GUWAHATI, Dece 30 – Despite some positive developments, soaring prices of essential commodities including vegetables right since the beginning of the year and a confused and unconcerned government machinery failing to rein in the middlemen, mafia syndicates and the retail market marked the year 2013 for the Guwahatians. Onion prices soared to Rs 37 per kg in July and touched the century mark in October. Even when brinjal is selling at an enviable price of Rs 5 per kg in the State’s rural markets now, the citizens of Guwahati are forced to buy this vegetable at a price of Rs 20 per kg in the retail market. In February-end itself, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) had to open fair price stalls of vegetables to get rid of the middlemen. Indeed price rise has been the most talked about issue in 2013.
On the optimistic side, the elections to the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) was held on June 19 after a gap of 10 years with the Congress coming out successful by winning 19 councillor seats out of 31 and gaining 50 area sabhas out of 90 seats. The BJP gave a close fight and came out second while the AGP was routed. Chaos marked the inaugural meeting of the corporation with the Congress virtually splitting into two factions by propping up two candidates. Finally, Abir Patra was elected as the Mayor for a tenure of two and half years and make way for Ashima Bordoloi for the rest of the term.
Another important development was that in July, the Centre approved the State Government’s metro train proposal for the city. The project to be implemented in three phases covering a total distance of 65 kilometres in three different routes will entail an expenditure of approximately Rs 14,000 crore. Rs 25 crore has already been sanctioned for the feasibility study. The first phase will cover the stretch from LGBI Airport at Borjhar to Narengi. The next two phases will cover the Paltan Bazar-Khanapara stretch and the Khanapara-Jalukbari stretch. The introduction of this Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) will ease the perennial traffic congestion. The project will take some ten years.
Meanwhile, the Centre finally approved the grant of Rs 50 crore for setting up a Science City in Guwahati. In August, the State government identified 250 bighas of land at Sonapur for setting up the proposed Science City.
Another good news for the Guwahatians was that the work to execute the four under-construction water supply projects of the Guwahati metropolitan area is well under way. The four ambitious projects, financed by the Union Government under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM), the Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), are designed to cover a total population of 22,45,343 by 2030 and 33,41,024 by 2040.
On the medical scene, the State Health Department hooked up Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) with the Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) as an extended wing of the latter to save the GMCH from the surge of patients and to ensure better health-care services. Meanwhile, the 108 Mrityunjoy Boat Ambulance Service started operating between New Guwahati and Guwahati from February 2.
On the flip side of the health scene, during February-March a large number of localities were affected by the epidemic outbreak of Hepatitis A (Jaundice), with little government action. Over 60 cases of the disease were reported in the city. In August 27 the dreaded disease degue striked killing a couple, residents of Zoo Road Tiniali. Dengue outbreak loomed large over the city with around 350 positive cases in Kamrup Metropolitan area. The GMC intensified fogging drive in the city.
In a setback to the medical fraternity of the city, the Consumers Disputes Redressal Commission on October 10 slapped a fine of Rs 15.5 lakh to be paid jointly by five doctors of the East End Nursing Home and Research Centre after being found guilty of gross medical negligence amounting to the death of one Maya Agarwala on the operating table. The Commision in its judgement said that the untimely death of Agarwala could have been avoided had the treating doctors and the hospital authorities taken due care and followed the judiciallly recognised principles.
The crime scene in the city throughout the year never showed any let down with the city police apprehending 13 persons in February in connection with crime against property, most incidents of thefts, that have witnessed a spurt. Recurring incidents of crime, both at citizens’ residences and shops, gave a harrowing time to the residents as also the cops.
The body of abducted trader Rajiv Sarma was recovered from a dense forest in 13 Miles area on February 7 morning. Police sources said members of anti-talk faction of the NDFB were involved in the killing.
On May 23, body on Gautam Dey (30) and mother Purnima Dey (55) were recovered from a house in American Colony, Pandu, along with Sujata Dey, who was lying unconcious. The deceased Gautam Dey’s wife Sujata (22) and Anupam Das (22) were later arrested by the police for the twin murder.
In another case of increasing intolerance in the society here, a 14-year-old boy was beaten to death by an irate public after they reportedly caught him redhanded while making a burglary attempt along with another teenager in a shop in Rukminigaon area in the wee hours on February 23. There was a spontaneous critical response to the entire episode and finally five persons were arrested for the crime.
A father-son duo, identified as Dinesh Das, 65, and Sanjib Das, 22, apparently died due to lack of oxygen whole cleaning a well deep inside in the Japorigog area on May 11.
In a major relief to the death row convict Mahendra Nath Das, convicted of murdering on Harakanta Das in Guwahati on August 18, 1997, the Supreme Court commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.
A division bench of the Assam Human Rights Commission ( AHRC) by an order directed the Government of Assam to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh within three months to next of the kin of Binoy Das, the then Superintendent of Kamrup Treasury, who died after accidentally falling into an unguarded drain flowing behind the RG Baruah Road, at Zoo Tinial on October 21, 2011.
In an interesting episode, on April 30, the city police issued a summon letter to the Assam Cricket Association (ACA) Secretary Bikash Baruah asking him to report to the investigators, following a complaint filed by the Mukta Sangabadik Santha about circulating a doctored photograph which showed Baruah sharing the dais with Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shahrukh Khan and actress Dipika Padukone.
The big slash in gold rates in the international markets started showing its impact on the local markets, with the jewellery shops in the city witnessing a rush of buyers in April. The rate of 10gms of gold came down to Rs 26,000 from Rs 28000 on April 13.
During the fag end of the year, a much-awaited event took place when a division bench of Gauhati High Court directed the autorickshaw drivers to charge fares on the basis of the revised fare chart prepared by the Transport department.
On December 19, a multi-level parking lot was inaugurated in the Paltan Bazar area with the financial assistance provided by the DoNER.
On the environment front, the city’s natural landscape comprising its forests, hills and water-bodies continued to bear the brunt of mounting anthropogenic pressures. Deepor beel, the state’s lone ramsar site wetland, silsako beel and the two sola beels continued to shrink and degrade in the face of growing encroachment, despite there being an Act supposedly for protection of such water-bodies of the city. Straying of wildlife including leopards, deer, and other animals witnessed an increasing trend, with large-scale deforestation eroding the city hills’ green cover. Elephant depredation – though on a much smaller scale – also occurred at places such as Narengi and Garchuk, sending out signals that the situation can take a turn for the worse in the days ahead. A sub-adult elephant was killed by a speeding train near Deepor Beel, laying bare how the railways continue to violate speed norms for trains while passing through forested stretches.
In fact, the year 2013 was a mix bag of hope and despair, achievements and failures, peace and violence for the citizens of Guwahati. The people of Guwahati would be looking to the New Year 2014 with a lot of expectations.