The capital turned into a city of processions on Thursday as both mayoral and councillor candidates staged showdowns to demonstrate their popularity at the last moment since the curtain is set to fall on electioneering in the elections to the two Dhaka city corporations on Thursday midnight.
The campaign will end at 12am, 36 hours before the voting, as per the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972.
The aspirants passed busy time throughout the day to reach out to voters and woo them during the last-minute campaign. They also made lofty promises to fulfill if they are elected as their last-minute strategy to convince voters.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) go to elections on Saturday.
There are 13 mayoral candidates -– six in the DNCC and seven in the DSCC -– in the election race.
The entire election will be held using electronic voting machines (EVMs) instead of traditional ballot papers and two army personnel will be there in every polling station to safeguard the voting machines.
Some 58 lakh people –- 3,035,621 in DNCC and 2,767,488 in DSCC -- will have the opportunity to exercise their franchise under the two cities.
The last elections to both the city corporations of the capital were held on April 28, 2015.
Awami League candidate in DNCC Atiqul Islam carried out campaign at Bhasantek slum on Thursday noon. He made door-to-door visits and distributed leaflets and sought vote for himself.
He also spoke at a street rally where he assured the slum dwellers, saying no-one will be evicted without rehabilitation if he is elected in the election. "If I get elected, I promise you I’ll carry out development of this area taking all together.”
Later, Atiqul conducted electioneering in Natun Bazar area.
Ruling party contestant in DSCC Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh conducted campaign in Gopibagh area in the morning while his rival candidate from BNP Ishraque Hossain conducted electioneering in the area in the afternoon.
DNCC BNP mayoral runner Tabith Awal was also busy campaigning in different areas.
He exchanged views with journalists, Dhaka Union of Journalists and Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) at the Jatiya Press Club in the morning while with Dhaka Reporters Unity and Bangladesh Photojournalists’ Association in the afternoon.
Later, he attended several street rallies and processions in several areas, including Moghbazar, Karwanbazar and Mohammadpur, in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission arranged mock voting with electronic voting machines (EVMs) on Thursday as the entire polling in the elections will be held with the EVMs.
Besides, it imposed a ban on the movement of motorcycles for 54 hours and motorised vehicles for 18 hours in the capital for the city elections.
While the restrictions on the plying of motorbikes are set to come into effect on Thursday midnight and that for motorised vehicles will be effective from Friday midnight in the election areas.
However, the motorbikes and vehicles with EC’s stickers, vehicles of emergency services, including ambulance, fire service and postal department, will remain out of the ban purview.
A total of 62,537 acres of Khas land remain under the clutches of grabbers across the country, according to a statistics placed by Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury in Parliament on Thursday.
Of the occupied Khas land, the highest 24,859 acres of lands in Chattogram division, while 15,054 acres in Dhaka division, 7,388 acres in Rangpur, 5,165 acres in Sylhet, 4,070 acres in Barishal, 3,446 in Khulna and 1,162 acres in Rajshahi division.
The minister came up with the statistics in reply to a question from Awami League MP Didarul Alam (Chattogram-4).
Saifuzzaman spelled out various measures and plans taken to recover the Khas lands from illegal occupants.
He said the deputy commissioners of all districts were given directives to recover the Khas land by carrying out regular visits.
The plans include conducting eviction drives against the grabbers, amending the record of Khas lands registered as the lands of individuals in RS, BS or City Records, preparing a list of grabbers, and taking measures to bring the Khas lands under the occupation of the government through carrying out eviction drives in legal ways.
A day-long international conference on journalism is going to be held at Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) on Sunday.
The conference will be jointly organised by the department of mass communication and journalism (MCJ), of Comilla University (CoU) and DW Akademie of Germany, said a press release.
Media educators from different universities of Bangladesh and experts from diverse media are expected to attend the programme that includes one plenary session and two technical sessions.
The conference will focus on changing trends of journalism in the contemporary world.
CoU vice-chancellor Prof Dr Emran Kabir Chowdhury will be the Chief Guest in the closing ceremony.
President Abdul Hamid on Thursday asked Bangladesh University of Textiles (BUTEX) to enhance its curriculum to international standard to cope with the changing world.
