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Northeast can set off second green revolution: ICAR director

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Agartala: The mountainous northeastern region, which comprises eight states, occupies eight percent of India’s land area and is home to four percent of the population, can set off India’s second Green Revolution, a top Indian scientist said.

“Powered by adequate resources, skilled manpower, good climate and sufficient water, the northeast region is expected to be a food sufficient area in the near future and India’s second Green Revolution is expected to set off from this region,” Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) director and renowned agricultural scientist SV Ngachan told IANS in an interview here.

“Besides huge natural, agricultural and mineral resources, there is devoted manpower in the northeastern region. The pollution-free region has all ingredients to make it self-sufficient in foodgrain,” said Ngachan, who is the ICAR head for the northeastern region.

According to Ngachan, the demand-supply gap of foodgrains in the northeastern region had narrowed from 23 percent in 2006-07 to 2.3 percent. He said that currently the net agricultural sown area in the northeast is 4.5 million hectares, excluding the small private gardens and orchards.

“The ‘jhum’ cultivation of the tribals is a major impediment in the northeast. We, in association with the state governments and political leaders, are trying to persuade the tribals to introduce the modified multi-cropping system instead of the unscientific jhum farming,” the agricultural scientist said.

The jhum or slash-and-burn method is a shifting form of farming and usually involves cutting down of entire forests in the hills and allowing the slashed vegetation to dry on mountain slopes prior to burning. Rice is grown along with vegetables, maize, cotton and mustard, among other crops.

Tribals constitute 27 percent of northeast India’s 45.58 million people.

According to the latest satellite-based forest survey of India, the cover in the northeastern region has decreased by 628 sq km, mainly due to encroachment on forest land, biotic pressure, rotational felling in tea gardens and shifting cultivation.

Launched in 2010, Mizoram’s Rs.2,873-crore flagship farming scheme – New Land Use Policy (NLUP) – aims to benefit over 125,000 tribal families, mostly Jhumias, to solve food scarcity by moving away from jhum cultivation to stable and sustainable farming.

“The NLUP is a unique programme and the Manipur and other state governments in the northeast are trying to introduce similar schemes to take the tribals from jhum cultivation to normal agriculture with technology innovation.

“Integrated farming and improved jhuming are also the alternatives to age-old Jhum farming,” said Ngachan.

“Though global climate change has an effect in the northeast, strong political will, governments’ active involvement, farmers’ wholehearted participation and use of latest technology in farming, could make the northeast a foodgrain surplus region in the country,” he added.

“As the region is a biodiversity hotspot, rising food production and productivity makes the effort much easier. However, the animal fodder crisis is a very big concern in the region, despite it being rich in animal resources.”

The ICAR director said that the northeastern region, comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, accounts for 7.8 percent of the total area under rice cultivation in India while its share in rice production is only 5.9 percent. The average rice productivity of 1.4 tonne per hectare is below the national average of 1.9 tonnes per hectare.

The northeastern states are largely dependent on Punjab, Haryana and other larger states for foodgrain and essential vegetables.

Stressing on the need to increase the area under stable irrigation, the scientist said that only 20 percent of the total crop are in the northeastern region is now under irrigation against the national average of 45 percent.

“As vast areas of Assam and land in remaining states are flood prone, crop losses are an annual phenomenon in the region,” he pointed out.

Ngachan was here to lead a two-day national seminar here on “sustainable hill agriculture in changing climate”.

Over 200 agricultural scientists from 11 hill states including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and all eight northeastern states took part in the seminar that also discussed how to deal with the climate change effect and improved farming modules.

He said that the ICAR has launched the KIRAN (Knowledge Innovation Repository of Agriculture in the Northeast) platform in July 2012 to harness the power of scientific knowledge and technology innovation for strengthening agricultural production systems in the northeast region through dynamic partnership and convergence among the diverse stakeholders.

“Achieving sustainable food production to feed the increasing population of the fragile land of the region is an enormous challenge. ICAR envisages a unit for agriculture, to ensure an effective and efficient use of knowledge and technology products, promoting innovative approaches and solutions aimed at improving human resource with right knowledge skills in the northeastern region,” he added.(ians)

(Sujit Chakraborty)

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Aboriginals of Manipur prefer larger families to ensure their Safety in their Homeland

The Manipuri villages in Assam and Tripura have seen a huge reduction of the population since Independence

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Local Manipuri girls. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons
  • In the state of Manipur, having larger families is often encouraged
  • Locals fear they will soon be outnumbered by the non-locals and immigrants
  • Unlike other northeastern states, Manipur does not have provisions for the Inner Line Permit system yet

In the midst of large-scale family planning to curb the unchecked population growth, families in Manipur seem to think differently about managing their families.

Mutum Sobita(44) and Ningombam Sanahanbi (54) have fifteen and thirteen children respectively. And there is no case of mistreatment or malnutrition, rather children were provided with optimal education and care. Having these many number of children is considered the norm in these areas.

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According to a IANS report, these two mothers- Mutum Sobita of Keinou in Bishnupur district and Ningombam Sanahanbi of Okram Chuthek in Imphal East district were awarded on Sunday, June 12, at an event held at the Press Club there. There were thirteen recipients in total who were awarded with cash prize and citation for being wonderful mothers to their children. Iramdam Kunba Apunba Lup (IKAL) managed this event.

manipur
The seven sister states in North East India. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

It is interesting to know why these indigenous families prefer having larger families in spite of small family size incentives provided by the government.

