with Kolkata in matters of passport. The passport facilities for the Tripura people should be made available either at the Guwahati Regional Passport Office or each of the region’s states should be provided with a passport office, they demanded. Moreover, the NESO leaders demanded restoration of democracy in Myanmar to ensure return of its around 70,000 Mizo refugees from Mizoram. They also demanded immediate removal of the present NERIST head Kalyan Kumar for his alleged involvement in plagiarism and restoration of the provision of reservation of 31 per cent of the seats in the Tripura NIT for the tribals.Resenting the practice of keeping vacant a large number of seats meant for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in the NERIST, Itanagar, since its inception, the NESO leaders demanded that the quota of reservation for ST students in the institute should be raised to 46 per cent.Foreign nationals: The NESO leaders resented the way the Assam Chief Minister declared the foreign nationals expelled by Arunachal as Indian citizens. If the NESO demands on foreign nationals are not met, it will take ‘very very aggressive steps’ against the foreign nationals, they warned.Constitutional status: To save the peoples of the region from being uprooted, they said a special constitutional status to these peoples and their states was needed with the rights of these peoples over their own land and natural resources entirely protected. They also need the protection of the inner line permit system to save themselves from the unabated influx of outsiders, said the NESO leaders. The peoples of the region are being marginalized and their rights over their land and resources are under serious threat due to influx of people from other parts as well as outside the country. Chakmas: The NESO leaders also demanded relocation of the Chakma refugees of Arunachal Pradesh in other parts of the country in case the Indian Government wanted to grant them citizenship. The Chakmas are propagating in a rapid pace and it is feared that they will outnumber the aboriginal peoples of Arunachal in 2020, said the NESO leaders.

Muga sector incurs heavy loss
GUWAHATI, Dec 7 – Failure of the Central Silk Board’s (CSB) summer muga crop known as the Bhadiya crop, has hit the muga farmers hard this winter. Official circles anticipate the total loss to the muga sector to be around Rs 15 crore this year. Weather-related problems are cited to be the cause of the disaster. However, farmers and dealers contest the version of the authorities and claim that loss to the sector would be around Rs 50 crore.But whatever may be the explanations for the calamity, it is an undeniable fact that this tragedy has struck the muga sector in the year in which this golden silk yarn of the State could secure the geographical indication rights.According to sources in the State Directorate of Sericulture, the loss would have been much higher had there been no attempt on the part of the Directorate and the CSB to make it up with some urgent measures. The initial loss to the winter crop known as Katiya (autumn), was 50 per cent. And due to the steps taken by the Directorate and the CSB, the loss could now be reduced to 25 per cent, said the sources.The State’s target for the annual raw muga production this time was set to be 120 metric tonnes (MTs). But due to the developments during the summer season, it is expected now that the production of the raw golden silk will be restricted this time to 90 MTs. And hence, the loss the sector will incur this time is estimated to be around Rs 15 crore, said the Directorate sources.Farmers and dealers allege that despite there being the scope for collecting the Bhadiya crops from the individual farmers, neither the CSB nor the Directorate of Sericulture took urgent steps to involve the farmers for the purpose. The reason is best known to the authorities of these agencies, alleged the farmers.Muga seeds grow in a cycle of Jethuwa (pre-summer) – Bhadiya (summer) – Katiya (autumn) – Jaruwa (winter). Failure in a particular season leads to failure in the successive seasons and finally to the loss to the annual muga yarn production. Each of the seasons is also divided into two – early and late. For the producers it is also important that the authorities concentrate on making up the loss faced in a particular part of a season, said the farmers.The farmers are now collecting the late Katiya seeds from the individual farmers and dealers. But they have been able to collect only a very meagre quantity of seeds. Moreover, the farmers are not to benefit much from this variety of seed. Regrettably, the Directorate of Sericulture, which should have been primarily responsible for supplying the muga seeds, has developed the habit of depending on the CSB in such matters. When the Bhadiya crop failed, it showed no urgency in adopting measures to prevent the imminent disaster. It woke up very late from its slumber and started collecting the late Katiya seeds from the individual farmers to save the situation, alleged the farmers and the distributors.

BTC poised for power self-sufficiency
GUWAHATI, Dec 9 – The laying of the foundation of the 4 MW Champamati hydropower project in Chirang district on December 3 could mark the beginning of an era of power sufficiency in the entire Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) area, with the BTC authorities embarking on an ambitious programme of power generation through small hydel projects. “The Champamati project is a milestone in the sense that it is the first such endeavour in public private partnership (PPP) in the North-east. Our aim is to be a self-sufficient power zone, which can be achieved by tapping rivers such as Sonkosh, Pagladia, Ai, Beki, Borolia, etc.,” Kampa Borgoyari, deputy chief of BTC told The Assam Tribune. Borgoyari revealed that the BTC, with the help of its consulting agency Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS), would soon be implementing three more projects at Borolia, Rupahi and Pohumora in Baksa district. “These three, like Champamati, are existing irrigation schemes, and we plan to utilize the excess water through small hydel projects,” he said. Borgoyari also said that the BTC was keen to renovate the Bhairabkunda project on the Dhansiri river in Udalguri district. “It has been in a defunct state and we want to renovate and make it functional again,” he said. The Rs 32-crore Champamati project is expected to be completed in 18 months. While the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation (NEFDi) has provided financial assistance for the project, ECI Engineering and Construction Ltd of Hyderabad, the selected private partner, would provide 7.5 per cent free power to the BTC and also work towards local area development.“The Champamati project is a PPP initiative, and ECI Engineering and Construction Ltd of Hyderabad was selected for implementation of the project after proper bidding,” Borgoyari said. For the Champamati project, 4 MW of power was conceived and all preparatory works like preparation of DPR, purchase of power, transmission and evacuation approval, clearances, etc., were taken up with help of the IL&FS. According to Borgoyari, the thrust of the BTC was also on attracting private investment for expediting development of the area. “We have made a beginning with Champamati, and we want to convey the message that the BTC would provide all support to prospective private investors to make the BTC an investor-friendly region,” he said.

