Dhaka, Mar 20 (UNB) – Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, is struggling to bring back discipline on its streets.
Violation of traffic rules, reckless driving and evil race on roads by drivers have become the order of the day in the capital, causing vexing traffic congestions and frequent road crashes.
On Tuesday morning, a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) was run over by a bus in front of Bashundhara Gate in Pragatisarani area, prompting private university students to block the road in front of Jamuna Future Park, which left the traffic in the area in complete disarray.
Numerous efforts and initiatives taken by the government have failed to bring back discipline on Dhaka’s streets.
Long tailbacks make commuting in the city a nightmare. The traffic situation is in chaos and it has become a sort of ‘identity’ of Dhaka. One cannot talk about the capital without mentioning the paralysing traffic congestion.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) observed special programmes to bring back discipline on the streets last year after the students’ road safety movement.
But there has been no improvement.
‘Rickety buses run over traffic laws’
The traffic rules awareness campaigns fell on deaf ears. No one, from the drivers to pedestrians, follow the rules. Breaking the law appears to have become the norm on the streets.
It is a herculean task for the small number of traffic policemen to enforce the law.
In September last year, DMP fixed 121 stoppages for buses and issued a number of directives including keeping doors closed while running, displaying staff's photo and mobile number, keeping updated documents and told owners to appoint drivers and assistants on fixed monthly salary.
But the transport sector shows no sign of change.
Buses pick and drop passengers wherever they want, the staff are appointed on daily wage basis, numerous unfit vehicles and human haulers are running on the streets, many driven by under-aged drivers, while many vehicles regularly use the wrong lane.
Buses still compete among themselves for passengers, a tendency transport experts blame on the practice of hiring staff on daily wage basis.
Stuck on paper
A 10-member coordination committee, headed by Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon, was formed to restructure the traffic system and reduce road chaos.
“To restore order, 8,000-9,000 buses of only six companies will be allowed to run on 22 routes,” said Dr SM Saleh Uddin, a committee member and project consultant.
“Another 4,500 new buses will be added to the current fleet,” he said.
All bus staff will be employed through a due recruitment process, Saleh said, adding that transport owners will be given loans with 5-6 percent interest to buy new buses.
Many buses that operate in Dhaka are old and rickety. Their exact number could not be known.
A 15-member committee, headed by former minister Shajahan Khan, was set up to bring city traffic under proper management and curb accidents.
Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader on February 17 said the committee was asked to file a report recommending effective measures within the next 14 days.
“We’ll take all necessary steps to bring discipline in city traffic,” he said.
The report is yet to be filed.
‘Change of mindset’
A Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) study found that over 200 bus companies operate on 194 routes in Dhaka. Seven companies own over 100 buses, leading to cut-throat competition among them and an increase in rule violation and accidents.
“No other country has so many companies involved in the public transport sector,” Buet Professor Dr Shamsul Haque, a transport expert, said. “A small number of companies should be allowed to operate to restore discipline in the capital’s traffic sector.”
He said stiff competition among the private transport companies for revenue led to the collapse of the entire traffic system.
During one such competition in July last year, a bus ploughed through a group of students on the Airport Road, killing two of them. The deaths triggered a countrywide movement for road safety that lasted for about a week.
During the demonstration, the protesters effectively took control of the city traffic and tried to raise awareness about following the law on the streets.
Although the general people and drivers had shown signs of change, they reverted to their old self within a few days after the movement stopped.
“The chaotic situation will not change unless we raise awareness among the people and transport operators,” Prof Haque said. “The law enforcers should strictly implement the law without hesitation.”
Dhaka, Mar 19 (UNB) - Bangladesh is planning to start the distribution of digital passports, also known as ePassports, as early as June this year to ease immigration activities.
The ePassport has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip which contains biometric information used to authenticate the identity of the bearer.
Sources at the Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP) said ePassports will have 38 types of security features. Data currently available in the Machine Readable Passport (MRP) database will be transferred to ePassports.
Preparations to start ePassport distribution are almost complete, according to the sources.
Bangladesh and Germany signed an agreement on July 19 last year following Dhaka’s decision to issue electronic passports alongside the machine readable ones.
Implementation of the project – Introduction of e-Passport and Automated Border Control Management in Bangladesh – started from July 2018 and is expected to continue until June 2028 with the government’s own funding.
“We plan to issue ePassports by June,” Project director Brig Gen Saidur Rahman Khan told UNB.
ePassport distribution was scheduled to start in December last year but it was pushed back to March 2018. However, the authorities concerned failed to begin the work in the stipulated time.
