Gaibandha, July 22 (UNB) - It was a building of Jubilee Government Primary School in Sadar upazila, where around 450 people had taken shelter by Saturday as their homes got submerged.
As evening fell, Hamida Bibi, an elderly woman of flood-affected Baniyarjan village, appeared at the shelter centre-cum-school and sought shelter in the building which was already overcrowded, leaving hardly any room for newcomers.
People who were already there had their minds made up: room after room, they refused to welcome her, citing lack of space. No, not even for just one more frail, elderly woman who had just lost everything.
In the last classroom-cum-bunker that she tried, a strapping youth named Sumon turned her away, saying, “A total of 46 people of 15 families are staying in this room. Where will you stay?’’
That was the last straw for Hamida. Spent, she became speechless as she collapsed outside the room, with nowhere else to go. And that is where she would spend the entire night, hoping against hope that they would take her in. That of course wasn’t to be.
And so it is also where journalists visiting the facility the next morning would find her, slumped out of weakness and fear, almost abandoned.
‘’Please bury me in a grave. They didn’t provide me a little space to sleep, though lots of people have taken shelter there. I spent the whole night sitting in front of the door. All the people inside got eggs and rice but I didn’t get any food. I starved the whole night here,’’ she rolled off in a miserable monotone.
‘’It seems that torture in hell is better than my current situation,’’ she continued to admonish. And yet there she was, living and breathing and feeling, surviving. Even as she looked like death, Hamida embodied instinct for survival. Her whole life had been a story of fighting for survival.
Mokhles Mia, the husband with whom she had four children, died during the Liberation War. Like so many of the war widows, the end of the war in 1971 was only the beginning of a new war for them - this one to raise her children in a fledgling new state where everything was asunder and to do so without a man by her side. Like so many of those mothers, Hamida took stock and she got on with the job, for the sake of her children. Because that’s what mothers do.
Till the floods came along this year, she had been leading a happy-enough life with her three sons and their families, all three pulling vans to deliver goods for a living. The only daughter was married off to a family in nearby Nuniyagari. On their plot of land, Hamida herself was rearing a good number of cattle. If not opulence, she did have something resembling contentment.
But that all came to an end this summer, as the Alai River - despite being one of the smaller rivers in a district through which the Teesta, Brahmaputra, all flow - kept rising, exceeding the danger mark at one point, then another, till all along and Gaibandha slowly started going under water. The overflowing waters started inundating Gaibandha municipality area. In course of time, vast areas of the district were submerged in water.
At one stage, on July 12, the sons along with their wives were forced to move out, leaving the vans as it went under water. From then onwards, Hamida’s vigil was a lonely one.
By Friday, even her neighbours were all gone, and large parts of Gaibandha were marooned off by floodwater. Hamida knew she had little time, and although she would have preferred to guard her sons’ vans, the chest-deep water forced her hand on Saturday. How she made it to the shelter is a mystery itself.
Ayub Ali, a volunteer with the shelter centre, said about 450 people had taken refuge in the school building. Even the roof and staircases of the building were filled out with people who had lost most earthly belongings.
They were only surviving. And that is enough to hope and build for another day.
Dhaka, July 22 (UNB) - The National Board of Revenue (NBR) earned Tk 2,412.63 crore in the last two fiscal years by disposing of some 345 revenue-related cases through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system.
According to sources at the NBR, four persons helped the revenue collecting authority dispose of the cases in 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years.
Of the total amount, former NBR official Tarique Haider helped fetch Tk 1,516.07 crore through disposing of 139 cases. In return, he took Tk 53 lakh as his fees.
An amount of Tk 714.97 crore was deposited with the national exchequer through auditor Humayun Kabir while NBR official Syed Aminul Karim helped collect Tk 149.88 crore and Alauddin Tk 31.70 crore.
As per the existing law, the person who will help collect the revenue will get fees at a fixed rate. The NBR and the taxpayer will bear the fees equally.
In 2018-19 fiscal year, the NBR had targeted to dispose of 200 cases through the ADR system. But the number of applications submitted to the NBR to this end was 231 involving Tk 1,632 crore.
Of the total applications, 124 were settled down completely while 18 partially and 41 are under process.
The target for 2017-18 was 190 while the number of submitted applications was 360 amounting to Tk 2,701 crore.
Of them, 221 were disposed of completely while eight partially and 131 remained unsettled.
As per the existing law enacted in 2012, the ADR is a system that allows the NBR and taxpayers to settle tax-related disputes outside the court with the assistance of a third party through discussions.
As per the law, a senior NBR official said, taxpayers need to apply to it have their tax-related disputes resolved through the ADR.
He mentioned that some taxpayers always try to evade tax and feel encouraged to resolve the matter in court. “Those who fail to make any gain in the court usually come for settling their disputes through the ADR.”
