Narayanganj, May 3 (UNB) -Travelling by ferries may sound exciting! But you need to think twice before travelling through the Shitalakhhya River.
Two ferries now ply this vital river route every day with a single engine each taking risks at Murapara-Rupganj point in Rupganj upazila.
Visiting the ferry ghats and talking to some drivers and passengers, the UNB correspondent found that the ferries have four engines in total but two remain out of order most of the time for which they jerk strongly while moving, causing frequent accidents.
Dhaka-bound passengers from 17 districts cross the Shitalakkhya River every day and have to wait for hours due to technical faults of two 28-year-old ferries which require frequent repairing of its engines and bodies.
Thousands of passengers form 17 districts of the country, particularly Cumilla, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Chattogram, Habiganj, Brahmanbaria, Moulvibazar, and Sunamganj are using this route for entering the capital.
A good number of drivers and passengers told the UNB correspondent that they are using the river-route instead of Dhaka-Sylhet highway to avoid hassles as the work on Bhulta flyover is underway.
“We’re paying fares as per rules. So, why should we sufferer?” said an aggrieved bus driver.
According to official sources, Roads and Highways Department arranged the two ferries on Shitalakkhya River [Murapara-Rupganj Sadar area] to facilitate communication between Dhaka and some 17 districts.
Each year, they lease out the two ferries to different contracting firms. Currently, these are leased out to Samor Ali Sardar, the owner of Sumon Enterprise.
“When I inform the authorities concerned about the problems, they make temporary a solution. But people have to suffer again as new problems arise due to the rundown condition of the ferries,” said Samar Ali Sardar.
Sub-divisional engineer of district Roads and Highways department Shakhawat Hossain said, “We’ve already discussed the problem. It’ll be resolved as early as possible.”
Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Momtaz Begum also said steps will be taken to assuage the sufferings after discussions with the authorities concerned.
Dhaka, May 2 (UNB) - Bangladesh and Myanmar are going to sit in Naypyidaw on Friday to discuss the Rohingya repatriation issue as the current crisis steps into almost two years with “zero progress” on Myanmar side that can help Rohingyas return to their place of origin confidently.
Bangladesh is expected to press for “expediting” the ongoing process to build confidence among Rohingyas during the fourth Bangladesh-Myanmar joint working group (JWG) meeting as the “lack of trust” remains one of the key issues, an official told UNB.
Bangladesh is likely to place a proposal to Myanmar to arrange a tour for Rohingya representatives to Rakhine State so that they can see the situation there as part of confidence-building measures, the official said.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, who visited Rohingya camps recently, said Myanmar has failed "to put in place confidence-building measures that will persuade people that it's safe to go back."
The Bangladesh delegation, led by Secretary-Bilateral (Asia & Pacific) Mahbub Uz Zaman, is already in Myanmar capital to attend the fourth Bangladesh-Myanmar joint working group (JWG) meeting.
The primary objective of the JWG is to implement expeditiously the “Arrangements on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State” signed on November 23, 2017 between Bangladesh and Myanmar, a senior official, who is also member of Bangladesh delegation, told UNB.
The JWG was established to oversee all the aspects of return of verified Myanmar residents from Rakhine State who are living in Cox’s Bazar district. “The JWG will discuss such related issues within its purview,” said the official.
As per terms of reference, the JWG is responsible for the smooth conduct of return of displaced Myanmar residents from Rakhine State and their reintegration.
“Therefore, in order to expedite the repatriation process, all the pertinent issues may come up for discussion,” said another senior official adding that the status of the repatriation process, the possible way forward and its related issues will also be discussed in the one-day meeting.
The third foreign secretary-level JWG meeting, held at State guesthouse Meghna in Dhaka, was co-chaired by Permanent Secretary Myint Thu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and his Bangladeshi counterpart Senior Secretary M Shahidul Haque of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the third JWG meeting last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to start repatriating the first group of Rohingyas by mid-November which was halted due to unwillingness of Rohingyas to return amid the absence of conducive environment in Rakhine.
In August last year, a Bangladesh delegation, led by then Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, saw the “trail of wide-spread devastation” suffered by the people of the northern Rakhine State.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas with more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine state since August 25, 2017.
Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s International Relations department has said the government needs to change its body language while dealing with Myanmar over Rohingya issue and put much emphasis on internationalisation of the issue in a bigger way.
“The body language must change when we’re negotiating with Myanmar. This is very important,” he said advising the government of Bangladesh to study how Indira Gandhi tackled Pakistan in 1971 and deal with Myanmar accordingly to address the Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh wants a “peaceful” solution to the crisis and remains engaged bilaterally with Myanmar and internationally.
On April 29, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he sees “no solution other than a bilateral one” based on dialogue and mutual understanding, the way it should be between neighbours.
