• After the People met

    After the People met

    The Union ministry of home affairs wants to know: what is the Meghalaya government going to do about the People s Budget ?

  • Row over uranium mining in Meghalaya

    Row over uranium mining in Meghalaya

    the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (moef) cleared a controversial mining project by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited in Meghalaya last month, triggering fresh protests by local

  • Keep off!

    Keep off!

    Uranium rich Meghalaya tells mining PSU

  • Meghalaya s lost treasure

    Meghalaya s lost treasure

    Cement plants destroy India s largest cave system

  • Agro sector of the North East (Editorial)

    Since the economy of the North East is basically agro-based, the primary reason for its poverty is agricultural backwardness. The very fact that the region has to look after 3.8 per cent of India's population with only 2.7 per cent of national income earned by its economy shows what poverty-distance it has to meet in order to catch up with the rest of the country. The region's per capita income-distance from all-India average has increased from Rs 1,706 in 1993-94 to Rs 7,000 in 2005-06.

  • Forest cover loss in NE alarming

    Notwithstanding tall claims by the north-eastern States, the region has recorded huge losses of forest cover, with the Forest Commission calling for an end to nexus between politician, bureaucrat and contractor in Assam and three other States. If the nexus between politician, bureaucrat and contractor goes on developing, as is the case in Assam, Uttaranchal, Himachal and Kashmir, then any attempt of development will be diminished and then the exploited tribal people will try to take revenge, the Commission warned.

  • Girl admitted in Meghalaya hospital with bird flu symptoms

    The state Health Department was sent into a tizzy after a girl with suspected symptoms of bird flu was admitted at the Civil Hospital here on Thursday. "One Anjalina Paslain (21) has been admitted with fever and rashes and has been kept in the isolation ward,' state director of health services, Dr K H Lakiang said, adding that some tests have been done for "prevention' and "diagnosis. He, while not ruling out the possibility of bird flu, said: "Nothing can be said as of now. The blood and stool samples of the victim have been collected, and will be sent for test for the avian flu to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Delhi on Friday.' District Surveillance Officer (Integrated Diseases Surveillance Cell) Dr M Basaiawmoit and other senior health officials also did not rule out the possibility of the deadly disease, but insisted on waiting till the tests results are obtained. Requesting anonymity, the two specialist doctors attending the victim said: "Certain respiratory problems also have similar symptoms. We have to wait for the test results to come. It will take three to four days.' The victim, who hails from Sipung in Jaintia Hills district, was first admitted at the local health centre, after which she was brought to a private hospital in Shillong, which further referred her to the civil hospital here. Significantly, there were mass deaths of birds in Sipung last week, but blood tests of the dead poultry had tested negative for H5N1 virus. State Veterinary Director Dr D Khonglah, however, ruled out any threat of the deadly virus saying, "The death of the poultry at Sipung was due to Ranikhet disease. We have conducted tests which confirmed that the poultry died due to Ranikhet as the poultry owners skipped regular vaccinations.' The Superintendent of the Civil Hospital could not be contacted despite several attempts. Meghalaya was the first state in the country to sound an alert after the outbreak of bird flu in neighbouring Bangladesh this year.

