Guwahati: Minister of State (independent) Petroleum & Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday said that 1 lakh 30,000 crore investments would take place in the petroleum sector out of which Rs 80,000 crore will be invested in Assam alone by 2030.
The Union Minister said that the investments of Rs 80,000 crore in the petroleum sector would bring about sea-change in development of Assam.
Of the total whopping amount, Rs 6,000 crore will be invested in this current financial year.
“From Rs 4,500 crore the State is getting as revenue from the petroleum sector, we want to raise it in the range of Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 crore in the next couple of years,” he added.
Pradhan said that the Act East Policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would help to strengthen the petroleum sector in Assam and boost its economy.
“The Ministry of Petroleum will help to augment the economy insofar as enhancement capacity of oil refineries, laying of new pipe lines, replacement of old machineries with latest ones and setting up of new industries are concerned,” he said, adding, “We have set the roadmap in our 2030 Vision Document and have already begun our work in a mission mode to boost the oil sector in the State. Government of India, Government of Assam, OIL, ONGC and other stake holders would partner together to bolster Assam’s economy in a big way.”
The Union Petroleum Minister said that the Ministry has plans on the anvil to expand the combined capacity of the Guwahati, Bongaigaon, Digboi and Numaligarh Refineries to 12 mmt per annum from the present 7 mmt per annum.
Pradhan said mapping has been carried out and plans are afoot to increase the consumption of liquefied petroleum products and to increase the per capita consumption of power.
He disclosed that NRL has started sending oil through pipeline to Bangladesh and plans are on the pipeline to make Assam the ‘hub of petroleum products’ by connecting it with Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and South East Asian countries. “Assam can meet the petroleum requirements of the neighbouring countries and beyond,” he said.
The Minister pointed out that additional 5,000 km pipeline network would be laid which would help to boost the production of crude oil, LPG and natural gas.
Pradhan said that crude oil would be brought from Nigeria through pipelines to increase the production capacity of the oil refineries in Assam.
He requested the Government of Assam not to levy entry tax on imported crude with a view to ‘increase the volume of imported crude oil’.
The Union Minister said that under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, 29 lakh BPL women will be provided LPG connections in Assam.
Pradhan said the scheme will be launched at Majuli, Chief Minister’s constituency soon.
Agartala: Fire broke out at an abandoned ONGC gas well in Tripura on Friday and took ten fire tenders an eight hour battle to extinguish, officials said.
“Fire broke out today (Friday) afternoon at the ONGC’s (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) deserted gas well at Gojalia in Subroom subdivision (in southern Tripura).
“Ten fire tenders, including two of ONGC, managed to doused the flames at 9.45 p.m. after an eight hours struggle,” South Tripura district police chief Bhanupada Chakraborty told IANS over phone.
Chakraborty, who is camping in the spot, 140 km south of Agartala, said that the well was abandoned by the ONGC about 20 years ago and it was sealed.
“All of a sudden after leakage of some gas, huge fire broke out in the well in a tribal dominated areas and ten fire tenders and ONGC experts have rushed to the spot to control the fire,” the police official added.
There was, however, no major damage or any injury yet.
The police official said that some panicky people, those residing nearby the danger areas have been immediately shifted to faraway places and a large security forces were deployed to control the crowd and the situation as well. No officials from ONGC were available to know the further details. The areas is close to Bangladesh border. (IANS)
Rajnath seeks report on security lapse in Manipur
Imphal: Home Minister Rajnath Singh has sought a report on how two former insurgents sheltered in a Manipur Rifles camp were shot dead.
The killers escaped after the audacious Tuesday evening attack.
Ningombam Nabachandra, a former chairman of the outlawed group PREPAK, and his driver-cum-bodyguard Leishangthem Sanjit were in a supposedly safe house in the heavily guarded camp at Khabeisoi in Imphal district.
