Monthly Archives

October 2019

Insurgency

Naga peace talks end on positive note

Kohima, October 31:

The Naga peace talks concluded on a positive note on Thursday after the final round of discussions between NSCN-IM and interlocutor RN Ravi. According to the sources, the parties arrived at a “mutual understanding” after days of inconclusive negotiations.

The meeting between a 15-member delegation of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and Centre’s interlocutor RN Ravi — Nagaland Governor — on the issue of “Greater Nagalim” and Naga peace talks concluded on Thursday. Unconfirmed reports state that the deadlock over separate flag and Constitution has been broken and they had agreed to sign a peace accord without a separate Naga constitution and with a “conditional flag”. The flag can only be allowed for non-governmental purposes.

According to the sources, the second session of the meeting on “Naga Peace Talk” took place in New Delhi at around 3 pm on Thursday and it lasted for an hour and thirty minutes. Among other things that were discussed include creation of Greater Nagalim, comprising regions of Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The Nagas are demanding India not to compromise on their territorial integrity.

The 15-member team of collective leadership of NSCN (IM) met with the Central government representative in the national capital on Wednesday twice, but could not reach to any conclusion on their issues. Following this, they met with the Centre’s interlocutor RN Ravi again twice and pressed their demand for a national flag and a separate Constitution.

With several attempts of the peace agreement signed and failed between the Nagas and Indian government over the years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his previous tenure in 2015, signed a framework agreement with NSCN (IM). Due to this, six other Naga armed outfits under the banner of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) joined talks in 2017. However, NNPGs — a conglomerate of seven other Naga groups — made it clear in 2016 that they would sign the agreement without the separate flag, constitution and the territorial integration of Naga-inhabited areas outside Nagaland.

Since the details of the agreement were never made public, there is hardly any information on it. On one side, the government of India stated that it recognised the unique culture, tradition, history and position of Nagas, while on another hand, it doesn’t want a territory to be parted from its geopolitical map.

Former Nagaland chief minister and Nagaland opposition leader of Naga People’s Front (NPF), TR Zeliang tweeted, “I congratulate the Hon’ble PM Sh @narendramodi and the Union HM Sh @AmitShah for having the resoluteness to solve the Naga Issue. Also a hearty congratulations to Sh RN Ravi, the interlocutor and the NSCN(IM) and 7-NNPGs for arriving at a mutual understanding. ( Source: TNN & HT)

International

Bru refugees in Tripura say they face humanitarian crisis, threaten blockade

After threatening to loot government godowns, Bru refugees in Tripura on Tuesday announced they would launch an indefinite road blockade at Kanchanpur in the state’s North district from October 31. The blockade would continue till their ration along with cash and dole are resumed, they said.

As per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) instructions, their ration supplies and cash and dole were stopped to the Bru camps since October 1 this year to complete their repatriation to Mizoram.

The Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Forum (MBDPF) on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to Kanchanpur sub divisional magistrate (SDM) Abhedananda Baidya where they have mentioned about their indefinite road blockade between Dasda and Anandabazaar at Kanchanpur. The refugees claim they are facing a humanitarian crisis.

“ The hungry and desperate displaced Brus can no longer withstand to see the incessant crying of innocent children, bedridden patients and lactating mother for food, and such a horrible situation bound all the displaced Brus to block the said road to draw the kind attention of the Central Government , state government of Tripura and Mizoram from 31st October, 2019 till resumption of ration and cash-dole as earlier,” said the memorandum signed by MBDPF president of A Sawibunga and general secretary Bruno Msha.

The memorandum also termed the ongoing repatriation of Bru refugees to Mizoram as ‘forceful and not peaceful’ as the process has taken place regardless of the safety and security of the Brus and ignoring their minimum demands.

On October 24, the MBDPF, Mizoram Bru Indigeneous Democratic Movement (MBIDM) and Bru Tribal Development Society (BTDS) sent a letter to the North district magistrate through Kanchanpur SDM threatening to loot government godowns and block main road as their ration supplies were stopped two days before the ninth phase of repatriation began on October 3.

