Kushtia, May 23 (UNB) – The local administration has identified at least 3,000 encroachers who have illegally occupied the banks of rivers and canals in the district, obstructing their water flow.
These encroachers have built houses, shops and markets on the rivers and canals. Now, the authorities concerned are trying to free the banks in six upazilas of the district.
“The rivers and canals have been illegally occupied,” kushtia Deputy Commissioner Aslam Hossain said. “We’ll take every step to restore the normal flow of the water bodies.”
Already, the administration has conducted an eviction drive in GK Ghat area on the Garai River bank in the district town.
Officials said many structures have been built on the banks of the Padma, Garai and Hisna rivers, and canals under Ganga-Kopotakkhya irrigation project.
The Hisna River in Bheramara upazila is hardly recognisable with houses and shops on both sides while farmers are growing paddy on the dried-up river beds.
Locals said big trawlers used to ply the once vibrant river but now it has dried up because of illegal encroachment.
Bheramara Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Sohel Maruf said a list containing names of 200 encroachers was sent to the deputy commissioner. “The number is higher,” he said. “The river was illegally occupied at various times and the water level has subsequently gone down.”
According to the water development board, at least 2,921 encroachers are occupying the banks of the Padma, Garai and the irrigation project’s canals. Most of the houses are made of brick and there are some tin-shed shops, too.
These encroachers have been living here for a long time, officials said.
WDB Executive Engineer Pijush Krishna Kundu said dredging at various canals has started. “We’ve served notices to the land grabbers,” he said. “We’re conducting drives to free the water bodies.”
Khalilur Rahman Maju, former president of Sacheton Nagorik Committee, said illegal establishments and pollution have destroyed the rivers.
“The rate of river encroachment and pollution is very high in Kushtia. Since the land grabbers have been identified, the administration should bring them to book and free the water bodies,” he said.
Cumilla, May 22 (UNB) – Comilla Intermediate Secondary Education Board is struggling to deal with its workload for lack of required manpower.
According to official sources, 124 posts, out of 219, at the Board have long been lying vacant, hampering its everyday activities.
Talking to some of its officials and employees, the UNB correspondent found that the present manpower shortage was created as no new officer or employee was hired for many years while many went on retirement by the time.
The Comilla Education Board started its journey in 1962 comprising 15 districts of greater Chattogram division.
Six of the districts -- Cumilla, Brahmnabaria, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni and Laxmipur -- are now under its jurisdiction after Chittagong and Sylhet education boards were established with five and four districts respectively in 1996 and 2001.
Sources said there are 219 approved posts at the Board. However, 124 of them at different levels have been lying vacant for long, said Shahidul Islam, deputy controller (Exam).
Of those, six out of 24 first class posts, 11 out of 19 second class, 81 out of 115 third class and 26 out of 61 fourth class posts are currently lying vacant, he said.
Of the first-class posts, one each of audit officer, information officer, sports officer, programmer, assistant programmer and assistant maintenance engineer is vacant.
One post of assistant secretary, assistant college inspector, personal secretary to the chairman, assistant sports officer, security officer, assistant librarian, deputy assistant engineer and data entry computer operator of the second-class employees each is also lying vacant.
A number of officials, who preferred not to be named, said the existing officers and employees of the Board have to endure tremendous pressure to cope with the everyday workload.
They said a deputy secretary (Academic) is performing the duty of the sports officer as additional charge.
The officials said as there is no information officer, people who come to avail themselves of various services face difficulties.
They demanded that manpower against the vacant posts be recruited immediately to ease their workload.
Contacted, Chairman of the Board Prof Md Ruhul Amin Bhuiyan said they lose a lot of staff as many officials and employees are going on retirement every year.
He said the required manpower will be hired following the approval of the Education Ministry.
Cox’s Bazar, May 21 (UNB) - Ramadan is the month when Muslims try to get closer to each other with greater love and affection with the spirit of the holy month. But the Rohingya Muslims living in Cox’s Bazar camps find it painful when they get together for having iftar meal as their tragic memories constantly haunt them.
