MonitorsPublished on Jun 21, 2013
Eager to discover the road to Delhi's throne, India's main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is trapped in a cleft, not knowing whether to follow the dictates of 'realpolitik' or stick to its original principles as formulated by the party's elders in close consultation with the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) mentor.
India: Realpolitik vs founding principles, BJP seeks road to power ?
< class="heading1">Analysis

Eager to discover the road to Delhi’s throne, India’s main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is trapped in a cleft, not knowing whether to follow the dictates of ’realpolitik’ or stick to its original principles as formulated by the party’s elders in close consultation with the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) mentor.

As may be recalled, the BJP’s two-day national executive meeting, held in Goa on June 8-9, annointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the party’s election campaign committee chief, ahead of the parliamentary polls next year. With this, differences on the style of functioning of the party and its leadership simmering for quite a long time burst out in the open. Veteran leader L K Advani, who was the party president a few times and held the post of Deputy Prime Minister with the portfolio of Ministry of Home Affairs in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, resigned from all party posts on June 10, precipitating a crisis.

Mr Advani’s resignation was not expected either by the party’s apparatchik or by the RSS, as no one could have thought that a leader, who was brought up by the Sangh and had strictly abided by the RSS discipline, would take the extreme step of resignation to underline his point of view and what he considered was good for the party and the country.

While Mr Modi’s anointment as the chief of the party election campaign committee, which in fact meant that the Gujarat Chief Minister is going to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections scheduled for 2014, was the immediate cause of Mr Advani’s protest, disagreement between Mr Advani’s camp and the other led by BJP president Rajnath Singh on certain fundamental issues like the understanding of country’s polity and society was the real cause.

These differences are shared by others also in the party though many do not want to give expression to them. But some leaders like Mr Sudheendra Kulkarni, once a close aide of Mr Advani, have expressed their respective reservation to Mr Modi’s elevation in their own way. Though Mr Advani took back his resignation at the intervention of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on June 11, a day after he had resigned, the incident impacted the national politics as well as the prospects of the BJP in a major way.

Within few days of Mr Advani episode, Janata Dal (United), a 17-year old ally of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which ruled India from 1998 to 2004, quit the alliance. This meant that the BJP, which had laboured hard to weave an alliance to come to power following its realisation that it can never come to power in New Delhi on its own electoral strength and had accordingly argued in favour of coalition politics in the country in the last decade of the 20th century, was ready to go it alone into the electoral arena hoping that its increased strength in the Lok Sabha after the election would attract allies to stake its claim to power.

The source of this confidence, reflected at the two-day national executive meeting in Goa, was the party and Sangh’s assessment that Mr Modi has a national appeal across the country and thus would work as vote-multiplier in the elections. The Sangh parivar (family) strongly believes that Mr Modi’s reach transcends barriers of regionalism, caste and language and thus could be -- rather should be -- deployed in an effective manner to maximise the party’s electoral gain. Almost 10 years of the Congress-led UPA government have created idealistic conditions for the BJP’s return to power - or, so goes the argument.

Mr Modi, who is Gujarat Chief Minister for the third time, has also been aggressively following his prime ministerial ambitions. His sharp oratorical skills and acidic comments on the Congress has endeared him to the growing anti-Congress constituency in urban centres where civil society-led anti-corruption protest movements have taken roots in the last couple of years. The assessment is that breaking of scams and scandals have created an environment against the government of the day and this along with priced rise, inflation and falling economic growth are the ideal conditions which can only be fully exploited by the BJP.

While it is being accepted by the majority of the BJP as well as Sangh leaders that Mr Modi can help the party to win more seats in the Lok Sabha, very few think that the party would cross the magical figure of 272 on its own to be able to stake claim for power. Herein, many leaders in the BJP see their chance of occupying the highest executive post of the country because they are convinced that Mr Modi without a simple majority in the Lok Sabha would not be acceptable to political parties and their leaders whom the BJP would have to rope in, in order to come to power.

The RSS has been actively engaged in sorting out inner-party differences as evident during an hour long meeting between the RSS chief and Mr Advani on June 20. From all available accounts of the meeting, it seems that nothing concrete was achieved but the two have promised to hold further meetings. Mr Advani’s resignation and subsequent development have exposed the BJP’s claim that the RSS was only a cultural organisation and does not interfere in the day-to-day activities of the party. The umbilical cord between mentor RSS and the BJP continues to remain decisive and possibly has been strengthened in an atmosphere of differences existing among different leaders whose pursuit of power has taken precedence over founding principles of the Sangh parivar which preached that the country was above the organisation and that the organisation was above the individual.

The month of June has brought the schism into the open and has impacted the party in a serious way as its cadres are a confused and divided lot. This is bound to impact the BJP’s electoral fortunes and it remains to be seen whose view guides the future of the BJP.

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bangladesh: Metropolitan polls, a game-changer?

Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

The combined Opposition’s victory in the four major metropolitan elections of Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal showcases the changing trend of Bangladesh politics. The elections to the four major city corporations have been regarded as a curtain-raiser for the national elections later this year.

In the June 15 elections, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) recorded a decisive victory as candidates supported by the party won all four city corporations. The BNP-led coalition won 91 seats over the ruling Awami League-led coalition, which managed to win only 41 seats out of the total 156 councillor positions. Although the elections were for the local bodies, they were significant as it was the first popularity test for the major parties ahead of the parliamentary election.

The result of the city corporation elections was just the reversal of the previous elections when the ruling Awami League coalition won a three-fourth majority. This is certainly a change in the politics of the country. Comparing the 2008 and 2013 elections, it shows a significant swing in favour of the BNP. In the recent election, the BNP secured 58.4% vote-share and the Awami league secured 39.7%, compared to 31.2% and 49.3% respectively in the city corporation elections. This is a swing of 27.2% in favour of the BNP and 9.6% against the Awami League.

