Manas swamp deer hope on Kaziranga

Kaziranga seems to be the only hope for Manas to restore its eastern swamp deer population.

A draft recovery plan prepared by the Wildlife Trust of India for swamp deer of Manas has called for restocking from Kaziranga National Park as well as management of the existing tall, wet grassland areas in the park.

“There is not enough scientific work being done on swamp deer. We have started the groundwork by studying source population of the species in Kaziranga,” Rathin Burman, coordinator of Wildlife Trust of India in Assam, told The Telegraph.

The plan calls for erecting an enclosure at the reintroduction site in Manas. The animals, once translocated from Kaziranga, will be confined to this enclosure for acclimatisation as well as to minimise predation. This should also facilitate breeding of the animals. Prior to the release in the wilds of Manas, the animals will be radio collared.

“It is a long way out for translocation but it can happen,” Barman said.

To make a recovery plan, it is always important to know the reasons behind the declining population of the species.

Sources said the plan was prepared on the recommendation of a joint UNESCO-IUCN reactive monitoring mission, which visited Manas World Heritage Site in January to review the ground situation in order to make recommendations for removal of the site from the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

The recovery plan has been prepared on the guidelines of the Union ministry of environment and forests.

Two populations of the deer sub-species continue to exist in Assam, with 650 of these being sighted in Kaziranga National Park and 15 to 20 in Manas National Park.

Prior to the civil unrest in 1990s, Manas harboured a healthy population of swamp deer.

During the insurgency period that spanned over a decade-and-a-half, the swamp deer population of Manas witnessed a rapid decline. The present population is estimated to be less than 20.

“Protection measures have been strengthened under Indian Rhino Vision 2020 in Manas and will be enough to safeguard the translocated the animal,” a park official in Manas said.

The divisional officer of Eastern Assam Wildlife Division, D.D. Gogoi, said the population of the swamp deer in Kaziranga is stable and found mainly in five areas of the national park. They are scattered in 18 locations in the national park.

The 2011 census of swamp deer population has pegged it at 1,169, up from 681 in 2008.

“It would be difficult to tell whether the animal can be translocated as of now as several issues have to be looked into,” Gogoi said.

The plan calls for carrying out a detailed analysis of possible swamp deer habitats (tall wet grasslands) at Manas World Heritage Site using remotely sensed data.

All the identified tall wet grasslands of Manas will subsequently be sampled to obtain information on existing swamp deer population as well as the condition of the habitat.

Based on these initial surveys, sites will be identified for restocking of the swamp deer from Kaziranga.

An ecological study to understand the population dynamics, habitat preference, food requirements and the limiting factors for growth of the swamp deer in Kaziranga will be initiated to understand the dynamics of the source population.


Gujarat assures Assam of more tea buying

Gujarat team assures planters of rise in trade
Guwahati, April 26: Tea traders from Gujarat got a taste of Assam tea on their maiden visit to the state.

Impressed by the tea industry, the 35-member delegation assured its counterparts in Assam that Gujarat would buy 15 to 20 per cent more tea from them.

The tea traders, under the aegis of the Ahmedabad Tea Merchants Association, arrived in the state on April 20.

They had a first hand look at tea gardens, factories, bought leaf factories and the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre during their six-day visit. The traders will leave for Gujarat tomorrow.

“We were very impressed by the positive interactions and there will be some increase in tea trade. It could be 15 to 20 per cent,” H.P. Agarwal, president of Ahmedabad Tea Merchants Association, told The Telegraph.

Gujarat buys 70 million kg of tea from Assam and is one of the largest domestic markets for the state.

Agarwal said the visit helped them understand the mechanics of tea production, which they had never seen.

“So far we had a little knowledge about different flavours of tea and its aroma, which are its important characteristics, but now we have actually seen the tea making process. Now we have a better idea about it,” he said.

The team included packeteers, retailers, wholesalers, brokers and buyers.

“We will give more preference to tea bought from the auction centre,” he said.

Sources said the myth that tea made from bought tea leafs was not good in quality and those produced in big gardens were better, was also cleared during the visit.

Impressed by the interaction with the tea traders, Agarwal said more such visits would be organised in the future.

