Although the train services remained suspended for over two months as part of lockdown enforced due to Covid-19 pandemic, at least 113 people were killed in 105 railway accidents across the country in the last six months, according to a report.
“At least 113 people, including 26 women and 11 children, were killed and 15 others injured in 105 railway accidents between January 1 and June 30,” says the report jointly prepared by Green Club of Bangladesh (GCB) and National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), two rights groups.
According to a press release issued on Friday, the GCB and National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) accumulated data from accident reports of 24 national dailies, 10 regional newspapers and nine online news portals, including news agencies.
As per the findings, lack of awareness and poor maintenance and monitoring at level-crossings, including railway bridges, caused the accidents.
A total of 29 people, including four women and five children, lost their lives in 26 accidents in January alone, says the report.
Meanwhile, 42 accidents occurred in February, killing 44 people and injuring seven others. Among the deceased, 14 were women and two children.
In March, 19 people, including six women and two children, were killed and eight others injured in 18 accidents.
Four accidents took place in May killing four people, including three women and one child.
In June, at least 17 people, including a woman and two children, were killed in 15 accidents.
The GCB and the NCPSRR identified five major reasons behind the rise in railway accidents.
The reasons are: Using mobile phones by pedestrians while crossing rail tracks, lack of awareness, negligence of railway employees, poor maintenance of level-crossings and rail tracks and rail bridges.
Ashis Kumar Dey, general secretary of the NCPSRR, said the railway accidents basically occurred in four months as train services were suspended in April and May during lockdown.
He said at least 13 rail bridges with 'Dead Stop' signs are being used over 179 kilometres on Sylhet-Akhaura route, putting the lives of passengers at risks.
Eight of these 'Dead Stops' are over an 18-km stretch from Sylhet to Mogla Bazar and five over a 164-km area from Mogla Bazar to Akhaura Bridge, he added.
The authorities concerned have already put up “Dead Stop” signs at rail bridges last year instructing trains to stop first before crossing it and then run at a speed of only five km per hour, he added.
Narayankhola Dakshin Primary School, an old school in Nakla upazila of sherpur, is being gobbled up by Mrigi River.
River erosion has taken a severe turn in the area.
Although the Water Development Board is placing geobags, already one third area of the school has been eaten up by the river, said Shamsun Nahar, Headmistress of the school.
Delowar Hossain, Deputy Assistant engineer of WDB, said they have started placing 8,500 geobags.
Additional Officer of the WDB Toimur Hossain said, “We are planning to put geobags on 500-metre areas of the river bank in Narayankhola area.”
The work will begin after getting allocation from the authorities but primarily they are covering 120-metre areas with geobags, he said.
Nakla Upazila Primary Education Officer Fazilatun Nessa said they have informed the matter to the higher authorities.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Jahidur Rahman said the risky building of the school has been sold in auction and WDB is trying to save the rest areas.
“We have requested higher authorities to take steps to build new building for the school quickly,” he said.
A Dhaka court on Friday placed a close associate of Regent Hospital Chairman Mohammad Shahed on a five-day remand over issuing fake coronavirus test certificates from the hospital.
The accused was identified as Tariqul Islam alias Tareque Shibli, who was arrested in a drive from Nakhalpara of the capital on Thursday.
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Morshed Al Noman passed the order after the investigation officer sought seven-day remand of the accused.
Earlier, Rab conducted separate drives at the Uttara and Mirpur branches of Regent Hospital on Monday and arrested eight people on charge of issuing fake Coronavirus test reports in addition to charging the admitted Covid-19 patients exorbitant fees.
The head office of Regent group along with the both hospitals was sealed off and 16 people, including the chairman, were sued on charge of issuing fake coronavirus test reports.
On Wednesday, a Dhaka court put seven of the eight arrestees on a five-day remand while the rest one was sent to Tongi Juvenile Correction Centre as he is below 18.
The government of Myanmar should ensure all voting-age Rohingya—including Rohingyas in Bangladesh—have the right to vote, said Fortify Rights on Friday as Myanmar is heading for next national elections.
“Rohingya voted in past elections, and they should have the right to vote in November,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights.
“Mass absentee voting is possible. The government has ample time to ensure the upcoming elections are free and fair.”
On July 2, the Myanmar Union Election Commission announced that national elections are scheduled for November 8.
Citizenship is a requirement for voting in Myanmar, and the Government of Myanmar has long denied Rohingya access to full citizenship rights—most recently through the National Verification Card (NVC) process.
However, the lack of citizenship did not prevent Rohingya in Myanmar from voting in past elections, including in 2010.
The government currently has access to multiple forms of documentation of Rohingya, including household lists dating back to the 1990s, NVCs, National Registration Cards, White Cards, White Card receipts, and other previous government-issued and U.N.-issued identity documents.
In collaboration with international humanitarian organizations, the Government of Myanmar and the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangladesh could use these forms of documentation as well as alternative forms of evidence, such as testimonial evidence, to determine eligibility to vote in November’s election and as evidence to restore Rohingya citizenship, Fortify Rights said.
On July 2, the Union Election Commission announced that Myanmar nationals living abroad could cast advanced ballots in this year’s general election.
The government also provided absentee voting in the 2010 and 2015 elections.
On May 3, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights—a Rohingya-refugee-led civil society organization in Bangladesh—wrote an open letter to the Union Election Commission of Myanmar asking for “voter registration and the voting process” to be “carried out in the refugee camps.”
Refugees elsewhere in the world have voted in home-country elections through voting stations in refugee camps and absentee ballots. For instance, in 2004, approximately 850,000 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and Iran voted in Afghanistan’s first presidential election on October 9 with the assistance of international humanitarian organizations.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled Myanmar military-led attacks in 2016 and 2017, as well as those who fled to Bangladesh prior to those attacks, are unable to return to the country to participate in the election process.
