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Polling begins for Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram Assembly elections

Polling began amidst tight security on Wednesday morning to choose new legislative assemblies in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram -- two of five states where crucial elections are being held just months ahead of the all-important 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
MP Assembly Elections: 5 cr voters to decide fate of state as polling begins
Polling began amidst tight security this morning to choose new legislative assemblies in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram -- two of five states where crucial elections are being held just months ahead of the all-important 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
In Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office and the Congress is making a strong bid to return to power after a gap of 15 years.
 
In Mizoram, the Congress is looking for a third successive term in the face of a stiff challenge from the Mizo National Front.
 
Polling began at 7 a.m in three constituencies of Maoist-affected Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh amid tight security, while in the remaining 227 of the 230 Assembly seats polling began at 8 a.m.
 
The polling will end in the three constituencies -- Baihar, Lanji and Paraswada -- at 3 p.m, while it will continue till 5 p.m in all the other constituencies.
 
In Madhya Pradesh, though the contest is mainly between the BJP and the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are also in the fray. 
 
Among the 2,907 candidates in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has fielded candidates in all 230 seats, while the Congress is contesting in 229 seats leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for the Sharad Yadav-led Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).
 
The BSP has fielded 227 candidates and the SP is contesting in 51 seats. There are 1,102 independent candidates.
 
In the last polls, of the 230 seats, the BJP won 165, Congress 58, BSP four and Independents three. 
 
Over five crore registered voters in Madhya Pradesh -- 2,63,01,300 men, 2,41,30,390 women and 1,389 of the third gender -- are eligible to vote in today's polls.
 
In Mizoram, polling began at 7 a.m. for all 40 seats in the Assembly and will end at 4 p.m.
 
According to senior police officials, around 11,100 security personnel comprising central paramilitary and state security forces have been deployed across the state to ensure smooth polling and prevent any untoward incident.
 
In all 768,181 voters, including 393,685 women, would decide the electoral fate of the 209 candidates in the state, of whom 15 are women. In 2013, only six women had contested and none were successful. 
 
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Besides the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), many regional and local parties have fielded candidates in most of the 40 assembly constituencies. They include the main opposition Mizo National Front (MNF), People's Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM), Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and Meghalaya-based National People's Party (NPP). 
 
However, the main contest is likely to be between the ruling Congress and the MNF. Both the parties have fielded 40 candidates each. 
 
The BJP, which is trying to make inroads in the state, has fielded candidates in 39 constituencies. 
 
Except for 10 years -- 1998-2003 and 2003-2008 -- the Congress has been in power in Mizoram since it became a full-fledged state in 1987. 
 
Counting of votes in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram will be taken up on December 11 along with Chhattisgarh, where polling was held on  November 12 and 20, and Rajasthan and Telangana, where voting will be held on December 7.
 
The term of the Assembly in Chhattisgarh is due to expire on January 5, 2019; Madhya Pradesh on January 7, 2019; Rajasthan on January 20, 2019 and Mizoram on December 15, 2018.
 
In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) decided to go in for early polls and, accordingly, the Governor of the State had dissolved the Assembly with immediate effect on September 6, 2018, nearly nine months before its term was to end.
 
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Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan resigns, likely to return to active politics in Kerala

Kummanam Rajasekharan
Kummanam Rajasekharan
Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan has resigned from his position amidst speculation that he is likely to return to active politics in his home state of Kerala.
 
"The President has accepted the resignation of Shri Kummanam Rajasekharan as Governor of Mizoram," a press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said here today.
 
"The President of India is pleased to appoint Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, Governor of Assam to discharge the functions of the Governor of Mizoram, in addition to his own duties, until regular arrangements for the office of the Governor of Mizoram is made," the communique added.
 
Rajasekharan, 66, who was the president of the BJP's Kerala unit, was appointed as the Governor of Mizoram in May last year.
 
There has been media speculation for some time that the state unit of the BJP was keen on Rajasekharan's return to active politics in Kerala. The reports also suggested he could contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, possibly from Thiruvananthapuram, held currently by former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor of the Congress.
 
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MNF takes office in Mizoram after a decade

Zoramthanga. (File Photo: IANS)
Zoramthanga. (File Photo: IANS)
The Mizo National Front (MNF) government led by Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Saturday assumed office in Mizoram, ending the Congress' 10-year rule in the state.
 
Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan administered the oath of office and secrecy to Zoramthanga and his Council of Ministers at a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan here.
 
Zoramthanga, 74, took office as the Chief Minister for the third time. Earlier he headed the state from 1998-2003 and 2003-2008.
 
Outgoing Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader and former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, leaders of various political parties and senior civil and security officials were present in the ceremony.
 
"The Chief Minister would distribute the portfolios among the ministers soon after a cabinet meeting," an official of the Chief Minister's secretariat told the media.
 
The MNF in the November 28 Assembly polls secured 26 seats, five more than an absolute majority in the 40-member Assembly, ousting the Congress from power in its last bastion in northeast India.
 
The MNF had got only five seats in the 2013 Assembly polls, while the Congress had won 34. This time, the Congress got only five seats.
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the first time made its entry into the Mizoram Assembly, winning the lone Tuichawng seat.
 
State Congress chief and outgoing Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla lost in both Champhai South and Serchhip constituencies. 
 
Zoramthanga won the Aizawl East-I seat for the fifth term.
 
The MNF is a constituent of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). 
 
However, both the BJP and MNF fielded candidates separately in 40 and 39 seats, respectively.
 
IANS
 

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A decade later, MNF back in Mizoram, Congress' last Northeast bastion

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The MNF on Tuesday returned to power in Mizoram after a decade, securing 26 seats, five more than an absolute majority in the 40-member Assembly. With this, the MNF has ousted the Congress from power in its last bastion in the Northeast.
 
The Mizo National Front (MNF) had got only five seats in the 2013 Assembly polls, while the Congress had won 34. This time, the ruling Congress has got only five seats, the results of the November 28 election showed at the end of counting of votes today.
 
In a significant political development, Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) -- a forum of six local parties in Mizoram and the NGO-turned-newly-floated party the People's Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM) -- secured eight seats out of the 40 seats it had contested for as Independents.
 
The Congress had taken power in the state in both 2008 and 2013 elections. 
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made its entry into the Mizoram Assembly winning the Tuichawng seat.
 
Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla lost in both Champhai South and Serchhip constituencies to MNF's T. J. Lalnuntluanga and Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) President Lalduhoma respectively.
 
