Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tourism related news from Assam in 2007

Assam tea gets GI status

Assam tea has reached new heights with the recent conferring of Geographical Indications label ,GI status to the Orthodox Assam tea. Orthodox tea is the second Assam product to bag the GI label after muga silk. The GI label is exclusive to only a handful of generically identifiable products such as Swiss watches, Czech crystals, champagne, Mysore sandalwood oil and Kancheepuram silk.There are certain requirements that the product has to fulfill before getting the GI status. The products should have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are special to that particular state or place of origin to qualify for the GI status.The GI status is going to be hugely beneficial for Assam tea as it would now prevent replication in other parts. Darjeeling Tea which got the GI status in 2003 is incidentally the first Indian product to get the certificate.The GI status will help Assam tea to get international recognition. Assam produces about 20 million kg of orthodox tea a year.The International tea convention held in Guwahati is a historic event in not only for the tea fraternity but the entire northeast. IITC 2007, the abbreviation for the Indian International Tea Convention 2007, has been popularly dubbed as the Great Indian Tea party will showcase India’s quality tea products and Assam would be highlighted in the best possible light.The tea industry is the most vibrant of all industries of our country. Tea baron BM Khaitan had rightly said, tea is not a mere commodity for us. It is a heritage based on the values and culture, full of sentiments.” And very truly said indeed.

Guwahati, Oct. 23: The Tarun Gogoi government today indicated it would gladly make a few concessions for the Tatas to build a five-star hotel in the Assam capital.A meeting convened by Gogoi to discuss the nitty-gritty of the proposal by the Tata-owned Indian Hotels Company ended with the government showing more than a passing interest in expanding the city’s presence in the hospitality industry.Sources in the chief minister’s office said the company would like to build the hotel on a Kahilipara plot belonging to the veterinary department. If it gets that plot, the project will be completed in two years. Tourism minister Rockybul Hussain, veterinary minister Khorsingh Ingti, principal secretary (revenue) V.K. Pripersania, principal secretary (tourism) H.K. Das, Kamrup (metropolitan) deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi and the principal secretary to the chief minister, T.Y. Das, attended the meeting. Sources said the meeting reviewed the feasibility of the proposal before discussing the road ahead. One of the participants in the meeting suggested that the veterinary department enter into a joint-venture agreement with the company or hand over the land to the tourism department, which has been exploring ways to upgrade the hospitality sector to woo high-end tourists. “The discussions were fruitful, though nothing was finalised about handing the land to the company. We believe the proposed project is on the right track,” a source said. Infosys’s chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy said during a visit to the city on August 4 that he would like to see “good air connectivity, a good five-star hotel, excellent bandwidth and good (use of) English” before his company begins operations in the state. If the Tata deal comes through, it will be the second investment from outside the state in a hotel after the one being constructed by the DS Group in Gotanagar. The Taj Group, also owned by the Tatas, is already building a hotel at Six Mile under its Ginger brand.Gogoi met Ratan Tata in Mumbai during one of his visits this year to hunt for investment. The need for high-end hotels was also raised during the investment summit in Bangkok last month.

Call to tap State’s tourism potential
GUWAHATI, April 28 – Stressing the need for showcasing the vibrant ethnic culture of Assam before a global audience, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said that the State stood to gain a lot by harnessing its immense tourism potential. Formally inaugurating the three-day Rongali Utsav organized by the Tourism Department at the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra today, Gogoi said that wildlife tourism apart, the rich and unique cultural heritage of the State, too, offered great scope for attracting tourists from all over the globe. “If showcased in the right manner, our colourful culture can do a world of good to our tourism prospects. Of late there has been a steady increase in the tourist flow to the State, but a lot more needs to be done,” Gogoi said. Emphasizing on the employment generation capacity of the tourism sector, the Chief Minister said that it was among the fastest growing sectors worldwide and was a non-polluting industry. Chairman of the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) Dr Hemoprova Saikia also addressed the gathering. The three-day festivities got off to a colourful start with a husori, Mukoli Bihu and folk dances by different ethnic communities. The crafts exhibition was also be inaugurated later. Tomorrow’s programmes include a seminar on ‘Tourism potential of the Brahmaputra’ at 10 am, to be followed by open-air programme of folk dances. Another highlight is the ‘O Mor Suriya Maat’ in which eminent singers will present evergreen melodies of yesteryears. The last day will begin with the valedictory function at 5-30 pm where several eminent personalities, i.e. Homen Borgohain, Rongbong Terang, Yeshe Dorje Thongchi, Imran Shah and Dr Lakshyahira Das will be felicitated. There will be a cultural evening from 7 pm to 9-30 pm.

Tourists flow from State going up
GUWAHATI, May 2 – With the mercury rising, travellers in growing numbers are moving out of the State to vacation in cooler climes. At the same time the flow of tourists entering Assam has also gone up. Young professionals, couples and senior citizens are among those who are queuing up with tour operators to opt for package tours. Others going on their own have applied for tourist visas in larger numbers.With more disposable incomes, people have also opted for exotic locales like Mauritus and Switzerland. Both destinations are gaining popularity as honeymoon destinations. “Till about two years ago, South East Asia was the region that tourists from Assam visited in considerable numbers. Now although that continues to be an attraction, European countries like UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands are drawing tourists from Assam,” said Aisang Chetia of Jungle Travels India.Several tour packages cater to tourists, and especially popular are those in the region of Rs 1.60 lakh. More economical tours to South East Asia also continue to be popular, Chetia added. A recent trend has seen more senior citizens travelling abroad. Elderly couples on tour are more common today than in anytime before. The number of young professionals going on foreign jaunts courtesy of their employees is also growing. Many of them working in the corporate fields have been on cruises, otherwise beyond the reach of most international travelers.The movement of tourists into Assam is on the upswing after the brief slump following the bomb blasts in several parts of the state. Kaziranga and Majuli are the twin attractions that foreign tourists put as their most destinations of choice. According to some tour operators, other national parks like Manas and Nameri are yet to draw tourists in large numbers. Significantly, tea-tourism is yet to appear as a major draw for inbound tourists. The same is the case with village tourism, which the State has been trying to promote. Shillong and Tawang are two other sites in the North East in which tourists have shown keen interest. The existence of the inner line permit, however, has continued to deter a large number of tourists to venture into areas of Arunachal, Manipur and Nagaland. So far the flow of domestic tourists is concerned, the number of visitors from Kolkata and South India have swelled in recent times.

FINER bid to promote NE as tourist hub
GUWAHATI, May 7 – In a bid to promote the Northeast in Europe as a tourist destination and also to encourage the private-public partnership in the tourism sector, the Federation of Industry and Commerce of North East Region (FINER) is sending a 22-member delegation on a week-long study tour to Europe. The tour is also aimed at apprising the tour operators in the region with the standard of hospitality features in the European countries.“The tour, which would comprise tour operators from all the Northeastern States, would finally try to replicate those hospitality qualities in their respective home State to give a fillip to tourist inflow from the European countries to the Northeast region,” said Ajoy Borthakur, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FINER while talking to media persons today. Borthakur also informed that during the visit, the delegation is slated to visit several important circuits in Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein and Germany and will also participatein a interaction programme with an host of travel and tourism professionals there. “Though there is no concrete figure available about the outbound tourist to the region, yet the trend is really positive and there are definitely scopes for improvement,” he said while adding that the tour would definitely put an end to several apprehensions about the region. It may be mentioned here that compared to 6,171 in the year 2001, the foreign tourist inflow shot up to 11, 151 in the year 2006.“Besides, the tour would also help the tour operators in the region to give first-hand information to the people back home who are interested to visit tourist destinations in Europe,” he pointed out.“As the new industrial policy has also given thrust to the tourism sector, we want to capitalize on the opportunity and improve the standard of tourism here,” he added. The 22-member delegation includes Dr.Hemo Prova Saikia, chairperson, Assam Tourism Development Corporation and two officials of FINER. Besides, the week-long tour also comprises tour operators from several States of the Northeast. It may be mentioned that Yashobonta Mahanta, a young Assamese entrepreneur and managing director of Austria-based Hotel Dorf Park, is sponsoring the study tour.“Mahanta, like many others in Europe, are very eager to invest in the tourism sector of the region and we would like to bridge the gap between the investors and the tourism sector,” he pointed out. Meanwhile, Dr. Hemo Prova Saikia said that tour would act as an eye-opener for the tour agents and once they experience that, they would certainly be able to know what the European tourists expect when they visit NE. The delegation, which is leaving on May 9, would also make a presentation about the multi-dimensional nature of tourism sector like medical tourism in the region and would also try to penetrate interest about monsoon tourism in the NE.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK at the inauguration of British Information Centre in Guwahati on Thursday.

Govt move to declare Kakoijana as wildlife sanctuary hailed
GOSSAIGAON, May 14 – The Appropriate Technology Mission of Assam, a state level NGO working on the forestation and wildlife protection activities has lauded the maiden decision of the State government to declare the Kakoijana reserve forest in Bongaigaon district as a wildlife sanctuary.In a press release, ATMA stated that the State government vide letter No.FRW-58/99 has declared the Kakoijana reserve forest as a wildlife sanctuary for which the said NGO struggled for a period of 13 years till date. Hence, it has been considered a major achievement of the ATMA, which could undoubtedly inculcate a sense of benevolent approach among the masses towards the forest resources and its endangered wild animals.It may be mentioned that the Kakoijana forest is very rich with natural flourish, scenic beauty and famous for of rare species like golden langur, binturong, jungle foul, pengolin, wild cat, hornbill, leopard, porcupine, wild pig, python, civet cat, flying squirrel, monicor lizard, mongoose barking beer, lesser adjutant stork, etc. The sanctuary with a 20-square kilometer area situated in Bongaigaon district, was once a hunting place of the poachers and was totally unprotected from illegal felling of trees and destroying of rich forest flora and fauna leading to the extinction of the rare species. So, the members of the said NGO have strongly felt the necessity of creating massive awareness campaign among the masses to be benevolent and tolerant toward the wild animals and saving the rich forest resources virtually found in Kakoijana forest.Besides, the NGO has also urged the nature-loving people to extend their helping hand to safeguard the wild animals of Kakoijana which are found and living on the verge of extinction. Further, it has opined that the maiden decision of the State government to declare Kakoijana as a wildlife sanctuary would ascertain the protection of the wildlife and may draw the attention of tourists to boost the economy of the region as a whole
Gogoi to inaugurate TRP park on May 31 GUWAHATI, May 17 – Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phookun Park will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on May 31, a press release said.The opening ceremony of the park will be held at 5 pm. Health & Family Welfare, Guwahati Development, Information and Technology and Science & Technology Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma will be present as chief guest.In the meeting– Kamini Sarma, ex-MLA freedom fighter, Siba Prasad Baruah, freedom fighter, Monoranjan Banerjee, sport persons, Olympic selected player, Dr Bhuban Mohan Das, educationist, Prof Asraf Ali, retired principal, Cotton College, Suchibrata Raichoudhury, social worker, T G Baruah, social worker, Ram Niranjan Goenka, philanthropist, Jamini Mohan Chaudhary, ex vice chancellor, Gauhati University & Geologist, Radhika Mohan Bhagaboti, journalist, Kamaleswar Bora, ex vice chancellor, Dibrugarh University, Harendra Nath Das, ex chief secretary, Assam and Dr Nirmal Choudhury, ex vice chancellor, Gauhati University will be felicitated on the occasion, the release added.

Tele info service marks dawn of new era in NE tourism
GUWAHATI, May 20 – This could just mark the dawn of a new era in the tourism sector of the Northeast India, as access to any kind of information about Northeast is now just a telephone call away. Be it about tourist hotspots, medical facilities or any other basic amenities of day-to-day life, people can acquaint themselves with the up-to-date information within a couple of minutes. Hello Northeast, a city-based organisation has endevoured to provide all the basic information about the region through tele-media service for the first time in the region. Hello Northeast, which is situated at the city’s Nepali Mandir area, is a wing of S & J Communication Service Private Limited. General Manager, ‘Hello Northeast’, Sankar Samaddar, while informing this correspondent about the utilities of the newly-introduced service, said that the concept is very novel for the people in the region but there is no doubt that it would prove to be an asset for the entire society. “In the present scenario, be it a school boy or a professional, everybody wants to do more things in less time and Hello Northeast would help them in achieving this,” he said.He further informed that ‘Hello Northeast’ can provide maximum inputs regarding the hotels available and also about availability of shopping malls keeping in view the convenience of the caller.“The services of Hello Northeast can be availed from anywhere in the country and it is absolutely free of cost,” he added.On the revenue-earning source of the company, he informed, “ in due course of time, we would register our clients in various forms of business and then would project them to the callers.”“Suppose, if a chain beauty parlour registers themselves with us, then whenever any of our caller enquires about beauty parlour, we will give the said registered parlour preference,” said Samaddar. “People just need to dial our number and our talking guide will reciprocate to their queries immediately,” Sankar pointed out. The service would be provided round the clock.

DoNER bid to promote North-East tourism
GUWAHATI, May 21 – Poor connectivity is one of the major impediment to the development of tourism in the North East Region, but the positive sign is that the Government of India is planning to invest about Rs 50,000 crore in improving connectivity in the region in the next five years. This information has been provided in the website of the Department for Development of the North East Region (DoNER).The DoNER has also decided to hold dialogues with the Ministry of External Affairs and other concerned Ministries to address issues like opportunities and challenges in attracting tourists from abroad to the North East states.The DoNER said that the Government of India has launched a concerted drive to improve all kinds of connectivity within the region and between the region and rest of India. Efforts will also be launched to improve connectivity with the South East Asian Countries. The Rail network is being augmented and the national water way II will soon be made operational while, a plan is on to declare Barak river as National Water Way VI.On air connectivity, the DoNER said that the density of civil airports in the region is the highest in the country and the recent changes of the policies of the Government of India led to operation of 226 flights a week between the region and the rest of the country. Intra-region connectivity is now the key and plans are on to reach the target of 600 flights a week within the first half of the Eleventh Five Year Plan. Another major factor affecting growth of tourism in the North East is the common perception about the law and order situation and the Governments of the states of the region must ensure impeccable law and order situation, iron clad security cover for the tourists etc not only for attracting tourists but also for attracting investments, the DONER said. The DONER is also of the view that the Governments of the NE states must take full advantage of the schemes of the Ministry of Tourism and the Non Lapsable Poll of Central funds to improve infrastructure related to tourism and hospitality sector. As tourism holds the highest promise for generating employment and income, the states must give priority in the development of the sector, the DoNER said.The DoNER report pointed out that hotels, two star category and above, adventure and leisure sports including ropeways have been included in the new Industrial Policy for the North East , which came into effect from this financial year, the states must take full advantage of the incentives to attract private investment in these sectors. The DoNER report said that the fourth sectoral summit of the North Eastern Council, held in Gangtok in April this year discussed the issues relating to promotion of tourism in the region in detail and the summit arrived at a consensus that target groups for tourists should be identified and the states like Gujarat and West Bengal, which generates a very high proportion of domestic tourists, should be targeted for attracting domestic tourists. Domestic tourist traffic in the country has increased from around 250 million to 500 million, while, the foreign tourist flow is estimated to the tune of two to three million a year. The NE states should give a thrust in attracting domestic tourists and efforts should be on also to attract foreign tourists with improved connectivity from the North East to the foreign countries. Low cost accommodation facilities like dharamsalas, low budget hotels, youth hostels etc must be established near the rivers and sanctuaries to attract domestic tourists.The DoNER has called upon the states of the region to draw up annual and perspective state plans for tourism related issues and on the basis of that and in consultation of the Ministry of Tourism, the NEC and the DoNER would be able to draw up plans for the entire region.

Exclusive airways for NE gets Govt nod
NEW DELHI, May 24 – Decks have been cleared for exit of Alliance Air from the North-east, with the Centre all set to endorse the proposal for a new regional airways. The proposal for an exclusive airways to serve the North-east was given the go ahead at the recent sectoral meeting at Aizawl, disclosed Minister, Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Mani Shankar Aiyar.“We have decided to go ahead with the plan,” Aiyar said, talking to this correspondent on the sideline of the function organised to mark completion of three years of the UPA Government.Aiyar said Alliance Air, which is currently operating the regional air service would be given extension for a couple of months until new plansare firmed up.The need for a dedicated air service for the North-east is in tune with the overall plan of the Centre to more than double the inter-regional flights. There is a plan to supplement the 226 flights per week by having a network of 592 internal flights with separate hubs at Guwahati and Agartala,” said the Minister.DoNER has accepted the demands from the States for improvement of both inter and intra-region air services, setting up of Greenfield airports. Accordingly, new airports are coming up at Kohima, Itanagar, Gangtok, besides upgradation of airports at Pasighat and Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh, Baljek in West Garo Hills, Meghalaya and Kamalpur and Kailashahr in Tripura. Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Indian Airlines ran into rough weather in the North-east because of its services, which left many miffed. The then Minister, DoNER, PRKyndiah has openly expressed his dismay at the poor service and mooted the idea of a dedicated regional airline for North-east.The persistent refusal of the Airline to shift its hub of operations from Kolkata to Guwahati, as initially proposed left the Centre in a tight spot and open to attacks by the MPs. The North Eastern Council (NEC) pays Alliance Air Rs 35 crore annually to operate the regional air service.Alliance Air’s argument is that shortage of pilots and technical support staff were main handicap. Besides, unwillingness of pilots to stay at Guwahati compelled it to operate only one ATR aircraft from Guwahati. A New Delhi-based agency, Foundation for Aviation and Sustainable Tourism (FAST), was engaged to conduct a feasibility study to develop air connectivity in the North-east. The Ministry had last year given the green signal to float a dedicated airline at the 53rd NEC meeting. A special committee headed by Manipur Governor, Dr. SS Sidhu studied the FAST report. Last December, the Minister, DONER held a meeting with the Sidhu committee and representatives from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Alliance Air, following which Alliance Air was asked to submit their best offer. Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) also jumped into the fray and made a presentation to the Minister, DONER and chairman, NEC. The Ministry held a series of meetings with both Alliance Air and IL&FS, and on April 9 it finalised the proposal to be submitted to the NEC, sources said.IL&FS has of late started training its focus for infrastructure development in the NER. The objective is to develop infrastructure facilities through public-private-partnership (PPP). According to IL&FS CEO, DK Mittal, “IL&FS is presently concentrating on the sectors that would have a substantial positive economic impact on the region” Development of such projects in the key contributing sectors, include tourism, energy thermal, hydro power, roads, cross border trade infrastructure. Interestingly, IL&FS picked up a small stake in Royal Airways.

Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phookun Park opened
GUWAHATI, June 1 – The slanted rays of the sun were not only caressing the new-look Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phookun Park, but were also filtering into the darker recesses of the mind, inspiring to throw open the window to the world. Fulfilling the tax-payers’ need for a place to relax, to communicate with the like-minded and the last rays of the evening sun, the park on Thursday was dedicated to the public of Guwahati. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi inaugurated the park that would always keep reminding everyone that much could be achieved when the public cooperates with the government.Speaking on the occasion, Gogoi recalled the contributions of the freedom fighters including Tarun Ram Phukoon, and said that it was a bounden duty of the present generation to fulfil the cherished dreams of those noble souls who had laid down their lives for the cause of the motherland. The Chief Minister also released a souvenir on the occasion.Urging the people to become active partners in the development and upkeep of the city, Gogoi said that no plan could succeed without public participation. The Chief Minister also gave an account of the plans of the government for revamp of the city’s infrastructure. “We want to ensure that the city witnesses a planned development from now onwards,” he said. A total of 16 eminent personalities were felicitated on the occasion. The galaxy included Sivaprasad Baruah, Suchibrata Roychoudhury, Tulsi Govinda Baruah, and Bhuban Mohan Das, among others.The Minister for Guwahati Development, Himanta Biswa Sarma, in his speech, reiterated the State Government’s commitment to make Guwahati a most beautiful city. “We have been able to get Rs 1,700 crore sanctioned under the Jawaharlal Nehru Mission for Urban Renewal for Guwahati. Within three years we should be able to bring in much of the desired changes for the city,” he said.Sarma said that vital aspects like water supply, drainage and sewerage, traffic management, public transport, etc., were some of the major components of the mission. “With its implementation, we expect to give Guwahati a thorough revamp and establish as one of the best cities of the country,” he asserted. The renovated park makes it difficult to imagine that not many days back it was slowly dying. With untiring efforts of Save Guwahati Build Guwahati, Tarun Ram Phookun Udyan Punarnirman Committee and the GMDA, the park has been revived much to the delight of the citizens. President of the Tarun Ram Phookun Udyan Punarnirman Committee, Dhiren Baruah, described the day as historic and expressed the hope that the open space in the heart of the city would also pave the way to indulge in positive and open thoughts. “It is a great day for all of us because a Government-funded project has been executed by the public,” said Baruah.