On June 30 at the 44th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that the situation in Rakhine State has not improved and the conditions for a “safe, dignified and sustainable return from Bangladesh are still not in place."
“Our body is here, but our soul is in our country,” a 29-year-old Rohingya refugee woman living in the camps in Bangladesh told Fortify Rights. “We want to go back right now, but we cannot do so due to the situation there. We need the safety and the security there, and we hope that the international community will provide us with justice.”
Between January and June this year, Fortify Rights interviewed 29 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, including 17 women, about barriers to returning to Myanmar—many of whom referenced the abusive NVC process as a barrier to return.
“We will not go back as long as we are forced to accept the NVC there,” a 40-year-old Rohingya refugee woman originally from Maungdaw Township told Fortify Rights. “If we accept the NVC, we will become people of Bangladesh.”
“We don’t want to return to Myanmar holding the NVC,” added a Rohingya refugee man, 50. “We will be cut there again the way our children were cut there before.”
In her remarks to the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet also cited the NVC as a factor inhibiting refugee returns to Myanmar, saying, “Myanmar continues to impose National Verification Cards on the Rohingya—a document which denies their citizenship, leaving them stateless and restricting their access to basic services or free movement.”
In September 2019, Fortify Rights published a 102-page report, “Tools of Genocide,” revealing how Myanmar authorities forced and coerced Rohingya to accept NVCs in a systematic campaign to erase Rohingya identity and deny them citizenship.
The government should abolish the NVC process and amend the 1982 Citizenship Law to restore equal access to full citizenship rights and all rights that extend from citizenship, including the right to vote, to Rohingya and others, said Fortify Rights.
Rohingya participated in 2010 nationwide elections in Myanmar, and three Rohingya served in Parliament as recently as 2015.
During the 2015 national elections, the government excluded Rohingya from voting, running for office, or maintaining Rohingya-led political parties, including the Democracy and Human Rights Party and the National Democratic Party for Development.
On June 25, 2020, the Democracy and Human Rights Party sent a letter to the Union Election Commission, calling on the Commission to allow the party to participate in the upcoming election.
International law protects the right to vote as a fundamental right.
Article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights enshrines this right, providing that the will of the people should be “expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
In 2016 and 2017, the Myanmar Army led a campaign of massacres, mass rape, and mass arson, displacing more than 800,000 Rohingya men, women, and children to Bangladesh. Up to 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar and continue to face genocide and other international crimes.
More than one million Rohingya refugees are living in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District.
In November 2019, The Gambia filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague against Myanmar for failing to prevent or punish genocide against Rohingya.
In a landmark ruling, on January 23, 2020, the ICJ ruled unanimously in favor of The Gambia’s request for provisional measures of protection for Rohingya in Myanmar.
The measures required Myanmar to report to the court in May and then every six months after that for the duration of the trial, among other requirements, including to take affirmative actions to prevent genocide and preserve evidence of genocide.
The Gambia will file its “memorial” with the court in October, outlining Myanmar’s failure to prevent or punish genocide against Rohingya.
“Any failure on Myanmar’s part to include Rohingya in the political process will send an incriminating signal to the ICJ,” said Matthew Smith.
“Rohingya are eager to participate constructively in the life of Myanmar, and their right to do so should be protected.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for mobilization from within and beyond the humanitarian sector so that climate action and finance reach conflict zones and to ensure that communities hit hardest get the support they need to adapt to a changing climate.
Countries affected by conflict are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, a double threat that pushes people out of their homes, disrupts food production, cuts off supplies, amplifies diseases and weakens health-care services, the ICRC said in a new report on Friday.
The report – When Rain Turns to Dust – is based on research in southern Iraq, northern Mali and the interior of the Central African Republic, according to a media release issued from Geneva.
It explores people’s experience with conflict and climate risks, their ways of coping and adapting and how, in the absence of adequate support, they may be forced to drastically change their way of life, diversify their livelihoods or move away from their homes.
Of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change, the majority are at war. By 2050, 200 million people could need international humanitarian aid every year, double the number in need now.
“Climate change is cruel. While it will be felt everywhere, its most crippling effects will be borne by the world’s most vulnerable. We witness every day the impact of climate shocks and environmental degradation on conflict-affected communities. Their ability to adapt is being radically eroded by violence and instability. These shocks cost lives,” said Catherine-Lune Grayson, ICRC’s in-house expert on climate change.
In places like Mali or Iraq, people made it clear that environmental and climate factors are making their lives harder by threatening their access to water and food, their economic security and affecting their sense of dignity as they struggle to meet their families’ needs.
In the Central African Republic, people spoke of tensions between farmers and herders due to changing human movement patterns and the authorities’ limited capacity to regulate it. They asked for help in managing tensions as well as support to chart changes to agricultural calendars, as they can no longer read the weather and traditional crop calendar are no longer reliable.
In northern Mali, pastoralists and farmers described how their ways of coping with repeated droughts and occasional intense rains have been disrupted by the conflict and are accelerating changes to their way of life, forcing some to move south or to cities.
In northern Mali and CAR, people have recently lost homes, livelihoods and harvests to flooding and ask for help to recover and ensure that the next floods do not make them homeless again.
In Iraq, between 1950 to 1990 sandstorms occurred less than 25 times a year; in 2013 there were some 300. One Iraqi ICRC staff member mused: ‘Before, rain was falling. Now, dust is falling.’
“Unmitigated climate change will cause the number of people in need to grow exponentially – and humanitarian organizations are already unable to meet humanitarian needs. Climate risks can lead to development reversals and systemic breakdown, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states, which are currently most neglected by climate action,” Grayson said.