Khulna, May 19 (UNB)- Stocks of finished goods in all nine state-owned jute mills of Khulna are piling up in the face of depressed sales in global jute market, part of a chain of crises afflicting the industry including the ongoing labour unrest in the region.
According to Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) sources, stock of jute products worth Tk 284 crore remain unsold, triggering a financial crisis for the jute mills. Moreover, the production rate has decreased to just a third of the target, around 34 percent.
Sources said outdated machinery, poor timing of raw jute purchase, and decreasing demand for jute products in the global markets are responsible for the situation, resulting in the mills failing to pay labourers’ wages on time, prompting the recent unrest.
It is to note that, nine jute mills – Crescent, Platinum, Khalishpur, Doulatpur, Star, Alim and Eastern – in Khulna and JJI and Carpeting jute mills in Jashore were established between 1952 and 1968. At least 5,115 looms were installed at the time in the nine mills.
In 50 to 60 years, almost nothing in the mills was upgraded. The spinning, softener, breaker, finisher and drawing machines of the mills are decaying faster now for lack of proper renovation of equipment.
According to sources within jute mills, they produced 228 metric tonnes (MT) per day against a target of 372 MT in 2017. In 2018, target and production both reduced from 272 to 183 MTs on daily basis.
Moreover, only 1,854 looms are working properly among 3,650 looms.
On the other hand, only 13,271 labourers have been working out of 33,047 permanent and daily wage based labourers in the state-owned jute mills.
The mills authorities are purchasing raw jute at high price as they couldn’t purchase it in the peak season for financial crisis. They bought 179,922 quintals of raw jute by February 26 this year, less than a quarter of the purchase target.
Md Sohrab Hossain, general secretary of Crescent Jute Mills' Collective Bargaining Agents (CBA), said “Mills authorities are spending extra Tk 2,000 per maund of raw jute now as they couldn’t purchase it in time. They are imposing that loss on labourers now by paying delayed wages which has advanced the labourers’ agitation.”
Gazi Shahadat Hossain, Crescent Jute Mills’ project director, said, “The demand of jute products is on a downward trend in the international markets. Iran, Syria, Sudan aren’t buying jute products from us. So we are unable to sell the ready products and cannot buy raw jute in time.”
The only slightly profitable lines are those producing lamination bags using the new PLP machines, Shahadat said.
BJMC liaison officer Rahmatullah said, “We get all updates from the mills. We’ve been trying to sell ready products as soon as possible. In the first phase, we’ve plans to modernise and repair the machineries of Crescent and Platinum jute mills. This’ll be implemented in seven other mills subsequently.”
Dhaka, May 19 (UNB) – Road discipline in the capital remains as bad as ever even after observing many traffic weeks and awareness campaigns, and carrying out drives by law enforcers.
Transport sector experts have identified poor traffic and bus management system, dysfunctional signalling system, reckless driving and evil race on roads by drivers among the reasons why the traffic situation in Dhaka remains chaotic.
The reasons, as they mentioned, also include unplanned development, unauthorised parking, the growing use of private and small vehicles, the presence of rickshaws on key roads, and lack of proper enforcement of laws.
Last year, the death of two college students triggered a countrywide road safety movement. At that time, there were widespread crackdowns on drivers and vehicles without licences. But things have gone the downhill as soon as the movement stopped.
Talking to UNB, Buet’s civil engineering department Professor Dr Mohammad Shamsul Hoque, urban expert Iqbal Habib, Buet’s Accident Research Institute (ARI) Director Professor Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association Secretary General Khandaker Enayet Ullah said some low-cost projects and a holistic approach in line with the Strategic Transport Plan (STP), revised in 2015, need to be implemented to restore discipline on the city streets.
Though it looks impossible, the traffic situation in the capital is still manageable, they said.
Ashis Kumar Dey, general secretary of the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), suggested leaving the city traffic to the Army for a year.
Iqbal Habib said there is no improvement in the city’s traffic situation though the engagement of law enforcers have increased to some extent in the name of conducting some drives and observing traffic weeks.
During the drives, the law enforcers fined vehicles, mainly for violating some traffic rules. “But they didn’t take action against contractual appointment of drivers, arrest drivers without licenses or seize unfit vehicles. These three issues must be strictly dealt with to restore discipline on roads.”
Habib, also a joint secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said most buses in Dhaka are unfit. “The government should give the bus owners tax-free facility and soft loan to procure high-quality buses to replace the old ones.”
He said there is no effort in sight to remove rickshaws from the main roads and discourage the use of private vehicles to increase the road capacity for mass transport. “It’s also regrettable that traffic signal system is still ineffective in the city.”
