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     Volume 5 Issue 95 | May 19, 2006 |

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News Notes

Losing Ground

Based on original map by Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, India.
According to the block acrease map larger parts of block D-23 and D-22 appear to have overlapped Bangladesh's territory in Bay of Bengal.

As far as the maritime boundary is concerned, Bangladesh has utterly failed to protect its own. With inter-ministerial technical committee failing to demarcate Bangladeshe's deep see boundary in two years, India presses on with its aggressive bidding for oil and gas in at least two blocks that are located within Bangladesh's water. According to a Prothom Alo report Myanmar too is not lagging behind in its effort to mine for gas and oil while trespassing into the maritime boundary of Bangladesh. International law allows each country to claim 200 nautical miles from its coast as its sea territory. According to official sources, India has overlapped 19,000 sqkm while Myanmar about 18,000 sqkm of Bangladesh's territory in the Bay of Bengal.
While the news reports of trespassing by the neighbours splashed across the pages of major dailies of the country the foreign ministry stirred into action. The foreign secretary could not hide his cavalier attitude, though only in his words. "We're determined to establish and protect our legitimate rights within our economic zone and maritime boundary," he told UNB on May 13. Lt General (Rtd) Mahbubur Rahman, chairman of the Defense Ministry, described press reports on hydrocarbon exploration by India and Myanmar within Bangladesh's exclusive economic zone as a "national concern".
"The government, we hope, will come out with a transparent reply about the matter," he said. He brought to light the fact that Bangladesh signed a UN convention in 2001 and the government would have to submit all documents and papers with its claim to the United Nations by 2011. "But, I think time for Bangladesh's claim is running out," he added.
India and Myanmar are both conducting seismic surveys in the sea prior to exploration of hydrocarbon. This might dash Bangladesh's hope to reclaim its maritime territory, said an UNB report. While the two close neighbours are transgressing on its territory, Bangladesh has failed to raise an official objection. The survey activities conducted by both its neighbours may not be unstoppable. It is not yet too late to spur into action. However, instead of taking immediate steps to reclaim its territory, the only thing that the country has produced is the vociferation of the top brasses that followed the reports on trespassing.

The end is near!
The very little growth that we have in the various fields of the country today will surely come to an eventual end. Bangladesh's power sector is in a very bad shape due to rampant corruption, which is badly affecting private sector growth and investment climate, the World Bank has observed.
Their observations came at the launching of the WB's new Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Bangladesh to the media last week. The WB officials also said that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bangladesh has proved to be a joke as it has failed to function as an effective institution.
"We, donors, are prepared to make necessary investment in the power sector, but the problem is that the sector is very badly affected by corruption, especially in the procurement in installing power plants," Praful C Patel, WB vice president for the South Asia Region, said. "It is an ineffective institution and it has become a joke," he replied to the question regarding ACC. The WB, which has taken a tough stance on governance and corruption, said its future assistance will depend on the improvement of governance that includes reducing corruption.
Launching the CAS for Bangladesh covering 2006-09, Patel said they have cancelled a number of projects for procurement related corruption. During the CAS period the WB will be more aggressive in its tough stance against corruption and the bank has already informed the government about it, he said.
Patel said three power plants, which are in the pipeline, will be funded jointly by the WB and the ADB. "But the procurement has to be transparent in these projects."
Replying to a question on a possible hike in petroleum prices in Bangladesh, the WB vice-president said not only the WB, private sector businesses are also suggesting it. If energy prices are not raised, ultimately the private sector will suffer, he said.

CPI-M records Seventh consecutive victory
Quite expectedly, the Marxists in India have registered their seventh consecutive victory. There was however little doubt about CPI-M's making it to the power yet once again. The margin with which they defeated Mamata's Trinamul Congress was simply stunning. CPI-M occupied 234 of the West Bengal Assembly's 294 seats, while poor Mamata had to remain satisfied with a paltry 35. Congress who leads the government in the centre secured third position with 23 seats to their credit. By returning the communists for a record time the people of West Bengal have expressed their confidence and faith in the party which has been governing West Bengal since 1977. Buddhudev Bhattacharya, who is going to resume his job as the state's chief minister has requested the opposition's cooperation and unlike what we see in Bangladesh has talked rather humble despite the thumping victory margin.

Stamford University students unleash their wrath
Students of Stamford University went on a rampage on two of its six campuses in the city during a daylong demonstration to drive a six-point demand home, prompting a three-day closure of the university.
The violent outburst of the students on Saturday is the result of dissatisfaction that has been brewing among them for not getting educational and other facilities as 'promised' during their admission.
Students said their Saturday demonstration was also to protest monetary exploitation.
The students who scored below 15 in English during the admission test, have to complete three non-credit course on English spending Tk 5,400, which many students dubbed as unfruitful.
The university also has a shortage of fulltime efficient teachers, Most of the teachers are fresh graduates who have hardly any experience to teach at the university level.
There is also a lack of laboratories and libraries, which is also a violation of the conditions set by the government for the private universities, students alleged. "At least seven laboratories and a library are required to get the accreditation, but there are only two laboratories only for nearly 1,200 students," a student of Pharmacy department said.
A BBA student complained that they only got two hours and 40 minutes of class time in a week while other private universities provided six-hour classes in a week. No make-up classes were provided for missed classes either.
With around 14,000 students, the university lacks required classroom space.
The authorities overlooked the Pharmacy students' long time demand for accreditation of their course by Bangladesh Pharmacy Council, which is required to get a pharmacist's job.
While the chairman of Pharmacy department said they applied for accreditation on Wednesday, Mashiur Rahman, a member of Stamford University Board of Trustees, contradicted the statement and said he himself will move for the accreditation and complete the process in a week.
A student has to bribe the guard if he or she forgets to bring the ID card, said a student, adding, "Sometimes the amount is up to Tk 200, as the guards do not allow us to enter even during the examinations."
Another student said they are not allowed to bring snacks from outside and the prices at the university canteen were exorbitant.
Hannan Firoz, VC of Stamford University, came to the spot with police escort and tried to pacify the students saying that they authority would fulfil their every demand within a short time. But the students rejected his verbal commitment and demanded written assurance. The students held VC Hannan Firoz hostage for sometime.
The students removed road blockade and stopped demonstration after getting the written assurance.


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