Monday, July 5, 2010

Rebels quarry for cash

Shillong, July 4: The Khasi militant outfit, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), has opened a stone quarry in Bangladesh near Dawki in Jaintia Hills, after a scarcity of cash because of its inability to carry out largescale extortion.The outfit also has several betel nut plantations in Bangladesh to earn extra income to conduct its operations.“We came to know of the existence of a stone quarry owned by the HNLC in Bangladesh from the arrested and surrendered militants,” East Khasi Hills superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh told reporters today.“They also have betel nut plantations along the border to eke out a living,” Mawthoh said.The police claimed that as they were keeping a strict vigil, the HNLC was unable to carry out any extortion in Shillong for the past several years.This may have prompted the outfit to run businesses like the stone quarries and betel nut plantations.The police said many HNLC cadres worked at both the places.They also believe that members of the HNLC travelled on boats on the Umngot river in Dawki, along with Bangladeshis, to collect boulders for the stone quarry.With the onset of winter when the water level is low, many Bangladeshis come in large numbers to the Umngot river to collect boulders.The BSF apprehended a self-styled sergeant major of the HNLC, Pariston Pakyntein, near Dawki in May.He confessed to the police that the HNLC had been running the stone quarry somewhere near Jaflong in Sylhet district of Bangladesh for the past two years and many cadres continued to work in the quarry.The outfit, formed two decades ago and fighting for an independent Khasi homeland, was active in Khasi hills and carried out killings, kidnappings and extortion till 2004.R.G. Lyngdoh, home minister in 2004, came down hard on the HNLC and the department had filed several cases against many businessmen who had donated money to the militants under threat.The home department’s action had paid dividends, as extortion had reduced to a certain extent.The police had also busted several finance cells of the HNLC in parts of Shillong, besides arresting senior cadres who were manning these cells.The biggest setback for the HNLC was the surrender of its chairman Julius Dorphang in 2007.After Dorphang came overground, there was largescale exodus of HNLC cadres from their camps in Bangladesh.The police claim that at present, the total strength of the outfit is below 50, as more than 150 had surrendered in the past.The firepower of the outfit also reduced considerably.Though the chairman of the outfit came overground, other top leaders like general secretary Cherishsterfield Thangkiew and commander-in-chief Bobby Marwein along with a few cadres are still in Bangladesh.The top leaders vowed to carry on with the organisation despite the setbacks.

One-stop birth control cell in Assam

Guwahati, July 4: Hushed closed-door questions on contraception and ham-handed fertility advice from know-it-all relatives will soon cease to be the most widely used birth control counselling methods in Assam.Beginning July, every primary health centre, district hospital, besides the three medical colleges, will be equipped with dedicated single-window family planning facility that will include infrastructure for no-scalpel vasectomy and tubectomy.The scheme, which will be aptly launched on July 11 on World Population Day, will provide every district in the state with an amount of Rs 5 lakh initially to create facilities and infrastructure at health centres and hospitals to help couples avail of all kinds of birth control procedures.“At present, the health centres and district hospitals do not provide all kinds of family planning facilities. For example, no-scalpel vasectomy and tubectomy surgery are not available together at all hospitals. Many of the health centres do not even have contraceptive pills. Such situations have made it difficult for couples, particularly those from rural and remote areas, to avail of birth control procedures according to their wish and preference,” the state trainer-cum-state nodal officer for male and female sterilisation programmes, Ilias Ali, told The Telegraph.Ali said the single-window family planning facility is a new concept and been implemented in very few states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to curb massive population growth.He said the Union ministry of health and family welfare, too, selected Assam for the scheme considering its high growth of population for the year 2010-11.All primary health centres and district hospitals would be equipped with facilities and manpower to conduct no-scalpel vasectomy, tubectomy and other surgical procedures.The hospitals will have health counsellors to educate people on the benefits of family planning.They will also offer advice and suggestions to couples as ways to adopt birth control procedures according to their conveniences and circumstances.The gynaecology departments at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, Assam Medical College and Hospital, Dibrugarh and Silchar Medical College and Hospital will now have separate cells to provide facilities and counselling on birth control measures.“Such arrangements will enable couples to clear their doubts, misgivings and queries about effects of birth control and take a final decision once they visit the health centres or hospitals without any hassle. Most of the couples, whether in urban and rural areas do not want to run from one hospital to another, in the matter of family planning,” Ali said.He said more and more men and women were joining family planning programmes in Assam.The state has set a target of 1-lakh women and 25,000 men for sterilisation procedures for the current year.From July 12, the health department will conduct a series awareness programmes, street plays and public meetings across the state on the dangers of population explosion and educate them on the new scheme.

Mizoram mulls star hotel

Silchar, July 4: The Mizoram government has decided to upgrade tourism facilities in the state to woo both domestic and overseas travellers.Mizoram’s veteran Congress leader and tourism minister S. Hiato told this correspondent over phone from Aizawl that a three or four-star category luxury hotel would be built in the city to increase its tourism potential. A Tourism Development Board, he added, has already been set up to boost the nascent tourism industry in the state.He said the board had already been asked to draw up a blueprint for the development of the tourism industry projecting the state as an exotic destination for eco and adventure tourism.Chief minister Lalthanhawla is the chairman of this body while Hiato is its vice-chairman.The government, Hiato said, would now give priority to the hotel project, which would be established as a public-private partnership venture.The state government, he added, was now in touch with a few industrialists and funding agencies for raising the necessary outlay for this Rs 250-crore hotel project.Another tourist-friendly project, which the government has sought to promote, is a mini-golf course near Aizawl. This, Hiato said, would attract both domestic and overseas tourists. A private consultancy firm from New Delhi would be recruited to finalise the location of the nine-hole golf course and arrive at a feasible financial package for it.He said his department was now engaged in formulating a number of schemes to broaden the prospects of tourism in Mizoram.Hiato said the tourism board had already held its maiden meeting in Aizawl last month, and it had decided to refurbish all the eight tourist lodges in the state.At present, the annual inflow of domestic tourists to Mizoram is nearly 5,000 a year and among them the number of foreign tourists is around 250.

One hurt as militants pelt stones at vehicles in Imphal

A driver was injured when unknown hill-based militants pelted stones at several vehicles passing through NH-53 (Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar Road), official reports said on Monday.Militants threw stones at vehicles at Noney area in Manipur's Tamenglong district last night injuring a driver identified as A Sanayaima (48) and damaging several vehicles.It was not known why the militants pelted stones, the reports said adding that there was no blockade or bandh on national highways now.The Transporters and Drivers Council (TDC) Manipur had decided not to ply any vehicle (truck and passenger bus) on NH-39 (Imphal-Kohima-Dimapur) since so many organisations including militants extorted money from vehicle owners and drivers.The TDC that controlled both trucks and passengers in Manipur has decided to use only NH-53 now although the road was bad comparative to NH-39.People of Manipur had suffered due to shortage of essential items because of two-month long economic blockade imposed by a Naga students organisation on the two highways but it ended about two weeks ago.