Panbari oranges find way into Bangla market
PANBARI, Dec 9 – Despite the crippled marketing system in the State, a group of orange growers of Panbari village near Sonapur in Kamrup district has been able to woo the buyers of Bangladesh. The Panbari orange has now become a brand identity in the Bangladesh market. “For the first time we have exported several consignments to Bangladesh via Shillong,” Rajani Das, a physically challenged farmer told this correspondent. The farmers who had to get his left leg amputated following an injury, said that this year, the Panbari farmers have found a good market across the country too. “As we cultivate organic orange without using any chemical fertilizer, our products enjoy good demand in the market,” Rajani said.The 40-year-old farmer has been the instrumental in motivating the Panbari villagers towards orange cultivation. And now, nearly 300 villagers of Panbari are involved in orange cultivation to run their households.“I started cultivation on 80 bighas of land in 2000, but considering the upswing in market and demand for organic oranges, I have expanded my orchard upto 120 bighas. Our farmers have got good returns from their respective orchards,” he said. The farmerhas so far received Rs 30,000 from his orchard..Rajani is not alone. Dadhi, Lakhi and Dilip have also sent consignments to Bangladesh and other parts within the country. They are very happy with the response from the customers.“I have a 50-bigha orange orchard on a hillock and my products have attracted a good number of customers,” Dadhi said. According to him as the demand for organic orange has been increasing across the globe, the authorities concerned should be more pro-active to motivate the farmers of Panbari. “Had we got good support, we could have increased our yield,” Lakhi and Dilip unequivocally said. The duo has been cultivating for the last five years. But this year response from the market has encouraged them to increase their cultivation areas. “We are planning to increase our plantation areas with some investments,” they informed.In Panbari, there are about 600 bighas of orange orchard. These orchards are scattered in different places. Since the demand for organic products has been increasing in the world, more and more youths are now keen to involve in this field. According to available statistics, the State produces 60,000 MT orange annually in which Tinsukia district contributes the lion’s share. In Kamrup district , people cultivate orange in Sonapur, Khetri and Panbari.

Panel recommends modern industrial parks
GUWAHATI, Dec 8 – The committee constituted by the State Government to review the Assam State Industrial Policy-2003 for preparing it to play a supplementary role to the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP)-2007 today submitted its report to Pradyut Bardoloi, Minister of Industry and Commerce. The committee, in its report, has asked the Government to accord highest priority to promotion of clusters in the State and to set up of at least one modern industrial park/estate in each district. Government efforts apart, it also urged the Government to encourage the private sector to develop industrial infrastructure. Calling for putting in place a comprehensive single-window clearance Act with district-level and State-level empowered committees for expeditious clearance of projects with provision for deemed approval and self-certification, the committee, however, held that no legislation would bring the desired changes unless the officials changed their mindsets. “Therefore, extensive training of officials of all departments concerned must be carried out,” it said.Other major recommendations of the committee include further liberalization of the VATexemption scheme, as “this is the most useful subsidy for entrepreneurs.” In addition, it called for exemption of eligible units from electricity duty, luxury tax, entry tax, and stamp duty and registration fees. Other suggested incentives relate to fiscal subsidy on term loan interest, power bill and drawal of power line, and quality upgradation/technical know-how. “There should be higher incentives to large projects by FDI and NRI.” The report identified market linkage as one of the critical factors for development of the micro and small-scale sector. “Moreover, Assam should take advantage of the Look East Policy of the Government of India. There should be assistance to the MSME sector for taking part in trade fairs in India and South East Asia,” it said. Recommendations also include extensive simplification in matters of land allotment, power connection, pollution control board approvals, industrial registration, etc., for minimizing the time to start an industry. It was suggested to remove the system of inspector-raj. The committee further called for creation of a State investment promotion board headed by the Chief Minister for regular review of the industrial policy and development of the industry sector. Submitting the report, president of the committee Abhijit Baruah said that its objectives were to generate employment through an accelerated process of industrialization; to increase the share of the industrial sector in the SDP to at least 18 per cent; to encourage youths, especially the women, to set up industries; to attract FDI and investments from NRIs; and to increase export of products and services from the State particularly to the neighbouring South East Asian countries. The committee felt that in order to achieve the objectives, the strategy must involve creation of quality infrastructure, encouragement to investment by fiscal incentives and tax concessions, facilitating market access, quick approval of projects, and an industry-friendly administration.

Workshop on fruit processing
GUWAHATI, Dec 7 – Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) organised a two-day workshop on “export oriented fruit processing industry” in the city recently. The objective of the workshop was to appraise the participants on the opportunities in the food processing sector and export potential through value addition.NB Narjaree, general manager, SIDBI, wellcomed all the participants on behalf of the organisers and urged the participants to take full advantage of the workshop. In his inaugural address, David Sinate, general manager, Exim Bank, head office, Mumbai, delineated the advantages of the NER in cultivation of fruits such as passion fruit, oranges and pineapples, and that the organic cultivation could command higher price realisation in the global markets. Sinate briefed the audience on Exim Bank’s pioneering role in facilitating agri-exports from the region and the creation of an agri-portal by the bank to address specific requirements of the sector.KN Hazarika, chairman-cum-managing director, North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd. (NEDFi), dwelt on the potential and strengths of the fruit processing industry in the North Eastern region and observed that initiatives should be taken to take the industry from its nascent stage to synergising the efforts of cultivators, entrepreneurs, industry experts and financial sector, in order to organise in various locations in the region which can avail common facilities of post-harvest production and enable flow of technology, marketing and finance in a structured manner.