MNF supremo and Chief Ministerial candidate Zoramthanga won the Aizawl East-I seat for the fifth term, defeating Independent candidate K. Sapdanga.
 
Buddha Dhan Chakma, a Minister in the Congress government, who just before the polls joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won in Chakma tribal-dominated Tuichawng constituency defeating his MNF rival by 1,594 votes.
 
Former IPS officer and security in-charge of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) chief Lalduhoma defeated outgoing Chief Minister Thanhawla in Serchhip by 410 votes. Lalduhoma quit the Congress two years ago before forming the ZPM.
 
Popular Aizawl Football Club (Aizawl FC) owner Robert Romawia Royte, who contested on MNF ticket from Aizawl East-II, also won.
 
The BJP had undertaken intense efforts to oust the Congress in Mizoram after forming governments on its own or in alliance in the others in the Northeast.
 
The MNF, a constituent of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), ruled Mizoram for 10 years -- 1998-2003 and 2003-2008.
 
However, both the BJP and MNF fielded candidates separately in 40 and 39 seats, respectively this time.
 
IANS
 

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Assembly polls: Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram witness 75% polling

 
MP Assembly Elections: 5 cr voters to decide fate of state as polling begins
More than 75 percent of the electors in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram voted amidst tight security today to choose new legislative assemblies in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram -- two of the five states where crucial elections are being held just months of the all-important 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
Election Commission of India (ECI) officials said in New Delhi that 75% polling was recorded till 6 pm in 227 of the 230 constituencies as compared to 72.13% in the 2013 Assembly elections.
 
In the three Left-wing extremism (LWE)-affected constituencies of Baihar, Lalji and Paraswada, where polling was held from 7 am to 3 pm, the percentage of polling was reported as 78%, 79% and 80.06%, respectively.
 
The officials said that Mizoram recorded 75% voting by the close of polling at 5 pm. The state had recorded 83.41% polling in 2013.
 
The final voting figures in both states could go up slightly after information from all the polling booths in all the constituencies become available, they said. 
 
In Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office and the Congress is making a strong bid to return to power after a gap of 15 years.
 
In Mizoram, the Congress is looking for a third successive term in the face of a stiff challenge from the Mizo National Front.
 
Polling began at 7 a.m in three constituencies of Maoist-affected Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh amid tight security, while in the remaining 227 of the 230 Assembly seats polling began at 8 a.m.
 
The polling will end in the three constituencies -- Baihar, Lanji and Paraswada -- at 3 p.m, while it will continue till 5 p.m in all the other constituencies.
 
In Madhya Pradesh, though the contest is mainly between the BJP and the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are also in the fray. 
 
Among the 2,907 candidates in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has fielded candidates in all 230 seats, while the Congress is contesting in 229 seats leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for the Sharad Yadav-led Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).
 
The BSP has fielded 227 candidates and the SP is contesting in 51 seats. There are 1,102 independent candidates.
 
In the last polls, of the 230 seats, the BJP won 165, Congress 58, BSP four and Independents three. 
 
Over five crore registered voters in Madhya Pradesh -- 2,63,01,300 men, 2,41,30,390 women and 1,389 of the third gender -- are eligible to vote in today's polls.
 
In Mizoram, 768,181 voters, including 393,685 women, would decide the electoral fate of the 209 candidates in the state, of whom 15 are women. In 2013, only six women had contested and none were successful. 
 
According to senior police officials, around 11,100 security personnel comprising central paramilitary and state security forces were deployed across the state to ensure smooth polling and prevent any untoward incident.
 
Besides the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), many regional and local parties have fielded candidates in most of the 40 assembly constituencies. They include the main opposition Mizo National Front (MNF), People's Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM), Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and Meghalaya-based National People's Party (NPP). 
 
However, the main contest is likely to be between the ruling Congress and the MNF. Both the parties have fielded 40 candidates each. 
 
The BJP, which is trying to make inroads in the state, has fielded candidates in 39 constituencies. 
 
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Except for 10 years -- 1998-2003 and 2003-2008 -- the Congress has been in power in Mizoram since it became a full-fledged state in 1987. 
 
Counting of votes in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram will be taken up on December 11 along with Chhattisgarh, where polling was held on November 12 and 20, and Rajasthan and Telangana, where voting will be held on December 7.
 
The term of the Assembly in Chhattisgarh is due to expire on January 5, 2019; Madhya Pradesh on January 7, 2019; Rajasthan on January 20, 2019 and Mizoram on December 15, 2018.
 
In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) decided to go in for early polls and, accordingly, the Governor of the State had dissolved the Assembly with immediate effect on September 6, 2018, nearly nine months before its term was to end.
 
IANS adds:
 
Officials said the highlight of the day in Mizoram was that over 10,000 elederly voters exrcised their franchise with a 108-year old man, 106-year old woman on wheel chair and 103-year-old man coming out to vote. 
 
In the case of Madhya Pradesh, violence was reported in a few places in Bhind district. 
 
Two persons were arrested in a firing incident near an election booth in Bhind, police said. 
 
Several Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) malfunctioned, which were replaced by the poll panel officials. The Election Commission also announced that Rs 10 lakh each would be paid to its officials who died during the voting exercise. 
 
The highlight of the day in Madhya Pradesh was the voting by a 101-year-old woman, who exercised her franchise in Agar Malwa district.
 
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Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram to vote on Wednesday

Madhya Pradesh will vote on Wednesday to either give the BJP a fourth successive term in power notwithstanding anti-incumbency or give a chance to the challenger Congress to break the saffron party's monopoly over power for the last 15 years.
Polling officials checking Electronic Voting Machines on the eve of Mizoram Assembly elections, at a distribution centre at Pachhunga University College in Aizawl, Mizoram on November 27, 2018.
Polling officials checking Electronic Voting Machines on the eve of Mizoram Assembly elections, at a distribution centre at Pachhunga University College in Aizawl, Mizoram on November 27, 2018.
Madhya Pradesh will vote on Wednesday to either give the BJP a fourth successive term in power notwithstanding anti-incumbency or give a chance to the challenger Congress to break the saffron party's monopoly over power for the last 15 years.
 
Similarly, voters in Mizoram will also exercise their franchise on Wednesday to elect a new Assembly in which the Congress is striving for a third successive term against a stiff challenge from the Mizo National Front headed by former Chief Minister Zoramthanga. 
 
Mizoram, one of the four states where the Congress is in power at present besides Punjab and the Union Territory of Puducherry and part of a coalition in Karnataka, is the last remaining bastion for Congress in the northeast.
 
