Dhaka, Mar 10 (UNB) – Stopping the illegal import of mobile phones has become a major challenge for Bangladeshi policymakers as it is depriving the country of a staggering Tk 1,200 crore in revenue every year since it has emerged, according to mobile phone importers.
They estimate that about 2.5 million handsets, worth around Tk 3,000 crore, are brought in illegally every year.
Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers’ Association (BMPIA) says most of the illegal imports are refurbished Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi products.
At least 30 percent of the country’s Tk 10,000 crore handset market is dominated by illegally imported phones, BMPIA reveals.
It says about 2.76 crore handsets are imported legally every year.
But sources at the Bangladesh Telecommunication and Regulatory Commission say 25 to 30 percent of the handsets used by consumers are illegal.
But a closer look at the market reveals that 75 percent of it is dominated by feature phones.
BMPIA says the budget announcement caused a rise in illegal imports that are coming through Dhaka, Chattogram airports and various other ports.
“Failing to prevent illegal imports will only discourage legal importers and the government will continue to lose revenue,” it warns.
‘The last hope’
Last year, the government approved the production and assembly of mobile parts in the country. But assemblers need to pay about 15-17 percent tax to import parts. And the lack of government policy support is holding them back against illegally imported phones.
Only two companies, Walton and Samsung, are producing smartphones in Bangladesh while 94 percent of India’s demand is met by locally produced handsets.
There are an estimated 15.58 crore mobile phone users, BTRC data show. Last year saw the import of about 3.44 crore phones.
Meanwhile, BTRC, with BMPIA’s financial support, launched NOC Automation and IMEI Database (NAID) services to prevent the import of illegal cell phones.
BTRC has already set up an IMEI database of handsets legally imported since January 2018.
“Sixty percent of the handsets in market have been added to the IMEI server,” former BTRC chief Brig Gen Nasim Pervez said.
ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar says NAID will enable NRB and BTRC to easily identify illegal phones.
The legality of the handsets can be checked by sending an SMS with the IMEI number to 16002. A return SMS will inform users whether their mobile phones were imported through legal channel.
Users will be able to lock their stolen phones if their IMEI numbers are included in the databank.
BMPIA President Ruhul Alam Al Mahbub says it will be possible to start the database in December. “It’ll help stop illegal imports,” he says.
BTRC chief Jahurul Haque is more optimistic. “Government revenue will rise by a huge margin and it will stop illegal imports. Theft of mobile phones will also stop,” he says.
Satkhira, Mar 9 (UNB) – The farming of sugarcane in the district has declined by over 97 percent over the last two decades as farmers are losing their interest in farming of the cash crop mainly due to climate-induced reasons.
According to agriculturists, the farming of sugarcane and other crops is being badly affected since 2000 following several natural disasters.
Besides, the salinity level is on the rise in cropland hampering sugarcane, turmeric, pulse and sunflower cultivation in the district, they said.
Farmers said they are not opting for sugarcane farming these days as sugarcane fields come under frequent attacks by various types of diseases and fungi for the climate change impacts.
However, the local office of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE)said the sugarcane cultivation is on the decline not only for climate-induced reasons but also for the absence of any sugar mill in the district and that the crop needs a year for taking yield.
The DAE sources said sugarcane was used to be cultivated extensively in the district even two decades ago. In 1990, the crop was cultivated on 5,250 hectares of land while in 2000, 3,948 hectares of land was brought under farming and 140 hectares in 2010.
But the acreage came down to only 129 hectares in the current year, showing a 97.22 percent decline from that of 2000.
Arbinda Biswas, deputy director of Satkhira DAE, said climate change is not the only reason behind the fall in the sugarcane cultivation. “Farmers are losing their interest as there’s no sugarcane mill in the district. Besides, it takes one year to get yield. But farmers can cultivate three other crops in a year. For that they’re losing their interest.”