Rs 4 cr for Majuli Sattra preservation
GUWAHATI, June 1 – The Finance Department of the State has allocated an amount of Rs 4 crore for preservation and development of the sattra institutions of Majuli Island. The allocation has been made against the project proposal submitted by the State Archaeology Directorate.Meanwhile, a meeting the Sattra Preservation Committee held here recently under the presidentship of C K Das, who is also the Chairman of the Assam Administrative Tribunal, decided to pursue the proposals submitted to the Government of India by the State Government on the preservation of the sattra institutions.The proposals prepared by the Archaeology Directorate are now learnt to have been lying with the Planning Commission of India for its approval. The meeting of the Sattra Preservation Committee decided to send the officers concerned to pursue the matter with the Union Government and the Planning Commission.The Archaeology Directorate prepared the project proposals for preservation and development of 135 sattras with an estimated cost of Rs 96.56 crore. The Directorate has been appointed the nodal agency for preservation of the sattra institutions. Altogether 862 sattras had applied for assistance for preservation and development of their institutions.The Directorate conducted a survey of these sattras. But it could not find out 38 of the applicant sattras. The Preservation Committee hence decided to publish newspaper advertisements inviting the left out sattras to contact the Directorate for conduction of the survey, said sources in the Archaeology Directorate. The meeting of the Committee also laid emphasis on setting the criteria for preparation of the project proposals now on for the preservation of the sattra institutions.Director of Cultural Affairs, Joint Secretary, Department of Cultural Affairs, president and secretary of the Asom Sattra Mahasabha, Sattradhikars of Natun Kamalabari Sattra, Dinjoy Sattra and Kopahtoli Sattra and Direcrtor, Archaeology, among others, attended the meeting.

Guwahati to get first 5-star hotel
GUWAHATI, June 1 – The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) today signed an MoU with Dharampal Satyapal (DS) Group to set up the first five star hotel in Guwahati. The hotel will be set up in an area measuring 27 bighas at Gotanagar by the NH-37. The first phase of the hotel will be completed within 24 months during which Rs 100 crore will be invested. In the first phase, the hotel will have 200 rooms with 5-Star facility with all modern amenities expected by any business or leisure traveller, with ultra-modern communication system in each room; a multi-cuisine restaurant for 100 persons, a coffee shop for 100 persons; a bar for 40-50 persons; a meeting room for 25-50 persons; a large convention hall which can take 500 persons and which can also be converted into two smaller convention halls. The convention hall will have state-of-the-art business communication facilities. It will also include a health club, a wellness centre, a swimming pool and a shopping arcade for tourist essentials, etc.The hotel is expected to make the city a preferred destination for international conventions and functions. This will also give impetus to tourism, which has enormous potential in the North East. With an anticipated increase in various events, the plan for expanding the facilities in the hotel over and above the current plans is likely to be taken up in the second phase.DS Group has already made an agreement in principle with Carlson Hotels Asia Pacific for their five star brand RADISSON, which will be operating the facility under a specific management agreement contract with DS Group.In the joint venture, the GMDA will get benefits like Rs 25 lakh per annum as fixed amount with escalation of 15 per cent after five years; Rs 14.4 lakh per year from preferential debentures; and Rs 84 lakh per annum as dividend from the equity share of 7.47 per cent of the total capital of Rs 100 crore from third year onwards).The Rs 1,200-crore Dharampal Satyapal Group (DS Group) is India’s leading diversified conglomerate renowned for its commitment towards innovating premium quality products and services.

Can Dibrugarh retrieve its lost glory?
DIBRUGARH, May 30 – “I had a different idea of your town, but its so filthy, how do you live here?” This one sentence from a journalist friend who arrived in Dibrugarh from New Delhi on Saturday has punctured every ego we had about the city. This is the same Dibrugarh that is the first formal municipality in present day Assam (Shillong being the first in the northeast), this is also the city that saw the birth of The Assam Tribune in 1938; a few decades earlier, the North-east’s first English language periodical, The Times of Assam. Welcome to one of the northeast’s filthiest urban area. Dibrugarh has long lost its pride of place as a clean and tranquil place. The civil population, the civil administration and elected and nominated municipal fathers have all ensured that in the last 30 years or so, Dibrugarh has been degraded into a ghetto. The streetlights do not work, the roads are in a shambles, there is no water supply, despite a report that much of the city’s groundwater is polluted and may even be poisonous! The middle class is oblivious to this danger, as they think the Aquaguard equipments at their homes are providing them safe water. Those who cannot afford Aquaguard are content with archaic water filtration and those who cannot go for this too, end up in the hospitals with GE (gastroenterology) complications. There is no dearth of associations and organisations in the city that profess to work for improving the lot of Dibrugarh. These include the old warhorse, the Dibrugarh Nagarik Sangha and start-ups like the Rajahua Swartharakhya Mancha, in addition to youth and student groups that specialize in agitations, bandh calls, etc. For the consumers, there is the Dibrugarh Grahak Mancha too. Unfortunately, most of these organisations have not been able to fulfill the aspirations the people at large, though these groups have their own valid reasons for the shortcomings. As Advocate Jogendra Nath Borah once said: “Ours (Dibrugarh Nagarik Sangha) is a voluntary group. Often we find it difficult to deliver invitations for our meetings as we lack manpower for this.” These tribulations apart, the organisation’s office bearers too are often frustrated that their efforts are not yielding any results. Says Madhukar Khemka, a tea planter who has all the zeal of a responsible citizen: “Our correspondences do not elicit any response, our appeals fall on deaf ears.” Khemka makes it a point to SMS hundreds of people about the shortcomings of various public service utilities like phone and power supply companies. While he ends up spending money on correspondence and SMSing, his targetted audience rarely even acknowledge the trouble he takes. Another tea planter, Chandra Prakash Agarwalla says he routinely writes letters to the PWD and the municipal authorities to do something about the craters on the roads and clogged drains. He wonders if his letters are even read by the addressees. Dibrugarh Municipal Board chairman Biraj Kumar Das gives out a ray of hope in this distressing scenario for the city. He is expecting a financial grant to spruce up the city’s drains and streetlighting. But three months after his optimistic remarks, the funds are yet to arrive. Of late, he too is just short of throwing up his arms, realising that the problems are far too enormous to be overcome easily. For a city that is often touted as Assam’s second biggest, the absence of even the very basic civic amenities come as a huge depressant. Even so, the four lakh citizens of this city continue to live in hope, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is, the tunnel is turning out to be lightyears longer than originally believed to be.

‘Bhut jolokia’ world’s hottest
NEW DELHI, June 17 – They are as ‘tez’ as they come. The ‘bhut jolokia’ of Tezpur figure in the Time magazine’s latest issue as the world’s hottest chilli. The magazine’s cover story that takes a look at the culinary specialities and peculiarities around the world has zeroed in on the burnt orange pods, developed in a military laboratory in Tezpur, as packing the deadliest punch.The article ‘Global Warming’ notes that the ‘bhut jolokia’, also called the Naga chilli, carries the sort of heat that one normally would find only in the hottest chilli sauces made from pure pepper extract.Chilli heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), and while pure capsaicin, the main capsaicinoid in a chilli, measures 16 million SHUs, the ‘bhut jolokia’ measures just over one million SHUs.A bell pepper typically measures zero, while the spiciest Thai chillies come in at around one lakh SHUs and most people are reduced to tears by eating anything around two lakh. In September, 2000, the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur had announced that it had identified the hottest chilli in the world.Now, the laboratory is contemplating applying for Geographical Indication Certification to ensure that only ‘bhut jolokias’ from North-eastern India are sold as such.Previously, the hottest chilli ever measured was the Red Savina that was grown by a commercial chilli farmer in California, the US, and measured 5,77,000 SHUs

Asia’s tallest athlete craves Assamese cuisine
GUWAHATI, June 22 – From Washington DC to a small town like Mysore, Olympian Vikash Gowda, Asia’s tallest athlete – a discus thrower – has been drawing attention from corners of the globe both for his sporting skills and his unbelievable height.But coming to Assam for the second leg of Asian Grand Prix has a special meaning for this well-built sporting hero. Not from the perspective of setting any new record but to have a taste of the traditional Assamese cuisine, about which he has heard a lot.“I have read a lot about the ethnic food of the Northeast region, especially of Assam. From whatever I know, it is also believed to be quite a handy diet from the point of view of improving the fitness level of an athlete,” Gowda said during an exclusive interview with The Assam Tribune today.“Tastewise too, it is less spicy compared to the food found in other parts of the country. Of course, one would not get the complete nutritious ingredients in these items for which every athlete, depending upon the sport he plays, would have to follow a distinct diet regime,” he said. The athlete who is staying in Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok today had a taste of some of the traditional Assamese food items.Gowda, a 2004 Olympian from India along with long-jumper Anju Bobby George are India’s two biggest hopes in the ongoing Asian Grand Prix Athletic Championship, the second leg of which would be held in Guwahati’s Sarusajai Stadium on June 23.“This is my first visit to the North-East and barring the food, I am already in love with the enchanting natural surroundings in this part of the country,” said the 24-year athlete.Though he failed to recall the name of any specific food item he had heard of or read about, he would like to have a taste of some more vegetarian dish before signing off from the Guwahati venue for the third leg.About his height he says, “ I take pride in being rated as one of the world’s tallest athletes.” The athlete also expressed pleasure on the emergence of Guwahati as a viable venue in the roadmap of world sports as it would provide him further scope to visit the gifted region.“It all started from the National Games and with the hosting of a prestigious event like Grand Prix, I am sure there would be no looking back for the State in terms of more prestigious events,” he opined. Gowda bagged the second position in the first leg of Grand Prix in Bangkok by throwing the discus to a distance of 60.14 m. Vikash Gowda came into the limelight during the Olympics two years ago. Vikas had a career-best throw at Charlotte, North Carolina (US), in 2005 when he covered a distance of 64.69m, – a national record.The Karnataka athlete, a Frederick High School graduate and born in Mysore, further said that he would try to better the Bangkok performance (first leg) to secure his berth in forthcoming prestigious tournaments like Asian Athletic Championship (July) and World Athletic Championship (August).

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.

State lags behind in promoting Sankaradeva
GUWAHATI, June 26 – The people of Orissa have now been able to establish the fact that the 12th century saint-poet Jayadeva indeed belonged to their state. They held a national seminar at Bhubaneswar recently and resolved to popularize the poet’s literary masterpiece Geetagovinda worldwide. Similar efforts are also there in West Bengal to project Chaitanya Deva. But here in Assam, there is no such effort now at projecting the life and work of saint-poet Srimanta Sankaradeva, despite his multifarious contributions to the State’s society, regretted some of the Assam participants of the Bhubaneswar seminar. Sankara initiated neo-Vaishnavism in the State and together with his apostle Madhavadeva, he brought about a revolution in the fields of art and literature. They developed Assamese further as a medium for carrying the messages of neo-Vaishnavism to the commoners. And their roles as social reformers are simply matchless.In the present campaign of the Orissa people to establish Jayadeva as an Oriya saint and poet, the leadership is virtually provided by Orissa Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy. He is conducting research on the life and works of Jayadeva and Lord Buddha.Jayadeva wrote Geetagovinda in Sanskrit and he made an effort in his work to make Vaishnavism more romantic than Shaivism and socially more safe and acceptable than the Tantrick Buddhism, said Tripathy in a paper on the poet.Geetagovinda was written as a dance drama. It is a work of purely musical excellence based on different ragas, talas and chhandas. It induced a number of works of dramatized prose, dealing with the theme of love between Radha and Krishna. It took the help of the Devadasi system so far as its performing part is concerned and the Gotipuos (dancing boys in the attire of girls) used to perform its dances at the temples, Tripathy said.The Geetagovinda dances are practised in some of the Assam sattras too. According to historical records, there were three Assamese versions of the Jayadeva work. Assamese poet Rananarayana Kaviraja Chakravarti created a metrical version of the masterpiece on sanchipata. Pandit Hem Chandra Goswami collected a part of it in 1912 for the Assam Government. It was deposited with the Kamarupa Anusandhana Samiti library. Renowned Sankara scholar Late Dr Maheswar Neog collected another part of the manuscript from the K K Handique Library of Gauhati University and some individuals. A part of the manuscript is still traceless. Dr Neog together with noted art critic Dr Kapila Vatsayana, edited the available portions of the manuscript and the Assam Publication Board published it in 1986.But in Assam, there is a gloomy scene, contrary to the above initiative of the Orissa people so far as projecting Sankaradeva and his disciples’ contribution is concerned. After the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) recognition to sattriya dance as a major dance form about seven years back, there is no significant move to promote it and the other contributions of Sankaradeva and his disciples. Sattriya dance is a part of the Ankiya Bhaona created by Srimanta Sankaradeva as a new theatrical form about 500 years back. According to renowned Sankara scholar Dr Keshavananda Dev Goswami, a meeting of the Assam members of the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), about two years back, requested the Akademi to set up a centre at Guwahati. But that request is yet to be complied with by the SNA. Dr Dev Goswami attributes this to the failure of the State Government to mount pressure on the SNA.He said that due to the absence of an authority to set uniform codes for the artistes of sattriya dance, there is complete anarchy in the realm of its performance.The Srimanta Foundation for Culture and Society held a workshop for sattriya teachers about two years back with an attempt at bringing uniformity in the performance of the dance form. The North East Foundation also held a similar workshop about one year back. The sattriya teachers are also organizing such workshops in a modest manner. But all these efforts are not much effective so far as bringing about uniformity in the performance of the dance is concerned, said Dr Dev Goswami.Lack of proper exposure outside the state is the main cause for this unique cultural treasure’s lagging behind the other dance forms of the country. Perhaps, fund constraints have hindered the State Department of Culture’s initiatives to project this unique wealth outside the State, Dr Dev Goswami observed.

Net surfers crippled by paucity of info on Assam
GUWAHATI, June 24 – Worrying news for Assam, the land and her people! When the Internet has become the preferred turf for news, views and information for millions, the State’s icons, culture and varied flora and fauna have failed to find a niche in cyberspace.For those living far away from Assam, it is a hopeless scene. They have little access to books and journals, which could have provided credible information. Their children, more dependent on the net, are among the worst hit by the paucity of data on Assam. For instance, a Google search of Pragjyotishpur would yield some pages, but there would be very few, which would be of real relevance to a student or researcher. Interestingly, the very first Universal Resource Locator that the search picks up is a page maintained by the ULFA in its geocities site.If one seeks information on Sukapha, the first Ahom King, the available references would lead to various pages, not many of which would highlight either his rule or his contribution. For that history books would be a far better option.The same is the case when one keys in names of Naranarayan or Chilarai. In the case of the noted strategist Chilarai, the saving grace is he finds mention in Wikipedia, where there is an entry of around 100 words. The case is a bit different with Assam’s patron saint Srimanta Sankardev, information on whom is available on some sites. In the website of Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha (http://www.srimantasankara the life and the philosophy of the saint is there is some detail.Another silver lining comes in the form of sites dealing with Majuli. Apart from Wikipedia, which carries an entry on the river island, the site offers information on the unique culture, history and geography of the area.Although there are some sites dispensing information on Assam’s key figures, quite frequently they lack in substance. A website on the iconic Bhupen Hazarika carries a list of his songs, but under the section articles it fails to showcase anything of worth. In the same website only four images make up the photo section. It is no different when it comes to finding details about the natural heritage of the region. The only major hit in the Internet would be Kaziranga, a World Heritage Site, but here too surfers need to be extremely cautious.For instance, the website has no official approval of the State Forest Department. How the owners of the website could get a domain registered is anybody’s guess. The Park Director when asked by this reporter revealed that none was authorized to use the name Kaziranga National Park.Searching for relevant images and maps of Assam is even more daunting. On Yahoo search, the search for Bihu dance on June 19 yielded 92 results. A similar search for Bhangra on the same search engine churned out 667 results. Incidentally, there were 286 results for Manipuri dance. The failure of the State and the authorities concerned to promote its heroes, heritage and culture on the Internet has several ramifications, including the fact that Assam is losing out on exposure in cyberspace, an area where visitors are increasing by the day. A random trip through cyberspace would also show the inability of the States higher educational institutes to use the net to their advantage. While few of those have their websites, which are actually old by Internet standards, most have been unable to provide any research or project work in cyberspace.

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.

Assamese dishes have potential to go global’
GUWAHATI, June 28 – Ethnic cuisines of the North East when marketed properly would be taking the world by storm, and especially Assamese dishes have the potential to go global. This observation was made by noted writer and editor of Sadin Anuradha Sarma Pujari after inaugurating a restaurant with the befitting name of Kharika, opposite Borah Service GS Road on Thursday. The restaurant owned by well known chef of Assam Atul Lahkar and Nripen Deka would be primarily serving ethnic cuisines of the North East.Wishing the entrepreneurs success in their venture, Pujari said that with the right mix of modernization and presentation, Assamese recipes would surely catch the fancy of the gourmets. “ Assamese delicacies have all the ingredients to become globally accepted. It is nutritious and easy to digest,” she opined.

Scientist claims discovery of dinosaur egg at Manas
GOALPARA, July 9 — Diganta Narzary, a young scientist in the National Botanical Research Institute (under CSIR - Lucknow), has claimed to have discovered perhaps the world’s largest fossilized dinosaur egg. Narzary, now working as a senior research fellow at the institute, was at the Manas National Park in October 2006 for official collection of samples from the Indo-Bhutan boundary area. He claimed to have found the fossilised egg on the bank of Manas river amidst sandstones. The shell of the egg discovered by Narzary was partly broken.Dinosaurs had roamed the earth from the middle of Triassic (250-210 million years before) to the end of Cretaceous (140-65 million years before) period. The minimum recorded size of dinosaur (compsognathus) was at 76 centimetres, while the maximum size was that of Argentinosaurus huinculensis, which had a length of 51 metres and weighed about 100 tonnes.Dinosaur eggs of various species have been found at about 200 sites across the world; most of them in China.Recorded history says that very rarely, such eggs have preserved parts of the embryo in them, which can help to match an egg with a species of dinosaur. Without an embryo, it is difficult to match an egg to a dinosaur species.It may be mentioned here that earlier a team of South Korean palaeontologists in the year 2000 claimed to have discovered the world’s largest fossilized dinosaur egg that measured 41 centimetres (16 inches) from tip to tip in a giant nest (containing 20 eggs) thought to be 100 million years old. Back in 1997, villagers discovered about 300 fossilized dinosaur eggs in Pisdura, 440 miles northeast of Bombay that Indian scientists said were laid by four-legged long-necked vegetarian creatures. In 2003, bones of dinosaur (Rajasaurus narmadensis) were discovered in Narmada river region. There were some other discoveries too from our country.The egg discovered by Narzary was collected in the area 837ft above sea and 1°31.761´N latitude and 97°29.797´E longitude. The egg, measuring lengthwise 30 inches from tip to tip and having a width diameter of 24 inches, weighs 16 kg.Talking to this Correspondent, Narzary said that he and some palaeontologists of Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany of Lucknow are now studying the egg to know more about the nature and type of dinosaur that it is and its period of prevalence. Further, uranium dating has been done and its age may be known in another month.

DIBRUGARH, July 8 — While other children of his age savour the first taste of chocolates, 17-month-old Jayanta Lahan finds ‘Bhoot jolokia’, world’s hottest chilly, the most appetising.Lahan, nicknamed Johnny, started devouring the famed chilly since he was six months old and today he ate 23 of them in just two minutes before a group of journalists here. Concerned with their son’s unnatural taste, Lahan’s parents Ritul and Rupjyoti contacted several doctors here who have assured them that the child is healthy.No apparent side affects due to consumption of the chillies have been detected in the several medical tests conducted so far.The toddler, who on one occasion allegedly ate 60 of these chillies, may be a wonder here but his parents are not interested in putting his name in the record books. “We just want our child to be healthy. We do not want his health to be affected in any way because of the chillies,” said his farmer father.The ‘Bhoot Jolokia’, whose scientific name is Capsicum chinense “with 1001304 Scoville Heat Unit” (in scientific terms), has been ranked the world’s hottest chilly.An Assamese woman, Anandita Tamuly, is aspiring to make it to the Guinness Book of Records for eating the maximum number of the chilly. –PTI

Sarthebari bell metal industry struggling for survival
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 economy
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.

Singpho ‘Tea Coin’ hits Canadian market
GUWAHATI, July 17 — ‘Tea Coin’, developed by the Singpho community in Margherita is now available in the Canadian market. The new product is sold in the leading stores of Canada in the brand name of Phalap (tea is known as phalap in Singpho language). The ‘Tea Coin’ is marketed by Small Tea Co-operative, a Canada-based company.‘Tea Coin’ is a new concept in the field of tea industry in the State. Each coin contains two grams of tea that can be consumed by simply dissolving in hot water. The company has come forward to import tea from Margherita for its traditional value.“We have sold over 1000 pieces of tea coins within a short span of time in the Canadian market and another consignment comprising 10,000 pieces have been sent in view of growing response from the customers,” Rajesh Singpho, the man behind the mission told this correspondent today. The tea farmer informed that he is in the process of exporting ‘Tea Coins’ to North America. “We have received feedback from North American companies on our traditional tea and they are keen to import Singpho tea,” he informed.Citing reasons for the Canadian company’s keenness to purchase tea from Margherita despite aggressive marketing from China and Sri Lanka, he observed that it is simply because of traditional method of manufacturing and as it is also chemical free. “We produce tea without using modern machine that keeps entire nutrients of tea intact. Since our tea does not have any chemical the Canadian people have accepted it,” he added.In Margherita, about 200 youths are involved in tea farming for their livelihood. They generally produce organic tea without using any fertilizer and therefore the demand of their product is very high across the globe. Buoyed by the response from the Canadian company, Rajesh expressed the hope the new export link would further boost the tea business in the State. “We had a marathon presentation before the tea experts in Canada to establish our brand and we are now planning to expand our market in other places,” he added. Replying to a question about his future plan, the tea farmer stated that he would mobilise the youths to engage in producing tea coins. “The new concept is promoted by Fertile Ground, a Canadian organization,” he added.