“We’re convinced that a direct dialogue between Dhaka and Naypyidaw is the main factor in the settlement, and the role of the international community is to provide constructive assistance to both states in implementing bilateral agreements,” he said after his meeting with Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen in Moscow.
The Russian Foreign Minister said the repatriation could have started as early as November last but unfortunately it did not happen. “We need to do our best to resume this process.”
Talking about recent visit of three top UN officials to Bangladesh, Lavrov said these high representatives, “probably contrary to the mandates” of their organisations, expressed doubts about the expediency of starting the repatriation of 8,000 verified Rohingyas.
“These refugees are ready to return. I was surprised that representatives of the UN and its specialised agencies showed interest in keeping refugees on the territory of another country,” he said.
Dhaka, May 1 (UNB) - Amid the growing unemployment problem in the country, experts have said the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector can be an effective tool to resolve the problem if it gets necessary support to flourish.
They said there is no alternative now to putting emphasis on the SME sector and creating skilled manpower through technology-based education.
A large number of educated youths are now unemployed in the country. The current rate of unemployment will rise further in the future and the government should think for more employment generation for youths, they said.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), country’s unemployment rate increased to 4.37 percent in December 2017 from 4.35 percent in 2016.
Every year, about 2 million young people join the country's workforce. Half of them find jobs at home or abroad. So, it has become a challenge to create more jobs so that the rest can be employed.
Dr Mohammad Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said the country’s SME sector would undoubtedly play an important role in reducing unemployment and attaining double digit GDP growth in the future.
“We’re moving towards technology-based industry. Thousands of factory workers will lose their jobs for the 4th industrial revolution. So, it’s time to think about the SME sector. Or else, where will the unemployed people go? In many developed countries of the world, the SME sector is playing a significant role in the economy. So, we need to carry out extensive research and take necessary plans in this regard,” he said.
Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Fazle Kabir said the SME sector can contribute to the country’s journey towards achieving double-digit GDP growth.
Putting emphasis on creating skilled entrepreneurs, he said, “We’re providing policy support to encourage small and medium entrepreneurs. So, various training programmes should be arranged to create skilled entrepreneurs,” he said.
“SMEs will generate jobs and boost the economic growth. Micro industry is developing here. So, there’s a good future for SME entrepreneurs. Banks have been instructed to provide at least 20 percent of the loans to SME industries. Entrepreneurs can get loans with special facilities from Entrepreneurship Support Fund,” the central bank governor said.
Md Mostaqaue Hassan, Chairman of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), told UNB that they have taken mega initiatives to promote the SME sector.
“Now, our main focus is on the areas having business potential where we can build SME industrial parks. We’ve already visited places by the Padma River, especially Shariatpur-Madaripur and Munshiganj areas, for 500-1000 acres of land to set up two BSCIC industrial parks,” he added.
The BSCIC chairman also said they need more support from the government to develop the sector as there are many challenges and barriers to implementing projects. “We’ll build industrial parks on around 20,000 acres of land in the next 10 years and create one crore employments. Educated youths will get priority. A radical change will take place in economy in future,” he also said.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun told UNB that his ministry is organising many fairs to promote the sector so that foreign investors could be aware that there is a good atmosphere to invest in Bangladesh.
“We’re inspiring entrepreneurs at the district level. Now, we’ll focus on the districts where agro-based products are produced. We’ll train up the entrepreneurs,” he said.
The minister further said the ministry has taken some initiatives to build sustainable and environment-friendly industries. “We hope the SME sector will play a big role in the country’s economy in future.”
According to a report of the Planning Division tiled “Study on Future Direction of SME in Bangladesh”, SMEs now occupy an important position in the national economy. They account for about 45 percent of manufacturing value addition, about 80 percent of industrial employment, about 90 percent of total industrial units and about 25 percent of the labour force. Their total contribution to export earnings varies from 75 percent to 80 percent.
The industrial sector makes up 31 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), most of which is coming from SMEs.
The total number of SMEs in Bangladesh is estimated to be 7,900,000. Of them, 93.6 percent are small and 6.4 percent are medium. The 2003 Private Sector Survey estimated that there are about 6 million micro, small and medium enterprises, with fewer than 100 employees each. About 60-65 percent of all SMEs are located outside the metropolitan areas of Dhaka and Chattogram.
The country's SME sector has created 15 lakh jobs between 2009 and June 2014.
Dhaka, Apr 29 (UNB) – Though the party has got its representative to parliament 27 years after its formation, Gonoforum is likely to face a split due to internal feud among its leaders over party leadership and oath taking by its MP Mokabbir Khan.
Gonoforum’s internal conflict came to the spotlight as a group of party leaders, including its general secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu, boycotted the party’s special council held in the city on Friday while some others voiced their resentment at the council session as Mokabbir joined it.
Due to the infighting, no fresh committee of the party was formed in the council held after eight years while the party delegates entrusted Dr Kamal with the responsibility to form a committee and run the party and reorganise it in consultation with senior leaders.
