Narayanganj, Sept 22 (UNB) – Son of a schoolteacher from Sonargaon upazila, Golam Kibria Shamim aka GK Shamim, who was arrested along with FDRs worth Tk 165 crore, around Tk 1.8 crore in cash and a large stash of dollars, became the ‘king’ of extortion and tender manipulation using political clout.
His father late Afsar Uddin was the headmaster of Harihardi Govt Primary School in the upazila.
Among three siblings, Shamim was the second. He was born at Dakkhinpara village under Sammandi union.
Locals said Shamim left the village on completion of his secondary level education.
Raiding his house and office in Niketan of the capital, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) members arrested him on Friday on charges of extortion and tender manipulation.
Later, they recovered illegal firearms, huge ammunition, fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) worth Tk 165 crore, around Tk 1.8 crore in cash, large stash of dollars and foreign liquor from his office.
Shamim amassed huge illegal wealth using his political power.
He used to travel in a vehicle escorted by his seven armed bodyguards. There were hooters in his vehicle. His bodyguards used to shout at commuters through loudspeakers to clear his way.
Dhaka, Sept 22 (UNB) - A single room with damp and cracked walls for a family of six to ten; inadequate water supply; unhygienic sanitation and cramped passageways -- this scenario is replicated in every other ‘camp’ across Mirpur, where almost 80,000 stranded Urdu-speaking people, otherwise known as ‘Biharis’ live. Even their these limited facilities may be taken away as they now face the threat of eviction.
After the Liberation War, the Bihari community was confined to different colonies across the countries, most of which took shelter in the ‘Geneva camp’(so-called since their legal status is accorded by the Geneva Convention) in the capital’s Mohammadpur area.
According to various estimates, there are 300,00 to 450,000 Biharis living in secluded camps across Bangladesh, more than half of them in Dhaka.
Visiting the camps across Mirpur 11, the UNB correspondent witnessed the awful conditions and poor living standards of the Bihari community which in a word can be described as horrendous. A huge crowd to collect water from solitary water pumps is a regular affair while the sewage-line is a mess.
Sadaqat Khan Fakku, president of the Urdu-Speaking Youth Rehabilitation Movement Bangladesh (USYRMB), said the residents of camps across Mirpur are facing the threat of eviction and are being intimidated by various parties.
“City Corporation authorities want to evict the residents of camps in the name of freeing the road of illegal constructions. However, they have not given any direction to rehabilitate us. Where shall we go?” he said.
He also mentioned that they had faced similar hazard in the past and nobody paid heed to their cries then either. “On more than one occasion we were evicted and forced to seek shelter in already crowded camps,” he said.
“I urge the authorities to ensure our proper rehabilitation before anything else,” Sadaqat Khan pleaded.
However, the High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Khairul Alam on September 9 issued an order to maintain the status quo over for two months of Bihari residents from Mirpur Section 11 in Dhaka. A rule was also issued to 24 respondents, including the National Housing Authority and the DNCC.
Camp residents are still unsure what will happen once the period is over.
“We can’t buy a piece of land. We don’t have a home anywhere...we aren’t demanding anything unjust but only the preservation of our rights to live as citizens of Bangladesh,” said Liton, a resident of ADC Bihari camp.
“Nobody talks about us. If one of us wants to legally buy a piece of land for a better living, he is denied because of the tag ‘Bihari’,” he added.
Liton went on saying, “There has been an influx of thousands of Rohingyas just a few years ago in Cox’s Bazar. They’ve been provided with a lot more facilities than us. But we’ve been stranded here for 46 years, yet we’re living in dire conditions.”
Maksud Khan, a resident of Non-local Bihari camp at Mirpur-11, said there has been little to no development of their living conditions.
“It’s the fate of every stranded Bihari...we too are the citizens of Bangladesh. I myself was born here. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself has assured us that our rights will be preserved but we haven’t seen better days yet,” he said.
The education as well as recreational facilities for young Bihari children are scarce, Maksud told UNB.
“With the help of some NGOs, schools were opened but due to lack of financial support we were forced to shut them down,” he said, adding that there are no field left for the kids to play.