“We used to take Iftar and offer prayers together with our family members and relatives before August 25, 2017. Now, we’ve got detached from our homeland and beloved ones. Having Iftar with them is merely a memory now,” recalls Rafiq Alam, a Rohingya man now living at Balukhali Moynaghona Camp No-11.
Visiting 32 Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf, the UNB correspondent found no shortage of Iftar items there but a sense of isolation and sadness was there among the Rohingya people.
Rohingya Lalu Mia, a resident of Balu camp, said, “We had simply water for Iftar during Ramadan last year. Now, there’s no scarcity of Iftar meal, but a feeling of sadness grips us as we couldn’t meet our relatives for the last two years after being displaced from our homeland in Mongdu under Rakhaine State.”
Some female Muslim Rohingyas like Yasmin, 21, of Naikhong area, Julekha, 25, and Mayesha of Mijjiripara also shared their own tragic stories.
They said they all lost their mothers as Myanmar soldiers killed them during their widespread persecution against Rohingyas. Every year, during Iftar, they deeply remember their mothers as they used to provide them with their handmade delicious Iftar items.
The correspondent also found several shops inside the camps where Rohingya people were selling various Iftar and other items made by them.
Md AbulKalam of Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) said, “Rohingya people were provided with various Iftar items ahead of Ramadan.”
He said the World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing iftar items like gram, oil, lentil, vermicelli, onion, garlic among the Rohingyas under an e-voucher programme.
Rohingyas, living in Cox's Bazar, are now stateless. Despite living in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya lost their citizenship following a change in Myanmar laws in 1982.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingya people in crowded settlements in Cox’s Bazar as 741,000 of them have fled persecutions in Myanmar and taken shelter in Bangladesh since August 2017.
On May 7 last, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi called for solidarity with millions of forcibly-displaced people worldwide – including over one million Rohingya people living in Bangladesh.
The UNHCR chief shared his warmest wishes with all those observing the holy month of Ramadan with a call for unity in the face of prevailing challenges.
"The holy month of Ramadan conveys a very important message which we must not forget—may what unites us prevail over what divides us," he said in a video message recorded during a visit to the Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar.
Dhaka, May 21 (UNB) - The Anti-Corruption Commission, country’s principal organ for fighting graft, was less actively engaged in fulfilling its stated function in 2018, as evidenced by a fall in the number of inquiries, investigations and charge-sheets it executed during the year, compared to 2017.
The ACC, however, contends it was more qualitatively engaged in graft-busting during the year.
According to the ACC’s own data gleaned from its recently released annual report, some 3,427 complaints were submitted to the commission during 2018, of which it completed inquiries into 827 - around a quarter. In 2017, it completed inquiries into 1,445 out of 18,000 complaints it received.
The ACC went on to file some 216 cases during 2018, against 273 in 2017.
The ACC also completed 489 investigations in 2018, almost half the number it did in 2017, when it completed 965. This number includes investigations that may have been initiated in previous years.
The commission’s own data shows that it submitted 236 charge-sheets during 2018, against 382 in 2017.
ACC Public Relations Officer Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya told UNB that the case rate is going down as they are paying attention to ‘quality investigation. “We’ve no shortage of resources but officials are assigned to submit quality investigation reports.”
During a press briefing after submitting the ACC’s annual report to President Abdul Hamid on May 13, ACC Chairman Iqbal Mahmood also said that the commission was looking into the quality of investigations to ensure “100 percent success rate” in the trial of corruption cases.
Iqbal Mahmud also emphasised the need to eliminate corruption at the lowest level of the administration and said it becomes difficult to take action when lowly-ranked corrupt officers become influential.
The ACC chief said, "The majority of Bangladeshis live in rural areas. Villagers don't have access to the DCs, SPs. They think low-level officers can help solve their problems. We need to pay attention to stop corruption at the lowest level."
"When we go to catch these people, we’re told that they’re insignificant. The media then says we've only caught small fry. But the people of the country want to stop small-time, field-level officials from engaging in corruption," he added in favour of this ‘bottom-up’ as opposed to ‘top-down’ approach.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said ACC still has a big scope to expand its professional skills towards performing better in their investigations, in keeping with a large, well-funded and resourceful institution, instead of chasing after “small fry”.