“There is great likelihood of buying more Assam tea than others like Dooars and south Indian tea after the visit,” Agarwal said.

The interesting fact is that the per capita consumption of tea in Gujarat is 1kg 36gram per head, much more than that of Assam, which is around 700gram per head.

Tea is a big favourite in Gujarat. A Gujarati family takes great pride in serving a good cup of tea to its guests.

According to the Guwahati Tea Auction Buyers’ Association, nearly 60 per cent of good quality tea sold at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre goes to Gujarat.

The tea traders had interacted with members of the North Eastern Tea Association at Golaghat and visited tea gardens in Karbi Anglong also.

“The interaction was lively and one of the best,” Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association, said.

There were discussions on packaging and pricing also. The delegation emphasised on maintaining quality consistency.


WB says Assam agri project a "success"

Bank claims success in ‘green’ project

First step to green revolution
Guwahati, April 25: The World Bank has said the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project is an “acknowledged” success in the country and could be a precursor to the green revolution in the state.

The project was launched in Assam with World Bank support in 2005 to improve the profitability of agriculture, the state’s primary economic activity.

“The project co-ordinates the work of various line departments including agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry, irrigation, as well as markets and roads, and is initiating various reforms. In the last two years, the project has been transformed into one of the acknowledged successes in the World Bank’s India portfolio,” Grahame Dixie, the World Bank’s team leader for the project, said in the March issue of the newsletter on World Bank in India.

The $214.33 million project is to conclude by the end of the year after being extended by a year.

Project director Niraj Verma said with the huge agricultural potential of the state, the project could be a precursor to the next Green Revolution.

“Clearly, Assam’s farmers will no longer need to rely solely on the weather gods to earn a good living,” Verma said in the newsletter.

The project’s beneficiaries have doubled their paddy yields.

Earlier, a farmer would have produced nearly 2,000kg of paddy with most of it being used for his own family’s consumption.

His individual paddy production has now increased to over 4,100kg, and an additional 700kg of vegetables are being grown.

“With bountiful groundwater, shallow tubewells are one of the most efficient and cost-effective sources of assured irrigation in Assam, leading to an increase in cropping intensity and production as well,” said H. C. Baishya, agriculture co-ordinator of the project, said.

The project has helped farmers to sell their high-value vegetables in local markets, with the more enterprising taking their produce to Arunachal and Meghalaya, where demand is high.

The fisheries component is doing well too.

The project’s fish intensification programme in ponds, tanks and beels has resulted in a 500 per cent increase in fish production.

“Fishing is in many ways more profitable than agriculture as a pond of one bigha can bring in as much as Rs 60,000, whereas agriculture, by itself, is not as profitable,” says Bimal Sharma, fisheries extension officer, Nagaon district.

Since irrigation is the most important factor for a sustainable increase in productivity, groups of three farmers were helped to install and share a shallow tube well subsidised by the project.

Farmers were also trained in the use of better farming techniques, helped to diversify their crops, buy high-yielding seeds, and adopt appropriate forms of mechanisation, including tractors.


Assam forest department panel to probe army firing range

Panel to probe firing range row

A grab of The Telegraph report that appeared on April 13
Guwahati, April 22: The Assam forest department has constituted a five-member committee to examine the matter of the army’s short firing range in Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary in its entirety.

Sources said members of the committee which was constituted yesterday would visit the sanctuary soon to gather details of the firing range at the army’s Lama camp in a bid to get a “firm” hold on the issue as the forest department takes on the army.

The committee, comprising A.H. Laskar, T.V. Reddy, S.P. Vashishth, N. Anand and S.S. Rao, has been asked to file the report within 15 days.

The committee is likely to visit the firing range in the wake of the army’s claim that there has been no firing practice there lately.

It would also like to see the Lama camp as three elephants had died “unnatural deaths” behind the camp within a span of 10 months, between August 9, 2006 and July 27, 2007.

