Dhaka, 29 December : Head of the European Union election observation mission (EOM) Alexander Graf Lambdorff Monday said "conditions for a credible poll" were in Bangladesh.
After witnessing some polling stations and vote counting at Dhaka University, a satisfied Lambdorff said if the polling across the country was like that of the centres he visited, the 150 member EOM would be happy.
"I have followed the process indeed from morning to evening and our team will continue to follow even after the counting when the results will be transferred to the returning officers," Lambdorff told reporters watching vote counting at Curzon Hall at Dhaka University.
He said his team would be collecting information from the members of the EOM from across the country and make a preliminary statement on 31 December. Lambsdorff went to Shuritulla Model School centre and Ispahani High School in Keraniganj to see the transparency of the voting process.
Strong turnout for peaceful Bangladesh election
Dhaka, 29 December : Bangladeshis voted on Monday in an election that returns the country to democracy after two years of emergency rule and tests whether it has moved beyond a history of street violence between supporters of rival parties.
Polls officially closed at 4 p.m, although officials said those still in line would be allowed to vote, and the balloting was generally peaceful. There was a festive air in the sprawling capital Dhaka. Most motor traffic had been banned for a public holiday called for the vote.
An alliance led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League has the edge in the vote for 300 parliament seats, most observers say. Others predict neither she nor rival and fellow ex-PM Begum Khaleda Zia will win an outright majority in a country where parties are based more on personality than rigid ideologies.Khaleda, said: "If the election is free and fair, Inshallah (God willing) we will win and form the next government."
Cheerful voters waited up to an hour in line to cast their ballots, while others who were finished stayed on the streets to chat. Men and women, many of the latter in brightly colored saris and head scarves, voted at separate sites.
Locals support Andal aerotropolis with 7 Demands
Andal, 29 December : On the day of laying foundation stone of development and modernisation of Kolkata's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport by WB chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Indian civil aviation minister Praful Patel, Andal residents who gave up their land for the aerotropolis project have banded together to voice their support for the project and combat any move to excavate new coal mines in the area. There is a rider though. The locals want a higher price and better compensation for their land.
Their organization, Andal Bhoomi Rakshak Ebong Krishak Sartha Roksha Committee, has raised a seven-point charter of demands which includes no permission for greenfield coal mines in the area, rechristening the project Andal Aerotropolis (from Durgapur Aerotropolis), a higher price of land and a better compensation package. The committee has already put up placards in Andal raising its demands.
Moloy Ghanti and Ananta Ghosh, two spokesperson of the committee, told Bengal News, "The villagers stand united on the aerotropolis project. We have sent a deputation to the chief minister expressing our objection to ECL's greenfield coal mines as the pollution level in the area is already quite high. But we also want better compensation and the rechristening of the airport's name as the largest portion of the land was given from Andal, We also want one "job" for land-donner familly against each six bigha lands."
The project is among Bengal's largest after the Tatas pulled the plug on the Nano plant in Singur. Burdwan DM Manish Jain told Bengal News, no one from the panel had contacted him so far and that if they wanted to discuss their demands, they should do so immediately. Recently, Raniganj Chamber of Commerce president Kanaiha Singh has written to prime minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to lend his ear to the demands of Andal residents. "If locals don't want coal mines, the Centre should not go ahead with this plan," he said.
Sense of joy at Bangladesh polls
Voters pleased that the system appeared smoother
Dhaka, 29 December : It may have been one of the coldest mornings of the year, but that did not stop millions of Bangladeshis from defying the elements in their millions to vote in the country's first national elections for seven years.
The overwhelming majority seemed happy to see the country return to democracy and the end of two years of emergency rule by the military backed caretaker government. The leading English language Daily Star newspaper seemed to capture the mood by describing a relaxed and happy mood among voters in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.
The sense of order in the voting queues was in contrast to the political turbulence Bangladesh has experienced throughout its existence of nearly four decades. The streets were deserted during the vote. There was a heavy army and police presence across the country to maintain security, with a vehicle ban in busier towns and cities.
About 31% of young voters were estimated to have cast their votes for the first time.
300 Bangladeshi migrants missing off Andamans
Reuters, Port Blair, 28 December : Around 300 Bangladeshi migrants are feared dead after they jumped from a boat and tried to swim ashore in the Andamans, the Indian coast guard said.
A coast guard official said the force had rescued 88 people from a small boat near Little Andaman island, about 90km south of Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal, yesterday. Another 11 men were found on nearby Sandy Point island, said S.P. Sharma, the commander of the coast guard for the Andaman region, adding that about 300 men were still missing. “Around 300 of them reportedly jumped into the sea hoping to swim across to the shore,” Sharma said. “While all are feared dead or missing, search operations are still going on.”
