Dhaka, Jan 13 (UNB) – Despite Bangladesh’s “serious efforts” to resume the halted repatriation process, the recent deteriorating condition in Rakhine State of Myanmar has brought “much worries” among all concerned, clouding the repatriation prospect, officials indicate.
More Rohingyas, not in a big number, entered Bangladesh territory in recent days amid the further deteriorating scenario in Myanmar, they said.
In recent weeks, the intensification of violence between the “Arakan Army” and the Myanmar Army has led to increased humanitarian consequences for the civilian population and caused displacement of nearly five thousand people in Rakhine and Chin States.
“The situation is fragile there where Rohingyas were supposed to go back. We’ll certainly want to start the repatriation process,” Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam told UNB.
At the same time, he said, it is right to say that it is a matter of worry to see the deteriorating scenario instead of significant improvement in the place of origin of Rohingyas. “So, there’s reason to be worried about.”
Responding to a question, RRRC Kalam said they have heard about few new entry but they are yet to verify it fully to determine the numbers. “It’s under verification process.”
The national taskforce for Rohingya refugee response, chaired by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, reviewed the overall situation on Rohingya on Thursday and discussed how the international community can genuinely get engaged to resolve the crisis.
“Firstly, we evaluated the repatriation-related situation and got updated on the recent incidents (in Myanmar),” a senior government official who attended the meeting told UNB.
He said they also discussed the proposed 2019 joint response plan for Rohingya humanitarian to determine the funding mechanism and priority areas. The plan will be finalised soon for formal launching.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam has already said the government will continue to take effective steps to address the pending issues, including solution to the Rohingya crisis.
The State Minister said they did not deliberately push the repatriation issue that much before the election as the repatriation could not take place as agreed by the two countries though the two countries were very close to starting the repatriation.
“Our efforts will be expedited in the coming days, I can say that with confidence,” Shahriar said keeping focus on the listed and verified Rohingyas.
Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to begin the repetition of the first batch of Rohingyas by mid-November last year but it was halted.
The international community appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s humanitarian support to nearly 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.
An official wishing to remain unquoted said more Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh from other countries.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has recently sought clarification from India over the return of Rohingya and regretted the India's decision.
There are an estimated 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India, living across different locations, it said.
Lee to visit Rohingya camps
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee will visit Bangladesh soon to see Rohingya situation in Cox’s Bazar district amid Myanmar’s continued denial to her access to Rakhine State.
Lee, who earlier said incidents in Rakhine State bear the “hallmarks of genocide” and called for accountability in the strongest terms, will begin her Bangladesh visit on January 19.
She also plans to visit the island of Bhashan Char in Noakhali. The Bangladesh government has planned to shift Rohingyas to the island.
The UN Special Rapporteur will present her findings and recommendations at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019.
The UN Special Rapporteur will also visit Thailand from January 14 before travelling to Bangladesh on January 19, according to a message received from Geneva on Friday.
The Myanmar government has maintained its decision to cease cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, and refused her entry to Myanmar.
“I still seek to engage with the Myanmar government, and I remain committed to my mandate to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar. I’ll continue to meet people from Myanmar and speak out about human rights issues that occur around the country,” said Lee on Friday.
ICRC Head of Delegation in Myanmar Stephan Sakalian said they are concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the latest armed clashes in Rakhine, particularly as it compounds an already precarious situation.
"The ICRC is concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the latest armed clashes in Rakhine, particularly as it compounds an already precarious situation," explains Sakalian, ICRC resident representative for Myanmar.
"Our teams have been active for the past three weeks, assessing and responding to the needs of affected communities. We hope to reach all of those in need."
Dhaka, Jan 13 (UNB) – Perched on hills overlooking the borders of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, sits the small village of Bogakhali.
It is a remote place in every sense of the word. Reaching it by land is a herculean task as it takes nearly seven days to get there from Rangamati Sadar Upazila. One has to walk almost all the way through the hills.
Sonapoti Chakma, described as a sprightly young girl by her acquaintances, is a resident of this village. She tied the knot with Doyamoy Chakma of the locality and the couple was expecting their first child last month.
She went into labour on December 30, the day the nation was busy with its national election. Her family contacted the local midwife, but her child could not be saved due to the lack of medical facilities and treatment.
The mother’s life was hanging precariously in the balance. When all hope had seemed lost, her family rushed to the local outpost of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) desperately looking for help. The sentinels wasted no time and contacted the army.
