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Diplomacy

Bhutan Accepts India’s SAARC Proposal On Coronavirus, Hails PM Modi’s Leadership

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership while accepting India’s proposal to the members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to formulate a “strong strategy” to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Tshering took to Twitter to support the call of Prime Minister Modi and urged the SAARC nations to coordinate in this fight. Bhutanese PM raised concern about smaller economies and displayed confidence in PM Modi’s leadership to achieve “immediate” and “impactful” outcome.

This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1238371182094639104 

Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.

We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

PM Modi had proposed that the SAARC countries could discuss the ways, via video conferencing, to keep citizens healthy. Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also thanked Prime Minister for taking the initiative and welcomed the proposal.

I welcome the idea advanced by Prime Minister Modiji @narendramodi for chalking out a strong strategy by the leadership of the SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. My government is ready to work closely with SAARC Member States to protect our citizens from this deadly disease.

Thank you PM @narendramodi for taking the initiative on this important endeavor. Covid 19 requires collective effort to defeat it. Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1238371182094639104 

Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.

We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

PM Modi’s proposal and quick response from SAARC members could revive the regional intergovernmental organisation which has been dormant since the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan hit the nadir.

Environment

Nagaland: Drive against single-use plastic in Kohima

Dimapur:

Kohima District Task Force carried out its fourth checking and confiscation exercise to enforce the total ban on all single-use plastics in Nagaland’s capital city Kohima on Friday.

The task force on total ban of all single use plastics has been conducting checking and confiscation exercise at regular intervals to ensure that the ban on the sale and use of single-use plastic is properly enforced.

It aims to create awareness and ensure that the dream of a plastic pollution free Nagaland stays alive.

The team,  divided into two groups and aided by various NGOs and government departments, conducted the exercise, visited all the shops in and around the Kohima main town to check the use and sale of all single-use plastics, including poly-propylene bags.

A number of shops were caught using the banned plastic bags and selling minerals water bottles below one litre.

The erring shopkeepers were fined and the banned products were all confiscated.

The seized items will later be disposed off by the Kohima Municipal Council.

The Kohima district administration thanked the various public organistions, Kohima Municipal Council, various government departments for their c-operation and participation in the exercise. (Source: NE NOW)

Society

Mob Kills One, Injures Eight Over Witchcraft Allegation in Meghalaya

Shillong: A 25-year-old man died after he and his friends were attacked by a mob on the suspicion of practising witchcraft in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district, police said on Tuesday.

Eight people suffered injuries in the assault.

A total of 27 people, including two minors, were arrested on Monday night in connection with the incident at Pashang village, when the nine picnickers were attacked with sticks, iron rods and stones while they were returning to Shillong in a vehicle, police said.

Rumours had it that a group of cult worshippers was moving around in the area in a car, they said.

“The group had gone to Syntung for picnic and on their way back to Shillong on Sunday night, they were waylaid by the mob near Pashang area and assaulted,” Assistant Inspector General of Police Gabriel Iangrai said.

One person, hailing from Madanrting area, was declared brought-dead at Shillong Civil Hospital, he said, adding, two others were seriously injured.

Six members of the group had managed to escape to a nearby jungle with minor injuries, from where they were rescued by police on Monday.

Health

First confirmed COVID-19 case in Bhutan

The Himalaya kingdom of Bhutan has confirmed its first Covid-19 case of a visiting American tourist, the PM’s Office has announced.

The patient is said to be a 76-year-old from the United States of America, who had come to Bhutan on Mar 2 via India in which he originally arrived on Feb 21.

The Bhutanese government immediately imposed a two-week restriction on all incoming tourists. This is to enable rigorous monitoring, source assessment of infection and mitigate the situation. In addition, all international conferences and seminars to be held in the country in the two weeks are also postponed.

Based on the prepared plans, the Bhutanese king personally oversaw implementation of the response strategy, with health officials to take care of the patient.

A resident of Washington DC, the patient was travelling with his partner, aged 59. There were 10 passengers on board the plane, of which eight others were Indian nationals.

At the Paro International Airport, the American patient’s health declaration form was assessed. He had indicated “negative” against all conditions. He did not have a sign of fever.

However, upon reaching Thimph on the afternoon of Mar 5, he visited the medical clinic, complaining of bloaty abdomen (dyspeptic symptoms) and nausea. The patient suffers from chronic hypertension and is on medication. However, even at that time, he did not have any flu symptoms.

The patient and his partner stayed at Le Meridien on the first night. The following day, he stayed indoor most of the time and went to the hospital again around 3.30pm for stomach upset and diarrhea.

The next day, he travelled to Punakha, with two stops on the way for tea and lunch. He had stayed at Densa Boutique Resort. That evening, he had walked until the Bazam next to Punakha Dzong, and returned to the room.

