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International

Monsoon misery: Assam’s annual tryst with floods

If preventive measures are not taken immediately floods will cause more damage.

Flood affected villagers with their belongings travel on a boat in Katahguri village in river Brahmaputra, east of Gauhati, India, Sunday, July 14, 2019. (Photo: AP)

Flood affected villagers with their belongings travel on a boat in Katahguri village in river Brahmaputra. (Photo: AP)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Assam falls under a meteorological zone that receives excess monsoon rains
  • Brahmaputra carries a lot of water and sediments – another natural reason for floods
  • Destruction of wetlands and encroachment of plains have worsened the situation

It’s tucked away in the inside pages of national newspapers, rarely makes it to prime time TV bulletins, hardly finds mention in the national discourse on development…floods in Assam are an annual affair, rarely raising more than an eyebrow.

As sure as night follows day, floods in Assam (and in most parts of the Northeast) follow the monsoon. This year has been no different.

According to data put out by Assam State Disaster Management Authority, till July 18 the death toll has touched 27 and is likely to go up. Over 4,000 villages in 28 districts out of the state’s 33 have been affected.

Assam’s population is just over 3 crore; of this 53.5 lakh-plus people are under threat. While close to 1,000 houses have been damaged, 88 animals have been washed away. Over 16 lakh animals, including livestock have been affected. Pictures of rhinos trying to reach higher grounds at the Kaziranga National Park surfaced on Thursday.

(Photo: Reuters)

Over 2 lakh hectares of crop land have been affected by the flood waters. Infrastructure — roads, bridges, culverts – and public utilities have also taken a hit.

Floods lead to loss in human lives and the economy takes a big hit. According to Central Water Commission data (1953-2016) on average 26 lakh people are affected every year in Assam; 47 lose lives, 10,961 cattle die, Rs 7 crore worth of houses destroyed and the total damage comes up to Rs 128 crore every year.

Why is Assam flood-prone?

There are both natural and man-made causes for the annual deluge.

Most of Assam falls under a meteorological zone that receives excessive rain during the monsoon season. According to the Brahmaputra Board, a central body under the Ministry of Jal Shakti tasked to monitor and control floods, the region receives rainfall “ranging from 248 cm to 635…Rainfall of more than 40 mm in an hour is frequent and around 70 mm per hour is also not uncommon”. There have been occasions when 500 mm of rainfall has been recorded in a day.

The valley through which the Brahmaputra flows is narrow. While the river occupies 6-10 km, there are forest covers on either side. The remaining area is inhabited and farming is conducted in the low-lying areas. Overflowing rivers and flowing rapidly down the valley tend to spill over when it reaches the narrow strips.

(Photo: AP)

The zone’s topography also complicates matters. The steep slopes force the rivers to gush down to the plains.

Assam lies in a seismic zone — in fact most of the Northeast does. Frequent earthquakes and resultant landslides push soil and debris into the rivers. This sedimentation raises river beds.

According to a paper published in the International Journal for Scientific Research and Development, “Brahmaputra water contains more sediments raising river by 3 metres in some places and reducing the water carrying capacity of the river.”

Then there are man-made causes that have worsened the flood situation. Encroachment is a big issue. The population density of Brahmaputra valley was 9-29 people per sq km in 1940-41; this shot up to 200 people per sq km now, according Brahmaputra Board.

The systematic destruction of wetlands and water bodies that act as natural run-offs have aggravated the flood problem in Assam. Though embankments provide protection, most of them have not been maintained leading to breaches.

Is there a way out?

First and foremost is the need for early warning systems. There are reports that around the Assam-Bhutan border, villagers form WhatsApp groups to warn people of rising water levels.

If such people-people arrangements can work out then there is no reason why more institutionalised systems, based on technology, cannot be put in place.

(Photo: AP)

These early warning systems should be institutionalised based on scientific approach.

Wetlands and local water bodies should be revived so that the natural drainage system can act as a basin for excess water to flow. This would entail clearing human encroachments in the Brahmaputra flood plains.

Embankments should be regularly checked for breaches and systems put in place for maintenance; a first step would be to break the babu-contractor nexus that finds floods an easy way to sponge money from the system. (India Today)

International

Slovakia’s first female president takes office in a divided country

In a country rife with corruption and unease, Zuzana Caputova steps forward as the fresh-faced first female president, sworn in on 15 June, 2019

Zuzana Caputova had been battling to close a toxic landfill in her hometown, Pezinok, in Slovakia for years when she learned that the wife of her closest colleague had been stricken with an aggressive form of cancer. That same week, her godfather was told that he, too, had cancer. “Part of my personal motivation to get involved in this case is that I was scared of cancer,” she says. “And suddenly, in this week, the first week of June 2006, these two roles – the personal and professional – came together.”

