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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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.

Earthquake of magnitude 6.7 jolts Myanmar, tremors felt in eastern, NE India

An earthquake of magnitude 6.7 jolted Myanmar this afternoon and the tremors were felt in several parts of eastern and north-eastern India.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 21.0 N and longitude 94.4 E, near Chauk town on the Irrawaddy river, occurred at 1604 hours IST at a focal depth of 58 km.
Reports reaching here said the tremors were felt in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal, Patna in Bihar, Guwahati in Assam and Tripura, among other places. They were also felt in Bangladesh and Thailand.
Residents of the affected areas ran out of their homes and offices as a precautionary measure.

BRICS Youth Summit, 2016 to be held in Guwahati from July 1

The three-day BRICS Youth Summit, 2016 will be held in Guwahati from July 1 with thematic debates, cultural events, site-visits and interactive sessions with local youth.
The theme for the summit is “Youth as bridge for Intra-BRICS Exchanges”, an official press release said.
The subjects to be covered by thematic debates are Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Social Inclusion, Youth Volunteerism and Youth Participation in Governance.
The youth delegates will also call on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi and meet Assam leaders and senior officials during the course of the summit.
All the BRICS nations have confirmed their participation in the summit. The Indian Youth Delegation will be led by Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Jitendra Singh.

Sonowal takes over as Assam CM as BJP forms its first government in North-East

Former Union Minister Sarbanand Sonowal was on Tuesday sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Assam at the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party's first government in the North-East.

Sarbananda Sonowal takes oath as Assam's first BJP CM
Former Union Minister Sarbanand Sonowal was today sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Assam at the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party's first government in the North-East.
Governor P. B. Acharya administered the oaths of office and secrecy to Mr. Sonowal, who was Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports in the Union Council of Ministers, and 10 of his ministerial colleagues.
Those who took oath as Ministers included Mr. Hemanta Biswas Sarma, who had switched sides from the Congress to the BJP, now in power at the Centre, ahead of the elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several Union Ministers, BJP President Amit Shah and the Chief Ministers of states ruled by the BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), attended the ceremony.
Mr. Sonowal, 53, is the 14th Chief Minister of Assam. He and Mr. Sarma had led the BJP and its two regional allies, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland People's Front (BPF) to victory in the elections held in April to the State Legislative Assembly, the results of which were announced on May 19. The coalition won 86 seats in the 126-member assembly.
Congress leader Tarun Gogoi, who ruled the state for 15 years in three consecutive terms, was amongst those present at the swearing-in ceremony.
Later, addressing the gathering after the formal ceremony was over, Mr. Modi told the people of Assam that, in Mr. Sonowal, they had a Chief Minister from the tribal community who is dedicated to serving society.
He expressed confidence that the new Government would serve the people of Assam and transform the State through development. 
Mr. Modi said the Union Government was working on the principle of cooperative federalism, and wanted to give States maximum strength to enable them to progress. 
He said democracy is about "bhaagidaari" (participation), and stressed that the Centre and the States must walk shoulder to shoulder for development. He underlined the need for comprehensive and all-round development of the nation, and especially the eastern part of the country. 

