Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tiger planes bomb colombo

Map of Colombo showing its administrative dist...Image via Wikipedia

By R. Bhagwan Singh | Colombo, Feb. 20: Two LTTE planes late on Friday raided Colombo and dropped bombs on the Internal Revenue Department building inside the fort area of Slave Island, which houses most of the defence and other government establishments across Galle Face beach. While the air defence systems, which include anti-aircraft guns manned by special units, shot down one of the LTTE planes at the IRD building,

Sri Lanka Air Force aircraft destroyed the second one close to Katunayake air base on the city’s outskirts, the military spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, told this newspaper. Witnesses reported hearing ack-ack fire in Colombo.

There was some confusion initially with police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara saying one plane was shot down at Katunayake while the other one had headed towards Jaffna in the north with Air Force aircraft in pursuit. It later turned out that both planes were shot down in and around Colombo soon after the raid began at around 9.15 pm. The Sri Lanka Air Force spokesman, Wing Comm-ander J. Nanayakkara, said the forces recovered a rebel’s body from the wreckage of the Tiger plane shot down near Katunayake air base.

Dr H. Weerasinghe, director of Colombo National Hospital, said 42 injured persons had been admitted to the hospital and two of them were in serious condition. The injured included two Air Force personnel. Agency reports said two people had been killed in the bombing.

There was panic in Colombo as radar detected the two Tiger planes heading towards the capital. The lights were switched off by the central electricity system and air defence measures activated, an officer said. Slave Island is very near most of the top hotels, including the Taj Samudra and Hilton. The military said the IRD building suffered "slight damage".

The Tiger raid comes as an embarrassment to the government, which had claimed it had destroyed all the rebel runways and crippled its tiny air wing, believed to have two to three small planes.

Source: The Asian Age

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Zomi Day celebrated

From M Kaimuanthang - Lamka, Feb 20: The 61st Zomi National Day has been celebrated in a decentralised way today by the Zo descendants living in every nook and corner of the world. In Churachandpur the main programmes were held at the Simte Youth Organisation's, hall from about 11 am with N Songchinkhup, president of the Zomi Council, ZC, unfurling the Zo flag followed by his address to the huge gathering.

It has been an occassion of colourful cultural exchange of the various tribes of Zomi's and the time for them to listen to the message of God from Reverend Thanglian.
There was also a show of different types of the modern dances like the choreography which has been gaining its importance along with artistes rocking the gathering.

A special message was given by the ZRO headquarters in the programme under the aegis of the Zomi Youth Association, ZYA.

At another place in Mission Compound the occasion was with Khaizasong attending it as a special guest.

A Musical Nite in which various popular musical bands like Falcon, Zorock, Rig Vedas, RDI and so many more local artistes entertained the audience.

At different places and abroad and in the states of the country the day was observed by organising functions as per the reports received.

At Tonjang near Behiang along the border it was celebrated with fanfare. T Hangkhanpau was the chief guest on the occasion.

At Sugnu, Mualnuam, Suangdoh, Ainah and Lungthul (L) and other places the day was celebrated.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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Arunachal celebrates 23rd Statehood Day

ITANGAR, Feb 20 – Amidst a strong protest rally staged by the agitating State Government employees decrying the government’s alleged failure to meet their pay package demand, the hilly Northeastern State of Arunachal Pradesh today celebrated its 23rd Statehood Day with a day-long programme showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the tribal State to the outside world.

The celebration coincided with the opening of a three-day festival of Arunachal by the State Governor General (Retd) JJ Singh by releasing some balloons in the air in presence of a big gathering that included Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and other Ministers, MLAs, government officials and general public at Indira Gandhi Park here.

Extending his greetings to the people, the Governor, who earlier unfurled the national tri-colour and took salute from the men in khaki said that 20th February is a red letter day in the history of Arunachal Pradesh.

In the last 22 years, our State has made tremendous progress in every field of development, and the last one year saw a surge in the pace. With the Prime Minister’s mega developmental package of Rs 20,000 crore giving impetus to it, the infrastructural development in terms of road, air and rail communications, power projects, health and rural development scaled new heights, he said.

Statehood Day is the day of rejoicing as well as a reminder to all of us to contribute our bit for building a happy, prosperous and peaceful Arunachal, said Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, who has completed 22 months in office.

Khandu, however, expressed his deep anguish over the ongoing indefinite strike by State Government employees demanding full implementation of Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) recommendations, thus compelling the resource-poor State pass through a difficult stage.

Reiterating his governments helplessness to concede the pay package demand of the agitating employees in absence of any special grant from the Centre, the Chief Minister said, The State Government, despite its resource crunch, has already implemented a revised pay package as Sixth CPC report besides agreeing to release six months arrears to its employees, and became the first State in North East region and one of few in the country to do so.

Source: Assam Tribune

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Survey for Meghalaya on: Minister informs Lok Sabha, N-E capitals to be connected by rail: Centre

New Delhi: All State capitals of the Northeastern region are proposed to be connected by Railway Lines wherever feasible, Railway Minister of State R Velu said on Thursday. Guwahati and Agartala are already connected and further works have been taken up for connecting State capitals of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, he said.

As per the present estimate, cost of providing linkages to four state capitals where works are already sanctioned is above Rs 4200 crore. For State capitals of Sikkim and Meghalaya, survey has been taken up, he said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

Indian Railways have decided to install 100 escalators at 50 major stations.

Meanwhile, the Opposition dismissed the "turnaround story" of Railways, saying the claim of making profits was only a "doctoring" of accounts.

"While we all listen to the story of Railway turnaround and making profits year after year, the truth is that (Railway Minister) Lalu Prasad has used extensive doctoring of accounts to show the profits," Kalraj Mishra (BJP) said taking part in the discussion on Railway Bugdet.

While the accounts presented by Prasad show profits, Finance Minister's budget presentation clearly indicates that the Railways are highly dependable on the Union Budgetary support for the projects, he added.

"Even the CAG report has expressed concern on the way the Ministry has presented the profit data," Mishra said.

The depreciation account, the unclaimed accounts and even the maintenance account have been summed up together with the profit to "fudge" the profit data, he claimed.

"While 1,700 crore is needed for Railway's security enhancement, it has asked for money from Finance Ministry to help in the project as it lacks fund. Then where are the profits," he asked.