Currently, the amount of revenue that remains uncollected for a long time due to 32,000 pending cases in various courts is more than Tk 50,000 crore, the NBR official said.
According to sources at the NBR, some big business houses of the country applied for having their tax-related disputes resolved through the ADR system.
An NBR official involved with the ADR said the system is yet to bring full benefits for both of them and the national exchequer due to the reluctance among the businessmen.
“The NBR has taken various initiatives to make the system dynamic. A former NBR member has been appointed after forming a neutral cell for this system," he said.
Dhaka, July 21 (UNB) – The Housing and Public Works Ministry is likely to initiate departmental action soon against the officials involved in irregularities in the Green City Housing Project of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) project.
“We’re very serious and we’ve taken the issue very seriously. We’ll soon start a legal process for departmental action against the corrupt officials,” Housing and Public Works Minister Rezaul Karim told UNB on Saturday.
A hearing on the alleged corruption by the Public Works Department (PWD) officials under the ministry is expected to be held on Sunday.
Following a writ petition filed by a Supreme Court lawyer, the ministry submitted a probe report to the attorney general’s office on July 15 for submitting it to the High Court.
Rezaul Karim informed that the ministry would go for a thorough analysis of the probe committee report which found anomalies involving Tk 36.4 crore in purchasing furniture and other household items for officials of the housing project of the nuclear power plant.
Following reports on alleged irregularities, the ministry formed two probe bodies which also recommended departmental and legal actions against 50 officials for their alleged involvement in the irregularities.
According to the probe reports, a Tk 113.63-crore deal was signed with three companies for the supply of furniture and electrical appliances for four buildings of the Green City Housing Project. But the actual price of those items was Tk 77.23 crore.
Each pillow was shown to have cost Tk 5,957 and Tk 760 was shown as the lifting charge for each pillow while an electric stove was shown to have been bought for Tk 7,747 with an additional lifting charge of Tk 6,650.
The purchase price of an electric kettle was reportedly Tk 5,313 and its lifting cost was Tk 2,945.
Similarly, a room-cleaning machine, purchased at Tk 12,018, was lifted spending Tk 6,650.
Meanwhile, some ministry officials blamed anomalies and discrepancies in PWD’s Schedule of Rates (SoR) for the irregularities in the housing project, saying those provide scope for such corruption through connivance between officials and contractors.
Referring to the “Analysis of PWD SoR, 15th Edition, published by PWD, dated May 1, 2018”, they said this SoR gave scope for corruption as through it, contractors can supply substandard goods and works at relatively higher prices.
Citing an example, the officials said the page 2019 of the SoR provides a rate for steel structure materials and fixes 10 percent profit for the suppliers and 6 percent value added tax (VAT) on it.
But when a supplier submits a bill after supply of goods worth Tk 100, the PWD officials deduct 11 percent instead of 6 percent VAT where the extra 5 percent is never mentioned anywhere.
As a result, the supplier tries to supply substandard goods to cover up his extra payment of 5 percent, they said.
Some contractors also said steps should be taken to stop such unfair practice.
They said they have to pay 7 percent VAT instead of previous 5 percent this year. In addition, they have to pay 3 percent advance income tax although annually the large suppliers have to pay 35 percent corporate tax.
Dhaka, July 21 (UNB) – Though the party is going through a troubling time following the death of its chairman HM Ershad and deep infighting, Jatiya Party is unlikely to face any split since its grassroots are united, say party senior leaders.
Despite having differences of opinion and conflicts, they look very positive and determined about keeping the party united under the joint leadership of GM Quader and Raushon Ershad.
Even though Ershad nominated his brother GM Quader as his party successor before his death, some senior leaders, including Anisul Islam Mahmud, Ruhul Amin Hawlader, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, and Fakhrul Imam want Raushon Ershad to be at its helm, according to party insiders.
However, they said majority party presidium members, mid-level and grassroots leaders are in favour of GM Quader and back him to continue as the Jatiya Party chief showing their respect for Ershad’s decision.
In a latest development, GM Quader had a post-lunch parley with Raushon Ershad at her Gulshan residence.
A party press release said Quader have had the blessings of Raushon Ershad as they discussed the party’s future course of action.
A Jatiya Party senior leader, wishing anonymity, told UNB that GM Quader visited Raushon’s house after the two feuding groups of the Jatiya Party reached a near consensus that the party be run under a joint leadership.
“We almost reached a consensus that GM Quader will run the party as its chairman while Raushon Ershad will be the leader of the opposition and lead the Jatiya party’s parliamentary party,” he said.
