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Bangladesh’s Food Security Remains Strong Amid Global Challenges: PM

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured the Parliament that despite ongoing international challenges, Bangladesh’s food security remains robust. Responding to a query from Awami League lawmaker Md Shahiduzzaman Sarkar, she underscored that Bangladesh has not only successfully managed the COVID-19 pandemic but has also maintained food security during the prevailing global crises.

Sheikh Hasina commended Bangladesh’s achievement of food self-sufficiency, emphasizing the government’s relentless efforts in this regard. She acknowledged the disruptions in the global supply chain for various commodities, including food, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In response, the government has implemented a series of national and international measures to ensure food security in the face of these challenges.

The Prime Minister emphasized that Bangladesh’s food grain production has surged over the years, exemplifying the nation’s remarkable progress. She noted the construction and expansion of highways, bridges, and infrastructure during her three tenures, underlining Bangladesh’s commitment to development.

Additionally, Sheikh Hasina disclosed that the proposed investment in economic zones has reached $26 billion, with numerous companies initiating commercial production and creating jobs. The government has streamlined investment-related services through a one-stop service portal, enhancing ease of doing business.

Regarding the power and energy sector, the Prime Minister highlighted the development of the “Power System Master Plan (PSMP)-2016” aimed at ensuring quality and uninterrupted power supply at a reasonable cost. Bangladesh aims to generate 40,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030 and 60,000 megawatts by 2041, exploring various energy sources, including coal, diesel, furnace oil, nuclear, and renewable energy.

In response to a query about the recognition of the 1971 genocide, Sheikh Hasina explained international efforts to commemorate December 9 as the International Day for the Prevention of Genocide. While acknowledging the complexity of achieving international recognition of the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh, she affirmed the government’s commitment to continuing these efforts.

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ACC: Former IGP Benazir Must Appear by June 23

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Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed has been given a final deadline of June 23 to appear before the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for questioning regarding allegations of amassing illegal wealth, according to ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan. Failure to comply by this date will result in legal action, Khan stated to reporters at the Supreme Court on June 20.

Benazir Ahmed was initially scheduled to appear before the ACC on June 6. However, the deadline was extended to June 23 following a request from his lawyer, who sought an additional 15 days to respond to the summons.

Khurshid Alam emphasized that investigations into the former IGP and his family’s substantial assets, which exceed their known income, are advancing swiftly. Evidence of additional illegal assets has been uncovered, and the ACC intends to petition the court to confiscate these assets soon.

The ACC’s investigation has revealed significant assets in Benazir Ahmed’s name and those of his family members. Amid this probe, Benazir and his family left the country on May 4. Benazir served as IGP from April 2020 to September 2022 and was the Director General of RAB from January 2015 to April 2020. He also held the position of Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) for an extended period.

ACC prosecutors have confirmed that the investigation is ongoing. The court has ordered the seizure of assets discovered so far. Recently, the ACC identified eight more flats in Dhaka linked to Benazir Ahmed and his family: six in Adabor and two commercial spaces in a 14-story building in Badda named Rupayan Limited Square.

In total, 12 flats have been found under Benazir Ahmed’s family’s name, including four previously discovered in Gulshan. Senior Special Judge of Dhaka Metropolitan, Mohammad Assams Zagul Hossain, has ordered the seizure of the eight newly identified flats, approximately 76 bighas (25 acres) of land, and shares in private Citizen Television and Tiger Craft Apparels Limited.

Previously, the court had ordered the seizure of 621 bighas of land in Gopalganj, Madaripur, Cox’s Bazar, and Savar in Dhaka, shares in 19 companies, and four flats in Gulshan. Additionally, the court froze Tk 3 million in savings certificates, 33 bank accounts, and three BO accounts (beneficiary owner’s accounts for share trading). In total, 697 bighas of land have been found in the name of Benazir Ahmed’s family.

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PM’s State Visit: Dhaka, Delhi eye signing dozen of instruments; new initiatives to strengthen cooperation

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Bangladesh and India are likely to sign over a dozen of bilateral instruments with some new initiatives by identifying new areas of cooperation during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s state visit to India on 21-22 June, officials have said.

The two-day state visit is taking place at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that might carry some directives giving a picture of greater cooperation between the two countries in the future, they said.

This will be the first full-fledged bilateral visit by any head of government to India after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed its government for the third consecutive term.

This will be Hasina’s second trip to the Indian capital in less than 15 days. She was among the dignitaries invited to Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on 9 June.

Though it is unlikely to see any breakthrough on Teesta water sharing deal specifically at this moment, the issue will come up for discussion in addition to a likely discussion on broader Teesta and relevant projects on development and management, a senior official told UNB on Tuesday.

Earlier on 9 May, India reportedly expressed interest to finance Bangladesh’s Teesta project which is known as “Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project”.

“You know, we have taken a big project on Teesta. India wants to finance this project. It will have to be implemented in line with our needs. We want to see our needs fulfilled,” Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud told reporters after his meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 9 May.

The renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty will also come up for discussion, officials said.