57 blocks on offer, 1 in Assam
NEW DELHI, Dec 13 – A total of 57 blocks, including one in Assam, are on offer for exploration of oil and gas under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) VII. Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Murli Deora formally announced this here today.The Blocks on offer includes 19 blocks in deepwater, nine blocks in shallow waters and 29 blocks onland.The blocks on offer in Assam is down from what had been offered in previous bids. The A-type block offered in NELP VII is Assam-Arakan and covers an approximate area of 363 square Km.The Assam-Arakan Basin is described as a polycyclic basin. The shelf part of the basin spreads over the Brahmaputra and Dhansiri Valley. While self to basin slope part lies below the Naga Thurst and basinal part is occupied by the Naga Schuppen belt and Cachar-Tripura-Mizoram-Manipur fold belts. This is a proven petroliferous basin covering about 1,16, 000 sq km, the offer said.Earlier, the Minister said development of E&P sector has been significantly boosted through NELP Policy, which brought major liberalization in the sector and opened up private and foreign investment, where 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is allowed. Under NELP, so far, 49 discoveries have been made by private and joint venture (JV) companies in 15 blocks. In the first six rounds of NELP, expected investment is of the order of USD 8 Billion. Oil and Oil-Equivalent Gas (O+OEG) in place reserve accretion under NELP is approximately 600 million metric tonnes including world-class gas discovery by Reliance Industries Limited and Niko Resources in KG basin.Indian sedimentary basins are still poorly explored in terms of well density, which means, higher opportunity for the E&P companies and more chances to get oil and gas in the country, the Minister said.The NELP provisions regarding gas provide freedom to market and pricing on market determined basis, on Arms length principles, Deora added.The NELP VII bid is scheduled to close on April 11, next year, while it would take about six month for the entire process to be completed.Early this year, an Indian and a Canadian exploration consortium announced investment USD 100 million in exploring two new reserves of crude oil and natural gas in Assam and Nagland. Assam Company Limited (ACL) and Canadian petro giant, Canoro Resources Limited, struck oil and natural gas at two blocks in Amguri and Changpang in Nagaland. According to officials, preliminary estimates of the two reservoirs has been put at 3,100 barrels of oil equivalent per day, and 1 12 million cubic feet of gas per day.

8000 MT NRL diesel for Bangla
GUWAHATI, Dec 12 – The Brahmaputra waterways has once again received a shot in the arm as the Numaligarh Refinery is exporting its first consignment of diesel to Bangladesh tomorrow by using the waterway. The consignment comprising about 8000 MT of diesel will be exported from Silghat in Nagaon district to Bangladesh. Meanwhile four vessels have been placed in Silghat to carry forward the deal. Bangladesh has provided two vessels-Hang Gang and Darasaku while NRL has procured two local vessels.Though the deal was inked between Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited in May last, it took some time for port clearance. As per the deal, Bangladesh will import 1.20 lakh MT of high speed diesel per annum. Bangladesh total demand for petroleum products is 2.2 million tonne per annum and it is met by importing from Gulf countries. But, the Bangladesh Government has come forward to buy diesel from Assam to avoid high transportation cost.It is learnt that the Numaligarh Refinery has set a target of exporting about 10,000 MT of diesel to Bangladesh per month. The refinery is learnt to have explored avenues to market its products the neighbouring countries.It may recalled that the Numaligarh Refinery had also initiated similar kind of deal with Myanmar. But, it did not fructify due to price factor. Myanmar wanted diesel at a cheaper rate.Experts who are closely monitoring the deal have observed that it would give a fresh impetus to the export to the region. “ This will be a win-win situation for both India and Bangladesh that will further economic ties between the countries,” they added. Providing more information in this regard, the experts opined that fully utilization of Brahmaputra waterways could give a major boost to the local industries in the region. “The local entrepreneurs can explore the Bangladesh market by using the river route,” they said. To explore the optimum potential of waterways, the Centre has already prepared a roadmap connecting Myanmar and Bangladesh so as to benefit the local traders.

Yatra to focus on development of rural areas of NE
GUWAHATI, Dec 11 – Striving for overall rural prosperity through the vehicle of non-government organisation (NGO) sector, the Assam chapter of the Confederation of NGOs of Rural India (CNRI) is commencing its ‘Bharat Vikas Yatra’ for the North Eastern States, including Sikkim, on December 11.The idea of initiating the ‘yatra’ was floated at a national conference held in New Delhi recently, which proposed the need for providing an opportunity to the member of the NGOs to have a broad exposure to the idea and innovative suggestions put across by experts dealing with science and technology.“During the conference, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and his team of scientists explained the manner and method by which the NGOs can get themselves involved in science and technological activities at the grass-root level for the benefit of the younger generation in the rural areas.The yatra, which started on November 15, will cover the entire country through 15 States by January 5,” informed SK Bordoloi, president of CNRI, Assam State chapter and regional co-chairman while speaking in a press conference here at the Guwahati Press Club today. Noted economist Dr Jayanta Madhab will flag off the ‘yatra’ from the Kanaklata Barua Auditorium of Assam State Museum at 11 in the morning.“The rural areas of our country, more so in the Northeast, have not yet been exposed to science and technology. We, through this effort, have vowed to deepen, strengthen and intensify the benefit of it in such a fashion to cater to the people at the grass-root level,” Bordoloi pointed out. The yatra is being carried out with sponsorship support of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. “Be it in the field of agriculture, animal husbandry, food-processing, fisheries ... we want to upgrade the skills as well as the market opportunities in the rural areas,” he stated. “Besides, there would be a host of other topics that would be covered by the participants of the yatra,” Bordoloi asserted.Moreover, special stress would be laid on inculcating the values of education, preventive and curative health, avoidance of tobacco and other harmful drugs and the need of using safe drinking water. “The idea is to unite the people for the emergence of an inclusive society. In Northeast, the yatra would cover Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Sikkim in co-ordination with the authorities of all the respective States,” Bordoloi said and added that “The yatra will end with a closing ceremony at Guwahati on December 26.” After the State teams complete the yatra in the respective areas, selective representatives from various States will assemble in Delhi for debriefing and experience sharing session to be held on January 3 to January 5.

