Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan on Wednesday said March 14 has been fixed as the tentative date for laying the foundation stone of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge (Dual-gauge) over the Jamuna River.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will lay the foundation stone, he said, adding that it is yet to be finalised whether she will do it going to the spot in person or through videoconferencing.
While addressing a press briefing at the Rail Bhaban in the capital, the minister also said all the primary work has been completed in this regard.
The job has been awarded to a Japanese firm to construct the bridge, he said.
Sujan said the government is planning to introduce two more trains between Bangladesh and India -- one from Rajshahi to Sealdah considering the demand from Rajshahi passengers.
However, the India government wants the train to run from Rajshahi to Howrah, he said.
Besides, the government will be able to start train service from Dhaka to Shilighuri from this year when a seven-km rain track from Chilahati to Haldibari is opened.
Asked whether the work on the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project is going on at a slow pace than that of the main bridge, the minister said the government is working with a target to launch the train service along with other vehicles on the same day.
Replying to a query about coronavirus, he said a directive has been issued that the Chinese nationals who are working in different projects in Bangladesh will be quarantined for two weeks after coming from China.
Sujan also said Maitree Express will now run five days in a week instead of four days from February 11.
Besides, Bandhan Express from Khulna will operate twice in a week instead of once, he said.
Bangladesh and Italy on Wednesday agreed to take the bilateral relations between the two countries to a new height, saying the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened a new chapter of cooperation.
The agreement came when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sat in a bilateral meeting with her Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte at Palazzo Chigi.
Both the prime ministers discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction at the present state of economic cooperations between the two countries.
PM's press secretary Ihsanul Karim, who was present at the meeting, briefed reporters after the meeting.
The Italian prime minister described the meeting as a fruitful one and said it is the beginning of another new chapter in its relation with Bangladesh.
He highly appreciated 'super humanitarian' effort of the Bangladesh Prime Minister by hosting the Rohingya refugees.
In additional to their prior financial assistance, Italy will give 1 million euro to the UNHCR for the Rohingya refugees, he said.
Both the prime ministers stressed the need for further enhancing the cooperation.
The Italian prime minister emphasised on expanding the areas of cooperation. He showed interest in the cooperation of energy and defence sectors. "Italy can offer many products," he said.
The Bangladesh Prime Minister made some suggestions for enhancing the cooperations and in reply, the Italian Prime Minister said they will consider these with great attention.
He termed the GDP growth of Bangladesh a remarkable achievement.
He praised the Bangladeshi workers in Italy.
Giuseppe Conte thanked the Prime Minister for taking prompt actions the Holey Artisan incident and extending cooperation to the victims' families.
He said they will celebrate the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Italy in 2022.
Sheikh Hasina described Italy as the great friend of Bangladesh and said just after the Liberation of the country they recognised Bangladesh on February 12, 1972.
"Italy is one of the first European countries which recognised Bangladesh after the Liberation War," she said.
She invited the Italian Prime Minister to visit Bangladesh during the Mujib Borsho (March 17, 2020- March 26, 2021) when Bangladesh will celebrate the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Golden Jubilee of the Independence.
She briefed the italian countrpart about the economic development of Bangladesh achieved through hard work.
She mentioned that in 2006 the poverty level was 41.6 percent but the government brought down that at 20.5 percent.
"I believe that the today's bilateral talks would take the existing relations to a even greater height," she said.
Prime Minister requested the Italian government to facilitate business visas for Bangladesh businesspeople to help increase the business and trade between the two countries.
She invited italy to invest in Bangladesh saying Bangladesh has one of the best investment policies in South Asia. In this connection she said Bangladesh is establishing 100 economic zones across the country.
She also said the foreign investment policy of Bangladesh is the best one in South Asia. She briefly described various salient features of the policy.
"Italian companies are welcomed to invest in Bangladesh taking advantages of those facilities. Bangladesh offers a large market in its neighbourhood including a huge domestic market with a growing middle class population," she said.
She also said Italy could import more leather and leather goods from Bangladesh as these items as world-class ones.
The Prime Minister said Italy hosts the second largest Bangladeshi expatriates after the UK. "They are contributing to the economies of both the countries," she said.
She said Bangladesh is committed to preventing irregular migration.
Regarding the Rohingya refugees, the Prime Minister requested her Italian counterpart to mount international pressure on Myanmar for obeying the instructions of the ICJ.
Talking about the Holey Artisan incident she said the Bangladesh government took very quick measurers over the incident and since then terror activities in Bangladesh are totally under control.
But she said terrorism is a global problem.
Earlier on arrival at the Plazzo Chigi, Sheikh Hasina was given smartly-turned out palace guard of homour and the national anthems of both the countries were played.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Ambassador Abdus Sobhan Sikder and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen were present from Bangladesh side.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said criminals must be tried, no matter how powerful they are.
“Criminals have no party…their identity is just criminals and they must be tried, no matter how powerful they are,” she said.
The remark came in Parliament in a scripted reply of Sheikh Hasina, now in Italy, in response to a tabled question from Awami League MP Gloria Jharna Sarker (Reserved Seat-30).
The Prime Minister said the judiciary carries out its trial proceedings independently and without any influence during the Awami League government. The judiciary has gained public trust and confidence with the establishment of the rule of law and justice, she added.
