Theatrically inclined inmates will stage plays like Bangabandhu's prison memoir ‘Karagarer Rojnamcha’ and Munier Chowdhury's ‘Kobor’ in all the 68 jails of Bangladesh as part of a cultural festival that aims at giving the dispirited not only the much-needed recreational break but also an opportunity to prepare themselves to re-enter society.
At least, that's the hope of three research scholars of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Dhaka, who under the supervision of Prof Israfeel Shaheen, also plan to conduct research based on the activities of inmates in the country's prisons over the next three years, apart from organising the plays.
According to Prof Ishrafeel, such research and cultural programmes specifically designed for the prison inmates in Bangladesh are unique "as the earliest expressions in modern Bengali theatre came through Munier Chowdhury's ‘Kobor,’ which was written during his stay in prison and performed by his fellow inmates at Dhaka Central Jail in 1953".
"Our research and cultural activities will take particular note of Bangabandhu's autobiographical narratives from ‘Karagarer Rojnamcha’ and ‘Oshomapto Attojiboni’, episodes of which will be performed by inmates lodged in prisons across the country," Prof Israfeel told UNB.
"We will visit Keraniganj Central Jail by the end of this month, in connection with this programme. Then we will go to Thakurgaon, Dinajpur and other districts," he said, adding that the initiative aims at bringing a ray of hope to the dispirited, in turn, helping bring a positive change in the society.
The cultural activities will later make inroads into juvenile correctional centres, mental hospitals and rehabilitation centres across the country, said Prof Israfeel, an alumnus of Delhi’s National School of Drama. "We have got the required permissions from the university, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Prisons."
In his long career, Israfil has directed of over 40 plays, including Harold Pinter’s 'The Birthday Party', Henrik Ibsen’s 'A Doll’s House' and 'The Lady from the Sea', Chekhov’s 'Three Sisters', and William Shakespeare’s 'The Merchant of Venice', 'Twelfth Night', 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Macbeth'.
Aiming to attract more foreign businesses and customers, the 26th edition of Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2021 is going to be held in March this year at its newly built permanent venue, the Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre (BCFC) in Purbachal, instead of January at the previous venue in Agargaon in the capital.
That will spare city-dwellers the traffic that used to swarm up around Agargaon during the month long fair, while maintaining international standard. The date was changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also read:Shop owners demand closure of DITF-2019
The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and Commerce Ministry have been organizing the month-long annual fair since 1995 beside the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
At the closing ceremony of the 25th DITF, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi had said the 26th trade fair would be held at the Purbachal New Town
Khadija Rahman, 40, a resident of Mohammadpur area said she visited DITF at Agargaon many times in her life. “We visited the fair to purchase different products including apparel, foodstuff, home appliances and electronic products, etc in reasonable prices. But the fairground was very unhealthy due to dust, waste, air and sound pollution alongside congestion,” she added.
Also read: IBBL inaugurates premier pavilion at DITF
She also said it will be really excellent if the fair is arranged in a good environment on international standard fairgrounds.
Talking to UNB, Md Iftikher Ahmed Chowdhury, secretary of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), said they are taking preparations to arrange the fair to coincide with March 17, birthday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. "All construction of BCFEC has been completed without official activities. Now just a formal ceremony will be held to hand over it," he said.
“The fair will be month long as usual but the date is still to be confirmed. Our Prime Minister will fix the exact date soon. Then we will announce tender and send letters to embassies of different countries,” he added.
Also read:DITF extended further; now to end Feb 6
Iftikher Ahmed said around 300 local and international stalls can be set up in the 26-acre venue in Purbachal. “No mask, No entry system will be continued in the fair for health safety due to COVID-19. Most stalls will be installed in two hall rooms but some stalls can be set up in open field too,” he also said.
The secretary added they will try to maintain international standard in DITF Purbachal venue to attract more foreign businesses and customers. “The previous venues of DITF could not be arranged maintaining international standard at Agargaon of the capital. So the government decided to arrange it at its permanent venue to maintain international standard,” he also added.
Iftikher Ahmed also said attendance may be low compared to other years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Besides, the permanent venue is new and located outside the capital.
Also read:DITF 2020: Holiday draws large crowd
BCFEC has all the requirements for a world-class venue including hall rooms, conference centres, trade information centres, meeting halls, press centre, service rooms, modern car parking, round-the-clock CCTV and even its own power substation.
According to the EPB, there were 483 stalls of different organizations from 21 countries including Bangladesh in the 25th edition. Around Tk 200 crores in export orders were received by Bangladeshi firms at the country's biggest trade show in the 25th edition.
Also read: DITF extended by four days
The foreign companies were from India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Nepal, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, the Maldives, Mauritius, Russia, Iran, and Swaziland.