Somehow, gunmen of the “Red Army”, the military wing of PREPAK, sneaked into the camp, shot dead both men and escaped unnoticed by the guards and hundreds of personnel in the camp. Nabachandra had signed the suspension of operations against the government along with some others and had been staying inside the camp for security reasons. The PREPAK on Friday claimed responsibility for the killings and asked nine other former insurgents to surrender to the outfit. (IANS)
Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked Block Development Officers to prepare a list of poor persons in consultation with local MLAs and submit it to the Panchayat and Rural Development Department within 15 days.
Sonowal asked officials to transform BDO offices into a model one as “our government wants to make every development block a model office so that poor people get proper treatment and don’t have to face harassment in getting their work done”.
Sonowal said the BDOs have to ensure no poor person encounters any sort of problem in course of filing of complaints or grievances, an official release said today. He directed BDOs to put up complaint box at their offices and to dispose of complaints without delay.
Expressing concern over the delay in construction of two lakh houses under ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojana’ across the state, Sonowal asked the BDOs to complete the task within the next two months and warned of action if the target was not met.
The Chief Minister underscored the need for strengthening the monitoring mechanism for issuing job cards to ensure transparency and accountability and creating awareness.
He also asked BDOs to come up with a factsheet on the exact number of bank accounts opened under Jan Dhan Yojana and total number of beneficiaries under ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, ‘Fasal Bima Yojana’, Start-up India, Stand-up India, ‘Mudra Yojana’ etc. within the next two months.
Sonowal asked the officials to go to the villages and doorsteps of the people to build a rapport with them and conduct surveys to find out whether the schemes have actually benefited them. (PTI)
Not many could foresee Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU). More than 17.4 million people voted in the referendum on Thursday to sever ties with the European Union, and about 16.1 million to remain in the bloc. It was a win of 52 % against 48 % who voted to remain with the EU. This also means that the United Kingdom is divided down the middle and is no longer so united in ideology. Political analysts see Brexit as a historic decision which would reshape world politics and create tremors In the European continent and the West. Prime Minister David Cameron who led the movement to remain within the EU has accepted defeat graciously and announced that he would step down by October this year. As expected the markets were the first to feel the shock waves. The British pound plummeted and stock markets bore the brunt of the referendum.
Nigel Farage, known to be racist and anti-immigration, led the exit EU campaign. The Brexit referendum has also created a Domino effect. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Scotland might go in for an independence referendum considering that Scotland voted overwhelmingly for remaining with the EU. Shell-shocked European leaders particularly, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have said that the British vote would further limit their ability to move forward with economic and political integration, a process that had all but stalled anyway.
Britain is the first country to leave the 28-member EU which has been struggling with its immigration policy over which large section of Britons disagreed the most. The Middle East crisis has led to an unprecedented influx of migrants last year. The over-all migration figure of 330,000 people in 2015, more than half of them from the European Union was what triggered the referendum. Gripped by xenophobia Britons felt that their national identity was under threat and that influx was putting enormous pressure on schools, health care and housing. Besides, the UK’s reducing clout in the economic affairs of the EU was what pushed Britons to reclaim their lost pride.
In India the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has allayed fears of any major financial shocks or policy shifts. But the toll that Brexit will take cannot be readily assessed.
By Rahul Saikia
During his recent swearing-in ceremony in Guwahati, the new chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal concluded his speech with the popular nationalist slogan ‘Jai Hind’. Also present on stage was the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who ended his own speech with the contrasting regionalist slogan ‘Jai Axom’. This piece of theatrical juxtaposition – the nationalist acknowledgment of regionalism (and vice-versa) – could either have been purely coincidental or cleverly orchestrated. Whatever the case, it does perhaps point to a larger process of negotiation between the BJP’s ‘Hindu nationalism’ and various forms of ‘Assamese nationalism’.