  • Uproar over uranium mining in Meghalaya

    The Assembly elections in Meghalaya are barely away, due only on March 3 Thus, the poll campaign is at its zenith with leaders of various political parties exploiting all possible options left with them in their efforts to woo voters. But, the average citizen, especially in the State capital, Shillong, at present seems to be more concerned about the volatile issue of uranium mining in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya than the upcoming elections. Indeed, the one and only reason for their growing anxiety is the Union Environment and Forest Ministry giving clearance, though conditional, last December to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for going ahead with the proposed uranium mining at Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong area in the district. With its nod coinciding with the ongoing poll campaign in the State, the one question that may arise in a curious mind is: Will the project at all materialise in the immediate future? Well, before trying to find an answer to it, all we probably need to do is on what basis or ground or how did the concerned Ministry feel it necessary to give the clearance to the UCIL to proceed with its plan. Broadly speaking, the manner the former has acted and granted the licence to the latter for uranium mining can barely leave anyone in doubt about the authenticity of its action. The entire process has been both legal and constitutional. The Ministry has, as reported, in the press, given its consent on the basis of the report of the public hearing on the proposed commercial uranium mining in the State's West Khasi Hills district, submitted by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). Therefore, under no circumstances, the Environment and Forest Ministry's action can be debatable and unconstitutional. If the Union ministry's action is looked upon as being lawful, what about the SPCB? Has it behaved in the similar fashion as the former? There are some people who are of the view that the report on the uranium mining submitted to the Centre by the SPCB after it carried out the public hearing on the uranium mining was far-fetched, groundless, and fabricated. Although it is an uphill task to infer who are right or wrong in this affair, if the newspaper reports on the outcome of the public hearing are to be believed, the SPCB could seldom recommend the Centre to give the permission to the UCIL to go ahead with the mining of uranium ores. What, however, has been unbecoming of the SPCB is that it had carried out the hearing when the situation in Khasi district was volatile following the influencial Khasi Student Union's weeks-long vigorous campaign aimed at mounting pressure on the Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government in the State to stop the hearing on the mining issue. The agitation began with their activists' two-day office picketing on June 4 last, and ended with the 36-hour bandh beginning June 11, crippling the normal life, especially in Shillong. Earlier, the student body had even reportedly given an ultimatum to the State government to scuttle it or face "agitation'. But, having skirted all these developments, the SPCB went ahead and held the public hearing as scheduled, on June 11 to garner public opinion on the proposed mining. It took place at Nongbah-Jyorin in the State's West Khasi Hills district, near Mawthabah, an economically run-down, somnolent village some 150 km from the capital. The hearing was though conducted by the SPCB as per a notification of the Union government under the supervision of the State government. No doubt, therefore, the SPCB was duty-bound to do so. But the point is that when sections of the people in the State were at that time up in arms against the proposed mining project at Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong in the West Khasi Hills region, was it not necessary on the part of either the State government or the SPCB to keep the process on hold for a future date in consultation with the Central government until the popular outcry died down, if not possible to cancel it for the time being. From it's modus operandi, it seems that the SPCB was under an illusion that in spite of the KSU's threat to agitation, most of those who would attend the hearing from the nearby villages would speak up for the project that would, in turn, enable the SPCB to prepare a favourable report, and send the same to the Union Environment and Forest Ministry. But, the entire exercise ultimately was one just contrary to their expectation. In fact, a majority of the people reportedly argued against mining. If that was what was the actual position of the public hearing, the question that arises in mind is how could then the concerned ministry issue such a licence to the UCIL for commercial mining without verifying it? Another question is why the Centre did hurriedly give the UCIL the green signal for the purpose when the MDA government in the State, the major partner of which is the Congress, itself is a house of contradictions and divided on the issue with two of its constituents, the Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) and that Khun Hynniowtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM), declaring their opposition to the mining long before, citing a likely health hazard, ecological disaster etc, as the reason for it, and, when the Assembly polls are just on the cards. This hasty move on the part of the Centre has triggered a deep sense of dissatisfaction among sections of people in the State. The Meghalaya People's Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) has already threatened to move the Apex Court in the country if the State issue a "no objection' certificate for the mining. If the Commission at all does so in the event of the State government giving the nod to the UCIL in the near future, there will hardly remain any valid reason for anyone to raise an accusing finger at it, simply because the MPHRC has before the public hearing on the issue last year cited the reasons for its opposition to the proposed mining, in a report to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, through the SPCB. But then, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government at the Centre has showed a total lack of political shrewdness in this regard that goes without saying. After all the State Assembly polls are nearby, and his party, the Congress, is one of the coalition partners in the MDA government. It could have put it on hold till the elections. Now that the Centre has accorded environmental clearance to the UCIL for the mining, the State unit of the party is palpably in a quandary. It is because of this reason that the ruling Congress under DD Lapang is now desperately trying to bail out of any further controversy. It has asked the political parties to come up with their suggestions before the government decides on whether to allow the mining. But, unfortunately for the ruling party leadership all the political parties barring, indeed, its major ally United Democratic Party (UDP), have declared their opposition to the mining. Even the Congress's other two MDA partners, the HSPDP and the KHNAM, have also voiced their displeasure on the issue in the KSU-organised all-party meeting of January 12 last. All these developments, it is apprehended, may impact its showing in the upcoming polls to some extent, in the West Khasi Hills district, if not beyond it. If today there is uproar over the proposed uranium mining in the State slowly and steadily gaining momentum, or scepticism or even dread about its effects among sections of the people in the State, it is primarily the UCIL and the concerned ministry who are only to blame for this sorry state of affairs. Honestly speaking, the apprehension among the people, especially those from Domiasiat, a tiny village about 150 km from Shillong, mostly underprivileged and illiterate, with regard to serious health and environmental hazards at the site and its adjacent areas, began to grow ever since the UCIL had initiated the experimental mining there way back in 1991. It finished the job in 2005, after a long stint of 14 years. But during the period neither the UCIL or the Centre did care to do anything precious to clear the doubt from their minds. Had they at the very outset campaigned about its economic significance among them through print and electronic media in particular, or the good effects of the proposed commercial mining, by this time they could have gone ahead almost unopposed. But because of their laxity in doing so, they are palpably in quagmire. So is the ruling party too.