Tea growth picked up during 2001-’06
GUWAHATI, Dec 18 – Domestic production of tea in India steadily rose from a 100 million kg in 1905 to about 853 million kg in 2001, registering a growth rate of 2.1 per cent. Beginning with a moderate compounded growth rate of 2.18 per cent during 1905-1965, the pace of growth increased rapidly during 1965-1980, which experienced the highest growth rate of three per cent. Between 1980 and 2000, the growth rate slowed down and was two per cent. In the last five years (2001-06), the pace of growth picked up once again, registering a growth of 2.3 per cent. These, and many other insights into the growth of the tea industry, find a place in a report ‘Indian Tea Industry: The Next Frontier’ prepared jointly by Indian Tea Association (ITA) and YES BANK. Another noticeable trend in production is the shift in pattern from orthodox to CTC. In the 1960s, India was predominantly an orthodox tea producing country, with the orthodox variety accounting for 57 per cent of total tea production. While the ratio was 46:54 in the north, the south was almost entirely into orthodox production, mainly because regions such as Nilgiris and high ranges were eminently suitable for orthodox tea cultivation. However, over the past few decades, most tea producers have shifted to CTC tea manufacturing. This was because domestic demand since the mid-70s was essentially for the CTC variety. Further, export demand from CIS countries (traditionally orthodox consuming nations) after the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 and the economic downturn that followed, was increasingly for the cheaper CTC variety. CTC cultivation was also lucrative as against the orthodox method of production since the former method yielded higher cuppage. This was due to the constraint on stepping up land under cultivation. Cost of production for the CTC variety was also lower by Rs 8-10 a kg. As per 2005 data, orthodox production accounts for about ten per cent of total tea produced within the country. The ration is now 6:94 in the north and 20:80 in the south. While orthodox production declined at a CAGR of 2.3 per cent between 1990 and 2003, the production of green tea decreased at a CAGR of 4.2 per cent between 1990 and 2002, the report notes. This shift to CTC cultivation, though lowered the production cost, had a negative impact on exports, especially when Russia, India’s largest export destination, slowly began reverting to the orthodox variety after an economic recovery.
Revamp DoNER, NEC: AiyarFrom Our Spl. Correspondent NEW DELHI, Dec 18 – With the Centre drawing up plans to pump in more funds into the North Eastern Region, Minister, Development of North Eastern Region, (DoNER), Mani Shanker Aiyar underlined the urgent need for a major revamp of his Ministry and the North Eastern Council (NEC). While the initiative to energise the DoNER has gained momentum, the Minister said his Ministry is now ready to play the role of ambassador of the North Eastern States (NES) in Delhi.Aiyar has been reviewing the various initiatives taken during the year at the third plenary meeting of the NEC that concluded here this evening.Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Aiyar said that as a result of the intensive revision, they are in a position to assert that there should be a major revamp of the DoNER and NEC to tackle the new role given to his Ministry.“If DoNER is to live up to its name, then it is not enough to be it should be disbursing Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR). We should advocate on behalf of the NES with the line ministries,” he said.The practice so far is that the line ministries unilaterally decide on spending the budgetary allocations.“If we have to act as the ambassador of the NES, then we require considerable strength and involvement,” he said, justifying the need to augment his ministry.The Ministry's statement is significant because in September, a similar proposal to increase the strength of DoNER has been rejected.About the NEC, the Minister said that the body has to become a major channel for development of the region. However, he acknowledged that long delay in clearance of projects and disbursement of funds was a problem area.He said the Rs 1200 crore disbursed through his Ministry is peanuts compared to the Rs 84,000 crore budget of Government of India. The Minister also advocated the involvement of the State Government in planning inter and intra projects.“Currently, there are no effective participations of the NES in final stages of clearance of these projects,” he said. Meanwhile, the Minister announced that the ambitious Vision 2020 document would be formally adopted at a special session of the NEC proposed to be held in Shillong. The document, being described as a 'peoples document' together with a document on poverty eradication would become a ‘road map’ for development of the region, he said.The Minister said the Vision 2020 document has been prepared after consulting 50,000-60,000 people in the region. A committee has been appointed to review the final draft. Further, the Minister said the NES have also been asked to prepare their own Vision documents, which would incorporate with the Vision 2020 document prepared by the NEC.The NEC plenary meeting also reviewed the outcome of the eight sectoral meetings held this year, besides the business summit organised by Ministry DoNER. An Action Taken Report prepared by the Ministry was also discussed at the meeting.Next year, three more meetings would be held. The summit on agriculture and animal husbandry and allied services would be held at Agartala, followed by a review meeting of the North East Industrial Investment Promotion Policy.Another meeting is proposed at the North East Regional Institute for Land and Water Management at Tezpur in March. A similar meeting is also proposed in Silchar.

Andhra example may help NE
GUWAHATI, Dec 18 – The Indian state does not know how to connect civil society initiatives with governance. This was the observation made by noted political scientist Prof Haragopal of Hyderabad University. He was taking part in an interactive session with the students and teachers of the Gauhati University (GU) Political Science Department here today. Prof Haragopal was one of those intellectuals who brought the Naxalite parties and the Government of Andhra Pradesh to the negotiating table.He also maintained that the Indian state was handling the NE region through the region’s neo-rich class, which is de-linked from the people. This has created a real problem for the region. Moreover, the traditionally cohesive tribal societies of the region are also ruptured, he said.Prof Haragopal, who was speaking on the Naxalite movement of Andhra Pradesh and insurgency problems of NE region, held that lessons of the civil society initiatives in Andhra Pradesh to bring both the State Government and the Naxalite parties to the negotiating table had relevance for NE region.It needs mention here that Prof Haragopal was involved with both the Civil Liberties Group and the Committee of Concerned Citizens. The Committee of Concerned Citizens was formed after the Civil Liberties Group split on ideological grounds following a peace initiative. Members of the Committee laboured for about seven years to bring the Naxalite parties and the Government to the negotiating table. However, the process failed due to the complicacies involved in it. Prof Haragopal maintained that the Andhra Pradesh initiatives had taught three lessons. These include— even the most radical groups could be brought to dialogue; the role of weapon could be reduced significantly by bringing politics to the fore and the civil society can play a role in achieving all these goals, he said.On the abhorrence of the NE people towards the rest of the country vis-à-vis the image of the region in other Indian regions, he said that people of the region consider the Indian Government as their adversary. For them, rest of India means CRPF and security forces. On the other hand, the region is regarded to be an insurgency and violence-dominated one in other parts of the country. Most of the NE people do not know that a number of people sympathetic to them are there in the rest of India, while for many in the other parts, the warm-hearted people of the region still remained unknown, he said.Commenting on the growing tendency in the movements to take to violence, he said that the political leaders should take up politics seriously. Politics is the science to analyse and solve the problems. When the society’s ability to solve the problems creatively is crippled, violence starts taking the drivers seat within the movements, observed Prof Haragopal.On the ethnic conflicts of the region, he said that newer identities were seen asserting for their rights. Identities are getting multiplied in the region in a rapid manner. And while defining its identity, every group tries to find an adversary, who may be another ethnic group in its neighbourhood or the Government.Those studying conflicts should find out the commonalities in the ethnic movements and view the conflicts arising out of such movements as tools to focus on creative relations among the peoples. While doing so, one should be careful enough to reduce the dominance of violence over such movements gradually. The main concern of the political scientists should be on ensuring progress with least number of deaths, said the political scientist.