This election result suggests that the BNP’s popularity has increased. Despite the debacle in the 2008 election, the party has managed a comeback in the political scene of the country, and it is likely to be a major factor in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Awami League is now on an introspection mode. Adding to the high rising anti-incumbency are corruption charges. Also, the attitude of the party’s youth and student wings has created a feeling of resentment in the minds of the people.

However, the party’s performance in Government has not been that bad. The economy is doing well, inflation is under control, and power problems have been sorted out significantly. In spite of these positives, the people’s dislike for the party highlights that the party somewhere has failed to understand the pulse of the nation.

The BNP has been able to capitalise on this inability of the Awami League and benefited out of it. These election results are also important as they come after the violence corresponding to the trial of war criminals and the ’Shahbagh movement’, which has significantly polarised the nation’s polity. Jamaat and Hafajat-e-Islami, the rightist organisation, supported the BNP and had run a propaganda against the Awami League as being anti-Islamic. This religious card also worked against the Awami League. This trend is certainly worrying which could also influence the coming parliamentary elections.

However, observers of Bangladesh politics suggest that the change of political power is very natural to the country’s politics. This country has no record of returning any party for a second term in succession. The history seems to have repeated again. The people in Bangladesh have always voted against the ruling party. In the absence of a third option, it alternates between the Awami League and the BNP.

(The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Nitish divorces NDA

Unexpected it may not have been, the final BJP-JD (U) split on Sunday was bitter to the end, and showed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the divisive and polarising force many accuse him of being.

"Our foundational principles have been irrevocably damaged. I’m not bothered about the consequence even if they harm us. It may be anything but the coalition has ended," Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said grimly. "It’s a question of morality, not about holding on to power," he said.

Earlier he had admitted for the very first time on Friday that the "political situation has turned difficult", the clearest indication yet that the 17-year old BJP-JD (U) alliance has run its course.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, June 15-17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi rise not behind Advani anger: Rajnath

Veteran BJP leader L K Advani’s decision to quit all posts this month was prompted by "other reasons" and not what thought to be his unhappiness over the appointment of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the 2014 poll campaign panel chief, party chief Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday.

"Senior leader L K Advani was not unhappy because Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was elevated as chief of the campaign committee. There were other reasons for his unhappiness," Singh said without elaborating on the reasons.

Mr Advani’s close aide Sudheendra Kulkarni has lashed out at the present BJP leadership and called Mr Singh "foxy" and Mr Modi an "autocrat". In a strongly- worded letter posted on website, Mr Kulkarni, who headed Advani’s campaign in 2009 Lok Sabha polls and became part of the BJP’s ’Vision Document’ team as late as 2012, has written:" An autocrat is sought to be enthroned, and a perfect democrat is being marginalised and humiliated. A self-centred leader, who has shown that he cares two hoots for the party organisation has suddenly become all powerful, whereas a selfless leader who toiled for many decades to build the party is being cast aside."

About Mr Singh, he said:"And a foxy party president, who has his own astrologically-induced delusions of becoming India’s prime minister, has allowed himself to be prodded and dictated by vested interests."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gujarat riots bad example of governance, says Parikkar

Days after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was named the BJP’s 2014 poll campaign panel chief, the party’s Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parikkar has said the 2002 post-Godhara riots in Gujarat were a "clear-cut" case of "administrative failure" and "bad example of governance".

But he sought to shield Mr Modi saying, he "may not have had that kind of grip on the administration as he has now".

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New ministers sworn in

Electoral considerations weighed heavily on what is likely to be the UPA’s last cabinet reshuffle before a crucial period of state polls leading to the national hustings next year.

Eight new ministers-equally divided between cabinet and ministers of state ranks-were inducted in moves calculated to please various communities is Rajasthan, consolidate the Congress’ position in Andhra Pradesh and reward loyalists in Karnataka.

The appointments also came as a corollary to senior-level changes in the Congress party structure and the sacking of two ministers in corruption scam. The All India Congress Committee was reorganised on Sunday with two former ministers, who had resigned on Saturday evening, namely C P Joshi and Ajay Makan were appointed general secretaries and many other new faces were brought into the set up as secretaries. The party reorganisation is said to have a stamp of party vice president Rahul Gandhi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, June 17-18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Congress revamps party set-up

As the Congress gets battle ready for 2014, it revamped its organisational team on Sunday, 24 hours ahead of a ministerial reshuffle, scheduled for Monday evening. All eyes are now on who will replace in government Union Ministers Ajay Maken and C P Joshi, who resigned on Saturday night, and were among the seven new general secretaries appointed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Federal front talks may begin in July

A week after the idea of a federal front was first pushed by Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, senior BJD leaders on Wednesday indicated that formal discussions on the subject was likely to begin in July.

During the Swabhiman rally last week in New Delhi demanding special category status for Orissa, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had supported the idea of a federal front. "It is still early for discussions about the proposed federal front. But it is a good thing for the country," he had said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Law-change to insulate CBI

Acting on its commitment to end executive interference in CBI investigations, the government has decided to amend Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the law that gives investigating agencies its powers.

A meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram Thursday decided that the Supreme Court’s May 8 directive to insulate the CBI from extraneous influence should be implemented by amending the DPSE Act.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coalgate hits PMO; officials questioned

The probe into alleged irregularities in coal block allocations between 2006 and 2009 reached the doorstep of the prime minister’s office on Tuesday with the CBI recording the statements of two former officials.

Investigators may, at a later stage, also seek clarifications from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s adviser T K A Nair in the case, which has come to be known as Coalgate and has caused a great deal of embarrassment to the government.