According to the central rehabilitation package, Bru adults are given Rs. 5 per day, Rs. 2.5 for each minor, 600 gram of rice on everyday basis, three soaps, a pair of slippers a year and a mosquito net in every three years.

Over 37,000 Bru people had taken shelter in Tripura in 1997 to escape an ethnic clash in Mizoram.

Currently, nearly 4,000 Bru families are settled in six camps – three each at Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub divisions of North district, around 200 kilometres from Agartala.

Over 80 Bru families have been repatriated since October 1 from the six camps.

After more than two decades, the Centre had signed a pact with Tripura and Mizoram governments and MBDPF, a forum comprising of Bru people in New Delhi on July 3 last year for repatriation of the refugees.

The post repatriation agreement promised Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit, Rs 5,000 for a period of two years with Rs. 1.50 lakh for construction of house to each family and formation of cluster village.

First Published in HT

by Priyanka Deb Barman

Art & Culture

American envoy inaugurates Tawang Festival

In a move that could upset China, the US Ambassador to India on Monday inaugurated the Tawang Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, becoming the second US envoy to visit the festival held in an area China claims to be part of South Tibet

US Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster (right) and Arunchal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu at the Tawang Festival on Monday.
US Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster (right) and Arunchal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu at the Tawang Festival on Monday.(HT Photo)

US Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster on Monday inaugurated the four-day Tawang Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, chief minister Pema Khandu tweeted.

He became the second US envoy to visit the festival held in an area China claims to be part of South Tibet.

Ambassador Juster thanked the people for the exceptional hospitality and added that he was mesmerized by the people of the area, their dresses and traditions.

The Tawang Festival is an annual event, which is in its seventh edition this year, and showcases the state’s rich cultural tradition and adventure potential in order to boost tourism.

Embedded video

In 2016, the then US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma had visited the same festival leading Beijing to oppose the trip while New Delhi termed it as routine.

At the inauguration, Juster informed the gathering about US funding in the health sector in Arunachal Pradesh that have helped modernize hospitals and health facility centres in Namsai and Pasighat.

In his address, Chief Minister Pema Khandu stated that Arunachal Pradesh was fortunate to have hosted two US Ambassadors within a span of three years.

Khandu, who was also the chief minister when Verma visited in 2016, sought support of the US embassy to attract investment to Arunachal Pradesh in tourism, agriculture, horticulture and hydropower sectors.

The CM informed about the work the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), a US agency which traces details of nearly 79,000 US soldiers, who served in the Second world War and were unaccounted for, was doing in the Northeastern state.

“Until now 20 aircraft have been identified and remains and personal belongings of five martyrs have been recovered and sent to families. A Hump museum is under construction and scheduled for inauguration in March 2020,” said Khandu.

The Hump, named by Allied pilots during the WWII, comprises parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Tibet and Myanmar, where nearly 650 aircrafts crashed during that war due to difficult flying conditions. Eighty one aircraft went missing in the region at that time.

Khandu also said that in the past three years only 336 US tourists visited Arunachal Pradesh and sought the embassy’s help to increase it 10 fold in the next two years.

Union minister for sports and youth affairs Kiren Rijiju, who is a Lok Sabha member from the state, lauded the Arunachal Pradesh government for successfully hosting the festival over the past years.

Art & Culture

Manipur in festive mood on occassion of ‘Ningol Chakouba’

Imphal : Locals of Imphal thronged the markets ahead of the festival of Ningol Chakouba celebrated by people of Manipur. On this festival, married daughters are invited to parental house for a grand feast. The word ‘Ningol’ means daughter and ‘Chakouba’ means feast. The festival reinforces the bond that exists between siblings and parents. The Ningol Chakouba Festival is celebrated on the second day of the New Moon in the Manipuri month of Hiyangei which is November.