Foreign fruits make fast inroad in city
GUWAHATI, Dec 21 – With the purchasing power of the Guwahatians taking a leap and the consumer preferences fast changing, foreign fruit brands are making fast inroads into the Northeast market.Imported fruit and vegetable items from countries like China, Thailand, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, England and Afghanistan have already emerged as the most sought after food stuffs, giving the local products a run for their money.Be it the juicy Kiwi fruits of New Zealand, sweet Chinese Fuji apple, guava of Thailand, green apple and red plum of Chile, pomegranate of Afghanistan or papaya of Johannesburg, food buffs are swearing by it all. “The people here, particularly in the cities, prefer imported varieties of fruits.“The Fuji apple of China and the imported Kiwis are already very popular because of their taste.“There is a huge demand for these foodstuff. At the moment, we have not been able to meet the demand,” says a storekeeper who operates in Guwahati’s Pan Bazar area.“Demand for the English varieties of vegetables like broccoli, cherry tomato, red cabbage, red and yellow bell pepper and baby carrot are going up and adding variety to everyday shopping list,” he said. An official of Naturefirst, an organization selling these fruits at many shopping malls says, “The consumers, particularly in Guwahati and Shillong, prefer these new varieties. As the price is a bit high, most of the consumers belong to the rich category.” “Yes, we have not been able to meet the market demand of such fruits and vegetables, but things are improving as more and more people are getting involved in this business,” the official said.“Because of rising demand of these varieties, many entrepreneurs have started orchard of their own and are selling these organic varieties. Fruits, particularly the Kiwi fruit, are also being cultivated in Arunachal Pradesh and are being sold in the city markets,” the official informed. “As the market grows, the price of these products would also come down. If everything goes all right, foreign fruits and vegetables would dominate the city market in a year or two,” he added.

Pramila’s bid to boost agri sector growth
GUWAHATI, Dec 21 – Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma has made an appeal to State’s farming community to devote themselves more to ensure growth of the agriculture sector. Brahma who has now been constantly making tours to the rural areas to asses the situation and the boost the morale of the farmers, has emphasised on more production of paddy, wheat, pulses, potato etc. Different schemes under the National Food Security Mission are under implementation in the State currently, she said.The Agriculture Department, at the behest of the Minister, has launched a massive field visit programme-Goanoloi bolok abhijan, and the Minister is also taking part in the mission these days evincing keen interest in it.She visited the rural areas of Darrang and Udalguri districts yesterday along with Directors of the Agriculture and Horticulture and Food Processing Departments Dr Prasanta Kalita and Dr Harshajyoti Barooah respectively. BTC Executive Member and BTC Director of Agriculture and senior officers also accompanied the Minister, said a press release here.

Japanese transport firm to invest in State
GUWAHATI, Dec 20 – Kage Transportation Limited, a leading Japanese firm, has chalked out a plan to invest 6 to 8 million yen in the State. To carry forward its plan, the firm has already conducted a feasibility study.Tetsuya Kage, president of the Kage Transportation Limited, while addressing a press conference here today, said that the firm is keen to invest in the transportation sector in order to gear up the communication system in the State. Kage is working in active participation with the Ministry of External Affairs, Japan in order to launch his Mottanai Transportation model on an experimental basis in Assam with an initial investment of around 6 to 8 million yen. This concept is basically aimed to help small farmers to sell their agriculture produce by collectively contributing to the fuel cost of transportation.“Under this business model, a few trucks would be sponsored which would be utilised five days a week for commercial purpose and two days for social cause,” said professor B Bhattacharya of Darwin School of Business. “This system would link the farmers from one end to the other end of the State, which would enable them to sell their goods to even far away places at minimum transportation cost,” he added. “The Japanese businessman is also working on a project plan for micro farmers and interested volunteers are invited to participate in the project,” he added. Darwin school of Business is the Indian partner for this project. In needs to be mentioned here that the Tetsuya Kage is associated with many organizations working for social cause. A consultant for Bijiranthia Community Business, Japan, Kage runs a project called Smile Care Services devoted towards helping physically challenged people. During this visit also, he gave a free IBM laptop to a member of the Assam Shishu Kalyan Sadan, a 50-year-old orphanage in the city.

Gogoi for change in funding pattern
NEW DELHI, Dec 19 – Reiterating his plea to change the funding pattern of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi cautioned that the decreasing borrowings from small savings might force Assam to go in for bigger market borrowings, affecting the financing of the plans. Addressing the 54th National Development Council (NDC), Gogoi dwelt at length on the 11th Plan and financial implications of implementing it on the State resources. He also called for fulfilment of the pending demands.Drawing the attention of the Centre on the recommendations of the Working Group on State Resources, Gogoi said that it was of the opinion that the size of normal Central assistance relative to that of the approved annual plans has become low in the case of both the Special and Non-special Category States. The Working Group had recommended that NCA has to be stepped up substantially and the current practice of incremental growth by a marginal amount each year has to be replaced by a substantial step-up.The calculation of aggregate resources to finance the plan has been made on the basis of the situation obtaining at present when goods and service tax (GST) has not been introduced. The GST is likely to come into effect from April 1, 2010 and this would affect the projected level of aggregate internal resources that the State can generate for financing the plan.The Central Pay Commission report, which is expected shortly, is likely to have an impact on the internal resources of the State. In view of the decreasing borrowings from small savings, the State might be forced to go in for bigger market borrowings, which would also affect the financing of the plan, he said.These factors, Gogoi said needed to be taken into account as far as financing of the plan is concerned.Gogoi lamented that Assam has been finding it difficult to provide the State share against various CSS without materially affecting the allocations for other important development sectors like agriculture. The State Government has been requesting for a change in the funding to a uniform pattern of 90:10 for all schemes for the Special Category State.The Chief Minister advocated that the change should be affected during the 11th Plan period at the earliest. This would enable the State Government to attract more funds under the central sector schemes, he said.He referred to the revised norms framed by the Planning Commission for providing funds under Rastriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, based on which Assam has been declared ‘not eligible’ for the programme during 2007-2008 and is likely to be deprived of the essential funding for improving the agriculture economy in the State.Referring to another problem area, the power sector, the Chief Minister underlined the need to increase the generation capacity, which is only 16 per cent of the present peak requirement. Transmission and distribution network has to be strengthened to deliver benefit to all sectors of development.The existing non-functional generation units are to be made functional and new power generation plants are required to be established for which there is enough potential.Suitable policy interventions should be made, if necessary, so that surplus power generated through mega projects in the North Eastern Region should be first made available on priority to the deficit States of the Region before its evacuation to outside States, Gogoi demanded. Unveiling the State Government’s strategy for uniform development of the State, he said State Government wants to develop industry all over the State to prevent migration from rural areas and consequent congestion of existing urban centres. “To support this strategy we would have to develop the growth centres all over the State and to impart new skills to the local manpower to sustain this development,” he said.Gogoi said new technology to extract more oil and from known and depleted reserves is to be encouraged. “Assam offers enough opportunities, which are to be exploited and we would like to work with Government of India to exploit these resources of the State for the economic benefit”, Gogoi said.On development of surface links, Gogoi said that the State Government proposed to complete 2000 km of road under the PMGSY. He claimed that in the last fiscal 1544 km of road length was completed, as against 565 km the previous year.