Former Coal Secretary H C Gupta is likely to be questioned on Thursday.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, June 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rain, floods play havoc

Destroyed roads and wrecked communication infrastructure continued to hamper rescue efforts in flood ravaged Uttarakhand for the fifth day Wednesday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi surveyed the devastation by air, following which the PM announced a Rs 1,000 crore relief package for the state.

According to official data made available on Wednesday, 62,970 people were stranded at various places in the hills. A total 19,724 people had been evacuated since the "early monsoon flash flood" struck the state, officials said.

The PMO put the number of dead at 102. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said 71 had died. Eyewitness accounts and unofficial estimates said the toll was likely to be much higher.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Telangana singes AP again

Pro-Telangana parties’ march to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly was foiled today (June 14) by the police that took into preventive custody around 1400 statehood activists, including senior leaders of the TRS and the BJP, and blocked all roads leading to the legislature building in Hyderabad.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Tribune, June 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">TRAI to regulate corporate control of media

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is all set to recommend the creation of an ’institutional buffer between corporate owners and newspaper management’ to the government. TRAI, which is also the regulator for the broadcasting industry, will also suggest ways to restrict cross-media ownership in line with practices in ’most other established democracies.’

TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar told The Hindu his recommendations would be based on the principle that corporate ownership of media must be separated from editorial management, as "the media serves public interest."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Inflation falls, all eyes on RBI

India’s wholesale price index (WPI) based inflation rate dipped to 4.7% in May, stoking demand for an interest rate cut by RBI on Monday amid speculation that a normal monsoon and good harvest would bring down prices further.

The decline WPI inflation is lowest in more than three years-comes on the heels of a moderation in May consumer price index (CPI) inflation, announced on Monday, to a four month low of 9.31%. But a weaker rupee will fuel commodity prices, making RBI’s job a challenging one.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Hindustan Times, June 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rupee hits all time low

The US Federal Reserve’s signal to slow its $ 85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme this year and probably end it next year roiled global currencies with the rupee plummeting to a record low of Rs 59.98,

Impact of falling rupee was witnessed at bourse markets when the BSE index saw its biggest fall in 28 months, closing the day at 18,719.29-down by 2.74 percent or 526.41 points while the NIFTY at the NSE fell by 166.35 points during the day to close at 5655.9.

The sharp fall in the value of the Rupee will spur inflation and force the government to hike fuel prices. It also increases prices of local gold vis-a-vis international prices which will make the yellow metal appear like a sound investment despite efforts by the government to dissuade gold purchases. Besides making all imports expensive the weak Rupee will make overseas travel and education abroad expensive.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, June 19, 2013, The Indian Express, June 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Unemployment rate up

The percentage of Indians employed in agriculture has slipped below 50 percent, says the latest data on employment trends released by the government on Thursday.

But more worrying for the government is that the rising army of workers freed from the agriculture sector are unlikely to have a stable job in the urban areas.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India, Iraq revive joint commission

Indian and Iraq on Thursday decided to revive the Joint Commission, which will deal with energy, agriculture, low-cost housing, higher education and tourism among other areas.

The meeting led by the Oil ministers of two countries is expected to be held on July 8 and 9 in Baghdad. The last meeting of the Joint Commission was held in 2007.

Mr Hussein Shahristani, Iraq’s Deputy PM and in-charge of country’s oil policy, said that India should count on Iraq as a "long term" and "dependable" partner.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had flown to Baghdad on Wednesday on a two-day visit to discuss "security cooperation" with the Iraqi leadership amid increased violence in the country. He is the first Indian foreign minister to Iraq since I K Gujral in 1990.

Mr Khurshid’s visit to Iraq assumed significance because New Delhi’s growing economic interests in the country, and increased number of Indians involved in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

Mr Khurshid met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. "I have extended the invitation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Iraq PM to visit India later this year, after the month of Ramzan," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Indian Express, June 19-21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Complaints of unfair trade practices

Two influential US Senators have asked Secretary of State John Kerry to raise serious concerns of the US over "unfair" trade practices of India that are "directly harming" American businesses and threatening "millions of US jobs", during his visit to New Delhi next week.

The Senators made it clear that the US cannot afford to sit back and watch as India adopts policies that adversely impact its innovative and creative industries, threatening the greater stability of the international trading system. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch urged India to end unfair practices.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tax havens asked to cough up

India has approached over half a dozen foreign jurisdictions, including Singapore and some tax havens, for banking and other financial details of more than 500 individuals and entities that might have ’secret offshore accounts’ at those places.

The "names and listed addresses" of as many as 505 India- linked entities, including businessmen and companies from the country, have been made public after a global expose on secret offshore accounts by US-based rights group, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The addresses of Indian entities and individuals, according to the ICIJ expose, have addresses of upmarket localities of account holders from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Chandigarh and many other Indian cities and few other moffusil locations.

Sources here said that the Foreign Tax and Tax Research (FT&TR) division in the Finance Ministry has approached the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Singapore under the tax information exchange treaties with these jurisdiction for banking and other details of those named by ICIJ.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 16, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Exports to Iran to touch $ 6 b

India plans to increase its exports to Iran to about USD six billion in the current fiscal year that began in April, Press TV reports.

Director General of the Federation of the Indian Exports Organizations Ajai Sahai made the remarks in an interview with Press TV, adding that New Delhi has taken many initiatives to expand its sales to the Islamic Republic.

India’s Trade Ministry also announced on Tuesday that the country has offered incentives to Indian traders for exports to Iran. "Accordingly, exports of such goods to Iran which have been imported against payment in freely convertible currency would be permitted against payment in Indian rupees also, subject to at least 15-percent value addition," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, an arm of Indian Trade Ministry, said in a notification on its website.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 15, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Coal India to acquire Australian assets

State-owned monopoly miner Coal India is seriously considering acquisition of two Australian companies for over $4 billion (about Rs 23,000 crore), a move that will enable it to import 28 million tonnes high quality thermal coal a year.

