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.

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.
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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Australian tourist falls to death from Assam hotel

An Australian tourist fell to his death from a hotel in Assam capital Guwahati, police said on Sunday.
William Marinus fell from the third floor of the hotel around 11.20 p.m. on Saturday.
"Four Australians and an Indian, including William, were staying in our hotel. They checked in around 3 p.m. on Saturday after returning from Shillong," said a hotel staff.
"They were having a room party when we got a call around 11.20 about an accident. Hotel staff called emergency service personnel, who said William had already died."
Police said that a case of unnatural death was registered and an investigation launched to find out the circumstances leading to his death.
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CCEA okays expansion, upgrading of integrated terminals at Chennai, Guwahati, Lucknow airports

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for the expansion and upgrading of integrated terminals at Chennai, Guwahati and Lucknow Airports, at a cost of Rs 2467 crore, Rs 1383 crore and Rs 1232 crore, respectively.
An official press release said the new integrated terminal at Lucknow airport will have an area of 88,000 sq.m, along with the existing terminal building with 16292 sq.m, with an annual capacity to handle 2.6 million international and 11 million domestic passengers.
The new terminal building will cater to passenger growth up to the year 2030-31, the release said.
Total built-up area of the proposed terminal building at Chennai airport, including the present proposal measuring 197000 sq.m, will be 336000 sq.m with an annual capacity to handle 35 million passengers per annum (MPPA). The new terminal building incorporates green building features with an aim to achieve GRIHA-4 Star rating. The building will cater to the requirement of passenger growth up to the year 2026-27, it said.
The new terminal building at Guwahati airport will have an area of 102500 sqm to handle combined annual capacity (old and new terminals) of 9 MPPA. The building would cater to the requirement of passenger growth up to the year 2026-27. This will encourage investment and tourism in North East Region with thrust on ‘Act East’ Policy, it said.
According to the release, India has witnessed phenomenal growth rate in the range of 18 to 20% in the last three years in the aviation sector. According to IATA Traffic Study, India, at 7th position as of now, is likely to take the 3rd position by 2023-24 by overtaking the UK, Japan, Spain and Germany. The current rate of the growth in the domestic aviation sector of India is the highest globally.
To meet the growing demand, the Government has launched a new initiative of NABH Nirman (NextGen Airports for Bharat), wherein systems and processes are geared to provide enhanced airport capacity to handle 1 billion trips in the next 10 to 15 years.
Airport capacity upgrading and expansion require both the development of new greenfield airports and expansion of existing brownfield airports and same will be funded by the Indian private sector and Airports Authority of India by leveraging its balance sheet.
Airports Authority of India is in the process of implementing plans for development of infrastructure to meet growing aviation demand by creating additional capacity at AAI Airports including Chennai, Guwahati, Lucknow, Agartala, Patna, Srinagar, Pune, Trichy, Vijayawada, Port Blair, Jaipur, Mangalore, Dehradun, Jabalpur, Kolhapur, Goa, Rupsi, Leh, Calicut, Imphal, Varanasi and Bhubaneswar with a capex of Rs 20,178 crore in the next 4 to 5 years.
AAI has already awarded the works at Agartala, Calicut and Port Blair towards construction of new state-of-the-art integrated terminals and is in the process of awarding the works for upgrading and expansion of capacity at Chennai, Lucknow and Guwahati Airports.
Similarly, upgrading of airside capacity by way of strengthening and extension of runways, construction of new apron bays has been taken up to cater to the demand from airline operators who have placed confirmed orders for almost 900 aircraft in the coming 10 years.
Under New Greenfield Airport Policy, many major cities are expected to have multiple airports. The government has granted approval for Noida International Airport (Jewar), Mopa (Goa), Purandar Airport (Pune), Bhogapuram Airport (Visakhapatnam), Dholera Airport (Ahmedabad) and Hirasar Airport (Rajkot).
Capex outlay of Rs 50,000 crore is expected in the development of New Greenfield Airports, wherein approval of Government of India has been given. In the private sector also, upgrading and expansion are in the offing for Delhi and Bengaluru, Hyderabad Airports at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore in the next five years, the release added.
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Modi says North-East at heart of India's Act East Policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asserted that the North-East was at the heart of India's Act East Policy, which envisions increased people-to-people contacts, trade ties and other relations with ASEAN countries.