India's decision to lift a ban on onion exports from January 1 may have provided some relief to Bangladeshi consumers but has led to a wave of anger among importers.
UNB has learnt that many of these businessmen are, in fact, reluctant to unload the imported onions that have already reached Chattogram Port, fearing losses due to a sharp drop in the prices of the sought-after vegetable in the domestic market.
India withdrew its ban on onion exports with effect from the new year, nearly three and a half months after imposing the same to contain the domestic prices. Onion prices had hit the roof in Bangladesh, following the abrupt ban.
However, after two days after the ban was lifted, as many as five trucks with 65 tonnes of onions reached Khatunganj, the biggest wholesale market in Chattogram, on Sunday, sources said. And in just a day, the onion prices dropped sharply at all major domestic hubs.
Businessmen say they imported onions at Tk 40-45 a kg but the prices have now declined to Tk 30-32 a kg in the wholesale market. "If we unload the imported onions and sell them, we are going to count huge losses," said an importer.
Also read: India lifts ban on onion export
Mohammad Idris, the general secretary of the Hamid Ullah Mia Market Association in Khatunganj, said, "Due to the drop in the prices of onions in local markets, many businessmen are not unloading their imports."
However, the port authorities have threatened to auction the imported onions if the traders do not take any steps to unload the consignments within 45 days.
Omar Faruk, secretary to Chattogram Port, said, “When the onion prices had hit the roof, some 24,000 tonnes of onions were imported from different countries. But they are yet to be unloaded by importers."
Authorities concerned have already sent reminders to these importers. "They now have 45 days to unload their goods, failing which we will put the imports on auction,” said Omar.
Also read: Indian onion reaches Hili port, price drops
Another businessman at Khatunganj market said, “Onions are available in the local market while some 23 to 24 thousand metric tonnes of onion are now waiting at the Chattogram port to be unloaded."
Deputy Director of Plant Quarantine Station at Chittagong Port Dr Mohammad Asaduzzaman Bulbul said the businessmen had submitted their requirement plans for importing 2.9 lakh metric tonnes of onions from abroad.
"As per their demand, the port authorities have provided clearance for importing 1.30 lakh MT onions from countries like Myanmar, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa, UAE, Iran and Russia," he said.
According to the Department of Agriculture Extension, 23 lakh tonnes of onion are produced in the country while there is a demand for 24-25 lakh tonnes. "But 30-35 percent local variety onions got damaged due to lack of proper preservation."
Onion prices jumped sharply in Bangladesh after India banned the export of the popular kitchen item on September 14.
However, Bangladesh took prompt steps to import the kitchen staple from other countries to cool down the prices and sell the same through its trading arm, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).
The prices have been falling for the past few weeks, with TCB offering the vegetable at Tk 23 a kg through various e-commerce platforms.
They have made their all-out efforts to get justice despite their limitations but the long wait of the parents of Felani is yet to end.
Now despair has gripped the ill-fated parents of Felani who was killed by members of Indian Border Security Force (BSF) along the Kurigram border nine years back.
Bangladeshi girl Felani, who used to work as a domestic help in New Delhi, was shot to death by the BSF members along Anantapur border point in Kurigram district on January 7, 2011while returning home crossing the barbed-wire fence along with her father.
Also read: Justice eludes Felani’s family
Later, BSF troops hanged her body on the barbed-wire fence along the border.
Felani's death triggered a huge global outcry as a picture of her body, which was hanging from the barbed-wire upside down, went viral. The BSF men handed over the body a day after her killing.
Following widespread criticisms, BSF started investigation into the incident and submitted a charge-sheet against its constable Amiya Ghosh who shot the girl.
Also read: Felani killing: Family yet to get justice
However, a special court constituted by the BSF had acquitted Amiya Ghosh of the charge on August 19, 2013.
Later, in the wake of widespread criticism of the acquittal, BSF decided to revise the murder trial. However, another judicial court upheld the previous verdict and acquitted Amiya Ghosh again on July 2, 2015.
Following this, Felani's father Nurul Islam with the help of human rights organisation Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum) filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India.
Later, Indian Supreme Court bench, headed by the chief justice, show-caused several bodies concerned, including the Home Ministry, in this regard.
Talking to UNB, Felani’s father, Nur Islam, said, “I went from door to door seeking justice in the last nine years but yet to get justice. The date of the trial proceedings deferred several times. How would I get justice in this situation?”
The last date of hearing was March 18, 2020, but the hearing did not take place due to Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
Jahanara Begum, mother of Felani, demanded justice drawing the attention of the government of the two countries.
