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Assam

13 killed, 15 injured as terrorists open fire near Kokrajhar in Assam

At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam on Friday afternoon.

 
13 kiled in terror attack at Kokrajhar in Assam
At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam this afternoon.
 
Sources said the three or four masked gunmen, wearing Army-style fatigues, struck at Balajan Tiniali near the town, about 220 km west of Guwahati, around noon, leaving at least 12 civilians dead.
 
The gunmen arrived in an autorickshaw, hurled grenades and then opened fire indiscriminately in the market before fleeing from the scene.
 
Security forces managed to shoot down one of the militants and have launched a manhunt for the remaining men, who are believed to have escaped into a nearby forest.
 
The attack has taken the security forces as well as the Assam Government and the Centre by surprise. Media reports quoted top police officials as saying that they suspected the militants were part of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) faction.
 
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was in Delhi, told journalists that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Narendra Modi had been in touch with him and had promised all help from the Centre to tackle the situation. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met Mr. Sonowal to discuss the latest developments.
 
Condemning the attack, Mr. Sonowal said the state government was committed to ensuring protection of the lives and property of the people of Assam. He said the security forces would deal strictly with the situation.
 
He said the Director General of Police (DGP) of Assam and other senior officials were rushing to the scene of the incident.
 
Mr. Sonowal announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the attack and Rs. 1 lakh each for those who suffered injuries. He also appealed to the people of Assam to maintain peace and harmony. 
 
The Chief Minister said senior Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma had left for Kokrajhar.
 
Reports said additional columns of the Army and teams of para-military forces had been moved to the area. Police officials said an AK-56 rifle and some grenades were recovered from the scene.
 
The injured persons were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment even as security forces cordoned off the area and launched a combing operation.
 
In Delhi, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju described the incident as "unfortunate" and said it had taken place at a time when peace was returning to the state. 
 
“This incident has given us a shock and it is unfortunate so many people have lost their lives," he said, adding that the elements behind the "dastardly" attack would have to be identified.
 
This is the first major incident of violence in Assam since Mr. Sonowal assumed office as the head of the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the stte on May 24 this year.
 
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Heavy turnout of voters in first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
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Five killed as magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Manipur, other NE states

At least five people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit Manipur and other North-Eastern states of India and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the early hours of Monday.

 
Massive 6.7 quake strikes northeast India
 
At least five people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit Manipur and other North-Eastern states of India and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the early hours of today.
 
Official sources in Imphal said more than 45 people had been reported injured in the quake.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 24.8°N and longitude  93.5°E, occured at 0435 hours at a focal depth of 17 km.
 
According to IMD, the epicentre of the earthquake was in Tamenglong district of Manipur, about 35 km from Imphal, the state capital.
 
The tremors were also felt in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, among other places.
 
Initial reports from Manipur spoke of damages to many buildings and houses. People in many places ran out of their homes to safety as a precautionary measure. Many people posted pictures of damaged buildings and walls with cracks on social media sites. Some government offices and a six-storeyed building in Imphal were among those affected.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke over the telephone to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is on an official visit to Assam, and asked him to oversee the situation.
 
Mr. Modi also spoke to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki on the situation.
 
The Manipur Government has sought the assistance of the Army and the Assam Rifles in the rescue and relief efforts.
 
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said Mr. Modi was continuously monitoring the situation.
 
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been instructed to move from Guwahati to the areas affected by the earthquake.
 
Mr. Rajnath Singh said he had spoken to Mr. Gogoi and the Manipur Chief Secretary about the situation and assured them of all possible help from the Centre.
 
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"I'm also contacting other North Eastern states to know the extent of damage caused by the earthquake," he added.
 
In New Delhi, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is coordinating with the State Governments concerned, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Defence (Mod), NDRF, Ministry of Communications and other Departments and agencies for seach, rescue and relief efforts.
 
NDMA officials have spoken to the Control Rooms and Relief Commisioners of all the States in the North-East and West Bengal.
 
Communication systems are functioning, particularly those of state-owned BSNL, in the affected areas.
 
The National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary held a meeting here this morning to assess the situation and provide all necessary help from the Government of India.
 
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1 dead, 14 hurt in twin blasts on Bangalore-Guwahati Express at Chennai station

A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station on Thursday morning.

 
Chennai train blasts: 14 injured passengers stable
A 24-year-old woman was killed and 14 others suffered injuries in twin blasts which occurred in two coaches of the 12509 Bangalore-Guwahati tri-weekly express train minutes after it pulled into the Chennai Central station here this morning.
 
Southern Railway sources said two of the injured had suffered serious grievous injuries while the others had received minor injuries.
 
Southern Railway General Manager Rakesh Mishra told reporters at the scene that the "minor intensity" blasts occurred in sleeper coaches S4 and S5 at about 7.15 am, some ten minutes after the train arrived on platform number 9.
 
Three coaches of the train -- S3, S4 and S5 -- were affected by the two explosions, the sources said.
 
The deceased passenger was identified as Ms Swati who was travelling from Bangalore to Vijayawada on her way to her home town of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, he said. Media reports said she was an employee of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
 
Sources said the blasts appeared to have been caused by some devices placed under seat 70 of coach S4 and seat 30 of coach S5.
 
Mr Mishra said the train was running slightly late and had arrived at the station at 7.05 am instead of its scheduled time of 5.45 am.
 
The injured were rushed immediately to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital near the station.
 
Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the next-of-kin of the deceased passenger, Rs 25,000 for each of those with grievous injuries and Rs 5,000 for each of those with minor injuries.
 
Police officials, accompanied by dog squads and bomb disposal squads, rushed to the scene of the blasts immediately and platform number 9 was cordoned off.
 
The entire train was checked by the police and it later resumed its journey to Guwahati, Assam after the affected coaches were detached and replaced with new coaches.
 
Mr Mishra said the entire train was being checked and it would resume its journey to Guwahati, Assam an hour later after the two affected coaches are detached.
 
The Railways have set up a helpline at Chennai on telephone number 044-25357398 to provide information to relatives of the passengers of the affected train.
 
Operations on other platforms as well as on the nearby suburban section continued to remain normal, Mr Mishra added.
 