North East is at heart of Act East Policy: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asserted that the North-East was at the heart of India's Act East Policy, which envisions increased people-to-people contacts, trade ties and other relations with ASEAN countries.
Inaugurating Advantage Assam - Global Investors Summit 2018 here, he recalled the recent ASEAN India Commemorative Summit celebrating 25 years of partnership between ASEAN and India. 
He added that ties between India and the ASEAN countries go back thousands of years. He said it was a privilege for India to host the heads of state or government of 10 ASEAN countries as honoured guests at the Republic Day function in New Delhi on January 26.
Mr. Modi said India's growth story would be further energised through balanced and fast-paced growth of the North-Eastern region. He said all the schemes of the Union Government are oriented towards bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of the people. He said the aim is to improve "Ease of Living".
The Prime Minister said that the "Ayushman Bharat" scheme announced in the Union Budget on February 1 is the largest scheme of its kind in the world. He said this healthcare scheme would benefit about 45 to 50 crore people. He also mentioned other steps that had been taken by the Union Government for healthcare for the poor.
Mr. Modi said the Government was working towards the target of doubling farmers' incomes, by lowering input costs and enabling appropriate price for their produce. He outlined other steps being taken by the Union Government for the welfare of farmers.
He mentioned the steps taken to provide affordable housing to people. He spoke of the Ujala Yojana for distribution of LED bulbs, which is resulting in significant savings on household electricity bills. He mentioned the restructuring of the National Bamboo Mission, which he said, is especially significant for the North-East.
The Prime Minister said that a revamp of administrative structures within the Union Government has greatly speeded up the implementation of projects.
He spoke of steps taken for providing collateral free loans to entrepreneurs, under the Mudra Yojana. He spoke of steps taken in the Union Budget to provide tax relief to MSMEs.
Mr. Modi reiterated the commitment of the Union Government to curb corruption and black money. He said Government had taken up many path breaking economic reforms in last three years, which have simplified procedures for doing business. It is a result of these reforms that India today ranks 100 among 190 countries in the Doing Business Report of the World Bank, after climbing up 42 ranks, he added.
Quoting the great Assamese musician Bhupen Hazarika, the Prime Minister said it is our collective responsibility to achieve the vision and dreams of our freedom fighters, and create a New India by 2022.
He outlined the work done to create new transportation infrastructure in the North-East. He congratulated Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for creating a business friendly and development friendly environment in Assam.
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MoU signed for Twin Tower Trade Centre in Guwahati

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed for a Twin Tower Trade Centre between Assam Government and the National Building Construction Corporation here today.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep S Puri said it was part of the Government's “Act East Policy” to elevate and harness the strengths of North-East India and reduce the isolation of the region by improving all-round connectivity and civic infrastructure. 
The Union Government has planned an investment to the tune of approximately Rs. 45,000 crore for the development of India's North-Eastern regions bordering China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. 
Mr. Puri pointed out that Guwahati is one of the 100 smart cities chosen in a determined bid to recast the urban landscape of the country. It is being established as a Regional Hub for North East India and a world-class city by anchoring and reorienting it towards its natural assets. The proposed Twin Tower Trade Centre will definitively add to this transformational plan, he said.
“I am truly excited by the prospects and possibilities this trade centre will generate once established and made operational, by connecting us with South East Nations and being a major trading hub thereby increasing economic interlinkages,” he added.
“I do realize, that a vision can only be realized when we have the determination to do our very best, take the right decisions and pursue a mix of policies that create the most appropriate environment to facilitate the realisation of that vision. 
“I am aware that NBCC, which comes under my Ministry, is fully equipped with technology, technical capacity, design and intuition to implement this illustrious project and shall proactively work along the lines of sustainable and quality development and deliver the project to Assam on schedule,” he added.
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Naidu asks media to shun sensationalism and slanted reporting

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.

6th International Tourism Mart in Guwahati from December 5-7

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.

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.
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.

Sushma Swaraj holds talks with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

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.

Sitharaman reviews operational preparedness in the North-East

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.

Combination therapy may improve treatment of blood cancer

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.
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)

SpiceJet adds Dibrugarh as its 50th destination

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.

