Tuesday, December 6, 2011

'Report On Teesta Later This Month'

The Kalyan Rudra Commission, set up by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to find out an 'acceptable' solution to the Teesta water issue, will submit its report by the end of this month, an Indian daily says, quoting the commission head.

"I have been appointed by the chief minister to advise her on the issue, and I am working on a solution based on science, which should be mutually acceptable and I hope it will satisfy both the countries," river expert Rudra told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

"There is still some research to be made and I hope I can submit the report by the end of this month,'' he added.

Mamata gave Rudra the duty to find out a solution to the Teesta water issue on Nov 15.
Signing of a deal for water sharing of the common river hit a snag during prime minister Manmohan Singh's Sep 6-7 visit to Bangladesh due to Mamata's opposition. In response, Bangladesh denied exchanging a letter of consent on transit.

The West Bengal chief minister argued that she had not been shown the draft of the Teesta treaty. As the water of Teesta is important for the Indian state, too, Singh did not sign the treaty finally.

Media of the two neighbouring countries criticised the role of India in improving ties with Bangladesh. Singh termed 'unfortunate' India's inability to sign the accord.

In a meeting with Mamata on her way back from a regional conference in India last month, Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni said she would accept proposals by the Kalyan Rudra Commission.

Mamata said the deal would be signed after securing the two countries' interests. 

Ershad To March 'Towards Tipaimukh'

Jatiya Party chairman Hussein Muhammad Ershad has announced he will march from Dhaka towards Tipaimukh on Dec 10 protesting the construction of a dam by India there.

"The Indian prime minister had assured that India would not do anything that would harm the interests of Bangladesh," Ershad said at a rally organised by Zila Jatiya Party in Gazipur's Chandona-Chourasta area on Tuesday afternoon.

"But now India is going to construct Tipaimukh hydroelectric project on Barak river along the Manipur-Mizoram border," he added.

He said the people of Bangladesh would stand against the Indian government's move.

The ruling party ally also criticised the division of Dhaka and said, "There is now confusion regarding the capital of Bangladesh."

He suggested introducing state governments after dividing the country into eight states as 'the population of the city is increasing rapidly.'

The former military dictator announced in advance that Kazi Mahmud Hasan would be Jatiya Party's only favoured mayoral aspirant in the proposed Gazipur City Corporation elections.

People's hopes had turned into nightmare, he said and added, "The citizens of the country are not at peace."

While most political parties have been observing Dec 6 as the day of fall of autocratic regime since 1991, Jatiya Party observes it as the Preservation of the Constitution Day.

Justice Abdus Sattar became the president after the assassination of former president Ziaur Rahman on May 30, 1981. Ershad, then army chief, took over from Sattar the following year. He formed Jatiya Party in 1986. 

BANGLADESH: Border Killings Mount Despite No-Shooting Decree

The death toll at the Bangladesh-India border continues to mount three months after the Indian government instructed its border security forces to stop shooting civilians suspected of being undocumented migrants or a threat to national security, say local residents.

NGOs have denounced the border killings as extrajudicial.

The abuse continues, according to Bangladeshi human rights NGO, Odhikar, which accuses India's border security force (BSF) of circumventing the recent no-shooting decree with beatings, stonings or poisoning.

However, the First Secretary of the Indian embassy in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, told IRIN that any killings had been linked to border crime.

"The BSF does not attack civilians. This is not happening any more. Only in a few cases, they have acted in self-defence," said Manoj Kumar Mohapatra.

Some 347 Bangladeshis and 164 Indians have been killed by Indian forces since 2006, when the Indian government built the wall, according to BSF.

Mohammad Baten, the latest man allegedly killed by the BSF - the 24th this year - was reportedly beaten to death, according to Bangladesh's border security.

The 4,000km fence has been dubbed the "Great Wall of India" by international media, while locals simply know it as the "wall of death".

India's government built the wall to restrict movement of "illegal immigrants, smugglers and suspected Islamic militants", according to officials quoted in local media.

Farmers corralled by the barbed wire find it increasingly difficult to lead ordinary lives.

"They have surrounded the people of Bangladesh on three sides with barbed wire," said Adilur Rahman, secretary of Odhikar. "It's like the Berlin Wall. You have brothers, even husbands and wives, separated on both sides."

Distant neighbours

"When they turn [the floodlights] on, the night becomes day here," says nine-year-old Anis Ahmed.

The barbed wire is visible from Ahmed's house at the border near the village of Amgaon in Bangladesh's Dinajpur District. Ahmed and his 11-year-old cousin, Shohir Jamal, work on their family's farm every day. Their crops grow right up to what is known as the zero point of the border, where Bangladeshi and Indian soil meets.