That experience convinced Caputova that what counted most was doing her best to win the case and not to worry about the result, which she could not control. She did eventually win it before the European Court of Justice in 2013, and says she now plans to bring that same attitude to her new job.

On 31 March, Caputova, then a 45-year-old lawyer and political neophyte who had never held state office, became the first woman sworn in as president of Slovakia.

At her swearing-in ceremony in Bratislava, the capital, she vowed to continue to work for the forgotten and the dispossessed. “I offer my expertise, emotion and activism. I offer my mind, my heart and my hands,” she said. “I want to be the voice of those who are not heard.” Caputova rode a wave of public disgust with a political system rife with corruption to a victory widely seen as a rebuke of the illiberal and nativist strain of populism that has swept the European continent in recent years.

“I am happy not just for the result, but mainly that it is possible not to succumb to populism, to tell the truth, to raise interest without an aggressive vocabulary,” she told her supporters during her March victory speech. 

Caputova is proudly European, supports minority rights and does not shy away from controversial stances, like her support for gay rights, including the adoption of children by same-sex couples. Significantly, she was able to do so in a way that many in this still deeply conservative country did not find threatening, perhaps offering a model for others.

“When I talked about these things, for me, this attitude is based on a value that I believe to be very conservative and Christian – empathy and respect for other people,” she says. “And, for me, this value leads to tolerance and respect.” By any measure, it has been a remarkable year in this small central European nation, which emerged from communist rule in 1989 and became independent in 1993, after a peaceful split with the Czech Republic.

The revolt against the governing party, Smer-SD, began after the murders of a young investigative reporter, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, in February 2018. Kuciak had been looking into the nexus between politicians and the Italian mob, the ’Ndrangheta. A prominent businessman, Marian Kocner, would later be charged with ordering his killing.

But that came only after hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets and town squares across the country, the largest protests since the 1989 Velvet Revolution. The protests brought down the government of the prime minister, Robert Fico, and paved the way for Caputova’s election a year later. But her ascension promises to be anything but smooth, as she is about to enter a political maelstrom that will test her skills and determination. 

Fico’s Smer-SD party remains the dominant political force in the country, and the anger at the government that led many voters to embrace Caputova’s reformist vision has also emboldened the country’s far right, with avowed neo-Nazis winning seats in Slovakia’s parliament.

An unlikely supporter of Caputova is Ivan Kocner, the brother of the businessman charged with ordering Kuciak’s murder. His brother also had a stake in the landfill that Caputova fought to close and had once, not so subtly, threatened her. “I remember the first time we met, and her eyes grew wide,” Ivan Kocner, 48, recalls. “She knew I was Marian Kocner’s brother, and she did not have good experiences with the Kocners.”

Here is this group of angry men, very emotional. And she took it all in calmly, got to the essence and then focused on what needed to be done to fix the problem.

By that time, around 2009, Caputova had won a reputation for helping people take on the authorities. Ivan Kocner had gone to her because the mayor of his small village was trying to sell public land to a political patron and he, along with others from the village, wanted it stopped. “Here is this group of angry men, very emotional,” he recalls. “And she took it all in calmly, got to the essence and then focused on what needed to be done to fix the problem.” 

They prevailed. “She is not easily influenced or distracted by outside things,” he says. “It is going to take real effort to keep this part of herself.”

While Ivan Kocner became a documentary filmmaker, his brother surrounded himself with people who saw the country’s transition to democracy as a chance to get rich quick. Many of them would go on to become central figures in the organised crime world. Caputova, who was born in 1973, grew up thinking that communist rule could never last. “I remember how schizophrenic it felt,” she recalls. “To be talking with your friends honestly one moment and then having to hide your opinions with other groups.”

Then it all changed. Able for the first time to travel without a permit, her family visited Vienna during the Christmas season in 1989. “I can still remember the dazzling lights,” she says. When she entered college, she intended to study psychology. But she forgot to bring her paperwork and was rejected from the department. So she took up law instead.

While still in school, she worked as a legal assistant in the mayor’s office in Pezinok. “We had a feeling that we needed to care for something else than just ourselves and our studies,” she says. She volunteered to work with local children who had been neglected and abused. She left the mayor’s office in 1998, along with the heads of several other departments, after a disagreement with the administration. 

