Satkhira, Nov 1 (UNB) – The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) here is expecting a bumper production of Aman paddy in the district this season as some 8,313 hectares of land have been bought under rice cultivation.
The authorities of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and DAE have taken a scheme titled ‘Blue Gold’ in four upazilas — Sadar, Debhata, Ashashuni and Tala -- in the district.
Under the scheme, officials said, a total of 8,313 hectares of land have been brought under Aman cultivation this time.
Last year, Aman paddy was cultivated in 4,799 hectares of land while it was only 3,200 hectares in 2015, according to sources at the local WDB and DAE offices.
Under the project, a total of 34 beels (water bodies) under polder No. 2 of WDB near the Betna and Marichhap rivers in the district have been brought under Aman cultivation.
‘Blue Gold’ is a collaborative programme between the governments of the Netherlands (donor) and Bangladesh. The Ministry of Water Resources is implementing the programme through the BWDB and the DAE.
During a recent visit to areas along the Betna River Sadar upazila, this UNB correspondent found greeneries all around the beel due to massive Aman paddy cultivation.
Zainal Abedin, a coordinator of Blue Gold programme in Satkhira zone, said the government has revived the linking canals of Betna and Marichhap rivers by re-excavating around 29 kilometers of areas, flushing out water from the beels.
As a result, vast areas of canals, including Badhandanga beel, Chelar beel, Dhulihar-Gobindapur-Borodayal beel, Fatiker beel, Ghoshkhali beel, Habashpur (Kultia-Gobordari-Sarbakashempur-Jordia) beel, Jiala-Badhandanga beel, Kultia-Habashpur beel, Noikur beel, Ramchandrapur beel and Shonakur beel, have been brought under Aman cultivation.
But, the beels of Gadai, Hashkhali, Kamier and Koikhali areas need to be processed for water extraction as the bottoms of the two rivers are higher than the beel-plain, Zainal said.
However, parts of Amodkhali beel, Andher Manik beel, Guddir beel, Gobindapur beel, Hazikhali beel, Kachur beel, Kuthrail-Khori beel, Antakurir beel, Paller Chand beel, Shakunkhali beel, Sholakula beel, Swetpur beel and Altakur beel have been brought under paddy cultivation.
The Aman cultivation in vast areas under has brought smiles to the faces of local farmers as they are expecting bumper production this year.
Kazi Abdul Mannan, a deputy director at Satkhira DAE, said the cultivable lands in the district has increased following the water extraction from the beels under Blue Gold programme.
Dhaka, Oct 31 (UNB) - Bangladesh needs to mobilise domestic investment alongside increasing it in infrastructure with ‘spillover tax revenues’ not relying too much on overseas money as infrastructural needs in Bangladesh remain enormous, says a global development expert.
“Infrastructure needs in Bangladesh are huge. If you rely too much on overseas money, that will hurt the development,” Naoyuki Yoshino, Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), told UNB in an interview at the ADB office here.
The expert, also Professor Emeritus at Keio University, Japan, said the public money and money from the international lending agencies are not enough considering the huge infrastructural needs in Bangladesh.
“I see traffic jam in Dhaka is getting heavier. That means you have lack of infrastructure and transportation,” he said adding that it is important to explore how to bring private sector in order to construct infrastructure. “And the key is how to increase the rate of return from the investment.”
Prof Yoshino who leads the ADBI, the world's second best government-affiliated think tank, said many construction companies are interested in constructing railways, highways but they do not care about development of surrounding areas and inclusiveness.
“They’ve to realise that lots of poor people are living in surrounding areas and think of how to provide finance to them and help them start their own small business, shops, restaurants,” he mentioned.
Prof Yoshino encouraged Bangladesh to give attention more on insurance, pension funds, and other savings saying it is very important for Bangladesh to start increasing savings – short-, medium- and long-term to address infrastructural investment needs.
Hometown Investment Trust (HIT) Funds
He also thinks his popular idea – ‘Hometown Investment Trust (HIT)’ funds - a stable way to supply risk capital, can be applied in Bangladesh supporting poor people around big infrastructure projects – roads, railways and highways - through funds.
