Manikganj, Dec 22 (UNB) – Rundown roads, filled with potholes, appear to be becoming a distinguishing feature of Manikganj’s rural areas.
Potholes, which pepper the roads, regularly cause severe traffic disruptions.
Commuters and vehicle drivers told UNB that woes on the roads were nothing new but students, officer goers, and patients, in particular, suffered the most.
Locals blamed public representatives and contractors for the situation but a parliamentarian faulted the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED).
It is estimated that dilapidated roads, covering some 100 kilometres, stretch across Manikganj’s seven upazilas. At least 20 newly-built or repaired roads in rural areas had been damaged within a year, with carpeting on most of them wearing off.
LGED repaired 90km road in 2017-18 fiscal year with Tk 16 crore. For the current fiscal, the government approved Tk 48 crore for works on 167km road, including repair of 96km.
Locals identified corruption and irregularities as key reasons for the sorry state of the roads. They accused the contractors of using low-quality materials during repairs, which left the roads vulnerable to damage.
Manikganj-2 parliamentarian Momotaz Begom blamed the concerned authorities for the road conditions.
“Supervising the repair work and taking care of the roads is the responsibility of the concerned department. The roads are not properly repaired because of their negligence,” she claimed.
LGED Executive Engineer Naeema Najnin Naj said the repair works did not take place under her supervision. “I am not responsible for someone else’s alleged negligence,” she said, hoping to do a good job with the scheduled road repair.
Dhaka, Dec 22 (UNB) – Amid the arrest of its candidates and activists and annulment of candidatures of its some contestants, BNP is now struggling to come up with a back-up plan to stay afloat in the December 30 election race, triggering tension among the party rank and file.
Party senior leaders said they are working out various strategies to intensify their electioneering in the last week of December to rejuvenate the party grassroots and find out solutions to the problems like losing candidates and reaching out to voters avoiding obstructions and violence.
However, they said they are deeply worried over the ‘role’ of the Election Commission, police, administration and judiciary.
“The Commission is not taking any step to ensure a proper election atmosphere and prevent attacks on our candidates and supporters while police are arresting our leaders and activists, and even the candidates. We’re not getting justice from the judiciary as the court is not hearing bail partitions of our arrested candidates and party men. The court is now either staying or cancelling the candidatures of our candidates, putting us in a deep trouble at this last stage of the election,” a BNP standing committee member said wishing anonymity.
The BNP leader said around 15 candidates of their party and alliance are now in jail, and they are unlikely to be freed before the election.
The 15 candidates are Monirul Haque Chowdhury (Cumilla-10), Khairul Kabir Khokon (Narsingdi-1), Fazlul Haque Milon (Gazipur-5), Sultan Salauddin Ahmed Tuku (Tangail-2), Manwar Hossain Khan (Magura-1), Abu Sayeed Chand (Rajshahi-6), Dr Shahadat Hossain (Chattogram-9), ANM Shamsul Islam (Jamaat leader, Chattogram-15), Abul Kalam Azad (Jamaat leader, Khulna-6,) Gazi Nazrul Islam (Jamaat leader, Satkhira-4), Reza Ahmed Bachchu (Kushtia-1), SM Zilani (Gopalganj-3), Abul Khalek (Satkhira-2) Maulana Abdul Hakim (Thakurgaon-2, Jamaat) and AHM Hamidur Rahman Azad (Cox’s Bazr-2, Jamaat independent).
Of them, Milon was arrested on December 13 while Gazi Nazrul and Bachchu Mollah on December 16. The rest of the candidates were arrested at different times before the distribution of election symbols.
However, relatives of the arrested contestants, including sons, daughters and wives, and party leaders are carrying out electioneering in favour of them and trying to have people’s sympathy citing their imprisonment.
Of them, Monirul’s daughter and Dhaka University teacher Dr Chowdhury Saima Ferdous, Milon’s wife Shampa Haque, Khokon’s wife Shirin Sultana and Bachhu Mollah’s son Shishir Mollah are very active in their respective areas for electioneering in favour of their dear ones.