Bamboo crafts need patronage
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.

This is Air India Boeing 777 Assam...
GUWAHATI, July 28 – Next time you take an Air India flight to go abroad don’t be surprised to see the name of your State ‘Assam’ inscribed in the fuselage and cabin area of the Boeing 777. More surprises may be in store for you as the air-hostess announces the name of the aircraft before take-off and you open the reading kit in the seat to find brochures on Assam’s history, culture, tourism etc.This has been made possible due to a year-long agreement between Assam Tourism and Air India under which a State of the country is allowed to adopt the aircraft that will bear the name of the State, according to Sri Dilip Baruah, director, Assam Tourism.‘A film highlighting the State as a business and leisure destination will be screened on every flight operated by the aircraft for ten minutes. Moreover, a specified area or space will be allotted in the aircraft to display the State’s history and culture’, Baruah added

Chefs smarting up to changing food habits
GUWAHATI, July 16 – In this happening city, gateway to the Northeast, much has been occurring on the food front. With growing exposure to other cultures, the common person of Guwahati is getting more liberal in food habits. Today, his or her range of food would include more than the traditional fare. More disposable income has also played a role in making people experiment with food. Every afternoon and evening, a large number of people flock to their favourite restaurants for the widening variety of gastronomic delights as many of the cuisines would be difficult to prepare at home. Many chefs would agree that a large chunk of their customers from Guwahati have developed a taste for north Indian cuisine like Mughlai and Tandoori. Tandoori, especially has become a big hit with young and middle-aged customers. According to Pravir Kanti Sarkar, chief chef of the Dynasty hotel, the customers enjoying tandoori, mughlai and other north Indian cuisine have increased in a marked way. “We have introduced a new tandoori menu in our hotel that has attracted more foodies.” he said.Sarkar was of the view that tandoori items with less oil and spice were much in favour these days. As dishes cooked in such a manner are tasty as well as nutritious, it has attracted so many people, he believes. He also pointed out that more families are eating out than before. Usually the crowds get bigger in the weekend and in holidays. Among the younger crowd, fast food continues to hold its ground. Rolls and momos are among the fastest selling food items in and around schools, colleges, and other establishments. Several small roadside eateries have survived solely by selling these two items.Gradually, traditional Assamese cuisine is also drawing a clientele from varied backgrounds, including tourists and non-resident Assamese.Atul Lahkar’s Kharika has been pulling in people in large numbers mainly because of its grilled delicacies (Kharika). Lahkar said, “ it is a positive sign that the young generation is taking to traditional dishes,” said Lahkar, informing that his customers comprise mostly of young people who hanker after boiled food and dishes prepared with medicinal herbs. “ The new generation is health conscious,” said Lahkar.Lahkar further said that the traditional dishes had the potential to go global provided it was presented in an enticing way without compromising on the taste and ingredients.

Commercial bamboo farming started in Jorhat
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.

India-New York flight named after Assam
MUMBAI, Aug 1 – People of Assam will be a happier lot now on, as the first ever Mumbai-Newyork non-stop daily flight introduced by Air India today was named after the State of Assam. It was an auspicious occasion not only to the Assam team led by Debashish Sarma, the Deputy Resident Commissioner, Assam Bhawan, Mumbai who participated in the flag-off ceremony, but to the whole populace of the state as the high profile flight, with ultra modern aircraft technology and facilities, was flagged off by Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel at 12.45 am. (IST) in Mumbai.The ceremony was preceded by traditional Assamese Bihu dance and Bharat Natyam of Andhra Pradesh, the state after which another flight is to be named. Both the folk dances were highly appreciated by the elite gathering consisting of several members of Parliament, top central and state bureaucrats, other government officials, filmstars, businessmen among others.The Assam team which was led by Sri Sarma also included Himangshu Sekhar Das, Commissioner, Tourism Department and Liakat Ali, Deputy Director, Tourism Department.Addressing the gathering prior to the formal flag-off of the flight, Praful Patel said that since he sat on the saddle, there have been a sea change in the aviation sector. He said that the number of aircraft in India has been increased from a meagre 138 in 2004 to 330 in 2007. The present government at the Centre has made all out effort to make people in every nook and corner in the country feel that they are not secluded anymore. They have been given the opportunity to feel that there are places to remind beyond metropolis like Mumbai and Delhi. Keeping this aim in view, his department has decided to name the first two aircraft of this very important fleet after Andhra Pradesh and Assam. He reiterated his commitment to improve the condition of the civil aviation sector according to the demand of the present scenario.Speaking on the occasion, V Tulsidas, chairman-cum-managing director, Air India, gave a bird’s eye view of the aircraft and narrated the facilities designed to fit the level of ‘customer’s delight’. He also informed that the country’s two major air carriers merger will materialise within the next few weeks and the new name would be ‘Air India’. Dr V Trivedi, CMD, Indian Airlines, also spoke on the occasion. Dr Trivedi disclosed that 10 to 12 existing aircraft have been transformed into cargos and more are to be inducted soon for this purpose. Both the CMDs proudly announced that after the merger ‘Air India’ would be the biggest airline in this region.

NE emerges as major transit point
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 fair
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.

Scope of tourism in Gohpur sub-division highlighted
HALEM, Aug 25 – Government should have constituted a panel for introduction of sites for ‘tourism’ in the State. There are some places in the State which are yet to be recognised as a place for tourists.Addressing a press-meet here at Halem Press Club recently, SC Barthakur, a senior citizen, a social worker, a retired teacher and adviser, AAJU, pointed out that not to speak of other places, in Gahpur sub-division alone, places such as Bholaguri TE covering Jyoti Park where the first Assamese film Joymati was directed by Jyoti Prasad Agartala in 1935 has not been recognised.A temporary studio ‘Chitraban’ was conducted there with only banana trees and was adorned with ‘sarais’, collected locally. Again, there is a place, ‘Ramghat’ in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh border under Halem mouza, about 25 km from here which is full of natural scenary. Once it was famous for picnic parties from Lakhimpur, Darrang districts (undivided) came here to enjoy its enchanting scenary like hanging bridge joining both sides of Boroi river, the temple, plenty of Sil-gharia fish in the river, different pools through which water falls from the high hills etc., Barthakur said.But the unfortunate thing is that as soon as NEFA (North East Frontier Agency) was developed to a fullfledged State Arunachal Pradesh, some socalled leaders of Arunachal Pradesh debarred others from entering there resulting discontinuance of cordial relationship among people and the fellow-brothers of both states. If the State Government is able to develope Ramghat, as a tourist place, then it is sure that the previous cordial relationship can be restored.‘Kauripathar’, a village, near it is also famous for ‘Ganga-Goshala’, and its nearby places are disturbed by wild elephants and if this place can be included in the map of tourism, then the elephant menace can perhaps be stopped and illegal felling of trees of reserved forests can also be stopped, Barthakur said. The press meet was conducted by Bhaskar Bhuyan, secretary, Halem Press Club.

Chandubi’s tourism potential untapped
CHANDUBI, Aug 25 – Even after being one of the tourist and biodiversity hotspots of the State Chandubi, some 60 km south-west from Guwahati, has failed to draw due attention of the authorities concerned. The unkempt look of the unique lake, inclusive of the deserted tourist lodge near by substantiated the callous attitude of the authorities concerned. Bordering on Meghalaya, the lake that reportedly came into being on June 12, 1897 as a result of devastating quake, has the potential of becoming a full-fledged tourist hotspot. But lack of development for the past few years has raised the spectre of a bleak future for the beautiful lake.Giving stress on the pressing need of participation of all sections in the development process, Dilip Kr Baruah, director tourism, Government of Assam maintained: “ To make an endeavour successful people’s participations is imperative.” Here it is worthwhile to note that Assam Tourism has proposed to renovate the existing infrastructural facilities in the tourist spot under one-time additional central assistance during 2007-08.Talking to this correspondent, Madhu Dubey, regional director, North East, India Tourism said, “Tourism sector of Assam is in great need of boost to realise the optimal benefit.” To Dubey, North-east is ahead as far as potential of A-1 tourism is concerned in the world. It needs mentioned that given the perilous state of the Chandubi lake, infrastructural development is need of the hour. The 10 km-long bumpy road from Muduki to Chandubi has been a constant reproach to tourists. And factors like non-existent of electrical facilities, drinking water, etc could be accounted for slender tourist flow.Meanwhile, what is disheartening to note is that the tectonic beel reportedly witnessed dwindling of water area from 288.7 ha to about 712.0 ha with its reported mean depth 1.46 m including maximum FSL depth 4.2 m. Underscoring the urgent need of conservation of the wetland reportedly consisting of 39 loops, Dr Mrigendra Mohan Goswami, Department of Zoology, Gauhati University said: “Declining of water area of Chandubi has become a threat to its very existence,” and advocated peoples participation which is a must to realise a desired goal.Here, it merits mention that Dr Goswami had presented a paper on fresh water jelly fish of Chandubi in the sixth International Conference on Coelenterate Biology held at Leeuwenhorst, the Netherlands in 1995.Putting the huge potential of the Chandubi lake into good use authorities could enrich the tourism revenue besides ameliorating the battered economic state of host of people in the rural areas surrounding the lake.s

Malaysia’s bid to woo NE tourists
GUWAHATI, Aug 24 – Improved air connectivity and development of the tourism sector in the State are now providing incentives to the tourism industries of different countries to woo the people of the State as their prospective tourists. Exploring the turf of the North-east India for the first time, representatives of Tourism Malaysia, the nodal agency to promote Malaysia as a preferred tourist destination, are in Guwahati to talk business. “Among all the north-eastern States, Guwahati is the place with a better air connectivity and the potentials to make it our starting point in the region,” said Roslan Abdullah, Director of Tourism Malaysia, North and East market. The Malaysian delegation organised an interactive trade session with the city’s leading travel agents and tour operators. The sales mission to the city is aligned with Tourism Malaysia’s objective to target 4,00,000 tourist arrival from India, as a part of Visit Malaysia Year 2007.With the craze of tourists gradually shifting from European countries to Asian destinations, Malaysia continues to witness a consistent increase in the Indian tourist arrivals. It recorded a total of 2,79,046 tourist arrivals from India in 2006 as compared to 2,25,789 arrivals in 2005, thus registering a 23.6 percent increase. The Malaysian government aims to attract 20.1 million tourists during Visit Malaysia Year 2007. “We have witnessed more than 200 to 300 percent growth in tourist footfall since our first office was established in India in 1989,” he added. The mostly visited cities in Malaysia are the garden city Kuala Lumpur, the city of entertainment, Genting Highlands and Sabah, a state having cultural similarities with the NE India, like the bamboo dance. Moreover, the leisurely travellers to Malaysia can make the most of the VMY passport that is first of its kind, which has been launched by Malaysian Tourism Ministry to commemorate the 50 years of nationhood.The country has also signed a commercial agreement with the Kingfisher Airlines to promote its tourism sector. Elaborating on the promotional visits to Guwahati, Abdullah said that “NE region is the potential emerging source market to woo the whole Eastern region, after which we are planning to explore Ranchi.” “Guwahati, in the near future, will become a prominent source hub of the NE region and realizing its potentials, we have initiated our interactive trade session with the city’s leading agents,” he added.

Govt to seek GI rights for eri, komal chaul
GUWAHATI, Aug 24 – Registration of the geographical indication (GI) rights of muga has ostensibly created a lot of passion in the State. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today announced at a function that the State Government would try also to protect the interests of the growers of eri, komal chaul, etc. items in a similar manner as has been done in the case of muga. The function was held at the Panbazar auditorium of the Institution of Engineers to discuss the prospects and importance of geographical indications (GIs) in Assam.State’s Science and Technology Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also announced at the function that the State Government had decided to move Japan, European Union, the USA and the like countries seeking registration of muga with them to facilitate export of muga products under international trade conventions. In the function, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi received the certificate of GI registration of muga from Sarma. The certificate of registration issued by the GI Registry of India on July 20 last, has stated that muga has been registered in class 23,24,25,27 and 31 under No 55. The item is registered in the name of Assam Science, Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC). This registration will cover muga cocoon, raw silk yarn and threads for textile use and textile and textile goods including mekhela-chadar, shawls, dress materials, sarees, wall hangings, clothings/garments, footwears, headgear, made ups, ties, motifs, fashion wears, quilt, furnishings and upholstery made of it.Addressing the function, Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks and Registrar of GI, Government of India, V Ravi said that GI registration of an item pointed to its place of origin. Darjeeling tea is the first item of the country to get GI registration. It was registered in 2003.The country has thousands of items, which can have their GI rights registered. Registration of the GI rights of an item improves its economic prospects. Right from the toys and jaapi (the bamboo and palm leaf made Assamese headgear) to tea leaves and food items, everything unique to a place can be registered under the GI certification system, he said.Assistant Registrar of the Geographical Indications Registry V Natarajan said that GI is an instrument of rural development. The GI of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 has provided for additional protection for the notified goods and it identifies goods as agricultural, natural or manufactured and points to their places of origin. So far the GI Registry of the country has registered 39 products, he said.Any association of persons or producers or any organisation or authority established by or under law representing the interest of producers of the goods concerned can get their items registered under the GI certification system. However, the items must have peculiar features that make them different from other similar goods. The GI registration needs to be renewed after every ten years, said Natarajan.Former Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University S Jayaraj said that NE region had innumerable items, which could be registered under the GI Act. Besides muga and eri and their products, its bodo paddy, tea, large cardamom, orchids, bio-pesticide- yielding trees like neem/melia, the hottest chilli, handloom and handicraft items and traditional knowledge-based ethno-medicines also deserve attention in this regard. The nutritious value of the silk pupae of the region should also be looked into, he said. He informed the gathering that Assam’s contribution to the total raw muga production of the country was 99 per cent, while about 63 per cent of the total raw eri production of the country used to come from this State.Addressing the function, Advisor, Quality Council of India, Dr Thuppil Venkatesh said that all products for global recognition and acceptance through GI needed to comply with quality assurance and quality control norms. They should also meet the International Standard Organisations (ISO) requirements.For quality control, third party quality control is needed and internal quality control needs to be checked at regular intervals. The external quality assessment of such items should be done at least twice a year, he said.ASTEC Director Dr AK Barua and Rajashree Sarma and Krishna Sarma of the Corporate Law Group, New Delhi, also addressed the function, among others.

Muga recognised as Assam’s ‘original’ yarn
GUWAHATI, Aug 22 – After a long wait, Assam’s luminous golden muga silk has now secured the recognition under the Intellectual Property Rights that it has its origin in Assam only. In the changed trade and commercial scenario under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime, this recognition called Geographical Indications (GI) — will definitely provide better legal protection to this golden yarn, its fabric and the people connected with their production. The certificate of GI registration of muga, which is the first GI right the State has attained, will be presented to the Chief Minister at a function scheduled for 9-45 am of August 24 at the Panbazar auditorium of the Institution of Engineers here. The Chief Minster will receive it on behalf of the people of the State, said official sources here.On behalf of the State’s people, the Patent Information Centre (PIC) of the Assam Science, Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC) had made an application with the GI Registry of India to register muga as the GI of Assam on July 20, 2006. It needs mention here that the State Government had earlier made the PIC the nodal agency for the purpose.In preparing the application, the PIC consulted and collected information from the Sericulture Department, ARTFED, Institute of Advanced Studies in Science and Technology, Archaeology Directorate, Directorate of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, Gauhati University’s Department of Sanskrit and KK Handique Library and many experts working in the area. The PIC application was sent to the GI Registry, Chennai through the Patent Facilitating Centre of Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council of the Union Department of Science and Technology. The Delhi-based law firm—Corporate Law Group—rendered attorney services to the PIC in this matter. And now, the GI Registry has registered muga as GI of Assam. Now the PIC of ASTEC is the registered proprietor of muga on behalf of the Government of Assam. State’s Sericulture Department, ARTFED, Central Silk Board and farmers and other producers can become authorised users of this luminous golden silk.It needs mention here that in case of GI, only the registered proprietor and authorised users can initiate infringement actions. The authorised users can exercise the exclusive right to use the geographical indication.

Mayong-Pobitora enjoys enhanced tourist potential
GUWAHATI, Aug 17 – Few places can offer such a unique blend of wildlife, adventure, heritage and rural tourism in a manner that Mayong-Pobitora does. And now, completion of the new double-lane road via Chandrapur has removed a perennial infrastructure constraint that had come in the way of realising the area’s tourist potential. Mayong, the famed tantric seat of the occult, and Pobitora sanctuary, a rhinoland par excellence, have witnessed a steady flow of tourists in the past few years notwithstanding transport bottlenecks. One can also access Mayong through a cruise on the mighty Brahmaputra. “Tourist flow to Mayong-Pobitora is slowly picking up, and things are bound to improve faster with the completion of the double-lane road which has reduced the distance from Guwahati to Pobitora by 20 km, making the journey less than an hour-long,” Amar Bora of TOURFED said.Bora said that about 5,000 domestic tourists besides 34 from abroad visited Mayong-Pobitora last season (2006-07). TOURFED had started promoting Mayong-Pobitora as a destination in 2002. “The area combines in itself diverse segments of tourism such as wildlife, adventure, heritage and village, which is rare. The tourist has a choice of opting for either road transport or a cruise on the Brahmaputra,” Bora said. The Forest Department is also earning a good amount of revenue following the increased tourist flow to Pobitora. “Of late, people have taken considerable interest in Pobitora, which is a positive sign. It is also an effective antidote against poaching,” a Forest official said. Pobitora, with 81 rhinos (2006 census) over an area of just 38.81 sq km, has the ambience of Kaziranga. “We have both elephant and jeep safaris, and due to the high concentration of the rhino, the tourist is always sure of encountering a number of animals,” the Forest official said. Rhinos apart, Pobitora shelters 24 species of mammals and 27 reptiles that include buffalo, leopard, leopard cat, fishing cat, jungle cat, civet, rhesus macaque, pangolin, python, monitor lizard, etc. TOURFED had set up a museum at Mayong with involvement of the local villagers, showcasing an array of the archaeological artifacts besides other objects of interest, including ancient magic literature. Mayong, in fact, is an archaeologist’s delight dotted with many a remnant that speaks of its misty past. “We have made an appeal to prospective donors to enrich the museum through donation,” Bora said, adding that recurring floods often cause extensive damage to the museum. Bora revealed that the local communities were slowly deriving the benefits of a growing tourism. “There has been some involvement of the locals in tourism-related activities such as the popular decorated buffalo cart ride, magic show, handicrafts, etc. Some villagers are also share-holders of TOURFED, which is a cooperative society,” he said. Bora said that he was expecting a rush of domestic tourists the coming season. “We did some aggressive marketing in Maharashtra and West Bengal, making power-point presentations on Mayong-Pobitora besides Surya Pahar and Bogolomari Gaon before the West Bengal Tour Operators’ Association and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation,” he said, adding that they were enthralled by the tourism prospects of the places. Bora said that efforts were on to promote woodcraft and brass metal souvenirs that had great demand among the tourists. Bora also felt that the State Government could play a more proactive role in giving a boost to the growth of tourism in the area. “We have many potential destinations that are in urgent need of government support,” he said.
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 MalĂ©-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: Jairam
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.
Earnings from NE monuments fallingFrom Our Spl Correspondent NEW DELHI, Aug 30 – The north-eastern States have 82 Centrally-protected monuments of national importance but the earnings from the monuments have declined. The earning from the monuments last year was Rs 6.76 lakh down from Rs 8.57 lakh earned a year earlier. In 2004-2005 the government had earned Rs 8.75 lakh from these monuments, Union Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni said.The Archaeological Survey of India has carried out regular repairs by way of conservation, preservation, maintenance and creation of environmental development on monuments of national importance, besides providing tourist amenities, the Minister said.Assam has the highest number of 55 such monuments in the North-east followed by eight each in Meghalaya and Tripura.Meanwhile, in a separate reply to a question by Dr Arun Kumar Sarma, the Minister said the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has no proposal for restoration of the historical Ghuguha Dol in Dhemaji district.