“They can work for increasing the skills of the officers of the investigation team through modern training and updated knowledge to relentlessly combat, control and prevent corruption, as corruption is a sophisticated crime,” Dr Iftekharuzzaman said.
Playing down the numbers released by the ACC, he said, “Number is no matter. What matters is who is included in the case. They (ACC) are only busy catching the small fry. They need to open the cases against the big fish. If the ACC can do the job properly, people will trust them.”
Expressing a skeptical view of the recent emphasis on “preventive” activities by the ACC, Dr Iftekhar said, “Conducting programmes for the prevention of corruption and promotion of best practices is all very well, but spending disproportionate time in such activities will itself be a bad practice as they must keep in mind the ACC’s responsibilities and its mandate to carry out inquiries and investigations and to execute its duties as a prosecuting agency.”
He also stressed the need for transforming the ACC into a constitutional body, as opposed to a statutory one created through the Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2004, in order to guarantee its total independence.
“The ACC should be completely an independent, autonomous and constitutional body to perform well,” he said.
Dhaka, May 20 (UNB) – The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has rejected a proposal of the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry to construct a tourism complex in Cox’s Bazar at its own initiative as it wants the project to be implemented under public-private partnership (PPP).
The ministry had moved to construct the tourism complex in Cox’s Bazar at its own initiative after having failed to implement the project under public-private partnership (PPP) even in five years.
In a recent meeting, the Cabinet body turned down the ministry’s proposal and asked it to make further efforts to implement the project under the PPP model, official sources said.
The ministry repeatedly tried in the last five years to implement the project under the PPP but no company showed interest to tie up with it.
Finally, the ministry decided to execute the project at its own initiative under its annual development programme (ADP), said a source at the ministry.
But when the ministry placed its proposal before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on May 8 last to delist the project from the PPP list and give its approval to the latest proposal to implement it under the ADP, the committee outright rejected it.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, who presided over the meeting, expressed his resentment at the ministry officials, saying the public entities have no success in running any tourism project, said sources present at the meeting.
“So, the project must be implemented under the PPP model as per the previous decision even by softening the conditions of the contract,” the minister was quoted by the sources as saying at the meeting.
He directed the officials to sit together with private investors and make a breakthrough in implanting the project under the PPP model, said a source.
Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) had undertaken a project to turn Upol Motel Complex on 5.70 acres of land in Cox’s Bazar into an international hotel complex under the PPP model.
The ministry had placed the project titled ‘Establishment of International Standard Tourism Complex at existing Motel Upol Compound of BPC at Cox’s Bazar’ at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on August 21 in 2014 whereby it received the go-ahead.
Following the approval, the Public Private Partnership Authority appointed Indian consultancy firm Feedback Infra Structure Advisory Services Pvt Ltd to conduct a feasibility study.
The Indian firm also prepared a contract document to award the project to a private partner under the PPP model.
Accordingly, the first bid was invited on February 22 in 2017 setting the upfront premium for the project at Tk 12 crore, and project development fee at Tk 5 crore and annual contract fee at Tk 2 crore with provision 5 percent increase per year.
The contract period of the project was set at 50 years. The last date of bid submission was May 1, 2017. But no bid was submitted except one although its date was deferred twice.
According to the sources, Orion Power Meghnaghat Limited was the lone bidder in the tender, but the bidder was not considered a qualified one by tender evaluation committee.
In such a situation, the PPP Authority advised the BPC to ease the conditions of the tender to make the project commercially viable and lucrative one for the private investors.
Complying with the advice, the sources said, the tender was invited for the second time on September 28, 2018 where the upfront premium was set at Tk 6 crore, project development fee at Tk 4 crore annual contract fee Tk 2 crore with 3 percent increase per year and tenure of contract at 25 years with provision of 15-year extension.
But on the last day of tender submission on November 11, 2018, it was seen that no bidder was interested to tie up with the project. Finally, the tender submission date was extended till December 11.
But no bidder submitted bids for the project this time, too.
The ministry finally decided to withdraw the Upol Motel project from the PPP list and implement it by its own only to be rejected by the cabinet committee.