BNP leaders said their 16 candidates have got their election bid curbed by the apex court on various grounds while the fate of 22 Jamaat leaders who got nominations from their party is uncertain as the Election Commission will take the final decision on Monday on their candidatures following a High Court directive.
The 16 BNP and alliance leaders whose candidatures have so far been either stayed or annulled by the court are Faridul Kabir Talukdar Shamim (Jamalpur-4), Fazlur Rahman (Joypurhat-1), Abu Sayeed Chan (Rajshahi-6), Advocate Abdul Majid (Jhenaidah-2), Salek Chowdhury (Naogaon-1), Abdul Muhith Talukder (Bogura-3), Md Moslem Uddin (Brahmanbaria-4), Manjurul Islam (Natore-1, KSJL), SA Jinnah Kabir (Manikganj-1), Khandker Abu Ashfaq (Dhaka-1), Tamijuddin (Dhaka-20), Afroza Khan Rita (Manikganj-3), Morshed Milton (Bogura-7), MA Hannan (Chandpur4), Tahsina Rushdir Luna (Sylhet-2) and Rasheduzzaman Millat (Jamalpur-1).
On Thursday, BNP sent a letter to Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda demanding either giving them a scope of fielding alternative candidates or rescheduling the election in the seats where the candidates of the party and alliance partners have been declared disqualified by the court.
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the talks with her assured them that no one would be arrested after the announcement of the election schedule. “But they didn’t live up to their words. The arrest is going on regularly. Our 14 candidates have so far been sent to jail while at least 200 leaders and activists are being arrested on an average daily.”
He said they are being subjected to immense repressive acts as the government is trying to force them to stay away from the election race. “Now, the candidatures of our candidates are being revoked. We don’t understand where it’ll stop and how many of our candidates lose their candidature.”
Despite immense adversities, Fakhrul said, they are still in the election race only because of people’s overwhelming support and love for their party.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the government is trying to hold a ‘stage-managed’ election by using the state machinery.
He said the government let loose police against their leaders and activists and candidates to ensure a ‘voter-less’ election. “It’s very difficult for us to stay in the election race as some of our candidates and several thousand leaders and activists were arrested. The candidature of our candidates is being annulled on various grounds regularly.”
He urged the Election Commission to take steps for the release of their arrested candidates and party’s other leaders and activists.
The BNP leader also demanded that the EC allow their party to field alternative runners where their candidates have been announced disqualified by the court.
Kurigram, Dec 21 (UNB) -The residents of ex-enclaves, including those of Dasiachhara in Phulbari upazila, are eagerly waiting to cast their votes in the December-30 polls, for the first time in any national election.
A festive mood has been prevailing in the former Indian enclaves in Bangladesh as the residents are getting ready to rewrite the history.
The new voters, including young and the aged ones, are counting days expecting that they will be able to vote in a free and fair manner as Bangladesh citizens.
Dasiachhara of Phulbari in Kurigram district is the biggest enclave with three unions—Phulbari Sadar, Bhangamore and Kashipura.
Some 7,672 people have been living in the area, including 3,172 voters. They will cast their votes from Kurigram-2 constituency (Sadar-Razarhat-Phulbari).
A total of 2,24,544 voters —1,13,126 female and 1,11,417 male — will cast their votes in Sadar upazila while 1,42,323—72,388 female and 69,935 male--in Razarhat upazila and some 1,26,368--64,099 female and 62,269 male— in Phulbari upazila from Kurigram-2 constituency.
Under a pilot project of the Election Commission, the residents of Dasiachhara received the smart NID cards within one year of the enclave exchange.
Ponir Uddin Ahmed (JaPa) is contesting the polls as a candidate of AL-led Grand Alliance while Maj Gen (retd) AMSA Amin from Jatiya Oikyafront in the constituency.