Manipur is a land of merriment, fun and caper which goes on throughout the year. Manipur is always bustling with the series of numerous festivals. The festivals of Manipur project their cultural, social and religious ambitions. The Ningol Chakouba Festival is a very popular social festival of the Meiteis or the Vaishnavites where the married women (Ningol) are invited (Chakouba) to their parent’s house.

The Ningol Chakouba Festival is an outstanding social festival of the Meiteis, when the married women of the family, who were married off to distant places, come to their parental house along with their children and is served with a lavish and extensive meal to enjoy. This festival is a form of a family get-together in order to revive the family affection. In the present times this festival is observed by the Pangals or the Manipuri Muslims to some extent.

 

International

Manipur dissident leaders announce a ‘government in exile’ in U.K.

Dissident political leaders from the Indian state of Manipur on Tuesday said they were unilaterally declaring independence from India and forming a government-in-exile in Britain.

The former princely state became part of India in 1949, two years after the country won independence from Britain, but has since seen decades-long violent separatist campaigns.

Narengbam Samarjit, external affairs minister in the self-declared Manipur State Council, said the exiled government would push for recognition at the United Nations.

“We will run the de jure exiled government here … from today onwards,” he told reporters in London after a declaration of independence first announced in Manipur in 2012 was read aloud.

“We will seek recognition from different nations … to become a [UN] member. We hope many of the countries will recognise our independence.”

Manipur, one of India’s smallest states with a population of about just 2.8 million people, is one of the so-called “Seven Sisters” – a group of restive northeastern states.

The region, encircled by five other countries and connected to the rest of India by a sliver of land arching over Bangladesh, has been wracked by armed conflict and instability.

Violence part of life

It has spawned more than 100 fighter groups over the decades whose demands range from autonomy to secession.

Violence has been part of daily life for decades in Manipur, which borders Myanmar, with a strong presence of the Indian military.

The state has a strong ethnic mix, and its Meitei, Naga, Kuki and Pangal communities are all deeply committed to preserving their own cultural autonomy.

Its people have also always tended to look eastwards in their search for cultural links.

Samarjit said he hoped the world would support its independence cause.

“We are not free there and our history is going to be destroyed, our culture is going to be extinct,” he warned.

“So the UN should listen … we raise our voice to the whole world that the people living in Manipur are human beings.”

The High Commission of India did not respond to a request for comment.

Himalayan News Network

International

Senior NSCN-IM Leader, 16 Others Join Rival Naga Group

Days before another round of Naga peace talks on October 31, a top leader of NSCN-IM, along with 16 other members, quit the rebel group accusing it of being “insensitive” to the people’s plea for an honourable solution to the vexed issue and joined the rival Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs).

In a statement issued Friday night, Hukavi Yeputhomi said the working committee of the NNPGs has been “practical and realistic” in its negotiation with the Centre.

“Without compromising on our history and identity, I, Hukavi Yeputhomi, former kilo kilonser (home minister) of NSCN-IM and currently a member in the ongoing negotiating team of NSCN-IM, along with 16 co-workers, on our own volition and with clear conscience, has joined the WC NNPG,” he said.

A team of the Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland, Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) held talks with the Centre’s interlocutor R N Ravi in last week of October  but the discussions remained inconclusive. The next round of talks is expected on October 31.

Sources said the demand for a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas has become the main contention between the two sides with the NSCN-IM, which had signed a framework agreement with the Centre in August 2015, strongly pressing for it.

International

Nagaland police told to stock rations

A day after the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) failed to put an end to 22-year long parleys by culminating into peace agreement, the State government directed all unit commanders of the state’s police to stock ration and fuel for as long as two months in advance, reports The Hindu.

Given the timing of the instructions issued by the State government, the directive has triggered panic buying among the common people fearing a clampdown of services and shutdown in the region, akin to the one that was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on 5 August.

The panic among the people is triggered by the fear of the peace talks and negotiations falling out as the 31 October deadline for signing of agreement set by the Government of India looks certain to be breached because of belligerence displayed by NSCN-IM over demand of separate flag and constitution which the Government of India has refused to accept.