The campaign has been high decibel, often marked by bitter personal attacks, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi leading the charge of their parties. 
 
In Madhya Pradesh, the contest is mainly between the BJP and Congress though the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party are also in the fray. 
 
Apart from Modi's appeal, the BJP is banking on the image of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and its organisational structure. Party President Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley campaigned in the state. 
 
The Congress put up a spirited fight by raising issues concerning people and putting up a united fight by keeping the issue of leadership at bay. 
 
Rahul Gandhi sought to rejuvenate the state unit by appointing Kamal Nath as the party chief in April this year and naming Jyotiraditya Scindia, MP, as the campaign chief. 
 
Congress leaders have sought to highlight the problems of farmers, the poor, middle class and youths in their rallies holding, especially holding demonetisation and GST as the reasons for the agrarian distress and traders' plight. 
 
Rahul Gandhi attacked Modi and his government on issues of corruption and promises made in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and by Shivraj Chauhan in the 2013 elections. He has promised a farm loan waiver within 10 days of Congress coming power. 
 
National issues issues like surgical strike, construction of Ram temple, caste and dynasty were raised with the campaign barely revolving around the issue the development. 
 
Modi attacked the Congress on corruption, dynasty politics and several other issues and gave accounts of the achievements of the state and his own government.
 
Among the 2,907 candidates in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has fielded candidates for all 230 seats while the Congress is contesting in 229 seats leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for Sharad Yadav-led LJD.
 
The BSP has fielded 227 candidates and the SP is contesting 51 seats. There are 1,102 independent candidates.
 
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The keenly watched constituency will be Budhni, the home turf of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Congress has pitted former Union minister and former Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief Arun Yadav against him. 
 
In the last polls, of the 230 seats, the BJP won 165, Congress 58, BSP four and independents three. 
 
Over five crore registered voters in Madhya Pradesh -- 2,63,01,300 men, 2,41,30,390 women and 1,389 comprising the third gender -- will decide the fate of the candidates. 
 
In Mizoram, the fight is largely between the Congress and the Mizo National Front though the BJP is also seeking to make its presence felt. The BJP has made deep inroads in the northeast since the Modi government came to power at the Centre in 2014 and its performance in the Christian majority state will be keenly watched. 
 
In the battle for supremacy in the election to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress is seeking a hat-trick. He claims there is no incumbency against his government.
 
A total of 209 candidates are in the fray in Mizoram. 
 
The Congress has fielded 40 candidates while the BJP and MNF are contesting in 39 and 40 constituencies, respectively.
 
The Chief Minister is contesting from two seats -- Serchhip and Champhai South. The Congress has been in power since Mizoram became a full-fledged state in 1987, except for 10 years from 1998 to 2008. 
 
Around 7.7 lakh voters will decide the fate of 209 candidates.
 
Counting of votes in both the states, along with three other states -- Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana -- will be held on December 11.
 
IANS
 

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Mizoram is among India's top states, but four worries for new government

Polling officials checking Electronic Voting Machines on the eve of Mizoram Assembly elections, at a distribution centre at Pachhunga University College in Aizawl, Mizoram on November 27, 2018. (Photo: IANS/PIB)
Polling officials checking Electronic Voting Machines on the eve of Mizoram Assembly elections, at a distribution centre at Pachhunga University College in Aizawl, Mizoram on November 27, 2018. (Photo: IANS/PIB)
On November 28, Mizoram -- the last northeast bastion of the Congress -- will vote to elect a new government that will oversee what is planned as India's gateway to South-East Asia.
 
With about half as many voters as south Mumbai, Mizoram is one of India's fastest-growing, healthiest (second) and most-literate (third) states.
 
However, there are issues that threaten to slow the growth of a state that has been administered by either the Congress or the Mizo National Front (MNF), ever since the peace accord of 1986. That agreement ended the long-running Mizo uprising, marked by air raids on capital Aizawl in March 1966, the only time the Indian Air Force bombed its own people.
 
Mizoram's 768,000 voters will vote in 40 constituencies to determine if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will make its first inroads in the state and complete the party's surge into the northeast. After the victory of the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura earlier in 2018, seven of eight states in the region ---Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur -- are governed by the alliance.
 
Led by Lal Thanhawla, former insurgent-turned-mainstream politician, the Congress has administered Mizoram for the last 10 years. Previously, in the 2013 elections in Mizoram, the party won 34 of 40 seats. But since 2014, the Congress' vote share declined 13.4 percentage points across the northeast.
 
Mizoram has been positioned as the epicentre of the Centre's Act East Policy, which aims to harness shared cultural and border ties between India's northeast and South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and other ASEAN nations.
 
Filtered through various indicators, Mizoram boasts a raft of high-performing statistics. The state is one of the fastest-growing in the country, with its economy growing by 12 per cent between 2013 and 2016. It has India's second-best health indicators and third-best literacy.
 
However, the state's achievements are challenged by four issues: Increasing poverty, racial tensions, high school-dropout rates and inter-district inequalities, which hinder growth.
 
It also grapples with illegal migrants, inter-tribal differences, an inability to create jobs for its educated youth and tensions sparked by allegations of corruption against the current government. These tensions have led to the rise of sub-regional alliances, such as the Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) -- comprising regional parties such as Zoram Nationalist Party, Mizoram People's Conference and Zoram Exodus Movement -- and this may disrupt the traditional exchange of governments between the Congress and MNF.
 
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More than 94 per cent of Mizoram is tribal, 80 per cent is Christian, and minorities -- the Chakmas and Brus -- claim racial discrimination at the hands of majority communities, such as the Lusei, Ralte, Hmar, Khiangte and Lai.
 
Mizoram has one of the lowest rates of anaemia among women in the northeast (24.8 per cent), child wasting (8.4 per cent), stunting (28.1 per cent) and underweight children (12 per cent), according to data from the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4).
 
It ranked first among smaller states and second nationally in NITI Aayog's overall 2018 Health Performance Index. The state's health-related successes can be attributed to its per capita expenditure on health, which was five times the national average: 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2015, compared to India's 1.02 per cent.
 
However, Mizoram's progress has lagged other states. Manipur, which ranked second among smaller states in NITI Aayog's Health index, improved by 7.18 per cent compared to Mizoram's 2.43 per cent.
 