A letter written by S.P. Vashishth, the divisional forest officer, western Assam wildlife division, to the army on January 29, 2011, says three sub-adult elephants were electrocuted as a temporary barbed wire fencing, constructed outside the permanent multi-wire barbed fencing, was connected to a 220-volt line through an inverter. The letter alleged that elephants were killed to save the ration of the army’s horses and mules. The army had not replied yet.

The forest department had launched a dismantling operation at the range on April 13 but the army stopped it. The operation had been on for about an hour when some army personnel reached the spot and said they had spoken to their superiors at Missamari camp (2-3km from the sanctuary).

“The department is taking up the issue seriously and will not compromise on it. The law clearly says there cannot be a firing range in a wildlife sanctuary and the army authorities should know it clearly. We will keep up the pressure,” a senior official in the forest department said.

“A firing range inside a wildlife sanctuary is totally against the law. It has to stop,” Ashok Kumar, vice-chairman of Wildlife Trust of India, told The Telegraph.

Sources in the forest department said the army was unwilling to commit that no firing practice would take place at the range in future though it has stopped it for the time being following protests by the forest department.

The army has been saying that a small arms firing range is mandatory in national interest as it helps train troops.


Gujarat tea team on Assam reccee

Gujarat team on tea visit

Guwahati, April 19: They buy a lion’s share of Assam tea and slurp on its full-bodied taste — for the first time now they will visit the state and get an experience of how their favourite beverage is grown and brewed.

A 35-member team of tea traders from Gujarat — one of the largest markets for Assam tea — under the aegis of the Ahmedabad Tea Merchants Association will be in Assam from April 20-26.

They will be visiting tea gardens in Jorhat and Dibrugarh and also be part of live auctions at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre.

The team, comprising packeteers, retailers, wholesalers, brokers and buyers, will also visit Tocklai to acquire more knowledge on tea.

According to Guwahati Tea Auction Buyers’ Association, nearly 60 per cent of good quality tea sold at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre goes to Gujarat.

Assam, too, does not want to miss this opportunity to impress the team so that they buy more tea from Guwahati.

“There has not been much interaction between buyers and sellers of tea. This programme has been formulated to have more interaction, which will increase trade,” Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman, North Eastern Tea Association, told The Telegraph.

Barkakoty said Gujaratis drink mostly Assam tea and are its true connoisseurs.

They appreciate a good cup of tea and are willing to pay a price for it.

“Gujaratis drink tea with milk and prefer a full-bodied cup, which only Assam tea can provide,” he said.

“A guest in a home in Gujarat is first offered a cup of tea and it is a matter of great satisfaction if good quality Assam tea can be offered,” said Nirav Patel, a tea buyer at the association.

Patel has been involved in trade with the association since 2001.

But this is the first time that tea traders are coming to Assam to understand the intricacies of tea growing, he said.

A visit to Kaziranga National Park has also been included in the programme.

“The market in Gujarat is growing for Assam tea and the visit would obviously mean more business,” Patel said.

A source said the per capita consumption of tea in Gujarat is 1 kg 36 grams per head, which is more than that of Assam, which is around 700 grams per head.

The secretary of Guwahati Tea Auction Centre, Jayanta Kakati, said they would impress the Gujarat team so that they buy more tea from the auction centre and also find out how the centre can benefit the traders from Gujarat. “Once the visit is through, we can discuss the varieties of tea which are more marketable and accordingly we can produce those,” Barkakoty said.


Assam yet to sign loan papers for ADB project

Dispur yet to sign loan papers

- Move to speed up agreement for adb funds


Guwahati, April 17: Dispur is expediting the signing of the $120-million loan agreement for the Assam integrated flood and riverbank erosion risk management investment programme to stop the Asian Development Bank’s loan approval from expiring.

Though the ADB’s board of directors had approved the loan package of upto $120 million last October, the loan agreement has still not been signed.

The rules state that the agreement has to be signed within a year.

“We are fully aware of the fact and are on track. We are hopeful of signing the loan agreement in a month or two,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, the chief executive officer of the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Agency, told The Telegraph.

The agency, which comes under the aegis of the state government, is responsible for the implementation of ADB-financed projects, in accordance with the government and the bank’s policies and procedures.

