Kolkata, 12 February : The pro-democracy Indian civil society groups and the exile Burmese in India have come together to raise voice for the detained 34 Burmese freedom fighters in Kolkata for their immediate release from the Presidency Jail and to mount pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for granting refugee status to those detainees.
On Wednesday to mark a decade long illegal detention (of those Burmese), the Burmese Democratic Forces in India has organized a protest demonstration program in the national capital, New Delhi.
It's been 11 years since the 34 Burmese freedom fighters (most of them are Arakanese) were arrested in Andaman Island (on 11February, 1998). They are currently lodged in Presidency Jail of Kolkata. All the 34 Burmese activists were arrested by a corrupt Indian intelligence officer, Lt Col VJS Grewal who betrayed them. Moreover, Lt Col Grewal is responsible for the death of six leaders of the group, said M. Kim, a New Delhi based Burmese exile.
"It is a clear conspiracy to wipe out a key witness in the case. Why did the government not provide adequate security to the GRP officer whose name was on the witness list ?" - Kiswar Jahan
Kolkata, 12 February : The news of Arindam Manna's mysterious death has shocked Rizwanur Rahman's family. The chilling similarities in the two deaths was not lost on them. Old wounds were opened up when the family sat glued to the television, feeling every pain that Manna's family was going through.
Rizwan's brother Rukban was traumatized. "I had warned that Manna's life was in danger but the administration did not take it seriously," he said. His mother Kiswar Jahan immediately demanded police protection for her only surviving son, Rukban. The family suspects Manna's death is linked to the Rizwan case.
Dhaka, 12 February : Senior parliamentarian Zillur Rahman took oath as president of Bangladesh at a ceremony at the Bangabhaban Thursday. The Awami League leader was sworn in as the country's 19th president by Bangladesh chief justice MM Ruhul Amin. The 79-year-old incoming president shook hands with outgoing president Iajuddin Ahmed and the chief justice immediately after taking oath. Zillur and Iajuddin swapped chairs as the audience, including prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her cabinet colleagues, gave them a standing ovation.
Special forces and the president's guard regiment took charge of security of the new president and his residence at Ivy Tower in Gulshan since Zillur Rahman was declared president-elect.
Kolkata, 11 February : After five long years, SFI clinched victory in the Presidency College students' council election, defeating their Independent Consolidation (IC) rivals by four seats. The CPM students' wing won 38 seats against IC's 34 in the 72-seat council.
There was tight security on the campus on Wednesday. There were allegations by IC that SFI had threatened its voters. Minor scuffles between members of the two students' unions were also reported from the campus. Some voters were allegedly threatened over phone and forced to refrain from casting votes. Many IC supporters were beaten up," alleged Chhandak Chatterjee, the IC spokesperson.
Dhrubajyoti Chakraborty, the Kolkata district secretary of SFI, was visibly elated. "Every year, we were so close to victory. This time, it was proved that the new generation of students support our ideology. There has been a sharp increase in the number of SFI supporters. So, the victory was inevitable," Chakraborty added.
College principal Sanjeev Ghosh said, "Since last year, we are publishing the voters' list. Thus, no one can complain of any malpractice during the elections."
30% pay hike for WB State Government employees
Kolkata, 12 February : The WB state’s fifth pay commission today submitted its report to the chief minister recommending an average salary jump of 30-36% for 10 lakh government employees.
Over 4 lakh pensioners would also benefit from the recommendations that the panel wants implemented from 1 April, 2009, with retrospective effect from 1 April, 2008. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said: “The revised scale... would lead to a 30% hike in the state’s expenditure. In a fortnight the government will decide whether to accept.”
A finance department official said: “The exact average hike can be calculated after the government comes out with the notification on the new pay structure. The estimated hike should be anything between 30 and 36%. The additional expenditure the state will have to bear would work out to Rs 5,500 crore-6,000 crore per annum.”
The minimum basic pay recommended is Rs 6,600 (for Group D employees who get Rs 2,600 now), while the maximum is Rs 70,000 (for joint secretary and above). The panel has kept the rate of the house rent allowance unchanged at 15 per cent of the basic. Its chairperson Satyen Ghosh said: “We did not change the HRA rate as the new pay scale would fetch a handsome HRA. But we have raised the HRA ceiling from Rs 2,000 to Rs 6,000. We have suggested that medical allowance be raised from Rs 100 to Rs 300 a month and the reimbursement for medicines for treatment be raised from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500 each time the patient is hospitalised’’.
> Minimum pension of Rs 3,300, maximum Rs 35,000
> The arrears for April 1, 2008, to April 1, 2009, be paid in three equal yearly instalments, preferably from 2009-10 > The maximum amount of death/retirement gratuity be fixed at Rs 6 lakh instead of the ceiling of Rs 2.5 lakh
> Full pension at the rate of 50 per cent of the last drawn pay be given for a minimum qualifying service of 20 years
> The DA dues from July 1, 2008, be cleared at the earliest.
Bandarbans, 12 February : The army recovered weapons and ammunition in an armed raid on suspected terrorists in the hill district of Bandarbans on Thursday, a day after two terror suspects were killed, an army officer said.
"The arms recovered, in Ruma Upazila, include one light machine gun, a G-3 rifle, four mortar shells, three magazines and 60 bullets," said an army major not wanting to be named.
In a raid in the same Upazila on Wednesday, two unidentified terror suspects were killed and an army member injured in an exchange of gunfire between security forces and the suspected terrorists. An AK-47 rifle and a 3-G rifle were later recovered.
London, 12 February : To the avalanche of honorary degrees Amartya Sen has gathered during his academic career is to be added another but this one is very special; it’s from his own university, Cambridge, and that, too, as it celebrates its 800th anniversary.
Sen, who is currently Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, will have Doctor of Letters conferred on him. At 75, he appears to spend much of his life in an aeroplane, giving learned lectures here, there and everywhere.
But he will be make it to the ancient degree ceremony in Cambridge on 12 June when the university will look its most glorious, as it always does in early summer.