P Madhu (CPI-M) wanted the removal of the Tatkal scheme of reservation saying it was taxing the common people and they are unable to get reservation even in advance due to this system. He said Rs 350 crore is collected every year from Tatkal reservations and it should be done away with.

He noted that the Railway minister has vowed not to privatise Railways and asked him to keep the promise. (Agencies)

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Nagas demand swift action in SDO killing

Dimapur, February 20 (MExN): Naga civil society in Manipur state today issued a strong message of caution against making any communal statements or making communal allusions over the recent murder of an SDO, Dr.Thingnam Kishan, and two others. A joint statement from the United Naga Council, Naga Women Union of Manipur,

All Naga Students Association Manipur and Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (south) was received here today. The organizations have demanded that the “cadres” responsible for the murder of the officer and others, should be captured at the earliest to face justice.

“We also express our utmost concern over some elements trying to ignite communal flare-up by their unguarded utterances and slogan during sit-in-protest and rallies in different parts of Imphal and its surrounding” the statement said.

“If the demeaning expression shown by some section of society pointing their fingers on certain organization is to be true then the organization authority should swiftly act and rope in those cadres responsible for the dastardly act, for necessary punishment” the Naga organizations stated.

While condemning the murder in the strongest possible terms, the organizations also took exception to “ugly divisive statements made by underground groups singling out a particular community”. “We also express our concern over the ugly divisive statement of some underground groups in singling out particular community in this period of anguish agony, when the entire people is shocked over the horrendous triple murder, which call for collective responsibility of all people to nib this inhuman act which is spreading like a disease in the society in the bud” the joint statement said.

The organizations have appealed for “restraining in words or action with communal tone” and demanded that the Manipur state government initiate prompt action to trace the culprits for befitting punishment as per the law. The missing government staffers should also be traced, it stated. An appeal was made that at this juncture of pain, the entire peoples irrespective of caste, creed and color should be standing collectively for justice and comforting the bereaved families over the tragic loss of their dear ones. “We believe politicizing over the innocence will be unfortunate and amount to crime as human being” the joint statement said.

Source: Morung Express

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JAC sets Feb 22 deadline to meet demands

IMPHAL, Feb 20 : Even as the bereaved family members decided against taking the bodies of Kasom Khullen SDO Dr Thingnam Kishan and his two subordinate staff namely Aribam Rajen and Yumnam Token Singh until punishment of their killers, the JAC and the Apunba Lup have warned of stepping up agitation against the State Government if it fails to consider the demands placed before it within February 22.

Adopting the resolution among others, a public meeting held at the Nityainanda Mandop of Yumnam Leikai today strongly condemned the killing and observed a two minute silence as mark of respect to the departed souls of Dr Kishan, Rajen and Token.

Attended by family members of the three vic-tims, the public meeting pro- ceeded with JAC convenor S Tikendrajit, social worker Th Iboyaima and senior advocate Khaidem Mani taking the dais as presidium mem-bers.

Demanding criminal proceeding against Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul Pankaj Kumar Pal and punishment of the killers, the meeting demanded that the Government produce the other three persons who too have been abducted along with Dr Kishan, Rajen and Token.

The meeting also demanded the State Government to provide a place/site where the bodies of three victims could be cremated together.

Asking the Government of India to come out with a clarification on the activities of the NSCN (IM) within the territory of Manipur in defiance of the ground rules of the ceasefire agreement signed between them , the meeting demanded that no base camp of the NSCN (IM) should be allowed to exist within Manipur as the said ceasefire agreement does not cover Manipur.

Highlighting these demands, a memorandum has also been submitted to the Chief Minister jointly by the representatives of the family members, JAC and the Apunba Lup after the meeting later during the day.

Setting February 22 as the deadline, the memorandum has also warned of launching various intense agitations from the next day if the Government fails to consider these demands.

Earlier addressing the meeting, Thingnam Ongbi Romita, wife of Dr Kishan, categorically stated ‘My husband had been murdered in connivance between the NSCN (IM) and the Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul district.

So criminal proceedings should be initiated against the Deputy Commissioner’.

Turning down the ex-gratia offer of the Government, Romita said that as to the offer of MCS post she has not yet taken any definite decision.

Mother of Dr Kishan said ‘Let the killers of my son be produced and punished and don’t try to appease with ex-gratia and job offer. Until the killers are produced, the body of my son would be taken for his last rites’.

Y Kenedy, elder brother of Yumnam Token, said the attitude of the State Government in coming out with offer of job and ex-gratia as prices of the deceased persons is condemnable. ‘This is nothing but a ploy of the State Government. The body should not be taken until punishment of the killers’, he added.

Aribam Thoibi, elder sister of Aribam Rajen informed the gathering that the wife of Rajen is being hospitalised after hearing the news of his murder.

To ensure such incidents of killing innocent persons do not recur in the future, the bodies should not be taken until punishment of the killers and everyone should extend full support to the JAC and the Apunba Lup, she exhorted the gathering.

JAC convenor Y Khelchand questioned why the Government of India and Manipur should be keeping quiet to the activities of the NSCN (IM) like extortion, killing and roaming around with arms in the open, etc within Manipur in complete violation of the laid down ground rules of the ceasefire agreement signed with the Government of India.

Taking serious note of the latest incident, the Union Home Minister should try to bring about an end to the activities of the NSCN (IM) in Manipur, he added.

Co-ordinator of the Apunba Lup Sunil Karam observed that suspension of Ukhrul DC and SP is not the solution to the problem at hand. The conduct of the Government in imposing indefinite curfew instead of arresting the killers to pacify the angry people is equally condemnable.

Thounaojam Iboyaima called upon the all the communities living in Manipur to stay alert from the evil designs of divisive forces which are trying to disintegrate Manipur.

Khaidem Mani asserted that as the inquiry being conducted by the Government into the incident is not going to lead anywhere, a judicial injury should be initiated.

Source: The Sangai Express

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Brutal murder of SDO and two subordinates CM writes to Home Minister to pull up IM

IMPHAL, Feb 20 : Literally pointing the finger of accusation against the NSCN (IM) in the abduction and brutal murder of Kasom Khullen SDO Dr Thingnam Kishan his two subordinate staff, driver Aribam Rajen and Mandal Yumnam Token, Chief Minister O Ibobi has written to the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to get in touch with the leadership of the outfit and to instruct them not to repeat such act in the future.