It should also be noted that in a separate directive issued on 21 October, the State Government has warned of disciplinary action against State government employees upon criticising the policies and actions of the government over social media, press or public meetings.

Speculations Rife Over Naga Peace Talks As State Government Asks Nagaland Police To Stock Rations 
Write caption…

Sumi women from Nagaland. (Wikimedia Commons)

Health

Health facilities in Bhutan need to prioritise radiation safety requirements: Study

by Dechen Tshomo

THIMPU-  Some of the health facilities in Bhutan were found to have radiation leakage, according to a preliminary finding of the radiation survey carried out in 2018.

The survey, carried out in all the health facilities in the country that provide radiology service, found that the leakage was from windows, console room, dark room, main door and primary wall.

MRI, CT Scan, Mammography, USG and X-ray are some of the radiology services that the health centres in the country currently provide.

A programme officer with the Department of Medical Services, Pema Yangzom, said that radiation leakage happened because most of the health facilities did not have a proper lead lining of the doors.

Ten health facilities—Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, Deothang, Pemagatshel, Gedu, Paro, Samtse, Wangdicholing, Yebilaptse hospitals, Nganglam and Sipsoo BHU Is—were found without lead lining.

During the survey, the components assessed were the accessories, the X-ray rooms including the dark rooms, if they are as per the standard layout. It was also assessed if the primary walls were as per the requirement, if the human resources allocation was adequate, and caseload, among others.

About 58 percent of the 31 health facilities were found satisfactory; 13 were found not satisfactory.

It was found that only a few health facilities used the standard room layout for the X-ray room equipment. X-ray rooms in Deothang, Wangdicholing, Trongsa hospitals, and Nganglam and Dorokha BHU I were found to have inadequate room size.

In terms of the darkroom, nine health facilities did not fulfil the standard. “There was a presence of light and we could see radiation leakage in the darkroom,” she said.

One good practice was that all the health facilities have initiated putting radiation safety signs and indications.

However, it was noticed that the staff were not using PPE (personal protective equipment) when carrying out X-ray.

In terms of providing radiology services, the national referral hospital in Thimphu has the highest workload, followed by Phuentsholing hospital, and the regional referral hospitals in Gelephu and Mongar.

During the survey, ultrasonography (USG) requirements in terms of equipment, infrastructure, human resources and caseload were also assessed.

It was found that the ultrasound rooms were small and congested, the rooms did not have attached toilets and washbasins. There was no ventilation in the USG room, which the health officials claim are unhygienic to the patient and the staff.

The rooms did not have air conditioners. Pema Yangzom said that AC is a must in the ultrasound room to maintain the equipment temperature.

In 2015, Blood Safety and Diagnostic programme with the health ministry, in collaboration with Department of Radiology initiated radiation survey in all health facilities having radiology services to assess, detect and indicate the radiation leakage or hazard presence.

“It is also to ensure the safety of the health workers, patients and those working in the facility,” she said.

Radiation survey is carried out every two years.

Of the two impacts of radiation hazards to health, somatic damage happens when the whole body is exposed to radiation. Genetic damage causes genetic diseases due to radiation hazard.

Some of the health impacts due to radiation exposures include cancers, cataract and some kind of skin diseases. It can also be harmful to the fetus at various stages of pregnancies.

Some of the health facilities have very old X-ray machines which frequently breakdown and hampers the services. This is one of the issues highlighted.

Recommendation

The survey recommends that there is a need for the hospital or dzongkhag administration to prioritise radiation safety requirements in the respective hospital or BHU I.

During the planning of new X-ray infrastructure in the health facilities, it is recommended that the radiology programme should be consulted as they have standard X-ray room layout.

Additional staff requirement in hospitals or BHU Is with higher workload needs to be considered.

Except for the referral hospitals, she said that most of the health facilities had only one HR where the person had to handle both ultrasound and X-ray.

The country today has a total of 119 radiology staff, of which 48 are Radio-Sonographer and 39 X-ray Technician. “Even with this we are facing a severe shortage in our country,” she said.