This article explores Assam’s contemporary political landscape as a larger negotiated space (of co-operation, compromise, and contestation) between the nationalist BJP and various regional political stakeholders. The first argument here is that these nationalist-and-regionalist negotiations could limit both the BJPs nationalist agenda (of the Hindutva variety) in Assam, even as they stifle various Assamese nationalisms (of the anti-mainland variety). To some extent, the aim here is to reassess certain concerns over the negotiating powers of local political parties vis-a-vis the central government. That said, the second argument here is that these contemporary negotiations do not necessarily represent an altogether new (or inspiring) political paradigm in the region.
The BJPs defeat in Bihar was partly attributed to its inability to project itself through a popular local alliance – which exacerbated its already authoritarian and divisive image. In contrast, the BJPs electoral strategy in Assam was to successfully negotiate the state’s complex demographics by variously acknowledging, attracting and accommodating a plethora of local stakeholders and their respective ethnic constituencies. These succesfull negotiations with local stakeholders include – the alliance with the AGP and the BPF (to secure Assamese Hindu and Bodo votes); the projection of Sarbananda Sonowal as chief minister (to project a pro-tribal stance); the poaching of Hemanta Biswa Sarma (to attract erstwhile Congress supporters); the decision to field a relatively large number of Muslim candidates (to shed the party’s communal image). For their part, the local political parties tapped into the BJPs formidable national image and resources to remove a common enemy in the state Congress government.
These electoral negotiations also seem to reflect a larger process of cultural negotiation between various nationalist-and-regionalist forces in the state. In a recent article, the senior journalist Shekhar Gupta observed how RSS workers in Assam have gradually managed to re-orient Assamese nationalism away from its erstwhile ‘anti-outsider agenda’ (against both Bengali Hindus and Muslims) towards a predominantly ‘anti-Muslim immigrant’ rhetoric. This in turn illustrates how the RSS has managed to partially subsume the Assamese nationalist movement into the larger fold of its Hindu nationalist agenda. In other cases however, it is the RSS which has been compelled to accept certain moderate aspects of Assamese Hindus – with the latter still remaining indifferent to Hindutva projects like beef politics and the Ram temple issue.
To some extent, these political and cultural negotiations suggest that Assam’s complex demographics could compel the BJP and the RSS to dilute its Hindu nationalist agenda (to the relief of liberals), even as local parties like the AGP and the BPF could use their alliance with the nationalist BJP to ward off the potential threat of radical Islam and illegal influx (to the relief of conservatives). Still, such a hypothetical balancing act is fraught with its own obvious communal dangers – as the potential growth of right-wing Hindutva could simply work to intensify the growth of radical Islam (and vice-versa) within the state.
Moving on, it should however be noted that these national-and-regional negotiations do not represent an entirely new political paradigm within the north-east. After all, successive Congress governments in Assam have similarly accommodated various regional movements (e.g. with the BPF and the ‘minority vote’). In a somewhat similar vein, one of Modi’s first post-electoral announcements in Assam was the granting of ST status to ‘Hill Bodos’ and ‘Plain Karbis’. That the BJP is pursuing a similar path of selective patronage illustrates how it can only realize a pan-Indian sense of political legitimacy by accommodating various regionalist aspirations. This perhaps explains the prime minister’s recent multicultural overtures – speaking Assamese, playing Khasi drums, saluting local football heroes – all in an attempt to publicly project himself as the benevolent and all embracing figure-head of the nation. In this regard, there is something about Narendra Modi’s savvy PR campaign which seems to echo Jawaharlal Nehru’s own erstwhile engagements with various regional cultures to secure the legitimacy of the Congress as ‘the’ pan-Indian party.
These similarities with the Congress suggest that the saffron party might gradually adopt a more pragmatic multi-cultural stance within the north-east (except perhaps with regards to one particular community). Supporters of the BJP will further insist that the party’s stated priorities – modest nationalism, economic growth, government efficiency, political decentralization – represent a superior political model compared to that followed by the Congress. At present however, there still seems to be one worrisome similarity between the two national parties – i.e. their shared tendency of selective political patronage and puppetry over local parties, politicians and movements. With numerous reports and rumours that the BJP is pursuing precisely such a strategy – of ‘winning over’ so called dissidents from rival political parties – it is difficult to claim otherwise (e.g. the recent Uttarkhand fiasco).