Disclosing this to The Sangai Express a reliable source said that in the evening of February 17, the day the bludgeoned bodies of the SDO and his two subordinates were found near Taphou Kuki village in Senapati district, the Chief Minister convened a high level meeting at his office chamber.

The Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home), DGP, GOC of 57 Mountain Division, IGAR (South) were among the officials present at the meeting, said the source.

The missive was sent to the Union Home Minister after the meeting, informed the source further.
In the missive, the Chief Minister categorically urged the Union Home Minister to instruct the leaders of the NSCN (IM) that the Government will not tolerate the cadres of the outfit moving openly with arms as well as not to repeat such heinous crime, added the source.

The State Government has been providing inputs to the Union Home Ministry daily since then.
On the other hand to trace and rescue the other three abducted men, security forces have been co-ordinating with each other, said the source.

The wife of the slain SDO had yesterday informed some sections of the media that a number of district officials of Ukhrul district had informed her that her husband was in the custody of the NSCN (IM).

The NSCN (IM) had on the other hand condemned the killing of the SDO and his subordinates and even claimed that it would investigate the case and crack it.

Newmai News Network reports that the NSCN-IM while appreciating the statement of the Revolutionary Peoples’ Front (RPF), has said that vital clues have come from the testimony of Dr Th Kishan’s wife Romita which will serve as an important tool in the investigation conducted by the outfit into the brutal murder of the late Kasom Khullen SDO and his two subordinate staff.
Informing Newmai News Network tonight the outfit’s Ministry of Information and Publicity (MIP) pledged to book the culprits, and added that the NSCN-IM shares the view of the RPF and said that there are scoundrels present among the Tangkhuls or any other tribe to play the divisive game planned by the Indian intelligence agencies such as Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

“While the investigation conducted by the NSCN (IM) into the brutal killing of Kasom Khullen SDO Dr Th Kishan and his two staff are on, every single piece of information either through testimonials or any sources will be taken into consideration in order to go deeper to unearth everything about the murder.

Vital clue appears to be coming out from the wife of late SDO, and the credibility of the testimonials of the persons mentioned by Romita, the wife of the slain Kasom Khullen SDO will be examined from every angle.

“So far the testimonials as reported in Imphal based local newspapers are very vague,” said the NSCN-IM while adding, “Nevertheless, investigation will spare no effort to refer to all these testimonials, despite lacking legal validity.”

The NSCN-IM then said that the concern shared by Revolution People’s Front (RPF) on the killing of Dr Kishan is well appreciated, “and certainly scoundrels are present among the Tangkhuls or any other tribal groups to play the divisive game as desired by Indian intelligent agencies like RAW( Research and Analysis Wing). NSCN is moving in the right direction to root out these anti-social elements”.

Source: The Sangai Express

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Chin National Day turns into Chin State Day celebration in Burma

Friday, 20 February 2009: New Delhi (Mizzima) - With the Burmese military junta's profound objection to the celebration of Chin National Day, ethnic Chin in Rangoon are albeit being forced to mark the day under different banners, organisers said. On Friday, Chin people in Rangoon, celebrated the 61st anniversary of Chin Nation Day under the banner of 'Fresher Welcome' of University students.

"We requested the local authorities in the township and district levels in Rangoon but they rejected our request to allow us to hold the Chin National Day celebration," an organizer said.

"So, we had no choice but to celebrate our national day under a different name."

But in Hakha, capital of Chin State, authorities forced Chin community leaders to observe the Day as 'Chin State Day', a local resident said.

"Actually, we prefer to use the actual name 'Chin National Day'. But the authorities do not allow us to do so. So we have no choice," she added.

Chin National Day was adopted at the first Chin National Conference held on February 20, 1948 in Falam town in Chin state. During the conference, Chin leaders agreed to abolish the use of the chieftainship system of administration and agreed to form a democratic system of governance.

However, the Chin National Day was later renamed as the Chin State Day during the rule of the Burma Social Programme Party (BSPP) regime led General Ne Win, who assumed power in a military coup in 1962.

Salai Kipp Kho Lian, a Germany based Chin activist, alleged that changing the Chin National Day into Chin State Day is part of the junta's nationalization policy to eradicate the identity of ethnic minorities in Burma.

Kipp said it was on January 3, 1974 that the Burmese regime declared the Chin Special Division into Chin State so February 20 cannot be in anyway observed as Chin State Day.

"It does not make any sense to change Chin National Day into Chin State Day," Kipp said.

"It is apart of the Burmese regime's Burmanization campaign to eliminate ethnic groups," Kipp alleged.

But he said, "The more they [the regime] oppress us, the more we become active to promote our national identity."

On Friday, Chin people around the world including New Delhi, Denmark, and Malaysia marked the Chin National Day.

In New Delhi, more than 1000 Chin communities gathered in the western region of the city to celebrate the Chin National Day, where they performed traditional dances and sang folk songs to depict the culture of various ethnic groups among the Chin community.


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Mizoram celebrates 22nd statehood

Mizoram is celebrating its 22nd statehood anniversary on Friday. It was on this day, in 1987, the Union territory of Mizoram was elevated to a full fledged state to become the 23rd state of the Indian union. Following the passage of the Constitution 53rd Amendment Bill and the state of Mizoram Bill 1986 by the Parliament, it may be recalled that the state was inaugurated by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on that day, raising the 30 member UT Assembly to a 40 member state Legislative Assembly.

Three administrative districts Aizawl, Lunglei and Chhimtuipui and 301 village Councils at the grassroot level were also created for administrative convenience.

All India Radio, Aizawl, on Friday started a 10 minute daily news bulletin in Mizo language at 7.30 am to mark the 22nd Anniversary of Mizoram State Day.

It was inaugurated by the state Chief Minister Mr.Lathanhawla.

News headlines are to be broadcast by FM Station at 8 pm and 9 pm everyday.

The duration of weekly district News Letter on every Sunday has also been increased by five minute that is 6.45 to 6.55 pm.

Source: News On Air

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Mizo divorce: No longer at a wink

Correcting the bias of Mizo marriage will prevent injustice and desertion of women..

They were married in church before friends and family. They lived together for many years. He was a nobody before he married her, but with her support as a working woman, he came up in life.