The programme will focus on improving protection for communities in three sub-project areas —Dibrugarh, Kaziranga and Palasbari (Kamrup), covering a 90km stretch along the Brahmaputra, where as many as a million people earn their livelihoods. Much of the state’s rural and urban land comprises flood-prone areas alongside the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. “We had to start work from scratch and many persons working for the project had to get acquainted with working in an ADB project, which took time,” Prasad said.

The signing of the loan agreement was to be done in November or December last year.

The bank says the validity of approval of a loan or grant lapses automatically within a maximum period of a year after the date of the board’s approval unless the loan or grant-related agreements are signed within that period or the validity is extended.

It also says that given the limited resources available to the bank and considering the increasing demands of the developing countries for external assistance, every effort should be made by the borrower or recipient and ADB to have loan agreements or grant agreements signed without undue delay.

“The loan and project agreements are yet to be signed. These will be done after the directive of the Centre that the signing will take place after the main procurement and consulting services contracts are signed,” mission leader Kenichi Yokoyama told The Telegraph through email.

He said the executing agency was evaluating several main procurement packages, after which the agreements would be signed. Prasad said both foreign and national firms have shown interest in working in different components of the project.

The loan’s closing date is September 30, 2017.

The total cost of the project is $150 million, of which the ADB is providing $120 million and the rest will come from the government.

Over 40km of existing flood embankments will be renovated, riverbank erosion will be addressed using cost-effective and environmentally friendly technologies, and steps will be taken to put infrastructure maintenance on a more sustainable footing under the project. The programme will also establish community-based disaster management committees and support flooding awareness campaigns, improved warning systems, community shelters and hazard maps.

Scientific studies and monitoring projects will also be undertaken to gain a better understanding of the region’s complex hydrology.


regional quake plan in NE India
Guwahati, April 12: The National Institute of Disaster Management has asked the North Eastern Council to develop a regional response plan for earthquake preparedness of the Northeast in consultation with National Disaster Management Authority and the Centre.
Sources said the plan, which forms a part of the roadmap for earthquake risk mitigation strategy in the Northeast, should be kept ready for a crisis situation.
This project is important, as coordinated efforts can help in effective earth risk management in the region.
Every year, seismic observatories record about 200 earthquakes, of varying intensity, with the epicentre in or around the Northeast.
The road map was prepared in a two-day national conference on earthquake risk mitigation strategy in the Northeast held in Guwahati from February 25 to 26.
A senior NEC official said the council was in the process of developing a regional framework for disaster management and has also initiated the setting up of a Northeast regional disaster management decision support centre.
The National Institute of Disaster Management is a statutory organisation under the National Disaster Management Act 2005.
Every state is developing its own disaster management plan under the provisions of Disaster Management Act. Such plans must have separate contingency plans for responding to mega earthquakes.
The regional, state and district plans shall define the time frame for the implementation of management plans in short (1 to 3 years), medium (1 to 5 years) and long terms (5 years and beyond).
The short and medium-term measures will include risk assessment and mitigation, while long-term plans shall include activities such as capacity building and public awareness.
The state and the council will monitor the implementation of the plan while the National Institute of Disaster Management will evaluate it.
According to the road map, seismic strengthening of all the existing buildings and infrastructure projects should be the integral part of the risk management projects.
The departments concerned should retrofit the buildings.
The road map has suggested that all new development projects must be critically assessed for earthquake risks and for adequate risk-resisting strategies. 


Army blocks razing of firing range in assam wildlife sanctuary


Guwahati, April 12: The army today obstructed the dismantling of the short firing range at Lama camp in Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary by the Assam forest department.

A team of 20-25 personnel from Sonai Rupai sanctuary in Sonitpur district under western Assam wildlife division arrived at the spot around 11am with hammers and axes and started dismantling the firing range.

Led by S.P. Vashishth, the divisional forest officer of western Assam wildlife division under whose jurisdiction the sanctuary falls, the forest personnel dismantled substantial portions of the firing range during the operation that continued for almost an hour.

“The operation had been under way for almost an hour before the army stepped in around noon,” a senior official of the wildlife division said.

“The army personnel said they had spoken to their superiors at Missamari camp (2-3km from the sanctuary) after which the operation came to a halt,” he added.