A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Hyderabad will reach Chennai later today to probe the incident.
 
Security was intensified at Chennai Central railway station after the incidents.
 
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Among the seriously injured passengers, one was identified as Sumantho Devnath (37, Male), while the other was an unidentified male.
 
Those with minor injuries were identified as follows:
 
1. Shaiful Haque – 27 years Male
2. Anjanedu– 29 years Male
3. Vimal Kumar Das – 43 years Male
4. Shagun Kumar Rai– 23 years Male
5. Altaf Khan – 17 years Male
6. Uma – 35 years Female
7. Jitendra Mohanto Deka – 58 years Male
8. Sari – 21 years Male
9. Murali – 27 years Male
10. Bijoy Kumar – 14 years Male
11. Sudanchand Debnath – 64 years Male
12. Surendra Varma– 31 years Male
 
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At least 40 drowned, scores missing after ferry carrying 300 people sinks in Assam

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors on Tuesday after a ferry carrying about 300 passengers, capsized in the Brahmaputra river in the western Assam district of Dhubri Monday evening, killing scores of people and leaving many more missing.

Map of Dhubri district
Map of Dhubri district

Rescue teams continued to search for survivors today after a ferry carrying about 300 passengers,  capsized in the Brahmaputra river in the western Assam district of Dhubri yesterday evening, killing scores of people and leaving many more missing.

Official sources said at least 40 bodies had been fished out, but scores of people were missing and they felt the toll could be much higher. The sources also said about 60 people had managed to swim to safety.
 
Rescue efforts by personnel of the Army, the Border Security Force, the National Disaster Response Force, the state police and the district administration were hampered overnight because of the bad weather and darkness. 
 
Details about the tragedy remained sketchy because it happened in a very remote location and also because the bad weather had disrupted communication links with the area.
The ferry was filled with passengers far beyond its capacity, many of them returning from a weekly market, and they included several women and children. People of the area are known to be good swimmers, but, given the weather conditions at the time of the mishap and the strong undercurrents in the river, there are fears that not many would have survived, the officials said.
 
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The boat was said to be on its way from Dhubri town to Medertari ghat when it got caught in the storm. It was tossed around and finally broke into three parts around 5 pm, the sources said.
 
The weather had cleared considerably by this morning and more rescue teams were being rushed to the area and helicopters were being pressed into service to help them.
 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced an ex-gratia assistance to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
 
An official press release said an assistance of Rs 2 lakh would be given to the next-of-kin of each of the deceased from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. 
 
Dr Singh had earlier spoken to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and offered all possible help to the state government in the relief operations.
 
By late this evening, official sources said the final toll could be much lower than initially estimated.
 
They said the capsized ferry had been brought to the river bank and, contrary to fears, no bodies were found in it.
 
They also said that divers scoured the area where the ferry was found for hours today and did not find any body.
 
The officials said the entire downstream of the river was being searched for victims. At this stage, it would appear that many more people than initially thought had managed to swim to safety, on the one hand, and that the number of people on the boat could have been lower than given out yesterday, they added.
 
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Chidambaram welcomes ULFA ceasfire; says it wil lead to peace, normalcy in Assam

The Centre on wednesday welcomed the announcement made by ULFA on Tuesday to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks with the government.

File photo of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
File photo of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram
The Government of India today welcomed the announcement made by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) yesterday to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period to create a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks with the government and expressed confidence that it would contribute to peace and normalcy in Assam.

"It is expected that a Suspension of Operation (SoO) Agreement will be signed and ground rules for observing the agreement will be finalised in the near future. Government of India, in consultation with Government of Assam, will facilitate an early start to the talks," Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said in a statement here.

He recalled that, in February 2011, the leaders of ULFA, including its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, had called on the Assam Chief Minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and him and expressed their desire to seek a political solution to their demands.

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"Subsequently, the government of Assam and the Government of India have been in touch with the leaders of the organisation. Government has always expressed its willingness to hold a dialogue with any militant group that will abjure violence, lay down arms and seek a solution through peaceful and democratic means.

"Government of India is confident that the announcement by ULFA will contribute to peace and normalcy in Assam," Mr Chidambaram added.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Rajkhowa had said that the ceasefire shall be with immediate effect and binding on all its cadres.

"The ULFA, with a view to explore a lasting peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict, resolves to cease all forms of armed campaign for an indefinite period,'' he said.

''All members of the organisation are commanded hereby to scrupulously implement the decision in letter and spirit and any infringement thereof will be considered as an anti-organisational act and shall be dealt with accordingly," he said.

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The ULFA leader said he had declared the ceasefire in accordance with a decision in the 5th general council of the outfit on February 22, which had authorized him to make the announcement, whenever needed.

Mr Rajkhowa said the decision to declare the ceasefire was in keeping with the desire by all to create a conducive atmosphere for political dialogue.

Referring to the ULFA leadership’s meeting with the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Assam Chief Minister, among others, he said, ''In the course of such exchanges, everybody has expressed their earnest desire that an honourable, meaningful discussion should continue in a peaceful atmosphere conducive for political negotiations.''

Mr Rajkhowa is leading the ULFA faction that is engaged in formal talks with the government, though a section of the outfit, led by its elusive ‘c-in-c’ Paresh Barua, has stayed out of the peace process.

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37 killed, over 270 injured in two train accidents in UP, Assam

At least 37 people were killed and over 270 injured today when over a dozen coaches of two superfast Express trains got derailed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A TV grab of Kalka mail, which derailed at Fatehpur-Kanpur (UP) on July 10, 2011. UNI PHOTO
At least 37 people were killed and over 270 injured today when over a dozen coaches of two superfast Express trains got derailed in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

At least 37 people were killed and over 200 injured when 12 coaches of the 12311 Up Howrah-Kalka Mail derailed near Malwan railway station on the Howrah-Delhi route of the North-Central railway in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh.

In another mishap, at least 70 people were injured, 30 of them critically, when a suspected blast derailed four coaches and overturned four others of the Guwahati-Puri Express in lower Assam's Nalbari district this evening.

Police sources here said 37 passengers have been killed in Kalka Mail accident and the death toll could rise as many passengers were still trapped inside two derailed coaches.  However, unconfirmed report put the death toll at over 50.

