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Two doctors infected in Assam; Coronavirus cases rose to 58, death 2

Guwahati: The total number of coronavirus cases in Assam rose to 58 with two junior doctors testing positive for the disease on Friday and the test report of a 16-year-old girl confirmed the infection after her death, Health minister Himanta Biswas Sarma said. Two infected junior doctors are from Guwahati Mediacal College and North Eastern Regional Dental College.

The girl was suffering from fever and a pain in her leg. When her condition deteriorated, she was admitted to B Barooah Cancer Hospital on Thursday where she died later, the minister said at a press conference.

Her sample, taken for COVID-19 testing, and was found to be positive. It is “very unfortunate as she did not get the necessary treatment”, he said.
“We will have to discuss with the Union Health Ministry whether we can declare that she died due to COVID-19 as we did not treat her for the disease. She was found to be positive after her death,” Sarma said.

The Kamrup (Metro) district administration has declared two hostels and areas around the Guwahati Medical College Hospital, the employers’ colony near the B Barooah Cancer Institute where the girl lived with her grandmother and certain areas in Kharghuli and Chandmari as containment zones.

Sarma said of the total cases in the state, 21 are active while 34 have been cured of the disease and one died.

The health minister said that a bus carrying 45 passengers had arrived in Silchar on Wednesday from Rajasthan’s Ajmer.

Three of them tested positive on Friday, taking the the total number of cases related to this particular group to eight. Thirty-three were negative and results of other tests are awaited, he said.

Since the passengers had gone home briefly after screening, several areas in four villages of Cachar district have been declared as containment zones, Sarma said, adding direct and indirect contact tracing was on and 185 people have been quarantined in facilities.

In the last 24 hours, Assam reported a sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. Of the 11 cases reported since Thursday, nine have travel history.

After a post-graduate student of the medicine department of Guwahati Medical College Hospital tested positive for COVID-19, the facility has been closed for new patients and 386 people, including hospital superintendent, doctors, students and several workers, have been quarantined, the health minister said.

Their swab tests have been conducted and the results were expected by Friday night. The medical student was engaged in screening of COVID-19 patients from May 4, Sarma said.

A 55-year-old woman from Kharghuli Hills area of Guwahati has tested positive and admitted to GMCH. Her family members have also been quarantined.

The fourth person to test positive in Guwahati had returned from West Bengal on May 6 along with two others in a personal vehicle. The person has been admitted to Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital while the other two have tested negative, Sarma said.

“This is the second case with travel history to West Bengal and we have asked the police department not to issue passes to those originating their journey from this state, except in humanitarian cases,” the minister said.

Sarma said that three positive cases in Guwahati with no travel or contact history indicates that traces of the novel coronavirus may be prevalent in the city.

“People should, however, not panic but strictly follow the guidelines and report to doctors in case they have influenza-like illness (ILI) and diarrhoea,” he said.

So far, 1,032 people have entered the state since May 6 through check posts at Srirampur and Chagalia along the Assam-West Bengal border from where they proceeded to the five screening centres at Kokrajhar, Guwahati, Tezpur, Jorhat and Silchar.

The minister also said that harassing doctors, nurses and health workers is a non-bailable offence under the Epidemic Control Act and the Disaster Management Act.

Human Rights

Bangladesh hands over list of 50,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification

Bangladesh has handed over a new list of 50,506 Rohingyas, sheltered in different camps in Cox’s Bazar, to Myanmar for the verification in order to take them back to their homes in Rakhine.

Delwar Hossain, director general (South East Asia wing) of the foreign ministry, provided the list in a meeting with Myanmar ambassador to Bangladesh U Lwin Oo at the former’s office on Tuesday, according to sources concerned.

Earlier, Bangladesh has provided about 55,000 Rohingya names in three phases.

“You see there are 11 lakh (1.1 million) Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar. We did not give them a full list in the last year. So we are hurrying a bit in providing the list now,” foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at his office on Tuesday.

“There are also different rules in providing the lists like those based on families, so that it gets easy for them (Myanmar) to identify. They will accept them. So, we are giving them a new list,” he said.

“About 50,000…Earlier, it was 55,000. I cannot tell you the exact figure,” he added.

About a tripartite mechanism agreed between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China to expedite Rohingya repatriation, the foreign minister said, “The meeting will be held. The Chinese ambassador is physically ill.”

However, he said, “The process is ongoing.”

Mentioning his upcoming visit to Germany and France, Dr Momen said that he will raise the Rohingya issues in both the countries. (Dhaka Tribune)

Economy, Society

Assam tea workers get nominal wage: Oxfam

Assam tea workers get only 7 per cent of price, says report
For a 200 gram packet of branded Assam tea sold in India for Rs 68, less than Rs 5 is left for workers.
By PTI |
GUWAHATI: Tea brands and supermarkets capture over two thirds of the price paid by consumers for Assam tea in India with just seven per cent remaining for workers of estates, according to a research released on Thursday.
The new research, commissioned by Oxfam and undertaken by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), called for urgent action from supermarkets, tea brands and state authorities to end the suffering of Assam’s tea workers.