Hospital and dzongkhag administration need to support computers and printers for the ultrasound unit to enable easy reporting and also support the requirements for the ultrasound service in the health facilities.

Currently, most of the ultrasound reports are prepared manually and it was found that in doing so, there is an issue of not being able to read the reports. (Kuenel)

International

Is Mount Everest shrinking? Nepal is on a mission to find out

By Joanna Slater 

 When Khim Lal Gautam reached the top of Mount Everest at 3 a.m. on May 22, it was dark, windy and lethally cold.

Gautam carried some unusual baggage — a ground-penetrating radar and a top-of-the-line satellite navigation device. Unlike most climbers, he and his team remained at the summit for nearly two hours so they could take the measurements they needed. Gautam suffered a serious case of frostbite, and his colleague nearly died of a lack of oxygen while descending.

But they completed their mission: to obtain crucial pieces of data that will help determine Mount Everest’s true height.

The most commonly accepted figure for Mount Everest’s height is 29,029 feet, a measurement that dates to the 1950s. Some scientists believe that the world’s tallest mountain may have shrunk slightly after a powerful earthquake struck Nepal in 2015.AD

Now, for the first time, Nepal has sent its own teams outfitted with the latest surveying technology to come up with a new measurement of the peak. The two-year, $1.3 million effort is driven both by patriotism and scientific inquiry, experts say.

The southern flank of Mount Everest “belongs to Nepal, but for 170 years foreigners have been measuring its height,” said Roger Bilham, a geologist at the University of Colorado. The current project could be “the most accurate measurement ever made.”

Sometime early next year, the new height will emerge from a modest cluster of offices on the ground floor of a government building in Kathmandu, home to the country’s Survey Department. Susheel Dangol, the chief survey officer, recently installed a keypad-entry system for his department just to safeguard the Everest data.AD

“Everyone is curious about the project,” he said with a grin. During an interview, his cellphone rang with a call from a senior official in the country’s Land Ministry inquiring about the progress of the work. Dangol has developed a stock response to those who ask about the final figure: At the moment, I’m unable to say. 

Dangol, 38, oversees a team of 80 people who have hiked, driven and helicoptered across Nepal to gather the data required for an updated measurement. Among their challenges: transporting a $200,000 Canadian-made gravimeter — which measures the force of gravity at a given location — along juddering Himalayan roads to nearly 300 different spots.

The question of Everest’s height is intimately linked to its modern history. It is known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibet as Chomolungma. The search for the mountain’s English name began after it was declared the world’s tallest peak by surveyors in India in 1856. (Its namesake is George Everest, the prior chief surveyor of India, but even he wasn’t crazy about having the mountain named after him.)AD

Dangol’s team is tackling its task with two methods. The first is to measure Everest the old-fashioned way using trigonometry. Such calculations produced the first-ever tally of Everest’s height, as well as the measurement taken in the 1950s by an Indian team that serves asthe current standard.

But that technique will serve as “a check, a redundancy,” said Christopher Pearson, a research fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand who consulted with Nepal on the project. The pathbreaking part of the effort will come through the second method, which relies on a combination of readings from a satellite navigation system and a complex model of sea level.

Enter Gautam, a 15-year veteran of the survey department. The 35-year-old had already summitted Everest once before in 2011. This time, however, his four-person team was carrying 90 pounds of equipment in addition to their regular climbing gear. They planned their ascent to arrive at the summit in the middle of the night so their work would not be disturbed by other climbers.

