Dhaka, Oct 14 (UNB) – With their relations now at a newer height, Bangladesh and India can dominate any sub-regional or regional grouping by continuing close coordination between the two countries, says an international relations analyst.
“Together we’re the giants in BBIN & Bimstec. We can dominate any sub-regional or regional grouping,” said former Indian Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Krishnan Srinivasan.
BBIN is a sub-regional cooperation among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, while Bimstec stands for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec).
Through close coordination in all fields, he said, Bangladesh and India can together transform the landscape of the two countries, South and Southeast Asia.
The expert said India will soon be the 5th largest global economy, and Bangladesh will beat India in achieving the middle-income status.
In his recent paper presented at Cosmos Dialogue, Srinivasan said the current developments between Bangladesh and India are referred to as a golden age.
“Golden ages have come and gone, but there definitely are positive achievements in recent years on trade, land and rail connections, power supply, investments, lines of credit, exchange of visits, cultural and educational ties," he said.
The former Indian foreign secretary said the issue of water sharing is naturally emotive in Bangladesh, a deltaic country afflicted by floods and droughts and mentioned that India is required to understand Bangladesh’s needs.
Bangladesh and India reiterated their commitment to further strengthen the bilateral relations on the basis of friendship, trust and understanding for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.
Considering the vision of Bangladesh to become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041, a senior official told UNB that the two countries agreed that a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in the coming days covering goods, services and investment would provide a sound basis for substantial enhancement of trade and commercial partnership.
Officials concerned of the two countries have already been directed to undertake a joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral CEPA, said the official.
Director of Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore C Raja Mohan, who also spoke at the Cosmos Dialogue, thinks Bangladesh requires defining the country’s interests keeping the ever-changing geopolitical and regional scenarios in considerations.
“The question is how you define your interests,” said the Indian scholar based in Singapore stressing that the two countries require building trust at all levels.
Raja Mohan said they are going to see the formation of new geography and one of the most critical elements is the rise of Bangladesh itself and transformation of its economy.
He said the growing economy of Bangladesh is going to have significant implications for South Asia.
Mohan said the change of geography around them will have at least five important consequences for bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India, including the argument of Bangladesh is India-locked. “In fact, Bangladesh can be a land bridge between India and China.”
Shedding light on politics, he said, “You’re free to elect whom you want. Today, in your country, you can elect any one. I’ve been advocating with India to deal with whoever is in the government. You can’t do the management of somebody else’s domestic politics.”
He thinks large countries have no choice but to deal with whoever is in power across the border and across the world.
“Sometimes it comes with problems, sometimes it comes with no problem. Democracy is not a gift that somebody else will give you,” Raja Mohan said adding, “Let’s be pragmatic.”
Diplomatic sources in New Delhi said India’s political parties and civil society members have good wishes for the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina but they want to see the people of Bangladesh to decide on it.
Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on many occasions, said the next national election is an internal matter of Bangladesh and India will not make any comment on that.
Dhaka, Oct 14 (UNB) – As law enforcers often arrest ‘suspected militants’ with books they call ‘jihadi’ ones, experts think such a title is ‘inappropriate and misleading’ whatever contents these books may have.
They said a book having contents of distorted interpretations of the holy Quran and Hadiths to inspire people to involve in extremism should be called as a book on militancy instead of ‘jihadi’ one.
The experts also think that law enforcers should be very cautious in arresting people with books having Islamic contents so that no innocent person is subjected to harassment.
Contacted, Prof Abul Barkat of Dhaka University’s Economics department said if a book is written misinterpreting the Quran and Hadiths to motive people to carry out fight against the social system and indulge in violent activities to grab state power should be branded as a book on militancy.
Barkat, also the writer of a book titled ‘Bangladesh-e Moulobad’ (Fundamentalism in Bangladesh), said even reading books on militancy is not an offence, unless any person engages in such acts. “Law enforcers should be very careful about arresting people with Islamic books.”
He said a social movement involving the young generation needs to be launched to tackle fundamentalism.
Supreme Court senior lawyer Subrata Chowdhury said the arrest of people with ‘jihadi’ books is a ‘suspicious and mysterious’ matter since there is no clear definition of such books.
“I think law enforcers are overenthusiastic over the arrest of people with such books. In many cases, police exaggerate the matter which creates confusion in public mind,” Subrata said.
He said police cannot arrest anyone with any book which is not banned. “If police raid people’s houses, they’ll find such books that they call ‘jihadi’ ones, in many cases. So, they can’t arrest all of them for keeping such books unless they engage in anti-state or terror acts.”
Subrata said police should maintain transparency regarding their drives against militants and extremism so that no question arises over the matter.
Shahidul Islam, an associate professor at Dhaka University’s Arabic department, said Islam said the concept of militants about jihad is contradictory to Islam.