A survivor told officials there had been 412 men, aged between 18 and 60, in the boat, which had little food or water and only a plastic sheet for a sail. Sharma said the man told police seven others had died at sea and their bodies were dumped overboard. Preliminary investigations suggested the men had left Bangladesh bound for Malaysia in six motorised boats about 45 days ago. At some point on their journey, the men had changed vessels, a coast guard statement said.
Indian Coast guard vessels are still combing the area and nearby islands are being searched for survivors.
BANGLADESH VOTE :
Jamaat spreads rumour about rival's death
Rajshahi, 28 December : In Rajshahi-3 constituency, Jamaat-e Islami candidate Ataur Rahman and his supporters made frantic efforts in their election campaigns to prove that his rival BNP candidate Kabir Hossain is an unfit candidate, and on the last day of the campaign on Saturday, some Jamaat-Shibir activists circulated a rumour that Kabir has passed away.
Protesting the Jamaat propaganda, Kabir yesterday gave a statement to local media that he is still alive and was engaged in election activities till the end of official period of campaign. He also submitted a complaint in this regard with the Bangladesh Election Commission claiming that it is a violation of electoral code of conduct.
CBI officer arrested who handled important case
Kolkata, 28 December : A CBI officer who had investigated the Tapasi Malik murder case in Singur was arrested on Sunday by a team of the India's premier investigative agency for allegedly taking a bribe from an accused in a murder case, CBI sources said.
Partho Sarathi Bose, DSP, Special Crime Branch of CBI, was arrested from before an electronics shop at Ultadanga in north Kolkata by a six-member CBI Anti-Corruption branch team which came from Delhi.
Bose was arrested when he was allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a person named, Avtar Singh, who is an accused in the murder of a Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officer Tarun Dutta, the sources said. Singh in December this year had lodged a complaint that Bose was demanding money from him after which a trap was laid. The CBI officer's residence was also being searched.
BANGLADESH VOTE :
Election Media Centre opens for polls coverage
Dhaka, 28 December : The Bangladesh government has opened a media centre for local and foreign journalists at Sonargaon Hotel with all necessary facilities for election coverage.
The media centre will remain open from December 28 to December. The information secretary, Jamil Osman, visited the media centre on Sunday to inspect the necessary facilities. The principal information officer, Iftekhar Hossain and other senior officials were present.
The telephone numbers of the centre are: 8140230-34 and 8140228 and fax numbers are 8140227 and 8140229.
BANGLADESH VOTE :
"None other than those approved by the commission will be allowed to carry mobile phones in the polling centres," election commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain told reporters at EC Secretariat. "If anybody enters with a mobile phone it will be treated as a serious crime," he added.
However, the commissioner ducked the question on whether mobile networks would be up and running on Monday, saying an official announcement would come later.
Had a little more attention been paid to the issue, Kolkata could have gone in for landfill engineering, where garbage is disposed scientifically in a way that prevents soil and ground water contamination and enables generation of electricity through methane extraction. But given the sheer quantity of garbage generated in Kolkata, it isn't possible to adopt landfill engineering, as it requires a large tract of land, which one cannot locate near the city.
BBC News, Tangail, 28 December : At least 24 people have been killed in Bangladesh after the lorry in which they were travelling veered off the road in thick fog, police said. Thirteen others were injured when the vehicle's driver apparently lost control and crashed into a ditch.
The accident occurred in Tangail, about 42 miles (72km) north of Dhaka. Road accidents are common in Bangladesh and are often blamed on faulty vehicles, poor driving or bad weather conditions.
Among the injured, five are in a critical condition, a police official told Reuters. Police said the lorry was travelling to Bogra from the capital, and that most of the passengers were heading home to vote in Monday's national elections.
BDR-BSF agree to strengthen vigilance along border
Dinajpur , 28 December : Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) at a flag meeting yesterday agreed to strengthen their vigilance along the border to stop smuggle of explosives and arms to Bangladesh ahead of 9th national election tomorrow.
The sector commander level flag meeting between Dinajpur sector of BDR and Raiganj sector of BSF was held at Shukandighi of Thakurgaon Sadar upazila. Col Md Rezaul Kabir of BDR Dinajpur Sector led Bangladesh while Shree Sanjib Bhanot DIG of BSF Raiganj Sector led India in the meeting. Commanders of BDR and BSF of different battalions were present at the meeting.
The flag meeting also agreed to maintain biological security at the shared borders under both the sectors so that bird flu cannot spread as Indian part of the border area is witnessing severe infection area, according to the BDR official sources.
The meeting also agreed to work jointly to stop drug smuggling into Bangladesh. Raiganj sector commander ensured his all out support in this regard to drug paddling.