Jaroslav Pavlovic, who has known her since she was a child, would go on to work with her at city hall and, later, joined in the landfill fight, says he remembers her being fired with “the injustice of it all”.

“It was just brutal how the state could ignore the will of the people,” Pavlovic says.

Caputova says she was pregnant when she joined the landfill case. “Motherhood inspired me to get involved,” she says. The case soon took over her life. The day she went into labour, she says, she was completing a legal brief. Pavlovic says she was nothing if not tough and stubborn. There were many times before they won the landfill case that it all seemed overwhelming and hopeless. “She was the one who would motivate others,” he says. “And she took a lot of the burden on herself.”

Slovak president Zuzana Caputova

Pavlovic says she helped him deal with the pressure by introducing him to meditation, something she had been doing for some time to deal with stress. “I try to meditate every day,” Caputova says. She first came across books on Zen meditation as a teenager and has been a regular practitioner for 13 years. “I’m not sure how we’re going to manage that now,” she adds. “But the regular practice is important for me.” 

Pavlovic recalls that Caputova first broached the idea of running for president right after a meditation session early last year. “She asked me what I thought,” he says. “I remember she was very unsure about joining politics. My first reaction was, of course, ‘That’s fantastic,’” he says. “But she told me to think about it.”

After thinking it over, he sent her a passage from a favorite book, about how there are two roads one can choose. The dragon’s path, flying up into heaven; and the worm, digging deep into the ground. To do the job of president well, he says, she would have to make the harder choice – to be the worm.

“But on election night,” he says, “I told her that she had finally managed to connect these two roads into one.”

© New York Times

International

BRI summit: China removes map showing all of J&K, Arunachal as part of India

ith the second edition of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Summit underway in Beijing, China has removed a map from the BRI website that depicted entire Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of India.

After reports emerged of the map “misrepresenting” China’s stated position on Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Arunachal Pradesh, the map now does not show up on the website.

The map had also portrayed India as part of the BRI project whereas New Delhi has been opposed to the idea of joining this initiative since it has projects such as CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) which fall in PoK and violate India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

India had boycotted the first summit held in 2017 and despite Beijing’s efforts for India to at least represent itself at the forum, New Delhi decided to sit out.

China had recently destroyed thousands of maps which showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of India.

China considers Arunachal Pradesh as part of their territory and refers to it as “Southern Tibet”.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, or BRFIC was held on May 14–15, 2017 in Beijing, and drew 29 foreign heads of state and government and representatives from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations

The purpose of the forum is described by Wang Xiaotao, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, in an interview with Xinhua as building “a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system.”[3]Western media coverage portrays the forum in a similar way with CNN referring to the event under the headline “China’s new world order” and the Los Angeles Times running the article “Globalization 2.0: How China’s two-day summit aims to shape a new world order”.

There will be an opening ceremony and high level meetings including a plenary session and six parallel panel discussions during the first day.[3] A round table summit will be held on the second day, chaired by President Xi Jinping with the participation of all attending heads of state and government and heads of the UN, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund.[3] At the conclusion of the round-table summit, the body will issue a document agreeing to goals and principles for the initiative.

The forum will be a platform for working out action plans for implementation of the initiative in the areas of infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment and identification of major projects.[3] It is also intended to be an opportunity for the signing of cooperation agreements with countries and international organizations in the areas of financial cooperation mechanism; a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection; and enhanced exchanges and training of talent and financing agreements for backing projects.

International

Smiti Iranis qualification exposed

Dubbing Union minister Smriti Irani a “serial liar”, the Congress on Friday alleged that she has “falsified records” of her educational qualifications and submitted contradictory affidavits to the Election Commission for which she should be disqualified.

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi also accused Irani of misusing her influence and power as a Union minister.

“We have no issue with the fact that Smriti Irani is not a graduate. The issue here is that she has lied repeatedly on oath and to the courts. People of India will see through these lies and give a befitting political reply to a ‘serial liar’!”

It is clear that she has not only “falsified records” of her degrees but has submitted contradictory affidavits to the EC for which she is guilty of offence under Section 125A read with Section 33 of the Representation of Peoples Act, Chaturvedi said.

Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Amethi Lok Sabha seat Smriti Irani on Thursday submitted to the Election Commission that she did not complete her graduation from Delhi University.

In her affidavit filed during her nomination, Irani, who is contesting against Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, said she passed secondary school examination in 1991 and senior secondary school examination in 1993.