Hasina mentioned the court verdicts and trial progress in various sensational cases, including the murder cases of Feni Madrasha student Nusrat Jahan Rafi, Buet student Abrar Fahad, Rifat of Barguna and Narayanganj seven-murder case.
“These murders are not only sensational ones, but also tantamount to social and moral degradation of people. But we’ve have able to complete the trial of these killings speedily through the judiciary. So, relief has been restored in public mind,” she said.
In reply to another starred question from AL MP Shafiqul Islam Shimul (Natore-2), the Prime Minister placed her government’s 25-point plan for the development of the healthcare services in the country.
State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatunnessa Indira on Wednesday said that both media and people from all walks of life have to work together to change the status quo and realize a women-friendly society.
“We cannot break our culture but we can slowly bring about changes in our culture. Both media and the people have to play a role in this regard,” Fazilatunnessa Indira said while addressing a roundtable discussion as chief guest on “Role of Government and Media in Empowering Women- SDG 5” organized by The Daily Observer at Jatiya Press Club.
Sharmin Islam, Women’s Economic Empowerment Specialist and Gender Adviser for UNDP Bangladesh presented the key note paper in the roundtable chaired by the Daily Observer Editor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury. Farhana Naznin moderated the event.
It is not possible for government alone to solve the problem. Prevention of violence and other forms of discrimination against women is possible if the media launches massive awareness and people work together, she said.
Describing various initiatives taken by the government for women’s empowerment, the State Minister said ten million (one crore) women have been given IT training across the country and it would be completed by this year, the Mujib Centenary.
“Though there is a lot of improvement in women’s empowerment, prevention of child marriage is a challenge. We are hopeful of eradicating child marriage within this Mujib Year,” she said.
At his welcome speech, Editor of the Daily Observer Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said that only the implementation of the SDGs goals can ensure women’s right and empowerment.
“There is no alternative to the implementation of SDG goals to uplifting women’s dignity and their rights and to ensure it people from every corner needs to work together,” he added
Selima Ahmed, MP, and also president, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) said corruption is an obstacle for development of women. Law enforcers’ failure to abide by their duties leads to discrimination, she said.
Farida Yasmin, General Secretary of Jatiya Press Club, said that women must go forward with the help of men as we still live in a patriarchal society.
In her keynote presentation, Sharmin Islam said that to achieve gender equality by 2030 requires urgent action to eliminate many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public domains.
She also noted that the existing discriminatory laws need to change to ensure gender equality.
Talking about the present status of women globally, she said that about 49 countries still lack laws protecting women from domestic violence, while 39 bar equal inheritance rights for daughters and sons.
She also said that, based on data from 87 countries, 1 in 5 women and girls under the age of 50 experienced physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months.
Referring to the women’s unpaid care work and domestic chores, she said that women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than a man.
“It leads women lower earnings and less time to engage in non- work activities,” she added.
She suggested removing all the discrimination and gender gaps at first government needs to set up its priorities which will be helpful for achieving SDG goals.
Among others, director of North South University Center for Innovation Farzana Nahid, Vice President of Mohila Samity Dr Marufi Khan, President of Nari Sangbadik Kendra Nasimun Ara Huq, President of Women’s Entrepreneurs Association Nilufer Ahmed Karim, also spoke at the programme.
Experts at a programme here on Wednesday stressed the importance of developing the skills of the country’s 6.5 lakh coastal fishermen to tap the extraordinary potentials of Bangladesh’s blue economy.
“We need to assess our marine resources and train the fishermen to tap the potentials to accelerate the economic development of the country alongside improving the livelihoods of fishermen,” said Hasan Ahmed Chowdhury, Project Director of Sustainable Costal and Marine Fisheries Project (SCMFP), a new project.
Social Development Foundation (SDF) arranged the workshop titled ‘Supporting Implementation of Community Empowerment & Livelihood Transformation (Component-3) of Sustainable Costal and Marine Fisheries Project (SCMFP)’ at the Cirdap auditorium in the city, marking the inception of the new project.
SDF Managing Director AZM Sakhawat Hossain delivered the welcome address, while Shyamol Chandra Karmakar, Additional Secretary (Fisheries), Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, spoke at the event as the chief guest.
Presided over by former Secretary and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of SDF MI Chowdhury, the workshop was addressed, among others, by Milen Dyoulgerov, Senior Environment Specialist and Task Team Leader, SCMFP, World Bank, and Stephena Kestev, Fisheries Management expert of FAO.
The experts said Bangladesh’s coastal region is known as one of the highly productive areas of the world due to the geographical position and climatic condition.
According to official information, mechanised boats and trawlers now can fish only up to 70 kilometres from Bangladesh’s shoreline out of its total of 660-km area, while the rest of the area remains untapped.
Milen Dyoulgerov said the Costal and Marine Fisheries Project will be able to address the livelihood problems of Bangladesh fishermen, who are the poorest of the poor. Though Bangladesh has the success in community empowerment, the livelihood of this section could not yet be ensured, he added.
SDF, co-implementing agency under the Financial Institutions Division, Ministry of Finance and the Department of Fisheries (DoF) under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock are jointly implementing the project with funds from the World Bank.
The USD 50.24-million new project is aimed at improving the livelihood of the poor fishers’ community of the coastal area with the capacity to better manage local resources and expand their participation in more exclusive and sustainable development.
The five-year project will be implemented in 450 coastline and coastal fisher villages of 45 selected upazilas under 13 coastal districts of the southern part of Bangladesh.