On this particular day, Ahmed and Jamal walked towards the border while two guards monitored them with binoculars.

"We go up to the fence all the time," they told IRIN. Wary adults lingered behind, warning them not to go further.

Ahmed and Jamal work on their farm side by side with Indian farmers, who cross the border to work on their land.

"The Indian farmers never speak to us," says Ahmed, "If they do, the BSF yells at them. If we try to talk to them, they don't pay any attention to us. They are worried that the BSF will accuse them of being smugglers, or helping illegal immigrants."


There is mistrust on the Bangladeshi side of the border too. "At night we put our cows inside the house and lock up all the animals," said Jamal.

Against the backdrop of border crimes, villagers become suspicious, according to a local primary school teacher, Jalal Ahmed.

"Everyone else thinks we're all smugglers here, so our people have to deal with that prejudice. And there are [actual] criminals here, not just cattle smugglers but a lot of drugs are smuggled here too," he said. "It's very bad for our society, for our children."

Felani Khatun, 15, an undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant in India, was shot while climbing the wall to cross back home on 7 January this year. A photo of her lifeless body hanging from the barbed wire sparked widespread uproar in Bangladeshi media.

Nur Islam, Khatun's father, had successfully climbed over the fence seconds before Felani was shot.

"There was no shout, no warning," he told IRIN. "I don't understand why they didn't shout anything. I saw them. They just got up and shot. And my girl cried out."

Myanmar Agrees To Take Back Rohingya

Myanmar has agreed to take back from Bangladesh the Rohingya refugees who have been recently verified by the Myanmar authorities as per agreed criteria.

Myanmar President U Thein Sein gave the assurance to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during official talks at the President’s Office Tuesday.

Some 28,000 Mynamar refugees have been staying in camps in Cox’s Bazar for a long period of time.
The Prime Minister said the presence of the Myanmar refugees has been creating social, financial and environmental challenges to Bangladesh.

Appreciating the Myanmar President’s assurance of taking back the refugees, she suggested that a joint working group could be set up to put an end to the refugee problem.
Briefing reporters on the outcome of the talks that lasted for two and half hours, PM’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said that a delegation from Myanmar will visit Bangladesh soon to facilitate the repatriation of the Myanmar refugees.

On import of gas and electricity from Myanmar, President U Thein said his government has already committed to export gas to China. He, however, said Myanmar would give preference to Bangladesh if new gas is found in the future.

Hasina said the development process in Bangladesh is being hampered due to shortage of gas and electricity. She said that since Myanmar is a dependable friend, it could share its hydro-electricity potential with Bangladesh.

She said Bangladesh is willing to be either an investment partner or equity share holder in generating hydro-electricity or a direct purchaser of power from Myanmar.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh wants to import gas for power, fertilizer and other industries.

She also emphasized on increasing the multi-modal connectivity with Myanmar, a close neighbour.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Ambassador at Large M Ziauddin, Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes, Nazmul Hasan MP, and Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Anup Kumar Chakma were present.

Astronomers Confirm 'Earth Twin'

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the "habitable zone" around a star not unlike our own.

The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C.

It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours - an "Earth 2.0".

However, the team does not yet know if Kepler 22-b is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid.

During the conference at which the result was announced, the Kepler team said that it had spotted some 1,094 new candidate planets.

The Kepler space telescope was designed to look at a fixed swathe of the night sky, staring intently at about 150,000 stars. The telescope is sensitive enough to see when a planet passes in front of its host star, dimming the star's light by a minuscule amount.

Kepler identifies these slight changes in starlight as candidate planets, which are then confirmed by further observations by Kepler and other telescopes in orbit and on Earth.

Kepler 22-b was one of 54 candidates reported by the Kepler team in February, and is just the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes.

More of these "Earth 2.0" candidates are likely to be confirmed in the near future, though a redefinition of the habitable zone's boundaries has brought that number down to 48.

Kepler 22-b lies at a distance from its sun about 15% less than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, and its year takes about 290 days. However, its sun puts out about 25% less light, keeping the planet at its balmy temperature that would support the existence of liquid water.

The Kepler team had to wait for three passes of the planet before upping its status from "candidate" to "confirmed".

"Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet," said William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at Nasa's Ames Research Center.

"The first transit was captured just three days after we declared the spacecraft operationally ready. We witnessed the defining third transit over the 2010 holiday season."

The results were announced at the Kepler telescope's first science conference, alongside the staggering number of new candidate planets. The total number of candidates spotted by the telescope is now 2,326 - of which 207 are approximately Earth-sized.

In total, the results suggest that planets ranging from Earth-sized to about four times Earth's size - so-called "super-Earths" - may be more common than previously thought.