Rs 100 cr package for Majuli
JORHAT, Sept 4 – Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today announced a package of Rs 100 crore for the development of Majuli at a public meeting at Sumoimari Ghat in the river island. The Chief Minister reiterated that the State Government and the Brahmaputra Board would collaborate in an efficient manner to control floods and erosion in the subdivision. Gogoi also promised to address the issue of rehabilitation of the people displaced by the twin scourges in the river island.The Chief Minister, who was flanked by Majuli MLA Rajib Lochan Pegu and his Jorhat counterpart Rana Goswami, said that a special cell would be formed to tackle the erosion problem in Majuli. Gogoi also visited the erosion-affected Kharkharijan area on a boat. Sattradhikars and several organisations like the AASU, Majuli Suraksha Parishad and Gana Sangram Parishad submitted memorandums to the Chief Minister. Inclement weather shortened Gogoi’s stay in the island.It needs mention here that the river island, which is named for the prestigious states of UNESCO World Heritage Site by the State Government, is facing severe erosion for the past several years.Faced with the agitation of the people of the island as well as other parts of the State, the Central Government had asked the Brahmaputra Board to undertake measures for physical protection of the island.But the alleged failure of the Board to implement the first phase of the project prepared for the purpose, on time made many areas of the island vulnerable to erosion.The situation has come to such a pass how that the Kamalabari town and several leading sattras of the island are now facing serious threat from the Brahmaputra.

Encyclopedia on State villages
GUWAHATI, Sept 5 – Aitihasik Samol Sangrah Ahbayak Mancha (ASSAM), which is an organisation recently formed with a mission to initiate a mass movement in the State to arouse interest among the people to collect and compile historic facts of our heritage has undertaken a project called ‘Anonya Asom’ with an aim to bring out an encyclopedia of villages of Assam, a press release stated.It is indeed a challenging task which cannot be accomplished by an individual or organisation alone. It needs the efforts and support of the people. Rather, the whole-hearted involvement of the people is required for completion of such a huge project.ASSAM is, organising an essay competition to start this project. This competition is open for all people irrespective of age, gender and educational qualification. A participant has to write a research-oriented essay about his/her native village giving authentic information, regarding the history of the village, geographical, social, cultural, economical, environmental and educational aspect, including the basic problem of the village. The writing should be short, simple and clear. The essay can be written in four languages, ie. Assamese, English, Bengali and Bodo. Selected essays will be published in the proposed encyclopedia and the best essays will be awarded. The first three best essays will be awarded a cash price of Rs 10,000, 7,000 and 5,000 respectively along with other prizes. Moreover, special prize will be awarded to 20 more participants.Participants may send their essays on or before October 31 alongwith Rs 30 as a registration fees to Kishor Kumar Bhuyan, chief convener, Anonya Asom, Aitihasik Samol Sangrah Ahbayak Mancha, Choudhury Complex, (in front of Jade garden (Chinese restaurant) Hengerabari Road, Guwahati-781006.

Innovative tourism package to attract Europeans
GUWAHATI, Feb 8 – Though it is all about promoting the exotic beauty of the lush tea gardens dotting the State and the lifestyle of the people tenderly taking care of them, the utilitarian aspect would be taken into careful consideration by Kaziranga Wildlife Society life member Debasish Baruah while espousing the adventures related to a tea garden life.To be launched by 2008, Baruah’s ‘Remembrance Package’ developed on the concept of tea tourism, would be aimed at the descendants of the Sahebs who once managed the tea gardens in the State.To the new generation of Europeans, Baruah will try to bring to reality the memories cherished by their grandfather or great grandfather, those images that might do the trick of propaganda and project the potential of Asom in a different angle to the European backpackers.“ We want to target those Europeans who were born in one of those sprawling bungalows in a tea estate, and who might want to come here again to experience their childhood,” said Baruah.According to Baruah, the concept of tea tourism has entered the mainstream tourism in the State, and it has a good potential, provided the tour packages are comprehensive and affordable.“ For many Europeans, the desire to visit the tea gardens in the State remain unfulfilled as they cannot afford the travelling expenditure,” said Baruah, adding that upcoming entrepreneurs who want to catch on the unfulfilled desire of the overseas tea garden lovers, must come up with affordable packages.Baruah’s package will offer the Europeans the total feel of the garden experience, right from the plucking of the choicest ati kali duti paat to its final processing.“ We are also considering to promote the indigenous techniques of tea manufacturing,” revealed Baruah.Growing in wild at one time, tea has come a long way after being cultivated professionally. Its history has not only to do with its expansion, it has a lot to say the true story of a hard working community who migrated to the State, and embraced it as their own, enriching its folk tradition.“ With the right publicity, we are expecting to attract the other non-target tourists also,” said Baruah.Baruah on the other hand feels that to sustain the tea tourism, it is necessary to introduce the visitors to every aspect of the tea industry right to the marketing process through the auction centres.Baruah further said that apart from emphasizing on the rhythm of the madal, which is part and parcel of the tea tourism, there should also be initiatives to translate the folk songs of the tea community into English, French, Germany etc so that the visitors can enjoy the captivating dances of the tea community.

Traditional gamosas win players’ appreciation
GUWAHATI, Feb 15 – After Rongmon, it is the traditional Asomiya gamosa that has captured the fancy of the players converging in the capital city on the occasion of the 33rd National Games. Players from across the country have been thronging the exhibition cum sale fair of ARTFED going on near games village, and the gamosa, with its beautiful designs, has won their appreciation.According to officials of ARTFED, the players have been visiting the stall for the sole purpose of purchasing the gamosas.With many players sporting gamosas, the SHGs participating in the fair have been doing brisk business. With sales standing at around Rs 5000 everyday for the SHGs, the smiles of Nisha, Kalyani and others have been growing bigger. “ The players are preferring nuni and kesapat gamosas,” revealed Nisha of Rangili SHG.The colour and designs of Bodo Dokhona and Gaale of the Garo community has also attracted the attention of the sportspersons. Kalyani Singha of Kalyani SHG, has been happy as a lark. The reason, her tribal collection has been selling like hot cake.It has been good business for the other SHGs like Milijuli, Rupali, Radali etc.The officials of ARTFED informed that 11 SHGs from Barpeta, Goalpara, Marigaon, Nagaon, Kamrup districts are participating in the fair. Mukul Deka, general manager of ARTFED revealed that the target was to do business to the tune of Rs 30 lakh. “ The way things are going, we are confident to cross our target,” said Deka. It may be mentioned here that ARTFED has been organizing cultural shows at the exhibition site, and the response of the players towards the shows too has been very warm, added Deka.Despite the inclement conditions on Wednesday, the fashion show drew huge crowd.

Plan to boost exports of region’s handicrafts
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 global
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.

Thailand, Egypt to promote products
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.

Modern textile designs must for world market’
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.

Call to develop Thetha Gosai Than as tourist spot
NALBARI, Feb 13 – The annual Bishnu puja of the 400-year-old Thetha Gosai Than of Dokoha village in Nalbari district will be held on February 14 and 15 with a two-day long programme. Thousands of devotees from different parts are expected to be attended the Bishnu puja being held for the peace, unity and wellbeing of entire humanity.The two-day programme will be held with the flag hoisting by Kushal Talukdar, president of Thetha Gosai Than parichalana samiti while Swapna Bezbaruah, member of Barbhag Zilla Parishad seat will light the lamp.The religious meeting to be held on February 15 will be attended by Dr Bhumidhar Barman, Minister of Revenue Relief and Rehabilitation. Noted litterateur Dr Basanta Kumar Bhattacharya, Jamini Kanta Sarma and Santosh Churaiya will take part as distinguished speakers.Meanwhile, the historic than situated on the bank of the river Baralia has set a new lease of life with some new structures coming up in the campus this year. Two leading social workers Kushal Talukdar and Mukul Pathak have got the surroundings of the than covered with decorative structures. They have also installed four permanent idols of child Krishna in all four corners under four concrete umbrellas. Some rest sheds have also been constructed in the campus for the devotees coming from far away. They have also committed to do more for the development of the historic than.The Brahmaputra Board under its drainage development scheme is also constructing a sluice gate on the Satha channel. In absence of a bridge on the channel the devotees have been facing a lot of inconvenience in crossing the channel to reach the than.The scenic beauty of the than has also attracted the picnic parties to this location. The meeting point of river Pagladia and Baralia attracts every visitor. Moreover, the large Baralia beel situated just opposite the than is another spot of attraction of this locality.Fishes and migratory birds also attracted the nature lovers. For this reason during the months of December and January, hundreds of picnic parties come to this spot.Though the people of this locality have been demanding development of the area as a tourist spot for its tremendous natural beauty, no one has taken the matter seriously, the public allege.

Exquisite handicraft items showcased at trade fair
GUWAHATI, March 7 – Realising the urgent need for an aggressive thrust to adequately project the handicrafts of the Northeast before the global customers, a sourcing show is being organised at the 14th International Guwahati Trade Fair by the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) billed ‘Global Window for Indian Handicrafts’.The sourcing show aims to provide direct marketing outlets to the craftspersons living in far-flung and hilly areas of the Northeastern region.Over hundred stalls, showcasing different attractive handicraft items with exquisite designs having the potential of being huge hits in the global market, have been put up at the trade fair under the initiative of S Dhar, regional director, offfice of the Development Commissioner, Union Ministry of Textiles and the Industries and Trade Fair Association of Assam.

Thailand, Egypt to promote products
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.

Haflong’s tourism potential remains untapped
HAFLONG, Sept 11 – Haflong, the idyllic hill station of Assam with immense tourism potential, continues to suffer for neglect and apathy. Whereas, with proper planning and infrastructure development, this picturesque locale could well have emerged as a major destination of the country.Connectivity has been a perennial bane for Haflong. The road to Haflong from Guwahati via Nagaon bears signs of tell-tale neglect, and can hardly be called motorable. Landslide-induced disruption is common on the other route through Shillong. “Haflong has all the charms of a hill station, and we want to tap its potential,” Assam Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Ajai Singh told a team of visiting journalists from Guwahati recently. The Governor’s plans for Haflong involve promotional drives and infrastructure development. “We are going to project Haflong as an ideal destination through promotional travel shows, publicity brochures, etc., to a wider audience. A tourist lodge at a fabulous location of Umrangso is all set to be opened for tourists,” he said. At present the lodge is occupied by a CRPF platoon engaged in protection of a railway broad gauge project and expansion of the NH-54-E. “The CRPF would be housed at an alternative location and the lodge opened for tourists,” he added.Poor infrastructure apart, lack of adequate publicity has been another stumbling block in harnessing Haflong’s prospects as a great hill resort. “Forget about other States, not many people of Assam would be knowing about its tourist attractions,” an official of the North Cachar Hills district administration said. The slow pace of development in Haflong, the headquarters of North Cachar Hills, is a major contributing factor to the thriving insurgency in the district. “Development is the key to progress, and its absence finds reflection in insurgency in the region. Things, however, are changing for the better now, with a number of development projects under implementation and many on the anvil,” the official said. Haflong and NC Hills as a whole hold a wide array of interests for the tourist. The rolling Barail hills, the misty Jatinga known for the weird bird-suicide phenomenon, the nearby Heritage Village, the historic town of Maibang with its remnants of a glorious past, the dream valley of Umrangso, the frothing waterfalls of Panimoor, the endless pineapple orchards of Harangaj are some of the attractions that can cast a spell on the traveller.“Haflong has few parallels when it comes to diverse tourist interests. Although it got little publicity in the past, we are now directing our efforts to put it firmly on the country’s tourist map,” Zahid Ahmed Tapadar, District Information and Public Relations Officer, NC Hills, said. Another unique thing about Haflong is its diverse ethnicity. “Inhabited by a dozen tribes having their rich, vibrant cultures, Haflong is a unique multi-coloured mosaic,” Gopinath Garlosa, former chairman of Haflong Town Committee, said.A flourishing tourism scene, in fact, can be the most effective antidote to insurgency in the region. “Enhanced people-to-people contact and facilitating the growth of tourism through infrastructure development and publicity can usher in a new era of peace and progress in Haflong and NC Hills,” Brig PR Shankar of the Indian Army, who has been in Haflong for several years, said.

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.

Will Majuli gain from CM’s ‘package’ ?
JORHAT, Sept 13 – Dispur has turned its attention towards saving Majuli, the religious and culture hub of the State, and giving a fillip to the economic development of the river island in a fresh initiative. Spelling out the roadmap, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, whose visit to the erosion-hit subdivision on September 4 did not come a day too soon, announced that the State Government would constitute the Majuli Development Authority soon to execute an ambitious project aimed at protecting the island from the scourge of erosion on the one hand and ensuring the social and economic development of the islanders on the other. The Chief Minister revealed that an amount of Rs 100 crore would be earmarked in the first phase of the proposed project. The issue of rehabilitation of the people displaced by erosion will also be addressed under the project, Gogoi pointed out. It may be mentioned here that hundreds of homeless islanders are taking shelter on embankments and PWD roads. However, the Jorhat District Students’ Union has already sounded sceptical on the announcement of the Rs 100-crore package. JDSU general secretary Dhruba Hazarika said that the Government did not state in clear terms where the funds would come from. The Chief Minister had promised to execute a Rs 86-crore package for the overall development of Majuli in the not-too-distant past, too, he quipped. It may be recalled that Gogoi had made the announcement during the Asom Bhaona Samaroh hosted by the Auniati Satra in the river island in January, 2006. The AASU leader stressed that the Government should direct all its efforts towards protecting the geographical area of the river island which has virtually been shrinking by the day. Hazarika maintained that the JDSU had moved Dispur for the construction of spurs and dredging of the chaporis (sandbanks) to control the havoc wreaked by the Brahmaputra river. Though the Brahmaputra Board has been executing anti-erosion projects, running into several crores of rupees, the islanders have expressed their dissatisfaction over the efficacy of these “ill-timed and temporary measures” to tackle erosion. The Chief Minister had disclosed that the State Water Resources Department would collaborate with the Board in future to control erosion in Majuli. Gogoi also gave an assurance that the Brahmaputra Board would be restructured to make it more efficient. Assam Water Resources Minister Bharat Chandra Narah and Brahmaputra Board chairman SK Choudhury had accompanied the Chief Minister when he was taking stock of the erosion problem in Bengenati, Sumoimari and Khargari areas on a survey vessel. Informed sources pointed out that if the State Water Resources Department was involved in the future anti-erosion projects in Majuli, it would be after a gap of four years. The Brahmaputra Board has been entrusted with controlling floods and erosion in the river island since 2003. Observers here maintained that the Chief Minister’s visit was also directed at placating the sattradhikars, religious heads of the neo-Vaishnavite monasteries thriving in the island, who have been peeved at the Prime Minister for not visiting Majuli despite making a promise to do so during a meeting with a group of six sattradhikars at New Delhi in November last year. The fact that the panchayat polls are drawing near cannot be overlooked, too, they pointed out.

Central status for Dhola-Sadiya bridge
NEW DELHI, Sept 15 – The Centre has decided to implement the Dhola-Sadiya bridge as a central project with the participation of the Ministry of Power and Road Transport and Highways.Two State MPs said the decision was arrived at a meeting chaired by DoNER, Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar. Officials of Planning Commission, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Agriculture, secretary DoNER, vice chancellor of Assam Agricultural University Dr SS Baghel and chief engineers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, besides two MPs Dr Arun Kumar Sarma and Tapir Gao participated in the meeting. The project is considered vital for a few mega hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh with an installed capacity of 17,000 MW. The Prime Minister had constituted a task force which was headed by member of Planning Commission B N Yugandhar and recommended this bridge for priority implementation during 11th Plan.The Ministry of Power would finalise the DPR of this bridge within six months. It was also decided to construct the bridges over Lohit and Khabolu along with construction of NLKB road as a project under NEC funding by exploring the additional fund requirement during 11th Plan, Dr Sarma said.The DPR will be prepared through NEC within six months. It was also agreed in principle to implement the proposal for strengthening the College of Veterinary Science in Lakhimpur with an estimated cost of Rs 38 crore for the infrastructure component as a regional project of NEC.

Lack of infrastructure hits Hamren
DIPHU, Sept 19 – The 59 km road from Baithalangso to Khanduli, which was constructed under North-Eastern Council (NEC) in 1983 is posing a threat to the commuters due to its deplorable condition.The dilapidated bridges on this road at Langsingbar, Amselam, Umrinty, Amleinong, Thepailangso, Sanedi, Amlong and Amih has put the lives of commuters at risk.In 2004, NEC had sanctioned Rs 80 lakh for repairing the road, but only seven kilometres from Baithalangso to Tika was repaired for name sake only.The NEC divisional office at Kamrup hardly pays any attention to this road and it may be mentioned that its sub-divisional office at Baithalangso is being run without any office staff.Surprisingly, the executive members of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC), MLAs, other public representatives and high officials don’t seem to take any interest in the matter. The people alleged that though the PWD of KAAC alloted the work to some private firms but still the conditions are the same.The ex-chairman of Hamren Town Committee and MAC, Socheng constituency, RupsingTeron said that despite a memorandum being submitted to the ex-NEC chairman, Raju Sangma at Shillong, apathy of NEC officialshas continued.Teron also added that Kamal Touri, the then chairman of NEC assured him that the contract of repair work has been alloted to Jonathan Ingti Kathar, but not steps have been taken till today.On the other hand, two dilapidated wooden bridges at Kumorakata near Hojai of Nagaon district has disrupted the road links between Hojai and Dongkamokam resulting in price hike of essential commodities.Above all, two bridges near Vellapara, one at Dongkamokam and one near Dongkamokam dairy farm has put the citizens’ lives at risk.

Dhekiajuli martyrs yet to attain national status
DHEKIAJULI, Sept 19 – Dhekiajuli area will observe Martyr’s Day tomorrow to remember the great patriots of 1942 movement in the area. In the Quit India movement of 1942, Dhekiajuli played an important role. On September 20 on that historic day, 13 people died due to police firing while they tried to hoist the tricolour at Dhekiajuli police station.The martyrs were Monbor Nath, Kumali Devi, Mahi Ram Koch, Ratan Kachari, Sarunath Chutia, Mani Ram Kachari, 13-year-old Tileswari Barua, Lerela Kachari, Dayaldas Panika, Khauli Devi, Mongal Kurku and Habang Kachari.NSUI of Dhekiajuli block will observe the day on the premises of Town Lower Primary School. Another public meeting will be held at Jahamari Saheed Bhaban under auspices of Martyr’s and Freedom Fighter Family Coordination Committee, 18 km from here with a day-long programme. Another meeting will be held at Kawaimari, 13 km from here.The great heroes and heroine of Dhekiajuli in ’42 movement have not yet been recognised at national level.

Silk Mark holding road shows in city
GUWAHATI, Sept 25 – In its bid to help the buyers to get the purest silk fabrics, the Silk Mark Organization, under the aegis of the Central Silk Board (CSB), is organising a series of road shows in the city starting today. Deputy General Manager of NEDFi, SK Baruah flagged off the road show today, which started from NEDFi Haat via Uzanbazar and culminated at NEDFi Haat. “Just like the Hallmark, Silk Mark has been launched to help the genuine manufacturers, traders/retailers, exporters and consumers of pure silk products,” said Mamata B Sarma, Executive of SMOI, Guwahati. The SMOI, a newly formed body, which has been sponsored by the Ministry of Textiles, is also a forum where any grievances against the authenticity of Silk Mark products could be lodged. “Silk Mark has gained enormous popularity at all-India level among the consumers, manufacturers and traders of natural pure silk including Eri, Muga, Mulberry, etc. It is therefore necessary to promote Silk Mark and sensitise people in this region about this logo, which is affixed with pure silk only after going through a well-designed technical procedure,” she added. On September 26, the road show will start from Adhikari Pat Muga Udyog, Shanti Path via Rajgarh and will return to the starting point. The next day, on September 27, it will start from Aunty’s shop, Zoo Road via RG Baruah road and will go to Central Silk Board office while on September 28 and October 1, it will start from Silkalaya to Ganeshguri market. On October 2, the Silk Mark Road Show will start from Kalpataru to Panbazar and Fancy Bazar Markets, said the CSB officials.

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.