Nadda lays foundation stone for Super Specialty Block at GMC, Guwahati

The Government is focused on strengthening the primary healthcare system while at the same time providing adequate facilities to secondary and tertiary healthcare in order to reduce the out-of-pocket burden on citizens, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare J P Nadda said today
Addressing a gathering at the foundation stone laying ceremony of a Super Specialty Block at Guwahati Medical College in Assam, he said that, under the upgradation project, Super Specialty Department of Pediatrics surgery, Haematology, Gastroenterology, Gastrointestinal (GI) surgery, Endocrinology and Burns & Plastic surgery will be set up in the existing Medical College.
This will add 190 beds, 60 ICU beds and six Operation Theatres to the institute at an approved cost of Rs 150 crore. Foundation stone of a similar project was laid at Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh on February 12.
“Tertiary care facilities will thus get a boost with all these projects coming up,” the Minister said.
Work on a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) project announced for Assam will soon start. The Government has also decided to upgrade District Hospitals at Nagaon, North Lakhimpur and Dubri to the status of Medical College, he added.
Funding of Rs 189 crore each will be sanctioned for these colleges. As a first installment, Rs 22 crore have been released to the state government. Moreover, since May 2014, more than Rs 1,567 crore has been released to the state under National Health Mission (NHM), he said.
Mr Nadda said the Government had already started the process to establish 10 new AIIMS in addition to six already set up by the NDA government in the previous term.
Once fully functional, more than 16,300 additional bed strength would be available in the 17 AIIMS (960 beds in each Institution), he added.
Super specialty blocks were also being set up in 70 medical colleges and 58 district hospitals upgraded to Medical Colleges. Twenty Cancer Institutes and 50 Tertiary Cancer Care Centres were being set up.
The National Cancer Institute, Jhajjar (with bed capacity of 710) and second campus of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata were also to come up, he added.

Modi opens South Asian Games, outlines his vision for development of region

Declaring the 12th South Asian Games open in Guwahati on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his vision for South Asia was the same as his vision for India -- Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas -- and that all countries in the region are partners in its journey towards development.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessing the inaugural ceremony of the 12th South Asian Games-2016, in Guwahati, Assam on February 5, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessing the inaugural ceremony of the 12th South Asian Games-2016, in Guwahati, Assam on February 5, 2016.
Declaring the 12th South Asian Games open here today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his vision for South Asia was the same as his vision for India -- Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas -- and that all countries in the region are partners in its journey towards development.
"We the people living in SAARC countries comprise 21 per cent of the world’s population and contribute about 9 per cent to its economy," he said in his inaugural address at the Games. 
The Games, which will continue till February 16, will be held at venues here and in Shillong, Meghalaya.
It is the biggest sporting event ever held in the North-East, with participants from all the eight SAARC member-nations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In all, competition will be held in 228 events in 23 disciplines for 228 gold, 228 silver and 308 bronze medals.
Competition in 16 disciplines -- Athletics, Basketball, Volleyball, Swimming, Triathlon, Hockey, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Squash, Shooting, Kho Kho, Kabaddi, Handball, Cycling and Tennis -- will be held in Guwahati, while events in the other seven disciplines will be held in Shillong – Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Judo, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Wushu. 
Men's Football will be played at Guwahati and Women's Football at Shillong. 
"This sports meet, for me signifies a perfect blend of 3 Ts - Talent, Teamwork and Togetherness. Among us is the best and most youthful talent from across South Asia. You are proud members of your team - it can be your team of the sport you play and a larger team of the nation you are representing. And, at the same time this meet also celebrates togetherness of all South Asian nations. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – no matter which country we are from, we all call South Asia our home," Mr. Modi said.
"Sports has to be an essential part of an individual’s life. A good game is both healthy and refreshing. All round development of the personality is incomplete without sports. Most importantly, sports brings with it the most vital sportsman spirit. Without sports, there cannot be any sportsman spirit. This sportsman spirit will not only help you on the field but also in other aspects of your life. You will cherish whatever you learn on the sports field for your entire life. I always say - Jo Khele, woh Khile. The person who plays, shines," he said.
He hoped that the feeling of friendship, trust and understanding engendered by the Games would convert into business and tourism opportunities as well.
"Let these Games become a spring board for bringing peace and prosperity in the region through business, interaction and sporting activities. Let this be an opportunity for SAARC people to realize their potential," he said.
"On the sports field, we can forget what separates us, and we can truly connect with each other in the spirit of sportsmanship and adventure. We can celebrate our diversity, and at the same time, be united under common rules for our sports, and the shared values of honesty and fair play. 
"Let us play for peace: let us play for prosperity. Let us play with full vigour and enthusiasm so that we remember these Games even after they are over. The friendships you would form over these 12 days, and the memories you take back will last you a lifetime. I am confident that you will cherish these bonds, and become Ambassadors for peace and friendship between our nations. 
"While people play for medals and provide tough competition to each other, I urge the sports-persons and visitors here to take time from their busy schedules to visit the places of tourism attraction and wonderful wildlife sanctuaries nearby," he said.
"Let the competition be in true sports man spirit. May the best win. I declare the 12th South Asian Games open," he added.
The glittering opening ceremony was attended by a galaxy of national and international dignitaries, including Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
A colourful march past by players of participating countries enthralled the spectators.