In Japan, Hometown Investment Trust (HIT) funds were created as a new source of financing to support solar and wind power. The basic objective of HIT funds is to connect local investors with projects in their own locality in which they have personal knowledge and interest.
“If Hometown Fund can be provided, poor people can start their own business along new roads and highways. This is also good for inclusive growth,” said the expert.
By means of HIT funds, many Japanese investors have put small amounts of money toward the construction of wind power and solar power projects.
The HIT funds have spread from Japan to Cambodia, Viet Nam, Peru, and Mongolia and they are also attracting attention from the Government of Thailand, and Malaysia’s central bank.
Since infrastructure requires long-term investment, the chief executive officer of the ADBI said insurance and pension funds will be good sources of money in Bangladesh.
“In 1991-1992, I was invited by China. They asked me many things and wanted to know Japanese experience of development – what would be the key. I said circulating domestic investments,” he explained how China walked towards development path.
Prof Yoshino said China followed his suggestions and they became successful. And Bangladesh is different from Japan and China. “You’ve to bring little changes, if necessary, to make my proposals suitable for Bangladesh.”
For further development of Bangladesh, Prof Yoshino said Bangladesh has to establish income equality providing opportunities for all. “You also need to provide quality education to have skilled workforce apart from diversity of wealth,” he added.
The expert said education should be made free of cost gradually in line with the growth of the economy.
Citing Broadcasting University in Japan, Prof Yoshino said education can be provided through mobile phone and even poor people in remote areas of Bangladesh can listen to excellent lectures. “You only need mobile phone and internet apart from hiring experienced persons to deliver lecture. It’s not expensive.”
On boosting Bangladesh’s export, he said Bangladesh can export more products to neighbouring countries but it needs to understand what kind of products the market demands.
“It depends on demand and supply. But you need quality products. You have to look at what kinds of products are needed in surrounding countries. What kind of products they need and what kind of products Bangladesh can supply,” he said.
Prof Yoshino also said, “If you’ve quality products you can sell those around the world. It can be a small product like a pen.”
Dhaka, Oct 31 (UNB) - Though the initiative for talks between the ruling and opposition parties looks to be a very positive development in the country’s’ political landscape, noted political observers and analysts are skeptical about any dramatic outcome of it unless both sides demonstrate their prudence.
Talking to UNB, former Vice Chancellor (VC) of Dhaka University (DU) Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique, another DU ex-VC Prof Emajuddin Ahmed, Columnist Syed Abul Maksud, election expert Dr Tofail Ahmed and ex-election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain, said the success of the talks depends on sincerity and liberal stance of both sides on their current positions.
They also think the government may accept some demands of Oikyafront, including dissolution of parliament and refraining from EVM use in the next election, but the issue of installing an election-time neutral government may be the apple of discord of the talks.
Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent a letter to Dr Kamal Hossain inviting Oikyafront leaders to join dialogue at Ganobhaban on Thursday, aiming to continue the democratic trend in the country, but under no pressure.
He also said Awami League is going to sit with Oikyafront, not with BNP, and expect all the problems to be solved on the dialogue table.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said there is a question in public mind about the government sincerity to make the talks fruitful under the current context of politics. “If we join the dialogue, we’ll be hell bent on our seven-point demand.”
The Oikyafront’s seven-point demand includes installation of a neutral interim government, dissolution of parliament, reconstitution the Election Commission, release of all the political prisoners, deployment of army and cancellation of the move to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS) for holding the next polls in fair and acceptable manner.
Prof Arefin Siddique said the Prime Minister demonstrated her good will for positive politics by responding to Oikyafront’s proposal for holding talks.
He said Oikyafront now has to play the main role in making the talks a success as they themselves sought the discussion.
“The main challenge for the success of the talks is to reach a consensus over an acceptable way for holding the next polls in a credible manner within the framework of the Constitution,” Prof Arefin observes.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to uphold the Constitution, and there is no way to go beyond the Constitution. So, Oikyafront must come up with acceptable proposals that won’t conflict with the Constitution,” he said.
Prof Emajuddin Ahmed said it is a very positive and well-thought-out decision of the Prime Minister. “I welcome it. I’m not sure what will be outcome of the dialogue, but it’s a beginning of good politics which may bring a positive change in our politics.”