Irani has said she did not complete her Bachelor of Commerce (Part-I) – a three-year degree course – from Delhi University’s School of Open Learning in 1994.

In her affidavit for 2014 polls, she had reportedly said she graduated from the university in 1994, triggering a row over the veracity of her claim, with opposition parties alleging she was not a graduate.

International

Mopin Festival celebrated at Basar, Arunachal

The Inspector General (IG) of the North East Frontier of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sanjeev Raina, on Tuesday inaugurated the Mopin Festival at Basar in Arunachal Pradesh’s Leparada.

The festival is celebrated for good harvest, health, peace and prosperity.

People also pray to Mopin Ane for her blessings.

Informing about the inauguration of the festival, the ITBP on its official Twitter handle on Tuesday stated: “Sh Sanjeev Raina, IG NE Frontier ITBP inaugurated Mopin Festival in Basar, Leparada Arunachal Pradesh. Celebrated for good harvest, health, peace and prosperity. People pray to Mopin Ane for her blessings.”

According to information, during this festival, locals smear rice powder in each other’s face to mark the start of the festival.

This is an important festival celebrated by the Galo Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh and it is celebrated during the month of April.

The women dressed in white perform dance on the occasion.

The Galo tribe actively participate in the festival which is celebrated to drive away the evil spirits.

An animal is sacrificed to please God.

Mithun is considered as the auspicious animal to offer God.

The festival is celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh for five days.

During this five-day celebration, the people chant folk songs along with an elegant dance known as Popir.

The people also enjoy locally-prepared rice beer called Apong.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Sh Sanjeev Raina, IG NE Frontier ITBP inaugurated Mopin Festival in Basar, Leparada Arunachal Pradesh. Celebrated for good harvest, health, peace and prosperity. People pray to Mopin Ane for her blessings.

Source : NE NOW

Border tension, International

China destroys thousands of maps showing Arunachal as part of India: Report

Nearly 30,000 world maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India and Taiwan as a separate country were destroyed by customs authorities in a northeastern Chinese city last week.

Reports said it was the largest such exercise in recent years and was carried out to protect China’s “territorial integrity”. The maps were in English and manufactured by a company in a Chinese province called, Anhui.

Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by Beijing as a part of China and depicted on its official maps as a part of south Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Beijing also considers Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as a breakaway province to be eventually unified.

Acting on a tip off, customs officials of Qingdao city in Shandong province raided an office and seized more than 800 boxes containing 28,908 world maps.

“A total of 803 boxes of the 28,908 wrong maps were seized and destroyed, the largest amount to be disposed of in recent years,” the province’s Natural Resources ministry said at a press conference, quoted by the news website Dazhongwang Qingdao reported.

The documents were taken to a secret location and shredded. “The maps were produced by a company in East China’s Anhui Province and were on the way to being exported to an unspecified foreign country,” the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times reported.

“The problematic maps failed to show the correct territory of China and omitted south Tibet and the island of Taiwan, the Qingdao government found after an examination of the maps,” the report added.

Relevant authorities have carried out checks on the domestic map market more than 100 times and have discovered and destroyed over 10,000 incorrect maps, preventing the sale in domestic and overseas markets.

“Maps reflected national sovereignty and were a political statement”, Ma Wei, from the Natural Resources ministry’s geographical information centre, was quoted as saying.

“What China did in the map market was absolutely legitimate and necessary, because sovereignty and territorial integrity are the most important things to a country. Both Taiwan and south Tibet are parts of China’s territory which is sacred and inviolable based on the international law,” Liu Wenzong from the department of International Law of China Foreign Affairs University told the Global Times.

“If the wrong maps were circulated inside the country and abroad, it would have caused great harm to China’s territorial integrity in the long run,” noted Liu.

Beijing opposes visit of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh and is very sensitive to the depiction of Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India. .

In April, 2017, China renamed six places in Arunachal Pradesh in an apparent retaliation against the Dalai Lama’s visit to India’s easternmost state, with experts saying the move is aimed at reaffirming Beijing’s “territorial sovereignty” on the region.

Changing the names was a “legitimate” action done in line with Chinese law, the foreign ministry had then said, adding it supported Beijing’s territorial claim.

The ministry said: “To issue these names, it is actually carried out in accordance with our regulations about the names of localities and it is a legitimate action by the Chinese government,” adding: “These names reflect from another side that China’s territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history, culture and administration.”