Earlier in 2022, the two leaders welcomed the formation of a Joint Technical Committee to conduct a study for optimum utilisation of water received by Bangladesh under the provisions of Ganges Water Sharing Treaty.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen recently said the two countries are scheduled to sign a number of MoUs and agreements and there is an issue of making some announcements on some areas of cooperation.

“There will be continuity of the relations, and we expect to see some new initiatives in our relations,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a reception recently.

Former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said they would take the Bangladesh-India relations to a new height in the next five years as there are new governments in place in the two neighbouring countries with continuity amid new mandate.

“There will be a stock-taking on what we left in September 2022 and we will take the relations to a new height in the next five years,” he said on Friday, noting that the expectations and aspirations are sky-high.

Recalling earlier discussions, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during her state visit to India in September 2022, reiterated Bangladesh’s long pending request for concluding the interim agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta River, the draft of which was finalised in 2011.

Referring to Land Boundary Agreement – LBA – and resolving maritime dispute with India, Shahriar said the countries would gradually be able to resolve the unresolved issues as complex issues had been resolved.

He said there was a 33-point joint statement issued during the state visit of prime minister of Bangladesh to India in September 2022 where issues like Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), energy cooperation, people to people contacts, broader connectivity and others were mentioned.

Shahriar said the upcoming visit of the prime minister will help advance the relations on those areas.

He hoped that the next meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) will be held soon, noting that the 38th meeting of the JRC was held in New Delhi in August, 2022 wherein various matters pertaining to cooperation in water resources sector were discussed.

Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been functioning since 1972. It was established with a view to maintain liaison in order to ensure the most effective joint effort in maximising the benefits from common river systems. The JRC is headed by water resources ministers of both the countries.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry indicate that key issues on the agenda include cross-border connectivity initiatives, Indian investments in the Teesta special economic zone, management of Mongla port, and power trade.

Additionally, discussions on a potential trade pact are expected.

Over the past decade, numerous cross-border initiatives have been launched as part of a robust regional partnership plan.

The Modi-Hasina summit on 22 June might also focus on enhancing the defence partnership between the two nations.

This visit marks Sheikh Hasina’s third trip to New Delhi since September 2023, underscoring the strengthening ties between India and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh says India is a friendly country and Bangladesh does not compare the Dhaka-Delhi relations with anyone else. “India stood beside us during the War of Liberation in 1971. Our relationship with India is multifaceted. We share borders with India. We are supportive of each other,” Hasan Mahmud said.

PM’s engagements in New Delhi

A flight from Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying PMHasina and her entourage will depart Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Friday at about 2pm, according to the sources in the Foreign Ministry.

The flight will land at Palam Airport, New Delhi at about 4pm (Delhi time) where high-level dignitary of India and Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Md Mustafizur Rahman will welcome her.

In the evening, Minister of External Affairs of India S Jaishankar will call on her at the Meeting Room of her Place of Residence, Hotel Taj Palace.

On Saturday morning, a red carpet will be rolled out at Rashtrapati Bhavan to receive Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by her Indian counterpart through a ceremonial reception where the National Anthems of Bangladesh and India will be played. She will also inspect the Guard of Honour.

After that, she will go to Raj Ghat to pay tribute to the father of the Indian Nation Mahatma Gandhi by placing a wreath at his Samadhi. She will also sign the visitor’s book there.

Later on the same day, Sheikh Hasina will go to Hyderabad House to hold a tete-a-tete with Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed by delegation- level talks.

Both will witness the signing ceremony of the MoU and agreements.

After that, both the prime ministers will give their press statements. Then they will attend a Banquet Luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister of India in honour of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh at Hyderabad House.

In the afternoon, Hasina will call on the Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar at his Secretariat.

In the evening Sheikh Hasina will call on the President of India Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

At 6 pm (Delhi time), the prime minister will depart from Palam Airport, New Delhi by a flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and will land in Dhaka at about 9pm.

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Heavy Rains Inundate Moulvibazar, Stranding Nearly 2 Lakh People

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Six out of seven upazilas in Moulvibazar have been flooded due to relentless rainfall and the onrush of water from upstream, leaving nearly two lakh people stranded. All rivers in the district are flowing above the danger level, affecting 432 villages across 37 unions in Moulvibazar Sadar, Rajnagar, Kulaura, Juri, Baralekha, and Srimangal upazilas.

Rural roads in the flood-hit areas are submerged, and many regional roads are also underwater. Homes and educational institutions are flooded, with residents seen placing sandbags on embankments in an attempt to protect their properties.

The Moulvibazar Water Development Board reported that the Manu River was 21 cm above the danger level in Chandnighat, the Kushiara River was 18 cm above the danger level at Sherpur, the Dhalai River was 5 cm above the danger level, and the Juri River was a staggering 202 cm above the danger level.

Deputy Commissioner Urmi Binte Salam stated that 432 villages in six upazilas were flooded due to continuous rains over the past few days. A total of 98 shelters have been prepared for the affected people, with 571 at-risk families already taking refuge.

Meanwhile, Sylhet district is also experiencing severe flooding, with over eight lakh people stranded due to heavy rainfall. According to the Sylhet district administration, approximately 825,256 people are stranded in 106 unions as of Wednesday afternoon.

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