The proportion of Mizoram's people living below the poverty line rose from 15.4 to 20.4 per cent over seven years to 2011. Mizoram's high literacy rates are marred by high school-dropout rates and inter-district disparities. The dropout rates in primary and secondary schools are 15.36 and 30.67 per cent, respectively, more than the comparable national averages of 6.35 and 19.89 per cent; Mizoram's dropout rates are also the northeast's highest.
 
There is a 38.76 percentage point gap in literacy between the most literate district (Serchhip, 98.76 per cent) and the least literate (Mamit, 60). The districts of Lawngtlai (66 per cent) and Mamit suffer literacy rates lower than not just the state average but the national average of 70.04 per cent.
 
Hills cover over 80 per cent of Mizoram, and with 60 per cent of the population dependent of agriculture, the state is challenged by difficult-to-farm areas and declining soil quality, affected by the tradition of jhum -- or slash and burn -- cultivation.
 
A National Land Use Policy, 2009 (NLUP), which aims to revitalise the primary sector by introducing alternatives to jhum cultivation, such as reforestation and market infrastructure, has been a prominent promised intervention by the state government and the Congress' previous election campaigns.
 
But NLUP funding has been roiled by allegations of corruption. In 2015, a government audit found funds for bamboo plantations filched. Farmers took to the streets of Aizawl to protest the NLUP's failure in providing a market to farmers, who were made to choose broom grass and ginger cultivation. 
 
Mizoram reports 976 females per 1,000 males, as per Census 2011 -- the national statistic is 943 females per 1,000 males -- and it records the second-highest rate of female labour force participation (54 per cent) after Chhattisgarh.
 
Yet, as the state goes to vote, another contradiction emerges: Mizoram had 2.62 per cent more women voters than men in 2013. But all 40 legislators are men. Of the six women who contested the 2013 elections, only one was from the Congress. In 2018, 4.8 per cent more women electors are set to vote. Whether any of the men will be displaced will be clear on December 11, when results are announced.
 
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Sejal Singh is an intern. Devyani Chhetri is a graduate of LSR College. Views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at respond@indiaspend.org)
 
IANS
 

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Jolt for Congress in Mizoram as Speaker quits party, joins BJP

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Ahead of the Assembly polls, in a big jolt for the ruling Congress, Mizoram Assembly Speaker Hiphei on Monday resigned from his post and the party before joining the BJP.
 
Hiphei is the fifth legislators of the ruling Congress in Mizoram to have resigned from both the House and the party since September.
 
Mizoram is the only state out of eight in the north-east to be ruled by the Congress. Polls are due for the 40-member Mizoram assembly on November 28.
 
On Monday morning, the seven-time Congress legislator said he sent his resignation letter to Deputy Speaker R. Lalrinawma, who accepted it.
 
Hiphei then went to Congress Bhavan, the state party headquarters, and resigned from the primary membership of the party.
 
"I was kept in an uncertain position even after the AICC announced my name to contest the assembly polls from Palak constituency (in Siaha district)," Hiphei later told the media, expressing his resentment against Chief Minister and Mizoram Pradesh Congress President Lal Thanhawla.
 
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"I would be contesting from the Palak constituency on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket," he said, adding the BJP in alliance with the local parties would form a coalition government in the state.
 
"The Congress would be defeated. The BJP would secure at least five seats in the polls to the 40-member Mizoram assembly," the Congress-turned BJP leader said.
 
Hiphei was elected to the Mizoram Assembly from Palak constituency in 2013 and he won the assembly elections six times between 1972 and 1989 from Tuipang.
 
In Guwahati, convenor of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said : "Hiphei is a very senior leader in Mizoram. His joining the BJP would greatly strengthen the party."
 
BJP leaders in Mizoram have confidently declared that they would make all-out efforts to vote out the Congress in the state to "paint the North-East with the saffron colour."
 
The BJP has undertaken intensive efforts to win the Christian-dominated state, after having formed governments on its own or in alliance with allies in the remaining six northeastern states.
 
Meanwhile, the ruling Congress, which is governing the state, except for ten years -- 1998-2003 and 2003-2008 -- since it became a full-fledged state in 1987, during the past two months has suffered a major setback.
 
Senior Congress leader and state Home Minister R. Lalzirliana and three sitting legislators, Lalrinliana Sailo, Buddha Dhan Chakma, both former ministers, and Hmingdailova Khiangte have resigned from the party.
 
While Lalzirliana and Sailo joined opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) and Chakma joined BJP, Khiangte has said he will contest as an independent.
 
With the resignation of Hiphei, the Congress' strength in the 40-member house is reduced to 29, while MNF has six lawmakers. Five seats are vacant after the resignations of five Congress legislators.
 
The MNF, a local party, which ruled the state for two terms (1998-2003 and 2003-2008), is also confident to form the government with the support of the other local parties.
 
Both the BJP and the MNF are yet to declare a pre-poll or post-poll alliance, but political circles predict that they might support each other in forming the government after the polls.
 
MNF is a constituent of the BJP-led NEDA.
 
BJP President Amit Shah visited the state and addressed party workers last month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the state on November 18 to campaign for the saffron party.
 
IANS
 

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11 killed as bus falls into gorge in Mizoram

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At least 11 people, including six women, were killed and 19 others injured when a passenger bus fell into a deep gorge in Mizoram on Tuesday, police said.
 
"The private bus was being driven by the assistant as the driver was sleeping in the bus. When the bus was negotiating a curve, it fell into a 500-metre-deep gorge near Pangzawl village in Lunglei district (in southern Mizoram) killing nine people on the spot and injuring 21 others," a police official said here.
 
Two passengers succumbed to their injuries on way to hospital.
 
According to the police, the bus was on its way from Aizawl to the state's southernmost Siaha district.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
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Hero I-League: Aizawl confident of signing off with a win

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Defending champions Aizawl FC will host in-form Gokulam FC in their final hurrah of the ongoing Hero I-League 2017-18 season at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here tomorrow.
 
Aizawl have found it hard to replicate last season's title-winning form and are currently stranded sixth in the table with 21 points from 17 games. After a disappointing start to life in the Hero I-League, Gokulam have bounced back in style, winning their last three matches against the likes of Minerva Punjab FC, Kingfisher East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
 
If Bino George can conjure up a win against Aizawl FC, they will leapfrog the current champions in the table, sealing an automatic berth to the Super Cup. Bino George was in high spirits at the pre-match press conference. 
 
"When they play in the home ground they will have an extra boost. We will play our best game to get a point. We have confidence. My boys are playing excellent football and they are not scared of any team now.  They will work hard, they will perform to their utmost best tomorrow," he said.
 
