NE Dispatch: Mobile Air Dispensary Service Proposed; Guwahati in FIFA U-17 WC 2017 Venues

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

Manipur: Centre mulling a mobile air dispensary service for the Northeast

In an attempt to fill the need for basic healthcare in the remote areas of the Northeast, the central government is planning to launch a mobile air dispensary for the region.

Jitendra Singh, minister of state for development of north eastern region (DoNER), told the media in Manipur on October 25 that his ministry was in consultation with the civil aviation ministry to operate such a service with a helicopter fitted with medical equipment and doctors on board.

“Minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha has indicated feasibility of such a service,” he said, adding that he also discussed it “with some leading helicopter companies of the country on the issue.”

Giving details on the service, Singh said, “The mobile air dispensary with a doctor, necessary equipment and medicines will fly to remote and far-flung areas on regular basis, especially where patients find it difficult to reach a doctor and basic health centre. This will enhance the delivery of health care services in the remote and faraway places of the Northeast.”

The DoNER ministry will soon conduct consultations with the North Eastern Council in order to work out the modalities of the service and the respective state governments will thereafter formulate the details with the Ministry of Health.

The minister, on a two-day visit to the northeastern state, also mentioned discussing the idea with governor Najma Heptulla. He said that Heptulla had endorsed the idea of such a service in Manipur by citing the example of Royal Flying Service of Australia, popularly known as Flying Doctors which is meant to provide aid and primary health care service in rural and remote areas.

The service, if successful, might then be replicated in inaccessible places in the hill states like the Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, Singh added.

If launched, the service will be first of its kind to be run by the government.

Assam: Guwahati to be one of the venues for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017

To the delight of football players and fans of the sport in the Northeast, Assam’s capital city Guwahati will host some matches of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup to be held next year.

The announcement was made at a press meet in Guwahati on October 24 by a 23-member FIFA delegation led by members of the local organising committee.

Javier Ceppi, the director of the committee, told the media that the team visited the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium at Sarusajai and took stock of the available facilities and of the preparedness for the training of the players, condition of the ground, spectator seating etc. and was satisfied with the progress of work being done to meet those requirements.

“To be very honest, there was a point of time when we were here and we really had doubts if we could make it a venue. Then the new chief minister [Sarbananda Sonowal] came in who was earlier the sports minister of India. He has been a guiding force and now, I can say that Guwahati has been ratified as a venue for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017,” Ceppi said.

Besides the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, the team also did a recce of the Nehru Stadium, the LNIPE ground and the SAI Regional Centre in Guwahati. Ceppi said that the stadium for such a tournament, according to the FIFA regulations, needs to be an all-seater stadium.

Nehru Stadium in Guwahati. Credit: Twitter

Nehru Stadium in Guwahati. Credit: Twitter

“We have been told that the seats will come up after the ongoing ISL [Indian Super League] matches are over in the stadium. Some other refurbishment is required too, such as at the tribunes, a media centre, a new VIP area, etc.,” he said.

The team felt that the refurbishment done at the Nehru Stadium for the South Asian Games needed an upgrade but expressed their satisfaction with the progress of the work being carried out to meet the FIFA specifications.

“The SAI Regional Centre ground has already started the refurbishments,” he added.

The team gave a deadline of January 31, 2017, to the state government to finish all the pending work. “I have seen miracles happening in Guwahati for the South Asian Games. A stadium came up in 60 days which is mind blowing. We are very much confident about the capacity of the state,” Ceppi said.

Marion Mayer-Vorfelder, the event manager of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, who was also present at the press briefing, reportedly said, “From what I am being told, the enthusiasm for the sport here in this part of the country is unmatched. Football is almost like a religion here which is fantastic. The ratification is not only a victory for the state of Assam but the whole Northeast. The stadium needs refurbishment and it [the work] has already started.”

Guwahati has become the fifth city to be ratified as a venue for the next year’s tournament after Kochi, Navi Mumbai, Goa and New Delhi. The team later left for Kolkata for a similar inspection of a venue for the prestigious world event.

On October 25 the FIFA team announced in Kolkata that the tournament would be played between October 6 and 28. The draw for the game would be held on July 7, 2017.

Manipur: Tribal students angered over change in reservation rules at university

Students belonging to the scheduled tribes (ST) who are seeking admission to Manipur University have been protesting the decision of the institution’s academic council to change the reservation policy from the academic year 2016-17.