Talking to UNB, party presidium member Kazi Firoz Rashid said it is a fact that it will be very challenging to keep the party united in absence of Ershad. “But, we’ll make our best efforts to strengthen it. I think there’s no possibility for the party to face any split right now as its grassroots are united.”
GM Quader said their party will be run by as per the decision their party chairman had made before his death. “We’ll take the party forward with united efforts to fulfill the dream of its founder.”
He said Ershad was not only a former president and party chairman, but was also their guardian. “He had given us affection like a father while my sister-in-law (Raushon) is like my mother. In absence of my brother, she’s now our guardian and I’ll run the party taking her suggestions into account.”
Quader, however, said some party leaders may not like him and they may try to create some problems, but the party rank and file will thwart any such evil effort.
“Awami League had got divided into three groups after the assassination of Bangabandhu. But its grassroots were united and they strengthened the party. So, I’m not worried about Jatiya Party’s future. The party grassroots are with me and they’ll make the party stronger,” he observed.
Ziauddin Bablu, another party senior leader, said there is no question of creating any division in the party, “We won’t allow anyone to split the party.”
He also said it will be tantamount to showing disrespect for Ershad if party leaders defy his instruction about its leadership.
Jatiya Party Presidium Member SM Faisal Chishti said it will not be easy for some senior leaders to accept GM Quader in Ershad’s place. “But we the mid-level leaders will convince them to accept it as our chairman himself nominated him the chairman in his absence.”
What Rangpur says
Jatiya Party Rangpur City unit general secretary SM Yasir Ahmed said they are in favour of running the party as directed by Ershad before his death.
He said the people of Rangpur will not accept if any quarter tries to divide the party defying Ershad’s instruction. “As our chairman himself nominated GM Quader the party chairman in his absence, we must accept it, no matter whether we like him (Quader) or not.”
Rangpur Jatiya Party office secretary Khorshed Alam said the leaders and activists of Rangpur and Rajshahi units will foil any move to divide Jatiya Party. “We won’t go against the directives of our late chairman. We’ve accepted GM Quader as our chairman.”
He said party grassroots will remain united under the leadership of GM Quader and extend all-out cooperation to their new chairman.
Jatiya Party chairman and ex-president Hussain Muhammad Ershad who died on July 14 last was laid to eternal rest at Polli Nibash in his hometown Rangpur as the Rangpurians forced their leaders to do so.
Ershad was the most admirable political figure in Rangpur for over three decades.
Nilphamari, July 20 (UNB) - Despite having huge prospects, Chilahati landport is yet to start its operation even after eight years of announcement to do so.
The announcement for making the landport, which was shut during India-Pakistan war in 1965, functional remained limited only to the issuance of a gazette notification.
Besides, work on the project of broad-gauge rail connectivity from Chilahati to Holdibari in India is yet to start on Bangladesh side despite budget allocation for the project.
But the construction of railway up to Chilahati border on the Indian side has already been completed, said convenor of Nilphamari Unnyan Forum Wahed Sarker.
A project for establishing the rail link from Chilahati to Indian border, and upgradation of Chilahati Railway Statio is yet to see the light although it was approved by the Planning Commission a year ago, he said.
Local businessmen said Cilahati, located at Bhograburi union of Domar upazila, 45 km north off Nilphamari sadar, was a business hub during the British period.
Many institutions, including customs station and immigration check post, were established at that time in the interest of the business community.
Now direct inter-city trains run from Chilahati to Dhaka-Khulna and Rajshahi. There are many banks, government and non-government educational institutions, markets, business centres, a police investigation centre , a BGB camp in Chilahati. Besides, there are spinning mills, jute mills, ceramic factory and garment factories in different parts of the district.
According to businessmen, if Chilahati landport and rail link between Chilahati and India are established, the connectivity with India, Nepal, Bhutan and China will improve while the trade and commerce will see a rise in the days to come.
It will also help reduce the expenses of import and export. If the port’s operation starts, investors will show their interest to invest in Uttra EPZ there giving a boost to economic activity.
Convener of Chilahati landport implementation committee Abu Musa Mahmudul Haque said then Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan at a public rally in 2011 had announced to make Chilahati landport operational.
It was discussed at a cabinet meeting in July, 2013 and a gazette was issued for establishing the landport in August.
As the landport work remained unimplemented, the businessmen of the northern region have to import and export goods through Darsana,Sonamasjid, Benapole, Hily and Burimari landports at high costs, said Wahed Sarker.
“Revenue from export and import of both Bangladesh and India governments would increase if the landport goes into operation. It also will help increase commerce and trade in the northern region, create jobs and bring socio-economic development,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner of the district Najia Shirin said the issue was raised during the DCs' conference in July last year when Shipping Secretary Ashok Madhab informed that a gazette was issued in this regard but the project is yet to be implemented.