He said both the ruling and Oikyafront leaders will have to soften their current stances for making the talks a success. “It’s not necessary that all the demands will have to be met. But both sides must reach an agreement on some crucial points for holding a credible general election.”
Syed Abul Maksud said if both the ruling and opposition parties sit in talks with sincerity, it will surely help resolve the current political crisis to some extent.
He thinks one sitting is not enough to find effective ways to resolve the prickly issues centring the next polls. “The talks will be successful if both parties show their liberal attitude and political wisdom. The government needs not to accept all the demands, but should accept the reasonable ones.”
Abul Maksud analyst said the government may agree to some Oikyafront demands, including the dissolution of parliament.
He, however, said both sides may face difficulties over the issue of installation an election-time neutral government.
Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said it is definitely a very encouraging development in politics as the Prime Minister is going to meet at least one demand of the opposition for talks. “I think when the both the ruling and opposition parties engage in talks, something good will surely come out of it.”
Both sides should reach an agreement on at least minimum ground, if it is not possible on maximum ground, to hold a credible and peaceful election as per people’s desire, he said.
Dr Tofail Ahmed said many things can be achieved from the dialogue if both sides sit in the talks with sincerity and sacrificing attitude.
“I’m personally hopeful that the talks will yield some positive outcomes as Prime Minister herself will be present there. But any dramatic result may not come out from one sitting,” he added.
Noakhali, Oct 28 (UNB) – Every year, after completion of their HSC examinations, students wishing to go on to higher education are forced to endure a most distressing experience.
It is hoped that technological advance and knowledge-sharing will soon one day help Bangladesh simplify and modernize its university admissions process.
For the time being though, visiting any number of campuses around the country to sit their individual entrance tests, and dealing with the collective headache of arranging transport, accommodation and food in the process, all for the sake of getting into a university of their liking, is established practice.
It is therefore usual to find towns and cities flooded by arrivals of students, often accompanied by one or even two guardians, on and prior to the date of the admission test at institutes they host. Many will look to stay with relatives or acquaintances in the area, but of course that would cover a very limited number. Hotels and other forms of rented accommodation must bear the brunt of it. Wherever the hospitality industry is not well-developed, this can put a severe strain on the local economy’s ability to cope with the influx.
Yet even in those places, such as Noakhali, we now have an example that shows a big heart and generous spirit can go a long way.
Over the weekend, in unprecedented scenes, locals of Noakhali opened their doors and arranged food and shelter for over 100,000 students and guardians from all over the country who came to attend the admission tests at Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) campus on Friday.
The Union Parishad and municipal bodies also played their part, opening their offices and schools and other government buildings to accommodate the total of 70,298 candidates competing for just 1320 seats across 30 subjects, plus their guardians, that pushed the total past six figures.
But all the hotels, motels and guest houses in the city combined are able to accommodate just a fraction of that figure – around 1500, which obviously worried many people who know of the growing reputation for academic excellence NSTU is gathering as a new public university.
So the locals came forward to help the admission seekers and their guardians by opening access to the Upazila Parishad office, local mosques, madrasas and by setting up temporary accommodation using tents.
Locals are not just providing shelter, they have also been supplying food for three days starting Thursday night. The exams across different faculties started on Friday, and end today (Sunday).
Noakhali Sadar Upazila Chairman Shihab Uddin Selim told UNB students and guardians here for the NSTU entrance exam will get their ‘services’ for free till Sunday.
He said the arrangement they came up with not only made the admission-seeking students and their guardians happy, it also felt secure to them. Members of Bangladesh Red Crescent and scouts are found working day and night to ensure safety.
"Maybe all of these students will not be able to get admission here. But it proved the hospitality of Noakhali’s people. We hope to do it again in future,” the chairman proudly proclaimed.
Expressing his appreciation and gratitude, Sujon, a student who came from Sylhet to sit for the test said, “We are overwhelmed with their support. We will remember their hospitality throughout our life.”
Fatema Hossain, another student keen to express her gratitude, said, “The arrangements by the Noakhali people have changed our perception about them. It will never be forgotten.”
Gradually with more and more incidents such as this, the pejorative use of the word ‘Noakhailla,’ still prevalent in the country, can hopefully be erased forever.