CIL has sent the proposals to pick majority stakes for $2 billion each in the two companies, with annual output of 12 million tonnes and 16 million tonnes, respectively, to the company’s foreign acquisition committee, a senior official of the Coal Ministry told ET.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, June 17, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">GMR pact unlawful: AG

The Attorney General’s Office has said that the agreement between GMR and Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) to lease Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) to the Indian infrastructure company was signed against the law.

In a letter to the Anti-Corruption (ACC), following the AG’s review of the investigation report by the ACC on the lease of the airport to GMR, the Attorney General’s Office stated that even though the commission had concluded that it the agreement was signed according to the law, reasoning that it was signed prior to the amendments of the Public Finance Act, it did contradict Article 5 of the Public Finance Act and the Public Finance Regulation. The letter states that the commission had neglected to mention these discrepancies.

It also states that the MACL Board of Directors had initially refused to sign the agreement with GMR and that the previous administration had forced changes to the members of the board, appointing the people that would agree to sign the agreement. The letter states that ACC had neglected to investigate these matters.

"While the agreement was signed within a few hours of a meeting of the Board of Directors of Maldives Airports Company Limited, it is questionable that the newly- instituted board had thoroughly considered the lease of such a large asset of the State, and that this has not been referred to, in any extent, in the investigation report. While it has been declared that there it had no legal implications in signing the agreement under such circumstances, the law governing contracts was also not properly considered, while signing an agreement under such an atmosphere," the letter stated.

The ACC investigation report claims that the government gains a profit from the GMR deal. The AG’s letter however questions the formula used by the commission in projecting the gains and losses in the deal. The letter stated specific details of the questionable discrepancies.

The letter states that the ACC calculations had not taken into account the entire scenario of the of the agreement and that the correct estimation, when MACL’s assets and businesses in the airport were transferred to GMR, was a loss in excess to MVR 15 billion. These facts were neglected in the investigation report, the AG letter stated. It also stated that the private investments surrounding the functioning of the airport, in Hulhule’ and Hulhumale’, were also predicted to suffer when the airport was handed over to GMR.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ACC helps GMR claim $ 800 m: Abbas

Spokesperson of Gaumee Ittihaad Party (GIP) and Minister of State for Finance, Abbas Adil Riza has said that the report of the Anti-Corruption Commission, ACC’s 61-page investigation report into the alleged corruption in the leasing of the country’s only operational international airport to GMR by the previous administration was published to reclaim $ 800 million to Indian GMR Infrastructure.

Abbas made this remark in an interview to DhiTV. He said that the ACC’s report is a product of corruption perpetrated to deceive Maldivian people and to pull wool over their eyes and to conclude the case in Singapore’s Arbitration Court in GMR’s favour. Abbas said that the government should take immediate action against the deception in the ACC’s report.

"I call upon the President to request the Police Commissioner to immediately investigate the members of the Anti-Corruption Commission. This is because it is a serious crime for an independent institution to be involved in such a level of corruption. There is no way that this can be left without taking any action," he said.

Abbas said: "A Chairman of the board is saying I have not seen it. He is saying he does not know how it came to pass. This is the statement of Ibrahim Nooradeen in 2010, he was the Chairman of MACL then. The Chairman is saying he does not know how this evaluation was made. He is saying he did not witness it. Then is there any corruption bigger than this? And now Luthfee is saying no no, everything went fine? Is he saying that there were no problems involved? Is he saying that Ibrahim Nooradeen knew everything? Did not Ibrahim Nooradeen say otherwise on record? Did he not say that he did not know how it came to pass?"

According to him, "The Police Commissioner should take action. The bank accounts of the seniors of ACC should be checked. The assets of their families should be investigated. This is not a trivial issue. This is big. We accused that the Speaker of the Peoples’ Majlis is involved.... Many seniors of the government were offered bribes. These are what we repeatedly said," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’ACC has kept out mentioned issues’

Economic Minister Ahmed Mohamed has said that no issue raised when GMR case was investigated by the ministerial committee is to be found in the 61-page investigation report of the Anti-Corruption Committee, ACC into the alleged corruption in the leasing of the country’s only operational international airport to GMR by the previous administration.

Ahmed Mohamed said that knowledge-based research should be initiated regarding this report of ACC. He said that the members of ACC should be made professionally accountable regarding the issues raised. "It is not enough just to declare the report valid. The report should be put under scrutiny," he said.

Ahmed Mohamed noted that MACL is a government owned company and therefore an asset of such a company can only be handed over to another party by involving the company but however MACL was not involved in the handing over of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to GMR.

In addition to this, Ahmed Mohamed said that the Auditor-General also has previously issued a report regarding the case but ACC’s report failed to refer to this important report of AG regarding the same matter.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Miadhu, June 21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ACC says QIP defrauded on membership

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP) had fraudulently enlisted members to the party, Maldives anti-corruption body said Thursday. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) made the statement after investigating a case where a batch of forms had been filled out using government records during GIP’s recent bid to increase membership.

The ACC had asked Elections Commission to hold of on processing the membership forms until the authenticity of the forms could be determined. In the statement, ACC said 85 percent of the people from the membership forms submitted by GIP to the Elections Commission had denied signing for the party.

The ACC also said two of the people had passed away prior to the dates the forms were signed and submitted to the Elections Commission.

The issues have been brought to the attention of the commission, ACC said. The criminal elements and other administrative issues will be forwarded to the relevant authorities, the commission added.