On April 4, the wildlife division had issued orders for dismantling the firing range and had served a notice to the army to vacate the camp. However, it did not receive any reply to the notice. It was only today that the army arrived at the spot.

The army has been saying that no firing practice was carried out at the range, which is behind the Lama army camp.

“If there is no firing practice at the range as the army says, then the army should close it down permanently,” the forest official said.

Sources said the wildlife division would issue a fresh notice to the army to dismantle the firing range within a week or the forest department will be forced to do it. A case will also be filed.

“I have asked for a report,” Tapan Chandra Sarma, the deputy commissioner of Sonitpur district, said.

“We are watching the situation as it is developing,” an army official said.

While the army has been saying that a small arms firing range is mandatory in the national interest as it helps to train troops to carry out the task of defending the integrity of the country, the forest department’s orders for dismantling it made it clear that there was no scope for any non-forestry activity in a wildlife sanctuary. When the firing range was set up, Sonai Rupai was not a sanctuary, but as it is a sanctuary now, it cannot have a firing range.

Wildlife experts agree.

“There is a way out if there is a will. But certainly there can be no place for a firing range in a wildlife sanctuary and the army should understand it. A firing range in a wildlife sanctuary disturbs the movement of animals,” Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist with Aaranyak, a wildlife NGO, told this correspondent.

“It would be inappropriate to have a firing range in a wildlife sanctuary,” Belinda Wright, the executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India, said.


Nabard raises credit to Assam

Nabard raises credit support
Guwahati, April 11: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) will increase its credit support to Assam by 77 per cent in the current financial year.
In 2010-11, the credit support extended to the state was Rs 386.36 crore. It will now be increased to Rs 500 crore.
A senior official of the Assam regional office of Nabard said the credit support was inclusive of support to banks for providing agricultural loans to the farmers and the state government for providing assistance to set up infrastructure in rural areas.
“Nabard will reimburse the loans provided by the banks to the beneficiaries,” the official said.
Nabard is a development financial institution with a mandate for providing and regulating credit and other facilities for promotion and development of agriculture, small scale industries, cottage and village industries, handicraft, other rural crafts and allied economic activities in rural areas with a view to promoting integrated rural development and securing prosperity of rural areas.
It will facilitate provision of banking services to all villages in Assam having a population of more than 2,000 and help in establishing financial literacy and credit counselling centres and rural self-employment training institutes in all the districts.
“It will also strive for priority sector credit flow of Rs 5,000 crore in the state,” the official said. Priority sector credit refers to loans for agriculture that need to be increased.
The target of disbursing priority sector credit of Rs 3,548 crore by banks in 2010-11 is likely to be achieved. Around Rs 2,700 crore was disbursed by December last year.
Nabard will help in setting up 36 model villages in the state under its village development programme.
The official said credit support under Rural Infrastructure Development Fund helped the state develop additional infrastructure like rural roads and bridges, deep tubewells, beel fisheries, improved veterinary hospitals and construction of pay-and-use toilets.
During 2010-11, Nabard sanctioned 240 new projects under the development fund consisting of 223 bridges, four roads, nine beel fisheries, two veterinary hospitals and two minor irrigation projects.
Nabard has also encouraged an innovative method of rice cultivation, popularly known as system of rice intensification (SRI). A model SRI project, covering seven districts of Assam with a budget of Rs 119.84 lakh for around 4,000 farmers in the state, has been launched. An area of around 1,400 hectares would be brought under the SRI method of cultivation in three years.
“The bank has been promoting farmers’ clubs with an objective of mobilising farmers into an informal organisation to have a smooth access to credit and generate a collective bargaining power. The members of these clubs have been exposed to new technology and practices in the agriculture sector. It promoted 352 new clubs in the state and today, 1,102 such clubs are functioning in the state,” the official said.