A report titled ‘An Analysis of the National Budget for FY2019-20’ by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) highlighted that no allotment was made for the rehabilitation of Bihari community in the national budget for 2019-20 financial year.
The main income sources for any able Bihari are now small business and small-time jobs while Benarasi industry is slowly dying.
“Very few are interested to take on their ancestral profession of weaving Benarasi and learning the art of Karchupi,” said one of the residents of Football Ground Bihari camp.
Md Selim, another resident of the camp area, said most Biharis are not allowed to have passports despite having NID cards and the right to vote.
“If I use Bihari camp as my residence when applying for a passport, it’ll surely be rejected on the basis of not having a ‘permanent’ address,” he said.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam told UNB that illegal buildings that are blocking roads and footpaths in Mirpur and other areas of DNCC will be evicted.
“If there’re illegal establishments in that area which are disrupting people's movement, they’ll be evicted for the sake of the citizens,” he told UNB.
However, he assured that those who are not occupying the roads illegally will not be evicted or displaced.
Dhaka, Sept 21 (UNB) – JICA sees its relations with Bangladesh in the next five years “extremely important” as it is helping Bangladesh reach the next level of development with the completion of a number of mega projects, says a senior official at the JICA headquarters.
“JICA will continue its strong support towards infrastructure and social development sectors,” Director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) South Asia Division Takahashi Akito told UNB at his office in Tokyo.
The JICA official laid emphasis on linking such infrastructure development to the economic growth “very efficiently.”
Explaining the importance of the next five years in Bangladesh-Japan relations, Akito mentioned the Vision 2021 target of Bangladesh, the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-Japan diplomatic relations in 2022, 50 years anniversary of JICA volunteers in 2023, opening of Matarbari port and Matarbari coal-fired power project and other mega projects, including the opening of the much-hyped metro rail service.
“This period is very important for Bangladesh’s next stage of development,” said the JICA official who is looking into Bangladesh affairs in Tokyo.
Responding to a question, the official said Bangladesh is located in a strategically very important place and connectivity plays an important role. “We’re supporting to further strengthen the connectivity in the region.”
In the future, he said they hope to provide support for integrated development of Moheshkhali-Matarbari area to make it an energy and power hub in the region.
Moheshkhali-Matarbari area is the core area BIG-B (the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt) initiative which consists of logistic, power, energy and waterfront industry hub, said the official.
Highly appreciating Bangladesh’s economic progress over the past years, Akito said they are very proud to see Bangladesh as one of the most successful countries to achieve higher economic growth in the region.
The JICA official, however, said there are some challenges ahead for Bangladesh that need to be addressed to continue the growth trend and making the growth sustainable.
Citing sole dependence on readymade garment industry, Akito said the diversification of industry is one of the key issues to achieve further economic development.
In order to further promote Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the JICA official said the improvement of procedures to create an appropriate environment for foreign companies is essential.
He also laid emphasis on human development-boosting capacity to contribute to the need and the greater growth of the country.
Talking about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he appreciated Bangladesh government’s efforts and mentioned that almost all the projects are linked with the SDGs. “I hope your country will be successful and JICA will continue supporting Bangladesh to achieve such goals.”
Director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) South Asia Division Takahashi Akito
As an international organisation, the JICA official said, they are closely watching the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh. “We should provide appropriate and quick support to the refugee crisis, through the ongoing projects.”
He said JICA and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) constructed a deep borehole and a water distribution system in Kutupalong camp.
This is the largest water supply system at the Rohingya camp which can supply safe water to nearly 30,000 people.
JICA, which started a “long and rewarding” relationship with Bangladesh by sending three volunteers in 1973, also supports the host community through local government, said the official.
Immediate past Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi, before leaving Dhaka, said Rohingya issue is not an isolated phenomenon, rather deeply related with growing nationalistic political trend and the world must find a solution for Rohingyas.
“It goes without saying that the Rohingyas are also victims of the prevailing egocentric nationalism or populism. Of course, I believe, the world can never be a jungle,” he said, adding that the civilised world must find a sustainable solution to bring justice for Rohingyas.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.