The GIP along with several other parties launched campaigns to reach 10,000 members after the Parliament passed the new political party bill which stipulates that a party can be only be registered if it has 10,000 members while existing parties also faced dissolution if a party fails to have the required number of members in its registry.

However, the Supreme Court has stayed dissolution of existing parties until the court decides on the case. Meanwhile, Elections Commission had alleged fraud in some forms submitted to the commission and had even asked the Police to investigate the case.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Haveeru Online, June 22, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Constitution likely to dash Suu Kyi’s hopes

Her adoring compatriots believe democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi is destined to become Myanmar’s next president. But don’t bet on it. The journey from political prisoner to president appears much less certain, even as her ambition is clearer than ever.

She must convince a military-dominated Parliament to amend the Constitution. The Constitution bars anyone married to a foreigner or who has children who are foreign citizens from becoming president. Suu Kyi and her husband, the late British academic Michael Aris, had two children who are British.

Any constitutional amendment would require 75 percent support in Parliament - no easy task when the Constitution also reserves a quarter of seats for the military.

Most of the rest of the members of Parliament are members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), created by the old junta and largely made up of retired military officers.

If passed by Parliament, an amendment must win more than half the vote in a referendum. Some analysts say there just isn’t enough time to do all that before the 2015 election. Suu Kyi has also said the government should re-examine the 1982 citizenship law. But that prompted the Daily Eleven newspaper to warn that any attempt by her to change the law would alienate voters and cost her party the next election.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Thompson Reuters, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Muslim women sentenced to hard labour

A court in Myanmar has found two Muslim women guilty of setting off a recent outbreak of sectarian violence, one of them by bumping into a Buddhist novice monk. Myint Thein of the pro-government National Unity Party, who attended their trial, said that the two women in the central township of Okkan were convicted of "insulting religion." Both were sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour. A police officer in Okkan confirmed the sentences.

Although the vast majority of victims of the Buddhist-Muslim violence in the past year have been Muslims, most of those convicted of serious offenses in the unrest have been Muslims. Rights groups have argued that Myanmar’s courts are biased in favour of the Buddhist majority. The two women’s trial was related to an April 30 episode in Okkan that culminated with Buddhist mobs destroying shops and homes in several villages.

Myint Thein said the court heard that one of the women bumped into the monk as he was collecting alms and the other grabbed the monk by his shoulders. It is considered inappropriate in Buddhism for women to have any physical contact with monks.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Tackle discrimination against minorities: UNHCR

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has urged the government of Myanmar to devote urgent attention to tackling the continuing discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in the country, warning that failure to act could undermine the reform process.

"Myanmar today can act as a source of inspiration by showing how governments can be transformed by a renewed commitment to human rights," the High Commissioner said.

"However, the ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya community in Rakhine State, and the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment across the State and beyond, is threatening the reform process and requires focused attention from the Government," she added.

"The President of Myanmar has made some important statements on the need to end discrimination and violence and foster mutual respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and ethnicities," the High Commissioner said. "I believe that the political will is there, but encourage the Government to translate this will into concrete actions."

The High Commissioner expressed her hope that discussions on Myanmar during the recent session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva would further encourage the government to combat discrimination.

Expressing its deep concern at the gross violations of human rights against Muslims in Myanmar, including against the Rohingya, the Council urged the government to allow humanitarian assistance and aid to reach the people and communities affected. It also called on the Government to end impunity for all violations of human rights. Investigating and ensuring accountability for human rights violations was a basic obligation that the Government must fulfil, Pillay said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ILO lifts restrictions

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) conference being held in Geneva has voted to lift all labour restrictions on Myanmar. A resolution adopted by the International Labour Conference (ILC) recognizes the progress made in Myanmar and lifts all ILO restrictions on Myanmar.

The restrictions were introduced after Myanmar failed to act on the recommendations of an ILO Commission of Inquiry, which had been set up to examine whether the country was complying with its obligations under Convention 29.

The ILC had earlier suspended some restrictions on Myanmar when it met last June. The remaining restrictions, imposed by the Conference in 2000, included the need to discuss Myanmar’s application of the Convention 29 at special sittings of the ILC, and a recommendation to ILO constituents to review their relations with the country.

It has called upon ILO member-States to provide financial support for the elimination of forced labour and invited the Governing Body (the executive body of the ILO) to review the situation in Myanmar on issues relating to ILO activities, including freedom of association and the impact of foreign investment on decent working conditions in the country.

It has also requested the ILO and the Government of Myanmar to continue their commitment to the application of the 2007 Supplementary Understanding, the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and all associated action plans for the elimination of all forms of forced labour by 2015.

< class="text11verdana">Source: International Labour Organisation, June 18, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Rains claim 31 lives

Massive floods, cloudburst and landslides have killed 31 people in Nepal as of June 20. Reports have said that over 17 are still missing and thousands have been rendered homeless in several parts of the western region.

There has also been a huge loss of properties due to the torrential downpour that lashed the country for three days starting June 19. According to the Home Ministry, the death toll could increase. Of the worst-hit districts are Dailekh, Baitadi, Achham, Rautahat, Doti, Kalikot, Baglung, Mustang and Darchula. In Darchula, floods swept away 50 households.

The government has allocated Rs. 400 million as relief assistance for the disaster victims. In the meantime, Indian authorities have taken initiatives to rescue scores of Nepali pilgrims stranded in various places in Uttarakhand State of India. Some 100 of the 400 stranded Nepali pilgrims arrived in safer places in and around Hardwar on Thursday. The Nepali embassy in New Delhi has so far collected names of around 50 Nepalis and informed the authorities concerned.

