Sunday, December 23, 2012

Indo-ASEAN Institutions in Northeast

Making a strong pitch to market the North-east among the visiting Heads of States, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Friday encouraged setting up of institutions linked to the India-ASEAN relationship in the region. Stating that India-ASEAN relations were at an “exciting stage”, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that the free trade agreement in services and investment would be transformational. He was flagging down the 22-day, eight-nation India-ASEAN Car Rally in presence of 11 HoS and Chief Ministers of NE States, including Tarun Gogoi, here this morning. “India and ASEAN nations should build a web of linkages to unleash the vast economic potential of the region,” he observed.

The 31 SUVs that were earlier received at Guwahati, arrived to a thunderous applause of students, diplomats and a horde of media persons from ASEAN countries, at the Vigyan Bhawan. Some 250 students from ASEAN countries, who joined the celebrations, added to the colour of the event. “Their presence has added special warmth to this cold December morning in Delhi,” the Prime Minister remarked. “We are also joined by many other special guests today – the 50 ASEAN diplomatstraining at our Foreign Service Institute in Delhi, the 30 ASEAN farmers who have travelled here and who will host reciprocal visits from Indian farmers and the 20 Senior Editors from the media in ASEAN countries. I welcome them all,” Dr Singh said.

The car rally was flagged off from Yogyakarta in Indonesia on November 25 and reached New Delhi after traversing nearly 8,000 km across eight countries. The rally, the Prime Minister observed, symbolises the vision of an ASEAN-India community where people, goods, services and ideas can travel freely. “Whether it is by road from India to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, or by air or sea to Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, our future will be driven by thebonds of connectivity we build in the coming years.

“For India, nowhere will this benefit be more pronounced than in our North-eastern States and I would encourage the establishment of institutions linked to the India-ASEAN relationship in the North-eastern States,” he said. The car rally was organised on the 20th commemorative year of the ASEAN-India relations and 10th year of their summit level engagement. Along with the car rally, business marker events were organised in countries en route to connect with the industry and the common man. The events focused on sectors like manufacturing, mining, IT and IITs, education, healthcare, agro and food processing, border trade, investment and financing, infrastructure and development, air and sea connectivity and people-to-people contacts.

Delhi rape: Raisina Hill turns battle zone

The government Saturday faced the full blast of youth power as young men and women laid siege around Raisina Hill, the seat of power, demanding justice for a 23-year-old gangrape victim, forcing police to use canes, tear gas and water cannons on the undeterred crowd of thousands.

The country’s highest seat of power was turned into a virtual battlefield as thousands of furious and determined youngsters marched towards Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s house, raising slogans and demanding justice for the gangrape victim and tougher laws against rapists.

While the entire stretch of about 2.5 km from India Gate to Raisina Hill was packed with protesters, the fury towards authorities was palpable miles away.

The numbers kept on swelling as all roads literally led to the president’s house in an unprecedented protest rarely seen earlier. The mass outpouring for the young woman even overwhelmed the securitymen, who found themselves outnumbered. But despite the police barricades, the surging crowd kept pushing ahead.

The police then resorted to caning, threw tear gas shells and sprayed the crowd with water in the winter chill. Police resorted to canning at least three times. Armed with banners, posters, placards, the crowd, which stayed put at the entire stretch from morning till late evening. Many of them climbed atop police buses and waved the tri-colour.

But Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy said “agitation is not the solution” and “when they defy law and order, government has to use force”.
Protests were also witnessed in Kanpur, Jhansi, Lucknow, Meerut and Kolkata.

The aggression of the youngsters and the mass outpouring since early Saturday morning, led Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ask Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to ensure that people feel safe in Delhi and incidents like the brutal gangrape of the physiotherapist are not repeated.

Shinde met Manmohan Singh and briefed him about the measures taken by his ministry to ensure safety of women in the national capital.

A concerned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also spoke to the prime minister and home minister and asked them to take appropriate and immediate action to protect women in the city that is often described as the “rape capital”. A shaken Shinde later told reporters that the government will set up a commission to probe the incident that has shocked the nation.

