Cumilla’s traditional apparel with aesthetic batik design is now being exported to foreign countries after fulfilling the local demands.
The specialty of batik, or wax-resist dyeing, lies in its ability to blend modern and traditional art to create unique designs.
Wax-resist dyeing of fabric is an ancient art form which existed in Egypt in the 4th century BC, where it was used to wrap mummies; linen was soaked in wax, and scratched using a stylus.
In Asia, the technique was practised in China during the Tank Dynasty (618–907 AD), and in India and Japan during the Nara Period (645–794 AD).
Batik-design apparels have been meeting the demand in the domestic market since the independence of the country. More recently it gained popularity in foreign markets, particularly among the Bangladeshi diaspora.
The bright colours, and the hundreds of possible combinations, have won the hearts of both fashion-lovers and art-enthusiasts all over the world.
A group of people in Kamalpur village of Sadar upazila spend busy time all around the year making the designer clothes.
Firstly, the fabric which is usually procured from Narshingdi is washed, soaked and beaten with a large mallet. Patterns are drawn with small copper reservoir with a spout on a wooden handle. The reservoir holds the resist which flows through the spout, creating dots and lines as it moves. For larger patterns, a stiff brush may be used.
Around 30 to 40 men and women are engaged in the work with some putting the designs on cloth, some are involved in the colouring process, some dry wet clothes in sunlight and some fold the dried cloths.
The batik artists said they started designing clothes after the Liberation War of the country and make different popular clothings including lungi, shirt, salwar-Kameez and bed sheet.
The batik business witnesses a spike before Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla calendar; Independence Day on March 26 and Victory Day on December 16 and two Eids as well, workers said.
Manager of Cumilla Dyeing and Kamalpur resident Ibrahim Hossain said there are seven to eight batik factories operating in the district, of which Cumilla Dyeing owned by Hedayetul Islam is the largest.
A total of 40 workers were working in their factory and each of them are paid from Tk 6,000 to 12,000 as per the skill, he said.
“We sell the clothes to the wholesale traders of Dhaka who later export them to Bengali community residing in foreign countries,” he said.
The fabrics are collected from Narsingdi which are cleaned before putting the design later, necessary lungi shirt, salwar-Kameez and bed sheet are made, he stated.
The factories are capable of making 2,000 to 2,500 pieces of clothing and bed sheets every week, he added.
Many factory owners said although their designs mark local tradition and culture and the price is also rational but the industry lacks necessary publicity and assistance from the government.
To flourish more and significantly contribute to the country’s economy, the industry needs proper promotional measures and government support.
A big cow named ‘Chita Bagh’ is drawing the attention of many people at Katenga village in Terokhada upazila due to its size and price as its owner is demanding Tk 10 lakh for it.
The four-year-old ‘Chita Bagh’ weighs 40 maunds (around 1500kg) and like the AUstralian cows is black and white in colour. It is named after its spotty pattern, that somewhat resembles a leopard’s spots.
Its owner, named Kainat, expects to sell it ahead of Eid-ul-Azha at a price of Tk 10 lakh. That is still some way off the Tk 37 lakh that was paid for the last Eid ul Azha's most expensive cow, the 'King of the Haat' in Bangladesh, named 'Messi'.
Many people have thronged the house of Kainat to see ‘Chita Bagh’ in recent days, said Kainat adding that “Many of them wanted to take pictures of the cow while bathing while many took selfies with him and recorded a video.”
“I have brought up ‘Chita Bagh’ like my child and as times pass it becomes matured. Now it turned into a ‘Chita Bagh’ in size and its nature,” he said.
Besides, Kainat said this year a fodder crisis was seen amid coronavirus.
SM Bayezid, son of Kainat, who also helps his father, said Chita Bagh eats hay and grass and it has been brought up like a family member.
According to the sources at Khulna Livestock and Fisheries Department office, there are 6,890 farms in the district and most of these are located in Dumuria, Terokhada and Batiaghata upazilas.
The number of domestic animals is 45,148 in those farms and of these, 40,968 cows and 4,180 are goats and sheep.
SM Auwal Haque, District Livestock and Fisheries officer, said “There is no need to be getting frustrated over the price of the cattle. Social distancing will be maintained at the cattle markets.”
“Besides, selling cattle online became most popular and we are providing necessary assistance to sell their cattle online,” he said.
Although some 2,000 people used to move to Dhaka every day from across the country seeking a better life barely six months back, many are now leaving the capital, thanks to Covid-19 pandemic.
While it is difficult for them to manage three square meals a day, the pressure of paying house rent by landlords is forcing many jobless and low-income people to go back to their village homes leaving this preferred city.
Over 60,000 tenants reportedly have left the capital with their bag and baggage having failed to maintain a roof over their heads and daily expenses as coronavirus has wiped out their jobs and sources of income, said Bharatiya Parishad, a platform of tenants.