Last February, China had criticised Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visit to the Indian state. “China’s position on the China-India boundary question is consistent and clear-cut. The Chinese government has never recognised the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the East Section of the China-India boundary,” Hua Chunying, foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Beijing has increased pressure in recent months on international firms and airlines to refer to Taiwan as a part of China on websites as part of its effort to assert its authority over Taiwan.

Last July, India’s national carrier Air India changed the name of Taiwan to Chinese Taipei on its website after China raised concerns about Taiwan being described as a separate region by various airlines worldwide. Air India was among 40 international airlines to do so.

Also, last year, the US clothing company GAP had to apologise for selling T-shirts with a map of China which didn’t show Taiwan. The international hotel chain Marriott had its Chinese website briefly blocked for listing the Tibet Autonomous Region, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a questionnaire for customers in 2018

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 Three possible reasons why China blocked UN move on Masood AzharExplained: Three possible reasons why China blocked UN move on Masood AzharWith China opting to once again block action on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar despite international censure after the Pulwama attack, Hindustan Times decodes the three strategic reasons which could have possibly influenced Beijing’s decision.

International

BJP follows RSS order ticket to R P Sarma likely, no to Himanta

Ram Prasad Sarmah had resigned from the party after his name was missing from the list of probable candidates.

Among those who were snubbed is senior BJP leader from Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has been clinical in strengthening the party’s hold in the state and the north-east. The snub given to Biswas has not gone down well several members of the party and has dampened the mood for Biswas’ loyalists.

However, Shah issued a clarification justifying the decision and said that it was taken in the best interests of the party and the state of Assam.
“The Assam election selection committee and Assam BJP members had recommended Himanta Biswa Sarma’s name for the Lok Sabha elections. But the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in consultation with the central leadership of the BJP has decided to let Biswas to continue to as a minister in Assam and continue the work of the NEDA chairman and continue to contribute a healthy growth of the party in Assam and the north-east,” the BJP president said in a post on micro-blogging platform Twitter.

Three sitting MPs in Assam were dropped from BJP’s first list of candidates for the coming general elections announced on Thursday evening. The suspense, however, continued over tickets in two crucial seats.

The BJP named candidates for 8 of the 14 seats in Assam while refraining from making announcements for Nagaon and Tezpur. Alliance partners Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) will contest from 3 seats and Bodo People’s Front (BDF) from one.

Former union minister Bijaya Chakraborty, 80, who has represented the Guwahati seat thrice since 1999, was replaced by another woman candidate Queen Oja (67).

Sitting MPs from Mangaldoi, Ramen Deka and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (Jorhat) were replaced by Dilip Saikia and Tapan Gogoi, a minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal government.

Two sitting MPs, Rameshwar Teli (Dibrugarh) and Pradan Baruah (Lakhimpur) were given tickets while the fates of two other MPs, union minister Rajen Gohain (Nagaon) and Ram Prasad Sarmah (Tezpur), are yet to be decided.

BJP had won 7 of the 14 seats in the state in 2014. After Sarbananda Sonowal became chief minister in 2016, the Lakhimpur seat went to Pradan Baruah.

Union minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain, who is facing a rape charge, had announced recently that he won’t be contesting till his name is cleared and Ram Prasad Sarmah had resigned from the party after his name was missing from the list of probable candidates.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, a senior minister in the Sonowal cabinet and convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a BJP-led group of anti-Congress parties in the region, was expected to get the Tezpur ticket.

But putting all speculations to rest, BJP president Amit Shah announced on Thursday evening that since Sarma holds important responsibilities the party high command wants him to continue with them for the time being.

“The BJP central committee requested Sarma to continue as NEDA chairman, work for overall development of northeast and help coordinate between the party and the government at Centre,” Shah wrote in a series of tweets in Hindi.

“I hope Assam BJP and workers across northeast will accept this decision,” added Shah.

There are speculations that Ram Prasad Sarmah might be given the Tezpur ticket while Rupak Sarma, a first-time MLA, might get the Nagaon seat.

International

Northeast Indian cuisine is a hot new sensation in Nepal

Sewa Bhattarai

Nepalis are used to chillies. Our fiery akbare are legendary for setting mouths on fire. But even macho locals with a high tolerance for the hot stuff will raise the white flag and surrender to the Naga Viper.

With a high 9 on the Scoville Scale the bright red peppers are supposed to be 500 times more potent than jalapeño, and were even listed in the Guinness Book in 2011 as the world’s hottest chillie. Vipers are vital ingredients at the Dzoukou Tribal Kitchen’s brand new franchise in Thamel.     