Yesterday, upon returning to Thimphu, he visited clinic again. He was found to have fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. He was kept under observation at the flu clinic (designated COVID-19 hospital) and samples were collected and sent to Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC).

Upon confirmation, he has been isolated in the COVID-19 hospital. Considering his age and underlying conditions, the patient is on oxygen support.

At press time, over 90 persons who might have come into his contact have been traced. Health officials and other relevant agencies are in the process of carrying out primary disease management and contact tracing.

Contact tracings were launched as per the patient’s itinerary. It included people he associated with at all the points and stops along the way, starting from Paro airport to Thimphu, to Punakha and back. It included tea stops at Druk Wangyal Café, and lunch at Punakha High School park.

The close contacts were his partner, the driver and the guide. While all three are asymptomatic for now, they have been quarantined at the designated COVID-19 hospital.

The eight Indian passengers have also been quarantined. The government is closely working with the Indian Embassy.

Health ministry has asked the four crew members of the particular flight, and the hotel staff at both Le Meridien and Densa Boutique Resort to “home quarantine”. Which means they should stay home and maintain distance from people, including family members. Until all suspicions are ruled out, health officials will closely monitor and provide all services at respective homes.

Response plan

As per the National Preparedness and Response Plan, with the detection of first confirmed case of COVID-19, the country stepped into “Orange” zone. The zone is defined as having one or more isolated confirmed cases without secondary transmission.

It is described as “moderate disruption”, according to which the government has to isolate confirmed cases, quarantine suspects, carry out closure of schools, institutions and public gatherings in the affected localities.

Per  the response plan, the government had announced closure of schools and institutes in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha for two weeks with effect from March 6.

The duration is specified in keeping with the health advisory, which states that people who would have contracted infection from the primary source would develop full-blown infection by then.

Parents are advised to closely monitor the health of the child. Should there be any concern, parents are asked to contact health officials.

First confirmed COVID-19 case in Bhutan

Art & Culture

Chapchar Kut, the biggest and most joyful festival of Mizos celebrated

 

Aizwal: In Mizoram, the biggest and most joyful festival of Mizos, Chapchar Kut is being celebrated across the state today. The Chapchar Kut is also regarded as the most popular spring festival to the people of the state. The gaiety and fervour of Chapchar Kut shines through with plenty of dancing and music to keep everyone in good spirits. This festival is a public holiday in the state.

Air correspondent reports that Though the festival is beginning today, the celebration started yesterday with the mega event holding at the Assam Rilfles Ground at Aizawl. On the occasion, state Art & Culture Minister R Lalzirliana welcomed all people to participate in the fun and amusement events being organised during the festival. Traditional bamboo dance – Cheraw and other dances were performed at the main event, attracting thousands of people. Almost similar festive events are being held throughout the state.

Amidst cultural fervour, thousands of people from different walks of life, dressed in traditional attires thronged Lammual or Assam Rifles ground here to celebrate the first day of the festival, which witness different cultural hues and traditional dances.

ANTHURIUM FESTIVAL 2013 AT TOURIST RESORT REIEK ON SEPTEMBER:-

About 30 kms to the West ,about an hour’s drive from Aizawl sprawls a pro

minent mountain on which Reiek village is located. This is one destination that one should not miss visiting. The mountain itself, though appearing to be of gentle slopes on its eastern side , has spectacular rocky cliffs notched with caves and caverns in an environment of luxuriant natural forest preserved since the days of the Mizo chiefs. It is here that the colorful Festival , Anthurium Festival is celebrated in the state. It is a successful tourism promotion venture celebrated every year at the tourist resort in Reiek Village at the foothills of the mystic Reiek Mountain in September, every year as festival, amidst, nature during the peak season of the beautiful and exotic Anthurium blossom. It is a three days extravaganza that showcase various culture and traditional activities. Other attractions include music, dance, traditional games and sports, handloom, handicrafts and a re-invention of a Mizo typical Village. The festival also includes archery, rifle shooting, and angling competitions. Cultural display of traditional attires of different tribes are also a regular feature of the festival . The festival is indeed an experience not to be missed. The enchanting and mystic Reiek Mountain is surrounded by thick lush green temperate trees and bushes that echoes with legends, folk lore’s and feats won by Mizo chief , for whom Rei-ek Mountain was a hunting preserve. Against the backdrop of this picture perfect isle of nature preserved as gifted by mother nature, the most popular festival of Mizoram. The spontaneity and spirit of celebration that the festival evoke rejuvenates the mind and the body, so, take the opportunity to get away from the stress and monotony of your daily chores. MIZORAM, Hidden Gem of The North East India Well Comes YOU to witness the amazing culture and tradition of the Mizos, the Anthurium Festival is a must attend.