Mayong-Pobitora’s charm beckons tourists
MAYONG, Sept 27 – Combining in itself verdant forests and hills, exciting wildlife, archaeological remains, vibrant ethnic cultures and rustic charm, Mayong-Pobitora is a unique place to be in. Add to it the weird touch of the occult, it becomes a one-of-a-kind destination, offering diverse interests to the tourist. It was, therefore, in the fitness of things that the World Tourism Day was celebrated today in the land of magic and wildlife, showcasing its rich tourism potential to a wider audience. TOURFED, a tourism-promoting body organized the event with support from the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) and the India Tourism Regional Office. While Mayong is the famed ancient seat of sorcery and tantric magic, the nearby Pobitora wildlife sanctuary – with all the ambience of the Kaziranga National Park — harbours 81 rhinos within its 38.81-sq km area, making it the protected area with the highest density of the endangered one-horned rhino. “Few places can match Mayong-Pobitora in having a unique blend of wildlife, adventure, heritage and rural tourism. The mighty Brahmaputra flowing by its side also offers immense scope for river tourism,” Amar Bora of TOURFED said. According to Bora, things are gradually brightening up for the area, as it is witnessing a steady flow of tourists of late. “With the completion of the new road via Chandrapur, one can reach Mayong-Pobitora in less than an hour from Guwahati,” he said. Bora said that about 5,000 domestic tourists besides 34 from abroad visited Mayong-Pobitora last season (2006-07). The highlights of today’s World Tourism Day function at Mayong were a seminar ‘On the role of woman entrepreneurs in tourism industry’, a first-of-its-kind ethnic beauty contest christened as Miss Tourism Asom-2007 and a colourful cultural show. The participants at the seminar included MC Malakar, Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam, Oli Bora of the NEDFi and Surajit Dutta, DFO, Guwahati Wildlife Division besides Amar Bora. Dev Kumar Sarma of TOURFED presided over the proceedings. The king of Mayong (Mayong, interestingly, continues to have a symbolic monarch), Tarani Kanta Singha was among the distinguished guests. The speakers were unanimous in their assessment of the tourism potential of Mayong-Pobitora, and felt that with proper thrust on infrastructure development and publicity, it could emerge as a tourist hotspot. “With active community participation, eco-tourism can flourish in this area. But the unique thing about Mayong-Pobitora is that it has so many attractions like adventure tourism, heritage tourism, river tourism, rural tourism, etc.,” Malakar said. He also lauded the local people for helping the conservation process in Pobitora. Malakar urged the local communities to derive economic benefits of eco-tourism by offering traditional home stays to the tourists. “Tourists, especially those from abroad, are keen to experience first-hand the traditional lifestyles, which is possible from conventional accommodations offered by the locals,” he said. Oli Bora gave an account of the NEDFi’s initiatives in tapping the State’s tourism potential and generating self-employment among the youths in the tourism industry. “We have different schemes through which we finance prospective entrepreneurs in the tourism industry,” she said.The beauty contest, participated by some 20 contestants attired in their colourful ethnic best, drew loud applauses from the audience, as did the various cultural items comprising folk dance and music. TOURFED had set up a museum at Mayong with involvement of the local villagers, showcasing an array of the archaeological artifacts besides other objects of interest, including ancient magic literature. Mayong also abounds in remnants that speak of its misty past, which include temples, rock inscriptions, and other monuments.

Plan to boost State tourism
GUWAHATI, Sept 27 – By the end of March next year, Assam would get a total facelift in its existing tourism infrastructure as well as see the completion of the new ones to make it the most sought after destination amongst the backpackers. This was revealed by Tourism Minister Rockybul Hussain on Thursday Speaking at a function held on the occasion of the World Tourism Day, Hussain revealed that the State has been able to manage a grant of Rs 40 crore from the Centre to develop the tourism sector. The Government, informed the Minister was concentrating on dividing the tourism assets of the State into Lower Assam, Barak Valley and Hill districts, Upper Assam and Guwahati. “ For developing the Barak Valley and Hill districts, an amount of Rs 6.5 crore has been sanctioned,” said Hussain.The Minister said that to attract the tourists both domestic and foreign, it was of utmost importance to provide services of international standard to the visitors. “We cannot be complacent at this hour banking simply on the natural beauty and heritage of the State. To remain in the competition, we have to improve our services,” said Hussain.Hussain informed that the Government was taking up steps to create awareness on the potential of the tourism sector amongst the masses and called upon the young generation to enter the sector. It may be mentioned here that the theme for this year’s tourism day was ‘Tourism opens doors for Women,’ and the daylong programme celebrated by Assam Tourism showcased the immense scope for the fairer sex in this flourishing sector.The department agenda for today emphasised the need for creating awareness particularly amongst the fairer sex. The programme began with a procession followed by a vintage classic car rally, art and quiz competition, food festival before the curtains came down with an open session and cultural extravaganza. Speaking on the occasion, eminent speakers including Mohammed Taher, retired Prof, Gauhati University said that tourism which was the second largest industry, was an all encompassing phenomenon and urged the women of the State to take advantage of the opportunities in the sector.Chairperson of Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) Hemoprova Saikia was also present at the function. Earlier welcoming the dignitaries, Dilip Baruah, director, Assam Tourism said that women should come forward to take the leading role in the development of the industry.

India seeks to lure Thai investors
BANGKOK, Oct 1 – The Thais may take a while to make up their mind about investing in the North-east, but the region’s agriculture, food-processing, infrastructure sectors and the highly-qualified stock of manpower were showcased to woo them. The North East India Investment Opportunities Week got off on the right note here this afternoon, with Minister for Commerce, Krirk-Krai Jirapa proposing to observe 2008 as Indo-Thai Cooperation Year. With Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Ashwini Kumar hinting at putting in place, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two years next year, India made all the right noises to attract the Thai entrepreneurs. Minister DoNER, Mani Shanker Aiyar sought to lure Thai investors by pointing towards the Region’s infrastructure, where the Government of India proposed to pump in $ 15 billion in the road sector alone in the next five years. Thailand has a surplus capacity of road, airport, power plant construction companies could train their focus on these sectors because these are priority sectors for us also,” he said, inviting Thai investors.The Ministers were speaking at the inaugural session of the of the Investment Opportunities Week at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre was attended by Chief Ministers of five States of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Dorjee Khandu, D.D.Lapang, N. Rio, O. Ibobi Singh and Zoramthanga, respectively, besides, officials, entrepreneurs from India and Thailand.Earlier, Jirapaeth inaugurated an exhibition of products of the North Eastern Region put by entrepreneurs hailing from the Region. A colourful display of traditional handloom and handicrafts products were put up. Over the next four days, the North Eastern States would showcase the Region sector-wise and hold one-to-one dialogue with their Thai investors, exploring the possibility of striking some deals. At the end of the Week, the Indian entrepreneurs are also being taken on a tour of the Thai companies. The most encouraging words, however, came from Jirapaet who requested the Thai investors and the country’s bureaucrats to take note of the opportunities available in the Region, as well as the growing importance of India as an economic power. Though the current trade between India was satisfactory at $ 2.30 billion, he said it was nowhere comparable with the trade between Thailand and China, which stands at $ 25 billion. “Can we do better? He asked. He further added that the two countries have over 20 agreement are not short of mechanism to increase the trade. “We need the private sector to create awareness and confidence so that we can tap on our strength,” he said, acknowledging that the North-east and Thailand shared similar cultural and food habits.The Thai Commerce Minister, who incidentally also happened to be first Foreign Minister to visit the North-east on a bilateral tour, said he was optimistic about the current exercise. Whatever we are doing we are not doing for nothing,” he said. Earlier, addressing a press conference he hinted that the trilateral highway project among India-Myanmar-Thailand might be delayed because of the turmoil in the neighbouring country. “ We need to have strong connections with North-east. Addressing the meeting Aiyar said that NER needed investments in power sector including hydro and thermal. There are opportunities in agriculture, agro processing, and food processing and hospitality sectors. Union Minister for Commerce highlighted the new industrial policy and assured that India stands committed to pump in millions of dollars in to the North-east because it has been realized that the Region cannot be allowed to become laggard on the economy. The geographical disadvantage needs to be addressed, he said.

Tourism Day celebrated in Dibrugarh
DIBRUGARH, Sept 30 – World Tourism Day was observed by the Department of Forests, Dibrugarh, on September 27 at the Forest Interpretation Centre in the Jokai reserve forest.Addressing the gathering which included a large number of villagers from the nearby area as well as eminent personalities and officials of the district administration and forest officials, Prithibi Majhi, Minister of Planning and Development, Government of Assam stated that the government has accorded highest priority for development of the tourism industry in view of its great potential in the region. He assured all help in turning the botanical garden and the germ-plasm Centre of Jokai into a high class botanical garden with technical assistance from the Calcutta Botanical Garden. The inaugural song presented by students of Tourism Management of Dibrugarh University was followed by a presentation by Shiela Bora, Professor of History and Coordinator, Post Graduate Diploma in Tourism Management of Dibrugarh University, on this year’s theme of World Tourism Day - “Tourism Opens Doors for Women”, and the prospects of Eco Tourism in the North-East.The Deputy Commissioner and the Divisional Forest Office of Dibrugarh also addressed the public. To mark the occasion, a local organisation donated a personal computer and an LCD projector to the Jokai Forest Interpretation Centre.

Infrastructure devp key to growth of tourism industry in region
GUWAHATI, Sept 30 – World Tourism Day 2007 was celebrated on Friday at Tezpur University with a day-long programme. The celebration was organised by the Department of Business Administration.Prof Bijay K Danta, Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tezpur University inaugurated the celebration in a function at the Conference Hall of the University. Prof Danta, in his speech, emphasised on developing infrastructure for the growth of tourism industry in the NE region. He mentioned that there is tremendous scope in the region for sustainable development of tourism industry, which can boost the overall economy of the region. He also stressed on production of trained manpower for the industry through appropriate academic programme in the University.It may be mentioned here that Tezpur University is one of the pioneering institutes in the region in starting academic programme on Tourism Management.Dr Partha Jyoti Das, environmentalist and research co-ordinator, Aaranyak, Guwahati attended the occasion as the guest of honour. In his address, Dr Das opined that NE region, especially Assam, can be the best place for eco-tourism and in the process of developing the tourist spots, we must look into the conservation of wildlife and environment. Dr Das also called upon student community to work for awareness on protection of environment and to exploit the potential of development tourism through wildlife and other natural resources. At the same time, community interface should be a point of consideration.In the function three eminent personalities of Tezpur were felicitated for their artistic contributions in developing Tezpur as one of the prominent tourist spots of the State. They were late Lambodar Hazarika (posthumously honoured), Jai Chandra Das and Sapon Neog.Dr Chandana Goswami, Head, Department of Business Administration while welcoming the gathering, spoke on the theme. “Tourism opens doors for women” and emphasised on involvement of womenfolk in developing the tourism industry so that they can also earn through this venture. “Since tourist friendly hospitality is the main key to attract tourists, so women have a great role to play.”An exhibition was also organised on the occasion which included crafts by B Baishya, DASK, Dharikati, Nameri, Sapon Neog, Bibodh Deka and Pragati Women’s Association of Tezpur University. The celebration was marked by a cultural programme by the students of the Department of Business Administration and some other participants from the campus. This was stated in a press release.

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.
Thailand for better access to North EastFrom Kalyan Barooah 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.

Tai-Ahom link to lure Thai tourists
BANGKOK, Oct 2 – In 1228, when King Sukafa leading a band of followers settled in Assam, little was it then realised that nine hundred years later, his community Tai-Ahom would one-day become a mascot to promote State's tourism in distant Thailand. A nostalgic package, centering around Tai-Ahom community has been mooted to lure Thai tourist to the Region.In Thailand, the selling point for North-East is the Ahom community, the long lost cousin of the Thais, said director of Board of Trade of Thailand, Satish Sehgal, the man who is coordinating the North East India Trade and Investment Opportunities Week.The Thais know about the Ahom community, but most of them are not aware that they are Indians, he added.The Thais would love to visit their long lost cousins and if an attractive package was worked out it would work.As if on cue, State Industries Minister, Pradyut Bordoloi has been harping on this Thai-Ahom connection to attract the attention of the Thai investors."Time has come to refresh this relationship. Our Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi is from the same stock," he told Thai entrepreneurs.Though ideas to woo Thai investments in business and trade were abundant, lack of regular air connection between North-east and Bangkok stuck out like a sore thumb. One weekly flight is not enough. At least one daily flight from a major city of the North-east to Bangkok is essential, said Sehgal.Once these flights start operating daily it would create a market and it could be dovetailed with attractive packages to bring Thai tourists. Assam's tea gardens and its wildlife sanctuaries could be major attraction, the director opined.A critical factor that has emerged at the meet is the need to put in place infrastructure facilities. The day two of the Business summit was a mixed bag, as the North Eastern States barring perhaps Nagaland failed to put make an attractive presentation to sell their States as an attractive tourist destination. The session was on Opportunities in Tourism and Hospitality and presided over by Secretary DoNER, Sushma Singh. But the outcome left even the DoNER officials dismayed, prompting Minister DoNER, Mani Shankar Aiyer to stress that there should be a strong demonstration on part of the Indian delegation. "We like to see a result-oriented approach," said the Minister.A feedback session has been called tomorrow afternoon to gauge the outcome of two days of business. The Minister who is going to preside over the session asked all officials and business delegation to attend the meeting. A session today was also devoted on one-to-one meeting between Indian and Thai businessmen.A Thai businessman who took part in one such market told this newspaper that Thai and North entrepreneurs could make a joint effort to distribute handicrafts products through Thai marketing networks. The shirts, shawls and handbags manufactured in North-east are not expensive, he said.The session on Infrastructure, Agro and food, Handloom and handicraft was attended by deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Piyabutr and presided over by Aiyer and attended by Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram.Although tangible results were yet to come out of the week-long meet, negotiations were on to finalise at least three MoUs. One of the MoUs is between NEDFi and India-Thailand Business Forum. The aim is to cooperate in identification of potential investors and assisting them in preparation of feasibility reports, said Sahgal.At least three Thai construction companies including Ital-Thai, Ch Karnchang and Nawarat Patunakarn have shown interest in working in the North Eastern Region, added the director.The focus, Sahgal said was working out a cheap, attractive package to bring the Thai is to North-east, a region the country is not aware about. The suggestion that is being toyed around is to organise a FAM tour of tour operators, journalists and travel writers to visit the North-east.The need of the hour is to educate the Thais about the North Eastern Region. So far all they know about India is poverty, lack of infrastructure and food, said the director.Eco tourism, the mountains in North-east and its Buddhist heritage could be major attraction for the Thai citizens. About 40,000 Thai tourists visit India every year and majority of them hit the Buddhist circuit. Thailand has a population of one million monks and are keen on visiting the Buddhist sites in India, said Sahgal.About the prospects of Thai investments in North-east, Sahgal said the Indian expatriate community could be tapped. There are lot of Indian hoteliers in Thailand, who would be interested in investing in hotels back home. "Some can be motivated to invest in the NER," he said.Food processing was identified as another area where Thai expertise on food processing could be utilised. The Thai have promised to bring in the technology and know – how on food processing sector. Meanwhile, heavy entourage of officials have turned the event into a bureaucratic affair. Delegation of officials from various Ministries, PSUs, State Governments far outnumber business delegations. Arunchal Pradesh for instance has brought 30-member delegation of which only two were businessmen and rest all officials including MLAs belonging to the ruling Congress Party.
Light and sound project cleared for TalatalgharFrom Manoj Barthakur SIVASAGAR, Oct 8 – Fulfilling a long-cherished dream of the people of Sivasagar, the much-awaited Light & Sound project, to be equipped with latest technology at a cost of Rs 1.58 crore, has been sanctioned by the Govt of India and it will be completed in 18 months by Asom Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC). Addressing the special function held for the purpose, Bijoy Krishna Handique, Union Minister of State, Chemical & Fertiliser, said that the project, first initiated by late Hiteswar Saikia in 1983, has finally seen the light of the day thanks to help from Union Minister of Tourism Ambika Soni and relentless support of Rockybul Hussain and others. Inaugurating the function, Santanu Thakur, MD, ATDC, said that it is really heartening that the project is being implemented in the most revered place of Ahom Swargadeos, Talatalghar, and without whose blessings, it would not have been possible.Rockybul Hussain, State Minister of Tourism, Forest and Environment, said that the Tourism department has collected a huge revenue due to increased flow of foreign and domestic tourists. He stated that the number of tourists has increased to 30,04,842 (domestic) and 11,151 (foreign) in 2006 from 10,10,651 (domestic) and 6,171 (Foreign) in 2001. Dr Hemo Prabha Saikia, chairperson ATDC, presided over the meeting.According to the scheme of the project, script and sound creation will cost Rs 22.71 lakh, illumination and other materials installation will cost Rs 45.73 lakh, control equipment installation will cost Rs 31.24 lakh, show programming and testing will cost Rs 3.75 lakh, civil work will cost about Rs 50.50 lakh and an additional Rs 4.61 lakh will be spent as contingency money. The State Government will have to provide electricity, approach road, water and boundary wall, besides the land. The government would do well to upgrade the approach road into a four-lane well-lit approach, which can accommodate a large number of vehicles on either side and will be free of traffic jams even during festivals. NM Hussain, DC, Sivasagar, Kushal Deuri, MLA, Demow, Jogen Chetia, litterateur and the scriptwriter, attended the meeting
Brand Assam and the Look East Policy
Creation and management of brand images for a place have become the mainstay of accelerated economic development of a number of countries. Such a positive image perception has been instrumental in opening up new avenues for these economies in terms of new export routes and making them important investment destinations. However, place branding to create positive and investment- friendly image amongst the alien citizens, business houses, corporate bigwigs, consumers and others needs managerial acumen, strategic innovations and appropriate policies of the governments so that economic, commercial and socio-cultural parameters are properly weighed and evaluated with their limits and possibilities. The inability to create an attractive image of a place fails to attract investors and tourists and demand for exportable suffers. The reason for the unfamiliarity of a particular economy in most cases may be because of nonavailability of accurate information or a perceived notion that disseminated information is motivated and does not pass the common standard of accuracy. Place image may get tarnished because of unhealthy stereotypes, very often highlighted by overenthusiastic print and electronic media and infotainment industry.In current times when there are widespread discussions, deliberations and talk of initiatives regarding Look East Policy, the multifarious dimensions of the issue of place image of Assam and possibly the entire North-east have to be understood and analysed afresh. We have to see in real terms whether the existing brand image of this area has been the cause of its placement on the low-down of the investment priority list of external agencies. The relevant question is where does the brand Assam or brand North- east stand today in the mental canvass of the global population and the potential investors of other States in India? While making plans and strategies of alternative proposals of wooing the potential investors, accelerating tourist in flow or aspiring for socio cultural exchanges, ample attention is to be paid to creating and managing a fovourable place image of this region of the country. There are economies in the world that are suffering because commonly mistaken beliefs do not allow proper information to spread. Greenland has been very often referred to in this case as an example. There is a widespread belief that the whole of Greenland is just a mass of frozen ice and the result has been that of tourists’ low preference to visit the place. Now there are attempts to change this place image of Greenland. Even though a place is known for rich sources of natural endowments, anthropological assets and other resources like tourism abundances, there may be perceived apprehension about hostile environment and as a result, problems arise in marketability of the place . There are documentary resources which express the richness of biodiversity of the North-east Indian areas. It is also presumed to be known to the students of this field that exotic species of flora and fauna of rainforest varieties are here for all to witness, yet the image that these areas are non-accessible due to infrastructural and communication bottlenecks, the enthusiasts are not keen to come and explore the areas. In fact hitch hikers and adventurous explorers may find these places not that inaccessible as the cases are made out to be. This also highlights the issue of lack of communication network in the interior of the North-eastern hilly terrains.The violent activities and the media coverage of such incidents have definitely created a brand image of some of the States of the North-east, which is not very congenial and rather detrimental to the effort of promoting tourism and other forms of investment possibilities. It is a cause of great concern that this region is likely to be perceived as a place of reckless violence and intolerance. Building of positive associations with the name of North-east India requires a continuous co-operation from the media which may think of sometime restraining themselves from publishing “news that sells” but highlight news with positive values that may be happening in a remote village. In the highly competitive domain of business and investment, the North-east States have to understand the changed paradigms of specific targeted markets and chalk out important strategies to connect effectively in a more business-like manner than its brand competitors. And there comes the appropriate question show do we stand as Brand Assam in the minds of rest of India or the rest of world!

Move on to start night safari in State Zoo
GUWAHATI, Oct 7 – For those who wish to experience the thrill of a night safari in the State, their dream could come true in the Assam State Zoo, Guwahati, and that too within the next two months. State Minister of Forest, Rockeybul Hussain revealed this and many other developmental plans at the closing ceremony of the 53rd Wildlife Week at Rabindra Bhawan here today. The Wildlife Week is observed nationally in the first week of October every year. “With Rs 1 crore sanctioned by the State Government, the modernization process of the State Zoo would be completed within the next two months, and we will start night outing services to the visitors, with vehicles taking them to a zoo trip after the sunset,” he said.According to another plan, the State government will start a full-fledged Vulture Reproduction Centre in the Rani area of the city, to save the species which is on the verge of extinction. Already three vultures have been kept there to initiate the process. “The Vulture Reproduction Centre, to be inaugurated shortly, will be the third of its kind in the country,” said the minister. The Forest department has also increased the remunerations of its casual employees, who are working since 1993, to Rs 2,500. Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi called upon the common people and the non-government organizations to come forward to protect wildlife and the environment. “The Seuji Dhara scheme, launched recently, could be a good example of public participation, where with the help of the schoolchildren, around 15 lakh saplings were planted,” he said. “It is necessary to inculcate the caring attitude for wildlife and environment among the children so that our ecological assets go into the safe hands in future,” he added. However, he expressed his concern over the poaching inside the wildlife sanctuaries and reserved forests. In the current year, 14 rhinos have fallen prey to poachers, said the Forest Minister. On the other hand, he asserted that the number of rhinos is increasing in the State. “The census in 1993 stated that there were 1,064 rhinos in Kaziranga, the number increased to 1,552 in 1999 and 1,855 in 2006 while in Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, the census recorded 38 rhinos in 1993, 46 in 1999 and 68 in 2006. Similarly in Pobitora, the total population of rhinos has increased to 81 in the year 2006 in comparison to 56 in 1993,” he maintained. “We are taking the help of the Police department to nab the poachers in the KNP. Moreover, with a special permission of the Chief Minister, many vacant posts are being filled up in the national park,” he added. Health and Family Welfare Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) MC Malakar also spoke on the occasion. The felicitation of Forest department officials, who made exceptional efforts to protect wildlife, and the prize-distribution ceremony for the children who participated in the various competitions organised during the week, marked the occasion.