He was her success story when he rose to become an elected politician. But with money and power in hand, he acquired a mistress. When she pleaded and protested, he uttered the Mizo man’s traditional magic words of ‘Ka Ma Che< /em>’ to free himself from her. She had to leave her home immediately, taking nothing but her own clothes.

When this incident took place in the 1980s, there were many in Aizwal, Mizoram’s capital, who raised their voice against the man’s wrongdoing. But unfortunately, that was the only thing that could be done for the woman (names have been withheld to protect the identity of the persons concerned).

Everyone’s hands were tied by the Mizo Customary Law. This incident, sadly, reflects the low status of women in Mizo society. According to customary Mizo practices, which have the force of law in the tribal state, a man has to just utter the words ‘Ka Ma Che’, or ‘I divorce you’, to ‘resolve’ any domestic conflicts he has with his wife. There is nothing that can cushion a woman from this decree, whether she is economically independent, highly educated, from an elite family or from the disadvantaged, marginalised section. In fact, this has often held back many women from taking action against punishing situations at home.

Struggle for justice: Slapped with instant divorce, Mizo women forfeit their life’s investments in their homes and children too. Ritu Raj Konwar

Over the years, thousands of Mizo women have suffered (and still do) the effects of this ignominy. If they dare to speak against their husbands, they are slapped with instant divorce and have to forfeit their life’s investments in their homes and their children, with no visiting rights available to them.

Change coming

But things are set to change with the promulgation of the Mizoram Divorce Ordinance 2008 (MDO), which came into force in the state in October 2008. The Ordinance is expected to become a law in the next session of the State Assembly. “This ruthless custom has finally come to an end,” says B. Sangkhumi, former President of the Mizoram Hmeichhe Insuikhawm Pawl (MHIP), a federation of women, with branches across the State. “It did not come easily. Women have been fighting for decades, seeking to redress the different kinds of gender discrimination in our highly patriarchal society.”

Before gender became the major socio-political issue that it is today, Mizo women had already founded the Mizo Hmeichee Tangrual Pawl (MHTP) in 1946 with the sole objective of getting women gender justice. The Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl came in next, riding on the wave of the radical new thinking across the globe, which made gender justice the politically correct agenda to pursue.

The MHIP gained political access and recognition. From 1997 to 2001, the organisation worked to “review the customary law” and to create an awareness of the low status of women in Mizo society because of this. State-wide seminars and workshops were organised to spread the message. During these sessions innumerable stories of strife and sufferings from across the State were shared, which gave “women’s issue” — frequently downgraded as the work of a few dissatisfied women — a social legitimacy.

Ordinary women were speaking out. The MHIP, and other women’s organisations, including the Presbyterian Hmeichhe Kohran, the Young Women’s Christian Movement and various women’s wings of the Baptist, Salvation Army and other churches joined hands to give women’s issues the prominence they deserved.

The Social Welfare Department of the State Government, noted for its strong support of women’s organisations, came on board too.

While the review of the Mizo Customary Law as a whole is still a controversial issue, correcting the bias of Mizo marriage will definitely help women safeguard themselves against economic destitution, say MHIP leaders.

Under the MDO, a deserted wife has the legal right to file for divorce, get maintenance and also an equal share in the property.

Emotional damage

Deep gender imbalances are at the root of most of the social evils that plague Mizo society today.

As marriage ties are easily broken, the number of broken families is very high. Left empty-handed, the women have to start from scratch. “Many moon shiners, sellers of illegal liquor and commercial sex workers are from the ranks of deserted wives who have to do something to earn a living too feed their children and themselves,” says Sangkhumi.

In many cases, psychologically broken women and their girl-children simply leave their homes and live on the road off their bodies.

According to C. Lalsawta, Social Welfare Commissioner of the state, the unusually high number of orphans will also go down with the MDO in place.

He says this will force parents to become more responsible towards their children.

A statistic that never fails to raise anguish in social researchers is that 90 per cent of the children in the 27 orphanages across the State have both or at least one parent alive but have been abandoned because of poverty or their parents’ inability to care for them.

Right to divorce

Lalsawta blamed the fragile nature of marriage in Mizo society as the main reason for this abandonment.

Many other children are dumped in their grandmothers’ arms as the biological parents get on with their lives.

The MDO clearly gives a woman the right to file for divorce on any ground, be it adultery, conversion to another religion, incompatibility, cruelty or desertion among other reasons. All the causes recognised under the Indian Christian Marriage Act 1872 or any other marriage act that is in force in the country have also been taken into account.

Despite calls by many women, including famed singer and author Lalsang zuali, for imposition of the Indian Christian Marriage Act (ICMA) 1872 in Mizoram, it could not be implemented. The state comes under Article 371G of the Constitution, which provides that any Act of Parliament would be inapplicable unless the state legislature vets it. However, the state has not done so till now.

Mizo marriages were solemnised under the Mizo Christian Dan, a mixture of Western Christian practices and Mizo customs, which were mere rituals.

With the recent order to all state governments to compulsorily register all marriages and another ruling which defines a woman in a common law marriage as having the rights of a ‘legally wedded wife’, the MDO is a powerful instrument for bringing about gender justice in Mizoram, believes Lalrin Diki, a lecturer at a theological college in Mizoram.

Yet, the struggle for justice and equality is far from over.

Women’s activist and Padmashree awardee Khawlkungi said recently, “Women need to free themselves from the various boundaries they have been placed into, whether it is in politics, economy or religion.”

Women’s Feature Service

-Linda Chhakchhuak

Source: The Hindu

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1,12,505 tourists visited Manipur in 2008

NEW DELHI, Feb 19 (MIC): The number of tourists visited in Manipur has been increased from the calendar year 2007 to 2008 by 10723. In replying to a question in the Lok Sabha today, Smt. Kanti Singh, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture said that 1,12,505 tourists visited in Manipur during the period January-December 2008 as against 1,01,880 in the calendar year 2007.

Mizoram recorded 56,826 tourist visits in 2008 against 43,830 in 2007 and Tripura recorded 2, 49,015 in 2008 against 2, 47,976 in 2007. Assam had a record of 31,50,179 tourists visited in the State during January to October 2008 and Sikkim had a record of 2,09,054 tourists visited during January to May 2008.

