Friday, April 2, 2010

Cops mull NIA help in probe - Fake notes racket busted, two held

Guwahati, April 1: The CID Assam will seek the National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s help to bust an “international racket” which is pumping fake currency into the country in a bid to destabilise the nation’s economy.

The CID got a whiff of the racket following the arrest of two persons with counterfeit currency totalling Rs 1.65 lakh, in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, from room number 11 of Hotel Alka at Fancy Bazar here on March 25.

A CID official said the arrest of Paban Sharma, 49, of Kokrajhar and Asha Ao, 37, of Nagaland had blown the lid off the racket which had inter-state and international links.

Ao was living in a rented house in the Panjabari locality here. Her job was to circulate the fake currency for a commission. Sharma, a member of the racket, has been distributing fake currency in the North east through agents like Ao for the past few years. The duo have circulated several lakhs of fake notes in the Northeast in the past couple of years.

The CID has registered a case (number 15/2010) under Section 489B/489C IPC.

Interrogation of the two accused and initial investigations by the CID has revealed that the racketeers smuggled a huge sum of fake notes into India via Bangladesh and Nepal through cross-border agents and distributed it across the country through a strong network of agents.

“Since the kingpins and members of this racket are based outside the state and do not fall under our jurisdiction, we are going to approach the NIA to co-ordinate further investigation of the case,” the official said. “Some of the members of the racket are also based abroad,” he added.

He said the CID had decided to approach the NIA because the case had national ramifications and the agency was mandated to probe the pushing in and circulation of fake Indian currency.

“The fake notes seized by us are of superior quality and the common man will find it difficult to distinguish them from genuine ones. It was difficult even for us to differentiate between a genuine note and a fake one,” he said.

“The texture and quality of paper of the fake notes is almost similar to real ones. We suspect that a foreign government must be involved and the notes were printed at a high security printing press abroad, probably in Pakistan under the aegis of ISI,” he said.

The two accused told interrogators that they used to exchange fake currency for original notes at a ratio of 50:50, which means that one can procure fake notes totalling Rs 1 lakh from them against genuine notes worth Rs 50,000.

The CID is also examining the call details on the mobile phones of the two accused for clues. “Sharma has given us the names of his accomplices and we have also got some phone numbers from his mobile phones. Efforts are on to track down these persons and the phone numbers are being verified,” the source said.

Governor, CM to participate in Mon Road Show

The last leg of the first edition of the state government’s Road Show programme will be held in bordering district of Mon coinciding with Aoleang festival of Koyak Naga tribe from April 7.

The Aoleang-cum-State Road Show 2010, which will be held on April 7 and 8 at Mon public ground under the theme "The land of Anghs: upholding peace, culture and progress," will be graced by Governor Nikhil Kumar and Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on the opening day.

According to an official release, former Nagaland chief secretary and Centre’s new interlocutor for Naga peace talks R S Pandey will attend the event as a special guest.

The Mon event will be last one of the year-long Road Show programme which aims at building interface between the rural people and various schemes/projects undertaken by the government departments.

The Road Show held in all the districts coincided the major traditional festival of the tribes concerned. However,the chief minister in the just concluded assembly session declared that the road show would continue but its colour and content might under go a change since the government announced the year 2010 as the Year of Entrepreneurs.

The release said "during the celebration of Aoleang festival, besides the local groups, cultural troupes from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar will participate in the Road Show."

IIM-Shillong first B-School to webcast convocation

The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Meghalaya is set to be first business school in the country to webcast its first convocation ceremony live April 3.

"We will be the first business institute to webcast our convocation ceremony to attract students to join the institute," Director of IIM-Shillong Ashoke Dutta told IANS.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has consented to be the chief guest for the first convocation of the youngest IIM named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

That apart, Dutta said, the postal department will also release a special cover to commemorate the historic convocation ceremony of the institute, which got job offers for its students, with an average annual salary of around Rs 10 lakh and the highest pay package worth a whopping Rs 34 lakh.

Top recruiters included Deloittes, E&Y, KPMG, PwC, Ogilvy & Mather, Viacom, Warner Brothers, AC Nielsen, Cadbury, Citigroup, HDFC, Standard Chartered, Axis Bank, Tata AIG, SBI Cap, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Siemens, Bosch, Ford, Honda, Lafarge, Hero Group and ONGC.

