Black money: Swiss to provide info in a time-bound manner

News4u-News Desk- In a major breakthrough in India’s fight against black money allegedly stashed abroad, Switzerland on Wednesday said it will examine Indian requests for banking information on a priority basis and provide requested details in a time-bound manner.

The Swiss authorities would also “assist in obtaining confirmation on genuineness of bank documents on request by the Indian side and also swiftly provide information on requests related to non-banking information”.

“… the Swiss competent authority will provide the Indian side with the requested information in a time-bound manner or else indicate the reasons why the cases cannot be answered within the agreed timeline,” a Swiss-Indian joint statement said after a high-level meeting between the official of the two countries on tax matters.

The meeting took place in Berne between Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das and his Swiss counterpart, State Secretary for International Financial Matters, Jacques de Watteville.

They discussed various bilateral and multilateral tax and financial issues and also agreed on continuing the dialogue between the two countries, a statement from Swiss government said.

Das stressed on the high priority given by India to tackling tax evasion, while the top officials of the two countries also welcomed the recent developments in the field of international taxation, including the new international standard for automatic exchange of information (AEOI) and the BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting).

They also “reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to combating tax fraud and evasion within the applicable legal framework”.

There has been a huge political uproar over huge amounts of black money allegedly stashed by Indians in Swiss banks and the new government has maintained that it would make all efforts to tackle this menace.

As per Swiss National Bank’s latest data, the total money held by Indians in Swiss banks stood at over Rs 14,000 crore as on December 2013, up by nearly 42 percent from a year ago.

Wednesday’s meeting, which assumes significance in the wake of Switzerland repeatedly rejecting India’s requests for information on so-called HSBC list, followed a Swiss delegation’s visit to New Delhi in February 2014 and was the first high-level meeting between the two countries’ tax and financial authorities since the new Indian government took up office in May this year.

India has sought information on bank accounts and other details of the persons named in this list, but Switzerland has been refusing to cooperate saying these names were obtained “illegally” or through sale of stolen data by a hacker.

With regard to the application of the Swiss-Indian Double Taxation Agreement as revised by the Protocol of August 30 2010, both sides acknowledged the progress achieved in the bilateral cooperation between the two countries while noting there were still ongoing discussions on certain issues.

Das and Watteville reaffirmed their respective positions in this regard, while the Swiss officials “indicated that Switzerland would be willing to examine requests for which investigations have been carried out independently from what the Swiss government considers as data obtained in breach of Swiss law.

Adrian Hug, Director of the Swiss Federal Tax Administration, agreed that the Swiss competent authority would assist in obtaining confirmation of the genuineness of bank documents on request by the Indian side and also swiftly provide information on requests related to non-banking information.

“In order to deal expeditiously with pending cases, Das agreed to indicate to the Swiss competent authority which cases should be dealt with as a matter of priority and to give additional information where appropriate.

“On this basis, the Swiss competent authority will provide the Indian side with the requested information in a time-bound manner or else indicate the reasons why the cases cannot be answered within the agreed timeline.

The Swiss government said that the Das and Watteville also discussed “bilateral and multilateral topics related to fiscal and financial matters”.

“Noting with satisfaction the strong economic ties linking India and Switzerland, they agreed that the ongoing dialogue between the two countries offers a great opportunity of working together in the future,” the joint statement said.

“As a matter of principle, the Revenue Secretary (of India) and State Secretary (of Switzerland) decided that the competent authorities of the two countries should continue their regular consultations to come up with effective and pragmatic solutions agreeable to both sides in accordance with their legal order and international obligations.

“Das and Watteville acknowledged AEOI as an effective instrument to tackle tax fraud and evasion on a global scale. They recalled that India belongs to the group of the early adopters.

“They noted with satisfaction that the Swiss Federal Council has confirmed to the Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes (Global Forum) its intention to have the necessary laws in place to implement the new standard by 2017/2018 without prejudice to Switzerland’s parliamentary approval procedure,” the joint statement said on Wednesday.