More than 250 injured are undergoing treatment in different hospitals. As many as 190 of them were admitted to the district hospital here and 54 were admitted to private nursing homes in Kanpur and Fatehpur.

Four helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were deployed to help in the rescue operations. Several seriously injured passengers were rushed to hospital by army jawans.

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Passengers of the ill-fated train complained of delay in the rescue and relief efforts by the Railways.

A special train has been made available from Kanpur for the passengers of the Kalka Mail for their onward journey. Besides, food packets and water bottles have been provided to the passengers, railway officials said.

NCR spokesman Sandeep Mathur told UNI from Allahabad that the derailed coaches included two AC three-tier, one AC two-tier, two general, five sleeper, one pantry and an SLR coach.

He said 11 coaches had been totally damaged and gas cutters were being used to bring out the passengers from the derailed coaches. The train was running at a speed of 108 kms per hour when the accident occurred.

"A medical relief train with seven doctors and medical equipment has reached from Allahabad. A similar train from Kanpur has also reached the spot," Mr Mathur said.

All the derailed coaches either had overturned or climbed onto other coaches, he said.

Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, along with some of the members of the Board and the Director General of Railway Protection Force (RPF), has rushed to the spot.

The Railways announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the mishap, Rs 1 lakh for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has expressed her grief over the accident and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 for the critically injured and Rs 25,000 for victims with minor injuries.

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State Cooperative Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party state president Swami Prasad Maurya, along with UP Chief Secretary Anoop Mishra, have reached the spot and were supervising the relief and rescue operations.

Rescue efforts had picked up with Army jawans taking full control of the operation. A 150-member team from National Disaster Response Force had also reached the scene. Railway officials said the rescue work would continue overnight. Official said the restoration of the route would take at least 48 hours.

The railway officials were yet to establish the cause of the derailment.

In the district hospital, there was a shortage of beds and many of the injured were forced to lie on the floor. Most of the deceased were yet to be identified except for one Kallo Devi (35) of Kanpur. A woman died with her infant child on her lap.

The railways have asked Commissioner Railway Safety P K Vajpayee to inquire into the accident.

Regarding the second incident, Northeast Frontier Railway sources said it occurred at Bhatkuchi, between Rangiya and Ghograpar railway stations.

The train had left Guwahati railway station at 1915 hours on its way to Puri and the accident occurred at about 2020 hours, the sources said.

Four coaches of the train derailed and fell into a paddy field, while four more overturned. All the coaches involved were those immediately behind the engine.

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The sources said preliminary findings pointed towards a blast on the tracks, though confirmation is yet to be received. Passengers of the ill-fated train as well as people of nearby villages also claimed that they had heard a loud explosion just before the accident.

The injured were being rushed to Rangiya and Guwahati, where the state government has issued orders for treatment of the victims on a priority basis. The condition of at least 30 injured was stated to be critical.

Rescue and relief teams have reached the spot and were trying to ensure that no person was trapped in the coaches as well as providing medical aid to those injured.

The main railway line through the section has been blocked following the incident and trains were being diverted via Goalpara, the sources said.

The NFR has set up following helpline numbers after the accident: 0361-2737154/2737155/2731621/622/623 and 9957554804.

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Minor earthquake shakes Karbi Anglong region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, shook the Karbi Anglong region of Assam in the early hours of today, about 13 hours after another earthquake hit the same region yesterday.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.0°N and longitude 92.3°E, occurred at 0153 hours today at a focal depth of 10 km, a bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
Earlier, an earthquake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale, had been recorded in the same region yesterday.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.1°N and longitude 92.1°E, occurred at 1241 hours yesterday at a focal depth of 20 km.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Karbi Anglong region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale, shook the Karbi Anglong region of Assam today.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.1°N and longitude 92.1°E, occurred at 1241 hours at a focal depth of 20 km, a bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
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Gadkari to visit Majuli Island in Assam on December 29

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Union Minister for Water Resources & River Development Nitin Gadkari will visit Assam on December 29 to lay the foundation stone of protection work of Majuli Island from floods and erosion and construction of the Brahmaputra Board Complex.
 
The Brahmaputra Board under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation was entrusted the work of protection of Majuli Island from floods and erosion in 2004.
 
Since then, the Board has completed execution of Immediate Measures, Phase-I and Emergent Works. About 22.08 sq.km of land has been reclaimed and secured by Brahmaputra Board during the period 2004 to 2016. Phase - II & III are on the verge of completion during 2017-18, an official press release said.
 
To address the issues of erosion in vulnerable reaches and reclaim more land by pro-siltation and other measures in the east-west reach length of about 80 km on south bank, a detailed project report (DPR) was formulated for “Protection of Majuli Island from flood and erosion of river Brahmaputra” as per the recommendations of the Standing Committee of Experts for Majuli Island and Technical Advisory Committee of Brahmaputra Board (TAC- BB).
 
An SFC of Rs 233.57 crore for the work has been approved by the Union Government. The Ministry of DoNER will fund an amount of Rs 207.00 crore under NLCPR mode. The work is under implementation for which the work order has been issued.
 
On the request of the Assam Government, Brahmaputra Board has approved the establishment of an office-cum-residential complex at Majuli. The complex will also include a godown and a skill development centre.
 
The Brahmaputra Board, in its meeting, decided that this work should be executed by NPCC Ltd., a PSU under this Ministry. Consequently, the work of construction of Brahmaputra Board office-cum-residential complex at Majuli has been assigned to NPCC Ltd. The work will be executed in a period of 24 months.
 
During 2016, Majuli was upgraded from a Civil Sub-Division to the status of a District. Protection of Majuli Island from the menace of floods and erosion by Brahmaputra River is thus one of the prime objectives of the State Government, with support from the Centre.
 
The average elevation of the Island is 87 m (at Bessamara) above mean sea level as against the High Flood Level of 88.32 m. The present area of Main Island is about 524 sq-km with a population of 1.68 lakh as per 2011 Census.
 