Benapole, Sept 19 (UNB) – The banned three-wheelers plying the Benapole-Jashore and Navaron-Satkhira highways are increasing risks of accidents.
Locals accused the highway police of turning a blind eye to the situation in exchange for bribes. Sometimes, police seize a couple of three-wheelers and file cases but these are just acts, they alleged.
Police denied the charges.
But during a visit to the area, the UNB correspondent saw ‘Mahendra’ (locally-made battery-run three-wheelers) plying freely from Bagachara to Navaron-Satkhira intersection of Sharsha to Benapole on the Jashore-Benapole Highway.
The Mahendras are leaving for Benapole and Bagachra every few minutes from a makeshift terminal at the Satkhira intersection.
Apart from it, engine-driven three-wheelers and battery-operated vans, Nosimon and Korimon, are also plying the roads.
More than a hundred illegal three-wheelers are operating on the Jhikorgachha-Laujani, Navaron-Nobinagar, Godkhali-Jhikorgachha and Beneali-Jhikorgachha routes.
Accidents are taking place almost every day. Locals say the unpredictable movement of these vehicles is increasing the risk of big accidents.
Some people who spoke to UNB alleged that the vehicles continue to operate by bribing the Navaron Highway Police. The monthly one-time bribes range from Tk 450 to Tk 5,500.
There was another allegation that money was extorted from drivers of these illegal vehicles by a certain group to allow them use streets in the municipal area.
Anisuzzaman, Administrative Officer of Jashore District Bus Owners Association, said they are facing financial loss because of the three-wheelers. “No action has been taken despite written petitions submitted to various administrative offices for stopping movement of these three-wheelers,” he said.
Navaron Highway Police Outpost’s in-charge Tito Kumar Nath said they are trying their best to stop the three-wheelers from plying the highways. “We’re also filing cases against these illegal vehicles,” he said, trashing allegations of accepting bribes.
Mohammad Farhad, ASP of Highway Police’s Jashore Circle, said more than 200 three-wheelers were seized in the last one month.
“We’re conducting drives to get these vehicles off the highways,” he said. “Action will be taken against members of highway police if they violate the law (by accepting bribes and allowing the three-wheelers ply the highways).”
Khulna, Sept 17 (UNB) – Although the government has lifted the ban on raw jute export, traders here are yet to start collecting jute fearing such a ban again, causing losses to them.
The traders said the jute export witnessed a sharp fall last year due to the ban on the export of uncut Bangla tossa rejection (BTR) and Bangla white rejection (BWR) varieties of jute.
On January 18, 2018, the government had banned the export of raw jute for an indefinite period to encourage the use of jute-made products in the country. It lifted the ban through a circular issued on May 29 last.
On November 3, 2015, the government imposed a similar ban for a month. It, however, extended the ban for an indefinite period later.
The ban was lifted on April 3, 2016 clearing the way for jute export.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), 1,379,290 bales of raw jute worth Tk 1,294.65 crore were exported in 2017-18 fiscal year. The export volume was Tk 1,187.53 crore in 2016-17 financial year.
In 11 months of the last fiscal year till May, raw jute worth Tk 770.91 crore was exported to different countries.
According to Bangladesh Jute Association (BJA), Bangladesh exports raw jute to 28-30 countries, including India, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Korea, Russia, Nepal, Cuba, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Of them, Pakistan, India and China hold a large chunk of the export volume.
Exporters and traders fear that they will face huge losses if the government suddenly takes any decision to ban the jute export again after collecting jute.
They said jure prices fall sharply once the ban is imposed on its export which ultimately hurts farmers.
Many traders also have to wind up their business for losses, they said.
Nazrul Islam, Manager of Mondal and Company, Uttara Pat Sangstha, said although the demand for jute has seen a rise in the global market, they are yet to collect raw jute fearing that the government might come up with an export ban again. “We’ll buy jute after observing the situation.”
Bangladesh Jute Association Chairman Syed Ali said the sudden export ban hits the farmers and traders hard. “So, traders will step forward after calculation.”