A leaked cable from the US embassy in Bangladesh suggests that Sheikh Hasina's foreign affairs adviser was leading the process because of their lack of confidence in a lethargic bureaucracy.
"Recognizing the inertia within Bangladesh's bureaucracy, the Prime Minister entrusted her own office with preparations for the visit, and her advisors tell us they expect the results to 'transform' Indo-Bangladesh relations," states the cable from James F Moriarty, the US ambassador in Bangladesh.
The 'confidential' cable, leaked by Wikileaks, dated 10 January, 2010, reveals details of a briefing from prime minister Hasina's foreign affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi, only hours before the envoy set off. The cable read, "(Rizvi) reported that preparations had been completed for the PM's visit to New Delhi later in the day."
The cable also shed light on the rift within the bureaucratic mechanism of the incumbent government including the ministry and the prime minister's advisers. The cable also claims Hasina's foreign affairs adviser said the details of the tour and its preceding negotiations were kept under the wraps until the very end of the preparations. န File Photo : Reuters
Kolkata, 18 March : Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress on Friday unilaterally announced candidates for 230 (TMC- 228, ally SUCI- 2) constituencies for the Assembly elections in West Bengal, leaving only 64 seats to National Congress.
"We will be happy if Congress fields its candidates in 64 constituencies after seat adjustment. Else, we will put our candidates which will include members from minority community on Monday," Mamata said at a crowded press conference while releasing the candidate list. Mamata said she released the candidate list after her discussions with Congress central leadership till last night "and what was agreed upon there".
Criticising the Congress leaders buying time from TMC over the seat-sharing deal, Mamata said, "There is hardly any time left. We have to now go for affidavits and other poll formalities. We have to ensure that nomination forms reach our candidates in remote areas". န Photo : Avijit Mondal
PTI, New Delhi, 18 March : Eminent writer and social Mahasweta Devi has been appointed as a National Research Professor for a second five-year term from this month.
She will be entitled to an honorarium of Rs. 75,000 per month. After being appointed National Professor for a first term of five years in February, 2006, Mahasweta Devi has contributed with her work related to study of rural tribal communities of West Bengal, women and dalits.
Considering her work, she has been appointed as National Research Professor for a second term of five years with effect from 1 February, 2011, said a HRD Ministry statement.
Agenvies, New Delhi, 18 March : A day after WikiLeaks disclosure indicated that the Congress had paid lawmakers to survive a vote of confidence in Indian Parliament in 2008, another Wikileaks exposure reveals Washington's interference in Indian political decisions.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is said to have questioned Pranab Mukherjee's appointment as finance minister and also asked its embassy in Delhi why Mukherjee was preferred to Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
In a cable to the US Embassy in Delhi in September 2009, Clinton asked, "To which business groups is Mukherjee beholden?'; Why was (he) chosen over Montek?" It further adds: "To which industrial or business groups is Pranab Mukherjee beholden? Whom will he seek to help through his policies? What are Mukherjee's priorities in the upcoming budget... ?"
These questions appear to indicate that the White House was expecting either P Chidambaram to return as finance minister or Montek Singh Ahluwalia to be elevated to that post.
The 14 September, 2009 cable asks: "What are Mukherjee's primary economic concerns and his views on Prime Minister Singh's economic reform agenda? How quickly does he plan to pursue these reforms? What is his ability to enact reforms?"
Clinton was interested in knowing about how much importance does Mukherjee attach to the US-India bilateral economic relationship and where he saw the relationship heading. န File Photos : PTI
Dhaka, 18 March : BNP secretary general Khandker Delwar Hossain's burial will be held at the family graveyard in his village home at Khirai Pachuria in Manikganj on Saturday instead of Friday.
Delwar died at Mount Elizabeth Hospital at 3pm (BDST) on Wednesday. He was 78. He was taken to Singapore from Square Hospital, Dhaka, by an air ambulance on 4 March.
PTI, Kolkata, 18 March : CBI today informed the Calcutta High Court that eight persons, arrested by the agency in connection with the firing on villagers at Netai from a CPI(M) leader's house on 7 January, were goons hired from outside the area.
CBI counsel Himangshu Dey submitted before a division bench comprising Chief Justice J N Patel and Justice A K Roy that six of the eight arrested on 14 and 15 March were identified by villagers as those who fired on them from the house of the local CPI(M) leader Rathin Dandapat.
Dey submitted that all were hired goons and hailed from places like Goaltore and Jhargram in other parts of West Midnapore district.
UNB, Dhaka, 18 March : Although Bangladesh government has given special priority to protection of forests to face the climate change phenomena, about 30 percent of deforestation in the country has occurred due to tobacco manufacturing, according to an expert.
“Smoking also results in costs associated with fire damage and damage to the environment from the manufacturing and packaging of tobacco products,” said Taifur Rahman, Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids (CTFK) media and advocacy coordinator, at a workshop on Friday. `PROGGA’ and `Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids’ in collaboration with the Press Institute of Bangladesh (PIB) organized the workshop titled ‘Training Course on Media for Tobacco Control in Bangladesh’ at the PIB auditorium in the city.
Speaking at the workshop, Taifur Rahman said Bangladesh is one of the vulnerable countries across the world due to the rapid rise of its tobacco users. “About 10 percent of world’s tobacco users are in Bangladesh. Tobacco users have increased 7.5 percent in five years from 2004 to 2009,” he said.
Highlighting the global scenario of tobacco use, Taifur Rahman said five million people die of tobacco related diseases all over the world every year. “If the trend continues, tobacco will kill eight million people by 2030 and one billion by the end of the current century,” he added.
According to a fact sheet, tobacco exacts a high cost on society and indirect costs of tobacco are estimated at US$ 652.86 million (loss of income from death or disability due to tobacco-related illness).
It said lost economic opportunities in highly populated developing countries are severe because half of all tobacco-related deaths occur during prime productive years (age 30-69).
Over 57,000 people die in Bangladesh every year from tobacco-related diseases and some 16 percent of all deaths among people aged 30 years and above are attributable to tobacco use.