Mentioning that all the crops are attacked by diseases and insects, he said field-level agriculture officers give advice to farmers for remedies.
Elderly farmer Abdul Aziz of Datpur village in Talaupazila said around 70-80percent farmers of the village used to cultivate sugarcane for long and he had also cultivated the crop for around 30-35 years. “But I have not been cultivating sugarcane for the last 10-12 years.”
After the flood in 2000, cyclones Sidr in 2007 and Aila in 2009, farmers are not getting expected yields like previous years following the increase in salinity level in soil, he said.
Sugarcane fields also come under attacks by different types of diseases and fungi, Aziz said, adding that he stopped cultivating sugarcane after having failed to get any remedy for it.
The farmer also said they need to wait for long one year after sowing the seeds to get the yield. “But in the mean time, we can produce other crops twice. That’s why farmers are losing their interest in sugarcane farming.”
Dhaka, March 8 (UNB)- The government’s drive to remove chemical factories from Old Dhaka following the horrific fire that killed 71 people in Churirhatta on February 20, has dented business of some ancillary industries as well, such as plastic raw materials.
Proprietors of such businesses said they are facing an alarming situation after the fire incident. Besides, the government officials disconnected many houses’ electricity, gas and water lines. So they could not sell their raw materials to producers whose factories have closed.
“Why cut off electricity line and harass them in the name of drive without even fixing land for them first?” they questioned.
After visiting the surrounding areas of Haji Wahed Mansion, ground zero of the February 20 fire, many traders were seen reposed to not getting customers.
Muhammad Kamal Hossain, proprietor of Kamal Plastic Center, said there are mainly plastic businesses in the area. He also said his sales have gone down around 80 percent after the fire incident and the government’s drive.
“The government officials who are conducting the drive in the name of removing chemical warehouses, do not try to hear our voice, they come and disconnect our factories’ electricity line. But there is no combustible substance factory, we only do plastic recycling. You don’t need chemical for this,” he also said.
Another trader said their business came down also.
Tuhin Plastic center’s owner Tuhin Kawser and Nasir PVC Center Manager Parvez said they could sell 20 to 50 sacks raw materials of plastic before the fire incident every day but now they can’t sell even five sacks.
Parvez said the Old Dhaka is a business hub of Bangladesh, and the government should at least fix land for their relocation before the drive.
“Government officials come and tell us to shift to Keraniganj. But we cannot shift over protesting locals there, who seem to think we will pollute environment there too like here. Now where we will go?” he questioned.
Mohammad Selim, proprietor of M/S Sunan Store in Chawkbazar said that they cannot sell home accessories for lack of customers. “In the past, we could not take rest over pressure for sale but now we have to wait for a customer. We expect the situation to change soon.”
According to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) sources, electricity and gas connections to total 109 buildings in different parts of Old Dhaka including Hosnidalan, Nazimuddin Road, Mali Tola, Hazaribagh, Islampur, East Islambag, and Waiz Ghat that housed chemical warehouses were cut off till Thursday. The taskforce, formed by DSCC, is conducting the drive and will continue till April 1.
Babul Sikder, a resident of Haji Ahsanullah House where electricity, gas and water connections were cut off several days ago, said he has been living in the house for 25 years. There was a shoe factory under the first floor of the seven-storey building.
“Cutting off line creates somewhat problems. But it will be solved. We are lobbying with government officials to connect the lines again. Now we have to pass time in darkness. We hope it will end soon. The factory’s equipment and chemical have been removed from our house,” he also said.
Haji Sheikh Md Javed, General Secretary of Bangladesh Plastic Babosayee Samity told UNB that several hundred traders are engaged in the business. All of them are in dire straits not getting customers.
“Many factories are closed, so the traders cannot sell products to them. It will solve the problem if the government takes positive initiative. We want that the Old Dhaka to be a chemical-free area. But there is no combustible substance in the area,” he also said.