Tea intake growth down, says report
GUWAHATI, Dec 23 – Notwithstanding the fact that tea is the leading national drink in India and is consumed in prodigious quantities across the country, the growth in domestic tea consumption slowed down from 5.3 per cent in the 1960s and the 1970s to about 3.4 per cent in 1995-2005. Indian Tea Industry: The Next Frontier, a report prepared jointly by the Indian Tea Association (ITA) and YES Bank, reveals many interesting facets relating to the growth of the industry over the decades.“Tea was not able to grow value as rapidly as volume because of intense competition, supply chain issues and aggressive unorganised sales. Per capita consumption of the tea-drinking population rose from 0.82 kg in 1996 to 0.9 kg in 2006 at a slow CAGR of 0.97 per cent. The slow growth in per capita consumption levels has also been partly on account of the increased consumption of the high cuppage-yielding CTC tea,” the report states. The report notes that unlike coffee, tea has still not attained a premium image, which would make it less price sensitive. It is not seen as a lifestyle beverage and hence the willingness to experiment with flavours or varieties such as green tea remains low for most consumers. At an estimated 1,82,000 tonnes, standard tea accounts for more than 85 per cent of the total tea consumed in India during 2005. However, tea bars are slowly emerging in India with a few being launched in select cities to promote tea consumption in the country. Tea bars aim to attract those who prefer exclusive surroundings and are fans of gourmet tea. Packaged tea, which represents the organized sector of the tea industry, registered a 4.6 per cent compounded annual growth between 1986 and 2005, rising from 113 million kg in 1986 to 265 million kg in 2005. This growth was higher than the overall growth in tea consumption during the same period. The period also saw the share of packaged tea sales in total consumption registering an impressive rise – from 26 per cent of total consumption in 1986 to around 35 per cent in 2005. The report further states despite tea’s status as the leading national drink, manufacturers and retailers struggle to grow consumption for branded and packaged tea due to the strong presence of the unorganised channel. Packaged tea demand, which is price sensitive at the lower end of tea segments, was adversely affected during 1998-99 following the imposition of an eight per cent excise duty, as consumers shifted back to loose tea. However, with the withdrawal of the excise duty in the 1999-2000 Budget, the packaged tea segment staged a recovery.

Bid to promote pisciculture in Tinsukia district
Tinsukia, Dec 24 – To strengthen the rural economy of the district, the Fishery department has taken the initiative to train some entrepreneurs and help them to get finance from the department for the development of the existing non-viable ponds as well as to give them an opportunity to enter into pisciculture in the rural areas. And for this instead of going in a big way the department has started a project by creating clusters in the viable areas under the scheme of Common Interests Group (CIG). It has already formed 11 such CIGs consisting of 10 to 20 persons in a cluster or CIG, in different locations of the district. Each member of the cluster is being provided necessary training, technical guidance and items like fingerlings, fodder, lime, potash etc in quantities the size of which depends upon the size of the ponds of the members, by the department. The funds for these activities have been provided from the World Bank schemes. These fisheries termed as Single Stocking Single Harvesting (SSSH) i.e. the products of each batch of fingerlings are harvested after ten months and new batches of fingerlings would be cultured after cleaning the ponds. In Tinsukia district, the farmers or the beneficiaries of this scheme under the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness programme have already started to get profits by selling their products in the local markets with its growing demand for local fishes. The products of the fisheries situated in Sadiya subdivision have more demands in neighbouring districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The areas of the district in which such clusters have been formed are, Digboi, Kakopathar, Margherita Chapakhowa, and Hapjan.Youth takes up floriculture: Mintu Chetia, a youth of Motapung, Barekuri village 4 km from Makum and 14 km from Tinsukia has taken floriculture and nursery as business. He has started doing the floriculture business in the district about 7 years back and struggled to remain in the business competing with the flowers that used to be brought from Kolkata by the local businessmen. After successful venture of Floriclture, he started nursery and medicinal plants. Presently with a group of local youths of the area and with the help of All Assam Students’ Union as well as of Asom Unnati Sabha started papaya farming in 175 bighas. He earns about Rs 3 lakh 5 lakh per year. He earns an amount of Rs 20,000 every year at the time of Deepawali by selling marigold alone.Some of the flowers he used to produce are marigold, Rajanigandha, Jarbera anthodium, gladioli and chrysanthemum. Chetia is also cultivating decorative plants such as aspera, ferns, aricapalm, etc. The medicinal plants can be found in his farms are, Stevia, (Mou Tulashi), Passion foot, Sugandhi lata, Pipoli, Vetiver, Gathiamora etc.Orange production up: Besides tea and paddy, Tinsukia district is also famous for its citrus fruits production. Among the other citrus fruits like nemu tenga, robab tenga, bortenga, jora tenga, chokola tenga, etc., komola tenga or orange is one of Tinsukia’s specialities as a cash crop. The oranges of Tinsukia used to be sent to the other parts of the country. Though a few years back, the lands of these fruits have been converted for tea plantation in form of small tea garden but presently the farmers have returned to orange production in the same land. And thus, this year about 1350 hectares of land have been used for orange production and the yielding of oranges per hectare is about 16 metric tons. Kakopathar, Pengeri, Motapung, Margherita, Borgaon, Ketetong, Dighaltarang are the areas of the district where orange plantation can be found. A few years back, the middlemen used to purchase oranges from the cultivators garden and that too in the flowering season for which the cultivators were getting very less prices but presently the cultivators either themselves or with their representatives sell the oranges with the prices in the rate of Rs 70 to Rs 110 per hundred according to quality and sizes in the garden itself. For want of a fruit-processing unit in the district the orange producers still have to depend upon the bulk purchasers for fear of damage of the oranges in a short time.Good harvest for paddy cultivators: With the blessings of the rain god this year, the production of paddy is said to be satisfactory in Tinsukia district. Alongwith tea cultivation, paddy is also considered as one of the chief agricultural producers of the district. About 64,000 hectares of land of the district are being used for paddy cultivation. Except in some places of Sadiya and Margherita where floods have disturbed the cultivation to some extent, paddy cultivation in other parts of the district have been done without any disturbance. In flood-affected areas of the district, the district agriculture office has provided seeds of late variety of paddy, which helped the cultivators to make up the damages. Different varieties of paddy like, Malbhog, kolia-joha, ranjit, I-jong, Bora, Joha Bora etc are being cultivated in this part of the state as Sali crop and this year for the suitable climatic condition the production is satisfactory as per the version of the Agriculture department of the district. The production rate of the rice per hectare is about 2 metric tons. The areas famous for paddy cultivation in the district are Dhola, Dangori, Kakopatha, Panitola, Lakhipathar, Philobari, Doomdooma, etc.
Bamboo at Rs 180 apiece in Mangaldoi!From Our Correspondent MANGALDOI, Dec 26 – Believe it or not, but a piece of bamboo of the bhuluka variety was today up for sale for Rs 180 here. No doubt, the bhuluka bamboos up for sale here are of immense sizes, but a single piece costing Rs 180 is really unbelievable. A prospective buyer who returned home empty-handed rather than paying the exorbitant price gave this piece of information to this Correspondent.It may be mentioned that Mangaldoi is a bamboo-producing area and that the bhuluka variety was selling at Rs 90 apiece a few months back. But today’s price was beyond anyone’s imagination, prompting the customer to comment: “Truth is stranger that fiction.”