Owner Karen Yaptomi (pictured below) is from Nagaland and now has a string of restaurants in Delhi and Kathmandu. In jest, our one piece of unsolicited advice to her was to install fire extinguishers at her restaurant because the Vipers are so fiery. 

It was a disaster that Yaptomi landed up in Nepal, but not in the way you might think. She had come to Kathmandu in 2015 with friends from northeast India to raise funds for earthquake victims through a series of concerts with her friend, Nepali singer Abhaya Subba.  

Photos: MONIKA DEUPALA

“I was in Delhi, Nepal was so near and I had never been here. So I decided to make a trip up,” recalls Yaptomi, who explored the local market in Asan and was struck by the familiarity of it all. Bamboo shoots, dry fish, timur (Sichuan pepper) and niguro (fern) reminded her of Nagaland.

 While the similarities excited her, she was even more intrigued by what could not be found in the local restaurant scene: no restaurants serving ethnic cuisine from India’s northeast. Through her music network, Yaptomi was offered a terrace space in Thamel, and that is how Dzoukou Tribal Kitchen came into being.

“I did not come here with the intention of opening a restaurant, but one thing led to another and I thought I would take that chance,” she says.

Even though she lived most of her life in Delhi, Yaptomi made frequent visits to Nagaland where her mother taught her the traditional food of her people. Nagas eat pork, rice and vegetables with pickles twice a day, and that staple is what she serves at the restaurant, along with other items from Manipur and Mizoram.

The food has a distinct, pungent and exotic flavor which are a result of the cooking style and spicy ingredients. We are invited to the kitchen, where we watch as Yaptomi transforms a piece of pork with timur, a basil variant called napa, fern and fermented soya to make a succulent accompaniment to rice. There is hardly any fat or oil, so it is a healthy and heady mix – with the taste and flavour coming through loud and clear.  

Yaptomi has difficulty finding the right kinds of dry fish, so she sources many of the ingredients from Nagaland. Even the décor is from her home state with bamboo ceiling, walls, wooden tables and straw mats. Kettles and other utensils are also from Nagaland.  

With no formal education in hotel management, Dzoukou Tribal Kitchen is purely a labour of love. And it was by sheer chance that she even got into the restaurant business. Once, she invited 30 friends home and spent the whole day cooking. The guests all raved about the food, and suggested she open a restaurant. Which she did. The rest is her story.

International

25 illegal migrant villages in Mizoram


AIZAWL: The Mizoram government on Friday said at least 25 illegal villages had been set up in areas bordering Bangladesh,
Myanmar and Manipur. This was revealed by local administration minister K Lalrinliana in the assembly.
In a written reply to a question from Zoram People’s Movement legislator C Lalsawivunga, Lalrinliana said 16 ilegal villages are
located in Lunglei district which borders Bangladesh.
He added that four such villages are located in Aizawl district, three in Champhai district and two in Mamit district. Lunglei and
Mamit share borders with Bangladesh, while Champhai has a common boundary with Manipur and Myanmar.
Recently, Mizo Zirlai Pawl, an influential students’ organization, and Mizo Students’ Union, had conducted a study of border
areas.
Following this, they alleged that those who have set up the illegal villages are Chakmas, who entered Mizoram from
Bangladesh. They claimed that the illegal settlements in Aizawl district have been established by ethnic Mizos from Manipur.
In the wake of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill controversy, Mizoram had witnessed widespread street protests. The purpose
of the bill was to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mizos, who are predominantly Christians, feared that such a proposal would encourage influx of Buddhist Chakmas who
complain of religious persecution in Bangladesh.

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“Mizoram Contends with Refugee Influx from Myanmar”

by Gautam Sen

The Mizoram Government has recently raised an alert on migration of refugees to the state from Myanmar. The State Government was quite complacent on inflow of refugees till early October last year, particularly in its belief that the Rohingyas of Rakhine state of western Myanmar would not be inclined to migrate there. The State Government had also not expressed any apprehension on prospective immigration of Buddhist refugees from Myanmar to Mizoram. However, the Mizoram Government alerted Government of India, in the end of November, 2017, after more than a 1000 Myanmarese refugees entered Lawngtlai District. Assam Rifles, the Central Para Military Force tasked with guarding the India-Myanmar border, thereafter augmented its deployment by eight companies. Notwithstanding these measures, nearly 1300 Buddhist nationals from Arakan in Western Myanmar and Chin state, adjacent to Rakhine, have subsequently entered Mizoram. The latest migrants, basically of Chin origin, have been temporarily sheltered in four villages, Laitlang, Dumzautlang, Hmawngbuchhuah and Zochachhuah in Lawngtlai District.