Brig Gen Khan said arranging fund for the project delayed the work. “The project was approved by Ecnec on June 21 last year and the national budget for 2018-19 was also proposed in the same month. So, it took time to arrange the fund for the project,” he said.
Various complications also arose during the work, he noted, saying such delay was acceptable.
Sources at Home Ministry said the decision to keep ePassport valid for 10 years is final but its fees are yet to be fixed. “The Home Ministry is working on it,” Khan said.
DIP sources said the government initially planned to issue two millions ePassports printed in Germany. But later Bangladesh decided to print the ePassports at home. “We’re setting up a world-class printing factory in Uttara. The work is at the final stage. We hope to start issuing ePassports to be printed here,” Khan said.
The project director said 24 million MRPs have been issued so far. “Initially, we’ll start issuing ePassports from Dhaka. The distribution of MRP will continue from other regional offices until they start issuing ePassports,” he said, adding that the existing MRPs will be accepted during their valid periods.
DIP sources said the process to install e-gates has already begun at every airport and land port across the country to facilitate the use of ePassports.
Sylhet, Mar 18 (UNB) – Suitable land and buoyant yield, coupled with increasing demand, are encouraging more farmers in the region to start sunflower cultivation.
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), which has been conducting trials with sunflower in Sylhet Division for three years, is assisting the farmers. Their success is inspiring many others to take up sunflower farming.
Sunflower, one of the most important seed crops grown in temperate countries, is a major source of vegetable oil.
Its cultivation is cheap – requiring one-time fertiliser use and two-time irrigation. Winter is the suitable time for cultivating sunflower. It needs to be sown within November 15, BARI sources said.
The seeds can be collected within 90-110 days and each maund fetches Tk 2,400-3,000.
Faysal Ahmed, the first sunflower cultivator of Sylhet, said he has been trying sunflower farming in the Sadar Upazila’s Kumargaon for the last three years with the help of BARI. “I expect better yield this year,” he said, hinting at an improved situation.
Ansar Ahmed, a resident of Kamal Bazar in Dakkhin Surma upazila, first cultivated sunflower on a small piece of land two years ago to see if his plot was suitable for the crop.
He produced three kilograms of seeds and realised that the crop is profitable. This encouraged him to cultivate sunflower on his 37-decimal plot in November last year with BARI’s assistance.
He will collect seeds at the end of March.
“My fields are now filled with sunflower. I plan to expand the cultivation,” he said. Many farmers in the locality have expressed interest in sunflower farming seeing him.
Attar Ali, another farmer from Hakaluki Haor area, said he took up sunflower cultivation with the help of BARI. “Many others are also coming forward,” he said.
BARI’s Sylhet office Senior Scientific Officer Dr Mahmudul Islam Nazrul said they conducted experiments in the region for three years before achieving success.
“We’re optimistic about the potential of commercial sunflower farming in Sylhet. Farmers will also be benefited by cultivating the oilseed,” he said.
Dhaka, Mar 18 (UNB) - Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd has planned to replace its dilapidated gas pipelines in Dhaka city with new ones as well as to introduce smart prepaid metres for consumers over the next three years.
The state-owned entity has taken the initiative to replace about 5,000 kms of the distribution pipelines, out of 7,000 kms, in the city at the directive of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division, said officials wishing to remain anonymous.
“Initially, about 2,000 kms of pipelines will be replaced with new ones and new pipelines will gradually be installed across 5,000 kms,” said a senior official at the division.
He said engineers at Titas are now busy designing the project. “Once the design is completed, it’ll be placed before the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry as well as Planning Ministry for their approval.”
The official said around Tk 1,200 crore will be spent on the project to replace 2,000 kms of line.
He said there is also a plan to introduce smart prepaid metres for the Titas Gas consumers which will enable them to recharge prepaid cards without going to any vendor.
About the government’s plan, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said the project was taken mainly to check the leakage in the gas pipeline.
He said most of the pipelines across Dhaka city were installed 35-40 years back and those have already become dilapidated.
The state minister said if the pipelines are replaced with new ones, it will check the leakage and reduce the system loss. “This project will check all the illegal gas connections and gas pilferage by illegal users,” he said, adding that they came to know that 150 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) are being pilfered in Dhaka.
“This was found when the government imports 350 mmcfd of LNG and supplies those to the nation gas network. Various power plants in Chattogram city consume some 200 mmcfd of gas and the remaining 200 mmcfd of gas is being injected into the network of Dhaka city. But it couldn’t be traced where such huge amount of gas is going to,” he said.
Nasrul Hamid said if the new gas pipelines are installed, they could easily trace the gas movement.
He said the Energy Division also asked the Titas authorities to introduce smart prepaid gas metres whereby consumers can pay bill through digital system like bKash from remote location without going to the vending station.