Art & Culture

Based on true story, “You Don’t Belong Here” releasing next month

Guwahati: In a spine chilling incident that took place on 8th of June 2018 India recalls the lynching that led to death of two young men Abhijit and Nilotpal. The death of the two young men saw an uproar in the Northeast as a video circulated showcasing the brutalities of the murder by a group of 300 people in a state of Northeast. Despite making immense efforts to plead for their life for absolutely no fault on the forefront by them, the men breathed their last.

While all of us tried to digest what happened on that black day and whether or not Abhijit and Nilotpal will get justice in our country, the family continues to fight their battle after losing their sons in broad daylight. This incident took place in the district of Dokmoka Village in Karbi-Anglong, Assam. Abhijit and Nilotpal were beaten to death using heavy stones, canes, sticks and bamboos despite begging and pleading for life.

A video was recorded and circulated on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram wherein they can be seen pleading that ‘My name is Nilotpal Das and I am an Assamese’.
In honour of our sons Abhijit and Nilotpal, the director has made an attempt to showcase the system, flaws and the details of the case in his documentary. Based on a true story, releasing next month is the documentary “You Don’t Belong Here” that will take us to the nitty gritties of the judicial and social system, it’s failure and how the lives of the two young men never saw broad daylight.

The director Zain Nile Zaman makes an attempt to understand and bring to light the incident before it drifts into a corner amongst the thousands of unresolved cases in the Indian judicial system. This documentary is an account of every person associated in the case from the judicial system, the family members of the victims,  the superintended of the case Shiv Prasad Ganjela and eye witnesses have also expressed their views and opinions including Mr Manas Sarania (defense lawyer) of the accused.

There is no justification to the death of Abhijit and Nilotpal and we hope that this shall unbolt some eye awakening truthful revelations about the case.

by B. Chivukula 

Indigenous People

Genophobia engulfs Meghalaya after death of Khasi Students Union leader

Shillong: Amid the unrest in Meghalaya, MLAs from neighbouring Assam on Thursday met the Meghalaya home minister and leader of the opposition to seek a safe passage for the stranded labourers from the state.

MLAs Nandita Das, Rupjyoti Kurmi and Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha sought an appointment with chief minister Conrad K Sangma but were not able to meet him due to his busy schedule. The MLAs from Assam who were concerned about the unrest in the state wanted the Meghalaya government to make arrangements for the stranded labourers so that they can reach home safely.

The MLAs also met the leader of opposition Mukul Sangma and apprised him of the same.

Another person was seriously injured as he was stabbed at Mawkhar near YMCA in Shillong on Thursday.

The injured has been identified as 21-year-old Sanidul Islam.

The fresh incident of stabbing has brought further fear among the people as it happened after the normalcy started to return to the Shillong city.

Police are yet to identify the perpetrator(s) involved in the crime.

Meanwhile, the district magistrate of East Khasi Hills district has under Section 144 CrPC promulgated curfew in Shillong agglomeration and its adjoining areas with effect from 9 pm Thursday to 5 am on Friday.

The areas under curfew include the whole of Municipal and Cantonment areas, all reas under Mawlai and Mawpat Blocks including their census towns areas under Mylliem Block from Umshyrpi bridge up to 7 Mile Upper Shillong.

The other areas which will also remain under the curfew are Madanrting, Mawblei, Laitkor, Nongkseh, Umlyngka, Lawsohtun, Mawdiangdiang, Diengiong and Siejiong.

Another person stabbed in Shillong, curfew promulgated again 1

The sub-divisional magistrate of the Sohra civil sub-division has also relaxed the curfew in areas under Sohra police station with effect from 8 am to 6 pm on Friday and the curfew will be extended again from 6 pm until further orders.

At Ichamati, the curfew has been relaxed from 8 am to 10 am on Friday, and will be extended again from 10 am until further orders.

However, all areas under Shella police station, Tyllap police outpost and Bholaganj police check post, curfew has been relaxed with effect from 8 am to 2 pm on Friday, and it will be extended again from 2 pm until further orders.

The sub-divisional magistrate of Sohra civil sub-division further informed that special escort will be provided to students outside Mawlong village who are appearing in the SSLC examination at Mawlong Centre.

Art & Culture

Global tourists enjoy indigenous games in Manipur

by Vangamla Salle K S

: Ukhrul: At a time when global economy has slowed down and people continue to remain indoors in the wake of the deadly Coronavirus aka COVID-19 outbreak, tourists from Greece are seen enjoying as they participate in a tug-of-war game, locally known as ‘thingneira khangakhun’, at the ongoing Hungpung Luira Phanit, a seed sowing festival in Ukhrul district on Wednesday, in a viral video.

Tug-of-war or rope pulling is one of the indigenous games of the Tangkhul Naga community since ancestral times. The game pits the strengths of the two teams against each other and is featured in almost all the seasonal festivals observed in the region.

In a video which has gone viral on social media, tourists are also seen posing with local children dressed in colourful traditional attires.