"Inexperience was costing us matches at the start of the season. Only one or two players had played in the I-League before. After the addition of new foreigners, we have steadied the ship," he added. 
 
Santosh Kashyap said they will play to get full three points to bring smiles back to the fans of Aizawl FC. "We are very confident. We have trained according to our plan. We hope to take full advantage of the home match and get the three points," he said.
 
"We have no pressure. Usually, we don't have time to recover as our away matches are tightly scheduled. Travelling is tiresome and the performance of the players dropped as well. Direct entry into the Super Cup is what we aimed for," Kashyap said.
 
"We can beat any team on a given day, as we have seen lots of unpredictable results in the league. Every game is tough. We have to take advantage of the home game. Our fanbase is strong here in Aizawl and I hope they will come to support us in our last home game of the season," he concluded.
 
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Mapuia's brace ends Aizawl's winless run as they beat Indian Arrows 3-0

After eight winless games, Aizawl FC finally got back to their winning ways as they defeated Indian Arrows 3-0 at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here today.
 
Aizawl FC are now equal on points with fifth-placed Shillong Lajong who have 21 points with one game in hand. Arrows continue to stay rooted at the bottom with 15 points and will now head to Goa where they will host the Mariners in their final match of the league on the penultimate day of February.
 
In a game with a plethora of chances for both sides, Aizawl ran away with 3 points as they scored three goals against Arrows. As the Romanian midfielder Andrei Ionescu (7') opened the scoring having netted his third goal of the season, Hero of the Match Lalkhawpuimawia (16', 87') scored a sublime brace to settle with all three points today.
 
Arrows right-back Boris' backpass was tracked by Dodoz but the Ivorian forward could not open the scoring. Aizawl needed only seven minutes to score the first goal of the match. Mapuia skipped past Stalin in the byline and sent a teasing ball towards goal, Arrows goalkeeper Sukham failed to grab the ball as it found its way to Ionescu, who easily found the back of the net from three yards out.
 
Matos' boys settled into the game and were enjoying a lion's share of the ball possession since then. Local boy Lalengmawia with Jeakson Singh were controlling the midfield but failed to engineer a goal-scoring chance. 
 
Coach Santosh Kashyap implemented a new formation and it proved vital as Mapuia scored Aizawl's second goal of the match in the 16th minute. Mapuia slipped from the guard of the Arrows defenders, his first shot hit both the woodwork but on rebound, he did not make any mistake to double the lead.
 
Edmund Lalrindika's acrobatic attempt was spectacular for the eye but bore no fruit as it did not trouble Aizawl's goalkeeper Avilash Paul in the 21st minute. 
 
The home side were presented with a wonderful chance to grab their third goal of the match but Dodoz's powerful shot was thwarted away by Sukham, much to the delight of his teammates. The young boys could not find their rhythm in the first 45 minute as Aizawl led 2-0 in the first half.
 
Minutes into the second half, Dodoz was presented with a gem of a chance when he was released by right back Dinliana's defence-splitting pass. The Ivorian striker was one-on-one with the goalkeeper but he blasted the shot over the crossbar. 
 
Arrows fought back and nearly pulled one back in the 50th minute when Anwar Ali's shot from inside the box was superbly parried away by Avilash Paul. Manipuri winger Nongdamba Naorem, who had scored one of the best goals in the ongoing Hero I-League 2017-18 season, danced past Aizawl defender but his shot from inside the box could not trouble Paul.
 
To confirm three points was in the bag, Mapuia scored his second and Aizawl's third in the 87th minute when he calmly tucked the ball in the back of the net after Dodoz provided him with a lovely pass from the back.
 
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Modi says Govt. betting on skills, strengths of India's youth

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the gathering at the ceremony to dedicate the Tuirial Hydro Electric Power Project to the nation, in Aizawl on December 16, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the gathering at the ceremony to dedicate the Tuirial Hydro Electric Power Project to the nation, in Aizawl on December 16, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the Government was betting on the skills and strengths of India's youth and that the next five years until 2022, when India will complete 75 years of independence, provide an opportunity to plan and build on the country's achievements to make a quantum leap in all spheres of development.
 
"We believe in 'empower through enterprise' - which is creating the right eco-system for innovation and enterprise to flourish so that our land is home to the next big ideas that can transform humanity," he said in his address at a ceremony to dedicate the Tuirial Hydro Electric Power Project to the nation in Aizawl, Mizoram.
 
Mr. Modi said building a New India by 2022 required us to work towards the twin goals of increasing economic growth as well as ensuring that the fruits of growth are shared by all.
 
"Every Indian, irrespective of caste, gender, religion, class must have equal opportunities to partake in the new prosperity," he said.
 
He said his Government believed in competitive and cooperative federalism, where there is healthy competition between States. "I am convinced that States are the main drivers of change," he said.
 
He said the Government had taken a number of initiatives to infuse healthy competition among States. A Committee of Chief Ministers made recommendations to rationalize Centrally Sponsored Schemes, which were duly accepted by the Government.
 
Mr. Modi said that, despite fiscal constraints, the sharing pattern of core centrally sponsored schemes for North Eastern States had been continued at 90-10. For other schemes, it stands at 80-20. 
 
He said the Centre had plans to focus on around 115 districts which are relatively backward when evaluated on various social indicators. This will also benefit the backward districts of North Eastern States including Mizoram. 
 
"Just yesterday, we approved a new Central Sector Scheme. The North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme will fill the gaps in creation of infrastructure in two sectors. One sector is physical infrastructure relating to water supply, power, connectivity and especially projects promoting tourism. The other is social sector projects of education and health. The new scheme has been designed after due consultations with State Governments.However, to ensure continuity, all ongoing projects under NLCPR will be provided funds for completion by March 2022," he said.
 
He said the new scheme would be 100 percent centrally funded as against the NLCPR, where 10 percent contribution had to come from the State Governments. 
 
The Central Government will be providing Rs. 5300 crore to North Eastern States under the Scheme over the next three years, he said.
 
Mr. Modi began by noting that this was his first visit to Mizoram as Prime Minister, though had visited the other states in the region.
 
He recalled that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken several initiatives for the development of the North East region and remove regional imbalances.
 
He said his Government had continued those efforts. He said Ministers had been asked to spend a few days at a time in the region and understand the needs of the people and frame policies accordingly. During the last three years, Union Ministers have made more than 150 visits to the North East, he said. Officials are also spending a few days in a month in the region, he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, 70 years after independence, there were still four crore households in the country without electricity, including thousands in Mizoram. He said the Government had recently launched a scheme to provide electricity connections to all such households.
 