Within hours, the army, with the assistance of Bangladesh Air Force, airlifted Sonapoti to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Chattogram. She has made it through.
“Her child was lost because we don’t have any medical facility near the village,” said Dumdumma Union Parishad Chairman Shantiraj Chakma. “She survived thanks to the army. May be the child would have survived too had we been able to contact them earlier.”
The case of Sonapoti is not unique in receiving the army’s help. There are many, for example, Bangladesh women’s football team member Chathuima Marma and Lakshmichhari Police Station’s Constable Mongjoy Chakma.
Recently, a man and his son, suffering from an unidentified disease, received financial assistance from the army’s Rangamati region who also made arrangements for them to travel to India for treatment.
The men in uniform also came forward with humanitarian assistance when nearly 30 families of Khagrachhari’s Durchhari area had diarrhoea.
“We’re doing whatever we could to help people,” Colonel Md Nazim-ud-Daula told UNB. “We’re just following our motto – in war, in peace, we’re everywhere for our country.”
Dhaka, Jan 13 (UNB)- The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has decided to distribute leaflets among the foreign nationals who are engaged in various types of jobs in the country to ensure revenue collection from them.
"We have taken a decision to bring the service holder foreigners under the tax net and motivate them not to evade taxes," a senior official of the NBR told UNB.
He said that leaflets to be distributed among the foreign nationals will give them idea about the tax system of the county and give them knowledge to calculate their payable income taxes.
The NBR official said that the leaflets will also be distributed in the diplomatic missions of various countries situated in Bangladesh through the Foreign Ministry.
According to a statistics given by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on February 8, 2018 in the 10th Parliament some 85,486 foreign national of 44 countries are involved in various types of jobs legally.
Some 35,386 Indians are involved in various types of jobs in Bangladesh which is highest from a single country. People of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, South Korea and some European and African countries are also working in Bangladesh.
Of the total numbers, 67,853 are businessmen, 8300 experts, 3682 officials, 2105 players and sports organisers, 922 capital investors, 804 personal staff, 727 technical professionals, 561 NGO workers, 400 research or training staff and 132 are house assistants.
But the NBR apprehended that the actual number of the foreign nationals engaged in jobs in Bangladesh will be four to five times higher.
The decision to distribute leaflets among the foreign nationals was taken at a Board meeting recently held at the NBR conference room with its chairman M Mosharraf Hossain in the chair.
The foreigners who will enter Bangladesh through air and land ports will get these leaflets and acquire some knowledge about the tax payment of their income from this country.
“NBR has the information that a good number of foreign nationals are staying in the country without valid document and engaged in service in various trades. Taking this chance the local business houses don’t give information about their foreign employees to the NBR, as a result the country is depriving of taxes,” the NBR official said.
To stop income tax dodging by the foreigners, a new section has also been added to the Income Tax Ordinance in 2015-16 under which one will be jailed for three months to three years and be panelized Tk five lakh or both if he/she appoints any foreigner national without prior permission of the authorities concerned. The companies will also lose tax holiday or exemption benefits.
All the foreigners are bound to pay 30 percent tax on their income if they stay and work in the country for 90 days a year.
Faridpur, Jan 12 (UNB) – The once verdant banks of Madhumati River, separating Faridpur’s Boalmari Upazila from Magura’s Mohammadpur, are now blighted by illegal brick factories thriving on a growing demand for the construction material.
The brick kilns, mostly sprung up on agricultural land, are burning trees, use topsoil from arable land and soil from the river banks to make bricks. For chimneys, they use the ones either made from corrugated iron sheets or tin drums.
Locals say the brick factories are destroying the environment, agricultural land and woods as the local administrations of the two neighbouring districts are giving a blind eye to the problem.
During a visit last week, the UNB correspondent saw two brick kilns on cropland in Ruijani mouza and one in Jangalia mouza under Mohammadpur upazila. Workers were busy burning bricks while construction of a number of other kilns was underway.
Peppering the river banks, these brick factories are burning tons of firewood every day, causing air pollution and health hazards.
Shyamal Kumar Saha, vice-president of Faridpur District Brick Kiln Owners’ Association, said they are facing losses since the illegal factories selling bricks at lower prices.