Three Nepali youths from Talegaun-4 in Jajarkot district are reported missing in a landslide at Gaurikunda in Uttarakhand. In addition, seven Nepalis are also missing. Some 150 Neplis have been rescued so from Uttarakhand. Another 250 are believed to be missing.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Republica, The Kathmandu Post, June 19-21, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">45 border pillars missing in Ilam

As many as 45 border pillars have gone missing along the Indo-Nepal border in Ilam district, said a news report.

Following a two-week long inspection of the border area carried out by a joint team of the Department of Land Reform and Management (DLRM) and its Indian counterpart based in Darjeeling, the former reported that altogether 45 border pillars along the border area between eastern Manebhanjyan and Jirmale have gone missing.

According to DLRM, three big boundary pillars, 10 subsidiary pillars and 21 minor pillars have gone missing in the area. Likewise, three reference pillars used for restoring the missing ones have also disappeared from the border area.

Locals alleged that the boundary pillars have gone missing as the authorities concerned did not carry out frequent monitoring.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Republica, June 17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Honour killing in Saptari

The police have arrested a man on the charge of plotting the murder of his own minor daughter. Chandra Raut Barai, 35, a resident of Bathanaha VDC-7 in Saptari district, was arrested for allegedly having his 16-year-old daughter, Rubi Raut Barai, killed.

Chandra allegedly hired a group of contract killers to murder Rubi as she was in love with a local boy from a different caste, police said. "Our preliminary investigation has revealed that Chandra hired a group of three contract killers to kill Rubi," police said.

The girl’s body was dumped at a deserted place in Koiladi VDC-9. Her charred body was found on May 22. It took the police a week to ascertain that the body was Rubi’s.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Republica, June 15, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Cases against Zardari cannot be reopened

In a response to the previous Pakistan government’s request to reopen the graft cases against Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the Swiss authorities claimed that the cases cannot be reopened as they have become time-barred.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Switzerland has forwarded a letter containing the decision of the Attorney General of Geneva, wherein it states that "Public Ministry of Geneva has decided not to review the closure order dated 25th August 2008 on the ground that the statutory limitation period has expired; no new evidence has been revealed; and the Republic of Pakistan is demanding resumption of the criminal procedure while maintaining that such resumption could not take place".

The previous government had requested the Swiss authorities to reopen the case after much pressure was put on it by the Pakistan Supreme Court, which had also let to the dismissal of Yousaf Reza Gilani as prime minister for his refusal to make such a request.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">K-P strategy for talks with TTP

The government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced the convention of an all All Parties Conference (APC) in Peshawar in the coming days to chalk out a strategy to begin talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

PTI Deputy Parliamentary Leader in K-P and provincial Health and Information Minister, Shaukat Yousafzai, reiterated that the war on terror was not Pakistan’s war and dialogue, rather than force, was the solution to lasting peace in the region.

He added that the K-P government would convene the APC in the coming days and political parties, members of the civil society, intellectuals and professors will be invited to chalk out a comprehensive strategy.

Given the difficulty of starting any peace talks in the face of continuous drone strikes, Yousafzai said the federal government should not take any dictation from the US and avoid taking help from foreign countries in the shape of loans.

"How dare the US interfere in our internal affairs when we can directly tell them that we do not need their help. The time has come to make a clear policy so that the people can know what is going on in dealing with other countries," he said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Balochistan budget presented

The Balochistan budget was presented by the Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch this week. The budget is worth Rs. 198.395 billion with a deficit for Rs. 8 billion.

The chief minister said that every effort has been made to make the budget a people friendly one and provide relief to them. The development and education sectors were allocated the bulk of the funds followed by maintenance of law and order and the health sector.

The salaries of government employees also witnessed an increase of 10% while the pensions increased by 15%.

The chief minister also announced measures to reduce the deficit through austerity measures and reduction of non-development expenditure. Such measures included a complete ban on the purchase of the luxury vehicles in the government sector as well as on medical treatment and participation in seminars and conferences on government expenses abroad.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, June 20, 2013; The News, June 21, 2013

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gota abhors exclusivity for any race

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the Northern Province should be opened up for all communities to live in without further delay. That would be of pivotal importance to promote bonding among the people in the post-war era.

The Defence Secretary emphasised that the Sinhalese shouldn’t be deprived of their right to buy land in any part of the country, including the Northern Province comprising the administrative districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya.

The outspoken official said that the Sinhalese and the Muslim public servants too, should be allowed to serve in the Northern Province as well as in the predominantly Tamil areas of the Eastern Province.

Asked whether he would take up the issue with the government, the Defence Secretary said that he had explained the situation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Defence Secretary also said that both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and he, had emphasised during deliberations with senior Indian officials that devolution of police powers would be inimical to the national interest as well as political stability. "We made our position clear during talks involving top level delegations from Sri Lanka and India", he said.

The Defence Secretary was responding to Indian media reports of Indian Premier Manmohan Singh expressing concern over President Rajapaksa’s decision to amend the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. He said vesting provinces with police powers would be inimical to the interests of minorities.

Commenting on the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to study the national issue and make recommendations, the Defence Secretary said that the tangible actions would have to be taken to ensure the 13th Amendment wouldn’t be the cause for further chaos. If implemented fully as it is it could create a volatile situation not only in the Northern Province but other regions as well, the Defence Secretary said.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, June 18-19, 2013Call for Tamil r

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Call for Tamil refugees to return

Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has pleaded with Tamil refugees in Australia who fled the nation’s bloody civil war to come home - having quietly slipped into Canberra for talks on combating people smugglers.

Prof. Peiris told Fairfax Media in an exclusive interview Sri Lanka is now perfectly stable, with an economic boom in the once devastated northern Tamil regions running at three-times the national average.

But he warned smugglers sending record numbers of Sri Lankans by boat to Australia were making "unconscionable profits" and cared nothing for the people they put on unseaworthy vessels.