Noting that there were very few entrepreneurs in the region because of lack of capital, he mentioned the Government's initiatives such as Mudra, Start-up India and Stand Up India. He said the Ministry of Development of North-East Region (DoNER) had launched a Rs. 100 crore venture capital fund for the North-East and urged the youth of the region to take full advantage of such schemes.
 
Mr. Modi said that, as a result of the efforts of the Union Government, schemes for the benefit of the North-Eastern region had gained momentum and projects stuck for years were now progressing. 
 
He said the completion and dedication of the Tuirial Hydro-power Project would boost the socio-economic development of the state. With this, Mizoram has become the third power-surplus state in the North-East after Sikkim and Tripura.
 
"My Government is investing close to Rs. 10,000 crore for a comprehensive improvement in the power transmission system in the North Eastern States," he said, adding that efforts were also being to improve connectivity in the region.
 
"The Union Government has sanctioned over 3800 kilometers of National Highway with an investment of Rs. 32,000 crore during the last three years, out of which nearly 1200 kilometers of road have already been constructed," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said the Centre would be investing another Rs. 60,000 crore under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in the North-East and Rs. 30,000 crore under Bharatmala in the next two to three years to build a network of highways and roads in the region. 
 
"We are committed to bring all the State Capitals of North East Region on the rail map. The Government of India is executing 15 new rail line projects of 1385 kilometers length, at a cost of over Rs. 47,000 crore. The railways reached Mizoram last year, with the inauguration of the rail line connecting Bhairabi in Mizoram with Silchar in Assam," he said.
 
"I had laid the foundation for a new line to take rail connectivity to Aizawl in 2014. With the support of the State Government, we shall connect the State Capital Aizawl with broad gauge rail line. 
 
"The Union Government has been proactively following the ‘Act East Policy’. As a gate-way to South East Asia, Mizoram stands to gain immensely from this. It can emerge as a key transit point for trade with Myanmar and Bangladesh. Various bilateral projects are at various stages of completion. Some of the major initiatives include the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, the Rih-Tedim Road Project and Border Haats," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the high literacy rate, scenic beauty and availability of a large English speaking population in Mizoram made for a perfect blend to develop the State as a model tourist destination. "The State offers significant scope for adventure tourism, cultural tourism, eco-tourism, wild-life tourism, and community-based rural tourism. If developed well, tourism can emerge as the biggest employer in the state. The Union Government has sanctioned two tourism projects worth 194 crore rupees for Mizoram in the last 2 years, to promote eco-tourism and adventure tourism.The Central Government has already released 115 crore rupees for implementation of these projects," he said.
 
"The Government is also committed to provide assistance for maintenance and upkeep of various wild-life sanctuaries and national parks in Mizoram with a view to attract tourists. Let us work together to make Mizoram one of the top tourism destinations in India," he said.
 
"The soft power of football can become Mizoram’s global identity. There are many other prominent sports persons from Mizoram who have brought glory to the State and the country. These include the Olympian archer C. Lalremsanga , boxer Ms. Jenny Lalremliani, weightlifter Ms. Lalchhahimi, and hockey player Ms. Lalruatfeli," he said.
 
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Kovind inaugurates housing complexes for economically weaker sections in Mizoram

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Housing for all as well as planning for India’s urban population, that is growing by the day, is a challenge not just for Mizoram but for the entire country, according to President Ram Nath Kovind.
 
Inaugurating housing complexes for economically weaker sections under Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) schemes of Mizoram Government here yesterday, Mr Kovind said it is the focus of flagship programmes of the Union government.
 
“The meeting of certain milestones in housing for the poor and in building urban infrastructure will help us achieve the goals of New India by 2022, when we complete 75 years as a independent nation. And New India is simply not possible without New Mizoram,” he added.
 
The President said there is a vitality to Mizo society that is commendable. This state is a role model for the world in terms of peaceful resolution of political disputes. The Mizo Accord of 1986 has been honoured by all sides, and an insurgency situation ended with all stake-holders agreeing to work peacefully for the greater common good of the state and its people.
 
“This is a miracle of our times. It gives us an insight into Mizo society – a society of honourable men and women,” he added. He congratulated all the people of Mizoram, including the Church and its affiliated organisations, the youth and women’s groups, civil society groups and political parties, for this spirit of fraternity and cooperation.
 
The President said that the Indian economy is today among the fastest growing in the world. From innovation in agriculture to the digital economy, from manufacturing to the expanding services sector – there are so many good news stories, he said.
 
"Young people from Mizoram are very much part of the story. In the IT industry, the hospitality industry and other service sector industries, Mizo boys and girls are making their mark in different corners of the country. And their work is drawing admiration for Mizoram.
 
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"There is admiration for the education and literacy skills of young Mizos. A literacy rate of 91 per cent – as per the 2011 census – is truly remarkable. There is also admiration for the values, work ethic and professionalism of young men and women from Mizoram," he said.
 
The President said the need is to create more opportunities within Mizoram itself. Like the rest of the Northeast, Mizoram is key to India’s Act East Policy. Trade will grow and to everybody’s benefit, he said.
 
Mr. Kovind noted that Mizoram has so much to offer. Harnessed appropriately, bamboo can be a wonder crop. With value addition, it can be used to create a variety of products and many, many jobs. Horticulture is another area with huge potential, he said.
 
Mizoram grows pineapples and exotic fruit such as passion fruit. These deserve a much wider market. And they deserve a thriving food processing industry locally, which can combine technology with the amazing traditional skills of the Mizo people, he added.
 
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Kovind says legislators represent entire constituency, not just those who had voted for them

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President Ram Nath Kovind today said that legislators, once elected, represented the entire constituency and not just those who had voted for them.
 
"The legislator equally represents those who did not vote for him or in fact those who opposed him. Similarly, a rival in an election is a political competitor and not an enemy. After the election, the competitor could become a colleague in the task of ensuring the well-being and development of a constituency, of the state and of the country," he said in his address at a special session of Mizoram Legislative Assembly here.
 
"This is the beauty of a democratic polity that we must appreciate. I am glad to see that this philosophy has such an instinctive acceptance in Mizoram. Please keep it up," he said.
 
Mr. Kovind said Mizoram was special in India, standing out as it does for a very mature and dignified political culture. 
 