The Brick Manufacturing and Brick Kilns Establishment (Control) Act 2013 prohibits operating brick kilns without licenses. It also forbids using soil from cropland and hills for making bricks. One must secure permission for sourcing soil from canals, ponds, river banks or char areas.
Besides, brick kilns need to have environment-friendly long chimneys with heights between 120-130 feet and are permitted to use coal for fire.
Zafar Molla, owner of STC Bricks, defended using chimneys made from tin, saying setting up auto-kilns costs a lot of money. Minhajul Islam, an owner of ‘Nadi Bricks’, said they will follow rules and make environment-friendly brick factories “in the future.”
Shariful Islam, a partner of Sharif Bricks, said he will secure a licence and environmental clearance for his factory “soon,” but did not exactly said when.
Deputy Commissioner of Faridpur Umme Salma Tanzia said the administration had informed the brick kiln owners about the government’s order. “We’ll go tough on any activity that harms the environment,” she said.
About the illegal brick factories, the DC said: “We’ll coordinate with Magura district administration and take concerted steps to check air pollution.”
Dhaka, Jan 12 (UNB/IPS) - Farmers across the country are misusing some 800 liters of water in producing each kilogram of paddy. Even though it is possible to produce 1 kg of paddy using 2,500 liters of water, currently they are using 3,300 liters for the same only for lack of awareness of certain techniques that can reduce the amount of water needed as input.
Nasiruzzaman, secretary in-charge of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Agriculture, told UNB how farmers in the past used 5,000 liters of water for producing one kg of paddy, and now that has come down to 3,300 liters.
“A farmer has to pay a fixed amount to deep tube-well (used as water source) owner for irrigating a certain size of paddy field for a full season. As a result, there is no incentive for him to save on irrigation as he has to pay the full amount. This is how he misuses the water,” Nasiruzzaman said.
The farmers irrigate their arable land from tube-wells installed by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), and private tube-wells. There are over 36,000 deep tube-wells, nearly 1.4 million shallow ones, and over 1.6 million hydraulic machines under the state and private sector.
Farmers typically cultivate 8.4 million hectares of land, that includes 4.7 million hectares for the Boro (season for rice crop) variety, 1.1 million hectares for Aus (season for rice crop) 5.5 million hectares for Aman (season for rice crop) and the rest for wheat cultivation.
Farmers produce 19.5 million metric tons of rice a year - which means billions of liters of water is wasted every year.
According to a survey conducted by the BADC recently, farmers are using 75 percent of groundwater while 25 percent from surface. It was only 20 percent for groundwater while 80 percent from surface water in 1960-70.
“The agriculture department is going to implement an initiative to reduce the groundwater use by 60 percent within 2030. If farmers’ misuse of water keeps rising, the layer of underground water will go down further. So, we’ve to make the farmers aware through awareness campaign from the field level, to reduce the use of water in their cultivation,” Nasiruzzaman said.
With a view to reducing the misuse of water in agriculture, the Agriculture Department has defined 5 ways, according to the secretary: Quality Dry and Quite (AWD), which will help check for water in the soil beneath the plants; setting up prepaid system in every deep tube-well; setting up pipeline 3 feet below the surface; ‘dream irrigation method’ whereby water can only be applied at the roots of a plant (only applicable for some fruit varieties); and sprinkler irrigation for flower gardens that deliver water from above, he said.
Former Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said, “Plenty of water is being wasted in cultivation sector across the country every year. We’ve taken a number of projects to reduce the misuse of water.”
Farmers have no idea about the misuse of water that is why they use more water than their needs. The misuse of water causes financial loss as well as the underground water level to go down day by day. Farmers and deep tube-well owners will be made aware of the waste they are causing through campaign, the minister added.
Chief Engineer of the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation Lutfor Rahman said from 100 liters water, farmers use 35 percent for required irrigation and misuse the rest 65 percent. At present, the amount of lifted water is 70 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) for cultivation.
Of them, about 50 BCM water is lifted from underground and 20 BCM from surface whereas 32.50 percent water misuse from underground water and 13 percent from surface, the engineer informed.
Jahangir Alam, an agriculture economist, agreed that farmers across the country are misusing water as they have no idea about it.
The government should appoint agricultural engineers, agricultural economists and farm economists to create mass awareness through campaigns at the grassroots level, Alam added.
Note: This story is jointly produced by United News of Bangladesh (UNB) and Inter Press Service (IPS).