Watteville noted India’s wish to engage in discussions aimed at concluding an AEOI agreement between India and Switzerland, which last week said that it would initially focus on the US, Europe and selected countries with close bilateral ties for automatic exchange of information. India does not figure among these countries so far.

While referring to the parameters defined by the Swiss Federal Council in approving the negotiation mandates on 8th October 2014, Watteville assured Das that Switzerland would commence talks with India in this regard at the earliest after completion of its domestic procedures.

The joint statement said that two officials also acknowledged the important role played by the Global Forum, an international body for cooperation in matters related to suspected tax evasion cases, in fostering tax compliance worldwide.

“In view of the forthcoming plenary meeting of the Global Forum in Berlin, India acknowledged Switzerland’s view that the Global Forum should offer a fair and equal treatment of all jurisdictions undertaking a peer review.

“In this regard, Das noted the progress achieved by Switzerland in the peer review process in the context of Switzerland’s supplementary report.

“Revenue Secretary Das and State Secretary de Watteville agreed to continue the ongoing dialogue between India and Switzerland on tax and financial matters in a spirit of mutual cooperation,” it added.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Swiss Ambassador in India, Linus von Castelmur had said in New Delhi that his country is fully co-operating with the authorities here on tax matters.

An Indian delegation, led by Das, is visiting Berne to meet Swiss officials as both sides look to resolve tax matters, including those related to alleged illicit wealth stashed by Indian citizens in banks in Switzerland.

Emphasising that Switzerland is “fully co-operating with Indian authorities” on tax matters, Castelmur said the issues of the past should be addressed in a pragmatic way while respecting international obligations.

“We are very happy that Das is in Berne today and we wish him very good and for dialogue between the two delegations. We wish them well that issues will be solved… I think problems in the future would be solved very easily,” the Ambassador said.

The visit comes amid Swiss government previously refusing to share information on the list of names obtained by Indian authorities through other nations, namely France and Germany, saying they figured in lists stolen by certain ex-employees of the banks concerned and that no details can be shared on the basis of illegally-obtained information.

“We still have problems of the past and cannot make undone 20, 30, 40 years of the past. I think we have to work on that in a pragmatic way in respecting our international obligations but also our eternal rule of law,” Castelmur said.

Noting that Swiss authorities are fully co-operating with India, he said, however, there is a problem about requests on stolen data.

Besides Wednesday’s talks, a Joint Economic Commission meeting and a Financial Dialogue are also scheduled to take place in Berne soon, followed by a bilateral Political Dialogue next month.

Indian and Swiss authorities have been in talks for quite some time on the matter of alleged black money parked by Indian citizens in banks in Switzerland.

In July, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had informed Parliament that Switzerland has raised some legal issues with regard to providing details of Indian citizens who have parked illegal funds in Swiss banks.

Asserting that the government was making all efforts to get details of such accounts, Jaitley had also said it was collecting evidence in this regard.

A Special Investigation Team (SIT), chaired by former Supreme Court judge Justice M B Shah, is looking into the menace of black money.

India -Swiss Flags

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PM announces interim assistance of Rs 1000 crore for AP

News4u-News Desk-Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced an interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for Andhra Pradesh to take up immediate relief work in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Cyclone ‘Hudhud’.

“Full survey is yet to be conducted. For now, to deal with difficulty of such a magnitude, I announce, on behalf of the Government of India, an interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore,” Modi told reporters after a meeting with Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, senior ministers and top state officials.

He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs two lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the cyclone and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

“The Centre will fully stand by Andhra Government in this hour of difficulty, Modi said.

Modi said the Centre and Andhra Pradesh government worked in perfect coordination “minute-to-minute” over the past five days to tackle the challenge posed by the cyclone which has claimed 21 lives and left a trail of devastation in the coastal areas. The local bodies, he said, also rose up to the task.

