NE Dispatch: Dalai Lama Visit to Arunachal Pradesh; Agartala-Sealdah Rail Link Established

A round-up of what's happening in India's Northeast.

Arunachal Pradesh: Dalai Lama to visit the state next March

On October 9, a press note from the office of the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu announced that the Dalai Lama had agreed to visit the northeastern state in the second week of March next year. Though the news featured in northeast media, it went largely unnoticed in the national media, even though it had a strong Chinese angle to it.

The religious head of Tibetan Buddhism confirmed the period of travel in a meeting in New Delhi with a high-level delegation of the state government. Led by Khandu, it included state legislative assembly speaker T.N. Thongdok, deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, minister Rajesh Tacho, parliamentary secretaries Jambey Tashi, Phurpa Tsering, Pasang Dorjee Sona, besides others. The delegation requested the spiritual leader to visit the state.

As per the note, Khandu urged the Dalai Lama “to once again represent the aspirations of my people to be blessed with your benevolent visit to Arunachal Pradesh. We are eagerly waiting for the cherished moments of your holy presence in Arunachal Pradesh.”

Speculation begun in a section of media in the Northeast over the announcement, at a time when China refused to seek a ban on Pakistani terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar at the United Nations. The Northeast Live, wrote on October 10, Many in the South Block are terming this as a provocation by India to put China in its place. Earlier as well, China has always consistently appealed to India not to allow the Dalai Lama to the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

It said, “Another interesting point to note is that the invitation was extended by Pema Khandu, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh who represents the Tawang constituency. Tawang, like many other parts of the state, has been a constant bone of contention between the Chinese and India.”

In September 2009, China raised a strong objection to the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal. The then Indian external affairs minister S.M. Krishna dismissed the Chinese objection and reportedly said, the Tibetan spiritual leader “is free to go anywhere.”

Though in 2009, the Dalai Lama had sought the Indian government’s permission to visit Tawang after an invitation was extended by the Tawang monastery to deliver speeches, this time round, the invitation came from the state government run by People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

Assam: State reduces number of districts; attracts ire

Usually, the tendency of a state government is to increase the number of districts, primarily done keeping political gains in mind. Though the Assam government began by following the set format, it started reversing this process from  October 7.

The Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge), Shri Sarbananda Sonowal launching a web portal on reform activities, in New Delhi on December 23, 2014.

Sarbananda Sonowal. Credit: PIB

On September 8, the Sarbananda Sonowal government declared Majuli a district, as per an electoral promise made by the chief minister to the people of the river island if he won the polls from there. However, a month later, the state cabinet decided to strike down a decision of the previous government that led to the creation of two new districts in the state – the South Kamrup and East Kamrup. The reasons cited were lack of infrastructure to run the two districts.

The previous Tarun Gogoi government announced creation of the two districts in February this year. The cabinet, instead, decided that three sub-divisions would be created out of the two districts. As per local news reports, the new sub-divisions would be known as Chandrapur, Sonapur and Chaygaon sub-divisions. While Chandrapur and Sonapur Sub-divisions would include the areas of the East Kamrup District, Chaygoan Sub-division would cover the areas of the South Kamrup District.

The decision, predictably  has not gone down well with the people as these districts began functioning from this past March onwards. Various student and civil society organisations, including the All Assam Students Union, have expressed their anger at the decision. The Assam Tribune quoted Pankaj Lochan Goswami, a senior leader of the Asom Gana Parishad – an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party government – as saying, “The government has done a very bad job by going ahead with the decision, keeping the people of South Kamrup in the dark.”

Between August last year and January this year, the former Congress government created seven new districts in the state “to bring administration closer to public”.  It, thus, raised the number of districts from 27 to 34. The addition of two more new districts further raised the number to 36 early this year. Now, with the latest cabinet decision, the state has 35 districts, including Majuli.

Manipur: Imphal native’s startup in Singapore wins FB funding

A Singapore-based Manipuri youth hit the headlines in the north eastern newspapers and elsewhere this week for being selected by Facebook to develop a mobile application he founded last year.

Thirty-five-year-old Monish Karam, founder of Jobsenz, an educational technology startup, was granted 40,000 dollars (Rs. 27 lakh approximately) under the FbStart initiative, Facebook’s global programme which helps mobile startups. This past August, Facebook pledged more than 50 million dollars worth benefits to startups across Asia through the FbStart program.

Credit: Facebook

A start-up boost. Credit: Facebook

“The funding from Facebook is meant to build, grow, and monetise the application,” Karam told mediapersons on this past Monday. He said Facebook chose the app because of the traction it already got from users and its potential for continued growth. The app provides a complete solution to users seeking jobs, such as facilities for job search, multi-lingual resume builder, preparing for jobs and exams with the help of live exams.

“It includes a marketplace where coaching centres or educators can sell or share their course content directly to students or job-seekers,” Karam, a native of Imphal, told The Times of India.

Prior to this, Karam won an entrepreneurship award as a business management student at the National University of Singapore and IE Business School in Madrid. He used the award money to start a software named recruitSenz which was later sold to a Singapore-based company.

The funding would help Karam expand the reach of the app to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Tripura: Direct rail link from Agartala to Sealdah

On October 9, a long standing demand of the people of Tripura got fulfilled without much “official” fanfare. The Kanchanjunga Express, which runs from Guwahati (Assam) to Sealdah (West Bengal), began service in Agartala early morning on Saturday.

As per Northern Frontier Railway officials, the train will leave Agartala for Sealdah via Guwahati and Silchar (Assam) every Tuesday and Saturday. It will take 38 hours covering a distance of 1,556 kms to reach Sealdah on Sunday night.

Credit: PTI

Agartala to Sealdah via Guwahati. Picture is for representation purposes only. Credit: PTI

The train service, for the first time, has connected important towns of West Bengal to the Bengali-speaking majority people of Tripura, such as Malda, New Coochbehar, New Jalpaiguri and Bolpur (Shanti Niketan).

On July 31, Tripura entered the broad gauge railway map of the country for the first time when union railway minister Suresh Prabhu flagged off the Tripura Sundari Express to New Delhi. He also laid the foundation stone for the railway line from Agartala to Akhoura in Bangladesh jointly with that country’s railway minister Mohammad Mujibul Haque.

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