Implantable silk mat developed to speed up bone healing

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.
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)

Neolithic artefacts of Northeast are 2700 years old: Study

For the first time, the age of the artefacts of Neolithic era recovered from two important sites in northeast India has been unraveled. Indian scientists have found the age using the latest technique of optically stimulated luminescence dating.
‘It is now confirmed that the corded pottery and polished stone tools that were recovered during excavations in Daojali Hading in Dima Haso district of Assam in 1961 are 2, 700 years old and those recovered from Gawak Abri in Garo Hills of Meghalaya in 1999 are 2,300 years old," says Dr. Sukanya Sharma of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati. She and her colleague, Pankaj Singh had conducted the study.
The study was conducted on an experimental basis with the new technique of optically simulated luminescence dating. The age of the sites was found to be well matched with the radio-carbon dates from other Neolithic sites of the region.
The excavation site at Daojali Hading occupies an important place in the archaeological history of India as the first evidence of an Eastern Asiatic Neolithic complex of double-shouldered Celts and cord-marked pottery in India was reported from there. The discovery had put Northeast India on the Neolithic map of the world for the first time. Howeve,r the precise age of the artefacts was not known.
The antiquity of the state was hypothetically stated to be of the "late Neolithic phase". Now, with the dating of the artefacts, this hypothesis has been proved and its antiquity has been established.
The dating of the Gawak Abri site in Garo Hills is also significant as Garo Hills has the highest density of prehistoric sites in North East India.
With the new finding of the age of the two sites, it is confirmed that human beings, with the capacity to make pottery and polished stone tools were present in the north east India over two thousand years ago.
The researchers have published their study in the latest issue of science journal, Current Science.
(India Science Wire)

Former Union Minister Santosh Mohan Dev passes away in Silchar

Santosh Mohan Dev
Santosh Mohan Dev
Former Union Minister and veteran Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev, who was a heavyweight in the party and the Government in the 1980s and 1990s, passed away at a hospital in Silchar, Assam this morning.
He was 83. He is survived by his wife and four daughters, including Ms. Sushmita Dev, a Congress member of the Lok Sabha from Silchar.
"Nothing could have prepared me for this moment. I lost him at 6.06 am today. Thank you everyone for your prayers, your love for him," Ms. Dev said on microblogging site Twitter.
Born on April 1, 1934, Mr. Dev had a degree in Commerce from the Gurucharan College, Silchar and an MBA from the Welsh College of Advanced Technology and Commerce, Cardiff, United Kingdom.
Starting out in public life as the Chairman of the Municipal Board in Silchar, Mr. Dev was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1980 and was re-elected six times in the years that followed. Of his seven terms in the Lok Sabha, he represented Silchar five times and was elected from Tripura twice.
He served as Union Minister of State for Tourism and Communications from October 1986 to February 1988, Minister of State for defence from February 1988 to June 1988 and Minister of State for Home Affairs from June 1988 to December 1989.
He was Union Minister of State for Steel with  independent charge from June 1991 to May 1996 in the P V Narasimha Rao Government.
In the first term of the Manmohan Singh government, he served as Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, with independent charge, from May 23, 2004 to November 17, 2005. He was elevated to Cabinet Rank and put in charge of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises from November 18, 2005.
He lost to Mr. Kabindra Purkayastha of the BJP in the 2009 elections for the 15th Lok Sabha.
Among other things, Mr. Dev was associated with sports and was Vice-President of the Assam Olympic Association and President of the Delhi Soccer Association. He was part of the Organising Committee of the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. He was a certified and professionally qualfied football referee.
Mr. Dev was a third generation Congressman. His father was one of the first legislators in independent India and his grandfather had played an active part in the freedom struggle was was a member of the first Silchar Municipal Council in 1913.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Mr. Dev's passing away. "Saddened by the passing away of Shri Santosh Mohan Dev. He was veteran political leader who worked extensively for welfare of people," he said on Twitter.
"My thoughts are with the family and supporters of Shri Santosh Mohan Dev in this hour of grief," he added.
Congress President Sonia also condoled Mr. Dev's death and expressed her deepest condolences to his family.
She noted that, in a political career spanning five decades, Mr. Dev held numerous crucial political assignments in the Congress party and in the Government including that of a Union Cabinet Minister.
"His immense contribution to build the party in the Northeast, right from the grassroots level would always be remembered, she said. His death is an irreparable loss to the nation," she said, expressing her solidarity with his family and supporters, particularly Congress MP Sushmita Dev.