"This Assembly is the true embodiment of Mizoram’s political culture as well as of the will and aspirations of the people of the state. We are aware of the three Ds of the legislature. This is a place to debate, dissent and finally decide. Yet there are other principles to follow too. Ideally, the functioning of the legislature should be marked by dignity and decorum. And the political system should not allow differences to become disputes.
 
"While these principles are cherished in all democracies, they are not always followed. Sometimes, there are unfortunate disruptions. Here, I must commend and congratulate the Assembly of Mizoram. In its 45-year history, it has established a reputation for smooth conduct of business. The behaviour and participation of its members – of all of you, I should say – has conformed to the highest standards. This Assembly is a role model for our democracy and for how a legislative House should function," he said.
 
The President said the sense of honour and dignity seen in public life in Mizoram was heart-warming and was also typical of its rich society.
 
"The signing, implementation and adherence to the Mizo Accord of 1986 is still held up as a shining example all over the world. Yesterday I called it a miracle. And it truly is a miracle in the way in which it ended an insurgency situation and a conflict that had divided our country and Mizo society itself," he said.
 
Mr. Kovind said all political stake-holders as well as civil society groups – including the Church and Church-affiliated groups, women’s groups and other non-governmental organisations – had got together to create an atmosphere for peace and development in Mizoram. 
 
"The Accord and its legacy represent one of the greatest successes in India’s long history. One must recall the enlightened and far-sighted leadership of Pu Laldenga, as well as the efforts and generosity of spirit of Pu Lal Thanhawla, who is of course the Chief Minister today as well. And here I would also like to mention another stalwart of Mizoram, the respected Brigadier T. Sailo. Our Mizoram and our India owe these nation builders so much," he said.
 
Mr. Kovind said India was a nation of astonishing diversity and even within states there was a huge variety of ethnic and religious identities, languages, cultures and customs, modes of dress, food habits and types of cuisine. He said this diversity was the nation's strength, enriching every one and contributing to both the unity and the wonder of India. He said it was important to preserve and cherish this diversity.
 
"Economic integration and the movement of people from one part of the country to another for work or education are making all of us much more familiar with each other. For example, young men and women from Mizoram may be found working in the hospitality industry in Kerala or in an IT company in Pune. They contribute, they earn, they stand out for their professionalism – and they add to the cultural wealth of our shared society. It is this human connectivity that makes our country so unique.
 
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"It is critical to complement it with physical and infrastructural connectivity. That is why Mizoram is such a focus of the government of India’s Act East Policy. This Policy aims at enhancing connectivity and trade linkages between Mizoram and the other states of the Northeast and the rest of the country – as well as neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia.
 
"This will give Mizoram’s agricultural produce and traditional products access to new markets. It will also strengthen IT and Internet connectivity, a process that will have a multiplier effect across a range of industries. Once we create this infrastructure, we can simply leave it to the entrepreneurship, the energy and the genius of the young people of this state to capitalise on it. With their high literacy levels and English-language skills, a golden opportunity lies before the youth of Mizoram.
 
"To emphasise a point, I made in another speech recently, for a short time in our history there was a misconception about the Northeast being a 'frontier'. Far from that, it is at the heart of an ancient trade corridor. For centuries, South Asia and Southeast Asia have been perceived as a composite trading region, with cultural similarities as well. Mizoram is right at the centre of this process and of this area. Mizoram’s geography can be its biggest asset – and the government of India is working to ensure just that," he said.
 
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Climate change blues: ‘everyday monsoon’ foxes Mizo farmers

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As the debate continues on the connection of climate change with growing intensity of hurricanes like Harvey and Irma, it is already becoming a ground reality for scores of farmers in the hill state of Mizoram. Changing rainfall pattern and rising temperatures are forcing them to move away from traditional farming and to grow exotic crops that are heat-resistant and can survive erratic rains.
 
This year has been particularly bad. There has not been a single day when it has not rained.
 
“Farmers are completely confused. They don’t know whether it was early monsoon or it is ‘everyday monsoon’. All important dates on the agriculture calendar have been missed,” pointed out Dr James Lalnunzira Hrahsel, a scientist with the Mizoram State Climate Change Cell.
 
Data of the past thirty years show a rise in average temperature of Aizawl in the month of January. The lowest maximum was 18.7 degrees C in 1992 while the highest was 28.2 degrees in 2005. This January it was 26.3 degrees. On the other hand, minimum temperature in January has dipped. The difference between daily minimum and maximum temperature has been widening.
 
The maximum and minimum temperatures in July also have seen a similar trend.
 
The rainfall pattern has changed so drastically that farmers are left clueless. The dates for burning jhums (shifting cultivation) had to be shifted twice this year due to rains. While there is an increasing trend in monsoon rainfall, there is a decrease in post-monsoon rainfall and winter rainfall. Heavy precipitation events have gone up.
 
“The rainfall pattern in Mizoram has traditionally been so nuanced that Mizo language has different names for rain during different months, like To ruah (for April-May rains), Ruah Bing (for June-July rains), Ruah var pui (September rains), Ai Ruah (for October rains), Pawl del Ruah (December rains) etc. Even wind patterns have unique names – Vahtlao thli (February winds), Pa-sawntlung thli (March to May) and Pa leng thli (July winds) etc.,” explained Dr Lalrokima Chenkual, a disaster management expert with the Administrative Training Institute.
 
“But nowadays, it is difficult to distinguish one rain or wind from another,” said Dr Chenkual.
 
All this is directly affecting farming communities. “Earlier, farmers could grow a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Now they are approaching us to help them with new crops and varieties that can withstand changing climate. That’s why we have introduced dragon fruit from Thailand, new cabbage variety from China and two tomato varieties from Bangalore,” Henry L Varte, horticulture extension officer, told India Science Wire.
 
Dragon fruit is a cactus that can grow in warm and humid climate, needs less water and its fruits have high commercial value. As dragon fruit is climbing cacti, concrete pillars are erected to train the vine and on the top old tyres are used. “Dragon fruit cultivation is helping famers to adapt to rising temperature and erratic rainfall, while protecting their incomes,” said Varte.
 
Similarly the cabbage variety imported from China is heat-resistant. Two tomato varieties – Araka Smrat and Araka Rakshak, developed by the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Horticulture can withstand high temperatures and are disease-resistant.
 
“Earlier I used to grow oranges from seedlings imported from Israel, but pest attacks started due to heat and the yield dropped. Then I planted areca nut. Last year I shifted to dragon fruit and have harvested 20 quintals of fruits this year. The market for this fruit is good, each fruit of about half a kilo sells for about Rs 100 to Rs 150,” said Zoramthanga, a dragon fruit farmer from Viapuanpho village in Mamit district.
 