“It is important to note that a crisis of any magnitude can be overcome if the state and Centre work should-to-shoulder,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the Meteorological Department had correctly forecast from October six itself the different aspects of the cyclone like its velocity, direction and time, leveraging the power of technology.

“The use of technology has helped in overcoming this crisis,” the Prime Minister said.

Modi appreciated the residents of Visakhapatnam for following the directions of the government with discipline at the time of crisis, helping save precious lives.

PM announces interim assistance of Rs 1000 crore for AP

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Cyclone Hudhud: 6 killed in AP, Odisha, Vishakapatnam worst hit

News4u-News Desk- Cyclone Hudhud pounded the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha with heavy rain and winds of almost 200 kmph on Sunday killing six people and left a trail of destruction with Vishakapatnam where the very severe storm made landfall the worst hit.

Nearly three-and-a-half lakh people-about 250,000 in AP and nearly one lakh in Odisha-were evacuated and tens of thousands of people were still being taken to safe places and housed in special shelters, officials said on Sunday.

High velocity winds battered Visakhapatnam, which is home to a Naval base, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts throwing normal life out of gear after the cyclone made landfall shortly before noon downing power and communications lines and closing roads and railways.

Trees were uprooted and roofs of thatched huts and sheds and hoardings blown away.

Transport services came to a halt in the region. Dozens of trains were either cancelled or diverted and flights in the region were also disrupted.

Streets largely wore a deserted look as panic-stricken residents remained indoors.

According to Andhra Pradesh’s Revenue (Disaster Management) Department, the cyclone left railway lines in Visakhapatnam badly damaged, besides causing damage to the airport there.

A total of 2,48,004 people were affected by Hudhud, which also damaged 70 houses and left 34 animals dead, it said.

Three people were killed in rain-related incidents in AP while one person lost his life in Odisha.

“The impact is tremendous,” Union Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju said. “Three deaths have been reported due to impact of Hudhud. Two died after trees fell on them and one in collapse of compound-wall in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts, respectively,” AP Chief Secretary I V R Krishna Rao said.

A fisherman was caught in the sea current amid a tidal surge while he was trying to save his fishing boat anchored in the coast of Puri, Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra said.

On Saturday, a nine-year-old girl drowned when a boat engaged in evacuation of the people in Satbhaya area of Kendrapara district capsized in the Baunsagadi rivulet.

In Delhi, IMD Director Laxman Singh Rathore said that as the cyclone was crossing AP coastline the wind speed was 170-180 kmph and gusting up to 195 kmph.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and discussed relief and rescue measures and promised all possible assistance.

Cyclone Hudhud lost its intensity by evening as it moved further 60 km northwest of Visakhapatnam, the IMD said.

Hudhud, which was so far a very severe cyclonic storm has now converted into a severe cyclone and its speed is now limited to 100-110 kmph, said M Mahapatra, Scientist at the Cyclone Warning Division of IMD.

Hudhud loses intensity: IMD

Cyclone Hudhud, which made a landfall in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday noon, lost its intensity by evening as it moved further 60 km northwest of Visakhapatnam, the IMD said.

Hudhud, which was so far a very severe cyclonic storm has now converted into a severe cyclone.

Its speed is now limited to 100-110 kmph, said M Mahapatra, scientist at the Cyclone Warning Division of IMD.

The cyclone hit the port city of Vishakapatnam on Sunday bringing with it torrential rains in three coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and leaving five persons dead in the state and neighbouring Odisha besides snapping power and communication lines.

Normal life was thrown out of gear as winds with a speed of 170 to 180 kmph earlier Sunday battered Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts.

The very severe cyclonic storm made landfall in Visakhapatnam before noon.

The gale, accompanied by heavy downpour, resulted in trees being uprooted and roofs of thatched huts and sheds being swept away.