Prof Shamsul Hoque said the government is struggling to bring back discipline on the city streets for lack of implementation of some pragmatic plans and enforcement of relevant laws.
He said the traffic situation will improve considerably if some low-cost projects and actions in light of the revised STP can be implemented.
As per the STP, he said, the government must recover footpaths, make roads and intersections more usable, bring buses under some franchises, enforce traffic rules and restore discipline in the transport sector.
Besides, Hoque said, the number of small vehicles, like auto-rickshaws, human-haulers and rickshaws, must be restricted on main roads. “The government doesn’t need much money to implement these plans, but it has no interest to do so. It only focuses on mega projects like flyover and metro rail to solve traffic problems, but those are not solutions.”
He said there are also guidelines in the revised STP about developing effective traffic safety and traffic management and public transport system and establishing government’s control over bus terminals.
Prof Mizanur Rahman thinks that it is not possible to improve the city’s traffic situation without some engineering solutions outlined in the revised STP. “The road network must be expanded alongside improving the city’s transport management capacity.”
Besides, he said, sufficient mass transport, trained and disciplined drivers, and effective traffic management and introduction of bus route franchising system are necessary to restore discipline in the transport sector and end unhealthy competitions among buses for passengers.
Enayet Ullah said some government policies need to be changed to improve the traffic situation in the capital. “Though there’s a demand for 5,000 passenger buses in the capital, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has given route permits for nearly 2,500 ones.” It only encourages plying of unauthorised buses to meet the passengers’ demand.”
Enayet Ullah said the contractual system can be abolished if bus counter system can be introduced. “It’ll significantly cut competition among bus drivers for passengers and reduce the number of accidents.”
As a large number of drivers reportedly take drugs, he advocated dope tests and taking actions against addicted drivers. Driving under influence is one of the key reasons for road crashes, he said.
Ashis Kumar Dey said the BRTA, police and other government authorities concerned have failed to root out anarchy from the city roads and transport. They have given in to the political influence of a small number of transport owners and workers associations leaders.
He said Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia also recently admitted that they failed to restore discipline on roads.
Under the circumstances, Ashis Kumar, the government should deploy the Army for a year to bring back discipline on the city streets and prevent accidents and causalities.
Chapainawabganj, May 18 (UNB)- Growers and businesses here are hopeful of harvesting and bringing their mangoes to the market within the next two weeks.
Matiur Rahman, a mango trader of Sadar upazila’s Baliadangi area, said they are going to harvest delicious ‘Gopalbhog’ and ‘Guti’ mangoes within 15 days.
Gradually, they will start harvesting Khirsapat, Lengra, Fajli, Amrapali, Ashwina and other varieties, he said.
Babul Islam, another mango businessman, said people should buy mangoes after examining whether those are really from Chapainawabganj or not. Some are selling low-quality mangoes produced in Satkhira, Dinajpur, Meherpur and other areas with Chapainawabganj tags.
Abdur Rakib, a mango grower of Chapainawabganj municipal area, said, “Hope, there'll be increased demand for Khirsapat this time as it has been registered as a Geographical Indication (GI) Bangladeshi product. And we'll get the fair price.
Abdul Wahed, President of Chapainawabganj Mango Merchant Organisation, said mango traders suffered a loss of Tk 500 crore last year due to hailstorm and low prices.
Manjurul Huda, Deputy Director of Chapainawabganj Agriculture Extension Department (DAE), said, “The production of mangoes is satisfactory this year. But, the department is advising growers to be careful about Hopper insect attack due to the increased heat.”
According to sources at the DAE, 31,820 hectares of land were brought under mango cultivation in five upazilas of the district in 2019 which was 21,000 hectares in 2007. Over 275000 metric tonnes of mangoes were produced in the district in 2018.
Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 17(UNB/IPS) – Kaptai Lake, the biggest manmade lake in Bangladesh, is heading for a tragic end as sediments fill up its bottom and waste materials continue to pollute it every day.
The 688-square-kilometre lake, created by damming the Karnafuli River in Rangamati for hydroelectricity in 1960, has been providing livelihood for a large portion of the local population through tourism, fishing, transportation and much else.
Pollution and the use of pesticides are playing big roles in the water body’s decline, environmentalists say.
The lake, connecting six sub-districts, is traversed by thousands of people every day. Waste and oil from the launches and boats go into it, apart from those dumped by people living on its edges, locals say.
It is unclear how much waste, including plastic and polythene, is dumped into the lake daily. Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati AKM Mamunur Rashid says he is not sure if there had been any cleanup drives.
‘Never been dredged’
But siltation has turned out to be the major concern. The lake has never been dredged in 59 years, says Commodore Mahbub-ul Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transportation Authority (BIWTA).
