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Assam Accord issue to be taken up

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New Delhi, As the country celebrated Independence Day on Saturday, the historic Assam Accord, signed on this very day 30 years ago to detect and deport illegal immigrants in the northeastern state, has returned into focus.

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Though the accord was signed to end a six-year-long mass movement demanding detection and deportation of illegal immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, who threatened the culture, identity and economic future of the indigenous people of Assam, successive central and state governments have failed to implement key clauses of the agreement.

The accord was signed between the central and Assam governments on one side and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the now defunct All Aasam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), who spearheaded the movement, on the other, in the presence of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
According to the accord, all foreigners who entered Assam illegally on or after March 25, 1971, would be detected, their names deleted from the electoral rolls and then deported under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.

Though the accord was signed on August 15, 1985, seemingly unending illegal immigration continues from Bangladesh till this day. According to official figures released way back in December 2001, there were an estimated five million foreigners in Assam.
year, while campaigning for the BJP ahead of the general elections, Narendra Modi promised that, if brought to power, he would ensure that all clauses of the Assam Accord were implemented and illegal immigrants in the state detected and deported.

Now, with the NDA government completing one year in office, the AASU, in a smart move, organised a national seminar themed “30 Years of Assam Accord: Issues, Challenges and Implementation” in the national capital on August 11 and 12 – just before Independence Day.

The idea was not only to highlight the non-implementation of the accord’s clauses but also the security threat posed to national security by the phenomenon of illegal immigration.So, did it pay dividends? If nothing else, hopes were raised.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that as an immediate step, he would visit the Bangladesh border in Assam within this month accompanied by an AASU delegation to take stock of the situation arising out of the illegal immigration.

“I know about all your genuine demands and I can assure you that only Indians will stay in India. We should know what steps should be taken to protect the rights of the indigenous people without leaving any loopholes,” he said.

The home minister also said discussions would be held with AASU to find out the shortcomings in the Assam Accord that were stopping its full implementation.

The home ministry is the nodal ministry for implementing the accord.
“Since I became the home minister last year, I have visited Assam as many as seven times.

This is the most visits I have made to any state after my home state of Uttar Pradesh,” Rajnath Singh said by way of reassurance.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, who hails from the neighbouring state of Arunachal Pradesh, said that he would take every initiative within his ministry with the support of Rajnath Singh to bring the issue to the prime minister’s notice.Calling Assam his motherland he lamented how the matter had slipped out of hand.

“Assam is the heart of the northeast. Assam has to be protected if the northeast is to be protected.”
He said all stakeholders, including the Assamese society, were responsible for the failure to implement the accord.
“All political parties should take responsibility, be it Congress, BJP or AGP (Asom Gana Parishad),” Rijiju said.

Former chief election commissioner H.S. Brahma, who also hails from Assam, said three key steps needed to be taken: someone should take ownership of the accord and ensure its implementation; a calendar should be prepared and half-yearly and yearly reviews of the work done should be made; and every year, the AASU or a think tank or civil society should present a white paper recording the progress in the accord’s implementation.

According to Rijiju, AASU should take the lead in the process and cooperation should be extended from all sides.
Former home secretary G.K. Pillai, who was also joint secretary for the northeast, was of the view that work permits should be issued as this would help identify the foreigners. However, this did not meet with assent from all sides.
In 2005, 20 years after the signing of the accord, a key impediment to the implementation of its clauses was removed when the Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983. The Act had put the onus on the police to prove whether a person was a foreigner or not.

Following the national seminar, the AASU has come out with a 14-point Delhi Resolution, which, among others, calls for the signing of a repatriation treaty between India and Bangladesh, and complete sealing of the border within a declared deadline.
With the process of updating the National Register of Citizens also going on in Assam under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court – the deadline is August 31 – the historic accord seems to have somehow regained its relevance.

(IANS)

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Assam Tea Growers Start No Sickles Campaign to Ensure the Overall Quality of Assam Tea

During the last 35 years there has been a huge increase in the land area under tea cultivation

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Although Assam tea is known worldwide for its quality due to hand plucking of 'two leaves and a bud', some of the gardens have resorted to harvesting tea leaves. Pixabay

To ensure the overall quality of Assam tea, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has started a ‘No sickles’ campaign among the tea gardens of Assam.

Although Assam tea is known worldwide for its quality due to hand plucking of ‘two leaves and a bud’, some of the gardens have resorted to harvesting tea leaves with sickles (which is popularly known as kasi) affecting the quality of the tea.

Chairman of NETA, Nepul Saikia said this on Wednesday while adding that the organization has started the campaign “Say NA to Kasi for tea harvesting” from today and added that the campaign is basically to bring awareness amongst the tea producers not to use sickles during harvesting of tea leaves.

He said that during the last 35 years there has been a huge increase in the land area under tea cultivation. In 1990, Assam’s tea production was only 388 million kgs which has grown to 692 million kgs in 2018.

Assam, Tea Growers, Sickles
To ensure the overall quality of Assam tea, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has started a ‘No sickles’ campaign. Pixabay

“There has been an increase of about 300 million kgs in 28 years which is about 80 per cent increase in production in 2018 compared to 1990 figures. However, there is a shortage of workers in peak cropping months – July, August, September and October. To overcome the shortage of workers some growers have resorted to harvesting tea leaves with sickles,” he said adding that the tea leaves harvested with sickles are of very poor quality and this is one of the major reasons for the quality failure of Assam tea.

“As per the latest Tea Board figures, about 49 per cent of tea produced in Assam is from the green tea leaves by small tea growers. Though a majority of small tea growers do not use sickles throughout the year we have started this campaign before it is too late”, said Saikia.

“This campaign is to basically bring awareness amongst tea growers on the harvesting of quality tea and also to bring the attention of policymakers in providing growers with substitutes like shears, battery operated plucking machines and one/two men operated harvesting machines”, said Bidyananda Barkakoty, Adviser NETA.

The Tea Board has a field mechanization scheme of 25 per cent subsidy on plucking and pruning machines for general category and 100 per cent subsidy for SC & ST. “This scheme can be further popularized amongst the growers and subsidy amount should be increased to 75 per cent for general category”, Barkakoty added.

Also Read- India: Government to Help Develop Required Skill Sets Needed By Industries Across the Spectrum

“A Guwahati-based investor is developing a plucking machine with an Israeli technique and we are expecting a prototype of it in October. This plucking machine which is in the designing stage now will help in selective harvesting of tea leaves similar to hand plucking”, he added. (IANS)