Among the 111 now-defunct enclaves, 59 are in Lalmonirhat, 36 in Panchagarh, four in Nilphamari and 12 in Kurigram districts.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of the district Golam Mostafa said members of law enforcement agencies have been working so that all the voters, including those of ex-enclaves, can cast their votes smoothly.
Demands and Expectations
Alongside their excitement, the residents of Dasiachhara expect that their elected representatives will live up to their election pledges, including infrastructure development and eradication of drug abuse from society.
Talking to UNB, Altaf Hossain, a resident of Dasiachhara, said, “We’re happy that we’ll get a chance to vote for the first time. But, we’re also unhappy that Awami League didn’t field any candidate to contest the election from our constituency. We’ve got freed from the curse of enclave at the initiative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina but there’s no candidate here of her party.”
How did it happen?
Following the ratification of the much-talked-about Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) by Indian Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha unanimously in May 2015, the deal was implemented at the midnight of July 31, 2015, ending the decade-old sufferings of the people living in enclaves on both sides of Bangladesh and India.
Under the agreement, India gave 111 enclaves measuring 17,160 acres to Bangladesh and received 51 enclaves covering 7,110 acres.
The enclaves' people had the option to choose the citizenship of either Bangladesh or India.
The 111 ex-Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh include 12 in Kurigram, 59 in Lalmonirhat, four in Nilphamari and 36 in Panchagarh, while all the 51 ex-Bangladeshi enclaves are located in Cooch Behar of India.
On April 11, 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs in Bangladesh published a gazette notification awarding 37,535 enclave dwellers Bangladeshi citizenship in line with the Citizenship Act 1951.
Bagerhat, Dec 21 (UNB) – In the historic mosque city of Bagerhat, there is one mosque that eclipses all others in the region with its sheer size and stunning architecture. The ‘Shat Gambuj’ (domes) mosque has become an epitome of cultural heritage in the subcontinent.
After Turkish general Ulugh Khan Jahan founded the city, formerly known as Khalifatabad, in the 15th century, he adorned it with mosques, bridges and various other establishments. The structures are notable for their Turkish architectural style.
The city flourished under the general and declined quickly after his death.
A place to pray
‘Shat Gambuj Mosque’, as it later came to be known, survived the test of time and still remains one of the largest mosques in Bangladesh. It is not clear when the mosque’s construction began or when it was completed.
The terracotta and stone-built mosque is 168 feet long and 108 feet wide, with walls as thick as eight feet. Seventy-seven small domes adorn the roof. The four towers at the four corners have smaller domes as well. It is believed that the architects were unable to make a large dome with bricks.
Columns, supporting the ceiling, were made of stone. But it is not known how these stones were brought to Bagerhat.
“The mosque bears the exquisite artistry of 14th and 15th century. It is a fine specimen of harmony with Bangladeshi architectural style, touted as the first multi-domed mosque in the country,” said Golam Ferdous, a Bagerhat Archeological Department researcher.
He claimed it was built in resemblance to Uzbekistan’s Bibi Khanam mosque.
Md Helal Uddin, the mosque’s Imam, said unlike normal mosques, this one had 10 mihrabs (niches facing the Kaaba) as the place served as Khan Jahan’s court. Muslims still offer regular prayers and Eid prayers at the mosque.
The mosque was first repaired in 1923 by the British and then by the Pakistan government after the partition, according to the Archeological Department.
It was repaired again under the South Asian Infrastructure Development Project in 2014 while Archeological Department of Bagerhat continues to carry out regular maintenance works.
The mosque became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1985.
‘Chaad’, ‘Swast’ and ‘Shat’
There is much debate about how the mosque came to be known by its present name.
‘Shat’ refers to 60 in Bangla but the mosque has more domes than the number indicates.
Some speculate that the name derived from the 60 Khambas (pillars) supporting the roof, while there is another theory that the name is an alteration of Farsi words ‘Swast Khambuj’.