The “relentless squeeze by supermarkets and brands on the share of the end consumer price” for tea makes poverty and hardship for workers in Assam more likely, said the report after interviewing 510 workers in 50 tea estates in the state to ascertain the main challenges faced by workers.
But, combined with rising costs and the impacts of the climate crisis, it is also contributing to a severe economic crisis for the entire Indian tea industry, it said.
“The research also found that despite working for over 13 hours a day, workers earn between Rs 137 to Rs 167. It found that tea brands and supermarkets typically capture over two thirds of the price paid by consumers for Assam tea in India – with just 7 per cent remaining for workers on tea estates”, said a release.
For a 200 gram packet of branded Assam tea sold in India for Rs 68, less than Rs 5 is left for workers while tea brands and supermarkets retain around Rs 40, according to the study.

The report-‘Addressing The Human Cost of Assam Tea’- stated that the proposed Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill can enable the struggling Assam tea industry viable.
It can also ensure fair wages and decent working and living conditions for tea plantation workers and their families.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said, “We welcome the attempts of the government to increase the wages of tea plantation workers and the upcoming Occupational Health and Safety bill. Both have the potential to address the systemic injustice faced by the tea workers in Assam.”
He said tea brands have often questioned the financial viability of paying fair wages to workers, but the research showed that “by sharing just two per cent additional value of the price of tea, fair living wages can be provided to millions of workers in the sector”.

Indigenous no-state people

Assam dam disaster: Ruptured pipeline was repaired a year ago

No trace of four missing employees believed to have been washed away

The ruptured water pipeline that washed away four people engaged in central Assam’s Kopili hydroelectric project on October 7 was repaired a year ago, raising questions about the quality of the work.

The four people remained untraced 48 hours after the disaster struck at about 6.30 a.m. Three of them were identified as Robert Baite, Prem Pal Balmiki and Joy Sing Timung — all employees of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) that runs the 275 MW Kopili project.

The fourth was employed by a firm engaged in tunnel repair work.

“We are trying out best to check the inflow of water and sort things out within a day or two so that the powerhouse is approachable. This is not a normal situation and it is difficult to assess the damage until and unless we start restoring the system,” project manager Debotosh Bhattacharjee said.

A project technician, declining to be quoted, said that they have been struggling to block the intake point of the penstock pipe that burst. The pipe had been carrying water from the NEEPCO reservoir to the Kopili powerhouse at 12,000 litres per second.

A lot of the water entered the powerhouse, forcing the officials to shut it down. The three NEEPCO employees were said to have been washed away from the powerhouse.

“Apart from our own people, a team of the State Disaster Response Force is standing by to help find the missing people,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

The family members of the missing employees said they were losing hope by the hour. One of them blamed NEEPCO for slack maintenance, leading to the disaster.

Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People quoted a NEEPCO statement that said the penstock pipes and tunnels at Kopili were repaired a year ago. “If that was the case, who executed the repairs and who certified the adequacy of such repairs? These and many such questions are destined to remain unanswered going by the experience of past dam-related disasters,” he said.

One such disaster happened on October 9, 1963, at Vajont dam in Italy, killing at least 2,000 people.

The Kopili hydroelectric project in Dima Hasao district has two concrete gravity barriers — the 66m tall Khandong dam on the Kopili River and the 30m Kopili dam on its tributary Umrang stream located at Umrangso.

Water from the Khandong reservoir is utilised in the Khandong power station through a 2,852 m long tunnel to generate 50 MW of power. The tail water from this powerhouse is led to the Umrong reservoir. The water from Umrong reservoir is taken through a 5,473 m long tunnel to the Kopili power station to generate 200 MW of power.

An additional 25 MW was added to the Khandong dam in Stage 2 of the Kopli project to make the total capacity 275 MW in July 2004. The work on the project started in 1976 and its first unit was commissioned in March 1984.

Indigenous no-state people

Assam NRC: 4 million missing names catch attention of US State Department

The four million people in Assam who have been left out of the final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) have caught the attention of the US State Department. A 55-page report gives extensive description of human rights abuses in India vis-à-vis the minority community and vulnerable sections of the society and includes reference to the BJP leadership and government ministers.

The Hindu stated that the report mentioned about BJP president Amit Shah who had stated on September 24 last year that the Bangladeshis present in Assam are “termites whose names will be struck out from the citizens’ register”. The US State Department report also highlighted that the four million people of Assam whose names were missing from the final draft NRC face “uncertain citizenship status”.

The report also documented that refugees and internally displaced persons need more effective legal safeguards to prevent human rights abuse.