"Sri Lanka is today a land at peace, it is a perfectly stable society. The northern province is developing at about 22 per cent, when the average population of the country is between 6 or 7 per cent," Professor Peiris said. "There has been a total transformation of life in the north. There is absolutely nothing to run away from."

Prof Peiris’ visit was not foreshadowed by the usual official announcement but Foreign Minister Bob Carr said this had nothing to do with sensitivity about Sri Lanka ties, only that he had not thought it newsworthy.

Prof Peiris met with Senator Carr, Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop this week and will open a new Sri Lankan consulate in Melbourne on Friday.

Senator Carr said Australia had called for greater urgency in reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka and a full accounting of people missing and disappeared during the Tamil Tiger insurgency. He also said Australia had welcomed news that an election for a provincial council in Sri Lanka’s north would be held in September.

A record number of Sri Lankans have arrived in Australian waters by boat this year.

But Prof Peiris said these people were not economic refugees but economic migrants, and claims of abuse had no relationship to the reality on the ground in Sri Lanka. He also said of the thousands of people who fled during the last months of fighting in 2009, the country was ready to welcome them home.

"My message to them is they ought to come and return to Sri Lanka. We are today in a situation where a lot of people who left the country in search of greener pastures abroad but now increasing numbers are coming back to teach in our universities, to engage in their professions."

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, June 20, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban open office in Doha

The Taliban in a press conference this week announced that its political office has been opened in Doha. Talks regarding such an office have been going on for more than a year but the process kept getting delayed due to differences between the insurgents and the Afghan government.

The Taliban also specified the aims and functions of the office during the press conference, which are: to carry out talks for improving relations with other countries; to support a peaceful solution in which Afghanistan’s ’occupancy’ comes to an end and bring stability into Afghanistan; to have meetings with Afghans officials; to meet and make contacts with the international community, local organizations and non-governmental organisations; and to issue statements for the media outlets.

Prior to the opening of the office, the Taliban had announced their intention to hold peace talks with the Afghan government. Agha Jan, who served as Finance Minister during the Taliban-led government, stated that the group was willing to negotiate with the government if all parties involved were honest in their commitments. He further went on to state that the Taliban was not looking to establish an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and that any government in Afghanistan should be formed on the basis of public votes. Following the opening of the office, a Taliban spokesman also said that the group was willing to share power in Afghanistan and favoured an inclusive government. He also said that the group was willing to deal with anyone who visited the Qatar office.

This announcement was welcomed by the US President Barack Obama. However, he clearly stated that the military efforts against al Qaeda and the support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) would continue.

The reaction within Afghanistan to the opening of the political office, however, was mixed. President Hamid Karzai threatened to boycott the peace talks with the Taliban planned by the US insisting that the talks should only be held in Afghanistan. A statement issued by the Afghan High Peace Council said, "he latest developments show that foreign hands are behind the Taliban’s Qatar office and, unless they are purely Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in talks". The statement also criticised US involvement in the agreement to open the Taliban office. Karzai also suspended talks on the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the US. The BSA was meant to determine the size and nature of America’s military presence in Afghanistan post-2014.

Apart from the location of the office, the name given to the Qatar office also drew stern criticism from various Afghan law-makers. The Lower House of the Afghan Parliament refused to recognise the office carrying the name "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan". A statement issued by the lower house said, "The Wolesi Jirga does not recognise any institution carrying the name of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and it is against the use of the term". Some lawmakers also believed that the office undermined the credibility of the Afghan government. One lawmaker went to the extent to suggest that the purpose of the office was to take power away from Karzai and hand it back to Mullah Omar.

However, the Foreign Ministry of Qatar announced that the office did not carry the name "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan". The ministry said that the official name agreed to open this office was the political office of the Taliban in Doha.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Dawn, June 19, 2013; Khaama Press, June 18-19, 2013; Pajhwok, June 19, 2013Tolo News, June 16, 2013; Tolo News, June 18-19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">ANSF takes lead role

This week saw the fifth and final phase in the transition of security from the NATO-led ISAF forces to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). All security operations in Afghanistan are now to be led by the ANSF with the international forces only playing a supporting role.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who also attended the official handing over ceremony, called the handover a ’milestone’.

The handing over of the remaining 95 districts from NATO to Afghan control includes areas in the south and east of Afghanistan, the traditional strongholds of the Taliban. Afghan forces will now have to lead security operations in all 403 districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Until now, they were responsible for 312 districts nationwide.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Pajhwok, June 18, 2013; Tolo News, June 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Russia to boost Afghan Air Force

Russia’s Rosoboronexport was awarded another contract for the provision of 30 Mi-17 "Hip" helicopters to the Afghan National Securities Forces Special Mission Wing. The helicopters will be provided to the ANSF under a firm-fixed-price of $572.2 million.

The transport helicopters will be used for counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and special operations missions.

Rosoboronexport was earlier awarded another contract with the value of $367.5 million for the provision of 21 Mi-17V5s to Afghan national security forces.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, June 19, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">DPT accorded census issue high priority

"Have you ever felt the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) government was not your government?" asked DPT president Jigmi Y Thinley to over 600 people gathered in Damphu. "Was any one of you here a victim of nepotism as DPT has been projected to be?" Thinley added.

The DPT president also said that his government accorded the highest priority to solving the problem of census during its tenure. Bhutan is set to hold the general round of elections on July 13 this year where the incumbent DPT would be contesting against PDP, Bhutan’s Peace and Democracy Party.

"The government has explored all options including making security clearance extremely convenient, such as for travel (granting of passports), school admissions, trainings and jobs," he said. "This was facilitated even for those whose confirmation of security clearance was pending."