“Jihad is a vast concept that includes various ranges of activity for the betterment of self and society. Frightening people or killing them in the name of religion can never be called jihad. If any book is written to encourage people to indulge in such acts, should be called as book on extremism or terrorism, not jihadi one.”
Additional DIG of Police Headquarters (Intelligence and Special Affairs) Md Moniruzzaman said the books written with an intention of inspiring people to terrorism, militancy and extremism are in the current sense known as jihadi ones. “Publication and distribution of such books are prohibited by law.”
Replying to a question, he said, “So far, as I know, no such book has officially been banned. Despite our strong monitoring, some jihadi books are still available in the country. If we find any book which can inspire people to engage in militancy and terrorism, we seize those.”
Mufti Mahmud Khan, Director (Legal Wing and Media) of the Rab headquarters said, though the real context of jihad is different, they call jihadi books that have distorted contents in the name of Islam to inspire people to join in so-called jihad.
Additional Commissioner and Chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTC) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Monirul Islam said ‘jihadi’ is a religious term. “I also think any book shouldn’t be called as jihadi one. We shouldn’t describe the books that have contents for instigating people to carry out terror acts as jihadi books. It should be called as book on extremism.”
A top official of the Intelligence Branch, requesting anonymity, said books on extremism are usually printed secretly faking the addresses of publication houses.
He said there are a number of books, written by arrested or executed top leaders of different militant outfits, carry the contents on extremism. “We unusually arrest people with those books.”
Some books on militancy include Kitabul Eman, Kitabut Tawheed, Kitabul Aqaid, Kitabus Saom, Kitabuz Zakat, Kitabul Haj, Tawhider Mul Shikhha, Bayat O Sirate Mustaqim, Moroner Age O Pore, Kitabut Dua, Deen Qayemer Path, Siam & Eid, Kitabud Dawah, Unmukta Torbari and Tazkiyatun Nufus.
Sylhet, Oct 13 (UNB) –Srimukh, a village under Khajanchi union in Bishwanath upazila, is probably the smallest village in the country where only a 5-member family has been living for long amid the absence of various basic facilities, including a road.
The village, enlisted in the government gazette, is located at Ward No 5 of the union and in the middle of Telikona and Paschim Noagaon villages with a single family living here since the mid-60s.
The current members of the isolated family include three women -- Rahima Begum, 35, Dilara Begum, Angura Begum, 43, and Sumaia, minor girl Akhter Tahina, 8, and Aftab Ali.
Ali, the only male member of the family, has been living in Saudi Arabia for 30 years to support the family.
While visiting the village recently, the UNB correspondent found that there is no road to enter the village and the lone family of the village has been struggling to survive for lack of various basic facilities.
The only tube-well at the village went out of order long ago and they have to drink water fetching it from neighbouring village. They have to drink contaminated pond water when they are unable to move out.
Rahima Begum, wife of Aftab Ali, said there is no path to get out of their house. As there is no road, they have to go out crossing the lands of others.
Photo shows three family members of the smallest village. Photo: UNB
“My daughter can’t go to school during the rainy season. My husband now can’t earn much because he has grown old. We don’t get any government assistance either. So, we’ve been living a terrible life here,” she bemoaned.
Rahima said they desperately need a road at the village and the government can construct it.
Though the village is listed in the government gazette, no development work is done at the village.
Once a Hindu family used to live there. In 1964, the Hindu family sold the house to the ancestor of Aftab Ali.
Talukder Gias Uddin, chairman of Khazanchi union, said as the village has no land of its own, it is not possible to build a road for them. However, an effort is on for constructing a road for the village in consultation with the residents of the adjoining villages, he said.
Contacted, Upazila Nirbahi Officer Amitabh Parag Talukdar said he has heard recently about the village and he will look into the matter.
He also assured the villagers of repairing their tube-well, now out of service.
Dhaka, Oct 12 (UNB) - Strict enforcement of traffic rules and behavioural change of pedestrians and transport workers as well as proper planning and political commitment are essential to have a disciplined traffic system in this chaotic city of Dhaka, said experts.
They said though it looks a herculean task to restore discipline in the city streets, it is possible to do so through a vigorous media campaign and enforcing traffic rules alongside gearing up the decentralisation process.
Many countries in the world have turned their unlivable cities livable through innovative ideas and forcing people to abide by rules, the experts said.
Prof Moazzem Hossain of Civil Engineering department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) said eight components -- policy, planning, design, construction, maintenance, operation, enforcement and finally monitoring –- will have to be ensured to bring discipline in the traffic system.
Prof Moazzem, also Director of Buet Accident Research Institute (ARI), said it needs to monitor whether the seven other components are functioning properly.
Without adequate manpower, management, leadership, engineering, funding and planning, it is not possible to bring discipline in the streets changing the whole system, he said, adding: “It needs to implement all the eight components and for this, it requires organisational setup, manpower, political commitment and funding support.”