Majuli Island has been under severe threat of bank erosion by the flow of river Brahmaputra since the formation of the Island and particularly after the Assam earthquake of August 15, 1950.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Dhemaji region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale, shook the Dhemaji region of Assam today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 27.6°N and longitude 94.3°E, occurred at 1150 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Karbi Anglong region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale, was recorded in the Karbi Anglong region of Assam in the early hours of today.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.4°N and longitude 93.7°E, occurred at 0255 hours at a focal depth of 30 km, a bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) added.
 
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Naidu asks media to shun sensationalism and slanted reporting

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Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu has asked the media to avoid sensationalism and report news without colouring it with views.
 
Addressing a gathering after giving away Pratidin Achievers Awards 2017, instituted by Sadin Pratidin Group here yesterday, Mr Naidu said such awards will not only motivate the recipients to scale greater heights but also inspire others to excel in their respective fields.
 
“Conferring awards and lauding the achievements of individuals or organizations will create a competitive spirit and help in promoting excellence,” he added.
 
Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal were present at the ceremony. 
 
Mr Naidu complimented the Pratidin Group for instituting the awards to recognize the achievements of individuals from different professions. He said he was happy that the media group has not confined the awards to Assam alone but has conferred them upon achievers from across the North East.
 
 Assam and the other North Eastern States are known for their rich culture, traditions, literature, folk arts and the breathtaking scenic locales. Representing diverse fields, the awardees have not only done themselves proud but the entire North Eastern region and the country also with their achievements, he added.
 
The Vice-President also appealed to such media houses to conduct campaigns and competitions on issues such as ‘Swachh Bharat’ to promote awareness of cleanliness and sanitation.
 
Awareness should also be created on fighting various challenges confronting the nation such as growing atrocities on women, dangers of drug and alcohol addiction, casteism, religious fundamentalism, corruption, illiteracy and terrorism, he added.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in North Cachar Hills region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale, was recorded in the North Cachar Hills region of Assam in the early hours of today.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the  quake, which  had its epicentre at laitude  25.2°N and longitude 93.3°E, occurred at 0155 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
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6th International Tourism Mart in Guwahati from December 5-7

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The 6th International Tourism Mart (ITM) will be held in Guwahati, Assam from December 5-7.
 
Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi will inaugurate the Mart in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Minister of State for Tourism K J Alphons.
 
The Mart will put the spotlight on India’s “Act East Policy”, its blossoming ties with ASEAN and the larger East Asia region, home to the world’s rapidly growing economies, and India’s emerging tourism markets.
 
Besides deliberations on promotion of tourism in the North East Region, in general, keeping the objectives of the ''Act East Policy” in view, the panel discussions will also focus on promoting cultural ties, people-to-people contact with countries in the ASEAN region and providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region with other countries in the neighbourhood, thereby developing inter-regional tourism.
 
The ITM 2017 will also see an active participation by the Ministry of Development of North East Region (DONER) to synergize the process of development of tourism of the North East Region.
 
ITM is an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets. It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States. The event has been planned and scheduled to facilitate interaction between buyers, sellers, media, Government agencies and other stakeholders.
 
The North East Region of India comprising the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, is endowed with diverse tourist attractions and products. The varied topography of the region, its flora and fauna, the ethnic communities with their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, its festivals, arts and crafts, make it a holiday destination waiting to be explored.
 
Buyer and media delegates from around the world and from different regions of the country are participating in the Mart and will engage in one-to-one meetings with sellers from the North East Region. This will enable the tourism product suppliers from the region to reach out to international and domestic buyers, with the objective of promoting tourism to the region. 
 
A total of 76 foreign buyer delegates from over 29 countries are participating in the event. The countries are Australia, Bhutan, Brunei, Canada, China, Combodia, Cyprus, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, USA, UK, Vietnam, Turkey and South Korea.
 
Besides the foreign delegates, 50 domestic stakeholders in the tourism sector from other parts of the country and 86 sellers from the North Eastern States are participating in the Mart. Representatives of State Tourism Departments of these North East States will also be present to showcase their tourism destinations and to interact with the delegates.
 
An exhibition by State Tourism Departments from the North Eastern States including display of beautiful handicrafts and handlooms is also being organised to show case the tourism products of respective participating States.
 
The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis. The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
 
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GST Council prunes headings in 28% bracket to 50, cuts tax for restaurants to 5%

In the biggest rejig of the GST regime since it was launched on July 1 this year, the GST Council on Friday decided to prune the 224 tariff headings in the 28% tax bracket to only 50 tariff headings and reduced the tax for restaurants to 5 percent without input tax credit.

Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley addressing a press conference after the 23rd GST Council meeting, at Guwahati on November 10, 2017.
Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley addressing a press conference after the 23rd GST Council meeting, at Guwahati on November 10, 2017.
In the biggest rejig of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime since it was launched on July 1 this year, the GST Council today decided to prune the 224 tariff headings in the 28% tax bracket to only  50 tariff headings, including four headings which have been partially reduced to 18%.
 
At its meeting held here today, the Council also decided that all stand-alone restaurants irrespective of air conditioned or otherwise, will attract 5% GST without input tax credit (ITC). Food parcels (or takeaways) will also attract 5% GST without ITC.
 
Restaurants in hotel premises having room tariff of less than Rs 7500 per unit per day will attract GST of 5% without ITC. 
 
Restaurants in hotel premises having room tariff of Rs 7500 and above per unit per day (even for a single room) will attract GST of 18% with full ITC. Outdoor catering will continue to be at 18% with full ITC.
 
The decisions were announced by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who chaired the meeting, and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia at a press conference here this evening.
 
Mr. Jaitley said the Council had recommended changes in GST rates on a number of goods, so as to rationalise the rate structure with a view to minimise classification disputes. It has also recommended issuance of certain clarifications to address the grievance of trade on issues relating to GST rates and taxability of certain goods and services.
 
On the services side also, the Council recommended changes in GST rates to provide relief to aviation & handicraft sectors, apart from restaurants.  
 
The changes, which will become effective on November 15, have come at a time when, on the one  hand, the opposition Congress has made demonetisation and the allegedly ill-planned implementation of GST as one of its major elections plans in the crucial Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and, on the other, there have been widespread demand for changes in the GST structure from the trade and industry.
 