Although the lake’s average depth is nine metres, when the water level recedes, it becomes dotted with small shoals. Launches and steamers have to suspend operations until the water level rises.
It is not just affecting the people dependent on the lake but also hampering power production.
The 230-megawatt capacity hydroelectric power plant’s production has come down to 110MW, says ATM Abjjur Zaher, the project manager, noting that the situation will not improve until there’s adequate rainfall.
It is an alarming situation that calls for urgent and effective measures, local say. They are pushing for dredging but the idea is opposed by some environmental activists.
MA Matin, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, a movement to protect the environment, argues that dredging is not a permanent solution.
The water is more or less stagnant when a dam is constructed, he notes. “If we remove silt now, the basin will again be filled up in another 10 years,” he says, recommending searching for alternatives.
Deputy Commissioner Rashid admits that there are pitfalls but insists that it will be impossible to overcome the situation without removing the silt.
He says the lake is gradually becoming unusable because of siltation. “We’ve written to higher authorities but without any result. Recently, a BIWTA team has conducted a survey of Kaptai area,” he says.
People, pushing for dredging, are not realising that it will take time, Rashid says.
“You can’t just dredge the lake. More research is needed before action, and issues like landslides should be considered,” he tells UNB.
Md Mahbubul Islam, Soil Resource Development Institute’s acting chief scientific officer in Bandarban, concurs.
“We can’t deny the possibility of landslides since dredging will change the basin’s structure,” he says.
Islam suggests a long-term study and exploring ways to protect the area and warns that otherwise, there will be a possibility of damage.
He says the lake covers a huge area and needs time for studies or to start dredging. The process will be a “little bit complex”, he notes.
Sunil Kanti Dey, a Rangamati-based journalist who has seen Kaptai Lake from its inception, says that it is now a pale shadow of its former self.
“Restoring the lake’s former glory will be very difficult, if not impossible,” he says. “It’ll be too late if we don’t act now.”
Brahmanbaria, May 16 (UNB)- Farmers have been counting about Tk 300 loss per maund of rice here in the current Boro season due to fall in rice prices.
Visiting Ashuganj rice market, the biggest rice wholesale market of the country’s eastern region, the UNB correspondent found farmers from Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Habiganj, Mymensingh, Sunamganj and Narsingdi bring rice here by river route. Rice mill owners buy rice directly from farmers at this spot.
Farmers said they have been counting huge losses as they are not getting a fair price this year. Mill owners are buying maximum rice at a low price produced in the haor areas instead of the government.
The production cost of per maund of rice including the labourer cost is near Tk 1,000 while its selling price is only Tk 550 to Tk 750 in the local markets, they said.
Ramzan, a farmer hailing from Sarail upazila, said he paid Tk 600 to a day labourer for harvesting paddy with an extra amount of Tk 200 for food.
In addition, he has been waiting for three days at Ashuganj rice wholesale market with 1,400 maunds rice and being forced to sell those at low price. “I have to count a loss of Tk 4 lakh if I sale rice of one boat,” he said.
Another farmer, hailing from Nikli village in Kishoreganj, said he will have to count a loss of Tk 80,000 this year.
According to local sources, frustration gripped farmers as each and every farmer counting losses who bring 50,000 maunds of rice rice daily on an average to Ashuganj rice wholesale market.
Nazrul Islam, a farmer said, the government has fixed price of per maund rice at Tk 1,040 , but they are being forced to sell rice at only Tk 520 to Tk 750 per maund.
District Controller of Food Subir Nath Chowdhury said, farmers should sell rice in their own upazila food godown to get fair price.
Shahajahan Siraj, District Rice Mill Owners Association General Secretary, said to protect farmers in this situation the government should stop rice import and buy more rice from farmers.
He also demanded a rice procurement center of the government in Ashuganj rice market to buy rice directly from the farmers.
Ashuganj Food Control office sources said it would collect 33,923 metric tonnes of Boro rice in the current season. Of that, 24,437 mts would be boiled and 9,486 mts non-boiled.
Ashuganj Food Godown will collect 22,090 metric tonnes rice from 246 mills. Collection will continue till August 31.
Decline in Boro rice prices were also reported from other parts of the country.
A Tangail farmer set his Boro paddy field on fire protesting the paddy price fall and the serious scarcity of day labourers in the district on Tuesday.
Farmer Abdul Malek Shikder staged this unusual protest at Bankina village in Kalahati upazila of Tangail.
Farmers in different parts of the country staged protests in different ways demanding fair prices of their produces. Students of different universities, including Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University and Rajshahi University, also joined the protest prgrammes.