"We are already surging ahead with long and strong strides towards sustainable development, keeping its commitment intact towards development of society and environment," Dutta said.

He said IIM-Shillong's convocation is going to reflect the high-spirits of the institute as 63 students of the two-year flagship post-graduate diploma programme are going to be awarded their diplomas and certificates in presence of the board of governors, the director, the faculty members and the proud parents. Four students will also be awarded medals.

IIM Shillong follows a unique concept of winter internships. Under this, students go for internships in the months of January and February.

The institute took in its first batch of students in July 2008 and is looking at increasing the number of seats to "anything between 90 and 120" this year. It started in 2008 from a makeshift campus and still functions out of an interim facility.

Surrounded by pine trees, lush green lawns and mountains in the backdrop, the institute is functioning from the Mayurbhanj Complex -- the erstwhile summer palace of the kings of Mayurbhanj, Orissa.

The Meghalaya government has allotted a 120-acre plot on which work is under way for a state-of-the-art academic-cum-residential campus.

The institute will also hike its annual fees for the next academic session. The board of governors will take the decision in April.

"Our main thrust is on innovation, inclusiveness, adaptability, hunger for entrepreneurship, energy, agility, drive, networking, technology leadership and to achieve excellence by synergising complementary competencies within the team and the organisation charged with the aspiration for a broader vision and a higher purpose," Dutta said.

Nagaland receives Rs 371 crore for NREGA implementation

The Centre has released Rs 370.91 crore as its share to Nagaland till February during the fiscal 2009-10 and the state government contributed Rs 15.53 crore for implementation of flagship programme NREGA for creating 100-day employment for rural poor.

According to the latest annual administrative report of the RD department, till February 3, 21,141 households have been issued job cards under the Act which was being implemented in all 11 districts of Nagaland since fiscal 2008-09.

Out of the total job card holders 3,10,941 households have been provided wage employment, generating an average of 256.59 lakh man days creating 3,669 numbers of rural assets.

The report said during 2010-11 an amount of Rs 57.99 crore was proposed as state’s share to the NREGS.

The NREGS, now rechristened as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, is funded on the basis of 90:10 between the Centre and the states.

Chidambaram to review security situation in Arunachal Pradesh

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram will review the security situation in the state amid speculation that Myanmar may launch an operation against Northeast militants having bases there, officials said.

Chidambaram, who arrived here today on a two-day visit, will hold a high level meeting with the Army and security agencies.

He is also scheduled to visit Khonsha, headquarters of Tirap, a district declared disturbed along with adjoining Changlang, under the Armed Forces Special Power Act because of activities of militants from neighbouring Nagaland and Assam.

The militants use the forests in the two districts sharing border with Myanmar as corridor to their bases across the international border.

After being driven out from Bhutan and Bangladesh, the militants have reportedly taken refuge in camps in Myanmar.

Union Home Secretary G K Pillai had visited Naypyidaw, the new Myanmarese capital, in January.

Soulful melodies enchant listeners

A colourful cultural evening titled Rupalee Sandhya, featuring music and dance items by a batch of selected artistes of the state, was held on the occasion of the silver jubilee year of Doordarshan Kendra (DDK), Guwahati, at Pragjyoti-ITA Centre for Performing Arts, Machkhowa on March 24.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi inaugurated the programme by lighting the ceremonial lamp followed by a speech. DDK Guwahati director D.N. Basumatary delivered the welcome address.

Renowned flautist Dipak Sarma and his troupe, Band of Brothers, set the stage alight by presenting an item of devotional music in instruments. Sarma, a celebrity artiste, possessing sound command over melody and sound production, began the item by passionately playing the tune of the famous Gandhi bhajan, “Vaishnava janako....”. Other artistes of the troupe in lead guitar, base guitar, drum, keyboard, tabla, et al, impressively supported him. The item ended in the style of fusion.

The next item was a classical vocal recital by singer Gargi Siddhanta Dutta. Her presentation was a small but enchanting piece in raga khaamaj in teen taal. The artiste took no time to unfurl the finer essence of the raga with her grammatical authenticity and distinctive style of rendition.

Singer couple Khagen and Archana Mahanta, considered the unmatched performers of Bihu songs, took the stage after a short Sattriya dance recital presented by a batch of young artistes under the guidance and direction of Sattriya culture exponent Jatin Goswami. The couple literally held the audience spellbound with the rendition of their famous Bihu-tuned number “Paahaaror Juriti...”.