Titas Gas company officials said they have some 13,000 kms of gas transmission and distribution lines in and outside Dhaka city.
Of this, some 5,000 kms were installed about 25-40 years ago and most of those pipes were rusted and have now become risky for a reliable network, said a senior official of the leading gas distribution company with market share of 60 percent.
The Titas Gas company distributes 17,000 million cubic metre (mmcm) for its registered 2.783 million users -– eight government power plants, 36 private power plants, 1,630 captive powers plants, three fertiliser factories, 5,128 industries, 382 CNG pumps, 11,688 commercial consumers and 2,764,247 household consumers.
Dhaka, Mar 17 (UNB) – No one of the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) candidates for the top three posts -- VP, GS and AGS -- managed to bag even 500 votes in the latest Ducsu election, demonstrating a stunning fall of the BNP’s student front which had won the top posts in the last election 28 years ago.
Talking to UNB, some BNP and ex-JCD leaders said they had not expected good results in the Ducsu polls, but they could not imagine such a debacle of their student body.
They think lack of preparation, suitable candidates and strong committees at DU and its different halls, serious organisational weakness and running the organisation for long by non-students are the major reasons behind the very poor show of the student body in the Ducsu election.
Besides, some JCD leaders said a long gap has developed between common students and them as they could neither stay in halls nor enter the campus for over the last 12 years while Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) established its ‘unilateral control’ over the country’s premier university.
They, however, believe JCD could have performed far better had the election been held in a free and fair manner.
General students said most JCD candidates were not known to them as they were not active on the campus for a long time.
They also think the Quota Reform Movement leaders filled the position of an alternative opposition student body on the DU campus through their strong role in favour of the common students in JCD’s absence.
Under the circumstances, former leaders of the BNP’s student body think JCD must be vigorously overhauled with regular students removing non-student ones for the survival of the organisation and bringing dynamism in it.
In the March-11 elections, JCD vice-president (VP) candidate Mostafizur Rahman got 245 votes while general secretary contender (GS) Anisur Rahman Khandaker 462 and assistant general secretary (AGS) candidate Khorshed Alam Sohel bagged 294 votes though over 25,000 voters cast their votes in the polls.
Of the JSD panel members, only its common room and cafeteria affairs secretary Kaneta Yalam got substantial votes of 7,119 and secured second position in the post.
Even, no JCD candidate could obtain any post in any of 18 hall unions while the organisation had only 54 candidates against 234 posts in the halls.
Imam Hossain, a final-year student of Dhaka University’s Mas Communication and Journalism department, said most of the JCD candidates were not known to common students since they had no activities on the campus for a long time.
“Even, they didn’t carry out a good campaign before the voting. Students didn’t get confidence in the JCD candidates that they’ll be able to play any role for them since they’re inactive for the last 10 years. That’s why students kept their trust in the Quota Reform Movement panel as an alternative to JCD,” he observed.
Sanjida Khataun, a 3rd-year student of Dhaka University, said the top leaders of JCD are not students while those who contested the Ducsu polls could not impress the students with their election campaign. “Common students, even those who support BNP, wanted the Quota Reform Movement panel to come out successful as they proved their worth and capability during different movements.”
A DU unit JCD leader, wishing anonymity, said organisation weakness, internal feud, lack of preparation, wrong choice of candidates and lack of focus by BNP and ex-JCD leaders are the main reasons behind their organisation’s frustrating performance in the polls.
He said JCD should now recast its DU committee first and then form the committees of all the hall units to revive the organisation on the DU campus.
Former Ducsu VP and ex-JCD president Amanullah Aman said it will not be wise to judge Chhatra Dal’s strength by the ‘manipulated’ results of a ‘controversial and flawed’ Ducsu election.
He, however, said it is necessary to recast JCD with the capable leaders to represent the student community. “JCD is BNP’s vanguard. So, I think a vigorous overhauling of the organisation is necessary so that it can restore JCD’s glory by playing an active role on the campuses in protecting common students’ interests.”
EX-JCD president Shamsuzzaman Dudu said the student body would have done better had the election been fair and credible. “What you have got was not the outcome of a real election. It was manipulated one.”
He, however, admitted that JCD has organisational weakness for various reasons, including long absence on the campus due to obstruction by Chhatra League.
“Chhatra Dal will have to think whether it has the capacity to lead the Dhaka University students. I personally think current Chhatra Dal has some deficiencies in this regard,” Dudu said.
He suggested immediate reorganisation of the JCD with regular and active students of Dhaka University to strengthen the organisation so that it can play a lead role on the campus in ensuring students’ rights and welfare.