Besides, a footway network system will have to be developed alongside automating the traffic signal network, the road safety expert said.
Prof Moazzem underscored the need for bringing a radical change in the bus operation module. “Buses are plying the city streets under around 250 companies which is absurd. Globally, buses run under a single state-owned agency,” he said, adding that if all the buses run under a single company in the capital, the situation may improve.
Ashish Kumar Dey, general secretary of National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), said many, including bikers, auto-rickshaw and tempo drivers, young political party activists and a major portion of pedestrians, do not follow traffic rules properly. “It’s a major obstacle to controlling the overall traffic management and reducing road crashes,” he said.
A continued awareness campaign and strict enforcement of traffic rules can bring discipline in the streets, Ashis said.
Alongside strict enforcement of law and tacking action against errant transport workers and pedestrians, a worker-friendly road transport policy will have to be ensured to bring down the number of road accidents and end anarchy in the sector, he added.
The NCPSRR leader said transport workers' lifestyle should be enhanced. “If their wages and other facilities are not increased, a sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessness prevails among them and many drivers become desperate to earn more, leading to repeated road accidents,” he said.
He also alleged that some influential labour leaders and political party leaders protect many drivers and helpers when they are sued by law enforcers, terming it another reason behind drivers being desperate on roads.
Shahidul Islam, general secretary of Dhaka Taxi-Taxi Car-Auto-rickshaw Drivers’ Union, said drivers are yet to receive any training and motivation from any quarter. “It would have surely helped reduce road crashes, had drivers been trained and motivated.”
A CNG-run auto-rickshaw driver has to give its owner Tk 1,600-1,700 as a daily deposit against the government-fixed Tk 600 while bus drivers run their vehicles on a target basis, he said, adding this makes the drivers reluctant to obey the traffic rules as they have to increase the number of trips to earn more. “If the government ensures that owners are not charging more, the tendency of violating traffic rules among drivers will come down sharply,” he said.
Shahidul also said although there is a Prime Minister’s directive to not run buses on contractual basis, it is yet to be implemented.
Meanwhile, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) observed a month-long traffic safety awareness campaign in September following widespread student protests triggered by the death of two college students on a city street in August.
During the campaign that ended on September 30, around 1.72 lakh cases were filed and around Tk 14 crore were realised as fine for traffic rules violation.
On the last day of the campaign, DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said despite the sincerity of traffic police to bring discipline in the streets, their attempts are not yielding results due to people's tendency to violate traffic rules. “Though it’s not possible to change habits and behaviour in just one month, we’re hopeful that people will gradually abide by traffic rules,” he said.
“It cannot be expected that hundreds of years of practice or irregularity will change overnight. But we hope everyone will be respectful to the law,” he said, urging the city dwellers to cooperate with the police to enforce traffic rules.
Sherpur, Oct 12 (UNB) – The government’s recent move to excavate the Brahmapura River aiming to improve its navigability and reclaim its lost parts from the clutches of encroaches has raised hope among the residents of the district and others living in its vicinity.
On October 2, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved 15 projects involving Tk 13,218.31 crore, including Tk-4,371 crore ‘Navigability development and reclamation of Old Brahmaputra, Dharla, Tulai and Punorbhoba Rivers’ project.
Brahmapurta, once a river with strong current, turned into a narrow canal, thanks to illegal encroachment by local influential people.
Only a few years back it was a busy waterway as the vicinity of the river was abuzz with traders and fishermen amid widespread use of boats and trawlers.
But the scenario has changed soon as the river here has turned into a canal, leaving people living on the river banks unemployed. Several thousand hectares of agricultural lands have turned barren as the farmers failed to pump water into their croplands due to water crisis.
Kutub Uddin, a resident of Dakpara village in Charpokkhimari union in Sadar upazila, said people used to carry their goods to Mymensingh, Dhaka and Narayanganj through the river routes from Roumari but the river has dried up and transportation of goods has stopped.
“When the river water used to swell, croplands and dwelling houses would have inundated, but now the river has turned into a cannel,” he said.
Under the new project, around 227 kilometres of the Old Brahmaputra River would be dredged up to 100 metres of width and 3 metres of depth to upgrade it to a class-II navigational route to ensure the transportation of passengers and goods at ease and lower costs.
Besides, Shipping Secretary Abdus Samad Faruk, who visited Sherpur recently, said the soil lifted from the river will be used in different development works, including road, school and colleges renovation activities, he said.
Besides, a waterbody will be built on the river bank to help farmers use the water in their croplands during the dry season.
Md Abul Kalam Azad, convener of Publicity Sherpur District committee, said,” We welcome the government move to improve the navigability of the Brahmmaputra River as it is a long-cherished demand of the people of Sherpur. We want implementation of the development project as soon as possible.”
Anar Koli Mahbub, deputy commissioner of Sherpur, said, “Once this river dredging project is implemented, the communications system of the region will have different look, expanding tourism and business.”