Army ordered out of Assam wildlife sanctuary

Army ordered out of sanctuary
Govt notice on firing range at Sonai Rupai ROOPAK GOSWAMI
Guwahati, April 6: The Assam forest department has issued orders for dismantling the firing range at Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary in Sonitpur district and served a notice to the army to vacate the camp.
“Though the army said this was for its defence needs, we will act according to the law,” a top ranking forest department official today told The Telegraph.
There are two firing ranges inside the 220 square km Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary. The short firing range, on the southern fringes of the sancutary, is behind the Lama camp at Kalamati and the long firing range at Kamengbari, on the northern side, 15km apart.
Once a place is declared a wildlife sanctuary, there can be no non-forestry activity. Sonai Rupai, 190km from Guwahati, was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1998.
Sources said this order is for the small arms firing range at Lama camp but sooner or later, the order for dismantling the other one at Kamengbari would follow.
The final order came after S.P. Vashishth, divisional forest officer of western Assam wildlife division, Tezpur, under whose jurisdiction the sanctuary falls, wrote twice to the army station commander at Missamari.
According to an earlier agreement, the Lama camp was to be shifted to the area marked for the ammunition depot in Charduar reserve forest outside the sanctuary.
The first letter was written on January 29 and the second one on March 11. “It is regretted that your office has not appreciated the value of a wildlife sanctuary vis-à-vis the need of firing practice for preparedness of troops. While firing practice may be a necessity for operational preparedness of the army, a wildlife sanctuary is not the right place to do so,” Vashishth’s second letter said. “Your troops have been carrying out long firing practice at Kamengbari also which is illegal and firing in a sanctuary amounts to attempt to hunting, an offence punishable with life imprisonment under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (amended).”
Sources said though the firing practice was stopped after the two letters from the divisional forest officer, there is no guarantee that it would not resume.
“We share your concern for environment and wildlife protection and take it as our bounden duty to protect them. However, it is in the national interest that the troops are operationally prepared and well trained to carry out the tasks of defending the integrity of our country. Accordingly, small arms firing is a mandatory requirement,” Brig. V.S. Verma, station commander at Missamari, said in reply.
The Lama camp has been in active possession of the army for more than 50 years. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama had camped in this area in 1959, then occupied by the 5 Assam Rifles.
The army in the letter said the short firing range had been in existence for more than 30 years and firing has been conducted since then. But the range fell into disuse because of routine redeployment of forces from the camp.
“This is shocking and of very serious concern. While one understands that this is a sensitive issue given that it is an army firing range, it is against the laws of the land, the Wildlife Protection Act, and the Forest Conservation Act. We simply cannot have a firing range in a protected area. I am sure the army, which has always been sensitive to ecological concerns, will help in constructively solving this problem. The firing range has to be shifted elsewhere,” Prerna Singh Bindra, member, National Board of Wildlife, told The Telegraph.
The forest officer, in his letter, said the sanctuary was an elephant habitat and its footprints can be seen at the firing site and in the nearby areas. In fact, the elephant population in the sanctuary is nearly 200. Besides it is home to leopards, bison, barking deer, sambar, wild boars and a variety of birds, including the great pied hornbill and minivet.
“We would like to know whether you have the ownership papers of the land on which the firing range has been constructed,” Vashishth said.
The army has not replied on this issue. The forest officer said the movement of elephants gets disturbed whenever firing takes place and there is a waterbody about 20 metres from the firing range.
“I feel that the rules and regulations, as prescribed in Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as amended should be followed as Sonai Rupai is a wildlife sanctuary which is part of the Nameri tiger reserve and also Sonitpur elephant reserve,” said Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Project Elephant Steering Committee.


Assam tea park at Chaygaon in Kamrup district

Chaygaon nest for tea park debut

- Green signal for the cup that cheers


Guwahati, April 5: The region’s first tea park is set to come up at Chaygaon in Kamrup district in a year-and-a-half.

The Assam Industrial Development Corporation Ltd will be setting up the tea park with an objective to create world class facilities for processing, warehousing, blending and packaging of tea.

“A pre-feasibility report has already been prepared,” an official told The Telegraph today, adding that help from the Centre under the Assistance to State for Developing Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities (ASIDE) has been proposed.

Sources said considerable progress had been made and 85 bighas of a total of 153 bighas had already been acquired for the tea park.