It said many other jobless people are either preparing to leave the capital or selling their valuables, including ornaments and furniture, to keep their rented lodging intact by clearing rents and adjusting their advance payment.
Students, rickshaw-pullers, transport workers, day-labourers, hawkers, street vendors, employees of hotels, restaurants and shops, markets, construction workers, small traders and other low-income people involved with informal sector jobs are among those who have lost their ability to pay their house rent.
Many landlords, mostly who are fully dependent on the income from their houses, are also in trouble as many of their tenants are being either failed to pay rent or vacating their houses since the virus has put both the landlords and tenants at odds.
Talking to UNB, Bharatiya Parishad president Baharane Sultan Bahar said thousands of to-let notices are hung in front of houses in the city as many people are leaving the capital losing their sources of earning.
As per their internal survey, he said, over 60,0000 tenants, mostly involved with informal sector, have left the city by June while the total number may stand at 1,00,000 at the end of the current month.
Sultan said many landlords are exhibiting unkind behaviour towards their tenants who are unable to pay their rent at this crisis period. The landlords are seizing their valuables or pushing them out of their rented houses.
Under the circumstance, the Bharatiya Parishad president said, he is going to file a writ petition with the High Court on Monday seeking directives to waive the house rents and utility bills of poor and helpless and jobless tenants for three months -- April, May and June.
Sultan said it is regrettable that the government remains silent about the plight of tenants. “The government can announce a package, even based on loan, for the helpless tenants to overcome the current situation. It can also encourage the landlords to waive fully or partially their rent by giving them various facilities.”
Stating that the houses rent in the city increased by 400 times over the two decades, Sultan said the landlords made huge money over the years by unusually hiking rents every year. “They should be kind enough to their tenants during this crisis period. They should give their tenants time to pay the rent instead of forcing them to vacate their houses.”
He urged the government to amend the House Rent Control Act 1991 to prevent the house owners in the capital from arbitrarily collecting excess rent from their tenants.
Urban expert Iqbal Habib said millions of people live in the capital, mainly low-income ones involved with informal sector, have become jobless and their existence in the city is at stake.
“Over 2,000 people used to come to Dhaka seeking jobs every day before the coronavirus onslaught. A huge number of them involved with informal sector and majority of them are not enlisted with the government or private organisations. So, neither the government nor the private organisations are taking their responsibility during this pandemic period,” he said.
For example, Habib said, many people work as construction workers in the city even for many big farms. “These workers usually work based on daily wages under some contactors who supply labour forces to different construction sites or companies. So, they’re not enlisted with any organisation and no one is responsible to look into their welfare.”
Even though the economic activities have resumed on a limited scale amid the corona pandemic, he said many people are not getting back their jobs making it impossible for them to stay in the capital city. “The government and different organisations have provided them food support, but who will pay their house rents? So, many people have left the capital while many others will do the same in the days to come. Though the government has announced various stimulus packages, these people are left out of that.”
Apart from this, he said, many people in the formal sector are also losing jobs due to the retrenchment policy adopted by many private organisations to cope with the coronavirus fallout.
Habib said the government should now help the jobless people by announcing a bailout package for them so that they can pay their rent at least partially.
Besides, he said, the city corporation should waive the holding tax of the landlords so that they can relive their poor and jobless tenants from rents to some extent.
Besides, Habib said, a house-rent policy should be enacted as soon as possible determining the relations between the landlords and the tenants and their responsibility to each other.
Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said around 1.25 crore people either fully or partially have lost opportunities for earnings, and majority of them live in cities. “So, it’s now difficult for them to manage food for their families, let alone paying the house rent.”
He said taking necessary steps to get rid of the virus and fully resume the economic activities is the solution to the problem. “The government can widen its social safety net and cash transfer programmes, and provide soft loans to support both the tenants and the landlords to overcome the problem until the normalcy returns.”
The government plans to add some 5,550 kilometres to the rural roads network, alongside 31,000 metres of bridges/culvert extensions that help to make the roads more accessible while at the same time taking them into the heart of communities.
Another much anticipated initiative will see the expansion of the climate resilient core road network to the rural areas, making them well-placed to sustain increased commercial and economic activity as the country evolves to middle-income status.
Meanwhile work on maintaining the 13,500 kilometers of pitched roads and 3,800 metres of bridges/culverts that already exist in rural areas will be carried out starting from the 2020-21 fiscal.
In addition, the document said, a total of 195 growth centres/haat-bazars will be developed to increase agricultural and non-agricultural outputs by stimulating rural economy, creating job opportunities and influencing supply chains.
To strengthen the activities of local government, 65 upazila complex buildings together with 100 union parishad buildings will be constructed.
Besides, a further 140 cyclone shelters will be built in coastal areas.