Nepali surveyor Khim Lal Gautam (right) at the summit of Mount Everest in the early hours of May 22. On his left is a satellite navigation device to measure the mountain’s peak. (Khim Lal Gautam)
Nepali surveyor Khim Lal Gautam (right) at the summit of Mount Everest in the early hours of May 22. On his left is a satellite navigation device to measure the mountain’s peak. (Khim Lal Gautam)

While most climbers limit their time at the roof of the world to descend quickly from the “death zone,” Gautam and his team “did not have that privilege,” he recalled. They stayed at the summit for an hour and 45 minutes, taking readings with a Global Navigation Satellite System device and a ground-penetrating radar that can gauge the difference between the actual rock summit and the snow that covers it.AD

Wearing bulky mittens against the extreme cold, Gautam and his team couldn’t operate the small knobs on their equipment. So they took off the mittens and worked in fleece gloves instead. For weeks afterward, Gautam had no sensation in his fingers. The frigid temperatures also damaged his feet: He lost the tip of his left big toe to frostbite and now wears only sandals, rather than shoes.

On the descent, all their food and water was gone, and Gautam’s colleague ran out of oxygen, a life-threatening situation. Their climbing guide managed to borrow a bottle from another Sherpa who was heading up the mountain, Gautam said, saving his colleague’s life.

Although the data they carried with them on the way down weighed nothing, “its preciousness made it so heavy,” said Gautam.

Yet the satellite readings from the Everest expedition are not sufficient. They give the mountain’s “ellipsoidal” height — the height of the summit above a smoothed geometric model of the Earth. The readings do not reveal an object’s precise height above sea level. AD

Judging exactly where sea level would begin beneath Everest’s massive tons of rock turns out to be a key question. Generating the model of sea level required lugging a gravimeter, which is carried in a large suitcase-like box, to 297 spots in Nepal. “We have to be cautious and drive slowly,” Dangol said. At each measuring point, the machine must be calibrated before taking readings for two sessions of three minutes each. 

The data collection will be completed next month, Dangol said. Then the processing will begin: six people, sitting in a room equipped with high-speed computers and specialized software, for three to four months, checking and rechecking the figures. It will be a “closed camp,” Dangol said. Not even he will know the results at first. 

Nepal’s effort has been “incredible,” said Pearson, the surveying expert in New Zealand. “Staggeringly, it has all worked, and they have all the information they need to get an accurate height.”AD

Dangol is already looking forward to next year, when Nepal plans to unveil Everest’s new height — both the rock height and the snow height, down to the centimeter. That will be “kind of like a thesis defense,” he said. 

Even the loss of part of his toe did not dull Gautam’s pride in his work. “We are so happy because we finished our difficult task,” he said. “I was ready to take [a] risk for the nation.” 

Ankit Adhikari contributed to this report.

International

Rainy Days Ahead for Northeast India

A low-pressure area, currently located over Odisha, is set to bring an intense bout of heavy to very heavy rains over the eastern and northeastern states of India on Friday.

According to The Weather Channel’s forecasters, Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim will experience heavy to very heavy rainfall on Friday. Moreover, heavy rains are also forecast in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

A 24-hour precipitation accumulation (i.e. total rainfall volume) of over 100mm is also possible over eastern and northeastern India on Friday, and over northeast India on Saturday.

Rainfall accumulation forecast during the next 48 hours, from Friday morning to Sunday morning(TWC Met Team)

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) also forecasts that isolated places over Assam and Meghalaya will experience thunderstorms accompanied by lightning and gusty winds (with speed up to 30-40 kmph) over the next 48 hours.

The regional met centre also forecasts the possibility of thunderstorms with lightning across northeastern states on Friday and Saturday. Gale winds of up to 40 kmph are forecast in isolated places over Assam and Meghalaya. The IMD has issued an orange level alert for these two states, while other states in the northeast have been put under a yellow watch. IMD’s orange alert signifies ‘be prepared’ for extreme weather, while yellow watch recommends to ‘be updated’.

The circulation and the related low is expected to move northeastward on Friday, and reach northeastern India on Saturday morning. The intensity of rainfall is likely to drop after Sunday, as the low-pressure loses steam.

Since the start of October, five Northeastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim) have experienced ‘deficit’ rainfall as compared to the normal average, while Manipur has experienced a ‘large deficit’. However, with heavy rain headed their way, these statistics could change drastically over the weekend.

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