Modi to review flood situation in North-Eastern States tomorrow

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Guwahati tomorrow where he will chair a series of high-level meetings to review the flood situation and the relief operations in the North-Eastern States, particularly Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.
Chief Ministers and senior officials from these States are expected to be present at the meetings, an official press release added.

Inter-Ministerial Central team calls on Assam CM after assessing flood situation

A seven-member Inter-Ministerial team from theCentral Government is presently on a visit to Assam to assess the damage caused by recent floods in the state.
The team is led by the Joint Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs V. Shashank Shekhar. The team is visiting Assam following directions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his meeting with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on July 18 in the national capital.
The Inter Ministerial team called on the Chief Minister here yesterday and apprised him about the findings of their visit to the flood-affected districts.
Mr Shekhar informed the Chief Minister that they personally saw the damages and the distress and migration of the flood-hit people. He mentioned that the teams were divided into two groups and visited the flood- hit Brahmaputra and Barak valley districts.
As part of their on-the-spot-assessment, the teams interacted with the affected people and respective district administrations to find out the intensity of damage caused by the flood, he informed.
Mr Sonowal said that most of the embankments which were constructed as a safeguard to rural economy and habitations had already outlived their life.
He said the team that a proposal had already been submitted to the Government of India to take up ‘Prime Minister’s Special Programme for Flood and Erosion Control’ for developing embankments of the state as road-cum-embankments stretching 5,000 km.
The Chief Minister said once the 5000 km stretch is converted into road-cum-embankments, this would help rural people in terms of connectivity and will benefit the rural economy as well as tourism. This initiative would also facilitate implementation of PMGSY to connect every village in the state. The Chief Minister also referred to the issue of resettlement of people who became homeless and landless due to flood.
Considering the gravity of the situation and the intensity of flood damage in Assam, Mr Shekhar informed the Chief Minister that the team would submit their report at the earliest to the Central Government so that fund for tackling the flood related issues could be released expeditiously.
The team visited Biswanath, Lakhimpur, Majuli, Barpeta, Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts of Assam for on-the-spot-assessment of flood damage.

DAE to take over Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute in Goa

The Union Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal for the taking over of the Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute at Guwahati in Assam by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), with the administrative control being managed by the Tata Memorial Centre.
An official press release said the decision was aimed at augmenting cancer treatment facilities in the North-East.
The Cabinet meeting also gave the green light for the creation of 166 posts in medical, paramedical and support positions, it said.
The decision comes in the wake of the increasing instances of cancer, limited cancer treatment facilities and the need for a hospital support to carry out further research in North Eastern Region.
The approximate non-recurring expenditure for the strengthening of the institute is estimated at Rs. 150 crore and annual recurring expenditure is estimated at Rs. 45- 50 crore.
The Borooah Cancer Institute was established by a voluntary organisation in 1974 with the aim and objective of the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the North Eastern region. Assam Government took over the institute with all its assets and liabilities in 1986 and entered into a tripartite agreement with the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and North Eastern Council for the management of the institute. The institute at present is a 209-bed hospital with an eight-bed intensive care unit (ICU).
The Chief Minister of Assam in October 2013 had proposed that DAE should take over the institute to develop it as a centre of excellence for cancer treatment, education and research for the entire North East.

Cabinet approves setting up of new AIIMS in Kamrup, Assam

The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for the establishment of a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Kamrup (North Guwahati Revenue circle) in Assam.
The cost of the project is Rs. 1123 crore and it will be set up under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), an official press release said.
The new AIIMS will be completed in a period of 48 months from the zero date (the date of the approval of the Union Government), broadly comprising a pre-construction phase of 15 months, a construction phase of 30 months and stabilisation/commissioning phase of three months.
The institution will consist of a hospital with a capacity of 750 beds, trauma centre facilities, a medical college with an intake of 100 MBBS students per year, a nursing college with an intake of 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) students per year, residential complexes and allied facilities/services, broadly on the pattern of AIIMS, New Delhi.
The hospital will have 22 Specialty/Super-Specialty Departments including 16 Operation Theaters. It will also have an AYUSH department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in the traditional systems of medicine.
"The establishment of the new AIIMS will serve the dual purpose of providing super speciality health care to the population. It will also help create a large pool of doctors and other health workers in this region that can be available for primary and secondary level institutions/facilities being created under National Health Mission (NHM)," the release said.
Under this scheme, AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) have been sanctioned in 2015 and two AIIMS have been sanctioned at Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016.