Citing these similarities between the Congress and the BJP, a young Shillong businessman and friend recently explained – ‘See it is all about buying and selling in the end. Before there was only one buyer [national party] and now there are two buyers…so basically nothing much has changed’. This political logic does not apply to all politicians. Still, the implication here is that the larger national parties routinely ‘poach’ (to use corporate terminology) those local politicians who eagerly ‘switch’ their own political loyalties in order to ensure continual central patronage and funding.
This particular form central patronage which disrupts elected state governments reveals the more depressing side of centre-state negotiations. On one level, it takes the sheen off the national parties and their loud public proclamations to foster and respect the political autonomy of the states. At the same time, it also reveals how some local politicians are willing to abandon their own political parties and local constituencies simply to ensure continued central patronage. Given its largely ‘informal’ and ‘top-down’ nature, it also is unlikely that this kind of central patronage extends beyond a small clique of local ministers, family members, local businessmen and party workers – thereby excluding the vast majority of common people.
These political trends strengthen the growing public perception that both the national and the local parties are more concerned with ‘staying in power’ than securing the welfare of the people. This in turn has led to renewed public calls for genuine grassroots mobilizations to represent various excluded sections of society (i.e. the remaining 80%). Some of these emerging grassroots movements therefore serve as important facilitators of public resistance and self-empowerment in the face of mounting government failures.
Given the power of the central government, it is often cited that local politicians find themselves compelled to blindly follow certain diktats coming out of New Delhi. Even if this is the case, these local politicians still command considerable local power and resources to pursue various strategies of economic development, social welfare, communal harmony and efficient governance within their respective constituencies. Whether they will actually puruse such locally relevant developmental strategies is entirely their own choice. Still, it is a choice which will not go unnoticed – either by the central government, their local constituencies and various grassroots movements.
BRITAIN’S EU-EXIT ADDS TO GLOBAL UNCERTAINTIES
By S. Sethuraman
The United Kingdom, in a historic vote on June 23, decided narrowly by 52 per cent to 48, to exit European Union (EU) it has lived with through four decades of a contrived special relationship. The decisive “Leave” vote throws the global financial markets into another spell of turbulence and adds to uncertainties on movements of stocks, currencies and capital flows. Growth recovery in world trade could also suffer.
Though markets rolled all over and there could be some negative impact on trade and finance flows for several countries not excluding India, RBI Governor Dr Raghuram Rajan had already drawn attention to emerging risks in his last policy review on June 7 and cited the country’s fundamentals to ride out the consequences.
In a statement within a few hours of the UK result announcement, Dr Rajan said RBI would take all necessary steps, including liquidity support (both dollar and INR), to ensure orderly conditions in financial markets. The central bank has been maintaining a close vigil on market developments, both at home and abroad, in the run-up to the referendum in Britain.
Dr Rajan in his latest statement noted that markets were trying to factor the consequences of this development which had already led to sharp corrections in financial markets around the world. “The Indian economy has good fundamentals, low short term external debt and sizeable foreign reserves. These should stand the country in good stead in the days to come”, he said.
Similarly, a statement from Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley, who is abroad, said India was well prepared to deal with the short and medium term consequences of Brexit;. “Our macro-economic fundamentals are sound with a very comfortable external position, a rock-solid commitment to fiscal discipline, and declining inflation. Our immediate and medium-term firewalls are solid too in the form of a healthy reserve position”.
But the vote for “Leave” has landed Britain in a political and economic crisis, considerably weakening the position of Conservative Prime Minister Cameron, who led the campaign to “Remain”, and shaking up the markets, the once-powerful Pound tumbling and damaging the image of the world’s leading financial centre, London.