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.

New tourism outfit in city
GUWAHATI, Oct 18 – A group of qualified travel and tourism professionals started a travel agency called Natural Holidays at Guwahati. With the aim to serve the growing demand of tourists in Guwahati, the organisation has launched various conducted and package tours, stated a press release.ATDC Ltd chairperson Dr Hemoprova Saikia, inaugurated the venture by launching the daily Guwahati-Shillong sight seeing tours.Besides local sight seeing tours, Natural Holidays also offers package tours to Shillong, Cherrepunjee, Kaziranga, Majuli, Bhalukpung, Bomdila, Tawang.Conducted tours to Hajo, Sualkuchi, Madan Kamdev and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary are also in the pipeline, stated a the press release issued by the Natural Holidays.

Taj Group’s 5-star hotel likely in city
GUWAHATI, Oct 23 – The Taj Group has expressed its desire to set up a Five Star hotel in Guwahati city and the State Government has decided to make it a joint venture project involving the Tourism Department, official sources said. Sources said that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today discussed the issue with Tourism Minister Rockybul Hussain and senior officials of the concerned departments and a plot of vacant land in the Khanapara area of the city has been identified for the setting up of the hotel. The plot identified today belongs to the Veterinary Department and is lying unused, sources said.

Majuli to be renominated for Heritage site
NEW DELHI, Oct 31 – Undeterred by last year’s failure, India is having a second try at securing World Heritage Site from UNESCO for the picturesque Majuli island in Assam, which is also an important seat of Vaishnava culture, reports PTI. The Culture Ministry is tying all the lose ends to avoid a repeat of rejection of India’s effort in 2006. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had submitted a nomination dossier on Majuli island for consideration of the World Heritage Committee in July 2006. But the committee found the information provided on Majuli insufficient to be considered as a World Heritage Site and returned the proposal seeking additional information on the island. “This time, we are compiling the information and proper documentation with the help of experts. An action plan has been drawn up for collecting the required information for submitting the same to the World Heritage Committee soon,” said a senior ASI official. Spread across 880 sq km on the Brahmaputra river, Majuli is the world’s largest inhabited freshwater river island. Preserved in the Vaishnavaite monasteries called Satras (social institutions), there were about 64 Satras a few years ago. “However, not many exist now as the is land is facing the erosion from the mighty Brahmaputra,” A K Sarma, Assam MP, told PTI. “The presentation made before the Committee in 2006 was not proper as there were many flaws in the documentation. No wonder it did not find favour with the UNESCO team. I have taken up the matter with the Ministry. I hope that this time the ASI would not goof up,” Said Sarma.

Winged visitors make Kaziranga home away from home
GOLAGHAT, Oct 30 – With the advent of the autumn season, the famous migratory birds, the pelicans, have started coming to the Kaziranga National Park, adding to its picturesque beauty.To the surprise of many, pelicans have made a new colony on the banks of Koladuar beel in Agartoli range of the KNP. The birds had made a home out of KNP in previous two years. In winter season, pelican birds give birth to their offsprings and gradually, after their grooming is over, they fly away from the KNP after two or three months.Pelicans have been building nests in Koladuar beel since 2002 and it is now becoming a permanent colony for the pelicans. Forest department sources said the number of pelicans have been increasing enormously at Agartoli range and thousands of nests have been made by the pelicans at Koladuar beel and Simolukathani in KNP.Forest ranger of Agartoli forest range told the of The Assam Tribune that from the first week of October, hundreds of pelican birds came to different beels of Agartoli range of the KNP. Pelican birds extended their birds colony at Tamulipather and Azi Kati areas and they like to make their nests on tall trees like simolu, koroi, chatian etc. It is expected that the new colony of the pelicans would surely be a source of attraction for foreign tourists during this current year.The KNP authority – should create proper environment for the pelican birds so that the tourists may be attracted by this type of birds. KNP authority has also eyes on the poachers to prevent killings of pelican and other rare birds which have been roaming, staying in KNP.School jubilee: Diamond jubilee celebration of Bengali High School, Golaghat is going to be celebrated from December 22, to 24 with a three day programme.The programmes include ex-teachers and students get-together, release of souvenir, seminar of cultural shows, cultural procession, open meeting and other events.Milon Rakshit, headmaster and the secretary of the celebration committee have appealed to ex-students and teachers in particular and people of Golaghat in general to attend the celebration and extend help and co-operation to make the diamond jubilee a success.Natya Samaroh: Inter-Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalayas, Srimanta Sankardeva Natya Samaroh was held recently at Dibrugarh VKB hall. Among ten VKBs, in Natya Samaroh of one act plays, Golaghat VKB drama troupe secured best drama, and best support actress.The best director of the dramas staged was by Biren Kolita of Golaghat VKB. The 2nd best drama was secured by Majuli VKB white 3rd prize went to Dibrugarh VKB. Best actor was selected from Bokulani VKB. Dibrugarh VKB secured best actress.The best setting of stage went to Golaghat VKB, even as the best costume prize was secured by Dhemaji VKB.Sarator Kabita Abeli: A Sarator Kabita Abeli was held recently at the BS Institute, near Chitrasen Kakoty Path, Golaghat under the aegis of the Aaikyatan - a literary and cultural organisation of Golaghat and with the co-operation of the Socio-Academic Advancement Society (SAAS), Golaghat. The Sarator Kabita Abeli was inaugurated by Upen Dutta, a poet and a journalist and was conducted by Jayajyoti Gogoi a poet and artist and Lani Phukan, lecturer of DR College and a poet. In the Kabita Abeli, altogether 14 poets read out their self-composed poems. The poets were - Sanjib Chiring, Sonadhar Syam, Sandhya Khatoniar, Upen Dutta, Rumi Saikia, JJ Gogoi, Pulina Dutta, Mamata Kakoty, Aroti Chetia Phukan, Binu Saikia, Dulu Barua, Lani Phukan, Sunita Behen, among others.
River resort Mou Chapori to reopen on Nov 1From A Correspondent JORHAT, Oct 30 – Housed over a sand bar with the right mix of attractions, river resort Mou Chapori off Neamatighat here is all set to reopen its doors to visitors from November 1, informed proprietor-entrepreneur Dr Zakir Ahmed.A river resort like no other, it is cradled in the middle of the Brahmaputra at an elevation which is two metres higher than Neamatighat. Inaugurated on January 21 last year, the novel project has been patronised by the State Department of Tourism.A dream project of Dr Ahmed, tradition has been tastefully blended with modernity to create a homely ambience. Detachable plywood cottages erected over sturdy bamboo stilts provide lodging facilities with all the trappings of a caravan.Aimed at promoting both domestic and foreign tourists in an eco-friendly environment, Mou Chapori comprises a sand bar with a roughly three sq km radius. The river island is thickly covered with common reed, pith grass, Spanish reed and pin reed grass. Taken on provisional lease from the Government, Dr Ahmed has engaged local hands to develop the infrastructure. Prominent artist Kunal Das is credited with designing everything within the layout, including a jetty, landscaped children’s park, watch tower, anglers’ platform, reception counter, dining hall, bar and several other conveniences.Provision for indoor and outdoor games too exist, while sports gear and cooking utensils are available on hire for holidaymakers and campers alike. Besides luxury cottages, accommodation facilities are augmented by typical village huts, Mising ‘changs’ and conventional tents.While additional facilities have lately been added to the existing paraphernalia, the charges are designed to suit every pocket, informed Dr Ahmed.Come November 1, and all roads will lead to this one-of-its-kind river resort, for there is more to Mou Chapori than just sun, sand and tents.

NE flowers to hit Japan markets
GUWAHATI, Oct 28 – After making a strong presence in the Dubai flower market, rose, anthurium, and dendrobium orchid cultivated in the region are all set to hit the Japan market soon. Two Japanese companies–Classic Japan and Otani have come forward to buy flowers from the North East. Inspired by the quality of rose and anthurium, these companies have signed a deal with the Zopar Exports to import products from the region.Flowers cultivated in five States — Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland — have been making strong presence in the Dubai market. Particularly, Anthurium which is only available in the Northeast, has been able to attract a good number of customers in Dubai.Buoyed by the response from the foreign market, floriculture has been picking up in the region. According to available statistics, about 500 farmers are now closely associated with the floriculture with active support from the Centre.“Our rose and anthurium have good demand in the international market. We have already sent several consignments to Dubai,” Rajesh Prasad of Zopar Exports told this Correspondent today. The firm has been motivating the farmers towards floriculture in the region. In this context, he said that flower market across the globe has been expanding at a good pace and therefore this region can play a major role. “Despite vast potential, floriculture in the Northeast is still low considering the volume of international market. We must motivate more farmers,” Prasad observed. Dubai is said to be one of the major flower markets in the world for which several Indian companies are now exploring the market by their variety of products. But, anthurium in the region has a special demand. During Valentines Day, prices of anthurium generally go up.Providing more details in this regard, Prasad said that the demand for anthurium has been increasing across the globe and therefore more production is required. “This region can earn revenue by way of encouraging the farmers,” Prasad added. Zopar Exports produces daily 4000 anthurium and 5,000 to 10,000 roses in different parts in the North East.

Singpho tea to hit Thai markets soon
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.

Bid to boost tourism in Karbi Anglong
DIPHU, Nov 3 – With a view to boost the tourism sector in Karbi Anglong, the district administration has undertaken a pilot initiative to establish an ethnic village at Kohora near Kaziranga National Park (KNP) to attract tourists in this hill district.The Integrated Tourism Development Project at Kohora with special emphasis on ethnic and rural cultural heritage for which Biren Singh Engti, Member of Parliament (MP) laid the foundation stone which is to be constructed under Rastriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) with an estimated cost of Rs 200 lakh.Dr M Angamuthu, Deputy Commissioner, Karbi Anglong said that the project is formulated with an objective to attract more tourist to enjoy Karbi culture in the proposed ethnic village for the benefits of the local Karbi people of eight villages near KNP.The charming hills district where the nature has endowed it with flora and fauna of great variety, the evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist decidous forest with luxuriant growth of medicinal shrubs, plants, tree, orchids, climbers etc import a unique vegetative cover. The host of fauna represents animals of Asiatic origin like Asiatic elephant, leopard, host of primates and other colourful birds and pheasants. The luxuriant forests, vibrant landscape, varied wildlife, vivid culture, warm and friendly people have long captivated visitors to this land. Kohora, a beautiful place, having hilly terrain with stream flowing majestically downhills to the plains. An attractive landscape and lots of greenery and sightseeing facilities have the potential to be a major tourist hot-spot of North East India.With establishment of this ethnic village, the tourists can enjoy Karbi culture in the proposed ethnic village. The tourist can also enjoy elephant, and horse rides. The women can sell their handloom items, handicraft items by opening various stalls in the proposed ethnic village for their earnings which might upgrade their economic condition.Dr M Angamuthu said that the major reason for poor development of the tourism industry in Assam in general and at Kohora in particular is the lack of adequate facilities for purposeful stay of tourists. “The Kaziranga National Park (KNP) is open for tourists only for a season which fails to attract majority of tourists. This deficiency has been appropriately identified by the Karbi Anglong district administration which might encourage the tourism industry in this hill district,” Argamuthu said.

New cruise vessel launched
GUWAHATI, Nov 2 — River tourism on Brahmaputra in Assam got a boost today with the launching of a cruise vessel at Machkhowa riverside here. Billed SB Agam, this two-tier vessel with an airconditioned upper deck and a sun deck is a venture of the Brahmaputra Cruise Private Limited (BCPL) that also runs the Northeast India’s first floating restaurant Alfresco on river Brahmaputra here.The vessel, which was inaugurated at a function by state tourism minister Rockybul Hussain, will initially run in two-day-long packages – Guwahati to Sualkuchi and Guwahati to Mayong and Pabitora. The vessel can also be hired for business lunches and dinner, corporate meetings, honeymoon packages, etc.In a bid to cater to the growing number of tourists, both domestic and foreign, the BCPL is also working on a long-distance river liner on the Brahmaputra. The three-tier river cruiser will have 14 luxury cabins and will be run in long and short duration packages between Guwahati and Dibrugarh with stop-overs and visits to Mayong, Pabitora, Tezpur, Kaziranga, Biswanath Ghat, Majuli, Jorhat and Sivasagar.

Package tour to religious places in city soon
GUWAHATI, Nov 2 – In its bid to conduct value-added tour packages targeting the rail-bound tourists across the country, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation limited (IRCTC) will start a package tour of religious places in Guwahati through bus.“The local package tour of Guwahati will start from tomorrow and is focused to rope in religious tourists,” L Saikia, chief regional manager of IRCTC, told news persons today. It will cover temples like Kamakhya, Navagraha, Bashistha Ashram, Tirupati Balaji and Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, he added. Also planned are package tours to Kaziranga and Cherapunji via Shillong from here.IRCTC is a public sector enterprise under the Ministry of Railways, dealing with catering and tourism activities throughout the country.“We have also initiated tie-ups with the temple authorities who will facilitate smooth visit of the tourists and our personnel will aggressively market our tour packages through tele-marketing, newspaper, TV and FM advertisements,” he added. He further informed that the IRCTC also provides tour packages in different trains. “In Rajdhani and Northeast Express, tourist routes like New Guwahati-Kaziranga-Shillong-New Delhi are being offered. There is another tour package from Guwahati to Vaisno Devi,” he informed. Group GM TC Nagley informed that IRCTC is in the process of modernizing the traditional catering stalls and refreshments rooms on Northeast Frontier Railways. Already two food plazas – at New Japaiguri and Kurseong – are under operation and another two food plazas – at Darjeeling and Ghum – are under construction. Similar food plaza projects are being pursued at Guwahati, Silchar, Dimapur, Tinsukia, Katihar, New Cooch Behar, Rangiya, New Bongaigaon and Dibrugarh.IRCTC is also going to provide 15 of automatic vending machines at Guwahati, New Jalpaiguri, New Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Darjeeling by engaging reputed food and beverage agencies.

Work on Majuli dossier in full swing
GUWAHATI, Nov 8 – Work on preparing a fresh nomination dossier to wrest the UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition for river island Majuli is going on in full swing. Shristi Consulting Services, a Delhi-based expert firm is preparing the nomination dossier for securing the cultural heritage status for this historic island with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).It is learnt that another firm is being engaged by the Central Government to prepare a dossier on the status of the island’s natural environment. The Sristi Consulting Services is doing the documentation and preparing the drawings and plans for the purpose of projecting the cultural heritage and the island and its preservation. Its representatives have already arrived at the island.According to the secretary of the Majuli Island Protection and Development Council (MIPADC) Bharat Saikia, Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz and Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni are visiting the island on November 14 following instructions from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.It needs mention here that the voluntary organisation MIPADC, headed by Lok Sabha MP Dr Arun Sarma, has been launching a campaign and mounting pressure on the Union Government to move the UNESCO for wresting the World Heritage Site status for the island. The first attempt made by the Centre for the purpose in February last year had failed when the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO turned down the proposal in its meeting in July last year pointing to some shortcomings in the nomination dossier.Saikia said that the fresh attempts to provide physical protection to the island and to get it listed as a World Heritage Site started with the appeal made by seven sattrasdhikars (heads of the sattra institutions) of the island on November 28 last year through the MIPADC, to the Prime Minister.The Prime Minister sent the copies of the memorandum submitted by the heads of the sattras to the ministries and departments concerned. He also held a meeting with the Chief Minister, chairman of the Brahmaputra Board and the Union Ministers concerned on October 29 last to discuss the issues raised by the sattradhikarsIn that meeting, the Prime Minister reportedly directed the ministers to send reports of progress of the work undertaken by their ministries on the issues in question to him regularly. The Prime Minister also expressed his keenness to see a documentary on the present status of the island. The Delhi Doordarshan Kendra is preparing the documentary in association with the Guwahati Doordarshan Kendra, Saikia said.Though the recent developments concerning the island have enthused its people, they, however, want the Union Government to complete the processes for physical protection and World Heritage Site recognition to the island at the earliest, said Saikia.

Army to showcase its NE initiatives
NEW DELHI, Nov 5 – In a first-ever exercise, Indian Armed forces plans to showcase its initiatives in the North-East at the forthcoming India International Trade Fair (IITF) 2007 that gets underway from November 14 to 27 at Pragati Maidan here. To be showcased at the Defence Pavilion with the theme ‘Defenders of the Dawn’ the Armed Forces plans to showcase different cultures and faces of the ‘unexplored paradise’ called North-east, said a Defence Ministry spokesman. The attempt is to showcase the continuous humane face of the armed forces and the role of the Indian armed forces in the Region. Its basic duty of securing borders, besides other role like construction of basic infrastructure, bridges, medical camps, educational institutes, organising medical check up camps are all going to be show cased. The Indian Armed Force had initiated civic action programmes including Operation Sahyog, ‘Operation Good Samaritan’ and ‘Sadhbhvana’ launched for development works in various North Eastern States. Roads and bridges in the North-East are, to a great extent, constructed and maintained by the armed forces, the spokesman said. The development of infrastructure, connectivity in the NES that act as a bridge between India and South East Asian countries, has helped in boosting the economy of the area. It is becoming a big tourist and trade hub. This has also led to better people –to- people interaction, he claimed. This has also brought the Prime Minister’s ‘Look North East’ policy closer to reality. The area is all set to become major economic and tourist attraction for rest of the world.

Assam pavilion attracting visitors
GUWAHATI, Nov 15 – The new-look Assam Pavilion at the ongoing India International Trade Fair has emerged as a major attraction in the meet, luring visitors both domestic and foreign. Representing the Government of Assam, the Directorate of Industries and Commerce has made some innovations in the design of the pavilion, which is mostly done up with bamboo and cane to give it an ethnic touch, an official release said. This apart, tastefully decorated paintings and blow-ups depict the various tourism and investment opportunities available in the State.Eight numbers of government departments along with three Central Government departments with themes of their own are showcasing their products in the fair. Under the Directorate of Industries and Commerce, 49 small-scale industry units from all over the State are participating in the event, displaying diversified products like handloom and handicrafts, ethnic food, herbal products, etc. Another attraction of the pavilion is the ethnic food stall set up by the Assam Tourism Development Corporation. The bhot jalakia (the hottest chilli in the world) has also drawn attraction of the Chinese businessmen. The bamboo shoot, an edible item unknown to many, has also been a raging hit.

Seminar on tourism development in NE
JORHAT, Nov 10 – The Charing-based Swahid Maniram Dewan College in Sivasagar district will hold a national-level seminar on “Development of tourism in North-east India: its impact on the socio-economic status of the people in the region” on its premises on November 20 and 21. Vice-Chancellor of Dibrugarh University, Dr Kulendu Pathak, has been invited to inaugurate the two-day seminar which is being sponsored by University Grants Commission.Convener of the media cell of Swahid Maniram Dewan College Hemanga Ranjan Chutia said professor Sheela Borah, Director of the department of tourism of Dibrugarh University, would deliver the keynote speech. All the resource persons invited for each of the four sessions planned for the seminar have already confirmed their participation, he added.Chutia, who teaches English in the college, pointed out that a number of student participants have sent abstracts of research paper for the seminar. Tourism is an add-on course of study in several colleges of Assam, he said. Delegates from different North-eastern States and other parts of the country are expected to attend.Principal of Swahid Mani-ram Dewan College Dr LC Borah, who is also the chairman of the organizing committee of the national-level seminar, said free transport facilities have been arranged for the participants on both days of the seminar. Transportation will be available from the ASTC bus stand at Gaurisagar.

Kalakshetra’s bid to spread Assamese culture abroad
GUWAHATI, Nov 10 – The Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, which has completed nine years of its existence, is embarking on a drive to showcase the composite Assamese culture and literature to a worldwide audience through the web. “The Kalakshetra has an invaluable collection of information and data on languages, literatures and cultures of different ethnic communities of the State due to its persistent efforts over the last nine years. This also includes folklores in the form of dances and songs preserved in both audio and visual mediums. Now we plan to make this treasure-trove available to a wider audience through the Internet,” a Kalakshetra official said. Every year the Kalakshetra organizes workshops and seminars on indigenous cultures and literatures besides collecting relevant information from the areas, and the result is a comprehensive database on the composite Assamese society including the diverse ethnic groups. The Kalakshetra has so far collected information on the folklore of as many as 33 indigenous communities of the State, mostly in audio-visual form. This also includes traditional forms of folk drama and institutions such as Bhaona, Kushan Pala, Ankiya Pala Bhaona, Khuliya, Ras, Mukha Bhaona, Dhuliya Bhaoria, etc. The Kalakshetra hopes to make these information available through the Internet within a year. Among the recent novel initiatives of the Kalakshetra is the craft design centre, which will provide the much-needed technological assistance to the traditional artisans to craft their bell metal and other ornaments with necessary modifications and a greater choice of designs with the help of computer graphics. “The centre will help the artisans engaged in traditional jewellery and bell metal industry in making new designs and make their products appeal more to modern tastes,” the official said, adding that one training workshop for artisans had already been held. The Kalakshetra has also started collaborations with other organizations in its various research-based projects. “It has already completed two ventures on oral history and customary laws of tribal societies in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi. The next project is on the Satra institutions of the State,” the official said.