CCEA clears initiation of process of disinvestment of three ITDC properties

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave the go-ahead for the initiation of the process of disinvestment of three hotels of the public sector India Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. (ITDC).
An official press release said that, in the first stage of the disinvestment process, three hotels have been taken up for disinvestment -- Hotel Lake View Ashok, Bhopal; Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok, Guwahati; and Hotel Bharatpur Ashok, Bharatpur. 
In all three cases, the hotels / properties are being given back to the concerned States.
In the case of Bhopal and Guwahati, ITDC is divesting its share of 51% in the joint venture company formed for operation of the hotels whereas in the case of Bharatpur, the unit, which was only managed by ITDC, is being returned to the State Government. 
The release said the decision on disinvestment has been made keeping in view the principle that running and managing hotels on professional lines is not the work of the Government or its entities. Further, there has been considerable development in the hospitality sector in the country in past years, with world class hotels and all leading international chains of hotels present in the country and providing services and facilities of highest standards. 
As part of the disinvestment policy, it has been decided to lease/sub-lease the hotels / properties jointly with the concerned States or return the properties to the States, after fair valuation. The States would then have the option to upgrade and operate the hotels by involving the private sector or to utilize the properties as per their requirements.
States have exercised their options accordingly, in each case going forward with the option best suited to their needs, in line with the overarching principle that it is not the business of Government to run or manage hotels. 

Naidu to review progress of urban missions in eight NE States

Union Minister of Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation M.Venkaiah Naidu will review the progress of new urban missions in the eight States of North-Eastern region during a day-long stock taking here today.
Secretaries of both the urban ministries, National Mission Directors of new urban missions launched by the Central Government and senior officials conducted an official level review yesterday with State Level Mission Directors and other senior officials of States.
Chief Ministers and State Ministers of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs and Housing would join the review by Mr Naidu.
Implementation of Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana (Urban), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart City Mission, all launched on June 25, 2015 and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) launched on October 2, 2014 besides the continuing 10% Lump Sum Scheme for North-East and North-Eastern Region Urban Development Programme will be reviewed.
Under PMAY (Urban), Ministry of HUPA has approved construction of 99,940 affordable houses for urban poor in the eight States of N-E during the last two years as against 31,778 sanctioned during ten years between 2004-14 under JNNURM and Rajiv Awas Yojana. Of these houses sanctioned during 2004-14, only 20,991 houses were constructed.

Assam emerging as economic hub of East India and South East Asia, says Mukherjee

Inaugurating the ‘Namami Brahmaputra’ festival, President Pranab Mukherjee today said Assam is emerging as an economic hub of East India and South East Asia.
It is the gateway and most effective location to put into effect the Prime Minister's Act East policy, he said.
South East Asia is an important destination for India's investment and trade and the country will soon celebrate 25 years of its association with ASEAN, he said.
Mr Mukherjee said Assam had immense potential, being rich in natural resources and with hard working people. “What is needed is strong drive, right policies and effective implementation," he said.
Referring to the diverse and distinctive culture of Assam, the President said India's strength was its ability to manage diversity and forge unity in divergence.
“It was not just the elite but also the common people who were firmly committed to trust, mutual understanding and harmony. Indians were argumentative but never intolerant. Our traditions, including the teachings of Assam's great scholar and social reformer Shankaradev never allowed the practice of intolerance,” he added.
The President said Brahmaputra river is the lifeline of Assam and the region. It is intertwined into the economy, culture and day-to-day life of the people of the area through which it flows. He complimented the State Government for having started ‘Namami Brahmaputra’ as an annual festival to showcase Assam’s culture as well as potential.
Namami Brahmaputra, stated to be the biggest River Festival of India, is being organized across 21 districts in Assam from March 31-April 4.
The festival, being held along the Brahmaputra in its entire stretch from Sadiya to Dhubri, will serve as an ideal platform to showcase Assam’s tremendous potential as a state brimming with trade, tourism and culture opportunities.
The spectacular opening ceremony is being held at the riverfront of Bharalumukh, Guwahati, land of Kamakhya Temple, one of the most important and popular Shakti peethas in India. The event includes a soulful veneration of river Brahmaputra along with other attractions like indigenous sports, local food, exhibition of organic tea, display of handloom& handicrafts, cultural evenings, film festival, business meetings and symposium among others.
This five day event, epic in scale and grand in reality, shall bring along business, fun and festivities for all. Brahmaputra is not called ‘lifeline of Assam’ for nothing as this perennial river presents incredible business opportunities. The National Waterways, especially NW 2 and NW16 will be the drivers of economic development and prosperity. National Waterways 2 (NW-2) from Dhubri to Sadiya is a bridge to drive economic progress in Southeast Asian markets, as part of India’s ‘Act East Policy’.
These waterways will not only make Assam the centre of India-ASEAN collaboration but also attract major investments from around the world. The river is also a source of current and potential hydroelectric power generation. It will give a boost to power infrastructure in the state, he said.
He said the rivers of the world are fast becoming hotspots for travellers, and the mighty Brahmaputra happens to be one of them. 
"A river cruise on Brahmaputra is an eclectic blend of luxury, comfort and nature’s never ending delights. The extraordinary cruise experience on Brahmaputra can be further heightened by watching migratory birds, visiting temples, tribal villages, monasteries, touring breathtaking tea estates and more. Its tributaries like Manas, Jia Bharali and Kopili are ideal for white water rafting," he added.