But Archeological Department officials say the domes were referred to as ‘Chaad’ or roof in Bangla and the mosque came to be called ‘Chaad Gambuj’ mosque. This name is believed to have been distorted into ‘Shat Gambuj Mosque’ over the years.
Khan Jahan: The man, the legend
Shatgambuj Union Parishad Chairman Sheikh Aktaruzzaman Bachchu said according to legends, Khan Jahan served as a soldier in the Tughlak army.
He was later promoted to the rank of commander and served as the governor of Jainpur in India, before coming to Bagerhat with an army of over 260,000 troops.
Referring to folk tales, Bachchu said Khan Jahan defeated Maggs and pirates in Ranbijoypur area.
Locals and visitors to the area urged more research into the true account surrounding the mosque and Khan Jahan, the man behind it.
But even as the mosques Khan Jahan built continue to amaze the people to this day, what really prompted him to undertake the work may never be known. It remains a mystery, much like the general himself who passed away in 1459.
Dhaka, Dec 21 (UNB) – Power distribution utilities have started buying solar electricity from consumers’ rooftop plants under the newly introduced ‘Net Metering’ system.
According to officials, five out of six power distribution companies have signed contracts with a total of 27 consumers to procure solar electricity from their respective rooftop solar panels.
“These consumers are supplying 3.066 MW of electricity to the national grid of the distribution companies. We hope the number of consumers will rise soon as well as further increase in the volume,” Mohammad Alauddin, joint secretary at the Power Division who is in-charge of renewable energy-related issue, told UNB.
The Power Division on July 28 last unveiled the “Net Metering Guideline 2018” to buy rooftop solar power from consumers.
How does the idea work?
Under the system, any consumer can set up rooftop solar system covering upto 70 percent capacity of the sanctioned load and sell the additional or unconsumed solar power after meeting his/her demand through a special metre under an exchange arrangement.
Consumers will use their own solar power alongside the grid. But on holidays when solar power is not used, they can sell power to the national grid. Even, on the working days, they can preserve their solar power to the grid and sell it to his power supplying company or take it back for its own consumption.
At the end of the month, bills will be adjusted on the basis of consumption and sales of solar power to the utilities and the consumer will get payment from the distribution company at a bulk rate if his sale overruns the consumption.
According to Power Division officials, Rural Electrification Board (REB) is much ahead of other entities with highest purchase of 2.650 MW of electricity from 20 consumers while the Power Development Board (PDB), the principal organisation in the power sector, holds the bottom position as it failed to sign any contract with any of its consumers.
The REB was followed by North West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited (Nesco) with 364 kW purchasing from one consumer, West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd (WZPDC) 25 kW from one client, Dhaka Electric Supply Company (Desco) 13.5 kW from two consumers and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) with 13.3 kW from three consumers.
Officials said the Power Division had issued an official order in August last to all the six power distribution utilities of the country asking each of them to purchase rooftop solar power from at least 20 consumers within the next three months under the Net Metering System.
While unveiling this guideline, Power Secretary Dr Ahmed Kaikaus had announced that each of the distribution companies must buy solar power from at least 20 consumers. “It’ll be treated as a key target under their annual performance agreement (APA) signed with the ministry,” he had said.
Power Cell Director Md Abdur Rouf, who was involved in framing the guideline, said there is no lowest limit of a consumer’s solar capacity. But the upper limit of the capacity is 4 MW.
He said the order followed the Power Division’s decision to buy rooftop solar power as part of its move to promote renewable energy across the country.
Power Cell officials believe the government will be able to buy about 10-12 MW power from rooftop consumers as many large clients like industries, apartment complex, shopping malls and hotels have already set up rooftop solar power plants for their own consumption as part of the government policy.
Even, individual consumers, who installed rooftop solar power system, can sell additional electricity to the government under the Net Metering System.
Officials said the government has initiated the move to introduce the system aiming to promote rooftop solar energy across the country as part of its plan to generate 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
There is a target to generate 3,168 MW of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021 in compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well, said an official of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).