According to an official press release, the following are the major recommendations of the Council:
 
(I)      Pruning of list of 28% rated goods: 
 
The Council has recommended reduction in GST rate from 28% to 18% on goods falling in 178 headings at 4-digit level (including 4 tariff heading that are partially pruned). After these changes, only 50 items will attract GST rate of 28%.
 
 a)        Goods on which the Council has recommended reduction in GST rate from 28% to 18% include:
 
-- Wire, cables, insulated conductors, electrical insulators, electrical plugs, switches, sockets, fuses, relays, electrical connectors
-- Electrical boards, panels, consoles, cabinets etc for electric control or distribution
-- Particle/fibre boards and ply wood. Article of wood, wooden frame, paving block
-- Furniture, mattress, bedding and similar furnishing
-- Trunk, suitcase, vanity cases, brief cases, travelling bags and other hand bags, cases
-- Detergents, washing and cleaning preparations
-- Liquid or cream for washing the skin
-- Shampoos; Hair cream, Hair dyes (natural, herbal or synthetic) and similar other goods; henna powder or paste, not mixed with any other ingredient;
-- Pre-shave, shaving or after-shave preparations, personal deodorants, bath preparations, perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations, room deodorisers
-- Perfumes and toilet waters
-- Beauty or make-up preparations
-- Fans, pumps, compressors
-- Lamp and light fitting
-- Primary cell and primary batteries
-- Sanitary ware and parts thereof of all kind
-- Articles of plastic, floor covering, baths, shower, sinks, washbasins, seats, sanitary ware of plastic
-- Slabs of marbles and granite
-- Goods of marble and granite such as tiles
-- Ceramic tiles of all kinds
-- Miscellaneous articles such as vacuum flasks, lighters,
-- Wrist watches, clocks, watch movement, watch cases, straps, parts
-- Article of apparel & clothing accessories of leather, guts, furskin, artificial fur and other articles such as saddlery and harness for any animal
-- Articles of cutlery, stoves, cookers and similar non electric domestic appliances
-- Razor and razor blades
-- Multi-functional printers, cartridges
-- Office or desk equipment
-- Door, windows and frames of aluminium.
-- Articles of plaster such as board, sheet,
-- Articles of cement or concrete or stone and artificial stone,
-- Articles of asphalt or slate,
-- Articles of mica
-- Ceramic flooring blocks, pipes, conduit, pipe fitting
-- Wall paper and wall covering
-- Glass of all kinds and articles thereof such as mirror, safety glass, sheets, glassware
-- Electrical, electronic weighing machinery
-- Fire extinguishers and fire extinguishing charge
-- Fork lifts, lifting and handling equipment,
-- Bull dozers, excavators, loaders, road rollers, 
-- Earth moving and levelling machinery,
-- Escalators,
-- Cooling towers, pressure vessels, reactors
-- Crankshaft for sewing machine, tailor’s dummies, bearing housings, gears and gearing; ball or roller screws; gaskets
-- Electrical apparatus for radio and television broadcasting
-- Sound recording or reproducing apparatus
-- Signalling, safety or traffic control equipment for transports
-- Physical exercise equipment, festival and carnival equipment, swings, shooting galleries, roundabouts, gymnastic and athletic equipment
-- All musical instruments and their parts
-- Artificial flowers, foliage and artificial fruits
-- Explosive, anti-knocking preparation, fireworks
-- Cocoa butter, fat, oil powder,
-- Extract, essence ad concentrates of coffee, miscellaneous food preparations
-- Chocolates, Chewing gum / bubble gum
-- Malt extract and food preparations of flour, groats, meal, starch or malt extract
-- Waffles and wafers coated with chocolate or containing chocolate
-- Rubber tubes and miscellaneous articles of rubber
-- Goggles, binoculars, telescope,
-- Cinematographic cameras and projectors, image projector,
--  Microscope, specified laboratory equipment, specified scientific equipment such as for meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, geology
-- Solvent, thinners, hydraulic fluids, anti-freezing preparation
 
b)       Goods on which the Council has recommended reduction in GST rate from 28% to 12% are:
 
-- Wet grinders consisting of stone as grinder
-- Tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles
 
(II)        Other changes/rationalisation of GST rates on goods:
 
a)        18% to 12%
 
i.         Condensed milk
ii.         Refined sugar and sugar cubes
iii.         Pasta
iv.         Curry paste, mayonnaise and salad dressings, mixed condiments and mixed seasoning
v.         Diabetic food
vi.         Medicinal grade oxygen
vii.         Printing ink
viii.         Hand bags and shopping bags of jute and cotton
ix.         Hats (knitted or crocheted)
x.         Parts of specified agricultural, horticultural, forestry, harvesting or threshing machinery
xi.         Specified parts of sewing machine
xii.         Spectacles frames
xiii.         Furniture wholly made of bamboo or cane
 
b)     18% to 5%
 
i.            Puffed rice chikki, peanut chikki, sesame chikki, revdi, tilrevdi, khaza, kazuali, groundnut sweets gatta, kuliya
ii.            Flour of potatoes put up in unit container bearing a brand name
iii.            Chutney powder
iv.            Fly ash
v.            Sulphur recovered in refining of crude
vi.            Fly ash aggregate with 90% or more fly ash content
 
c)     12% to 5%
 
i.            Desiccated coconut
ii.            Narrow woven fabric including cotton newar [with no refund of unutilised input tax credit]
iii.            Idli, dosa batter
iv.            Finished leather, chamois and composition leather
v.            Coir cordage and ropes, jute twine, coir products
vi.            Fishing net and fishing hooks
vii.            Worn clothing
viii.            Fly ash brick
 
d)      5% to nil
 
i.            Guar meal
ii.            Hop cone (other than grounded, powdered or in pellet form)
iii.            Certain dried vegetables such as sweet potatoes, maniac
iv.            Unworked coconut shell
v.            Fish frozen or dried (not put up in unit container bearing a brand name)
vi.            Khandsari sugar
 
e)                Miscellaneous
 
i.            GST rates on aircraft engines from 28%/18% to 5%, aircraft tyres from 28% to 5% and aircraft seats from 28% to 5%.
ii.            GST rate on bangles of lac/shellac from 3% GST rate to Nil.
 