Development and promotion of tourism was primarily undertaken by the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations. The Ministry of Tourism extended Central Financial Assistance for project proposals submitted by the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations that were complete as per scheme guidelines, subject to availability of funds and inter-se-priority. During the year 2007-08, an amount of Rs.174.69 crore was sanctioned for 86 tourism projects in the North Eastern Region, the Union Minister stated.

In another question, the Union Minister today replied in the Lok Sabha that in the latest meeting of the National Tourism Advisory Council (NTAC) held on 15.12.2008, suggestions made to boost the tourism industry in the aftermath of global economic slowdown and terrorist attacks in Mumbai related to increase in incentives for the travel trade, promotion of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions (MICE) tourism and domestic travel in the country, inviting trade and media representatives to Mumbai and other parts of the country for familiarization tours, easing of norms for External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) for hotel sector, setting up of Tourist Police by the State/ UT Governments, ensuring smoother and seamless travel across states, rationalization of luxury tax, passenger tax, road tax and other state taxes, etc.

As a follow up, the Ministry of Tourism had announced various promotional schemes like Visit India Year 2009, liberalization of Marketing Development Assistance (MDA) scheme for overseas marketing, introduction of MDA scheme for the promotion of domestic and MICE tourism and allowing External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) for the construction of hotels, so as to increase the tourist inflow in the country.

The development and promotion of tourism, including rationalization of luxury tax, passenger and road tax, are primarily the responsibility of the State Governments. However, the Ministry of Tourism had written to the State Governments on 9th January, 2009 to give due consideration on these issues and also on seamless travel and safety & security of tourists in order to provide relief to tourism sector in the face of global financial crisis that is affecting the tourism sector adversely, Kanti Singh added.


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ZSP annual conference held in Ccpur

Lamka, Feb 19 : The Zomi Sangnaupang Pawlpi, ZSP, Singngat block annual conference was held today at the community hall from about 12 noon. The programme mainly meant for the Zou students community was attended as chief guest by the local MLA T Hangkhanpau and as chief host by T Thangchinmang, ZSP president general headquarters. The programme was marked by choreography and dance competition from various dancing experts and students from schools of the town apart from the skits competition on topics like the bad effects of liquor on human progress and development.

T Thangchinmang while addressing the gathering said that the ZSP was for some time a defunct organisation but has been revitalised off late.

He said the Singngat block ZSP has been able to organise such an anuual function regularly despite all the ups and downs and has been a source of inspiration for the students in their further study.

T Hangkhanpau regretted the paucity of Zou tribes’ officers amongst the MCS and other bureaucratic echelons and in all jobs in every department.

Pointing out the lack of unity amongst the Zou community, he said, "We have made a mass prayer some years back and as a result we are given with some officials and MLAs which is too few when compared with others tribes."

He urged the students community present at the gathering to love God, respect parents and never to displease them.

He also urged the students present to work hard to become educated one day despite all difficuties and become the most cherished leaders of the community and for the people.


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Churachandpur DC Sumant Singh transfered in Ukhrul

IMPHAL, Feb 19: Churachandpur DC Sumant Singh has been transferred as DC of Ukhrul district while Director Transport and FCS Commissioner Norbert Disinang has been re-posted as DC of Churachandpur, said a notification issued by the Department of Personal. Further, Commissioner Taxes Aleng Shimray has been given the charge of Director FCS and Transport. CO of 6th MR S Suresh has also been re-posted as SP Ukhrul district.

Dr Thingnam Kishan : A life lived with truth and courage

Ranjan Yumnam

There was something about Dr Thingnam Kishan, a quality indescribable that fails every effort of articulation. The late MCS officer was a man of conviction, and if he embraced a point of principle, he would stand by it, forcefully, loyally without any question of turning back. He was fierce in the defence of his beliefs and had a clear worldview.

While we struggle to wade through black and white on most issues that dogged us, he saw only one definite colour and stuck to it with his own set of solid justification. The sheer self-confidence was enough for us to be drawn into his way of looking at the world like a magnet pulling everything onto it. Only one word can sum him: Extraordinary.

He was a humble man despite his vast and remarkable academic accomplishments. He was a repository of history of Manipur in the manner of a person who is a librarian zealously guarding rare masterpieces and as a teacher who was itching to open up its treasures. With this spirit, he wanted to solve the problems facing Manipur with the past as the guide and his firm convictions to steer the direction of the future to the extent possible in his modest capacity.
His unassuming nature was a model of conduct for the fellow officers. Once he chided an erring colleague: “We are not here to throw our weight around. We are first and foremost the servants of the people. We should quit the job if we are here for another objective”. I instantly felt smaller.

I saw with amazement, as did most of my colleagues, flashes of his brightness turning into aura at the National Institute of Financial Management, Faridabad, where we attended a foundation training course before we were inducted into the State civil service. Day after day, he stunned the financial wizards at the institute with his original ideas and arguments that challenged the conventional wisdom of economics, particularly the American style unregulated free-for-all capitalism that idolizes individual accumulation of wealth and mocked at the poor masses for their supposed incompetence.

He was right. America is in recession for the same inherent flaws of market economy, which Dr Kishan had lambasted and challenged the Professors at the NIFM. His ideal of organisation of society’s resources was equitable distribution. At this, the naive among us called him half- jokingly and half-endearingly ‘Dr Equitable Distribution’. It is unfortunate that the valiant and the most upright MCS officer among us suffered the most heinous atrocities of a bunch of barbaric hoodlums.

Alone !

Before we were posted to different places, he told me he preferred to be in hills because that’s where he could get a relatively larger involvement in the development process. He wanted to focus on health and education and most heartbreaking to know, in hindsight, was that he wanted to help bridge the growing chasm between the plains and hills. He was a man clearly on mission unlike many of us who joined the service for bread and butter, status and other superficial reasons.

His integrity was beyond question. He was immune to the temptations that joining a coveted service thrust upon us. One of the factors which infuriated the cowards who murdered him, I am sure, was his no-nonsense attitude which wouldn’t submit to any falsehood. Dr Kishan respected only one thing : The true path for which he could confront anyone, the mighty and the powerful, irrespective of personal consequences—and evidently paying his own life. I strongly believe that even till the last breath he might have stuck to his stand and not surrendered an inch to the perpetrators of the crime.

