AFGB Conference 2017

On 28th October 2017, the Assam Forum of Great Britain, known popularly as AFGB, held its 6th Annual Conference at Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK. Presided over by the Chairperson of AFGB, Dr (Mrs) Neera Borkakoti, the conference kick-started with an introduction to Assam by little Master Anuron Bhuson Das (Niyor), who delivered the big message “Assam is a beautiful place and therefore, we need to keep it beautiful”.

Assam is indeed a beautiful space located in North East India. However, even after seven decades of India’s independence, the development metaphor of the state continues to remain in the doldrums. One of the critical reasons for the underdevelopment is the problem of perennial floods. The state covers a geographical area of 78438 sq.Km. Out of this, 0.0475 hundred thousand sq.Km (11.738 hundred thousand acres) are affected by floods every year. That said, each year the flood-prone areas of the state reels under three to four waves of massive floods. However, the major floods that took a heavy toll on the state were of 1954, 1962, 1972, 1977, 1984, 1988, 1998, 2002 and 2004. On an average, the annual loss due to floods stands at ₹ 200.00 crores (INR 2000 million). Despite these perennial natural disasters, the new Bharatiya Janata Party government of Assam has taken steps for economic development of the state. In February 2018, the global investors’ summit entitled Advantage Assam was held in Guwahati by the government. Undoubtedly, this is a feather of the Act East Policy (new baptisation of Look East Policy). The Act East Policy aims to connect and build vibrant trade relations with ASEAN nations. However, only time will speak to what extent economic development of Assam could be accomplished.

This year’s conference discussion centred mostly on floods. Dr Jitendralal Borkakoti (Retired Principal Economist, currently an Independent Researcher) and Mr Nironkush Rick Das (FinTech Project management Strategist) jointly presented the first paper titled Flood in As-sam—the old problems and the new ones. In similar lines, Miss Prasujya Gogoi, a PhD student, Nottingham University, discussed as to how the channel of the River Brahmaputra might change by 2030 near Majuli. She used a landscape evolution model to explain her thesis under the title Landscape evolution modelling in large, complex braided river the Brahmaputra - A case study of Majuli Island, North-East India. Dr Tarun Choudhury (a Retired General Practitioner) made two short presentations—the first on Modern Flood Defence. Second, he presented a draft memorandum—The Revival of Rupsi Airport. This memorandum is based on an earlier presentation made at the 5th Annual Conference of AFGB held on 4th February at YMCA Indian Student Hostel, London. The proposed draft memorandum was finalised and submitted to Honourable Chief Minister of Assam, Mr Sarbananda Sonowal in Novem-ber 2017. Ministry of Civil Aviation has decided to boost air connectivity in Northeast India. For this, 92 new flight routes (new airports or underserved airports) in the region under its Udan Scheme. Out of these 92 flight routes, Rupsi is one of them. This airport will perhaps be used by both civil aviation and Indian Air Force (IAF).

The presentations mentioned above followed a discussion on biogas as one of the new renewable power sources in rural Assam by Miss Dipti Yadav, who is a PhD researcher in IIT Guwahati but currently a Research Associate at Loughborough University. She presented case studies with particular reference to Kukurmara village, Chaigaon, where biogas is emerging as a smart alternative power resource. The title of her presentation was Biogas as emerging smart renewable technology in rural Assam - A case study. Finally, Dr. Lipika Deka, a Lecturer of Computer Science at De Montfort University, Leicester, made a flamboyant presentation on a cloud-based monitoring techniques for the relationship between traffic congestion and pollution in Guwahati city and how these techniques could be replicated in other towns and cities of Assam through her paper— Dynamic Environment Sensing for Enhanced Mobility (ESense). The post-lecture session followed the AFGB meeting where the joint General Sec-retaries—Dr. Diganta Bhusan Das and Dr Rituparna Bhattacharyya presented a brief report of AFGB followed by the Treasurer’s Report. The meeting unanimously elected Miss Pori Saikia and Miss Swapnali Barua to act as joint media persons. Both of them are PhD students, pursuing their studies at Essex University and Loughborough University, respectively. The meeting finally ended with a brief presentation by Dr Jayanta Biswa Sarma on the newly launched citizens driven initiative—Assam Healthcare Cooperative and the start of its first clinic Ayurkalpa at Chenikuthi, Guwahati. The significant discussions were lightened by the delicious lunch organised by Ms Yasmin Kosar, Loughborough University and the homemade Larus and Pithas prepared by Mrs Meenakshi Deka that further added a unique Assamese taste to the conference.

The meeting was attended by 30 participants from all over the UK. It was financially supported by a personal research grant awarded to Dr Diganta Bhusan Das (Loughborough University) under the Newton-Bhaba Scheme in fulfilling one of the project goal, namely, stakeholder engagement.

Mission

We discuss the economic, social, political and cultural issues of Assam and submit suggested solutions to the concerned authority and raise awareness among the Assamese community and the wider population of the UK of the ongoing concerns in Assam. We hold an annual conference on the burning issues of Assam, and also organise seminars on specific issues from time to time. We invite expert opinions and facilitate the global Assamese diaspora to have a united voice on issues of importance.