Hello and welcome to Northeast In a Nutshell, EastMojo’s brand new, weekly podcast that will take upon a rather difficult task and aim to do it well. EastMojo.com is Northeast India’s largest independent digital media platform and for the last three years, we have delivered the most important, crucial and vital information from the Northeast of India.

Starting this week, however, we are also launching on your favourite podcast provider. We believe it is high time that the Northeast finds its voice on audio-only platforms too, and what better way to do it than to start with a weekly bulletin of all things Northeast. We promise to deliver only credible, sourced news and the link for every story we mention will be available in our show notes. We wait for your feedback and please, please, please do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel or whichever audio streaming platform you are using. 

And with that, the week’s top stories, starting with Assam: 

The Gauhati University authorities have rescheduled the PG (Post Graduate) and Integrated M.Com Odd Semester exams scheduled from January 21. This step comes amid a sustained rise in COVID-19 cases, with Assam reporting over 8,000 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. On Friday, however, the state reported a slight dip, with 7,929 cases. Assam continues to have a night curfew but Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has maintained that the state will not go through any new COVID restriction as long as hospitalisation rates remain under control. 

Less than a week after the state chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma shared that poaching of rhinos has been lowest in 2021 with just 1 case reported last year, a rhino carcass was found in Kaziranga National Park, missing a horn.

The carcass of an adult female Rhino was found by a staff member in Kaziranga National Park’s Hilekhonda camp at 8.45 am on Thursday. The death has been confirmed to be a case of poaching as the horn was found to be missing on the body of the Rhinoceros.

After witnessing tensions in 2021 on the Assam-Meghalaya border, the two states now seem closer than ever before to a permanent solution. The Meghalaya Cabinet on Wednesday approved the recommendations made by the three regional committees on the interstate boundary between Meghalaya and Assam. Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said these, along with recommendations from the Assam government, will now be forwarded to the Union Home Ministry for further action.

Every government office in Assam will be converted into a digital `E-office’ to alleviate the hardship faced by citizens while visiting government offices, the state government announced. 

“We will try to make every official record digital so that we can get rid of huge piles of physical files in various government departments. It will be our effort to turn every department into an e-office,” Sarma said while interacting with the state government officials on `Project Sadbhawana’ to make governance people-friendly by migrating to e-governance.

Onto Meghalaya now. 

Even as Meghalaya marked 50 years of statehood, the state had no option but to curtail celebrations amid a rise in COVID cases. CM Conrad Sangma, however, had some good news for state residents after the Meghalaya Cabinet approved a proposal to increase the upper age limit for government job aspirants by five years. At present, the upper age limit is 27 years for candidates in the general category and 32 years for applicants belonging to the Scheduled Tribes category.

Even as the National People’s Party re-elected Conrad Sangma as its President, the party was surrounded by controversy after the NPP working president of the Jaintia Hills region in Meghalaya, Nidamon Chullet, was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in a 2008 murder case.

The Jowai District and Sessions Court found Chullet, along with one Koming Rabon, guilty in the murder of one Ewanmi Lhuid following a brawl in Jowai, West Jaintia Hills district, in February 2008. 

And now, Nagaland: 

In Nagaland, the demands for a new Shamator district bore fruit after the Nagaland government on Wednesday declared the Shamator as a full-fledged district. Till now, Shamator was a sub-division of Tuensang district. With the declaration of Shamator as a district, Nagaland now has a total of 16 districts. 

Now, for a heartening story from Nagaland. Want to host an indoor event but do not have an indoor stadium? Well, residents of Thipüzu Village under Phek district of Nagaland were not going to let a small issue stop them from hosting a mega wrestling meet for nine villages. Located about 52 km from Kohima, residents of Thipüzu Village took it upon themselves to build a temporary indoor stadium with a seating capacity of around 5,000 to boot. The village is now all set to host the 29th Chokri Area Wrestling Association meet on Thursday.   

And finally, the pandemic. Nagaland on Thursday reported 92 new COVID-19 cases, 12 less than the previous day’s count, pushing the virus tally to 33,259, a health department official said.

The COVID-19 death toll remained at 704 as no new fatality was reported in the last 24 hours, he said.

Onto Sikkim now. 

Sikkim also witnessed a rise in COVID-19 cases. The state’s COVID-19 tally rose to 36,421 on Friday as 323 more people tested positive for the infection, 45 less than the previous day, a health bulletin said.

The Himalayan state’s coronavirus death toll rose to 419 as two more patients succumbed to the infection.

East Sikkim district recorded the highest number of 243 new cases, followed by 42 in West Sikkim, 31 in South Sikkim and seven in North Sikkim, it said. The state now has 2,457 active cases. 

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued an interim stay on the alleged ‘illegal’ construction of a multi-level car parking and shopping hub at the Old West Point school area in Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. The NGT Eastern Zone Bench in Kolkata has listed the next hearing on March 2. Until then, no construction can be carried out at the site. 