"With the development of roads, the country’s road network coverage will increase from 35.75 percent to 36.75 percent," the budget document said.
According to a senior official of the LGRD Ministry, rural roads are the main infrastructures for rural communities, based on which rural economy circulates, leading to gradual development of various amenities in rural lives in each village.
"Sustainable rural roads facilitate all other socio-economic benefits, such as access to education and health, employment, poverty alleviation, women development and business initiatives," he said.
The official said that priority areas for rural roads at the moment are- upgrading existing busy rural roads into two lanes to make them suitable for rapidly expanding rural economy, sustainable maintenance of constructed road infrastructures, and making new road connections quickly in villages currently without roads.
In addition to these development works in rural areas, the budget document added that targets have been set to construct 830 kilometers roads and footpaths, 250 kilometres drains and 3,000 metres bridges/culverts in small and big cities.
"Following the implementation of all these infrastructural development works, direct employment amounting to12 crore man-hour, and a huge opportunity for indirect employment will be created," the document reads.
The budget for 2020-21 fiscal has proposed Tk. 39,573 crore for the local government and rural development sector, up from the Tk. 37,886 crore in the outgoing fiscal year 2019-20.
The document mentioned that a commitment to increase rural road network coverage from 35 percent to 35.75 percent is on its way to being met fully.
In the last eleven years from 2009 until February 2020 - i.e. the current AL-led regime’s unbroken spell at the country’s helm - a total of 62,149 kilometers of rural roads has been built. That covers the construction of over 93 percent of roads at upazila level, almost 80 percent of roads in unions and 20 percent of rural roads.
"The expansion of this rural road network is contributing to the rapid expansion of the rural economy," it reads.
In addition, the government has built/rebuilt about 350,396 metres worth of bridges/culverts for improving the living standards of rural people in the last eleven years.
To rapidly spread development benefits to all corners of the country, it built some 20 bridges measuring over 500 metres each, to go with 480 that measure between 100-500 metres during the same period.
Ongoing infrastructure projects include 40 bridges of over 500 metres, and 220 more measuring between 100-500 metres.
In addition to rural infrastructures, 1,615 Union Parishad Complex buildings, 225 Upazila Complex/Extension buildings were constructed/ rebuilt, 2,287 growth centres and hat-bazars were developed, and 881 cyclone centers have been built in the last eleven years to make public services available for the rural people.
Although the flood situation in Kurigram district has improved a little bit, the sufferings of people have intensified for lack of relief materials and 'mismanagement' in their distribution.
Local public representatives claimed that the relief materials allocated for their areas are too inadequate to assuage the sufferings of flood victims, and they could not provide any relief for over nine days.
Deputy Commissioner of the district Rezaul Karim said they allocated 203 mts of rice and Tk 36.67 lakh in the beginning of the flashflood though a demand of 2,000 mts of rice and Tk 2 crore was sent for the flood-hit district.
The DC claimed the relief items were distributed at union level in coordination with all the local public representatives.
While visiting unions in nine upazilas of the district, the UNB correspondent found some discrepancies in allocation of relief materials for the distressed people.
Akmal Hossain, chairman of Bollov Khash Union Parishad, said they are yet to make any list of affected people as relief items have not reached his union.
However, Nageshwar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Noor Ahmed Masum said 60mts of rice was allocated for Bollov Khash union.
Chairman of Astomir Char Union Abu Taleb complained that there was no relief material for over 3,000 flood-hit people in his union.
The UNB correspondent tried to reach Chilpmari UNO AWM Rayhan Shah over phone to know about that but failed.
Rezaul Karim Amin, chairman of Bojra UP in Ulipur upazila, said he received only 200 packets of relief materials for over 2,000 flood victims in his union.
Belal Hossain, chairman of Begumganj UP in the same upazila, said they received only 300 packets of relief materials for more than 3,000 flood-hit people.
Asked about the shortage in relief supply, Ulipur UNO Abdul Quader said, “The relief materials were distributed as per the ratio of affected people.”
About the ratio and allocation for his upazila, Quader said he will inform it once he receives information from the Relief Department.
Meanwhile, 400 affected families among 700 at Biddyananada union in Rajarhat upazila received relief materials, said its chairman Tajul Islam.
According to information received from three unions in Char Rajibpur upazila, 2,900 families among 17,250 were provided with relief materials.
However, Char Rajibpur UNO Nobirul Islam said 1,500 among 5,000 families in Rajibpur union, 900 of 6,250 families in Kodalkati union and 900 of 6,000 families in Mohanganj union received relief goods.
Meanwhile, water in the Brahmaputra River was flowing 13cm above the danger level at Chilmari point while Dharla 52cm above the red mark at Dharla Bridge point on Sunday morning.
However, the Teesta River was flowing 20cm below the danger mark at Kaunia point.