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III)Exemption from IGST/GST in certain specified cases:
 
i.            Exemption from IGST on imports of lifesaving medicine supplied free of cost by overseas supplier for patients, subject to certification by DGHS of Centre or State and certain other conditions
ii.            Exemption from IGST on imports of goods (other than motor vehicles) under a lease agreement if IGST is paid on the lease amount.
iii.            To extend IGST exemption presently applicable to skimmed milk powder or concentrated milk, when supplied to distinct person under section 25(4) for use in production of milk for distribution through dairy cooperatives to where such milk is distributed through companies registered under the Companies Act.
iv.            Exemption from IGST on imports of specified goods by a sports person of outstanding eminence, subject to specified conditions
v.            Exemption from GST on specified goods, such as scientific or technical instruments, software, prototype supplied to public funded research institution or a university or IISc, or IITs or NIT.
vi.            Coverage of more items, such as temporary import of professional equipment by accredited press persons visiting India to cover certain events, broadcasting equipments, sports items, testing equipment, under ATA carnet system. These goods are to be re-exported after the specified use is over.
 
(IV) Other changes for simplification and harmonisation or clarification of issues
 
i.            To clarify that inter-state movement of goods like rigs, tools, spares and goods on wheel like cranes, not being in the course of furtherance of supply of such goods, does not constitute a supply. This clarification gives major compliance relief to industry as there are frequent inter-state movement of such kind in the course of providing services to customers or for the purposes of getting such goods repaired or refurbished or for any self-use.  Service provided using such goods would in any case attract applicable tax.
ii.            To prescribe that GST on supply of raw cotton by agriculturist will be liable to be paid by the recipient of such supply under reverse charge.
iii.            Supply of e-waste attracts 5% GST rate. Concerned notification to be amended to make it amply clear that this rate applies only to e-waste discarded as waste by the consumer or bulk consumer.
 
 (V)             Changes relating to GST rates on certain services
 
 (A)        Exemptions / Changes in GST Rates / ITC Eligibility Criteria
 
i.            All stand-alone restaurants irrespective of air conditioned or otherwise, will attract 5% without ITC. Food parcels (or takeaways) will also attract 5% GST without ITC.
ii.            Restaurants in hotel premises having room tariff of less than Rs 7500 per unit per day will attract GST of 5% without ITC.
iii.            Restaurants in hotel premises having room tariff of Rs 7500 and above per unit per day (even for a single room) will attract GST of 18% with full ITC.
iv.            Outdoor catering will continue to be at 18% with full ITC.
v.            GST on services by way of admission to "protected monuments" to be exempted.
vi.            GST rate on job work services in relation to manufacture of those handicraft goods in respect of which the casual taxable person has been exempted from obtaining registration, to be reduced to 5% with full input tax credit. 
 
(B)    Rationalization of certain exemption entries
 
i.            The existing exemption entries with respect to services provided by Fair Price Shops to the Central Government, State Governments or Union Territories by way of sale of food grains, kerosene, sugar, edible oil, etc. under Public Distribution System (PDS) against consideration in the form of commission or margin, is being rationalized so as to remove ambiguity regarding list of items and the category of recipients to whom the exemption is available.
ii.            In order to maintain consistency, entry at item (vi) of Sr. No.3 of notification No. 11/2017-CT(R) will be aligned with the entries at items (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v) of SI.No.3. [The word “services” in entry (vi) will be replaced with "Composite supply of Works contract as defined in clause 119 of Section 2 of CGST Act, 2017"].
iii.            In order to obviate dispute and litigation, it is proposed that irrespective of whether permanent transfer of Intellectual Property is a supply of goods or service:
 
               (i) permanent transfer of Intellectual Property other than Information Technology software attracts GST at the rate of 12%; and
               (ii) permanent transfer of Intellectual Property in respect of Information Technology software attracts GST at the rate of 18%.
 
(C)    Clarifications
 
i.            It is being clarified that credit of GST paid on aircraft engines, parts & accessories will be available for discharging GST on inter–state supply of such aircraft engines, parts & accessories by way of inter-state stock transfers between distinct persons as specified in section 25 of the CGST Act.
ii.            A circular will be issued clarifying that processed products such as tea (i.e. black tea, white tea etc.), processed coffee beans or powder, pulses (de-husked or split), jaggery, processed spices, processed dry fruits & cashew nuts etc. fall outside the definition of agricultural produce given in notification No. 11/2017-CT(R) and 12/2017-CT(R) and therefore the exemption from GST is not available to their loading, packing, warehousing etc.
iii.            A suitable clarification will be issued that (i) services provided to the Central Government, State Government, Union territory under any insurance scheme for which total premium is paid by the Central Government, State Government, Union territory are exempt from GST under Sl. No. 40 of notification No. 12/2017-Central Tax (Rate);  (ii) services provided by State Government by way of general insurance (managed by government) to employees of the State government/ Police personnel, employees of Electricity Department or students are exempt vide entry 6 of notification No. 12/2017-CT(R) which exempts Services by Central Government, State Government, Union territory or local authority to individuals.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Nagaon region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, was recorded in the Nagaon region of Assam in the early hours of today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.5 N and longitude 92.6 E, occurred at 0115 hours today at a focal depth of 31 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Sushma Swaraj holds talks with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held bilateral talks with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan under the framework of the Joint Ministerial Committee here yesterday.
 
A press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said the two sides discussed a wide range of bilateral issues of shared interests and mutual concerns.
 
In particular, they reviewed the upcoming high level exchanges, commemoration of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and 25 years of India-ASEAN dialogue partnership, cooperation in political, defence and security fields, trade and investment, cooperation in tourism and culture, connectivity, and other aspects of the partnership. 
 
They also exchanged views on issues of mutual interest at regional and multilateral levels, including cooperation at UN and International organisations. 
 
Ms Swaraj also hosted a lunch in honour of the visiting dignitary and his delegation. 
 
Dr. Balakrishnan, who arrived here yesterday, is due to visit Guwahati in Assam today. He will meet Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to launch a Skill Development Centre being set up with Singapore's assistance under the Prime Minister's Skill India Initiative.
 
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World Bank to provide $ 200 million loan for Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project

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The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a $200 million loan agreement for the Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project. 
 