There is palpable tension in the Mizoram villages as a result of the latest migration of the Myanmar nationals. The tension is understandable because most of these villages have population in the range of 200 to 400. The migrants (described as Zakhais and Khumis by the locals), apart from being ethnically, linguistically and religious faith-wise different from the local Mizos, are tending to numerically overwhelm the local population, apart from causing competing demands on limited local resources for livelihood. While the State Government and local non-governmental groups are presently trying to provide relief to the Buddhist refugees, these can at best be a temporary measure.

Even as the Rohingya-related phenomenon has disturbed the overall milieu in Myanmar`s Western-most province comprising Rakhine and other areas in the Eastern and Southern vicinity of Rakhine, and the local Buddhists too were impacted, the sudden westward migration of the latter to Indian territory was not anticipated. The cause for the current migration of these Buddhists can be traced to the hostile disposition and confrontation between the insurrectionist Arakan Army – armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars, and fighting for self-determination in Rakhine and in areas West of the Arakan Yoma mountains – and the Myanmar`s Army, particularly since the last quarter of 2017. The Arakan Army, affiliated to the Kachin Independence Army, has not yet entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar Government for cessation of armed insurrection under an unified peace process which is being pursued by the Naypidaw with the country`s other Northern and Eastern militant outfits.

In this regard, due consideration to accommodating different ethnic groups of non-Mizo stock within Mizoram would be a preferable course for the State and the Union Governments. Various Mizoram Governments and the ethnically homogeneous Mizo civic society have been opposed to any administrative re-arrangement which devolves autonomy in legislative, administrative and financial domains under the enabling provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution to non-Mizo communities like those referred to above. The communities already affected are the Chakmas, Reangs, Hmars and Lais, influx of Myanmarese Buddhists to Mizoram will compound the problem in the State located in the sensitive North East. In this backdrop, any long-term-term sheltering of Myanmarese Buddhist refugees of Arakan in southern Mizoram would create apprehension among the Mizos and a negative ferment in that state. Therefore, just as Rohingya migrants to India have to be repatriated, similar stance could be adopted at the political or diplomatic levels to reverse the trend of Myanmarese Buddhist migration.

In some governmental quarters there is a perception that the causes triggering the Buddhist migration to Mizoram may be a transient phenomenon. Reckoning the prevailing disturbed conditions in western Myanmar, and many imponderables in the latter`s national consolidation and assimilation of ethnic groups` process, such a perception may not be well founded. It will therefore be in India`s national interest to adopt necessary measures to maintain politico-economic stability and the somewhat fragile, though accommodative, ethnic milieu in Mizoram. This is particularly necessary along areas contiguous to its 510 km long frontier with Myanmar and also adjacent to its border with the Tripura state where too the people are of ethno-cultural stock different from the Mizos. Efficacy of joint border patrolling by Myanmar Army and India`s Assam Rifles may also need to be enhanced to ensure better border management.

For proper outcome of India`s Act East policy and concomitant infrastructural and trade linkage plans with South-East Asia through Myanmar, a politically stable and developing region, free from socio-economic and ethnic tensions along Myanmar`s western frontier with India, is a sine qua non. The migration of the Buddhists nationals from Arakan-Chin areas of Myanmar, to Mizoram – in addition to the aftereffects of the Rohingya migration from Rakhine to neighbouring Bangladesh, with some chance of a few of them even moving to Mizoram – has all the potential to stoke internal disturbances in India. The multi-modal transport project being executed – linking Sittwe Port of Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal with Paletwa, the country`s western-most town with Zorinpui in Mizoram – may not be able to take off successfully if the upheaval and confrontation continues in Rakhine and Arakan.

In the above-mentioned context, India may adopt a nuanced and well-crafted diplomatic approach towards Myanmar which induces Naypidaw to move fast and effectively towards creating conditions on a long-term basis for the Arakan Buddhists to return to their homes. Action aimed at these Buddhist migrants need not be linked with issues contingent on resolving the Rohingya problem or implementation of the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission recommendations on reconciliation in Rakhine. Though there are some spillover impacts of the Rohingya and Arakan Buddhist problems on each other, it may be expedient to persuade Myanmar Government to evolve an accommodative solution independent of each other. Efforts for an early repatriation need to be initiated without delay and in an effective manner, suitably nuanced and reinforced by diplomatic efforts with the ASEAN comity of nations and also Bangladesh to an extent. Should an early repatriation process start in respect of the Arakan Buddhists, there may be some outcome on return of a limited number of non-Buddhists also to Rakhine, including the Rohingyas.