He further said they met with the prime minister’s private sector advisor Salman F Rahman on Wednesday. “He ensured us that the government won’t harass us.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday expressed her government’s firm stance to remove the warehouses of inflammable materials from Old Dhaka and other residential areas of the capital.
“Such inflammable materials can’t be allowed to be here. We’re looking for a separate place for them (businessmen). We don’t want to ruin their businesses. But no chemical godown can be allowed to be there in residential areas,” she said referring to the recent Chawkbazar fire incident.
Dhaka, Mar 8 (UNB) - It has nearly been a century since Dhaka University was established. For years, the ‘Oxford of Orient’, as many fondly call it, remained a tough ground for women to rise.
But things have changed in recent years and the university has done an excellent job in empowering women and increasing their participation in all sectors.
Prof Dr Nasreen Ahmad became the first female pro vice-chancellor in the university’s history on June 6, 2012. Prof Sadeka Halim was the first woman to be elected dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences on December 13, 2017.
Dhaka University says the number of teachers and students is 1,992 and 37,018 respectively. Of them, there are 638 women teachers and 12,028 female students.
Currently, 32 percent of the university’s teachers are women. The percentage of female students is 32.49.
Female students are also dominating the university’s academic activities, winning most of the academic excellence awards.
The university gave the Deans Award to 28 students of the Faculty of Social Sciences in 2017. Of the recipients, 17 were females.
Prof Halim pointed out that the university has no quota system for girls. “They get into Dhaka University with their merit,” she told UNB.
“In the past, women were considered weaker than men. But this pattern of thinking is changing. They (women) have proven themselves in all sectors,” she said.
Prof Halim said she had had some odd experiences being a woman. “But I always took them as challenges and tried to overcome those with my work,” she added.
Female students are not lagging behind in extracurricular activities either.
Twenty-eight female candidates are vying for various posts in the upcoming elections to Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (Ducsu) hall unions scheduled for March 11.
BM Lipi Akter, vying for common room and cafeteria affairs secretary from Bangladesh Chhatra League panel, said women participation has increased.
“But it’s not enough,” she told UNB. “In the Ducsu election, no student organisation, except the Chhatra League, nominated enough female candidates.”
Khulna, Mar 8 (UNB)– Some 42 kilometers of government-owned land in shoal areas of Dumuria Upazila have been encroached by a section of influential people, who are filling up rivers and installing brick fields.
Vessel movement has almost stopped in Thukra-Hamkura and Kharnia rivers as parts of the Thukra-Hamkura have been nearly filled up. Kharnia’s condition is no better, either.
The situation is threatening the environment of 54 unions surrounding Dumuria. Four polders and 18 sluice-gates have already been shut off due to excessive sedimentation.
Dumuria Land Office says about 4,500 acres of char area have already been occupied by illegal brick fields, hatchery, factories, households, poultry and dairy farms. Many land encroachers even sold or rented out the land.
Canals connected to the river are filled with hyacinths, and waterlogging has become a common feature in this area during monsoon.
Jamal Uddin, a farmer, and Bimal Chandra Boiragi, a teacher, said every year thousands of people of Dumuria, Fultola, Tala, Jashore and Keshabpur upazilas are left marooned. The people are forced to abandon their houses and move into emergency shelters.
The General Secretary of the upazila’s brick field association Abdul Latif Jamaddar turned down the claim that they were killing off the rivers.
“Brick fields are the reason for the rivers’ survival in Dumuria,” he claimed. “Sediments are dredged regularly which helps the rivers remain navigable.”
But Bangladesh Water Development Board Executive Engineer in Khulna Md Shariful Islam is not convinced. “The only way to restore the people’s regular lives is dredging the rivers,” he said.
“Polders and sluice-gates can be restored if we free the encroached land,” he said.
Local parliamentarian Narayan Chandra Chanda said a project has been taken to evict encroachers from char areas and dredge the rivers.