Cyclone Hudhud: 6 killed in AP, Odisha, Vishakapatnam worst hit

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NDRF sends in more teams to Vizag; total 13 teams in port city

News4u-News Desk- As Cyclone ‘Hudhud’ made its landfall in Vishakhapatnam, the NDRF doubled the strength of its teams stationed in the port city to 13 in order to undertake swift relief and rescue operations.

“We have increased our teams to 13 in Vizag after the landfall occured.

Earlier there were six teams stationed here,” National Disaster Response Force chief O P Singh said.

A single NDRF team usually has over 50 people. The Director General said the NDRF teams being sent to this coast city from neary areas have been equipped with saw cutters which can rip through wood and metal which are found to be obstructing road routes after gusty winds and heavy rains.

Singh said the next few hours are “very crucial” for the force as special units and task force teams will be dispatched to areas of maximum damage. “The next few hours will spell our course of action.

All our teams are in their designated locations and a number of them are on task or are mobile,” he said.

The NDRF has deployed a total of 44 teams to tackle the aftermath of ‘Hudhud’ in the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha with 21 teams positioned in various areas of the former state, 20 teams have been mobilised in the latter.

The NDRF has deputed two of its experienced Deputy Inspectors General (DIG) to be stationed each in both the states to monitor and supervise the operations of the special disaster mitigation force in coordination with state government authorities.

Over 2,000 rescuers and 220 boats have been pressed in by the NDRF as part of these 44 teams, the DG said.

NDRF sends in more teams to Vizag

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Female foeticide a matter of shame: PM

News4u-News Desk- On the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday described female foeticide as a “matter of deep shame” and asked the people to pledge to end gender-based discrimination and create an atmosphere of equality for girls.

“On International Day of the Girl Child we celebrate the achievements of our daughters. From the classroom to sports, they shine everywhere,” Modi tweeted.

“Today let us pledge to create an atmosphere of equality for the girl child. There is no question of any discrimination based on gender,” he added.

Describing female foeticide as “a matter of deep shame and a cause of great concern”, he said, “Let’s work together to remove this menace from society.”

Female foeticide is a major problem in a number of states of India, which skews the ratio between girls and boys.

According to the latest Census 2011, the overall sex ratio in India is 940 females per 1000 males.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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Taxman to track high-value spending in major cities

News4u-Business Desk- In order to widen the tax base and check undisclosed income, the Income Tax department has decided to train its scanner on instances of personal expenditure, interest earned on investment, purchase of luxury vehicles and capital gains made from sale of property in a select band of economically surging Indian cities.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has tasked its exclusive technical snoop unit- the Directorate of Intelligence and Criminal Investigation to initiate a pilot project in 8 metro and tier-II cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Kochi, Lucknow, Bhopal and Guwahati for “widening and deepening the tax base”.

So, while the taxman will analyse high value personal expenses and payments made in shopping malls and other market avenues by an individual or an entity, fees paid in coaching centers and educational institutions and purchase of residential properties in Guwahati, their counterparts in Chennai will track the money flowing into the lucrative sand mining and timber import businesses in Tamil Nadu.

Similarly, in Bangalore the tax sleuths will track interest earned by a person from investments made in Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBs), corporate bonds and Cooperative Credit Societies.

The decision to undertake these projects was recently formulated by the top brass of the CBDT and the I-T department during the recently concluded two-day conference of Chief Commissioners and Directors General of the department in the national capital.

“Revenue collection under the direct taxes regime is a challenging task. Keeping in mind the government’s intention of providing a non-adversarial tax regime the department has decided to run this pilot project to ensure that no source of revenue is left untapped,” sources privy to the development told reporters.

“This is just a pilot project and many more economic expenditure indicators in various other cities would also be taken up in a confidential manner,” he said.

The department, under this latest exercise, will also electronically track capital gains made from the transaction of sale of transfer of development rights in Maharashtra’s economic powerhouse Pune, while the said unit will track capital gains made from the sale of immovable assets in Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal as it will closely monitor purchase of luxury cars and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) in Lucknow.

