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Modi in Bangladesh: Land Boundary Agreement generates keen interest in North East

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Agartala/Guwahati: The signing of the historic Land Boundary Agreement, notwithstanding some opposition in Assam, and trade and connectivity are the key issues which have generated keen interest in India’s northeastern states about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day Bangladesh visit that began on Saturday.

In a historic step, India and Bangladesh during the day moved to swap land enclaves in each other’s territory as they ratified the more than 40-year-old LBA at a ceremony witnessed by Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina.

The agreement envisages transfer of 111 enclaves with a total area of 17,160.63 acres to Bangladesh. Dhaka is to transfer 51 enclaves spread over 7,110.02 acres to India. A 6.1-km undefined border stretch will be demarcated. The four Indian border states involved in the exchange of territories are Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura – all in the northeast – and West Bengal.

With the Teesta accord, which Bangladesh considers very important, not on the agenda, diplomatic experts were banking on the land swap deal – set to be concluded on June 6 on day one of Modi’s visit – as a “significant chapter” in India-Bangladesh relations, which could in turn pave the way for fresh openings in bilateral ties.

Veena Sikri, former Indian envoy to Bangladesh, termed the LBA the high point of the visit as it would help in taking the bilateral relations between the two neighbours into an era of connectivity, which would tremendously help the northeastern states.

Northeast-based independent journalist Sanath Chakrabarty termed the LBA signing a welcome step.

“The initiative shows that the Modi government does not want to carry the baggage of the past. They want to solve the issues in a more proactive way, this is a good move,” he said.

“However, there are issues which are irritants. The Land Boundary Agreement has also been opposed by several sections. There issues of rehabilitation and resettlement of the people to be affected by the LBA,” he said, adding that one also has to observe how Bangladesh reciprocates to this.

Modi, Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also flagged off the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus services.

The two countries signed 22 pacts, including agreements on coastal shipping, renewal of protocol on inland water transit and trade, on prevention of human trafficking and on prevention of smuggling and circulation of fake currency notes.

The two nations also concluded the memorandum of understanding on use of Chittagong and Mongla ports, while the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) signed a deal for leasing of international bandwidth for internet at Akhaura in Tripura.

Stressing on connectivity, Modi said Bangladesh’s decision to allow transit of power equipment and foodgrain to the northeast “echoes the strength of your human values and our shared economic opportunities”.

On Sunday, Modi and Hasina are scheduled to open the Kamalasagar (Tripura)-Kasba (Bangladesh) border haat. The border haat will be the second in Tripura and the fourth along the India-Bangladesh border.

These border haats are being set up at costs ranging from Rs.2.4-3 crore incurred by the Indian commerce ministry to boost trade in local produce of areas on the two sides.

Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industries president M.L. Dey said Bangladesh’s trade and business with the northeastern states was much higher compared to the rest of India.

“Considering this scope, both India and Bangladesh must take more mutual steps to increase the trades and various economic activities between Bangladesh and eight northeastern states of India.”

Noted economist Sekhar Paul said economic cooperation between India and Bangladesh “must go hand in hand with strong political support from the highest places of the two close neighbours”.

The eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, are largely dependent on Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other bigger states in India for food grains, essential commodities and household goods.

“Trade between the northeastern states and Bangladesh are gradually increasing every year. With Modi’s visit, the cross border trade might further boost up,” Habul Biswas, secretary of the Exporters-importers Association of Tripura, told IANS.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar earlier told IANS the visit was expected to immensely benefit the northeastern states.

He said Dhaka helped “a lot” to tame decades of terrorism in Tripura.

But he pointed out that some camps of northeastern militants still existed in Bangladesh. (IANS)

 

 

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Know How Grammy Award Winner Inspired by PM Modi to Dedicate Music to Environment

From songs like "Ganga" - depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians - to his Grammy-winning album "Winds of Samara" - which speaks of peace and global harmony

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grammy award winner, modi
"What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment," Kej told IANS in an interview here. Wikimedia

A chance meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2015 in New Delhi inspired Bengaluru-based Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej to dedicate his life and music to the cause of environment.

Since then, Kej, who has represented India on global fora, performing at venues including the United Nations General Assembly in New York and UN Headquarters in Geneva, has been using music to flag ecological issues to policymakers and public the world over.

“What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment,” Kej told IANS in an interview here.

From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street.

With the aid of compelling visuals, Kej’s music, and collaborations with global music artists, highlights the deleterious consequences of urbanisation, climate change and human-animal conflict.

modi, grammy award winner
From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street. Wikimedia

“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented.

Kej, 37, bagged Grammy in 2015 for the ‘Best New Age Album’ for “Winds of Samsara”, created along with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman. He is also recognised as the ‘United Nations Global Humanitarian Artist’ for his music with environmental consciousness.

The subjects of Kej’s music include, the rising air pollution in global cities and towns, the perils being posed to wildlife due to urbanisation and the story of Republic of Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean off Fiji, whose coasts are receding each year due to rising ocean levels due to global warming, among others.

With 15 studio albums released internationally, 3,500 commercials, three feature films in Kannada and over 100 music awards in 20 countries to his credit, the conservationist-musician’s album “Shanti Samsara” was released by Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the United Nations Conference of Parties (CoP-21) Climate Change Conference in Paris, held from November 30-December 12, 2015.

The album, conceived after his meeting with Modi, had Kej collaborate with about 500 musicians from 40 countries, for songs like “Ganga”, throwing light on the pollution plaguing the river, and on “Earth and Water”.

“Politicians and policymakers are used to statistics and numbers, but when one approaches them through art, it makes a lot of difference. I have seen politicians change their perspectives towards environmental causes after attending my concerts,” Kej asserted.

The element of environment and nature in his work comes from his own experiences. For instance, he composed the song “One With Earth” – which highlights natural farming and the need to give up chemical fertilisers – after he lived with the tribals in Andhra Pradesh’s Araku Valley to understand their lifestyle and traditional farming techniques.

Grammy award winner, modi
“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented. Wikimedia

Born in 1981 in North Carolina in the US, Kej moved to Bengaluru with family when he was eight, with intense love for music and nature.

“As a child, I felt music and nature were connected and found music in the sounds of nature, birds and animals. I used to look at music as a way of understanding history, cultures and emotions from different parts of the world. A lot of my education was through music,” said Kej, who was part of a rock band “Angel Dust” during his class 12th from Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bengaluru.

Even as Kej pursued a dental science course on his father’s advice, he continued to create music and decided to pursue it full-time on completing the degree.

“Like most musicians, I started my career with popular music and later turned to heavy metal and jazz. I finally zeroed in on world music as it connects with the people the world over, irrespective of the language they speak,” Kej recalled.

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As a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in the renowned Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in this tech hub, the musician believes his job is to approach environmental subjects artistically.

“Numbers don’t hit people as hard as visuals and art can. My job as a musician is to drive the numbers and data through emotions,” Kej added. (IANS)