The tribunal was responding to a petition filed by Dr Bina Basnet, who contended that the multi-level complex under construction is to the extent of 14 storeys, which is ‘wholly impermissible’. The petitioner contended that Sikkim comes under Seismic Zone 4, where earthquakes are commonly on the magnitude of 4.5 to 5.5 on the Richter scale. 

Adding on to its drive towards a plastic ban and promoting organic products in the state, Sikkim’s animal husbandry department has banned packaged milk from outside the state. The ban, though labelled ‘temporary’ will come into effect from January 19. The reason sorted is COVID-19 spread. But the interesting part here is that n a notification dated January 17, the department mentioned COVID, apart from quality control, as a reason behind this move. “the manual handling on the surface area of these pouches and milk in cans are very high, the chances of spreading COVID 19 through these means are very high.” An interesting, albeit unique approach towards tackling COVID, we say. 

And now, Tripura: 

Tripura’s COVID-19 tally rose to 95,388 as 1,185 more people tested positive for the infection while seven new fatalities pushed the death toll to 852, a Health department official said on Thursday.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, however, ruled out the possibility of imposing a day curfew as of now to contain the spread of COVID-19. The government is monitoring the situation and is trying to ensure that normal life and economic growth are not hindered, the chief minister, who also holds the health portfolio, told reporters earlier in the week.

Now, for an interesting crime story. Six months after escaping from a hospital while undergoing treatment, an undertrial Turkish national, accused of ATM fraud in 2019, was arrested by police in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Hakan Zanburkan, a Turkish national involved in ATM fraud in different states of India, was caught by police in Bangladesh along with one more member of an international syndicate involved in ATM fraud after several attempts to withdraw money from various ATM booths in Dhaka. 

And finally, earlier this week, Tripura Rajya Sabha MP Jharna Das Baidya and three other senior Left women leaders were granted bail by a court in West Tripura district on a personal bond of Rs 30,000 each. Speaking with reporters, Advocate Bhaskar Debbarma, representing the accused leaders, said that last year in June, they had organised a protest, following which the police registered a case against them. The leaders were booked under different sections including, 353, 332, 323, 270 and section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

Onwards to Mizoram now:

Mizoram state nodal officer of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) Dr. Pachuau Lalmalsawma on Tuesday denied rumours that a case of Omicron, a highly transmissible new variant of COVID-19, has been detected in the state.

Dr Pachuau said that fake news about Omicron being detected in a locality of Aizawl has been circulated on social media platforms recently. “The news is baseless and no case of Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been detected in Mizoram till now,” he said.

And finally, Arunachal Pradesh.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has allegedly abducted a 17-year-old boy from Arunachal’s Siyungla area of Bishing village in Upper Siang district.

This was on Wednesday informed by Arunachal Pradesh Lok Sabha MP Tapir Gao, who said the youth was taken captive by the PLA from Indian Territory on Tuesday.

A new genus and species of skink was recently discovered under fallen logs at the Talle Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh.

Skinks are ground dwelling small-sized lizards mostly seen actively moving among leaf litter during the day. They are usually more elongate and glossy with distinctly shorter legs.

And now, this week in focus: 

First, we start with a rather strange public hearing from Upper Assam. It was billed as the first-ever public hearing for an oil block to be exploited by a private firm in Assam. However, a draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report, which was to be presented by the company officials before residents of Kordoiguri next to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park, brought back memories of the Baghjan oil disaster. The errors in the EIA report also did little to help. Agitated over the misleading and false information on a draft of the EIA report for a small oil field auctioned to a private company, residents of Kordoiguri and surrounding villages boycotted a public hearing organised by the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) earlier this month. Freelance journalist Anupam Chakravartty, who had attended the event and wrote a story for EastMojo, the link to which is here, sat down with EastMojo for a detailed discussion on this topic, which follows next. 

Did you notice that we are yet to mention Manipur in our podcast? That is because we have saved the best for the last. Manipur, along with Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa is heading for elections and as usual, people are billing it as a Congress vs BJP fight. But is that all it is? Well, Dhiren Sadokpam, the editor of Manipur digital media platform The Frontier Manipur and one of the few absolutely fearless journalists from the state, does not think so. To him, party ideologies matter little in a state like Manipur. Well, who better than Sadokpam to best explain the upcoming Manipur elections. Earlier this week, he sat with EastMojo to discuss the state’s electoral future in detail. A detailed discussion follows next. 

This is all we have for the first episode of Northeast in a Nutshell. Join us again on Saturday, January 29, for the next episode. Until then, mask up!


Script and voiceover: Amit Kumar

Guests: Anupam Chakravartty and Dhiren Sadokpam 

Editing: Nitunjay

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