The I-T will also analyse and monitor the house boats business in the port city of Kochi in Kerala while it will also keep a track of capital gains made from the land sold to an ambitious seaport project of the state government.

In the West Bengal capital city of Kolkata, the taxman has been tasked to keep a track of expenditure made in the production of film and television serials including similar content being made and sold across various media platforms.

The selection of the cities was made on a random basis and learning from experiences of similar technical data gathering exercises done by the said directorate during the 2013-14 fiscal.

The Directorate of I and CI in the I-T department acts as the in-house intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination wing as it receives confidential business and financial data from various sources like banks, financial intermediaries and investigation intelligence of the central department.

The same unit, during the last fiscal, undertook various special projects with an aim to widen the tax base and in one such operation it was found and reported that an “interest income of Rs 6,181 crore spread over 3,84,112 persons” had initially escaped assessment due to non filling of I-T returns or non declaration of interest income in ITRs or showing less income in ITRs.

The department, however, later tapped this leakage by making use of its legal enforcement measures as provided under the Income Tax Act.

Undertaking a similar project in the last fiscal, the tax department also detected an undeclared income of Rs. 75.61 crore after 739 people filed their revised ITRs in response to query letters sent by the assessing officers to these individuals, which was based on data gathered through technical and electronic means.


Income Tax Department

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Cairo: the city of a thousand minarets

News4u-Travel Desk- The hypnotising charm of this pulsating 24-hour metropolis lies in its chaotic rhythm—the snarl of traffic wakes you up every morning, decrepit cars still drive around Coptic churches and donkey carts and stray camels wander around cobble-stoned bazaars telling tales straight out of the Arabian Nights.

Experience the dizzying Khan al-Khalili

A frantic and dizzying mix of hawkers, perfume incenses, age-old buildings, Egyptians and tourists—Khan al-Khalili is Cairo’s biggest open-air market, where you can buy everything from jeans and gold to hookahs and magical oils. As you wander the backstreets of the souk, you’ll realise that the gentle spice scents and the gleaming copper coffee pots have changed little with time.

Wander through Old Cairo

Wander down Old Cairo and you’ll be transported to a bygone medieval era. Old Cairo encompasses Coptic Cairo—a stronghold of Egypt’s Christian past—as well as Islamic Cairo—which is dotted with mosques and other Islamic monuments. Stand still in Islamic Cairo at sunset and listen to the muezzins calling from hundreds of minarets in the district.

Marvel at the many mosques

Cairo’s stunning Islamic architecture has earned it the nickname ‘the city of a thousand minarets’ and the interspersing of the evening call to prayer is a reminder that there are certainly more than a thousand. These range from the stunningly opulent to the elegantly severe, and from the oldest mosque in Africa to a mosque that contains a severed head.

The wonder of the world

Head out west to Giza’s famed pyramids and the time warp sets you back a full 4000 years. You can stand at the viewing platform on the Great Pyramid’s plateau and gaze out over the only remaining wonder of the ancient world—the stillness is both eerie and sublime.

The great Sphinx of Giza

Guarding the front of Khafra’s pyramid in Giza, the Sphinx has represented the essence of Egypt for over a thousand years. For the true tourist experience, stay for the sound and light show that takes place here every night.

A camel ride over the dunes

It may top the list of tourist clichés, but a camel ride through Giza is a must-do for every first-time visitor to Egypt. These bumpy rides are a part of the charm of any desert excursion.

Fine Egyptian fare

When it comes to food, Cairo is all about generosity. Be prepared for unexpected extras on the house and satisfying portions. From falafel and koshari to ful medames and fatta—there are few places in the world where you can taste so many cultures in one plate.

A felucca ride on the Nile

After experiencing the exhilarating nature of the Egyptian capital, cool off with a felucca ride on the Nile. Feluccas are simple, traditional Egyptian sailboats that have piled the mighty Nile since ancient times. Agencies


Cairo: the city of a thousand minarets 

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Nude scene in ‘Welcome to Me’ was ‘important’, says Kristen Wiig

News4u-Entertainment Desk-Washington: Kristen Wiig said that her “fully naked” scene in the upcoming film `Welcome To Me` was really important.

