Dhaka attack ‘suspect’ dies in custody, family says he was tortured Central govt staff paid `1.5L a month to just take phone calls and pay bills Cong hints at flexibility on GST rate cap
A Bangladeshi teenager, who police say was a suspect in last week’s deadly attack on a Dhaka cafe, died in custody, with his family insisting he was a hostage and alleging torture by security forces. Zakir Hossain Shawon, 18, a kitchen assistant at the Holey Artisan Bakery, was arrested after last week’s deadly siege by suspected Islamists in which 22 people, including 18 foreigners, died.
Police killed five attackers and arrested Shawon together with another man over “suspicious activities”, treating him as a suspect — a claim vehemently rejected by his family, who claim he was taken hostage like other victims. He died in the intensive care unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital late Friday after five days in the clinic, police and his family said.
Shawon’s father Abdus Sattar demanded an investigation into his death, saying his “innocent son and the main breadwinner of his family” died due to torture.
Meanwhile the country’s police chief said that extremists from Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a local Islamist group blamed by the government for the cafe siege, were behind a separate attack on an Eid gathering.
Even as central employees threaten to go on a nationwide strike to protest the Seventh Pay Commission hikes, about 3,000 to 4,000 Group A officers continue to do odd jobs at the grade and pay of mid-level bureaucrats.
These employees — belonging to the Central Secretariat Stenographer Services (CSSS), Railway Board Services, Armed Forces Headquarter Services and the Ministry of External Affairs — serve as principal private secretaries (PPS), senior PPS and principal staff officers (PSO). Their job profile requires them to attend phone calls, arrange files, pay office bills and even perform personal tasks for the officials they are attached to.
The service has its roots in the administrative reforms brought in by the British empire in 1919, and continued till the 1990s. Though computers replaced typewriters around then, they were still recruited through a competitive examination conducted by the Staff Selection Commission.
These stenos or personal assistants are upgraded to the post of private secretary either through a limited departmental examination or a departmental promotion.
The prospects of a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) have brightened with the government indicating its willingness to reach out to the Opposition and hammer out a solution on the key demand of specifying a cap on rates.
Once adopted, GST will dramatically alter India’s indirect tax structure by replacing a string of central and local levies such as excise, value added tax and octroi with a single unified tax and stitch together a common national market.
In a major shift of stance, the Congress’ Jairam Ramesh said Saturday that the party’s demand for a cap on GST rate in the Constitution amendment bill is not cast in stone. “If the cap in the Constitution amendment bill is unacceptable, then the government can explore the option of keeping it in the GST bill… If the government wants, a creative use of the English language can solve the impasse.” If the cap were to be kept in the GST bill, which would be passed after the 122nd Constitution amendment bill, the government would not have to amend the Constitution each time it needed to impose a levy.
The Congress’ deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, was also quoted as saying the party wanted the government to “ring-fence” the tax rate. Sources told HT the government saw this statement as an opportunity to find a way out of the impasse, which has been the main hurdle to its reforms initiative.