New look for State Museum
GUWAHATI, Nov 19 – A new-look Assam State Museum – in the middle of a renovation phase – is all set to add a number of novel features and emerge as among the country’s top-ranking museums. The renovation relates not just to infrastructure but is also about acquiring artefacts from South East Asian countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. “The move to bring in exhibits from South East Asia stems from the close cultural affinity that the North-east has with the neighbouring South East Asian countries, and we are confident that it would facilitate enhanced interaction between the two regions,” Sarharuddin Ahmed, Director-in-charge, Assam State Museum, said, adding that the endeavour was also in consonance with the Look East Policy. Ahmed said that the Assam State Museum could well become a vibrant medium for interaction between the two regions on different fronts such as culture and tourism and study and research – something that could contribute to greater understanding of each other. “Of late there has been a lot of talk on reviving the ancient cultural relation between the North-east and South East Asia. This museum can be a hub of tourists, students and research scholars from South East Asia, as we intend to undertake educational tours and exchange programmes,” he said. “This, in turn, can shed new lights on the age-old links between the two regions,” he added. The renovation of five galleries is already complete, while the proposal for another 17 has been submitted to the Union Ministry of Cultural Affairs, of which sanction for eight has already been made. Among the proposed galleries is one exclusively for South East Asia. Thanks to the renovation drive, the museum wears a neat and orderly look, with every exhibit in display making a powerful statement.“India Museum, Kolkata, is the nodal agency implementing the gallery renovation project. Besides, a four-storey administrative building is under construction with funds from 12th Finance Commission award. Also in the offing is a Rs 5-crore infrastructure development project, which is to be shared by the Central Government (Rs 3 crore) and the State Government (Rs 2 crore),” Ahmed said. The new galleries will showcase epigraphy and Assamese scripts; satra institutions; numismatic; life and culture of the people of the North-east; ornaments and jewellery; costumes; old building materials; life in British times; oil; tea; regional cultural heritage of North, South, East and West India; South East Asia; ivory; silk; coins; and manuscripts. “The museum will also have a micro film unit for preservation of manuscripts besides facilities for their digital documentation,” Ahmed said. The museum library contains 7,000-odd books, mostly on archaeology, sculpture, ancient Indian history, architecture, epigraphy, puranic literature and classical Sanskrit texts. “Over the years, the library has proved to be an invaluable asset to research scholars. Among our recent visitors was a Japanese lady who came here to study the tantricism,” Ahmed said. Ahmed, himself an acclaimed Sanskrit scholar, was of the view that Indian culture had an inseparable link with Sanskrit. “Ignoring Sanskrit, Indian culture and civilization cannot be properly studied,” he said, adding that it was a good sign that many countries besides India were taking a renewed interest in the classical Indian language. Plans are also afoot to modernize the ten district museums and a few subdivisional and mini museums. “While the Tezpur Museum is being developed on the heritage Dak Bungalow, the Bardowa Mini Museum is having a vast collection of materials pertaining to vaishnavite culture,” Ahmed said. The Assam State Museum, set up in 1940, is an absorbing repository of exhibits classified under ethnography, sculpture, village life, freedom movement, painting, manuscript, arms and ammunition, epigraphy, natural history, crafts and miscellaneous sections.

World Heritage Week function from today
GUWAHATI, Nov 18 – The Directorate of Archaeology, Assam will observe World Heritage Week from November 19 at Nazirakhat Archaeological site on the outskirts of the city at Sonapur.On the occasion, an open function will be held tomorrow at 11.30 am. Eminent citizens including Prof Birendranath Dutta, former president of Asam Sahitya Sabha, Prof Bhaba Prasad Chaliha and others will attend the function.As part of the week long fiesta, a photographic exhibition will also be held. An awareness programme is also on the agenda of the organizers, and Dr Paromita Das, Prof of the department of history, Gauhati University and Dr Jonali Devi, head of the department of Anthropology, Cotton College will submit papers on the topics ‘Role of Preservation of Archaeological Heritage in the Promotion of Tourism in Assam’ and ‘Conservation of Archaeological Sites and Monuments in Assam’ respectively.The directorate will bring out a commemorative dpublication edited by Dr HN Dutta. The publication includes action plans and reports of archaeological conservation of 20 sites and monuments and some reports of excavation conducted in recent years in the State.

Branding of Sualkuchi muga-paat need of the hour’
SUALKUCHI, Nov 17 – A seminar on modernisation of handloom industry in the perspective of the changing situation organised by Sualkuchi Press Guild, an NGO of scribes of different newspapers of Sualkuchi and its outskirts was held recently at Sualkuchi Budram Madhab Satradhikar College to commemorate the death anniversary of Kanak Rajmedhi, correspondent, Asomiya Pratidin who died from mental pressure in 2005.Participating in the seminar, Dr SK Kakoty associate Prof, Mechanical Engineer, IIT, Guwahati and co-ordinator Rural Technology Action Group, NE stressed the need for branding of products to distinguish the muga-paat fabrics woven at Sualkuchi and outside Sualkuchi. It is said that some people mixed tasar yarns in muga yarns and polyester yarns in mulberry silk yarns and make more profit selling the adulterated cloths. To ensure the genuineness of the products and to get confidence of the buyers, a special mark should be fixed in the corner of the clothes.To have quality yarns community centres for reeling and spinning, colouring calendering, etc. for quality products is the need of the hour, said Dr Kakoty.Dr Prabin Baishya, former principal, SBNS College, Sualkuchi called upon the entrepreneurs and the artisans to apply modern technology in weaving designing etc. to compete in the present market. He said for applying technology, people should change their mindsets to cope with the changing time.While reading out the keynote address, Jogendra Bharali, president, Sualkuchi Press Guild explained various problems faced by weavers and entrepreneurs in weaving and marketing of the products. He said modernisation of the handloom industry is the need of the hour. He also stressed the need of branding Sualkuchi products so that the buyers are not confused about the clothes they are going to purchase.Sixty weavers entrepreneurs and representatives of different organisation including Tautsilpi Santha took part in the seminar.

Manas striving to regain heritage site
GUWAHATI, Nov 16 – The picturesque Manas National Park, currently on the recovery path after a decade-long turmoil in the 1990s, is desperately hoping to get back the World Heritage Site tag. The decade of social unrest during the height of the Bodoland movement caused substantial damage to its infrastructure besides taking a heavy toll on the wildlife. The entire rhino population comprising around 100 was decimated. In 1992, the UNESCO declared the park to be a World Heritage Site in Danger. “The scars of the turbulent period are still there. But of late improvements have been made, and we are confident of restoration of the World Heritage Site status,” Field Director Anindya Swargiari said. The infrastructure, however, continues to be a serious concern – something that can jeopardize Manas’ chances of getting back the coveted heritage status unless the issue is addressed at the earliest. “The roads and bridges inside the Park are in urgent need of repair. The prevailing situation greatly hampers all-round vigilance,” Swargiary said. “We also need 20-odd camps apart from the existing 22,” he added. Thirty-odd camps were destroyed during the period of unrest. The State Forest Department will have to submit its report on the present situation of Manas including the corrective measures adopted before the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by February 1, 2008. Manpower shortage in Manas remains another critical issue that demands immediate intervention from the State Government. It is particularly lacking in frontline staff, so essential for jungle patrolling. The road to Manas continues to be another big irritant. The all-important bridge on the Kalpani river, which was washed away in 2004, is yet to be restored. According to Swargiary, among the positive developments taking place in the Park is the decline in poaching. “Of late poaching has almost become nil. There has been increasing community participation in conservation, which can also be attributed to the low incidence of poaching. About 150 volunteers from NGOs — currently engaged in vigilance activities in different places like Kokilabari, Agrang, Bhuyapara, etc., — are doing a commendable job,” he said, adding that the southern border of the Park has been sealed off.The reintroduction of three rhinos, which is part of the ambitious Indian Rhino Vision-2020 translocation project, has been another welcome development. “The three rhinos have adopted to the new habitat very soon, which is encouraging. We are expecting a big batch early next year,” Swargiary said. As for many other animals such as tiger, elephant, etc., the actual status would be known only after the census is taken up in the coming months. The recent boom in tourism also augurs well for the Park’s future. “For the past three years Manas is witnessing a considerable flow of tourists. Enhanced tourist flow is an indication that the Park is normal,” a Park official said.
One-village one-product concept to benefit SualkuchiBy A City Reporter GUWAHATI, Nov 22 – Taking a note of the ex-President APJ Abul Kalam’s one-village one-product suggestions, the Assam Apex Weavers and Artisans Cooperative Federation Ltd (ARTFED), has decided to learn the tricks of the trade from the specialists in Japan through a marketing tie-up for the silk hub Sualkuchi.The tie-up with the Japan External Trade Organization, scheduled to start from January, next year, will facilitate technological upgradation in silk sector of Sualkuchi. “A team of ARTFED, after a visit to Japan, has found immense benefits of the one-village one-product model advocated by our ex-President APJ Abul Kalam during his Sualkuchi visit, said the managing director of ARTFED NN Rana Patgiri, addressing media conference here recently. “A similar kind of tie-up for marketing and technical assistance done by Periapuri village in the State of Tamil Nadu has fetched enormous exposure to the products of the village in the Japanese market and we are also eyeing a similar benefit from this venture for Sualkuchi silk,” he added. In order to boost the handloom sector in general and with special focus on silk weaving of Sualkuchi, the ARTFED is organising the ongoing Sualkuchi Vastra Utsav’07, a special handloom expo in collaboration with the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, Ministry of Textile from November 22 to December 7 at Sankar Kshetra, Sualkuchi, Kamrup for the third time. “The major objectives for holding of the expo are to facilitate the buyers, visitors and tourists to purchase genuine silk and hand-woven fabrics produced at Sualkuchi, to create awareness among the tourists and visitors regarding the importance of silk industries in Sualkuchi and to facilitate potential handloom weavers to give exposition of their weaving techniques,” added Patgiri. The probable expenditure for organizing this Vastra Utsav is Rs. 36.05 lakh. As per the figures provided by ARTFED, Sualkuchi and its suburban areas annually produce 31 lakh linear metres of silk fabric valuing Rs 9000 lakh. “The total annual export value of ARTFED is Rs 12 crore, out of which, export products worth Rs 9 crore come from Sualkuchi,” said chairman ARTFED Biswajit Daimari. The Vastra Utsav was inaugurated by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today. Altogether 37 participants from Assam and states like Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan etc., are participating in the expo.

Facelift for Brahmaputra Ashok
GUWAHATI, Nov 22 – The requirement of international standard hotels with five-star facilities has always been ardently felt in Guwahati. No doubt that the State Government took a serious note of the factor during the visit of IT mogul Narayan Murty when the later placed it as a precondition for investment in the State.The organizers of high-level events, meetings and seminars have also faced the same problem for long.Not waiting for the list of difficulties to grow longer, the Indian Tourism Development Corporation and the State government has planned an overhaul of the Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok, a joint venture of the ITDC and the State government with 51:49 per cent stakes. If things go as planned, the hotel on the bank of River Brahmaputra will grow as a five star hotel by the end of next year. “Forty rooms of the hotel have been revamped since September and we are planning a total facelift,” said the general manager of Brahmaputra Ashok, Rajiv Nayar. “The revamped rooms, with a cost of Rs 8 lakh on each room, had Pakistani cricket team as their first guests, who lauded the facilities provided by the hotel during the IndianOil Cup. Players like Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi gave us very encouraging remarks for the international standard room,” he added. The well-appointed revamped rooms have tiles and sanitary fittings imported from Germany and Italy and bay windows facilitating a comfortable view of Brahmaputra and its tranquil surroundings.“The state-of-the-art facilities in rooms and the bathrooms are a blend of comfort and sophistication. We have also got favourable remarks from the delegations of the International Tea Convention,” he added further. The hotel is also providing guest amenities, like Internet connectivity and wi-fi facilities.“We are also re-doing the existing restaurant and there are plans to start a new lounge bar and two new restaurants with Indian and South East Asian cuisines. Next to it, a coffee shop with international menu, a convention centre and a swimming pool has been planned. A smoking zone will also be demarcated to serve different sections of people,” he added. The total overhaul will require a sum of Rs eight crores approximately. “Because of the active support of the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the Tourism Minister, the work is going steadily but a total revamp will require not less than a year,” he added

State’s cultural heritage wooing tourists’
TINSUKIA, Dec 1 – Pramila Rani Brahma, State Agriculture Minister Govt of Assam recently inaugurated the eco-tourism complex at Hatighuli Gaon, by the side of the river Brahmaputra and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (Saikhowa Range). The complex was constructed with the fund provided by the Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council by an NGO namely ‘Canepass’.On the occasion, the Minister also inaugurated the eco tourist lodge built in the complex.In the meeting held on the complex, the Minister said that the ethnic groups of the State have their own cultural heritages and traditions, which have been attracting tourists from all over the world. “The eco-tourism complex at Hatighuli with picturesque surroundings should be developed to showcase the cultural heritage, tradition especially the delicious food items of the ethnic people of the area, which would definitely change the entire socio-economical scenario of the area,” the minister added.The function was attended by chief executive councilor of Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council Milon Sonowal, MLA Paneri Komola Basumotary, MLA Sadiya, Bolin Chetia, secretary, Deptt of Tribal and Other Backward Development, Govt of Assam Lanki Phangsoo and other dignitaries besides a large number of people.Aid distributed: The Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council distributed aid to the needy people of Dangari area for the improvement of the socio economic condition of its people.If may be Promila Rani Brahma Minister Agriculture, mentioned that inaugurated a community theatre hall, constructed by the Council at Balioni Gaon under Doomdooma police station of Tinsukia district recently. The council distributed 16 looms, 75 spraying machines 75, sewing machines 5 pais of ploughing cattle, 12 bicycle repairing tools, 12 mason sets, 12 carpenter sets, among others in the meeting held on the occasion.The meeting was also attended by the MLAs of Paneri and Sadiya Komola Basumotary and Bolin Chetia respectively, Lanki Phangsoo, Secretary to the Govt of Assam, Deptt of Tribal and Other Backward Community Development, chief executive councilor of Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council and other dignitaries besides a huge gathering.Prawn farming: Realising the growing demand for prawns in the hotels and restaurants in addition to the households of the State, a group of educated youths of Tinsukia district has to take up prawn farming locally. To produce the ‘prawns scientifically, these youth of Baruahola village under Panitola Gaon Panchayat of Guijan Block of Tinsukia district have formed a self help group (SHG) named Agrarian. With the initiative of the District Fishery Development Officer, the group has been provided financial help from the State Government through the District Administration to start this unique project in the district.For the project, the group has taken an area of ten bighas of land on lease and seeds of prawn of a total amount of Rs 27,000 has been brought from Kolkata. The technical known-how also been provided by an expert from Kolkata.The project started in the month of August this year and they are planning to sell prawns soon. Alongwith the prawns, the group also started pisciculture and plans to start horticulture in the same farm.

Palashbari Raas retains its glory
PALASHBARI, Dec 2 – Natural disasters like the great earthquake and heavy floods in 1950 and the subsequent erosion since the late 1950s. The residents of Palashbari have seen it all. But the Palashbari Raas, which has entered its 61st year this time, still manages to retain the best cultural traditions, as its all-encompassing appeal continues to draw to its fold people from across the globe who have made it a habit to return to their roots at this time of the year.The popular Raas festival, over the years, has now donned the mantle of not only a cultural institution but also a stage of get-together of bodies, minds and souls for all those who were forced to leave the place after the great natural disasters in the form of heavy floods in 1950 and the subsequent erosion since 1954.“Time has changed and so has the way of celebration. Though the rituals are adhered to in almost a similar fashion, the manner of celebrating the Raas has undergone some changes. The Raas, in the last one decade or so, has turned into a theatre of rendezvous for all those families who had left the erstwhile ‘financial capital’ of Assam after the floods in 1950 and the subsequent erosion since 1954,” said Anil Kalita, president of the Rass celebration committee, while talking to The Assam Tribune here today.“Most of those people who henceforth settled in Guwahati and even outside the State and abroad, visit Palashbari searching for their roots during the Raas festival. This time, it is more significant for a host of non-resident Indians have joined the party,” informed Kalita. “Efforts are being initiated from our side to keep the charm of the festival alive, which is also an emotional occasion for all the people, who in some way or the other, are related with Palashbari.The Raas festival is an occasion to become nostalgic for almost everyone in the Palashbari and adjoining areas,” he pointed out. “Palashbari was the then financial capital of Assam with a port with thriving activities. Trade in jute, timber and tea was done through the Palasbari port to neighbouring States like West Bengal and others,” said Kalita, while adding that the floods in 1950 and subsequent erosion have forced the people and traders to leave Palashbari in 1954.Manash Pratim Bhuyan, who is now working with a BPO company, has come all the way from Bangalore to take part in the Raas.“My forefathers used to run good business from Palashbari during 1940s. We use to trade in jute and timber but due to a series of natural calamities in the 1950s, we lost our house and subsequently our business,” said Manash, who is putting up in a city-based hotel till December 5, when the 12-day festival will come to an end.“My grandfather is no more now but I visit Palashbari with my families so that the next generation could know about their past and the roots, which is very important,” Manash added.Niranjan Nath, a local resident, however, stressed the need for the Government to do something seriously to stop erosion, which has now posed a threat to the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport itself.Now that the Government had recently declared Palashbari as major industrial belt, Kalita hoped that such efforts would go a long way in helping Palashbari to regain its lost glory.

Illegal activities may cost Manas its status
NEW DELHI, Dec 1 — Faced with the prospect of World Heritage Committee dropping Manas National Park from the list of heritage sites, following reports of rampant poaching and illegal felling of trees, Union Tourism and Culture Minister, Ambika Soni has sought Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s personal intervention in putting a halt to the illegal activities. Soni’s reaction came after a TV channel reported rampant felling of trees and poaching inside Manas Park by organised mafia. Since long the activities in the Park has been under close scrutiny of UNESCO as well as the Centre. The latest report has rattled officials at the Centre.The Union Tourism and Culture Minister lost no time in dashing off a letter to the Chief Minister, a copy of which is with this newspaper. “I saw a report on television two days ago regarding Manas, which showed illegal felling of trees and other such activities. This is of very serious concern for all of us. I will request your personal intervention in the matter to check the illegal activities in Manas National Park,” wrote the Minister. “The Government of Assam is required to take strong measures so as to get the Manas Park removed from the Danger List. I assure you full support of my Ministry in the efforts of Government of Assam in doing so,” said Soni.Manas Park continued to be placed in the Danger List of the World Heritage Site. “The World Heritage Committee has continued to keep the Park in the Danger List of the World Heritage Sites,” wrote the Minister.“ I have directed the Archaeological Survey of India to take whatever steps necessary on their part to enable us to get this World Heritage Site off the Danger List,” said the Minister.Soni, however, did not forget to appreciate the measures taken by the State Government protect the Park. Manas was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1985 in recognition of its unique position as a natural site.However, due to disturbances during the Bodo movement, it was put in the Danger List of World Heritage Site in 1992. The Park was out of bounds for a long period after Bodo militants took over control. Home to a number of endangered species, the militants’ wreaked havoc, slaughtering animals and felling trees.Soni noted that the Government took certain corrective measures like establishment of Bodo Autonomous Council to improve the conditions in the Park. The UNESCO itself has reported that the Committee decided to include the Site on the World Heritage in Danger List in 1992, when it was invaded by Bodo militants. Damage to the Park was estimated at more than 2 million. The site’s infrastructure suffered considerable damage during 1992-93. Political instability seems to have led to poaching during this period of thirty-three rhinos during 1989-1992. A monitoring mission jointly undertaken by the Government of India and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in January 1997 confirmed the extensive damage to Park infrastructure and decrease in the population of some species, particularly the greater one-horned rhino, UNESCO reported.The Government of India, the State Government of Assam and the Park authorities have elaborated a 2.35 million rehabilitation plan which began to be implemented in 1997 and is progressing satisfactorily. And while security conditions in and around Manas have improved, the threat of insurgency still prevails in Assam and militants often traverse the sanctuary. Nevertheless, conditions for site protection and the relationship with local villagers appear to be improving.However, the TV report claimed rampant poaching, indiscriminate felling of trees, illegal encroachment have hit the India’s biggest biological reserves. The news report showed indiscriminate felling of trees, cattle left free to graze, illegal settlements on the forest range, and evidences of rampant poaching and blatant indifference of the authorities.The report quoted president of Green Manas Organisation, Debeswar Patowary, as claiming that almost 90 per cent of valuable trees were missing from the reserve.

