Saturday, July 17, 2010

Northeast (July 18, 2010)

Four reports today
1) Assam update Linky

Assam today took a step towards a bicameral legislature with the state Assembly unanimously adopting a resolution for setting up a Legislative Council or Upper House in the state. Parliamentary affairs minister Bharat Chandra Narah moved the resolution to create a Legislative Council in the state and recommend to the Union government that Parliament be moved to make laws to the effect as required under the provisions of Article 169 of the Constitution. Legislators cutting across party lines supported the resolution, which was passed by two-thirds majority.

Before one chooses to ask if it is a selfish decision, here is the main reason:

In his reply, Narah said the basic idea behind the creation of an Upper House is to offer representation to small ethnic groups, which were not represented in the state Assembly. “It is our responsibility to give equal representation to all the indigenous communities of the state,” he said. The Upper House cannot be more than one-third the total size of a Legislative Assembly. The proposed Upper House will have 42 members, as the total strength of the Legislative Assembly is 126.

So is it worth the exchequer to fund this decision, time will tell. On the Dima Hasao issue:

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today told the Assembly that he is ready to recommend a CBI inquiry into all the departments of the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council and all the financial transactions of the council since 1996, as demanded by the Opposition. Gogoi made the statement during a discussion in the House on the Rs 1,000-crore scam in the autonomous council. At present, the CBI is probing financial anomalies in five departments of the council. The Opposition is demanding that the ambit of the probe be widened, covering all the departments.

2) Rebel groups join hands to prevent peace talks in North-east

All major police stations and camps of the security forces in the insurgency afflicted states of the North East have been put on red alert following intelligence reports that the major rebel groups of Manipur have come to the rescue of the decimated militant organisations of the region in general and Assam in particular. This fear was confirmed by the recent arrests of some rebel leaders in Manipur. The police and the Central Reserve Police Force on Friday jointlyarrested three hardcore rebel leaders with foreign currencies, Rs. 1 lakh in cash, two laptops, 3 pen drives and a Bangladeshi passport. They were picked up shortly after three bombs were plantedin Guwahati, allegedly by the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
The ULFA, the United National Liberation Front and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) had formed the Indo Burma Revolutionary Front on May 22, 1990, with this objective in view. They claim that the peoples of the NEand those from the Western part of Myanmar are racially similar and have a common future. Various other rebel groups had joined hands to form the Revolutionary Joint Committee on May 1,1991, the Manipur People's Liberation Front in 1999, the United Liberation Front of Seven Sisters in 1993 and the Self Defence United Front of South East Himalayan Region.

3) Kuki-Meitei rivalry and border trade

Indo-Myanmar border trade through Moreh in Manipur resumed today after Meitei Council Moreh (MCM) and two women’s organisations lifted the bandh they had called from 5am on Thursday. The bandh was called in protest against an alleged threat by cadres of the Kuki National Army (KNA) to M. Thoiba, a senior member of MCM. The bandh was called off after the intervention of State Planning Board deputy chairman Bijoy Koijam, who presided over a meeting of the community leaders last night. Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh arrived at Koijam yesterday to defuse the tension between the Kuki and Meitei communities.

Now how many times should a CM arrive to solve a rivalry between two groups?! The genesis of this crisis Linky

Tension is mounting at the border town of Moreh in Manipur following an indefinite strike by the Meitei Committee Moreh (MCM) and the women vigilantes from Wednesday night. The strike is against the attempts by some Kuki tribal militants to kidnap office-bearers of the MCM. The MCM leaders told journalists that on Tuesday night the Kuki militants, armed with sophisticated guns raided all the houses of MCM office-bearers. When they could not locate the leaders, they told their families that if any cadre of the outfit was killed in the valley districts, the MCM leaders would be targeted. Under the Suspension of Operations agreement signed between the militants and the Union government, the Kuki tribals are barred from moving around with weapons and cannot indulge in insurgent activities. The MCM leaders said that on receiving information that the militants were looking for them, they had informed the security forces. It is alleged that nothing was done to nab the militants. The women vigilantes said that if the MCM leaders had not exercised restraint there might have been some untoward incidents.

As a result of the wild cat strike, hundreds of tourists and visiting traders have been stranded. Shops have pulled down shutters and there is no vehicular traffic. Police reports said that patrolling has been intensified to ensure peace in this shanty border town, which is the centre of the legalised border trade with Myanmar. No arrests have been made so far. The strike comes on the heels of the kidnapping of a trader in Imphal by some Kuki militants for a ransom of Rs.10 lakh. Though the wife of the trader had paid Rs.2 lakh after much haggling, he was not set free. Troopers of 23 Assam Rifles had rescued the trader after a 10-minute exchange of fire with the militants. Some Kukis were arrested and extortion letters and incriminating documents recovered from them, the police said.

4) Bangla low pay threat to China Linky

As costs have risen in China, long the world’s shop floor, it is slowly losing work to countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia — at least for cheaper, labour-intensive goods like casual clothes, toys and simple electronics that do not necessarily require literate workers and can tolerate unreliable transportation systems and electrical grids. Li & Fung, a Hong Kong company that handles sourcing and apparel manufacturing for companies like Wal-Mart and Liz Claiborne, reported that its production in Bangladesh jumped 20 per cent last year, while China, its biggest supplier, slid 5 per cent. “Bangladesh is getting very competitive,” William Fung, Li & Fung’s group managing director, told analysts in March.

The flow of jobs to poorer countries like Bangladesh started even before recent labour unrest in China led to big pay raises for many factory workers there — and before changes in Beijing’s currency policy that could also raise the costs of Chinese exports. Now, though, economists expect the migration of China’s low-paying jobs to accelerate. And while workers in Bangladesh and other developing countries are demanding higher pay, too — leading to a clash between police and protesters earlier this week in a garment hub outside Dhaka — they still earn much less than Chinese factory workers.

But Bangladesh has its own challenges to overcome. China’s combination of a vast population of migrant workers, many with at least elementary school educations, along with modern roads, railways and power grids in its industrial provinces, has bestowed it with manufacturing capabilities that countries like Bangladesh cannot offer. Most of Bangladesh, meanwhile, suffers blackouts six to seven hours a day because it has not invested enough in power plants and natural gas fields — deficiencies that the government is working on but that will not be eliminated quickly.

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