Orange exports from State going up
GUWAHATI, Dec 26 – The State along with Meghalaya, has advantage over the others in producing orange. This is for the location of the two states in the citrus belt. The NE oranges — known as the Khasi Mandarine— are far superior to other orange varieties produced in the country so far as their taste is concerned. The region could earn around Rs 3.5 crore during the 2006-07 fiscal through the export of orange and considering the earning of Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore from the export of the fruit in 2005-07, this was a significant development.In Assam, 7,300 hectares are under orange cultivation and the State’s annual orange production is around 82,000 MTs now with the average productivity per hectare remaining within 11.2 MTs. The marketable surplus of the orange in the State is around 57,400 MTs, which can either be used for value addition or as fresh product export. Traditionally, orange production centres of the Sate are located in the districts of Kamrup and Tinsukia. Now, the State Horticulture Department is trying to cover the foothill areas of the State, which are mostly virgin, under cultivation of this citrus fruit with a massive expansion programme under organic footing. These were the observations made by State Horticulture Director Dr Harshajyoti Barooah and Regional Manager of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) Bidyut Kumar Baruah. They were addressing an orange farmers’ training programme recently at Boko in Kamrup district.Significantly, they said, though neighbouring Bangladesh used to import fresh fruits from the NE region, it used to send them back to the region as processed items worth around Rs 10 crore annually.Considering the taste of its orange, the State has a better scope to use this item for earning hard currencies in the form of foreign exchanges, said Baruah. Experts of the Horticulture Department are of the view that the State needs steps to enhance the quality of its fresh products and also an impetus on setting up quality food processing units.Department’s Director Dr Barooah said that 80 per cent of the orange produced in the world used to go to the processing units, with 20 per cent of the fruit reaching the fresh fruit markets. However, the situation is quite reverse in the case of the orange produced in the State. Almost 80 per cent of the State’s orange uses to go to the fresh fruit markets, he said.He told The Assam Tribune that the foothill areas located on the Assam-Bhutan border of Kokrajhar and Baksa districts, the foothill areas along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border areas in Sonitpur district and the foothill areas along the Assam-Nagaland border areas in Sivasagar district were being covered under the programme for organic farming of the fruit. The State Government under the Union Government’s Horticulture Technology Mission has launched the ventures and the North Eastern Council is assisting the projects, said Dr Barooah.Meanwhile, three food-processing units have already been set up in the city and in Dalgaon areas of Darrang district under the Horticulture Technology Mission. These units have already been commissioned. While the city-based unit (Kishalay) is a potato-based one the Darrang ones (Sangvi and Sanskar) are fruit and vegetable-based, he said.Three more such units— in the city, at Silchar and at Boko—being set up under the Horticulture Technology Mission, are in the pipeline. While the Silchar unit is on a trial run, the Boko unit is awaiting the FPO licence from the Union Government for sending its products to the market on its own, said Dr Baruah.

ADB to allocate $ 1.85b to North East
NEW DELHI, Dec 26 – Multilateral funding agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) is likely to allocate a total of 1.85 billion dollars for the less developed North Eastern states like Assam and Mizoram in the next three years, reports PTI. ADB has earmarked 250 million dollars aid for development of cities in the region, according to the bank’s India:Country Operations Business Plan for 2008-10. In addition, during 2008 the multilateral agency would provide 100 million dollars for Assam Governance and Public Resource Management and 300 million dollars for roads development programmes. Under the Assam Governance Programme, the agency would provide funds to the State Government to help it increase revenue and improve fiscal performance. Under the Northeastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Programme, the agency would provide funds to improve the quality of urban living conditions and enhance urban productivity. The cities to be covered in this programme are Agartala (Tripura), Aizawl (Mizoram), Shillong (Meghalaya), Kohima (Nagaland), and Gangtok (Sikkim). According to the Business Plan, the ADB would provide 550 million dollars to the northeastern region during 2009 for programmes like North East States Integrated Food Control and River Erosion Mitigation Project, Assam energy efficiency enhancement project, etc.