Dhaka, Oct 28 (UNB) – As the party has got two coalitions --Jatiya Oikyafront and 20-party alliance, BNP is likely to face a serious hurdle over sharing parliamentary seats if it joins the next national election, fear party leaders and alliance partners.
They said BNP high-ups will have to deal with the issue very tactfully and effectively to avoid any split in the alliance and rebellion within the party as it has more than one competent and dedicated candidates in most seats it will share with the alliance partners.
Talking to UNB, BNP senior leaders said they are ready to make a big sacrifice to keep their alliance partners happy over the seat sharing and hope their allies will be also judicious in this regard.
They, however, said their party will not talk about seat sharing with their partners until the announcement of the election schedule for strategic reason as the party is not yet decided to take part in the polls.
BNP’s 20-party alliance partners want BNP to settle the seat sharing issue as soon as possible so that they can take preparations for the election properly.
Oikyafront leaders are, however, now little bothered about seat sharing as they think ensuring a congenial atmosphere for credible polls is now their main concern.
A number of senior BNP leaders said they may give 20-party alliance partners maximum 50- 60 seats while Oikyafront leaders and professionals 30-40 seats.
Of the 20-praty partners, Jamaat wants 50-60 seats while LDP and Khelafat Majlish, 30, BJP 3, Jatiya Party (Zafar) 15, Kalyan Party 5, Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam 6, NAP and NDP 4, Jagpa and NPP 4, Democratic League and Samyabadi Dal 4, Muslim League 2 and Labour party 2. Four other parties want nomination of their party’s top most leaders.
A BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity, said they are now giving the main focus on various programmes of the Jatiya Oikyafront to push for their seven-point demand for holding a credible national election.
“If we now talk about seat sharing with our alliance partners it’ll demonstrate that we’re going to polls under any circumstances. But we’re still undecided about joining polls,” he said.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said it is not the suitable time for discussing about seat sharing with their partners as they are now on a movement to restore democracy, ensure a proper election atmosphere and release of their chairperson Khaleda Zia.
If their party decides to join the polls after realising their demands, he said they will then take an inclusive decision regarding the seat sharing thinking of the interests of all the alliance partners. “We’ll properly evaluate our alliance partners.”
BNP standing committee member and 20-party coordinator Nazrul Islam Khan said they neither make any list of their party’s probable candidates nor seek any such list from their alliance partners as their party’s participation in the polls is not certain.
“If we decide to join polls, we will be able to settle the issue with our partners after the announcement of the election schedule as we know which party has how many potential candidates,” he added.
Gono Forum executive president Subrata Chowdhury said they are not thinking of seat sharing issue as their now main target is to force the government to hold a fair and credible election. “We’ll talk about it at the right time.”
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna and JSD general secretary Abdul Malek Ratan also echoed Subrata Chowdhury, and said they will think about it once their demands are realised.
BNP has already suffered a split in the 20-party alliance as Jebel Rahman Gani-led National Awami Party (NAP) and Khandaker Golam Mortuza-led National Democratic Party (NDP) quit the coalition on October 16 as they became certain that they would not get nomination from the alliance in the next polls.
Four alliance leaders, wishing anonymity, said their coalition may face another split after the announcement of the election schedule if BNP fails to evaluate its partners.
BNP insiders, however, said party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and other senior leaders are in touch with the alliance partners giving them various assurances.
Talking to UNB, LDP joint general secretary Shahadat Hossain Selim said they did not have any formal discussion over seat sharing with BNP as it is not still clear whether the 20-party alliance will join the polls keeping Khaleda Zia in jail.
He, however, said they have informal discussion and assurance about the number of seat they may get.
Bangladesh Kalyan Party Chairman Maj Gen (retd) Syed Mohammad Ibrahim also said they have informal discussion with BNP over seat sharing. “I hope, the issue will be settled at the right time.”
A leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they are taking necessary preparations to contest the election and they will seek 50-60 seats from BNP.
BNP leaders said they have already made a plan over sharing seats with their 20-party alliance partners, but there has been no discussion with Oikyafront leaders in this regard.
They, however, said they will evaluate properly Gono Forum, JSD and Nagorik Oikya regarding seat sharing so that their all suitable and competent candidates can contest the polls under the banner of the alliance.