An official press release said the project would support the Government of Assam to facilitate agri-business investments, increase agriculture productivity and market access, and enable small farm holders produce crops that are resilient to recurrent floods or droughts in the state. 
 
The agreement for the project was signed by Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India; Mr. Ravi Kota, Principal Secretary, Finance, Government of Assam, on behalf of the Government of Assam; and Mr. Hisham Abdo, Operations Manager, World Bank India, on behalf of the World Bank. 
 
Mr Khare said that Assam is simplifying several regulatory procedures related to doing business, agricultural marketing, and fisheries amongst others. He said that the project will help the state increase agricultural productivity by strengthening the farming systems, raise private sector investments to promote agri-enterprises which will create better job opportunities for the youth in the state. 
 
The project will be implemented in over 16 Districts of Assam. Over 500,000 farming households will directly benefit from the project. At least 30 percent women are expected to participate in project activities. Specific focus will be given to women-led enterprises and their participation in the decision-making process of farmer producer organizations. 
 
Mr. Abdo said the Government of Assam aims to double farm incomes in the State and transform the agricultural sector into a stable source of growth and economic development. He said that this project will serve as the nucleus to fulfill the State’s much larger vision of an agriculture-based rural transformation. 
 
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The focus on geographic clustering of the production base for certain commodities will help agri-enterprises take advantage of existing and future market opportunities that they may not necessarily achieve alone. The cluster approach will allow for combining efforts, making use of synergies, and pooling resources to increase the competitive advantage of these products, while at the same time share the risks involved in introducing improved products or entering previously untapped markets. Successful clusters will also continuously innovate and adapt ‘best practices’ across agricultural value chains. 
 
Mr. Manivannan Pathy, Senior Agricultural Specialist and World Bank’s Team Leader for the project said that the value addition and market led production systems supported through the project are expected to play a vital role in enhancing the competitiveness of the agriculture sector. He said that this will be done by facilitating policy reforms, fostering private-public dialogue and catalyzing a wider private sector development in the agribusiness ecosystem of Assam. 
 
Another key component of the project will be to promote market-led production that can deal with the vagaries of climate change. Assam’s agriculture sector is highly vulnerable to climate variability and the state experiences recurrent floods and droughts. Currently, more than 50 percent of the paddy growing areas are prone to flooding, submergence and drought. A market-led production system will take advantage of the rapidly changing market, introduce crops that are resilient to climate change, increase production and manage risks for farmers. 
 
The $200 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 7-year grace period, and a maturity of 16.5 years, the release added.
 
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Sitharaman reviews operational preparedness in the North-East

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reviewed the operational preparedness of the armed forces in the North-East yesterday.
 
This was Ms Sitharaman’s maiden visit to the Eastern Command as Defence Minister. She was accompanied by Vice-Chief of the Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand and GOC-in-C Eastern Command Lt Gen Abhay Krishna.
 
She was received at Tezpur Airforce Station by GOC Gajraj Corps Lt Gen AS Bedi and other senior dignitaries of the Army and the Air Force.
 
The visit, which is part of her familiarisation with all the formations of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF), came close on the heels of a visit to Northern Command recently and to Sikkim on October 7.
 
At the outset, the Defence Minister extended her good wishes to the Air Warriors on the occasion of 85th Air Force Day anniversary as she interacted with them at the strategically important Eastern airbase of Tezpur.
 
She also reviewed the operational readiness of the airbase, seeing the Sukhoi fighter aircraft and other IAF assets at first-hand.
 
Thereafter, Ms Sitharaman visited the Gajraj Corps HQ where she was briefed by Lt Gen Bedi on the overall security situation in Assam and the Kameng Sector of Arunachal Pradesh besides the operational preparedness of the corps.
 
The Minister reiterated the Government’s resolve to give further impetus to development in the border areas.
 
She subsequently visited Solmara Military Station, Tezpur where she interacted with the officers and jawans over a cup of tea.
 
She appreciated the high standards of military discipline and preparedness of the army men and their excellent performance in the difficult terrain and challenging environment in which they are operating.
 
She also praised them for their steadfast commitment and their high morale in facing the diverse challenges thrown up by the dynamic security environment.
 
The Minister exhorted the troops to continue with the same zeal and sense of pride and honour showing due respect to human rights.
 
She expressed satisfaction at the level of preparedness of the forces and extended her greetings to the troops for a happy Diwali before her departure for Delhi.
 
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Banwarilal Purohit appointed Governor of Tamil Nadu, Jagdish Mukhi moves to Assam

Banwarilal Purohit
Banwarilal Purohit
The President today appointed Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit as the new Governor of Tamil Nadu.
 
Mr. Purohit will be suceeded as Governor of Assam by Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, who is the Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
 
Brig. (Dr.) B. D. Mishra (Retd.)  has been appointed as the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh while Mr. Satya Pal Malik will be the new Governor of Bihar and Mr. Ganga Prasad the Governor of Meghalaya.
 
The President has also appointed for Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral (Retd.) Devendra Kumar Joshi as the new Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in place of Prof. Mukhi.
 
The appointments will be with effect from the dates the incumbents assume charge of their respective offices, the communique said.
 
Maharashtra Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao has been discharging the functions of the Governor of Tamil Nadu, in addition to his own duties, since August 31, 2016 after Mr. K. Rosaiah completed his tenure on August 30.
 
Admiral Joshi, 63, had resigned as Chief of the Naval Staff on February 26, 2014, taking moral responsibility for a series of accidents and incidents which took place in the preceding few months and caused great embarassment for the Navy.
 
Mr. Purohit, 77, who was appointed Governor of Assam on August 17, 2016, is a former member of the Lok Sabha, having been elected from Nagpur first as a Congress candidate in 1984 and 1989 and later as a member of the BJP in 1996.
 
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Before that, he was elected as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in 1978 as served as a minister in the state government in 1982-83. 
 
Prof. Mukhi, 74, used to be a BJP leader in Delhi. He had served as Minister for Finance, Planning, Excise and Taxation and Higher Education in the Delhi government. He has also worked as a teacher at the Shahid Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi. He was elected from the Janakpuri constituency to the Delhi Assembly for seven consecutive terms since 1980 but lost in the 2014 elections.
 