SM Abraham Lincoln, Kurigram Public Prosecutor, said, “Like Bangladesh, India also wants justice in the case but the case lingered due to the delay in taking decisions by the BSF. The hearing on the case deferred several times. Now virtual hearing is taking place due to Covid-19.”
Also read: BSF promises measures to curb border killing
“If the authorities concerned take effective measures to hold virtual hearing, then the case will be disposed of soon. Otherwise, the writ petition hearing will be held after the improvement in the Covid-19 situation,” he said.
“I hope Felani’s family will get justice,” he added.
A landless sexagenarian amputee dependent on one son -- a van-puller by trade -- as the 8-member family's lone breadwinner could hardly dream of living out his days in a home to call his own, that too built on a piece of land in his own name.
But Hanif Matubbar, 65, is going to do just that after the government came forward to construct a modern home on a two-decimal land for him.
The government will also hand over the ownership of the two-decimal land to him.
Hanif Matubbar, 65, has been living along with his big family in a shabby hut on another person’s land at Afajuddin Munshikandi village of Zajira upazila under Shariatpur district.
He used to be a day-labourer, but gangrene put an end to his job prospects 27 years ago, a double blow to his life as he became unable to meet the family expenses.
Eventually, he was forced to have his right leg and fingers of the right hand amputated 10 years ago due to gangrene, leading to mounting the misery of his family.
Hanif, a father of three daughters and a son, forgot to see the dream of having a house on his own land as his son is the only bread earner for his family.
Though his three daughters were married off and live at their in-laws', his household has 8 members including his son's wife and four children. Let alone the dream of having a good house, it is even difficult for the family to live hand to mouth with the small income of a van-puller son.
But now the amputee person is going to get a house with modern facilities with a two-decimal of land under Ashrayan-2, a housing project run out of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The construction of the tin-shed pucca house on Khas land in Karimuddin Matubbar Kandi village under Senerchar Union of Zajira Upazila has been completed.
The government will hand over the house and land ownership to his family in mid-January.
Like Hanif Matubbar, 10 homeless and landless families are going to get modern houses on the same site under the Ashrayan-2 Project.
Each two-room home with kitchen, toilet and veranda is being constructed at a cost of Tk 1.75 lakh under the project.
“I never thought that I would have a home on my own land. But now I am happy seeing that I have a pucca-house on my own land. It was something more than my dream,” Hanif Matubbar told UNB.
Abdul Kadir Bapari, 45, a day-labourer, who has been living with his five-member family in a hut constructed on another person's land, is going to get a house in the same site with land ownership.
He has a wife, four daughters and a ten-year-old son in his family, but his two daughters were married. He is the lone earner for his family.
He said he is satisfied having such a good house. “I’m grateful to the government for giving a poor like me the house with land,” he said.
A widow, Zarina Begum, 65, who has been living with his youngest son in a rented house in Maniknagar Club Mor area will also receive a pucca house in the same Khas land.
She has five sons and a daughter. But four sons and the daughter got married and they all are living in nuclear families.
“Now I live along with my bachelor son who is a van-puller. We need to pay Tk 1500 each month as the house rent. But we’ll not be required to pay the money anymore,” Jarina Begum told UNB.
Another widow Mamataj Begum, 70, who is childless, will also be given a Tin-shed pucca house there.
Mamataj, inhabitant of Mujib Hawlader Kandi village, lost her husband 30 years ago. Since then she has been living with her sister’s daughter. She used to work as a domestic help.
“I’ve got a shelter getting the house,” she said.
Zajira Upazila Chairman Mobarak Ali Sikder said a total 54 families are going to get such Tin-shed pucca houses in January next in his upazila.
Of these, 100 percent construction work of 30 houses and 80 percent construction works of the remaining 24 percent have already been completed, he said.
“The beneficiaries are very happy as they are going to have such pucca houses,” the Upazila Chairman told UNB.
Project Director of Ashrayan-2 Md Mahbub Hossain said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will hand over at least 50,000 houses to homeless and landless people in mid-January.
A total of 65,726 houses are being constructed on Khas lands across the country for the homeless and also landless people at the cost of some Tk 1160 crore in the first phase of Ashrayan-2. The core idea is to commemorate the Mujib Centennial by drastically reducing homelessness in the country..
“The Prime Minister will also hand over the Kabuliat (document of ownership) of the lands along with houses to the beneficiaries,” he said.
Later, one lakh more houses will be constructed in the second phase in the Mujib Year under the project, said Mahbub Hossain.
“A total of 1.66 houses will be handed over to poor families in the country in the Mujib Year,” said the Project Director.
The government has a plan to construct some nine lakh houses for the homeless people in phases under the Ashrayan project aiming to ensure that no people would remain homeless, he said.