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Centre pledges assistance for insurgency-ravaged Garo Hills

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NewsGram Staff Writer

Shillong: Expressing deep concern over the over the abating law and order situation in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills region, the Center on Saturday vowed to provide all out assistance to the state for ensuring stability in the region.

Regretting that militants are on a kidnapping and killing spree, union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told journalists, “it is unfortunate that in Garo Hills things are not improving as we hoped, but the state government is taking all steps to ensure and secure the lives and properties of the people.” He called for a united effort to address the issue.

Notably, on Thursday, armed militants of the A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK) outfit kidnapped Intelligence Bureau officer Bikash Singh and cloth merchant Kamal Saha at gunpoint from an area between Ampangre and Panda reserve forest.

(With inputs from IANS)

 

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Eye In The Sky: Space Technology Aiding Meghalaya To Expand Boro Rice Cultivation

The data tells us that slope, soil texture, soil fertility (acidity) and soil drainage are the major limiting factors/problems, because of which maximum areas are found marginally and moderately suitable for boro rice expansion.

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Meghalayas tough hill terrains that limit field visits, space technology is aiding the selection of areas that are suited for growing and expanding cultivation of boro rice

In Meghalayas tough hill terrains that limit field visits, space technology is aiding the selection of areas that are suited for growing and expanding cultivation of boro rice which is sown in winter and harvested in spring/summer, officials said.

Boro refers to a special type of rice cultivation on residual or stored water in low-lying areas after the harvest of kharif (winter) rice. Space technology has zoomed in on potential stretches in the state and offered a bird’s eye view of tracts that are best suited for growing boro season rice.

This will help bridge the demand-supply gap in Meghalaya, where 81 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture but the net cropped area is proportionately quite less: only about 10 percent of the total geographical area of the state.

So, to identify areas for expansion of boro rice in Meghalaya, the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) at the request of the Meghalaya’s Directorate of Agriculture, tapped into a suite of geospatial technologies.

Eye in the sky: Space technology aiding Meghalaya to expand boro rice cultivation

These technologies such as remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems are a range of modern tools contributing to the geographic mapping and analysis of a range of data about people, such as population, income, or education level and also about landscapes.

The move to expand area of rice grown in the boro season comes under the Meghalaya State Rice Mission (MSRM) aimed at narrowing the gap between rice production and consumption by doubling the production of rice – a major staple food of the northeastern state, accounting for over 80 percent of the foodgrain production.

In West Bengal and Bangladesh, expansion of irrigation, essential for supporting the boro rice production, led to a rapid increase in boro rice area and production during the past two decades and Meghalaya can benefit by deploying a similar strategy of expanding the boro season area, the state agriculture department opined.

Previous estimates from the rice mission document peg the consumption at approximately 400,000 tonnes annually during the years 2010-11. This estimate is double the rice produced during that period.

“Rice recorded an annual production of 3,01,076 metric tonnes during the year 2015-16 at an average productivity of 2.72 metric tonnes per hectare. Our spring rice/boro paddy produces an average yield of 4.28 metric tonnes per hectare under assured irrigation,” the agriculture department said.

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Mature rice fields of, IR8 and DGWG varieties. VOA

In Meghalaya, the rice crop is distributed in three rice ecosystems. They are low- altitude rice that covers 70 percent of total rice growing areas, mid-altitude rice covers 25 percent and high altitude rice that covers five percent.

In a report submitted to NITI Aayog, the Meghalaya government has said that the under-utilisation of land during the winter season has resulted in shortage of rice for the ever-increasing population.

In addition, with assured irrigation, boro paddy yield is double the average yield per hectare compared to sali rice.

“Boro paddy gives an average yield of 4 MT per hectare compared to the average yield of 2 MT per hectare of sali paddy,” according to the report.

Further, winter planting is free from flash floods and is well-suited for SRI (System of Rice Intensification) technique with yields of 6-7 MT per hectare, the report said, justifying the augmentation of boro paddy cultivation in areas where this practice was not in vogue.

With the NESAC data at its disposal, the department of agriculture has initiated steps for application of the findings by taking a policy decision to link the activity for growing boro rice with the Indian government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) program.

“This will achieve both the objective of providing assured employment under NREGA and also productive output and income for the NREGA wage earner cum farmer,” an agriculture department official said.

Space tech can reduce time lost on trial and error

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Rice cultivation requires extensive labor. Source: Pixabay

“By using satellite images and data with ground information on parameters such as slope, soil and climate, we mapped potential areas for expansion of boro rice cultivation. This was one of the first of its kind project in the northeast,” Pratibha T. Das of NESAC told Mongabay-India.

Having space technology focus on potential areas saves time and money in implementation by skipping the field trial stage, explained Das.

In an email communique to Mongabay-India, officials at Meghalaya’s agriculture department also reiterated that this approach eliminates the trial and error method “saving time, effort and money and scale of implementation in a given (short) period of time.”

Das further said: “Even though the identified areas are small, the agriculture department need not conduct field trials; they can directly select the potential areas from the maps and start cultivation.”