According to reports, the team of tourists from Greece is on an expedition of the Northeast and, so far, have toured Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. They will also visit Mizoram before heading for Greece, reports said.

Luira Phanit, a traditional seed-sowing festival which is widely observed by the Nagas in Manipur, marks the beginning of the new cycle of agriculture activities and is considered to be one of the grandest festivals of the community.

The festival also invokes god’s divine blessings, locally known as ‘Ameowo’, for the crops to be cultivated in the year and to ensure a healthy harvest. (Eastmojo)

Law & Order

260 from Assam who fled to Meghalaya jungles to escape violence rescued

At least 260 people from Assam, who hid in the jungles of Meghalaya for five days to escape communal violence that left three people dead, have been rescued by security forces.

Differences over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the introduction of inner-line permit in Meghalaya triggered a clash between members of the Khasi Students’ Union and non-tribal people in East Khasi Hills district’s Ichamati on February 28.

The violence in and around Ichamati, near the Bangladesh border, spread to other areas, including State capital Shillong, forcing the authorities to impose curfew and restrict mobile Internet services in six districts.

All of them – from western Assam’s Dhubri, Goalpara and Kokrajhar districts – were working in the unorganised sector in Sohra (Cherrapunjee), Ichamati and other areas of East Khasi Hills district affected most by the violence.

Assam’s Inspector-General of Police Deepak Kedia said a team of Assam and Meghalaya police brought the stranded people to Guwahati on Thursday morning.

“We are in constant touch with the Meghalaya police to bring back more stranded people. Some among the rescued said there are many who have taken refuge in police stations and Border Security Force camps in the hill State,” he told newspersons.

The police declined to quantify the affected people but BJP MLA Ashok Kumar Singhi said there were some 1,500 people waiting to be rescued from the violence-hit areas.

Mr. Singhi, who represents the Bilasipara East Assembly constituency in western Assam, had taken the lead in rescuing the people after he came to know many of them were from his area.

“I met Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and he instructed the State police to bring the people back to safety. Our police have been doing this in coordination with their Meghalaya counterparts,” he said.

The rescued people narrated their ordeal. “We left our jobs and places of stay soon after violence broke out. Many of us hid in the jungles for four-five days without anything to eat. Some of us took refuge at a police station but were not even offered water, let alone food,” one of them said.

Wildlife & Biodiversity

New species of urban lizard found in Guwahati

The bent-toed gecko, named Cyrtodactylus urbanus, was earlier thought to be same as the Khasi Hills lizard

Guwahati, the largest city in the Northeast, has yielded a new species of lizard – the urban bent-toed gecko.

Markedly different

Jayaditya Purkayastha and Madhurima Das, two of the five herpetologists and researchers who made the discovery, had teamed up with four others to be the first to record the brown blotched Bengal tree frog from urban West Bengal last year.

The new species of lizard, zoologically named Cyrtodactylus urbanus, is markedly different in molecular structure, blotch and colour from the Cyrtodactylus guwahatiensis, or the Guwahati bent-toed gecko, that was discovered two years ago.

The new species of lizard, Cyrtodactylus urbanus.Cyrtodactylus urbanus.

The study on the urban bent-toed gecko has been published in the latest edition of Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific mega journal for animal taxonomists. Apart from Mr. Purkayastha and Ms. Das, the study was co-authored by Sanath Chandra Bohra, Mumbai-based Ishan Agarwal and Aaron M. Bauer, a global authority on geckos based in Pennsylvania, U.S.

“All bent-toed geckos in Northeast India were thought to be a single species, the Cyrtodactylus khasiensis found primarily in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. Photographs I had taken of the urban bent-toed from the Basistha area of Guwahati in 2011, when compared with other species, made global experts realise it was a different species,” Mr. Purkayastha told The Hindu.

Though the urban bent-toed gecko falls within the khasiensis group, it differs from other members of this group in mitochondrial sequence data as well as aspects of morphology such as the number and arrangement of certain pores in males, the number of mid-ventral scales and colour pattern.

The study on the urban bent-toed gecko also provided additional information on the Guwahati bent-toed gecko, the first of the two Cyrtodactylus endemic to the areas covered by the city and the fourth from Assam.

12th from Northeast

It was also the 12th recorded gecko from the Northeast.

“What this study tries to establish is that some urban spaces too have life forms that are often overlooked but in danger of being wiped out because of concrete development. More studies need to be done before time runs out for such life forms,” Mr. Purkayastha said, adding more than 50% of the species of bent-toed geckos on earth was described in the last decade.

Guwahati is home to 26 species of amphibians, 57 species of reptiles, 214 species of birds and 36 species of mammals. The city provides that edge for urban biodiversity to thrive because it encompasses 18 hills, eight reserve forests, two wildlife sanctuaries and a Ramsar site  besides the Brahmaputra river.(The Hindu)