Wiig, 40, who`s well known for her comic roles, reportedly told a magazine that though she loves comedy, she always wanted to try her hand at drama and currently had two upcoming projects to that end namely `The Skeleton Twins` and `Welcome to Me,`.

The former `Saturday Night Live` star continued saying that when she went through the script for the latter, in which she portrays a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins millions in the lottery, she realized that she had nude scene lined up.

She added that she`d never read a character like that, and knew that if signed the film, she had to go through with the nudity as it was crucial. ANI


Kristen Wiig

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Our ignorance, Their bliss

News4u-Features Desk- A renowned doctor of an established hospital in Delhi has announced to the cheer of a numberless citizens that he and his team would condemn and work against the practice of prescribing all kinds of test to a patient for the slightest ailment. This is to help their relatives and friends running pathological labs and clinics.

The common man has been going through hell with a chain of doctors smiling away as soon as they catch him complaining of any disease. There have been cases of patients with broken arms or legs advised to go for the x-ray of the chest and even CT scan.

Medical profession is said to be the second most corrupt profession in the country today. We suffer from physical, mental as well as fiscal problems as soon as we enter a hospital or a private clinic.

In olden times it was said that once you enter a court with a law suit, you will never be able to come out of it. The same can be said of a hospital today.

The announcement by the renowned doctor comes as a silvery lining amongst black clouds. Lets hope for the best.

There is one more profession which is eating into our lives like the white ant. Its the astrologer with his “Panchang” and lot of fairy tales. Like the medical practitioner they also prescribe a thousand rituals to ward off Rahu & Ketu.

Shani seems to be hovering over all of us most of the time. Shani would not leave till these pandits have had their belly full and the client left a beggar. We keep saying it is an age of science. But this science of astrology is like a noose around our necks. Only we ourselves can wean it away.

The sages have warned so many times that what ever is ordained is sure to happen. Call me a fatalist but to rid myself of the clutches of the pandits I would happily wear this tag.

-Veera Chaturvedi
veera@news4u.co.in


Our ignorance, Their bliss

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India ready to depot Nur Hossain

News4u-News Desk- Bangladesh on Wenesday said India has agreed to deport Nur Hossain, who was arrested in Kolkata last month and is wanted in connection with the killing of seven people in the suburbs of Dhaka.

“India has agreed to extradite Nur Hossain,” Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali told Parliament while replying to a question by a lawmaker of the main opposition Jatiya Party.

He said India’s assurance came after the request was made to Sushma Swaraj during her maiden stand-alone official tour here as the External Affairs Minister.

He said an official request will now be sent to India to bring back Hossain.

After Swaraj’s meetings here, the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry had said, “We are not sanctuary for criminals” and if there are any criminals, they will be sent back. He had made the remarks when asked about Bangladesh’s demand for Hossain’s extradition. Bangladesh’s home ministry earlier said the government was “continuing efforts to bring Nur Hossain home”.

The ministry said it expected Hossain’s repatriation to be an easy process as the two countries last year inked an extradition treaty to exchange wanted criminals hiding on each other’s soil.

Hossain is likely to be the first Bangladeshi to be deported from India since the signing of the extradition pact between the two countries in December 2013.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad of West Bengal police had arrested Hossain along with two other accomplices last month after he fled to Kolkata to evade justice at home.

Hossain, a local leader of the ruling Awami League, is alleged to be the key mastermind behind the murders of seven people in suburban Narayanganj nearly three months ago.

The murders sparked a massive public outrage as it was alleged that several personnel of the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were involved in the crime.

The seven people murdered, including a lawyer, were kidnapped by assailants from the suburban river port city on 27th April and their nearly decomposed bodies were retrieved later from the Shitalakya river.


Nur Hossain

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