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Assam: Gateway to Northeast!

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By Akash Shukla

With thousands of hectares under tea cultivation and an impressive 35 per cent under forest cover, this place is predominantly symbolic of one color-green. Ambitiously occupying 2.39 per cent of India’s landmass, Assam is the most vibrant of eight states that comprise the Northeast.

In close proximity with West Bengal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, its topographical asymmetry is underpinned by Barail hill range. This range is sandwiched between two valleys- Brahmaputra and Barak.

Assam is synonymous with breathtaking natural beauty, teeming wildlife, immaculate tea gardens, and warm, beautiful people.

The state’s strategic location in the northeast of India and its reach from the rest of the country makes it the gateway to the northeastern states.

With five national parks that include the world heritage sites of Kaziranga and Manas and home to 20 Wildlife sanctuaries, the state goes beyond in its celebration and relishes the presence of its most famous denizen, one-horned rhinoceros.

Many-a-century bear witness to people of diverse religious, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. They have been attracted to the sylvan valleys of Assam and evidently made it a mosaic of various cultures.

It wouldn’t be a wonder to call Assam a miniature version of the entire country.
Beyond tourism, Assam is also a symbolic pinnacle Indian religious heritage.

Umananda temple

This is a Shiva temple situated at the Peacock Island in the middle of river Brahmaputra. Built by Ahom King Gadadhar Singha (1681-1696), who was a Shiv devotee, the mountain on which the temple has been built is known as Bhasmacala.

Country boats are available on the banks of Brahmaputra to take the visitors to the island.
It is believed that Shiva has resided here in the form of Bhayananda. According to the Kalika Purana, Shiva sprinkled ashes (bhasma) at this place and bestowed knowledge to Parvati. The religious epic has it that Shiva was in meditation on this hillock. Kamadeva interrupted his meditative yoga and as a consequence was burnt to ashes by Shiva’s anger. Since then the hillock has got its name– Bhasmacala.

Madan Kamdev

Located at an archaeological site in Baihata Chariali, Kamrup, Assam, this place dates back to the 9th and 10th century AD. Excavation and ruins here depict the prosperity and might of the Pala dynasty of Kamarupa.

Ruins of Madan Kamdev are spread widely in a secluded place and it covers around 500 meters. Uma Maheshwar’s embraced idols, carved on the stones of medieval temples, can be seen here; the most prominent ones are: Sun, Ganesha, and Vidhyadhara.

Kamakhya temple

This is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya. It is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas. Located on Nilachal Hill in Guwahati, Assam, it is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the 10 Mahavidyas: ‘Kali’, ‘Tara’, ‘Sodashi’, ‘Bagalamukhi’,’ Matangi’, ‘Bhuvaneshwari’, ‘Bhairavi’, ‘Chhinnamasta’, ‘Dhumavati’, and ‘Kamala’.

Among these, ‘Tripurasundari’, ‘Matangi’ and ‘Kamala’ reside inside the main temple while the remaining seven goddesses reside in individual temples. It is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindu devotees and Tantric worshippers show keen interest in the same.

Since Assam is surrounded by seven states, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Sikkim, together they are seven sisters and a brother which shape the Northeast of India. And, it is unachievable to rextract the incredible heritage of India in a single piece penned, so watch this space for greater Indian culture to unfold.

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Tea Body of Assam Slam ‘Chaiwala’ Modi

The tea labourers of Assam live in the most deplorable conditions without some of the basic amenities, Gowala said

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Narendra-Modi
Assam tea body slam 'chaiwala' Modi,

The largest tea body of Assam on Sunday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often refer to himself as a “chaiwala”, for not being considerate towards the state’s tea garden workers’ plight and urged him to implement the promised minimum wage of Rs 350 before the new year starts.

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) General Secretary Rupesh Gowala said while Modi often refers to himself as a “chaiwala”, he is yet make good on his promises towards a million tea garden labourers in the state in the last four years.

“Before the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, Modi addressed several rallies in Assam and assured that the tea garden labourers would be paid a minimum wage of Rs 350 per day,” Gowala said.

“If this happens, the 10,00,000 tea garden labourers will lose Rs 30 each day for two months. Is it a “chaiwala” Prime Minister who is doing this to his own community?” said Gowala.

The tea garden workers in Brahmaputra Valley in Assam are presently drawing Rs 167 per day while the tea garden workers in Barak Valley are getting Rs 145 per day.

“The existing wage agreement between the Assam government and the ACMS and other tea workers bodies expired on December 31, 2017.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

“The government had announced an interim hike of Rs 30 per day. The tea garden labourers are supposed to get this interim hike from January 1, 2018, but the government is saying the hike will apply from March 1, 2018.

“This would make them lose Rs 30 per day for two months,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam is yet to fix that minimum wage, Gowala said, urging Modi to announce the promised Rs 350 per day minimum wage before 2019.

Gowala said the condition of all those tea gardens run by the Assam government was far worse.

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“While the labourers in company-owned garden are receiving a wage of Rs. 167 per day now, the 26,000 workers under the 14 gardens of state-owned Assam Tea Company Limited (ATCL) are receiving a wage of Rs 115 only per day,” he said.

Assam has over 800 medium and large size tea gardens that produces over 50 per cent of the country’s total tea produce.

The tea labourers of Assam live in the most deplorable conditions without some of the basic amenities, Gowala said. (IANS)