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                          Vol.3, No.41 [*]  June 22, 1998

                      Those in the cheaper seats clap. 
                   The rest of you rattle your jewellery.
                                - John Lennon

   With  over three-quarter of the plains area in Assam inundated by the
   floods, the ecology of the State's Brahmaputra and Barak  Valley  has
   come  under  severe threat while no solution appears in sight to this
   nature's fury which washes away development works in the region  each
   year. People in 13 districts of the State are reeling under water.
   Despite  various  schemes  undertaken  by  the  Government  agencies,
   experts and common people say  that  the  floods  are  increasing  in
   frequency and  intensity  each  year.    The average area affected by
   floods during the 1980s and 1990s was higher than  in  the  preceding
   decades for  which  data is available.  The number of people affected
   per hectare of flood-affected area and the amount of damage have been
   rising steadily, Flood Control Department sources said.
   According to data collected by the Central Water Commission (CWC), an
   average of 0.8 million hectares is affected by floods each  year  and
   an average  damage stands around Rs.149 million.  Floods are inherent
   to the ecology of Assam and though not much is known about the floods
   that took place before the advent of the British, there  are  records
   galore   of  floods  during  the  colonial  period  in  the  district
   gazetteers.  The present century experienced floods almost every year
   and in the current decade it is turning from bad to worse.

   `The Union Government  headed  by  the  Prime  Minister  Atal  Behari
   Vajpayee  is  not  a  stable  Government and there is every reason to
   believe that the  BJP-led  coalition  Government  will  fall  as  the
   parliamentary  session begins, as most of the coalition partners will
   withdraw their supports,' said Congress MP and secretary in-charge of
   the Northeast V.Narayaswamy, while addressing a press  conference  in
   Guwahati on June 21.  He is on a five-day visit to the region.
   He told press persons that the law-and-order situation in  the  State
   was deteriorating day by day and neither the State Government nor the
   Centre  was  doing  anything to protect the lives and property of the
   people.  The secretary in-charge also alleged that  the  State  Chief
   Minister,  P.K.Mahanta,  who  was involved in the LoC scam, was being
   protected by the Centre sealing CBI  inquiry  into  the  scam.  While
   demanding  immediate  sanction  to prosecute Mr Mahanta, he said that
   even when some of the State Cabinet  ministers  too  demanded  action
   against   the  LoC  accused,  it  was  surprising  that  the  Central
   Government was remaining silent over the issue.

3  POSTED AT AMC BUT WORKS AT GMCH!		          [AT:20-JUN-98]
   The Assam Government's negligence of the Assam Medical College (AMC),
   Dibrugarh is a legion.  But a  recent  notification  from  the  State
   Health Department takes the cake.  The notification of June 15 states
   that  a vacancy at the AMC's cardiology department is being filled up
   with the posting of Dr Jogesh Chandra  Borkakoty.    The  catch  lies
   elsewhere.   The  notification says that the doctor, though posted to
   Dibrugarh,  will  function  from  Gauhati  Medical  College  Hospital
   (GMCH).   In  other words, the post of professor in the department of
   cardiology at the AMC has been shifted  to  GMCH,  to  facilitate  Dr
   Borakakoty  who  was  till  recently  an associate professor at GMCH.

   Water scarcity continues to hit Guwahati city  for  the  third  month
   even as the newly-elected mayor of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation
   (GMC), Abir Patra made repeated announcement of solving the problems.
   It  is  estimated that the city's requirement of daily water is about
   30 million gallon while GMC can provide only nine  million  gallon  a
   day.   Sources at the GMC stated that the machineries at the Panbazar
   plant are  very  old  and  most  of  the  machines  remain  inactive.
   Moreover,  erratic  power  supply  and  low voltage attributed to the
   crises of water in the city.
   In 1994 GMC had taken a water  treatment  plant  project  that  could
   supply  water to 1.5 million people with an estimated cost of Rs.1.93
   billion.  Interestingly even when the said project is yet to see  the
   light of the day due to financial crises, GMC had proposed to install
   another  project  with  assistance  from  a  Japanese  company  at an
   estimated cost of over Rs.4 billion.

   Guwahati Police on June 19 chased away a group of agitated people who
   were engaged in heated exchange with MLA Moidul  Islam  Bora  at  the
   Public Works Department (PWD) Chief Engineer's office premises in the
   presence of the PWD Minister Nagen Sarma and the Chief Engineer.
   The group of 150 strong had come from Kamalpur area to meet the Chief
   Engineer  to register their protest against the failure of the PWD to
   improve the dilapidated road conditions in their area.  They demanded
   a written assurance from the Chief Engineer to take  immediate  steps
   to improve the conditions of roads and bridges at Kamalpur.
   Incidentally PWD Minister Nagen Sarma and Kamalpur MLA, Moidul  Islam
   Bora were  also  present  there.   When the group insisted on written
   assurance from the Chief Engineer, Mr  Bora  intervened  and  assured
   that an  inspection  team  would be sent to Kamalpur on June 23.  But
   the MLA's assurace failed to convince the people  who  demanded  that
   the commitment  be  given  in black and white.  The people criticized
   the MLA for his failure in earlier occasions  to  keep  his  promise.
   This sparked  the  heated  exchange  of  words.   Sensing trouble the
   waiting police chased away the people.