Experts highlight the fear of being outnumbered by non-locals have been encouraging these families to have a larger number of children.

According to the 2011 Census, population in the state was 2,721,750 of which the non-locals made up over 1,200,000, according to what the government officials told IANS.

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Unlike other northeastern states, Manipur does not have provisions for the Inner Line Permit system yet. It’s a controversial topic and this sentiment was portrayed by Member of Legislative Assembly O. Lukhoi’s speech, who was the chief guest at Sunday’s event on June 12.

In 2015, the Manipur Assembly had approved of three bills following requests to execute the Inner Line Permit system. While the valley people, prevalent Meiteis, see it as the right step to protect them from immigrants, the Kukis and Nagas in the hills are resisting these bills, said a report by IANS.

“People are agitating today and demanding their protection since they have a fear that they will become strangers in their own home state,” Lukhoi said.

-prepared by a staff-writer at NewsGram

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Manipur-New favorite destination for backpackers

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Backpackers on a shoe-string budget who want to live with nature and see rare flora and fauna not found anywhere in the world and those who have an emotional attachment or want to learn more about the battles between the Japanese and Allied forces during World War-II have been flocking to Manipur in northeast India like never before.

Daily routines flights are running from Imphal to Guwahati or backpackers can be reached through Guwahati and Silchar through the mountainous NHs 2 and 37. There are cheap hotels for backpackers or three-star luxury hotels for those with expense accounts or rich travellers.

people who want to watch the brow-antlered deer, which is found only in Manipur, can go to the Loktak lake near the Keibul Lamjao national park, its natural habitat, and is located about 60 km from Imphal. Huts are being constructed at the Sendra hillock on the shore of the lake by the tourism department, but most tourists prefer the private hovels constructed on the floating bio-mass in the lake or in the thatched inns that have been constructed in the recent past.

water sports and canoe riding are also available in the Loktak lake, the largest fresh water lake in the eastern India. Thousands of fishermen and their families stays there in the floating huts constructed on the bio-mass. There are no washrooms and the tourists are supposed to answer the call of nature or take a bath while on the country canoes, like the fishermen.

Apart from the deer, tourists can watch hundreds of varieties of migratory birds coming from several countries.

Many backpackers said that they had experienced one-of-a-kind pleasure of mingling with nature once in the lifetime.

Other tourists go to the Ukhrul district to study the Shiroy lily which cannot be grown anywhere except high up on the Shiroy mountain. Attempts to transplant the Shiroy lily in the foothills of the mountain has not been so good. Despite warnings, domestic and foreign tourists secretly carry away some saplings in the hope of growing them in their homes.

It was at Moirang in Manipur where the flag of India’s independence was first hoisted by the INA forces where the Indian National Army museum is located, displaying the many objects the soldiers had used, including their personal effects.

The INA and the Japanese forces had stayed for four months in Manipur after which they went to Kohima for more battles.

Thangjam Dhabali, president of the Manipur Tourism Forum, said that during the battles in Manipur and what is now Nagaland, then a part of Assam, 53,000 Japanese and 15,000 Allied soldiers were killed. The number of civilians killed cannot be ascertained. Because of their identical Mongoloid features, civilians were mistaken for Japanese soldiers and were probably attacked on sight.

“There is an understanding with the Japanese government to construct a war memorial in Manipur,” Dhabali said.

Till now, relatives of the dead soldiers and Japanese government would come to Imphal to take away the skeletal remains for performing the last rites. A proposal to construct an ultra-modern hospital in memory of the dead soldiers is also there, but this is stuck in bureaucratic red tape.(IANS)

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Singing bird species discovered in northeast

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A new species of bird with soothing tone was discovered by a team of international scientists. This is a new species of bird, observed in northeastern India and the adjacent part of China. It is first discovery in a decade and fourth since 1949.

Scientists named the bird as Himalayan forest thrush Zoothera salimalii. The scientific name honors the great Indian ornithologist, Salim Ali, in recognition of his contributions to the development of Indian ornithology and nature conservation.

In 2009 the discovery of Himalayan forest thrush started because, it was realized that what was considered a single species, the plain-backed thrush the plain-backed thrush Zoothera mollissima, was, in fact, two different species in northeastern India, said Pamela Rasmussen of Michigan State University.

During fieldwork in the mountains, researchers noticed that thrushes in the forests sang much more musically than those on the rocky peaks. They then discovered physical and genetic differences as well and have now declared the known “plain-backed thrush” to be two distinct species.

Bengaluru-based Shashank Gupta of National Centre of Biological Sciences was also part of the research team.

Besides, all these keen observation scientists had to a lot of sleuthing with museum specimens.

The song of the Sichuan forest thrush was found to be even more musical than the song of the Himalayan forest thrush.

DNA analyses suggested that these three species have been genetically separated for several million years.

Several countries have investigated and revealed that there is a difference in plumage and structure between birds that could be assigned to either of these two species.

The scientists used to call this species as Sichuan forest thrush but it was treated as a subspecies of plain-backed thrush.(IANS)(esciencenews.com)