The U K economy had been performing reasonably well recently, among advanced nations, despite its current account deficits which peaked to -5.2 per cent of GDP in 2015. IMF had projected 1.9 per cent growth in 2016 and 2.2 per cent for 2017 on the assumption of the country continuing as part of EU.
This would have to be revised down in the light of substantial negative factors that would result from the victory of eurosceptics. The British Government and the Bank of England would be expected to gear policies to ensure stability and reduce uncertainty, whatever the future may behold.
Britain would have to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal from EU once it determines a date even while all this would involve a considerable churning up in politics. Mr Cameron who lost the referendum faces a rival in the leading voice of the “Leave” movement, Mr Boris Johnson, Conservative MP and former Mayor of London. Mr Cameron has already offered to resign taking responsibility for the defeat of his “Remain” campaign.
The exit has also delivered a shock to EU which has to keep its pack together – especially countries within the euro zone (single-currency union of which UK was not part). The vote has been viewed by economists as diminishing the roles of both UK and EU with its thirty odd member-countries.
Mr Johnson making a powerful case talked of Britain taking back its “destiny” and believe in what Britain can do in global trade and finance. The other central figure in the “Leave” campaign has been Mr Nigel Farage, UK Independence Party leader, who has built his political career on leaving the EU. He said the “war had been won”. Mr Farage in fact calls June 23 as the real Independence Day for Britain.
Irrespective of changes that may occur on the British political scene in the near future, the referendum has had an unsettling effect for scores of countries with a historic relationship with London. But Britain has first to gear its policies toward stability and reducing uncertainty. An IMF analysis found that the economic effects of an exit would likely be negative and substantial for the UK.
The United States had taken great interest in promoting continuance of Britain’s EU-partnership. Indeed, the possible risks from a negative vote in Britain had led the Federal Reserve, among other factors, to go slow with its rate hikes. The coming months would reveal how Britain negotiates its withdrawal from EU and re-sets its economic and political relations with the United States and other advanced nations and the rest of the world. Detached from EU, It would have also to follow WTO rules on trade and related disputes.
Indo-UK economic relations have been solid. India has over recent years enlarged its business ties with UK and is now the leading investor there. For many countries including India, UK had held attraction being part of the EU facilitating access to all countries of the single market for trade and investments. This access to European markets was a key driver for Indian companies going to UK.
Though Indo-UK bilateral trade was relatively limited -worth 14 billion dollars both ways in 2015 – it is one of the seven top countries with which India has a trade surplus. Leading Indian business organisations feel Britain’s exit from EU would create considerable uncertainty for not only Indian businessmen with possible adverse impact on investment but also for movement of professionals to that country.
There is some concern among the large segment of population of Indian origin – migrants – given the strident tone of campaigners for quitting EU and the fears they had evoked of Britain being flooded with illegal immigrants from the Middle East who had crossed over into EU. (IPA Service)
Apropos the letter “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (ST, June 17, 2016) by Aiborlang Nongsiej by and large encapsulates the popular belief of how things turn out to be when Governments remain “stable” or become “unstable”. This kind of argument sounds reasonable but is far from the truth in my perception as our democracy has become a wonderfully crafted ruse. Not so long ago we have somehow divorced the results of elections from the formulation of policy. We have been brainwashed into thinking that we are doing something important when we vote when it is just a distraction and a collective ego trip. In all honesty, can we possibly believe our votes will change anything of importance? For me, the answer is No. I think that elections give us a false sense of having a stake in the system. That is not the case. In fact, common villagers have a far more realistic approach to elections as they see them as nothing more than an extended festival of feasts to be enjoyed while they last with no expectations for the future.