A meeting of the state-level export promotion committee of ASIDE was recently held in which the tea park scheme was thoroughly discussed and the green signal given.
The objective of the scheme is to involve the states in the export effort by providing assistance to the state governments for creating appropriate infrastructure for the development and growth of exports.

The state-level export promotion committee of ASIDE has approved an amount of Rs 2,340 lakh of which grant under ASIDE will be Rs 1,680 lakh.

“The tea park will contribute towards gearing up tea oriented industrial and commercial activities besides boosting export of Assam tea” the official said.

A lot of deliberations were made by stakeholders on the proposed tea park, its nature, character and the area where such land will be available.

“It is not necessary that the land should be in Guwahati; it can be anywhere but should have all the facilities,” the official said.

The tea park will be on public-private-partnership model and the earmarked land will be a fully developed one with all facilities.

“The state government has given full support to the project and the private sector should now come up to back it,” the official said.

According to tea industry officials, tea industry in Assam employs about a million people, both permanent and casual, with another three million living off this industry. The continued viability of the tea industry is of paramount importance to sustain the survival of the large rural population it supports and its role in the economic development of the areas where the operations are based.

The total turnover of this industry in Assam is about Rs 5,000 crore. Assam produces 51 per cent of India’s tea.

Another scheme for improving the infrastructure of the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) has also been taken up under the central scheme in view of the growing activities in the tea sector.

The official said though an amount of Rs 168 lakh had been proposed under the project, financial assistance is sought for 50 per cent under the scheme.

“The balance amount will be raised from own resources of the GTAC,” the official said.


Assam's Left-- for a phoenix miracle

For a phoenix miracle



Ask Arup Kalita why he chose the Left for his debut in the battle called Assembly elections and pat comes the reply: “Principles and ideology”.

The 44-year-old advocate, who is the CPI candidate from Lakhimpur constituency in Upper Assam, faces the Herculean task of convincing voters to press the EVM button in favour of the Left, widely considered a “spent force”.

Kalita, who was the state joint secretary of the All India Youth Federation, knows that it will be a long time before the Left can come to power, but he is willing to wait as he believes that “a time will come when there will be no alternative to the Left”.

He is among the new faces that the Left is throwing up to prepare ground for the younger generation to take over the mantle from the senior brigade.

Kalita hopes that the Left — which in Assam comprises the CPI and the CPM — can improve its performance enough to support a non-Congress, non-BJP government.

“At least our image is good and people are convinced that the Left is not corrupt. And we are selflessly working for the people,” Ishfakur Rehman, a member of state secretariat of the CPM, said.

“Other parties were merely opposing price rise but we had given practical proposals to counter price rise,” he said.

“We are not going to form the government but we can resist anti-people’s policies,” Rehman added.

The New Age Weekly, the central organ of the CPI, says any improvement of the CPI representation in the Assembly will only help put up a better fight on burning issues.

The CPI is contesting from 19 Assembly seats — in two of which it is supporting Independents.

The party, which won just one seat last time, is unwilling to hazard a guess on this year’s electoral gains, but says there will be close contests in six constituencies — Sivasagar (Promode Gogoi), Nazira (Dhrupad Borgohain), Dudhnoi (Bhupendra Rabha), Bilasipara West (Giasuddin Ahmed) and Morigaon (Munin Mahanta).

The CPM, which won two seats in 2006, says it might increase its tally, with defining fights in Sorbhog, Jania, Sarukhetri, Rangia, Sootea, Naharkatia and Bijni.

The Left, which enjoyed a glorious period before 1983, it had won 25 seats in the 1978 elections, was wiped out in 2001, failing to win even a single seat.

The Left’s weak point, it admits, is its failure to put up women candidates. The CPM has fielded only one woman candidate — Junuma Boro from Dhekiajuli.

So, are there any chances of a Left revival in Assam?

The future looks promising as new leaders are gaining ground, with the All India Youth Federation launching a major students’ movement, said Bhogeswar Dutta, secretary of the state council of the CPI.

"The kisan movement is being strengthened and moves are being made to woo the tribals,” Dutta said.

But is there a time frame?

“2016 could be the revival time,” said Rehman, adding there would be a re-alignment in political forces after the elections.