"BUTEX should develop their curricula to the international standard for providing the world-class textile education to students," he said when a delegation of the university, led by its Vice-chancellor Prof Abul Kashem, met him at Bangabhaban in the afternoon.
President Press Secretary Joynal Abedin briefed reporters after the meeting.
Stressing on the expansion of textile education, the President said it is a prospective field of education in the country as textile, jute and ready-made garment sector is the largest industrial one which accounts for over 80 percent of the export earnings.
Mentioning that the trend of dresses, designs and fashion of the world is changing every day, he asked the university to take effective initiatives to impart trainings on students in marketing and designs.
At the meeting, BUTEX VC Prof Abul Kashem apprised the President of their current activities, including development ones.
He said they make an academic calendar every year and follow it properly which helps them finish their courses in time.
Prof Abul Kashem also said degrees offered by BUTEX have high demand in the market at both home and abroad.
He also invited the President, also chancellor of the university, to preside over its maiden convocation which is yet to be scheduled.
The university started its journey on December 22, 2010 upgrading the College of Textile Technology to create new opportunities for higher studies, research and development in this sector.
Alumni member Md Mozaffar Hossain, MP, was present at the meeting.
Secretaries concerned to the President were also present.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said the government has planned to bring back 370 registered Bangladesh citizens from Wuhan city of China on Saturday.
"If the Chinese government allows us and gives clearance, we might bring them back on Saturday," he told UNB over phone on Thursday night.
No one of them has been affected so far by coronavirus but they are likely to be kept at Ashkona Hajj Camp for safety and observation, officials said.
The Foreign Minister and Health Minister Zahid Maleque are likely to visit the Hajj Camp on Friday morning to see the preparations.
Earlier in the day, the foreign minister said a total of 370 Bangladesh citizens from 22 institutions, mostly from Wuhan city of China, have registered their names expressing their willingness to return home.
But, 15 Bangladesh citizens have opted to stay back in China for better health facilities in China and avoid the risk of transmitting the coronavirus in Bangladesh, said the Foreign Minister.
Boat passengers on a jetty wear face masks in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 to protect themselves from new virus infection. Photo: AP
Dr Momen said the Chinese authorities informed Bangladesh that they will bear all the expenses of treatment if any foreigners affected by the virus.
“We’re ready to take them back (who are willing to return),” he told reporters adding that the government does not want to overplay China’s decision of ongoing 14-day quarantine period.
The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 170 with confirmed cases topping 7,700 in China while India claimed a patient in Kerala had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the first case in the country.
Earlier, the Foreign Minister attended the closing ceremony of Bangladesh Development Forum 2020 at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital.
Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing is working round the clock to prepare the list of willing citizens and their safe return to Bangladesh, officials said.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh citizens will be brought to airport from Wuhan city, the epicenter of the virus, by bus as Bangladesh will send commercial flight upon getting a date from the Chinese authorities.
Asked when Bangladesh citizens can return, Dr Momen said they will be brought back when the Chinese government allows.
The Foreign Minister said the Health Ministry will take care of the returnees upon their arrival in Bangladesh.
He said the Health Ministry has taken necessary preparations to make spaces in hospitals to monitor the returnees from China.
Replying to another question, Dr Momen said Bangladesh has no plan to impose any travel ban to and from China. “We don’t want to be panicked.”
Earlier, a flight from Wuhan carrying US government personnel and some private Americans safely landed in California.
These travellers will carefully be screened and monitored by health experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health and Human Services (HHS), according to the US Department of State.
All appropriate steps are being taken to safeguard the health of these returning Americans, as well as the health and safety of their fellow Americans here at home, it said.
Bangladesh will also keep those who will return to Bangladesh under observation before China lifts the ongoing 14-day restriction to avoid any risk.
Quarantine is a state, period or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing has opened a hotline number + (86)-17801116005 for Bangladeshis.
There are about 400-500 Bangladeshi students in Wuhan, according to the Foreign Ministry here.
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, is at the centre of the outbreak. Wuhan is in lockdown and China has imposed travel bans on a number of other cities.