Ruling Awami League-nominated candidates predictably achieved victory in the overwhelming majority of municipalities that held elections in the first phase this week. AL candidates captured 18 municipalities out of 24 while their arch-rival BNP-nominated candidates won in two municipalities and independent candidates in three. Result of another municipality -- Khulna's Chalna -- was withheld as one of the candidates died (of natural causes) during the polling.

BNP Secretary General Mirza FakHrul Islam Alamgir rejected the results, saying that no election can ever be fair under this Election Commission, and alleging the electronic voting machines are programmed to deliver the government's desired results. He said that if 10 voters cast their votes pressing button of the EVM, eight will automatically count toward the electoral symbol of AL, while two will go for BNP's electoral symbol. BNP candidates won in Rajshahi's Putia and Habiganj's Shayesthaganj municipalities whereas independent candidates won in Dinajpur's Phulbari, Patuakhali's Kuakata and Thakurgaon's Pirganj municipalities.

Seven Bangladesh navy ships carrying 1,804 Rohingya refugees arrived at the remote island of Bhashan Char where they will be relocated despite concerns among human rights groups about their safety. They reached the island, 21 miles (34 kilometres) from the mainland, after a four-hour naval journey from the port city of Chittagong, government official Mohammed Khurshed Alam Khan said.

He said authorities at the island received 433 men, 523 women and 848 children. The government insists all were willing to be relocated and no pressure was placed on them. But several human rights and activist groups say some were forced to go. It was the second group of Rohingya refugees transferred from crowded, squalid camps in Cox's Bazar district to the island. The first group of 1,642 arrived in the first week of December. The government plans to relocate some 100,000 of the estimated 1.1 million refugees languishing in Cox's Bazar to Bhashan Char.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated that the government will not allow reopening of educational institutions unless the COVID-19 situation improves substantively, for the sake of students' and teachers' safety. "Thinking about the children, we have given time till January 15. If the situation improves within this time then those [schools] will open, otherwise not," she said.

The prime minister was addressing a programme to inaugurate distribution of around 35 crore textbooks among 4.5 crore students. The programme was held at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC), and was joined by the PM virtually from her official residence Gono Bhaban. Sheikh Hasina said that she knows it very well that the children and the students are the worst sufferers due to the COVID-19 as their educational institutions remain shut for a long time. She said that academic activities will continue through digital means.

The government will import at least 1 million (10 lakh) tonnes of rice from different countries to boost the country's food grain reserves amid growing concerns over the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision came at a time when prices of the staple keep soaring in both retail and wholesale markets and the food grain reserve has dwindled to seven lakh tonnes, almost half of the reserve in the same time last year.

Food Secretary Nazmun-ara-Khanum said the decision to import does not mean the country is experiencing a shortage of rice against demand. "But we have decided to increase rice import at government level, keeping the second wave of Covid-19 in mind, because the government may have to go for food intervention [distributing food free of cost or at reduced price]," she told the Daily Star. The development came two days after the import duty on rice was reduced to 25 percent from 62.5 percent.

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