A roundup of news this week from the northeast.
Assam: SC appoints new chairperson to oversee ongoing fencing work along India-Bangladesh border
The Supreme Court has appointed a new chairperson of the committee it has formed to oversee the ongoing fencing work along the India-Bangladesh border. The new chairperson, A.K. Mangotra, a former Union secretary (border management), has been appointed as per the suggestion of the Central government after it reportedly told the apex court that it had “some issues” with the appointment of G.K. Pillai, who had earlier been named by the Supreme Court to head the committee.
Pillai, a retired IAS officer often considered a veteran of Northeast issues, was the joint secretary (northeast) at the ministry of home affairs before becoming the Union home secretary in 2009.
The apex court’s appointment of Mangotra on September 14 to the three-member committee, which includes former Border Security Force director general D.K. Pathak and former Gauhati University professor Abdul Mannan, comes in the course of the ongoing hearing of a bunch of petitions related to the tardy or non-implementation of the Assam Accord of 1985. A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Nariman have been hearing these petitions related to not only updating the National Register of Citizens 1951 for Assam as per the 1971 cut-off date decided in the Accord, but also about a clause related to the sealing the porous India-Bangladesh border.
As per news reports, the Supreme Court’s appointment of the Mangotra committee to oversee the fencing work is related to a report on border management submitted by the one-member committee of Upamanyu Hazarika in 2015. Hazarika’s report pointed out several gaps and loopholes in the border fencing work due to which the SC set up a coordination committee. The coordination committee was to be headed by Union home ministry’s border management secretary and the chief secretary of Assam. The committee was asked not only to formulate an action plan for the completion of the fencing work but also set a time frame for it. The Mangotra committee has been appointed in supervisory capacity, to oversee the fencing work undergoing presently and has been asked to submit its first report within three months.
Bangladesh and India share a 4,096 km long border, considered the fifth largest land border in the world. While 263 km of the border is shared with Assam, 856 km is with Tripura, 180 km with Mizoram and 443 km with Meghalaya besides sharing the rest of 2,217 km with West Bengal.
Manipur: 14 girls trafficked to Myanmar rescued
As many as 14 girls belonging to the Churachandpur district has been rescued by the Myanmar authorities from a hotel in Yangon following a request from the Union ministry of external affairs.
Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh told local press persons on September 12 that the girls were victims of human trafficking. He said they were sent to Yangon on the way to Thailand.
“Five women and one man have been arrested in the case. There will be more arrests once the girls reach back home and give their statements to the local police,” he said.
According to news reports, local agents of the traffickers paid Rs 10,000 to each of the families of the girls to lure them to travel with them. Promising jobs, the traffickers also reportedly agreed to pay another Rs 90,000 to each of the families.
According to state police, on finding out that they had been duped, some of the girls managed to contact Churachandpur district police and prayed to be rescued. Thereafter, the state government got in touch with the central government which in turn alerted the Myanmar authorities. Reports said the Churachandpur police have set up a special investigation team to probe the matter.
Last year, some minor girls, all belonging to Churachandpur, were rescued by state police near the India-Myanmar border in Moreh by intercepting a vehicle. According to media reports then, one trafficker arrested in the case revealed that she had planned to hand over the girls to an agent in a place in Myanmar called Tarnu who would have then taken them to Yangon. In Yangon, the girls would have been further handed over to another agent who would then arrange fake passports for them to be trafficked to some South Asian countries.
Though the state social welfare department has issued an advisory in public interest in regard to human trafficking, it has failed to reach many of the remote areas vulnerable to the international human trafficking racket.
Mizoram: Mizoram University students on indefinite strike demanding appointment of a regular VC
Students of Mizoram University have been boycotting all academic and non-academic activities as part of an indefinite strike since September 6 demanding the appointment of a regular vice chancellor.
R. Lalthantluanga, a professor of the Shillong-based North Eastern Hill University, was the last vice chancellor of Mizoram University, who put in his papers in May 2016. Besides the post of the vice chancellor, as many as 68 posts of professors, associate professors and assistant professors are lying vacant in the central university set up in 2001.
“The university has been without a regular vice chancellor for almost two years now and repeated appeal to union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar and the ministry officials has borne no fruit yet,” a statement released to the press by Mizoram University Student Council (MZUSC), spearheading the agitation, said on September 10.
MZUSC president Malsawmsanga said, “The absence of a regular VC for a long time has not only severely affected all employees and students, but also adversely affected the overall academic functions.” He alleged that the HRD ministry has failed to appoint a regular vice chancellor even after short-listing candidates for the post more than three months ago.
As per local media reports quoting university officials, the agitators have prevented teaching and non-teaching staff from entering the campus. Besides raising slogans against the HRD ministry, the students also burnt an effigy of Javdekar.
MZUSC submitted a representation to HRD minister Prakash Javdekar on August 28, urging him to look into the issue and immediately appoint a regular vice chancellor. It warned that it would resort to strike if the ministry failed to meet the demand by September 5.
“It is unfortunate that the Central government shows apathy towards Mizoram despite repeated appeals being made for immediate appointment of a regular VC. The laxity of the Central government is an insult to the student of Mizoram University. Left with no other option, we have launched an agitation with a hope to draw the attention of the central government to immediately appoint a regular VC,” the MZUSC president said, adding, “The Central government should pay due attention to our cry if it consider Mizoram as a part of India.”
State chief minister Lal Thanhawla had written to both Javdekar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in response to the strike, urging them to appoint the vice chancellor at the earliest. Thanhawla also reminded them that he had written to both of them in May 2016 about the issue soon after the resignation of the then vice chancellor.
“It is now more than a year since then and I am given to understand that the file is currently lying with the present union HRD minister for a couple of months at his desk,” the chief minister wrote in the letter to the prime minister.
Besides locals, a large number of the teaching staff and students of the university come from different parts of the country.