The mapping exercise covered landscapes spread across nearly 5000 square km at elevation below 200 metres and excluding forest, built up and barren rocky areas. The findings published in Current Science show that out of 4903 sq. km study area only 807 sq. km (16.5 percent) is suitable for boro rice cultivation.

Though 16.5 percent area is suitable for boro rice, only 0.8 percent (6.35 sq. km) area is highly suitable, which is found in West Garo hills district. Around 581.74 sq. km is marginally suitable whereas 219.07 sq. km area is moderately suitable.

“The data tells us that slope, soil texture, soil fertility (acidity) and soil drainage are the major limiting factors/problems, because of which maximum areas are found marginally and moderately suitable for boro rice expansion,” said Das.

Also Read:Indian Origin Team Develops Model For Safer Self-driving Cars
Based on problems/limitations of the land, land users and planners can decide on crop management strategies to increase productivity, she said.

Thematic maps like soil drainage, soil texture, soil depth, flooding and gravel/stoniness and land use maps were dovetailed with soil sample analyses and digital elevation models to get a clear picture on ground.

Soil samples were collected from 121 locations and analysed, revealing that sandy clay soil texture, that was best fit for boro rice, was distributed in six percent of the area examined. (IANS)

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of Mongabay.com. )

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North-East Assembly Elections: Everything You Need To Know About The Elections In Tripura, Meghalaya, And Nagaland

North-East Assembly elections 2018 will directly affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent government formation

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north-east assembly elections
fb to alert voters this election season

Many states are gearing up for the North-East Assembly elections 2018 that are being said to be the defining factor for the future political dynamics of India. Elections dates in the on-going states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura were February 18 for Tripura, while the other two states will hold their round of elections on February 27. The elections will be held in two phases, and the results will be announced on March 3.

Many parties are looking forward to extending their political reach in the north-eastern region. North-East Assembly elections 2018 will directly affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent government formation.

ALSO READ: 64% Voters cast their vote in the First phase of UP Elections

north-east assembly elections
EVMs will be installed for the first time. Wikimedia Commons

Here is everything you need to know about the north-east assembly elections 2018:

1. The incumbent assembly tenure in Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura will end on March 6, 13 and 14 respectively. Each of these states has a 60-member assembly.

2. In all the three states, Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) have been implemented.

3. VVPAT machines are being implemented in Meghalaya for the first time since its formation in 1970. Voters had been using the ballot-paper until now.

4. The Election Commission of India had asked Assam Rifles (India’s oldest paramilitary force) to reinforce the Indo-Myanmar border in Nagaland in order to prevent any form of disturbance before the polls. The state has been suffering insurgent movements and cross-border militant infiltration.

north-east assembly elections
Before EVMs, the Ballot-system was used for the voting process. Wikimedia Commons

5. To increase the participation of women, the Election Commission has installed 60 Pink booths that will be managed by women staff. The booths will be placed in every constituency.

6. 86,890 votes in Meghalaya aged between 18 and 19 years will be exercising their vote for the first time. To encourage these first-time voters, the EC felicitated them on National Voters Day on January 25.

7. The Election Commission will monitor the elections live through webcast and CCTV cameras to ensure a fair and free election.

8.  Around 193 polling booths in Meghalaya will be directly webcasted to the Chief Electoral Officer or District Electoral Officer and Election Commission of India.

ALSO READ: Russia’s Last appeal to US Voters: Russia has no intention of interfering in America’s Presidential Elections

Tripura

  • Ramendra Chandra is the current speaker of the Eleventh Legislative Assembly.
  • Since 1993, the CPI(M) has been in power in the state.
  • While BJP has 7 MLAs in the state assembly and is also the main opposition party.
  • Manik Sarkar, the Chief Minister of Tripura, is a Politburo Member of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • He became the Chief Minister for the fourth time after 2013 Assembly Elections.
  • Manik Sarkar is known for his honesty and low monetary resources.

Meghalaya

  • The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly was constituted as a directly elected body in 1972 comprising 60 members.
  • 50.4% registered voters were women (outnumbering men) in the final electoral rolls of the state.
  • With a total population of 3.2 million, Meghalaya has a literacy rate of 74.4%.
  • Unlike Tripura, no one in Meghalaya registered for the third gender option in the final rolls.
  • 597 polling stations have been increased from 2,485 in 2013 to 3,082 in 2018. It’s an increase of about 24%.
north-east assembly elections
The Election Commission of India has set 60 Pink Booths. Wikimedia Commons

Nagaland

  • On 1 December 1963, Nagaland became a state of India. Also, the first Nagaland Legislative Assembly was formed on 11 February 1964.
  • The strength of the state assembly was increased to 60 members in 1974.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the assembly election in the state will be held on schedule amidst a demand by the state’s civil society groups for deferring the polls to facilitate a solution to the vexed Naga insurgency issue.
  • The expectations for a lasting peace have soared in Nagaland, which had been hit by insurgency for decades after the Centre and the NSCN-IM signed a framework agreement in 2015.

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.