The council’s meeting, which was held on October 8, recommended following the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Amendment Act, 2006 for the academic year 2016-17, as opposed to the CEI Amendment Act, 2012, which the ST student bodies are demanding.

A meeting of the head of the departments and deans following the council’s meeting endorsed the decision.

Manipur University, which was established in Imphal under the Manipur University Act, 1980, was converted into a central university in 2005. The university, however, continued following the state’s reservation policy for ST students that mandates blocking 31% seats in an academic year, even though it became a central varsity that follows the University Grants Commission (UGC) norm to allow only 7.5% seats under the ST quota.

In 2008, the university switched to the UGC norm, which then led to a legal battle in the state high court. The court directed it to follow the Central Educational Institutions Reservation in Admission Act, 2012, which the university followed for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic sessions.

In 2014, supporting the court order, Manlian Gangte, the then president of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University Students’ Union, said at a press meet in Imphal, “The new Gazette of India, published on June 6, 2012, made an amendment to the earlier Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006. According to the new Gazette of India 2012, the reservation of 31% for ST is to be followed in admission of students in central universities located in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and the tribal areas of Assam referred to in the 6th scheduled of the constitution of India.”

Even though the North Eastern Hill University in Meghalaya is also a central university, it follows a soft rule in its reservation policy towards the ST students in order to encourage them to join the varsity.

The UGC has, however, been asking the university to revert to its norm in spite of the court order, which the vice chancellor in charge M. Dhaneshwar did on October 8. This led the state’s tribal student bodies, such as the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM), Kuki Students Organisation and Manipur University Tribal Students Union to demand the removal of the vice-chancellor. As the protest turned violent, which included burning of some university buildings, Dhaneshwar put down his papers and passed the baton to Amar Yumnam.

There has been a strong police presence in the campus ever since and the protests have continued. The student leaders had asked the tribal students to not take admission in Manipur University if the norms were not changed as per their demand. According to media reports, ATSUM president Joseph R. Hmar warned that “If any ST student is found seeking admission or studying in MU, they should be held accountable for any untoward incident resulting thereof.

Meanwhile, a recent notification of the university said that the admission process for the 2016-17 academic year would be completed by October 29.


Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar. Credit: PTI

On October 13, the state education minister Kh. Ratan Kumar reportedly wrote to the minister of human resource development Prakash Javadekar seeking his intervention in the matter. He also requested the minister to urgently appoint a regular vice chancellor for the university. Javadekar has not named a full-time vice chancellor after the retirement of H.N.K. Sharma from the post in August.

Meanwhile, hundreds of ST students studying in the university have left the campus over the issue and normal classes have been suspended.

Meghalaya: Juvenile dies in Tura after a brawl, locals accuse police of mishandling the situation 

Widespread public anger has been reported from the Tura town in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district since the death of a 16-year-old boy at a hospital on October 14 – two days after he was beaten by some people.

People alleged that the minor Sengat N. Sangma died due to the failure of the police in helping him get immediate medical attention after he was rescued from the attackers. On October 16, Police imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code to prevent people from gathering in large groups.

According to the two other teenagers who sustained injuries in the incident that took place in the town’s Rishipara locality, the police arrived at the spot and took them for a medical examination to the local government hospital.

Thereafter, they were taken to the police station and where they spent the night. The sub-inspector, they alleged, kicked them in their groin. At around 7 am on October 14 Sangma was taken back to the hospital by the police after his condition deteriorated and the other two were handed over to their families.

Following Sangma’s death, people demanded action against the sub-inspector for not only beating the already injured teenagers but also for keeping them in detention without informing their guardians, even though they were juveniles.

They also demand an inquiry against the doctor who did not feel the need for hospitalising Sangma after examining his injuries.

On October 21, Meghalaya police suspended the sub-inspector who was involved in the case. “We have suspended the sub-inspector and have initiated a departmental inquiry”, Mukesh Singh, the senior superintendent of police, West Garo Hills, told the media. So far, police have taken eight people into custody in connection with the case.

According to the police, the boys were beaten when they tried creating trouble in the locality where they were looking for drugs. The police arrived at the spot to rescue the boys after someone from the locality informed them about the incident. Police termed the incident as a scuffle between the boys and the residents.

Many in the public have, however, refused to accept the version given by the police and have instead accused them of “protecting those who peddle drugs in Rishipara and going after their victims instead.”

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