  • Rs 16,447-cr Budget allocation for NE

    Riding on the back of a populist Budget, Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram today reiterated UPA Government's commitment for economic uplift of the north eastern region (NER), announcing a hike of Rs 2082 crore in Central allocation. The NER will continue to receive special attention and enhanced allocations. "I propose to provide Rs.1,455 crore to the Ministry, Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER),' said the Union Finance Minister. The total Budget allocation for NER, spread over different Ministries and departments, will increase from Rs 14, 365 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 16, 447 crore in 2008-09, he announced. Although the Finance Minister spoke of special interest for development of NER, his words did not match the allocations. For instance, he announced a special centenary grant of Rs 20 crore to the Tocklai Experimental Station at Jorhat. The demand was for Rs 100 crore grant. The Tocklai Station at Jorhat of the Tea Research Association will celebrate its centenary in 2010. It is in the process of upgrading its facilities and expanding its activities to cover the NER, North Bengal and Darjeeling. A visibly agitated BPPF MP, SK Bwismutiary sought to interrupt Chidambaram on a couple of occasions, protesting meagre allocation for BTAD areas. The Finance Minister has also proposed to set up centres for development as mega clusters in handloom sector. The Government proposes to invest about Rs 70 crore in developing each cluster. An initial amount of Rs 100 crore was earmarked. Incidentally, both the projects are in Union Minister for State for Fertilizer and Chemicals, Bijoy Krishna Hendique's Parliamentary constituency. Meanwhile, the Special Purpose Tea Fund set up last year for re-plantation and rejuvenation has been earmarked Rs 40 crore. The fund popularly called the tea package was envisaged to bail out the sick tea industry. The NER and, especially, Arunachal Pradesh and the border areas face special problems that cannot be tackled in the usual course or through normal schemes. Hence, Government proposes to identify the urgent needs of these areas and address them through a special mechanism, he said, acknowledging the problems faced by the border State. "In order to jumpstart the process, I propose to set apart a sum of Rs.500 crore in a fund dedicated for the purpose,' said the Minister. The ambitious SARDP-NE, a programme envisaging development of road infrastructure, has been set a target of 300 km. Last fiscal, 180 km of road had been constructed. The Finance Minister also declared a special focus on saving the tigers. The number 1,411 should ring the alarm bells. "The tiger is under grave threat. In order to redouble our effort to protect the tiger, I propose to make a one time grant of Rs.50 crore to the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The bulk of the grant will be used to raise, arm and deploy a special Tiger Protection Force,' Chidambaram said. The National Aids Control Programme will be provided Rs.993 crore. Studies have shown that the prevalence rate of HIV and AIDS has come down from 0.9 per cent to 0.36 per cent, which is a matter of some satisfaction, he said. Meanwhile, allocation for flood control projects for the NER and Sikkim has been hiked to Rs 114.20 crore from Rs 58.39 crore. While there was no mention of the Majuli Protection Scheme, Pagladiya Project has been earmarked Rs 2 crore, a rise from Rs 1.29 crore. However, allocation for Indo-Bangladesh border works has gone down to Rs 484.23 crore from Rs 560.97 crore.

  • Asom land encroached: Over 7 lakh bighas by sister States, 32 lakh bighas by locals

    Over seven lakh bighas of Asom land have been encroached by four neighouring States

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