Banks urged to gear up sanction of loan schemes
GUWAHATI, Dec 29 – A joint meeting of the district consultative committee (DCC) and district-level review committee (DLRC) of Kamrup and Kamrup Metropolitan districts was held today in the conference hall of the Deputy Commissioner’s office here in the presence of different bank officials, including Reserve Bank of India and other State government officials of development departments, an official release said.While presiding over the meeting, the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup Metro, Prateek Hajela, urged upon the bank branches of both the district to gear up sanction and disbursement of various Government-sponsored loan schemes like PMRY, KCC, SGSY, etc., in time so that the beneficiaries may fulfil their aspiration of self-employment. He also stressed recovery of bank loans provided earlier under those schemes and assured the banks to extend his helping hand in this regard.The meeting reviewed the deposit and advances of various banks operating in Kamrup and Kamrup Metropolitan District and also performance under annual credit plan for the year 2007-08 in Agriculture, SSI and service sector and decided to increase the achievement percentage with coordinated efforts.Earlier, the lead district manager, Kamrup and Kamrup Metro District PK Dutta explained the efforts and achievements of DCC and DLRC towards economic uplift of poor people of both the districts.

Garden Fresh adds freshness to local fruit market
GUWAHATI, Dec 29 – ‘Garden Fresh’ - an initiative undertaken by NEDFi to develop a direct linkage between the rural farmers and the city dwellers for the indigenously grown fruits and vegetable products of the region is attracting visitors to NEDFi Haat in the city. To facilitate the marketing link between the indigenous fruits and vegetables growers and the buyers, an exhibition has been organised at NEDFi Haat, Guwahati from 28th to 30th December 2007. The exhibition claims to showcase the best quality fruits and vegetables found in the region.The exhibition is showcasing organically grown oranges from Sonapur under the Agriculture Technology Marketing Agency (ATMA) scheme of Dept. of Agriculture, Govt. of Assam. Organically grown Kumal Chaul and Joha Chawl of Boko- Bongaon area under the same project are also attracting the customers prior to the New Year and Bhogali bihu. To promote organic cultivation, vegetables and oranges are now grown organically under the Technology Mission of Dept of Horticulture, Govt. of Assam in Ghogua and Rongdoloi area of Sonapur Agriculture Development Circle. Garden fresh vegetables and fruits showcased by Farmgate are providing variety to the show. The same organisation is already catering to the need of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables of a number of super markets of the city. Kiwi from Arunachal Pradesh and cashew nuts from Tripura are available in the NERAMAC stall along with the other products like bamboo shoots, pickles and honey. The dry oyster mushrooms are offered at Rs.30 per 250 gm, while the fresh ones are priced at Rs. 15 per 250 gm by Sumon Jyoti Associate of Boko. The same organisation has also brought in the mushroom pickles and the initiative taken by these enterprising youth are laudable. NEDFi has provided them the platform to promote marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which are organically grown and it is hoped that this will help to motivate the rural farmers to come forward for organic farming in a big way.

Professionalism must for improvement: Pramila
GUWAHATI, Dec 29 – Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma has made an ardent appeal to the farmers to acquire professionalism so as to improve State’s agriculture scenario. Despite immense potential, the State is lagging far behind the other states in matters of agricultural production mainly due to the lack of professionalism among the majority of its farmers, she said.She also gave instructions to the officers of the Agriculture Department to visit the fields twice in a month— on the first and third Saturdays, and to assess the situation themselves. The Agriculture Department at the behest of the Minister, has launched a campaign to send its officers to the villages and fields. it is aimed at improving the agricultural scenario through coordinated efforts of the Department and the farmers. The campaign is named— Gaonloi bolok abhijan. It needs mention here that the State is ranked 13 th among the states of the country as far as agricultural production is concerned. Brahma, who was speaking to The Assam Tribune, did not blame the farmers for the lack of professionalism afflicting their psyche. She attributed this phenomenon to several factors like the lack of coordination with the officers of the Agriculture Department. Shortage of agricultural labourers is also posing a problem for the farmers in many areas. Besides, lack of flood-resistant and high-yielding seeds is another factor responsible for this sordid state of affairs, she said.Farmers in many areas don’t receive the required help on time. So, in most of the cases, they remain idle most of the time after getting the crop they need to meet their individual needs, she said.In the areas dominated by the immigrant Muslim communities, farmers go for multi-cropping. Most of the farmers there go for two crops a year. But in the rest of the State, farmers usually avoid two crops let alone going for their multi-cropping, she said.However, the redeeming feature is that in many areas young farmers, particularly a section of the educated youths, have lately started going for two or more crops. This is because of the stagnancy affecting the job market. For example, the Agriculture Minister said, in Kokrajhar district young farmers had taken to vegetable and pulse farming in a big manner. In some other areas too, similar developments have been noticed.But these farmers need to be shown the right direction. The fields of the State should not remain vacant. They should be used for multi-cropping and the Agriculture Department should provide the farmers the right direction. The Technology Mission of the Union Government for improvement in the agriculture sector should also be taken to the grass root level.So far, 100 per cent of the macro-management funds received from the Central Government used to go unutilised with 50 per cent of the funds meant for technology management also meeting a similar fate.This led to the restriction of the Food Security Mission for self-sufficiency in the food grain sector to 13 districts of the State this year. The State Government has to make appeals to the Central Government to cover all the districts of the State under the Mission.If the State can go for massive summer paddy—Bodo paddy and early variety of Ahu paddy, which are harvested in summer, it can attain self-sufficiency in paddy production. These summer varieties of paddy are assured crops, as, they are harvested before the advent of the rainy season. On top of all these, the State should also develop flood-resistant crops to improve its food production, she said.Meanwhile, she said, she had held meetings with the Vice-Chancellor of the Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Managing Director of the Seed Corporation of the State, Director of the Agriculture Department and the Agriculture Production Commissioner of the State. All of them have been asked to provide the farmers with high-yielding certified seeds, she said.

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