Three items bearing exceptional quality added extra colour to the entire programme. These were a Bodo folk dance by Hriday Brahma and his troupe, playing of pepa (made of buffalo horn) and other allied instruments related to Bihu by Ashim Chutia and his troupe, and a choreography item based on Assamese film songs under the direction of Sailen Ramchiary.

The programme attained a distinctive height by the lively rendition of a few evergreen Assamese numbers by singer Debojit Saha. An awfully gifted singer, Saha brought in a rare nostalgic mood to the ambience by presenting the haunting Jayanta Hazarika number “Suraat Magan Bhayaal Raati...”. Right from overall voice quality to touching the finer elements of the musical design of the number, Saha left no stone unturned to mesmerise many a listener.

Amid all such enchantment, the Assamese anchoring of the programme left a lot to be desired.

Manipur continues to be hot bed of insurgency

Manipur continues to be the hot bed of insurgency followed by Assam as 150 violent incidents have been reported in the two states in last three months, claiming 100 lives.

Those killed included 77 extremists, 20 civilians and three security force personnel, according to Home Ministry.

Altogether, 105 people were killed in six Northeastern states -- Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh -- till last month in 174 incidents. Mizoram had no major insurgency and was comparatively a peaceful state.

In 2009, 435 people, including 81 civilians and 336 militants, were killed in 659 incidents in Manipur while 368 people, including 152 civilians, were killed in 424 incidents in Assam.

Five hundred seventeen people, including 364 extremists, were killed in 2008 in Manipur while 373 people, which include 245 civilians, lost their lives in Assam in the same year.

"Though there is a declining trend in the incidents of violence, both Manipur and Assam continue to be the most troubled states in the Northeast," a Home Ministry official said.

Overall, there were 1297 incidents of violence that claimed 877 lives, including 571 militants and 264 civilians, in 2009 in the entire Northeast.

There were 1,561 incidents in the region in 2008 in which 1,152 people, including 466 civilians, lost their lives.

Nagaland, home to major insurgent groups like NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K), has become relatively peaceful, thanks to the peace pacts signed by the two groups with the government.

Though there were 12 incidents of violence in the first three months of 2010 in Nagaland, there was no report of any casualty while in 2009 only 31 people lost their lives.

However, in 2008, the state saw 321 incidents in which 213 people, including 140 extremists and 70 civilians, were killed.

In Meghalaya, four people were killed this year in five different incidents while one person was killed in Arunachal Pradesh. Though, there were nine incidents in Tripura in 2010, no report of any casualty has come from the state.

In 2009, 22 people lost their lives in Arunachal Pradesh, nine in Meghalaya and 10 in Tripura.

Chidambaram's visit postponed due to inclement weather

The visit of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to Arunachal Pradesh has been postponed on Thursday due to inclement weather. Officials said in Itanagar on Thursday that if the weather permits, Chidambaram would visit Arunachal on Friday.

It has been raining in Arunachal for the past fortnight.

Chidambaram was to arrive by helicopter on Thursday at the Buddhist town of Tawang, close to the Sino-Indian border, on a four-day visit to the state.

He was also to visit Tirap and Changlang districts, declared disturbed under the Armed Forces Special Power Act, besides the state capital.

Say hello to Euro IV, India's cleanest fuel yet

Welcome the Euro IV or Bharat Stage IV - the country's most environment friendly fuel yet.

Now mandatory in 13 metros across the country - Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Surat, Ahmedabad, Pune and Solapur - the Euro IV is India's latest step towards greener vehicles.

In the long run, Euro fuels are expected to translate into less pollution and better mileage for vehicles, owing to the lower quantity of sulphur in diesel and lower sulphur and aromatic content in petrol.

"We already have CNG in Mumbai. With the coming of Euro IV, we will have the cleanest supply of fuel in the world," says Bharat Petroleum's General Manager (West) P C Srivastava.

Though this also means fuel that will cost more, the hike is marginal - 50 paise extra on petrol and 26 paise on diesel. Prices will vary according to the taxes across states.

"It will help mileage, which will ultimately compensate for the price hike. And it will reduce pollution," said a citizen who drove his brand new SUV into a fuel station shortly after the Euro IV launch.

At the moment there are just 13 cities on the Euro IV map, but the rest of India will have to follow soon.