“A probe will be conducted to look into the incident and suggest measures to check such crimes in Delhi...the Criminal Procedure Code will be amended to enhance punishment in such rarest of rare cases,” Shinde, who said he is also a father of three daughters, told reporters in a hurriedly convened press conference.

Govt. to take stringent action
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde assured that the government would file a chargesheet in the case soon and also appealed to the people to maintain calm.

Addressing a press conference along with MoS Home RPN Singh and I&B minister Manish Tewari, Shinde said the government had requested the court for a speedy trial in the case. He also assured that action will be taken against errant policemen who were on duty at checkposts on the fateful night.

Rarely, if ever, have so many people taken to the streets in so many different places for a single cause. It seems to be an unstoppable momentum. Shinde also hinted that government may consider death penalty in rarest of rare rape cases.

Five policemen have been suspended for negligence of duty, Shinde added. He further said that the “government will see if the existing rape laws can be enhanced”, adding that he will consult the Law Ministry for the provision of death penalty. However, he ruled out a special Parliament session for discussion on amendment of rape laws. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had earlier demanded a special Parliament session to discuss amendment of sexual harassment laws so as to introduce death penalty for the accused.

Tea industry to focus exports in ASEAN countries

Assam’s tea industry will focus on increasing exports to ASEAN countries in view of the untapped markets there.

“All the ASEAN countries are tea-drinking nations, but barring a few, the others do not produce the beverage and as such there is immense potential of exporting Assam tea to these countries,” North Eastern Tea Association Chairman Biydanand Barkakoty informed.

“The ASEAN market is an untapped market for us and the ASEAN-India Trade Conclave here tomorrow will be a stepping stone for exploring new markets,” he said.

Out of India’s total production was 988 million kgs, Assam produced 508 million kgs in 2011. However, Vietnam and Indonesia are leading tea producers among the ASEAN countries with Malaysia and Myanmar also contributing in a small way.

It has been, however, noticed that their contribution has decreased from 8.43 per cent to 7.43 per cent in the global tea production between 2009 and 2011, he said.

In the consumption side, Malaysia was the leading consumer followed by Philippines. Vietnam and Indonesia are the only exporting countries of ASEAN group, but their export share too has decreased from 13.23 per cent to 12.49 per cent during 2009-2011.

The India-ASEAN Trade Conclave focusing on business and cultural relations between North East India and South East Asian countries will be held at the Sarusajai stadium here on Monday.

The conclave, titled ‘ASEAN-India Connectivity with a focus on North East India’, would be chaired by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and will be also attended by CII President Adi Godrej.

Tripura lags behind implementation of flagship programmes

In a review meeting performance of national flagship programmes - MGNREGA, Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGWSY) and other central schemes was reviewed threadbare. Till November 30, under MGNREGA for development of agriculture, fishery, forestry, and animal resource Rs. 2002.64 lakh was sanctioned for Gomati district while amount spent stood Rs. 1110.47 lakh. Altogether 3, 78, 017 mandays were generated in the District.

Projects like agriculture, park, fishery, silk, forest, animal resource development and rural development was also reviewed in the meeting. It is learnt that for fiscal year 2012- 13 under MGNREGA the state received Rs. 97, 390.73 lakh, while an amount of Rs. 53992 lakh was spent till December 10.

For the South District, an amount of Rs. 1027.79 lakh was released under the national flagship programme whereas an amount of Rs. 693.22 lakh was spent so far. Likewise, the newly created Sipahijala and Khowai districts also could not spend the allotted funds. In Sipahijala district, Rs 1258.45 lakh was sanctioned under MGNREGA and amount spent stood only Rs 578.33 lakhs. A total of 90, 451 mandays were generated in the district. In Khowai district, an amount of Rs. 789.10 lakh was spent out of total outlay of Rs. 869.33 lakh, according to sources. After reviewing the performance of different central sponsored schemes, RD Minister asked the officials to take all possible steps to ensure cent percent utilization of GMNREGA outlay.