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Mr Saurabh Sharma, state nodal officer for climate change, said adaptation had become necessary as districts in the state face ‘moderate to high’ vulnerability to climate change in terms of agriculture, forestry and water sector. The National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change is funding a three-year project to augment livelihood of rural communities by building resilience in agriculture in four districts - Aizawl, Mamit, Kolasib, Serchhip.
 
“The idea is to develop one climate resilient village in each district so that they can serve as a model for the rest,” Sharma explained while speaking at a media workshop. Mr Pradeep Chettri from Directorate of Agriculture (Crop Husbandry) said pilot projects were underway in three agro-climatic zones -- humid mild tropical zone, humid sub-tropical hill zone and humid temperate sub-alpine zone -- to increase tolerance and suitability of crops to climate change.
 
The media workshop was organized by the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with Mizoram State Climate Change Cell; Directorate of Science and Technology and Centre for Media Studies.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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Rajnath Singh chairs meeting to review India-Myanmar border issues

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said the Government was committed to fast-track development of the North-East and steady progress had been made in infrastructure development in various sectors in the region.
 
Chairing a meeting of States on the India-Myanmar border here, he said these sectors included road, rail and air connectivity, power, education, health, education and research.
 
He said the North-East would have a string of modern cities under the Smart Cities mission.
 
Mr. Rajnath Singh said that, to address specific developmental needs of border areas along international boundaries, the allocation under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) to 17 border states was Rs. 990 crore in 2016 – 2017 which has been raised to Rs. 1100 crore in 2017 – 2018.
 
He said a total of Rs. 567.39 crore was released to the States of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh during the last three years.
 
For integrated development of 41 model villages, Rs. 92.39 crore were released in the last financial year, which included three villages in Manipur and one in Nagaland. 
 
He said that for strengthening infrastructure along the India-Myanmar Border, Assam Rifles has given a proposal for construction of roads and airports for their operational requirement. 
 
The Home Minister stressed that the well being of people living in border areas and addressing their basic needs is crucial. He advised the State Governments to pay special attention to the urgent need of improving basic facilities and infrastructure like roads, power, telecommunication, health and education and so on for people in these remotely located areas. He ordered setting up of a committee under the chairmanship of Secretary Border Management for identification of gaps in the facilities in these areas and to prioritize them for filling them up in short term (3 years), medium term (3-6 years) and long term (6-10 years). 
 
The committee has also been tasked to find out and pool all the resources and dovetail all programmes of various Ministries of Government of India including those of North-Eastern Council, Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) and BADP and also those of the respective State Governments for achieving these objectives. The committee is required to submit a detailed report before December 31, 2017. 
 
"Greater connectivity within the region and with our neighbours is likely to give impetus to enhanced movement of goods, services and people across the border," Mr. Rajnath Singh said.
 
Improved connectivity and relations with Myanmar are opening new opportunities of growth of this region and Indo-Myanmar border region will be playing a much greater role in near future and therefore, the Centre and the States must be adequately prepared for it, he advised. 
 
About the internal security perspective, the Home Minister said that although Myanmar border is peaceful and friendly yet it is very sensitive. 
 
The Home Minister mentioned that India’s 1643 km border with Myanmar, touching four states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram is unique in many ways. It has a visa-free movement regime for the people living within 16 kms on either side of the border. They can stay up to 72 hrs with effective and valid permits issued by the designated authorities on either side. This regime has been in place keeping in view the traditional social relations among the border people. It helps genuine people living in the close proximity of the border. 
 
However, it is misused by militants and criminals who smuggle weapons, narcotics, contraband goods and Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN), he said.
 
With fast improving security situation in this region, militants are denied hideouts and some of them have relocated themselves across the border, he said. Taking advantage of the free-movement regime occasionally they enter India, commit crimes and escape to their relatively safer hide-outs, the Home Minister added. 
 
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For preparing a standard operating procedures common for all the four states so that militants, criminals and contrabands are filtered at the border without causing inconvenience to genuine people, Mr. Rajnath Singh decided to constitute a committee headed by Special Secretary (Internal Security), Ministry of Home Affairs which will examine the present rules and regulations adopted by the Border States for implementation of free movement regime along with this border. The committee will give its report for uniform and effective implementation of free movement regime within three months. 
 
Appreciating the role of Assam Rifles, Mr. Rajnath Singh said that they were performing their duties with unshakable courage, determination and skills. He urged upon the Chief Ministers to pay special attention to the local issues of border guarding forces to boost their morale and improve their efficiency. 
 
He advised the State Governments to extend co-operation in the survey work for erection, construction of subsidiary pillars for removing differences of perception on ground of zero line and for understanding the boundary demarcation clearly. 
 
The Home Minister directed that whatever construction work is required near the border may be done leaving the 'No Construction Zone'. He solicited cooperation of Chief Ministers and local population for joint survey of border pillars on the Indo-Myanmar boundary. 
 
Mentioning that there are over 240 villages with over 2.5 lakh people within 10 km of the India-Myanmar border, Mr. Rajnath Singh urged the Chief Ministers to bring these areas under active policing by opening police stations and police posts for re-assuring the people and also to prevent illegal cross-border activities. 
 
The meeting was attended by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, the Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram while Nagaland was represented by their Home Minister. The Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of the states concerned and senior officers of MHA, Assam Rifles, security agencies and the concerned central Ministries were also present. 
 
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Rajnath Singh to meet CMs of India-Myanmar border states at Aizawl

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will hold a meeting with Chief Ministers of states on the India-Myanmar border at Aizawl in Mizoram on June 12.
 
An official press release said Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram are expected to attend the meeting that will discuss issues related to border states.
 
Among other issues, the meeting will discuss the status of border infrastructure along the Indo-Myanmar border, implementation of Border Area Development Programme (BADP) projects, streamlining the Free Movement Regime (FMR) for better facilitation of movement of people across the border, works relating to boundary survey and other co-ordination issues between the States and the Border Guarding Force, Assam Rifles.
 
The Chief Secretaries, Directors General of Police (DGPs) of the respective states and Director General, Assam Rifles including senior officials from the concerned Central ministries will also be present in the meeting, the release added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Aizawl region of Mizoram

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale, shook the Aizawl region of Mizoram this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at  latitude 23.9°N and longitude 93.0°E, occurred at 0716 hours at a focal depth of 27 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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