To ameliorate the situation in Mizoram, the Union Government may consider assuming direct responsibility for relief and temporary shelter management of the Buddhist refugees. Mizoram Government`s role may be confined to documenting the refugees, attaching healthcare and some community service personnel at refugee locations and perimeter security, with the Union Government bearing the incidence of expenditure on these accounts. Such an arrangement will not constrain the State`s resources and may be politically expedient considering sensitivities of the overall internal situation in Mizoram. With the state assembly elections only a few months away, shifting the administrative and economic burden to New Delhi will also obviate the Buddhist migration issue being capitalized on contentiously in the local milieu.

(The author is a retired IDAS officer who has served in senior appointments with Government of India and a north-east State Government. The views are the author`s own).

(Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the VIF)

International

Nations Agree To “Significantly” Cut Single-Use Plastics Over Next Decade

After marathon talks in Nairobi, countries appeared to have reached a deal over throwaway plastic items such as bags, cups and cutlery to reduce the more than eight million tonnes of plastics entering oceans each year.

NAIROBI: Nations on Friday committed to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics over the next decade, in a series of voluntary pledges that green groups warned fell short of tackling Earth’s pollution crisis.

After marathon talks in Nairobi, countries appeared to have reached a deal over throwaway plastic items such as bags, cups and cutlery to reduce the more than eight million tonnes of plastics entering oceans each year. 

The final ministerial statement — issued on a day of youth protests against climate change — made only two references to man-made global warming and none to the fossil fuels that drive it.

It said countries would “address the damage to our ecosystems caused by the unsustainable use and disposal of plastic products, including by significantly reducing single-use plastic products by 2030.”

Sources close to the talks told AFP that several rich nations, led by the United States, were influential in watering down the pledge. 

An initial ministerial statement at the beginning of the UN environment assembly this week had proposed a commitment to “phase out single-use plastics… by 2025” — a far stronger promise than the compromise nations appear to have reached. 

“It’s hard to find one solution for all member states,” said Siim Kiisler, UN assembly president, told journalists before the final decision. 

“The environment is at a turning point. We don’t need verbose documents, we need concrete commitments.” 

The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans, scientists have estimated.

When asked specifically whether the US had played a spoiler role during the week’s negotiations, Kiisler told journalists: “I will not answer that question.”

Geo-engineering dispute

The UN this week released its periodic assessment of the health of our planet. 

As much as a quarter of all premature death and disease is caused by manmade pollution, environmental damage and a lack of access to clean sanitation, said the Global Environmental Outlook report. 

Joyce Msuya, the UN’s interim environment head, said states had reached consensus on “issues vital to human and planetary health”.

But unlike the UN’s parallel process on climate change, the environmental assembly has no legal means of enforcing what countries promise. 

The summit started on a sombre note after several UN staffers perished in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday.

Delegates on Friday held a minute’s silence at the start of the final plenary, and UN staff lit a string of candles along the assembly hall. 

Another major bone of contention during negotiations was geo-engineering, the use of untested, large-scale infrastructure projects to mitigate the climate impact of manmade emissions. 

A Swiss proposal for greater oversight on these potentially powerful but risky projects was met with “fierce opposition” from the US and Saudi Arabia, one source close to the talks told AFP. 

Green groups fear geo-engineering such as carbon-capture and so-called “solar radiation management” — essentially pumping reflective material into the atmosphere to bounce back more of the Sun’s rays — would allow richer nations to burn fossil fuels well into the future while seeming to commit to tackle climate change.

Even if these schemes eased global warming, they would not address the carbon dioxide emissions that are acidifying the oceans, say experts. 

“They want to avoid further regulation, governance, and oversight over these technologies and it’s definitely in the interest of the fossil-fuel industry,” said Linda Schneider, senior programme officer of International Climate Policy at Germany’s Heinrich Boell Institute.

Charities gave a lukewarm reception to the commitments due Friday.

“World leaders have agreed some important steps to safeguard the environment,” Harjeet Singh of ActionAid told AFP. 

“But we cannot continue to ignore the bigger picture — rising global inequality is driving unsustainable levels of consumption and destroying the world’s natural resources.”COMMENT

Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid said “more was expected from this meeting to tackle the one existential environmental crisis of our times: climate change.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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