It is sad that we could not help him in any way when he was sharing with us the difficulties he faced during his last few days pertaining to his work in Kasom Khullen. It was obvious that he was in great mental turmoil due to threats and acts of harassment from goons for easy money and other absurd demands; yet he was devoted to his work and continued to venture in the field, visiting almost all the nooks and corners of his Sub-Division. Tired by constant interference from certain unde- sirable elements and lack of support, he was even suggesting swapping postings among us. Never did we realize that the problem was that grave and would come to this horrendous pass.

Truly a gentleman, he was a caring husband and a doting father of two daughters. His only other passion in life, other than work, writing and pondering about Manipur’s issues, was to spend time with his daughter Nikita and lately his six-month old baby. My heart breaks when I saw Nikita playing and laughing oblivious to the fact that she would never be able to see her father again. But I am somewhat spirited by the fact that Tamo Kishan’s wife is a remarkable woman on her own and on the face of such a tragic incident of the highest degree, she remains in control. Though nothing will ever compensate for the loss of her husband, she is a resilient woman and we hope she will pick up the loose threads and weave a new life in the image of her husband. I am hopeful because she is a highly educated woman (holding a first class masters degree in Political Science) and that would stand her in good stead when raising the children without their father. (In fact, she is well qualified to be an MCS officer given her stellar educational background). I have never met a person in my life who was more energetic and driven than Dr. Kishan was. In his untimely demise, Manipur has lost a great son and an intellectual giant. For me, it’s a huge void that is irreparable. He was my guide, brother and friend. At times, I envied him for all the qualities he possessed in abundance that I lacked.

His sudden demise is extremely shocking and has shown how fragile and vulnerable human lives are, especially in Manipur. It tells us the stark truth: Life is short. While alive, put your best foot forward and give the maximum back to the society. The most valuable tribute to Dr. Kishan would be to follow his dreams of a united and developed Manipur. Let’s bring that agenda forward and fulfil his dream.
May his soul rest in peace.


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Don’t delay a single day : ZHRF

By S Singlianmang Guite | Lamka, Feb 19: Joining the civil societies in condemning the killing of Kasom Khullen SDO and two of his sub-ordinates, the Zomi Human Rights Foundation today said the Government should not delay even by a single day for judicial inquiry over the incident to book the culprits. Also joining in condemning the killing, Zillai—Vaiphei students’ welfare organisation today said it wanted the Govern-ment to initiate immediate steps to book the culprit and compensate the bereaved family as was promised by the Government.

Claiming that killings, ransoms, kidnappings etc have become the order of the days in Manipur, the foundation has appealed to all the peace-loving citizens to join hands together towards fighting against anti-societal elements for the normalcy and res-toration of love and peace in ‘our land.’

On the occasion of Zomi Nam Ni which falls on Feb 20, the foundation has extended its heartiest greetings to all the Zo people around the globe.

‘It is the aspiration of the Foundation, representing the 69 Zo ethnic groups who are spreading over India, Burma and Bangladesh, to offer our humble tributes to the past and present leaders, who sacrificed their life and rendered valuable services for the welfare of Zo people; and to send our deepest consolation to the victims of Mautaam-famine & HIV/AIDS, and to the victims of reckless human rights violations, it said.

Hoping to overcome ‘One Day the Dividing forces against us’ the foundation said it wishes all the Zo people Good Health, Prosperity, and the Right Mind to do away with Domestic Walls that fragmented them into tight compartments and drive them asunder.

Meanwhile, the Zillai (Vaiphei Students’ As-sociation) General Head- quarters has also con-demned in the strongest term the brutal & uncivilised killing of Dr Thingnam Kishan and two of his subordinate staff.

The organisation has appealed to the Govt to book the culprits and give them befitting punishment at the earliest possible time.

The organisation has demanded the perpetrators to identify themselves and give the reasons behind such barbaric act which is detrimental to communal harmony of the State.

The organisation also shared the pain and grief of the bereaved families and at the same time prayed to all to maintain peace and harmony in this hour of distress and grief.


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SDO’s killing, Dr Kishan was in IM custody : Testimonials

IMPHAL, Feb 19 : The cat is out of the bag if what a Naga MLA, officials posted at Phungyar, Kasom Khullen and Chingai informed the family members of the late Dr Th Kishan are anything to go by. Interacting with some media persons today, the wife of the slain officer, Romita said that since her husband had not contacted her after he left for Ukhrul on February 13, she contacted a PCO at Kasom Khullen on February 15 and talked to an employee of the SDO office and she was informed that her husband had been abducted.

The same day, a petty employee posted at Chingai, informed Romita over the phone that Dr Kishan was in the custody of the NSCN (IM), said the grieving wife.
The following day, that is February 16, an officer posted at Phungyar confirmed that Dr Kishan was in the custody of the NSCN (IM) safe and sound. Negotiations are on, informed the officer, recalled Romita.

The same day (February 16) in the evening, the family members of the late SDO visited a Naga MLA to present their case. The Naga MLA confirmed that Dr Kishan was abducted by the NSCN (IM) to discuss some points of the NREGS.

The same story was also related by another official posted at Kasom Khullen, said Romita.
Recalling the turn of events, the bereaved wife said that her husband left for Ukhrul on February 13 at about 8 am with six others for a meeting with the DC of Ukhrul. Moreover Kishan was scheduled to proceed to Kasom Khullen from Ukhrul for the visit of Works Minister K Ranjit.

Romita said that after the meeting, she received information that her husband left the DC office at about 12.30 pm to proceed to Kasom Khullen.

At about 1.17 pm the same day, Romita said that she received a call from an official of Ukhrul DC to inquire if her husband had a BSNL mobile phone.

Since Kishan did not have a BSNL connection she gave him his Aircel number 9856210376, said Romita. After some time she received an SMS with the message, “Please SMS Sir Kishan driver’s number. DC wants to meet. Important,” recalled the grieving wife.

Since her husband had told her that he would be back by the evening of February 14, his dinner was also prepared.

Romita further said that her husband used to phone her if he was not to return home, but that day no phone calls came and he could not be contacted. The rest, everyone knows.


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Ukl DC, SP placed under suspension

IMPHAL, Feb 19 : Taking a serious view of the brutal killing of the SDO of Kasom Khullen, his driver and a Mandal, the State Government has suspended the Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul district, Pankaj Kumar Pal and SP A Dorji for dereliction of duty.
On the other hand the Government has also decided to induct the wife of the slain officer to MCS as well as provide Government jobs to the next of kins of the driver and the Mandal according to their educational qualification.