Javadekar launches Param-Ishan supercomputer at IIT, Guwahati

Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar launched the Param-Ishan supercomputing facility at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati here yesterday.
“It is a glad moment to launch the fastest and most powerful computer in northeastern, eastern and southern regions,” he said at the launch.
“The IITs are modern temples for development and we reiterated our commitment to give a big push to research and innovations by empowering the educational institutes to transform into higher seats of learning and platforms for advanced research.  A nation’s potential for growth today is evaluated on the quality of its research and development,” he added.
Prof. Gautam Biswas, Director, IIT Guwahati said Param-Ishan had power of 250 Teraflops and 300 terra bytes capacity. It will not only augment the research initiatives in the Institute, but also help in creating an ecosystem for attracting right talents to the field of research, he said.
Param-Ishan can be used in the application areas like Computational Chemistry, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Computational Electromagnetic, Civil Engineering Structures, Nana-block Self Assemble, Optimization, and so on, an official press release said.
North East India receives heavy rainfall during monsoon, which leads to flooding and landslides. Param-Ishan can be used for weather, climate modelling and seismic data processing, it said.
Mr. Vinay Sheel Oberai, Secretary, Department of Higher Education,  Prof. Rajat Moona, Director General, C-DAC, Pune, and Prof. S.V. Rao, Head, Computer Centre, IIT, Guwahati were also present at the launch.

Regional conference on Citizen Centric Services Delivery System in Guwahati

A two-day Regional Conference on Path Breaking and High Impact Initiatives in Citizen Centric Services Delivery System opened here today.
The conference has been organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, in collaboration with the Government of Assam.
Inaugurating the conference, DARPG Secretary C. Viswanath said the Government had taken several initiatives for better administrative reforms.
“Government is not something separate or very different. People make the Government. Our common notion is that Government is routine, repetitive and hierarchical, where there is no accountability, no transparency and also where procedures are more important than outcome.
“But our Prime Minister Narendra Modi now appeals for the Government to reform, perform and transform,” he added.
He also emphasized that recently more than 1000 archaic laws have been reformed which will be definitely one step towards reducing corruption.
Mr Pawan Kumar Borthakur, Principal Secretary, Administrative Reforms & Training Department, Assam, explained the importance of the conference in his introductory speech. The panellists will discuss digital intervention, corruption free governance and rural area connectivity issues.
Ms T. Y. Das, Additional Chief Sectary, Assam, spoke on good governance and called for steps to make the Government more accountable, transparent and citizen centric to meet the public expectation.
Delegates from eight states of North Eastern Region and four states of Eastern Region--West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand--and senior officers of DARPG are participating in the conference.
The conference aims to create a common platform to share experiences in the formulation and implementation of citizen centric governance, improved public service delivery through e-Governance, transparent, accountable and citizen friendly effective administration.
Ms Smita Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances, Ms Alpana Shukla Rao, Director, DARPG, Ms Anjan Chakravarty, Director, Assam Administrative Staff College and senior officers were present on the occasion.
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