Apart from that, he said the government also established a high-level national committee, which worked on the issue of census for two years. The committee, he said conducted a thorough investigation, including an analysis of all problems associated with census, the reports of which were submitted to the King.

"However, it appears that PDP is unaware that the King is granting citizenship in batches in several places," he said, adding what people needed to know was that the King was more concerned about the problem of citizenship than any party or individual in the country. "Accordingly, His Majesty has been attaching the highest priority to providing citizenship to the people affected by the problem," he said, adding that granting citizenship was His Majesty’s prerogative and his sovereign power.

Besides this issue, Jigmi Y Thinley also talked about other issues of the 10th plan being drafted by them, having played a key role in providing electricity and mobile phone connectivity.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police surveillance to catch killer clerk

St. Louis Police released surveillance images in hopes of catching the killer or killers of Bhutanese immigrant Mon Rai, on July 11.The images show two men inside the 7-Eleven store at 5604 Gravois Avenue about the time 29-year-old store clerk Mon Rai was shot and killed. One is labeled a suspect; the other is labeled a possible witness to the crime. Police are hoping the public can identify both men.

Rai, a Bhutanese immigrant who spent 19 years in a Nepalese refugee camp, came to St. Louis nine months ago with his wife and 7-year-old son. Rai’s wife is pregnant and expecting to give birth to a girl any day.

Customers found Rai lying on July 11, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his back. Police said the killer apparently took nothing in the store, but that there was a struggle between the victim and his killer moments before the killing, said Lt. Col. Al Adkins.

"When I came to St. Louis ? my heart was full of hopes and dreams," he wrote in an essay for a Thanksgiving program at the International Institute of St. Louis.

Rai lived in the 3800 block of Dunnica Avenue. He was taking English classes at the institute and helping as an interpreter for other refugees. Rai started working at the 7-11 three days after Christmas, according to a caseworker for him and his family.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuensel Online, June 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Indian co refutes allegations

The Gammon India Limited (GIL) has denied accusations of fraud and corruption made against it by two sub-contractors. Mukti Nath Nepal, the project manager of the company said that the allegations were baseless and not true.

Two Bhutan-based companies Indra Construction and Paljor Construction, subcontracted to build foundation works of 400kv/dc transmission lines from Punatsangchu Hydropower Project (PHPA-I) to Lamoizingkha, had filed a case in Wangduephodrang court against Gammon India limited, accusing it of fraud and corruption.

Bhutan’s news daily, Kuensel had reported on June 8 that two contractors were not paid by Gammon according to rates fixed by the company for manual and ropeway transportation of materials and equipment. The contractors claimed that Gammon did not respect the contract by paying them differently for manual and ropeway.

Mukti Nath Nepal also said that the contractors accepted the company’s terms and conditions along with the rates it offered and all the payments had been made according to the terms and conditions agreed upon by the two parties.

"The rates offered to the contractors are workable. Rates for ropeway and manual transportation are different and will always be different," Nepal added. According to Gammon, the company will represent themselves along with facts and figures as well as documentary evidence once it receives the court notice. Even if the company does not receive a court notice, it will file a separate case against the contractors as per the Bhutanese law, said GIL’s project coordinator, Vicky Bansal.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: Kuensel Online and Bhutan Observer, June 14, 2013


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">US House clears BD RMG

The US House of Representatives has approved an amendment to a defence authorisation bill containing a measure that will require military-branded garments made in Bangladesh and sold at base retail stores owned by the Department of Defence, known as exchanges, to comply with an enforceable fire and building safety accord aimed at improving conditions in Bangladesh ready-made garment factories. The amendment, authored by two Democrats - Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman George Miller - on June 12 was approved in the House of Representatives on June 14.

Garment worker safety in Bangladesh came to international attention after the April collapse of the Rana Plaza complex, a building which housed several garment factories. More than 1,100 workers died and more than 2,500 were injured making it one of the deadliest industrial tragedies in history. So far, 50 international retail and fashion brands - mostly based in Europe and Canada - have signed onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Independent, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Grameen Bank reform

A government commission’s plan to recommend breaking up the Nobel-winning Grameen Bank into at least 19 zones evoked strong criticism from anti-poverty campaigners and analysts. The recommendations by the Grameen Bank Inquiry Commission are seen as the culmination of a well-orchestrated attempt to take control of an organisation that has flourished into a success story over the last three decades. If the proposal is implemented, it will set the country’s best-known organisation on the path of destruction, warned a number of experts.

The recommendations will be unveiled at a workshop, "Future Structure of Grameen Bank: Some Options", on July 2. The move comes at a time when the successful microcredit model of Grameen Bank that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 is being replicated not only in the developing world, but also in developed economies.

The government formed the commission in 2012 to review the activities of Grameen Bank and 48 other organisations that bear the Grameen name, and make recommendations on how to run the organisations.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, June 19, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">10 JMB activists sentenced to death

A Dhaka court this week sentenced 10 activists of the banned islamic militant outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to death for the involvement in the suicide bombing at Gazipur Bar Association office in 2005, leaving eight people killed.

The condemned convicts are Enayetullah alias Walid, Arifur Rahman, Mushidul Islam alias Masud, Saidur Rahman Munshi, Abdullah Al-Sohail, Nizamuddin Reza, Taiubur Rahman alias Hasan, Ashraful Islam, Shafiullah alias Tareq, and Adnan Sami alias Jahangir.

Six leaders of JMB accused of abetment in the 2005 Gazipur suicide bombing have been earlier hanged on Mar 29, 2007, for murdering two judges.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Independent, June 21, 2013

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:

India:Dr.Satish Misra;
Bangladesh: Dr.Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Nepal: Akanshya Shah;
Pakistan & Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.