Most of the decisions that determine the course of our lives are not taken by our political leaders or bureaucrats. These decisions are made remotely by lobbies and other forces that have no name who gnaw at the entrails of Government. And Government in turn sucks the lifeblood out of the people through taxes especially from the middle class, who buy things they do not really want or need but just to be one up over their neighbours while struggling to repay the loans they take to buy these things and doing the jobs they hate.
And what about the poor? Theirs is a daily war for survival with all the odds stacked against them. That a large majority of them still manage to lead honest lives is a daily miracle. Hence, I am grateful to them for continuing to do so, for I can well imagine the repercussions if one day they decide to stop doing this. In my view therefore this is the present state of our “Democracy” and I think that things will remain the same at least till the foreseeable future irrespective of who leads the pack of our so-called leaders.
Shillong – 2
Food and healthy lifestyle
There has been a global awareness about healthy life style and consumption of healthy foods around the planet among the consumers. Several consumers are even ready to pay extra money for procuring high quality food rich in specialized nutrients. As such the global nutraceutical and functional food industries have gained momentum with respect to investments, improvements in food technology and food research, generating rapid employment and bringing rich dividends with respect to foreign exchange for producer countries. For example, nutraceutical bread is a specialized and value added food product containing specialized constituents beneficial to consumer health. The ingredients incorporated into such new value added products have rich medicinal properties and can reduce the risk of specific health problems like cardiovascular diseases. Some of the ingredients incorporated into nutraceutical bread could be whole wheat/barley/maize/soy flour, sorghum bran, hemp hearts, flax seed, fenugreek seed or sunflower seed to mention only a handful to enrich the nutritional content and medicinal properties of the final bread product produced. The ingredients of nutraceutical bread is not just limited or restricted to these constituents only but vary according to modern research and development and new innovations emerging rapidly in the realm of nutraceutical and functional food industries around the globe. South and South East Asian nations are rich in food biodiversity and strong agricultural heritage has huge potential for developing nutraceutical and functional food industries to take a stake in the international global market worth several billion dollars. Also SouthAnd South East Asia have a rich heritage of research and development, skilled personnel, technological innovations, hence initial investment in the nutraceutical and functional food industries can pay back rich dividends for the country in the not so distant future.
Saikat Kumar Basu
Lethbridge AB Canada T1J 4B3
SHILLONG, June 23: The Chief Executive Member (CEM) of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), PN Syiem, in a verbal snub to the Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma has said on Thursday that the KHADC needs to consult the electorate which voted it to power and not the MPs and MLA when it comes to implementation of developmental work.
SHILLONG, June 23: Presenting a strong and united stance, the hawkers and vendors of Shillong have asserted on Thursday that they will continue trying to make a living until the State Government takes some remedial measures to address the problems that they are facing.
SHILLONG, June 23: Bread samples from various bakeries across Meghalaya have been sent to the Assam Public Health Laboratory so as to ascertain whether the products contain any ingredients which may prove harmful to consumers.
“We have already sent the bread samples to the Assam Public Health Laboratory on Wednesday if they contain any hazardous chemicals like potassium bromate and iodate,” Meghalaya Health Minister AL Hek said on Thursday.
SHILLONG, June 23: Aimed at improving human resource and bridging the gap between demand and supply of educational services in the Higher Secondary sector of education in Meghalaya, the State Government has announced Rs. 3.5 crores for the appointment of faculty across the state.
SHILLONG, June 23: A budget allocation of Rs. 189.47 crores was approved by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) during its summer session here on Thursday.
The proposed expenditure was at Rs 189, 47, 72,150 which is higher than the Council’s revenue receipts which is at Rs 189, 47, 53,660.
SHILLONG, June 23: The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi into the problems faced by the state after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on extraction and transportation of coal in Meghalaya.
TURA, June 23: The five-decade-old Charantala Kaili temple in Babedpara is all set to get a major facelift. The temple attracts lakhs of devotees especially on a three day spree around April and has been one of the highlights of religious tourism within the state. Despite the attraction, the temple itself has hardly seen worthy contributions coming through from the State.