   A  group  of  about  15 persons vandalize the Assam Electricity Board
   office at Baligaon near Jorhat on June 20.  The area had  been  going
   without  power  for  the  last  two  months due to a non-working of a
   transformer.  [Incidents of this nature are not  uncommon  throughout
   the  State where transformers lie without replacement or repair after
   it fails.  ASEB also resort to  removing  working  transformers  from
   rural  areas  for  replacement  of  damaged transformers in the urban
   areas which irks the  rural  people,  especially  on  days  when  the
   mercury soars.  - Mozz]

   While hundreds of people were scurrying to safety to escape the  fury
   of  the  annual  floods,  a  group  of  unemployed tribal youths in a
   village literally built  their  bridge  to  prosperity.    After  the
   swirling  waters  of  the mighty Brahmaputra washed away a portion of
   the national  highway  passing  through  Lalung  Tiniali  village  in
   Dhemaji district, hundreds of commuters were stranded.
   At  that  point,  about  ten enterprising Mishing tribal youths swung
   into action.  Within  three  quarters  of  an  hour  they  erected  a
   makeshift bamboo bridge over the nearly 300-metre breach in the road,
   bringing hope  to  those  stranded.  A trial crossing was done by the
   youths, who announced that anybody using the bamboo bridge would have
   to pay Rs.2 at the end of the 300-metre stretch.
   `Haven't we saved hundreds of people  by  braving  the  strong  river
   current  and constructing a bamboo bridge?' the group's leader Gayant
   Payeng, asked. `We deserve the two rupees,' he told  IANS  reporters.
   While  one of them was entrusted with collecting the toll, the others
   dragged in two medium-sized rickety  boats  and  three  small  rafts.
   Within seconds there was a mad rush.
   A  Maruti car belonging to a top businessman of Arunachal Pradesh was
   first to be  put  on  the  boat  and  after  about  five  minutes  of
   exhaustive  pulling  and pushing, it safely reached the other side of
   the highway. In second the merchant sped away. `We get Rs.100  for  a
   car and Rs.20 for a two-wheeler scooter or motorcycle. For ferrying a
   man  we charge Rs.5,' Jibon Pegu said. `It is hard work no doubt, but
   we enjoy our task of helping people in need  and  at  the  same  time
   making some money.'
   But the youths charged different rates  from  different  people.    A
   well-dressed  family  carrying  imported suitcases in their cars were
   charged Rs.500 to enable their vehicle to reach the other side of the
   road.  But as Babu Payeng puts it:  `Who will care for  us  once  the
   flood recedes?  This is life.' In about an hour's time, the young men
   managed to  ferry over four cars and ten two wheelers.  More than 300
   people had used the bamboo bridge in the same period. 
   Many village elders of Lalung Tiniali said that they  were  proud  of
   the youths.   `Like  the floods, their income is also seasonal.  Most
   part of the year these boys are jobless and  while  away  their  time
   playing  cards  under  trees,'  Boloram  Doley, a 65-year-old Mishing
   tribal man said.  And as the water recedes, villagers  rush  back  to
   salvage whatever little is left in their homes.

   When he was last seen, China had attacked India.  Half of Tezpur town
   had been  deserted  fearing  the arrival of the Chinese forces.  That
   was in  1962.    Now  when  he  has  reappeared  after  36  years  of
   self-imposed  exile  in  his  own room, Indo-Sino relations had again
   reached a flash-point.
   He is a modern-day Rip Van Winkle.  He is Thula Bora,  a  55-year-old
   man  with a wrinkled face, long gray unkempt hair, who stepped out of
   the confines of  his  room  on  Wednesday  last  after  36  years.  A
   brilliant  student  of  class X preparing for his board exam in 1962,
   Thula Bora remained an enigma not only to his neighbours but also his
   family as he kept to his study for over three  decades.  So  when  he
   emerged  out  of  his  room  recently 36 years and 13 prime ministers
   later, the event generated a lot of curiosity.
   In  1962  preparing for the class X examination, Bora was the hope of
   his school as well as the  Deurigaon  village  at  the  outskirts  of
   Tezpur town.    Determined  to do well in the examination, he stopped
   coming out of his room and  concentrated  on  the  studies  for  long
   hours.   His  family  members  had  tried to take him out but failed.
   Slowly, the family members also got tired.  
   Since then, the Chinese aggression took place driving almost half  of
   the  populace  of  the  Tezpur  town  out,  followed  by the Language
   Movement, Assam agitation and many other major events in  the  State.
   But Thula Bora never came out nor took any interest in anything.
   Only  a  handful of family members had access to his room, constantly
   supplying his food.  He never bothered to come out when his own niece
   got married some years ago in the adjacent room nor had he ever  seen
   the newborns of the family.
   Nobody knows  the  exact  reason  behind  the  self-imposed exile.  A
   section of his family suspects that Thula did not do too well in  the
   exams in 1962 as he was expected to do and this had embarrassed him a
   lot.   For  three  and  a  half decades he spent most part of the day
   sitting or sleeping, keeping awake in the nights.
   But that drama came to an end on Tuesday  last  when  elders  of  his
   family  members  forcibly took him out suspecting his to be suffering
   of some disease, although he had kept himself relatively clean.    On
   Tuesday,  when  Thula stepped out in the sun after 36 years, the news
   spread like wildfire with first the relatives  thronging  to  have  a
   look followed  by  hundreds  of  villagers.  He is embarrassed again,
   becoming the point of attraction.  The family members fear that  this
   may force Thula into another bout of isolation.
   Notably he has been relatively fit despite staying away from sunlight
   for so  long.    He  had always kept the door and windows of his room
   shut.  But now these have been flung open, letting  in  the  sunlight
   which had not entered the room for so long.

Compiled from newspaper and agency reports for private circulation only.
      [S=Sentinel, AT=Assam Tribune, Agencies = UNI, PTI, PIB]