Brig. (Retd.) Mishra, 78, served during the 1962 war with China, the 1971 war that saw the liberation of Bangladesh and in the operations in Sri Lanka in 1987-88. He has also served as a Commander of the National Security Guard (NSG) and was involved in the successful rescue operation during the Indian Airline plane hijacking at Amritsar in 1993.
 
Mr. Malik, 64, is a former member of the Lok Sabha from Aligarh constituency in Uttar Pradesh (1989-91), while Mr. Prasad has served as a Member of the Bihar Legislative Council.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Nagaon region of Assam

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale, was recorded in the Nagaon region of Assam this evening.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 26.5°N and longitude 92.8°E, occurred at 1748 hours at a focal depth of 31 km.
 
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Combination therapy may improve treatment of blood cancer

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A group of Indian scientists has identified a new way to re-sensitise cells that become resistant to chemotherapy in some blood cancer patients.
 
Blood cancer or Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) occurs when a subset of blood cells start dividing in an unregulated manner ultimately resulting in bone marrow failure. A drug –Imatinib Mesylate (IM) - is used to treat this cancer. But, oncologists are seeing growing number of cases of resistance to this drug, resulting in recurrence of the cancer.
 
Typically, Imatinib disrupts the activity of BCR-ABL, an abnormal protein which is generated due to certain chromosome level changes. This protein promotes unregulated proliferation of blood cells. In many cases, however, cancer cells become unresponsive to the drug leading to treatment failure or recurrence. Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati have sought to address this problem. Results of their study have been published in journal Science Reports.
 
“Our investigation shows that some key factors are responsible for such resistance which is in fact mediated by neighbouring non-cancerous cells. By blocking these molecules, the resistant cancer cells can be killed,” explained Dr Bithiah Grace Jaganathan, senior researcher at IIT Guwahati.
 
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The research team has demonstrated in laboratory cell-based studies that by a combined approach - preventing adhesion of cancer cells with neighbouring healthy cells and inhibiting certain biological pathways - resistant cells can be re-sensitized to drugs. “Such an approach will help in treating patients who have become unresponsive to themainline cancer drug,” hopes Dr Jaganathan.
 
The researchers feel the study could help in effective treatment management as well. The prevention of adhesion between cancer cell and healthy cells during early phase of a patient’s treatment can eliminate development of drug resistance, while treatment with certain molecules to block cancer propagating biological pathways can sensitize the resistant cells thereby ensuring complete elimination of CML and prevention of recurrence. The study provides a promising lead for further evaluation.
 
Apart from Dr. Jaganathan, the research team included Atul Kumar and Jina Bhattacharyya from IIT, Guwahati and Guwahati Medial College. The work was funded by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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SpiceJet adds Dibrugarh as its 50th destination

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Low-cost carrier SpiceJet today said it would launch daily direct flights on the Silchar-Guwahati-Dibrugarh route from October 3.
 
SpiceJet is the first airline to offer to daily direct air connectivity between Guwahati and Dibrugarh, its 50th destination.
 
The announcement of the new flight was made by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at a function here today.
 
"With the launch of the new service, SpiceJet will put Dibrugarh on the pan India aviation map through seamless onward connections on its network. This is in perfect sync with the airline’s agenda to connect smaller cities and it further strengthens SpiceJet’s focus on North-East India. SpiceJet will be operating its Bombardier Q400 aircrafts on the said routes," a press release from the airline said.
 
Mr. Sonowal said,  "We thank SpiceJet and especially Mr Ajay Singh for accepting our request and providing air connectivity to the citizens of Assam and North East. I hope that this service continues unabated. I had personally requested Mr Singh to look into the gaps in air connectivity left by other operators and I am happy to share that the same was looked into with quite urgency."
 
Mr. Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet said, “SpiceJet remains committed to enhancing connectivity to the North East and we are extremely pleased to add Dibrugarh to our network."
 
"This flight has been especially started because of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam Shri Sarbananda Sonowal. We will continue to work with him and with all the governments in the North East to ensure prosperity for this incredibly important part of our country," he added.
 
With the new flights SpiceJet will now operate a total of 26 flights in and out of North East and a total of eight flights within the region.
 
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Implantable silk mat developed to speed up bone healing

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The natural process of healing bone joint injuries is slow. Now scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have developed an implantable mat that will help bone joint injuries to heal faster. The mat is made of a layer of silk fabricated onto bioglass and can be implanted at the site of injury.
 
A bone joint is an area where adjacent hard and rigid bones are joined to one another by cartilage tissue. Cartilage is flexible and consists of specialized cells called chondrocytes that produce a protein, collagen, which helps bone joint injuries to heal naturally.
 
“We isolated natural silk from silk worms and made nanofibrous mats that aid in treating bone joint defects owing to their special properties. They have a porous sponge like structure that helps chondrocyte cells to attach and grow. The cells produce more collagen at the site of bone joint injury, which helps to heal the injury faster,” explained Biman Mandal, professor at the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering of IIT Guwahati, who led the study. The research has appeared in journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.
 
Doctors also use autologous chondrocyte implantation in which chondrocyte cells from injured person are extracted, cultured in lab, multiplied, and then transplanted back to the site of injury. This method has high success rate but is expensive. Knee replacement surgery is another option but not affordable by many.
 
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Researchers now plan animal trials in which silk mats will be implanted in goats and sheep to see if it helps to enhance the pace of healing injured joints and to evaluate safety. “If the results are promising, then we will go for human trials,” Mandal told India Science Wire.
 
Amit K Dinda, professor at the Department of Pathology of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, who is not connected to the study, commented that while the method appears to be low cost, there will be “greater clarity only after pre-clinical animal studies to test biocompatibility, toxicity, local tissue reaction at the site of implantation and process of sterilization.” All these steps are necessary to obtain regulatory approval for human use.
 
The study was done in collaboration with the University College London and was funded by the Department of Science and Technology-UK India Education and Research Initiative (DST-UKIERI) and Department of Biotechnology. The team included Joseph Christakiran, Philip JT Reardon, Rocktotpal Konwarh, Jonathan C Knowles, and Biman B Mandal.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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