Modi dedicates Brahmaputra Cracker & Polymer Ltd to nation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that rapid industrial development of the country was necessary to create employment for its youth.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking after dedicating to the nation the Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited, at Dibrugarh, Assam on February 5, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking after dedicating to the nation the Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited, at Dibrugarh, Assam on February 5, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said rapid industrial development of the country was necessary to create employment for its youth.
Speaking after dedicating to the nation the  Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited, a petrochemical complex, at Lepetkata, near Dibrugarh in Assam, he mentioned, in this context, his PRAGATI initiative, which he said was giving impetus to stalled projects.
Mr. Modi also dedicated to the nation the wax plant of Numaligarh Refineries Limited. 
Highlighting the importance of completing projects in time, Mr. Modi said this would ensure employment generation, and avoid massive cost overruns. He said rapid industrial development of the country is necessary to create employment for India's youth. 
He said the two projects were important for the value addition they would achieve for natural raw materials and for the employment opportunities they would create for the youth of Assam.
The Prime Minister reiterated that eastern India must develop for the all-round development of India. In this context, he said the Union Government was paying special attention to the North-Eastern region by boosting infrastructure and connectivity. 
Mr. Modi said the initiatives of the Union Government, including MUDRA and Start-up India, were aimed at creating fresh opportunities for the youth. 
He said employment opportunities had to be created not just in big cities but in smaller towns, too. 
He said the Union Government was working on the principle of cooperative federalism, and both the Centre and States had to work together for development. 

Suresh Prabhu flags off first passenger between Silchar-Guwahati on new broad gauge section

Union Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu flagged off the first passenger train between Silchar and Guwahati in Assam through the newly-constructed Lumbding-Silchar broad gauge section in the state.
The project fulfils a long-cherished demand of the people of the Barak Valley in South Assam for seamless connectivity with the rest of the country. Goods trains have been running on the section since March this year.
The flag-off was done through remote control from Delhi by organizing a video conference between Rail Bhavan here and the Silchar railway station.
Union Minsters Sarbananda Sonowal and Manoj Singh attended the function at Silchar.
An official press release said the new connection would also help open up new visas in providing links to Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.
Mr. Prabhu said the Railways were committed to improving their infrastructure in the North-Eastern region.
He said the Railways would also work for better connectivity with Bangladesh.
The 210 km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was sanctioned in 1996-97 at an initial cost of Rs.648 crore. It was declared as a National Project in 2004.
The track passes through the verdant North Cachar hills almost parallel to the old metre gauge alignment criss-crossing the metre gauge alignment at many locations in the first 100 kms between Lumding and Migrendisa. Thereafter, the proposed broad gauge  alignment detours for 30 km before joining the metre gauge alignment again near Ditockchera.
Phase II of the total project consists of gauge conversion of Badarpur-Kumarghat (118 km) and finger lines Arunachal-Jiribam (50 Km), Baraigram-Dullabcherra (29 km) and Karimganj-Mahishasan including Karimganj byepass line (13.50 km). This phase will be completed by 31.03.2016 .
The current estimated cost of the entire project is around Rs. 6000 crore.

Three Additional Judges appointed in Gauhati High Court

The President has appointed Mr Nishitendu Chaudhury, Mr Lanusungkum Jamir and Mr Manash Ranjan Pathak, to be Additional Judges of the Gauhati High Court.
An official press release said the appointments would be for a period of three months with effect from tomorrow.
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