As majority of the country’s population live in 87,000 villages amid the lack of urban facilities, the government has undertaken a multidimensional plan to equip villages with civic amenities, and a pilot project, ‘My Village, My Town’, in this regard will be launched in 15 villages soon.
Outlining the plan for turning villages into towns, LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Md Tajul Islam told UNB that 15 villages will be taken up under a pilot project to expand the modern city facilities to each village and those services will gradually be expanded to all other villages.
“Fifteen villages will be brought under the pilot project. If this succeeds, we’ll provide urban facilities to all the villages,” said Dr Kazi Anwarul Haque, additional secretary to the Local Government Division.
Asked when the pilot project will start, he said, "We’ll begin it on March 17, the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”
As part of its election manifesto, Awami League has planned transforming villages into towns so that rural people can enjoy the facilities of urban life.
According to sources at the Local Government Division, eight villages in eight upazilas of eight divisions and in seven selected areas (Haor, Char, Hill, Coast, Barind, Midland Beels and two adjoining economic zones) will be chosen for the pilot project. The pilot village project will be implemented in 15 villages as per Vision 2041.
Under the pilot project, villages can be selected according to geographical location, poverty situation, indicators of backwardness.
Urban Development Directorate has implemented a master plan in 14 upazilas of the country -- Dohar, Nawabganj, Shibchar Raipur, Shibpur, Iswarganj, Faridpur Sadar, Bagmara, Gangni, Saghata, Sanotola, Sariakandi, Ram and Rangunio.
“The villages in these upazilas could be prioritized for bringing under the pilot project,” said Dr Kazi Anwarul Haque.
The following modern urban amenities will be expanded to rural areas as per the election manifesto of 2018.
Construction of advanced rural infrastructures designed for effective public transport, development of haats and markets for availability of quality goods and marketing of agricultural commodities, development of sanitation conditions, creating facilities to ensure the supply of pure drinking water, power and fuel supply, bank loan facility for marginal and small entrepreneurs, expansion of e-governance, the use of modern technology to improve the lifestyle of local people, establishing agricultural service centres and workshops and establishing markets are there in the project plan.
The facilities also include expansion of libraries, sports and entertainment facilities, expansion of rural waterway communication, development of rainwater harvesting/rainwater drainage system, ensuring the latest and affordable medical care, expansion of e-governance and increasing opportunities for technical training and technical education.
Under the project, there will be concrete roads in all villages, annual development allocations for repair work, development of rural haats/markets for ensuring availability of quality commodities in markets and marketing of agri-products.
Besides, there will be piped-water supply in densely-populated villages, mini-piped water supply in medium-to-light residential villages and improved sanitation.
People will also be made aware about waste management through ‘Clean Village, Clean Town’ campaign programme.
In the 2018 election manifesto, the ruling Awami League made 21 pledges and ‘My Village My Town’ is among them, which envisions expanding modern urban facilities to each village across the country.
Later, the Local Government Division has taken various initiatives as per the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to implement the special commitment of her government.
Nearly one-third educational institutions in the district do not have Shaheed Minars, depriving the students from paying respect to the Language Movement martyrs.
Among the educational institutions that have Shaheed Minars, the conditions of some are dilapidated.
According to Jashore District Education Office, there are 1,900 educational institutions. But 650 of these educational institutions – 77 in Sadar upazila, 55 in Bagharpara upazila, 86 in Abhaynagar, 84 in Jhikargachha, 50 in Chougachha, 138 in Manirampur, 61 in Sharsha and 80 in Keshabpur – lack Shaheed Minars.
Students at some of these institutions build makeshift Shaheed Minars to pay tribute to the bravehearts who laid down their lives to secure the Bangalis’ right to speak in their mother tongue in 1952.
“We can’t pay respect to the Language Movement martyrs on February 21 since there’s no Shaheed Minar at our school,” said Sumaiya Akter, a student of Dattapara Government Primary School in the Sadar Upazila.
Abdul Jabbar, the school’s headmaster, said it was true that they did not have a Shaheed Minar. “Having one is necessary,” he said. “We’re taking initiative to build one.”
Jabbar said they could not construct a Shaheed Minar as they did not get any fund from the government.
Sadar Upazila Education Officer Kamruzzaman Jahangir said 77 educational institutions in the Sadar upazila lack Shaheed Minars. “We’ve prepared a list of these institutions and sent it to the district education officer,” he said.
ASM Abdul Khalek, the district education officer, they are trying to manage government funds.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (education and ICT) Shammi Islam said many schools could not construct Shaheed Minars for the lack of space.
“Teachers and students from schools lacking Shaheed Minars pay respect at Shaheed Minars of nearby educational institutions,” she said. “We’ll take necessary steps to have Shaheed Minars constructed at all educational institutions.”
On the outskirts of Dhaka, around 250 brick kilns are operating without clearance certificate from the Department of Environment (DoE) in Keraniganj.
Sources said there are 300 brick kilns in Keraniganj and adjacent areas including Rajendrapur, Doleshwar, Jajira and Mollahat. Among them, 250 are operating illegally.