Announcing this during a media conference held at the conference hall of the Chief Minister today, O Ibobi said that as soon the Government received information that SDO Dr Th Kishan, driver Aribam Rajen and Mandal Yumnam Token have been abducted on February an emergency Cabinet meeting was held.

Accordingly, the IGP (Law and Order III) was deputed to launch a series of search operations at suspected areas to trace the abducted men as well as arrest the culprits, said the Chief Minister.

Though the identity of the killers are yet to be officially announced, the Government has zeroed in on some suspects, said the Chief Minister.

Ibobi said that during the course of the inquiry on whether there were any lapses, lack of co-ordination or dereliction of duty that led to the gruesome killings, it came to light that DC had taken leave for four days from the evening of February 13.

The DC transgressed official lines when he went on leave even though he was fully aware of the scheduled visit of Works Minister K Ranjit to the district on February 14 and the visit of Panchayati Raj Minister Allauddin Khan on February 16, asserted the Chief Minister. The DC and SP have been placed under suspension for dereliction of duty and for not maintaining co-ordination.

An inquiry committee headed by two officials, Commissioner (Agriculture) O Nabakishore and IG (Intel) LM Khaute has been constituted to investigate the circumstances that led to the killing of the three employees, Ibobi added.

The Chief Minister further said that in recognition of the selfless service rendered by the late SDO, the Government has relaxed all the norms of the MPSC and inducted the wife of the late officer to the MCS.

The next of kins of driver A Rajen and Mandal Y Token will also be provided Government jobs according to their educational qualifications, he added.

The Government is also trying its best to trace and rescue peon Kapangkhui Zimik of Tangkhul Hundung and village level workers Ramthing of Kasom Khullen and Ramshing of Chongdan village, said the Chief Minister.

Ibobi said that the three are still alive and added that utmost caution is being exercised to ensure their safety.

Appealing to all not to incite communal passion, the Chief Minister said that no one should try to emulate the conduct of evil minds.

Since it would be well nigh impossible to provide security to all the SDOs, the officers have been told that they can work from the district headquarters if there is any threat perception. As the situation demanded, security escort has been provided to the SDO of Tadubi, informed the Chief Minister. Once the ongoing recruitment is finalised, one Bn of RIB will be stationed at all the district headquarters, said Ibobi and added that efforts would be made to post at 50 to 60 personnel in all police stations.


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Post Box-88, Lamka – 795128 | The Zomi Human Rights Foundation, Headquarters, taking the privilege of this historic occasion of the 61st ‘Zomi Nam-Ni’ (Zo National Integration Day), the 20th, February, 2009, extends heartiest greetings to all the Zo people around the globe.

It is the aspiration of the Foundation, representing the 69 Zo ethnic groups who are spreading over India, Burma and Bangladesh, to offer our humble tributes to the past and present leaders, who sacrificed their life and rendered valuable services for the welfare of Zo people; and to send our deepest consolation to the victims of Mautaam-famine & HIV/AIDS, and to the victims of reckless human rights violations.

That, the celebration of the Zo National Integration Day may bring forth:

-Socio-Economic and
-Political unity;
-Peace and Fraternity,

amongst the Zo people themselves, and the peoples around them. The Foundation, feeling and taking the burden of unspeakable problems and difficulties faced by the Zo people in their own land, earnestly appeals to all sections of the Zo people/Descendants to stand united, caring for one another to lend a helping hands to the needy and inculcate the spirit of ‘Forgive and Forget Principle’ and to steadfastly hold on the wise saying ‘Divided We Fall, United We Stand’ and then, overcome One Day the Dividing forces against us. The Foundation wishes all the Zo people Good Health, Prosperity, and the Right Mind to do away with Domestic Walls that fragmented us into tight compartments and drive us asunder.

Issued by:-
Information and publicity wing ZHRF, GHQs.


Post Box-88, Lamka – 795128


While backing-up the protests and agitations by the various organizations over the incident of the assassination-Dr.Th.Kishan,MCS,SDO/Kasom Khullen, Y.Token Singh Mandal and driver Y.Rajen Sharma, who were being kidnapped by unidentified men on their way back home after an official meeting with the Deputy Commissioner, Ukhrul -that shocked and fired the sentiments of the people of Manipur, the Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF) condemns in the strongest term this inhumane brutality.

The Foundation urges the Government not to delay even a single day for judicial inquiry/investigation over the incident to seize the culprits out and reward them appropriate penalty according to the law of the land.Furhter, the government should take the necessary steps to fulfill the promised ex-gratia to compensate the victimized families at the earliest.

While condemning the incident and the culprits, and sharing the deep pain/sorrow to the bereaved families, the Foundation also takes a serious concern over the gradual weakening of the law and order situations prevailing in the society.Killings,Ransoms,Kidnappings etc has become the order of the days in Manipur. All these unwanted happenings should be done away with to restore peaceful co-existence by maintaining mutual respect of human rights in the Society
Therefore, the Foundation appeals to all the peace-loving citizens to join hands together towards fighting against anti-societal elements for the normalcy and restoration of love and peace in our land.

Issued by:-
Information and Publicity Wing,


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Mizoram remains unexposed to global investment

Expressing disappointment over the misconception of Mizoram being a disturbed area, trade and commerce minister Lalrinliana Sailo has said the state is still overlooked even after ASEAN and some European countries showing their interest in investing in the North East.

“I am really disappointed to learn that many people still perceive Mizoram as a disturbed area despite the fact that the State is enjoying the status of one of the most peaceful States in India,” Sailo said, while giving a report on the recent North East Trade and Investment Summit at Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam which he attended with state trade and commerce officials and entrepreneurs here.

Blaming the misconception as the reason why investors and tourists were not attracted to Mizoram, Sailo stressed, “we should make use of the peaceful atmosphere besides, the huge potential in horticulture, handloom and handicrafts and tourism sectors to attract investors.”
The delegates who attended the Summit left no stone unturned to showcase Mizoram as an attractive investment destination, and owing to their efforts investors from the ASEAN countries as well as many European nations have also shown their interest in investing in the state.