Nalbari Raas Mahotsav completes 75 years
NALBARI, Nov 30 – Raas festival of Nalbari’s Sri Sri Hari Mandir, which has completed 75 years has turned into a large religious and cultural event of Assam as well as the North-east. During the celebration of the eleven-day Raas festival, this tiny town in fact transforms into a sea of humanity as all roads lead to the Hari Mandir premises. Thousands of visitors irrespective of caste, creed and religion throng the venue to witness the famous Raas festival held during autumn. During the Raas festival even the whole Nalbari town wears a new look with spectacular illumination and the long queue of visitors leave no space on the roads of the town.On the completion of 75 years of Nalbari Raas, the Nalbari Hari Mandir committee this year celebrated the opening ceremony of the year long diamond jubilee celebration. For that, the committee this year has organised 13day Raas and modernised most of the idols made of clay.Raas festival in Nalbari was first celebrated in 1933 with the notable contributions of late Amar Kundu, Naren Basu Gadamalla Baruah, Dandi Ram Mahajan, Bati Ram Deka, Kirti Thikadar, Padmapani Dutta, Bhairab Chaudhury among others. They first celebrated Raas puja at Nalbari Purana Hatkhola in 1933 with a brief arrangement. Actually, they decided to celebrate the Raas in 1931 but cancelled it due to unavoidable circumstances. When they organised the Raas festival at Nalbari town it got wide response from the people which encouraged them to continue with the festival.However, at that time the Nalbari Raas was celebrated only as a religious function but it later turned into a cultural festival due to the growing attraction of visitors. During the initial time, only the Brahmin artistes made the idols of Raas festival as the lower caste persons were not allowed to make the idols of God and Goddesses. Later the lower caste persons were permitted to make the idols but the finishing touch was given hy the upper caste Brahmin artistes. Now there is no restriction of making the idols. Noted idol maker of Dhurkuchi village late Ambika Nath Goswami made the idols of Nalbari Raas in an attractive manner.Though the Nalbari Raas was held at Purana Hatkhola from 1933 to 1945, it was shifted to the present location after construction of the Nalbari Hari Mandir in 1946. The old site of Purana Hatkhola was very small to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The foundation of the Hari Mandir, the centre of cultural and spiritual development of the district was started in 1939 with the donation of four ‘sal’ iles by Priya Nath Kaviraj of Elengidal village.Since then, the Nalbari Raas which later became Raas Mahotsav has been celebrated uninterruptedly. Though it initially started with a three day programme till 1949, now it is being celebrated with an 11 day-long programme starting from the full moon might of Autumn. In 1989, the raas festival was celebrated with a day-long programme due to the killing of three workers of the committee in a tragic accident and in 1996 it was held for three days due to the threat by a certain militant outfit.There is a permanent puja mandap at the Hari Mandir complex which was completed in 1975 with the donation of Damahu Ram Mahajan. The main Raas puja is held in this main mandap where a large idols of Radha-Krishna is installed along with several pairs of Gopi Krishna idols Besides, the committee annually set up about a hundred temporary stalls to install thousands of idols which depict different incidents from the eventful life of Lord Sri Krishna. Noted artiste and sculptor Adya Sarma’s landscape in the stalls also attract the visitors. The Hari Mandir Committee in 2002 installed a lifesize marble statue of Lord Vishnu of the main temple at a cost of Rs 3 lakh.Following the development of law and order situation in the district and in the return of normalcy the flow of visitors to the Nalbari Raas is increasing year after year forcing that committee to expand its accommodation.In the diamond jubilee year at least 20 idol makers led by Makhan Paul of Guwahati made about a 1000 idols and displayed them in about a 100 stalls. Eight of them were mechanised and electrified. The committee this year erected five huge gates illuminated with decorative lights one at Bata chak, one at Ganesh Mandir, one at Swahid Mukunda bus stand, one at Bharatia talkies and another at Dhamdhama bus stand. In this time the big idols of Bhim-Durjudhan gada yudha attract the visitors.The huge gathering in Nalbari Raas festival has proved that the place though a hotbed of militancy is also a centre of cultural and spiritual development of masses.
Appeal to develop historic Mechagarh tankFrom A Correspondent NAZIRA, Nov 30 – Large reservoirs of water are the repository of various migratory and indigenous wildlife. Moreover, looking from the viewpoint of tourism, which is nowadays a major industry, preservation of historical giant reservoirs (tanks) of water is also a great necessity. Sivasagar district in upper Assam has a large member of such tanks which were dug by the Ahom kings.Mechagarh tank, situated in Nazira subdivision is one such tank which was dug by Swargadeo Pratap Singha. Covering an area of 21 pura, one bigha and one lessa, the tank, now covered with grass and weeds, is a shadow of its former self. The tank, which is supposed to be looked after by the Department of Archaeology is also famous because it is believed that Madhabdeva had spent a few nights on its bank. The Sri sri Madhabdev Kala Kristi Kendra, foundation of which was laid by the then Chief Minister Sarat Ch Singha, is also situated near the Mechagarh tank.In 1996, the sides of the tank were built with a fund of Rs. 1.51 lakh from Dr HP Saikia, under the supervision of a tank development committee. This committee later went defunct. It was again revived but there has not been any activities on its front. In February 2007, a meeting was held in Mechagarh which sanctioned a fund of Rs 4 lakh for the tank’s development. The assistant project director, Sivasagar, BDO Nazira and Nazira MLA Drupad Borgohain and many others participated in the meeting which was presided over by Trilochan Sharma. The meet decided that the funds will be sanctioned under Hariyali Project. In this regard, a caretaker committe was also formed and it was decided to give the improvement work to self-help groups. But ten months have passed and there is no sign of the fund or any work as yet.The people here have urged the concerned department to start work of the tank soon before another historic tank dries up.

Wanted: Facelift for Jorhat parks
JORHAT, Dec 6 – The Jorhat Municipal Board (JMB) is obviously not paying any attention to the upkeep of the six parks under its care. The existing facilities in none of these parks have been upgraded in recent times. Though the residents of the town, especially senior citizens, visit the parks to get a fresh breath of air in the morning on a regular basis, the plans for beautification and facelift have only remained on paper so far. Gandhi Park, spread over an area of 7,882 square metres, on Borpatra Road is the biggest park in the town which houses a library apart from spiral slide, see-saws, swings, rainbow ladder, moving chair, fountain and flower beds. The major attraction for children is a fighter plane used in the 1971 war against Pakistan. JMB sources admitted that the equipment available in Gandhi Park, meant for children, needs repair and renovation. Playpens, toy trains, slides and swings have to be installed to attract more visitors to the park, they added. The infrastructural and recreational facilities at Nehru Park, located at Tulsi Narayan Sarmah Path, have also been in a dilapidated state for long. Set up way back in 1956, it is the oldest park in the town which got its name after the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, addressed a public gathering there. The frequent grant of land by JMB to other institutions has considerably shrunk the original area of the park which now stands in a plot measuring 4,140 square metres.A worn-out slide and a few flower beds, a hall and a provision for installation of sound-and-light system are the facilities available in the park. The JMB sources made a case for addition of playpens and fountains. Most residents here are not even aware of the existence of two other small parks – Ram Nath Das Park at Darangichuk and Rajamaidam Park at JB Road. The JMB sources stressed that boundary walls have to be constructed to enclose their areas. While the former park is located in an area of 464 square metres, the second park encompasses an area of 450 square metres. Despite its failure to maintain the existing parks, JMB is developing two more separate recreational facilities near Tinikonia Pukhuri and Rajmao Pukhuri in the middle of the town. The park along Rajmao Pukhuri has already become a favoured spot for ‘morning walkers.’ Jorhat Development Authority, too, is constructing a park, enclosing an area of 13,500 square metres, at Tarun Ram Phukan Path. It will be named after Asomiya poet Ananda Chandra Barua (1907-1983) who is also known as Bakul Banar Kobi. In addition to the parks under JMB, the Millennium Park, developed in 2001, and Ganesh Gogoi Kobita Kanan – also situated in the town – are maintained by individual management committees. Meanwhile, JMB is understood to have invited the participation of NGOs, private organizations and other individuals to expand the existing facilities at the parks in the town. Special attention has to be paid to improving the lighting arrangements, the civic body sources maintained. Entry fees may be charged from visitors to earn revenue for the maintenance of the parks once state-of-the-art facilities are provided.

Renomination of Majuli for World Heritage Site by Jan 31
GUWAHATI, Dec 8 – Central Government has held discussions with the Assam Government on renomination of the river island Majuli to the UNSECO by January 31 next for inclusion of the island in the World Heritage Site list. Disclosing this, Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday in reply to a question of Kumar Deepak Das that the World Heritage Committee of the UNESCO was expected to consider the proposal of inscription of the island on the World Heritage List at its meeting in June /July next year.The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has engaged the services of consultants to collect and compile the additional information as sought by the World Heritage Committee. By this time, Assam Government has passed The Majuli Cultural Landscape Region Act, 2006 to provide for the legal protection of the island, said the Minister.LIC zonal office: In reply to another question by Das, Union Minister of State for Finance Pawan Kumar Bansal told the Rajya Sabha the same day that the business volume of the four divisional offices of the LIC at Bongaigaon, Guwahati, Jorhat and Silchar did not warrant a separate office in the NE region.However, the absence of a zonal office does not affect the servicing needs of the insuring public of the region. As, the needs of the policyholders, employees and agents are mainly taken care of by the branch offices and only in very few cases the matters are referred to the divisional office. References to zonal offices are rare and they are made mainly for administrative clarifications these references are made, said the Minister.

Write-ups for book on Orang National Park solicited
UDALGURI, Dec 10 – A book on Orang National Park is going to be published shortly under the joint initiative of Orang Press Club and Udalguri district committee of Aranya Suraksha Samiti. A meeting to this effect was held recently at the Orang inspection bungalow with Jitendra Nath Deka, retired principal of Orang Higher Secondary School in the chair. The meeting on the occasion also resolved to bring out a bulletin based on the facts of nature, safeguard of flora and fauna and various aspects of Orang National Park along with a book on the park with reliable data. A publication board was also formed with Jitendra Nath Deka as president and Naba Kumar Deka as Chief Editor.A press release issued by Naba Kumar Deka, chief editor of the proposed book and bulletin informed that the proposed book on Orang National Park will have more than 200 pages and the total cost of the printing/publishing of the book will be about Rs 2 lakhs. The press release also requested the interested persons having specific knowledge on the history of the park to send their write-ups on (1) origin of the park, historical data, (2) past history, (3) future, (4) present status, (5) forest resource, (6) natural resources, (7) preservation of wildlife, (8) features of the park, geographical set up and description (9) relevance and significance, (10) historical features, importance, (11) history of the Shiva temple located in the park, (12) description of 26 ponds and 12 “beels” within the park, (13) Future of tiger population and its protection, (14) future of rhino population and its protection, (15) unabated encroachment in the park and its permanent solution, (16) projection of problems and role of the government, (17) problems of forest guards and ways of solutions, (18) park, tourism and tourists, (19) prospects of tourism, (20) awareness campaigning for the preservation of the park, (21) importance of the park as birds sanctuary and its relevance, (22) role of people, NGOs and government in preservation of rich flora and fauna of the park, (23) Protection of past and present status of the park, (24) roads and communication system and (25) Environment and natural blanket of the park.The press note also requested all concerned to attend a public meeting convened on December 30 next at Orang Lakhi Mandir premises.

NE cane-bamboo products make international foray
GUWAHATI, Dec 17 – Often termed as ‘poor man’s timber’ due to its easy availability, minimal cost of production and abundant use in rural areas, cane and bamboo products from the Northeast are slowly but steadily making headway in the international market. The exquisite cane and bamboo products exhibited in an international forum at Vienna by the Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre of North East recently, received great complements from the international delegates.“The north-eastern bamboo products, occupying 60 per cent of country’s resources and 90 per cent of the market in India, could be a major money earner for the artisans here,” said the Director of the CBTC, Kamesh Shalam while talking to The Assam Tribune.“Till now, our cane and bamboo artisans are sought as the trainers in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and other Indian States, but after the exhibition, many African, South American and other countries expressed their interest to train their artisans in cane and bamboo crafts,” he added. The Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre (CBTC) was set up in the year 2000 under funding from the United Nation’s Development Programme and was implemented by the United Nations’ Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). The centre is functioning for the development of cane and bamboo in Northeast India in particular and the country in general. In order to showcase the achievements of all the 172 member countries of UNIDO, the South East Asian office of the UNIDO invited all the member countries to participate in the annual general conference of UNIDO held in Vienna. In the exhibition, the cane and bamboo products were displayed by the CBTC under the theme ‘Poverty Reduction Through Productive Activities.’ It may be mentioned here that the CBTC has also been a pioneer organisation providing technical guidance to the National Bamboo Mission.“The stall in Vienna exhibition, showcasing the Indian cane and bamboo products was visited by Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of UNIDO, Lansana Kouyate, prime minister of Guinea, Fedrick Tluwan Sumaye, Prime Minister of Tanzania, Zeljko Sturanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro among others. While appreciating the diversified developmental activities initiated by CBTC through the use of cane and bamboo, many of the leaders requested CBTC to help them in setting up technology centres in their countries,” said the sources from the CBTC. Products ranging from village level to industrial level were displayed in the exhibition. As there is a worldwide demand for green environment and eco-friendly products, the cane and bamboo products are best suited for the purpose. Now the centre is vying for a bamboo industrial zone. “In an official handout issued at the conference the CBTC’s concept of ‘Bamboo Processing Zone’ was hailed as a major innovation. When put in practice, the initiative will be first of its kind in the world,” added Shalam. While visiting the exhibition, SK Sharma, Indian Ambassador to Austria said, “This exhibition displays how a concerted entrepreneur approach to utilise natural products can translate into so many tangible products – which relate directly to society, to development and to the environment.” India is world’s second largest producer after China and the second richest country in the world in terms of bamboo genetic diversity with 136 species of bamboos found all over the country.The centre with UNIDO as the implementing agency, is playing key role in promoting natural resources like cane and bamboo in the region as well as in the country and all our efforts are directed towards transforming the poor man’s timber into green gold to change the lives of the cane and bamboo producers,” said a CBTC official.

Tourist guide book on NE released
GUWAHATI, Dec 17 – With aim to cater to the tourists who seek to discover the beauty of North-Eastern States like Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh on their own, a comprehensive guide book titled Journey-Mate was released recently in Guwahati.The book was conceptualized, compiled and edited by Parag Baruah. Besides, the book also contains special chapters on the tourist sites of Delhi and Kolkota. The guide book also describes the region’s beautiful sites from a tourist point of view. Talking to this Correspondent, Parag Baruah said, “I always wanted to come up with a book which would be able to give the people, especially tourists, both domestic and foreign, something to look forward to. “Northeast, particularly Assam, is regarded as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations from time immemorial. As tourist guide books are very essential tools for the promotion of tourism, I hope this book would be able to create fresh interest amongst the tourists across the globe,” the writer said.

Rani duli market still attracts buyers
RANI, Dec 22 – The people of the remote hilly areas in the Assam-Meghalaya border here, have earned fame by supplying hundreds of duli, a big-sized container made of bamboo, that is used by the people in the rural backyard of Assam for keeping the harvested produce, specially paddy. These artisans flood the Rani bazar, held every Monday, with their products, i.e. dulis, coming from places like Kolong, Kanthampaham, Dekapathar etc. The bazaar on Mondays wears a unique look as producers of dulis throng the place for selling them to the huge rural market.And for artisans like octogenerian Umesh Sangma and septuagenerian Harding Marak, more than selling their products, it is the eagerness to meet the buyers coming to the market from various parts of the state that has been keeping them enthusiastic.However, though these dulis have retained a huge demand for several past years, the profit margin for its makers remain meagre. Artisans like Rawan Marak and Babul Sangma told The Assam Tribune that the buyers, taking advantage of the fact that the artisans would find difficult to take their dulis back to their villages which are more than 20 km from Rani market, always bargain and offer an amount of money less than the original price tag. “We generally make the dulis that can hold upto 740 kgs (15 to 20 mone) of paddy, but as per order, we make it even bigger,” said Rawan.Made of doloi bah found in hilly terrain of this area, this bamboo-made container complimentary to the artisans’ skills are sold like hot cakes as the artistic flair of making it is confined to certain areas bordering Meghalaya. Talking to this correspondent, Aldi Marak said that they carried a pair of dulis by undergoing a long, arduos walk from their village before selling them in the market. He further added that in a week, they could only make one pair of duli as the process of making it involves collection of bamboo followed by splitting that usually take four days. And considering the hours and labour inclusive of expense involved in making this item, the return they get is not adequate. The artisans informed that three litres of kerosene required cost them Rs 75 and with the other expenses, the amount of return Rs 200 from a pair nosedives. thus with the season coming to an end, there artisans shift to jhum cultivation the mainstay of their livelihood. What is worthwhile to mention is that dwindling of this variety of bamboo has become a cause of concern for them. Called the ‘poor man’s timber’, large-scale cultivation of the valuable grass has become imperative, the artisans of Rani said

NE cuisines making waves across world
NEW DELHI, Dec 19 – Tenga, Pitika, Thupka and Rumba along with a host of other delicacies from the North East are now making waves across the world, reports PTI. Though a piece of the pan-Indian cuisine, food from the North East is recently making its presence gradually felt both in the country as well as in the global market. “The not-so-much-talked-about North eastern food with its pristine flavours and pure taste of nature is slowly making inroads to global palates,” Bakshish Dean, executive chef at a five star hotel in the capital told PTI. The eight North eastern states has a very rich culinary heritage, says Dean who in joint collaboration with Institute for Environmental Management and Social Development (IEMSD), had organised a eight-day northeast food fest here recently. To look at the diversity of NE cuisine is sometimes an unfathomable proposition. The cooking styles and flavours of each and every state in the region is unique and differs from each other with considerable influence of Bengali, Nepali, Thai, Bhutan, Tibetan, Myanmar and Chinese cuisine, he says. According to foodie, traveler, social scientist and filmmaker Dr Ashish Chopra, Assamese and Tripurian cuisine have adopted various nuances from Bangladesh. “The Bengali influence is strong and the ingredients and recipes are more or less similar. The only difference is that Assamese cuisine is much less spicy and less oily. The staples are rice and fish.” “Bamboo is used extensively in cuisine of Tripura,” says Dr Chopra who has also authored a book called ‘NE Belly’.
Handloom expo to be held at Panjabari college from Jan 9By A City Reporter GUWAHATI, Dec 27 – Providing a marketing platform for all kinds of hand-woven textile of the State and other parts of the country, the Assam Apex Weavers’ and Artisans’ Co-operative Federation Ltd (ARTFED) is organizing a National Handloom Expo 07-08 at the Field of Karmasree Hiteswar Saikia College, Panjabari, Guwahati from January 9 to 29, 2008. The handloom expo, sponsored by the Office of the Development Commissioner Handlooms, Ministry of Textiles intends mainly to project the Indian handloom fabrics, cotton, silk, woollen and blended fabrics and to help the weavers to increase the sales of their products. “The weavers throughout the country are a scattered lot and despite their inherent expertise, they get very limited market to sell their products unless helped by some NGO or co-operative societies. Therefore we always aim to facilitate a good platform for such weavers and artisans,” said an ARTFED official. “All the National Handloom Expo held at Guwahati and organised by the ARTFED have achieved tremendous success not only in terms of creating awareness about the new product lines, concepts, designs, style, etc., but also in terms of generating sales revenue for the participants,” he added. All the State and national- level handloom corporations, apex, regional and primary societies, non-governmental organizations, who fulfil the CAPART norms, have been invited by the ARTFED to participate in the expo. To attract a large number of visitors and buyers to the expo ground, a theme pavilion will be set for displaying innovative hand woven products and latest technology on hand weaving, printing, dying, etc. The theme pavilion will be put by Weavers’ Service Centre, Ministry of Textiles, Guwahati. The pavilion for 2008-09 with light and sound system, children amusement park, food kiosks will be the additional attraction of the expo. The organizers have also planned mega cultural programmes of cine artistes from the Bollywood for the occasion.

Chowki Pagladiya tourism centre beckons visitors
MUSHALPUR, Dec 30 – With the advent of New Year, the Manas Sousi Khongkor Eco-Tourism Society – Uttarkuchi, under Pratiddhani NGO is gearing up preparations to receive visitors at the Chowki Pagladiya Tourism Centre in the Indo-Bhutan border areas of Baksa district.Since the last one month, the volunteers of the NGO, as well as the villagers of the locality, have been carrying on repair work of the road from Uttarkuchi up to the Pagladiya riverbed for the easy access of visitors and have been clearing the spots for picnic parties.A good number of field study groups of students and picnic parties have been attracted towards this spot for its enthralling scenic beauty and bio-diversity since the promotion of the uncared spot as an eco-tourism centre.A public meeting will be held at the spot on January 3 as a part of the annual New Year celebration programme of the NGO where a number of naturalists, local intellectuals, distinguished guests from BTC Government as well as forest and other officials of the district, will interact with the public on conservation matters and development of the site as an ideal tourist destination.A tourist brochure will also be released on the same day providing information on the flora and fauna, as well as important sights to be seen around Chowki Pagaldiya from cultural, religious, historical and natural point of view.A reception committee was also formed with Mahendra Mushahary and Mantu Boro as president and secretary respectively recently to make the New Year celebration programme a success, said Bijoy Choudhury, chairman of the NGO.


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