Unlimited burning of firewood in the brick kilns is causing air pollution which is now a major concern for the residents of Dhaka and nearby areas.
Sources said the brick kilns are affecting the environment and the health of the locals, particularly the young and the old. Many of them are suffering from respiratory problems.
Moreover, a number of brick kilns set up on arable land in Rajendrapur, Doleshwar, Jajira and Mollahat area in Keraniganj are also destroying the fertile topsoil.
In Rajendrapur, there are 15 brick kilns along the boundary walls of the Keraniganj Jail. The jail authorities said they have written to the authorities concerned 12 times but the situation did not change.
Farmers and locals alleged that Konda Union Parishad Chairman Faruk Chowdhury is the president of the Birck Kiln Owners’ Association and the illegal kilns are being operated under his management.
He could not be reached for comment.
In November last year, the High Court ordered the authorities concerned to shut down all the illegal brick kilns in Dhaka and its surrounding areas including Keraniganj, Savar, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur and Manikganj within 15 days to reduce air pollution in the capital city.
Amit Debnath, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Keraniganj, said, “The drive against illegal brick kilns is underway and we provided necessary help to DoE with executive magistrate and police for conducting drive.”
Shaheda Begum, deputy director of DoE, could not be reach for comments for this article.
Sources said that in the last six months, the mobile courts fined Tk several lakhs and demolished four illegal brick kilns.
On Saturday morning, Dhaka was ranked second worst in the list of cities with poor air quality.
Books are considered as someone’s best friend and what occasion can be greater than the day of love to gift one to the dearest?
Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14, during the Amar Ekushey Book Fair has turned gifting books into a norm, especially among the youth.
Friday saw a huge turnout at the book fair. Many were seen visiting with their loved ones wearing the attire of Falgun. Most of them were keen to buy books and spend a good time.
Ashraf Alam and his wife Selina Alam, all dressed in red and yellow, spoke to UNB about their preference in gifting each other.
"It’s common to gift something to the special person on this special day and we picked books for that purpose since we love to read," Ashraf said.
Sabbir, a student of Dhaka University, noted that certain books as gifts can convey the emotion of the other persons to the readers.
"I can express myself by gifting a book of Tagore's poems to my loved one without uttering a single word. Books can change your perception," he said.
Another student, Moumita, concurred, saying that this trend of gifting books on Valentine's Day should be encouraged.
"It (the book) doesn't need to be about love. You can gift books based on the interest of your dear ones and it'll surely make them happier than receiving expensive gifts," she said.
Mahmud Rafi, a DU student, said that books leave a lasting impression on the receiver.
The enthusiasm of the people was also reflected on the commercial aspect of Amar Ekushey Book Fair as sales were reportedly higher on this day.
A salesperson of Anyaprakash said business was brisk since morning.
"Sales have been high since morning as the day is a holiday and two significant days (Pahela Falgun and Valentine's Day) are being observed," she said.
People also gifted books to their family members.
Redwan and his 9-year-old girl Adrita were seen in the gathering near children's corner of the fair.
"I’m trying to pick the right books for her as a token of affection and also to grow make her interested in books,” he told UNB.
The celebration of Pahela Falgun, the first day of spring, Valentine’s Day added colour to the Amar Ekushey Book Fair on Friday, turning it into a meeting place for thousands people of all ages.
Pahela Falgun usually falls on February 13 but this year it coincided with Valentine's Day after Bangla Academy revised the Bangla calendar to match the Gregorian calendar. Falgun is the 11th month of the Bengali calendar and the first month of the spring season.
Amar Ekushey Boi Mela remained open from 11am to 9pm with 1,991 new books hitting the fair so far.
Thousands of people, especially the youth, wore ‘Bashonti’ (yellow or orange coloured) dresses, and thronged the fair grounds. Stalls of popular publications buzzed with book enthusiasts while some stalls gave away book markers to visitors as gift on the occasion of Pahela Falgun.
Shami Akter, a former student of Rajshahi University, came to the fair with her friends. “It’s a coincidence that we get the opportunity to observe two major festivals on the same day, but this year it happened,” she told UNB.
“February is the month of emotion for us. Valentine’s Day added extra colour to our traditional festival Pahela Falgun,” she said.
Salesmen of different book stores were struggling to attend the huge number of visitors. They said the sale had been satisfactory.
Tasnuva Adiba, publisher of Adhyayan Publication, said people want to gift books to their favorites persons on special occasion. “The book fair is a great place for many to celebrate the first day of spring and buy new books,” she said.
Faria Tabassum, a BBA student of a private university, said she bought two books for her favourite persons.
Publishers from across the country are showcasing a huge number of books on different issues while the Bangla Academy is exhibiting 104 newly printed and reprinted books this year.
This year, 873 units were allocated to 560 organisations. The authorities have allotted 179 units at the Bangla Academy ground to 126 organisations and 694 at the Suhrawardy Udyan to 694 organisations.
The fair remains open from 3pm to 9pm on weekdays and from 11am to 9pm on weekends.