“Among others, we have convinced EXIM Bank to organise export awareness campaign in Mizoram in the near future,” the minister said. As many as seven trade agreements were signed during the summit, four with Assam and the rest with Manipur. The two States had participated at ‘North East India Trade and Investment Opportunities Week’ in Bangkok and a North East Investment Opportunity Day in New York, organised by the Indian government earlier, and the trade agreements were an outcome of it, the officials said. “We will make all-out effrts to have global companies sign such trade agreements with Mizoram,” the minister vowed.

Trade and commerce secretary Esther Lalruatkimi, who accompanied the minister at the Summit, also expressed concern that Mizoram still remains ‘unknown’ to the rest of the world despite having a good investment environment.

“No one from outside will come to find out what kind of qualities we are having, therefore it is a must to expose ourselves to the world,” she said, while also regretting that she could hardly find articles and information about Mizoram in the internet.


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Tiger population in NE going down

NEW DELHI, Feb 19 – The population of tigers in North-East has come down to 84, while in Assam it dangling between 60-80 number, according to the latest refined all India tiger estimation carried out by National Tiger Conservation Authority. The disclosure by Minister of State for Environment and Forest, S Reghupathy.........

in a Rajya Sabha reply to a question by Biren Baishya painted a grim picture, as far as tiger conservation measures in Assam is concerned. The country-level population of tiger is 1411, while the lower and upper limits was 1165 and 1657, respectively.

The latest assessment of tiger population is based on determining spatial occupancy of tigers throughout potential tiger forests using camera traps in a statistical framework. The assessment is not comparable to the earlier total count using pugmarks owing to several shortcomings.

Reghupathy admitted that the new findings indicated a poor status of tiger population in areas outside tiger reserves and protected areas.

In an area of 1164 Km in Assam the average tiger population is determined to be 70,with the upper limit being 80 and lower 60. The population of tiger in Assam is highest in the North-East, with the number of big cat dwindling in Arunachal Pradesh to 14 and Mizoram six.

Recently the National Tiger Conservation Authority had sounded country-wide alarm in 17 States including Assam following reports that organised gangs of poachers have fanned out across the country to kill tigers.


Nagaland ban on hunting wild animals

KOHIMA, Feb 19 – Concerned over the fate of endangered species of wildlife in Nagaland, several district administrations of the State have started imposing ban on hunting and sale of wild animals, including birds.

Imposing of ban on hunting of wild animals, the process this year has started with Mon district, wherein in order to enforce the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and to prevent the indiscriminate killing of wild animals and birds in the district, deputy commissioner, Mon, Dinesh Kumar has banned killing and sale of wild animals and birds in the district with immediate effect.

All the administrative officers in the district have been directed to inform the village councils to stop killing and sale of wild animals and birds and also to prevent the sale of its meat at eateries or hotels.

However, he has also said that the ban on killing of wild animals and birds should be seasonal as specified in the schedule of the Wildlife Act.


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Int’l airlines reluctant to operate from NE

NEW DELHI, Feb 19 – There may be a clamour for resumption of international flights out of Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, but there are few takers among the international airlines to operate from the North-east. Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel today clarified that Guwahati is available as a point-of-call to the designated airlines of Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

“However, actual operations by any airline is guided by its commercial judgements,” he concluded.

“Taking into consideration the current international traffic at Guwahati Airport, existing infrastructure is sufficient to handle international operations efficiently,” Patel said in response to a question by Anwar Hussain.

The suspension of international flights by Air India after a couple of years of operation of the Guwahati-Bangkok flight had led to protests in the region. The Central Government has since been dilly-dallying on restarting the international flight operations.

The scrapped Guwahati-Kolkata-Mumbai-Bangkok flight was started in April 2002 by Air India with much fanfare. However, the euphoria was short-lived.

Air India cancelled the lone international flight in 2003 after 18 months of operations claiming heavy losses.

Meanwhile, the land identified by Bodoland Territorial Council for construction of an airport at Kokrajhar has been found to be unsuitable, said the Civil Aviation Minister in a Lok Sabha reply to a question by SK Bwiswmutiary.


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627,000 new jobless claims in US

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of unemployed workers receiving unemployment benefits jumped to an all-time high near 5 million earlier this month, while new jobless claims remain well above 600,000. Both figures were worse than expected and new projections from the Federal Reserve show unemployment rising for the rest of this year.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people receiving regular unemployment benefits edged up to 4.99 million, marking the fourth straight week those receiving benefits have been at a record level.

The continuing claims figure underscores the difficulty people are having in this recession finding another job, which means they are forced to receive benefits for a longer period.
An additional 1.5 million people are receiving benefits under an extended unemployment compensation program approved by Congress last year, bringing the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits to 6.54 million for the week ending Feb. 7.

New applications for unemployment benefits totaled 627,000 last week, the same as the previous week, according to the department. But that was still more than the 620,000 claims economists expected.

It also remained near the 631,000 claims filed three weeks ago, which was the highest tally since October 1982, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession, though the labor force has grown by about half since then.

The cascade of layoff notices in recent weeks has heightened concerns about the current recession, already the longest in a quarter-century.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., said Wednesday it will cut nearly 5,000 jobs, or almost 7 percent of the biggest U.S. tire maker's work force, this year after it posted a fourth-quarter loss. The cuts follow the elimination of about 4,000 jobs in the second half of last year.

General Motors Corp. and Chrysler on Tuesday filed plans with the government more than doubling their request for aid to a total of $39 billion and announced plans for thousands more job cuts. GM alone said it would cut 47,000 jobs globally by the end of the year - 19 percent of its work force, and Chrysler said it will cut 3,000 more jobs.

The Fed released a new economic forecast on Wednesday that reduced its growth forecast for 2009 and increased its unemployment rate projections. The new forecast predicts that unemployment will hit between 8.5 and 8.8 percent this year, up from the current level of 7.6 percent.
And in an appearance at the National Press Club, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that "strong and aggressive action" would be able to overcome the current recession and jolt the economy back into growth. But he said "if we fail ... then the situation will continue to deteriorate."

President Barack Obama pointed to the deteriorating economy to win quick passage of an $787 billion economic stimulus program which he signed into law this week. On Wednesday, Obama unveiled a $75 billion program aimed at halting the surging level of mortgage foreclosures in the wake of the worst slump in housing in decades.


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