A leader, close to Dr Kamal Hossain, told UNB that their president may form an ad-hoc committee in the early next month instead of making a full-fledged committee to run the party and prepare it for another council within a year overhauling it at the grassroots.
In the face of the growing anger, Mokabbir was also served with a show-cause notice on Saturday, signed by Montu, for taking oath violating the party decision.
Party insiders said a misunderstanding developed between party president Dr Kamal Hossain and its general secretary and some other leaders over taking oath by its two MPs --Sultan Mohammad Mansur and Mokabbir Khan.
They said a group of party leaders, led by Montu and Gonoforum executive president Subrata Chowdhury, was deadly against taking oath by the two MPs while others loyal to Dr Kamal were in favour of sending their MPs to parliament.
A party presidium member said the Montu-led group believes that Mansur and Mokabbir took oath as Dr Kamal gave them the green signal to do that.
The problem first brewed when Mansur took oath on March 7 claiming that Dr Kamal gave him consent to be sworn in. However, the tension got defused after Mansur was sacked from the party. But it remerged when Mokabbir took oath on April 2 as Dr Kamal was neither making his position clear nor taking action against him.
A number of Gonoforum leaders said there is a conflict between Montu and a group of party leaders, lea by party another executive committee member Mofizur Rahman Kamal, over the party leadership and organisational issues.
Talking to UNB, a leader of the Mofizur-led group said Montu created a division in the party as he always gives priority to the leaders loyal to him.
Contacted, Mofizur Rahman said many party leaders are not happy with Montu over some internal issues. “Party men are unhappy with him as he used BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s photo in his poster during the national election.”
Another party leader said they are not with Mofizur, but they want a change in the party general secretary post.
He said a group of party leaders are in favour of making Subrata Chowdhury its new general secretary.
However, another leader, close to Dr Kamal, said their president wants to make Reza Kibria, who joined Gonoforum before the last national election, its general secretary.
He also wared that the division in the party will deepen if Reza Kibria is made general secretary.
Contacted, Subrata Chowdhury claimed that there is no conflict among their party leaders, except some misunderstanding over the Mokabbir Khan issue. “We’ve sent a show-cause letter to Mokabbir and action will be taken against him based on his reply. I hope the misunderstanding will be over soon.”
Mokabbir said he received the show-cause letter on Sunday afternoon. “I haven’t gone through it yet.”
He said party men should not be angry over his participation in the council as he is a presidium and founding member of it.
Mokabbir said he does not have any misunderstanding with Montu. “I’ve a very close relation with him and there’s no reason to involve in any conflict with him. I think he’s my close friend and will remain so.”
Jubo Gonoforum president Kazi Habib said they boycotted the council as Mokabbir joined it. “Montu Bhai and we have no conflict with Dr Kamal. But we want Dr Kamal to make his position over Mokabbir clear. Mokabbir needs to be sacked as per the aspiration of the party’s 99 percent leaders and activists.”
He also said 80 percent party leaders and activists will become either inactive or think otherwise if Mokabbir is not expelled from the party.
Talking to UNB, party training affairs secretary Rafiqul Islam Pathik said it is painful that Kamal Hossain is doing ‘dual politics’ over Mokabbir’s issue. “I came out of the council and boycotted it in protest against Mokabbir’s presence at the council.”
He said the party may face a split if Dr Kamal does not expel Mokabbir and form a new committee with competent and dedicated leaders. “Dr Kamal also should sit with the aggrieved party leaders to resolve the misunderstanding.”
Dhaka, Apr 27 (UNB) - Lightning arresters, a low-cost technology, can be adopted all over the country to save lives and stop undue human damages from lightning strikes, says the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“Its use in different parts of the country can save human lives. It’s a low-cost technology,” ADB Country Director Manmohan Parkash told UNB after handing over seven types of completed subprojects for use under the Emergency Assistance Project.
The ADB Country Director handed over the facilities to LGRD Senior Secretary SM Ghulam Farooque on Friday, which were completed with grant assistance from the ADB.
At least 600,000 “displaced people” sheltered in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps and the host community will be benefited under the Emergency Assistance Project, says the Bank.
Parkash said lightning arresters are used in many countries to make sure when lightning strikes it goes down to earth so that people do not lose their lives. “So, we’ve included it as part of our project here (camps).”
The ADB Country Director said they will be more than happy to take it up for the country if they are requested.
According to reports carried by different national dailies on lightning incidents, over 200 people were killed and scores of others injured in lightning strikes at different parts of the country, mainly in central and northern parts, over the last two and a half months from March to May 17 in 2018, showing an increased frequency in lightning strikes.
Responding to a question, Parkash said the needs in Cox’s Bazar camps are “enormous” and the ADB is trying to help to the extent it is possible for them.
“We should be working together with all the development partners. The government of Bangladesh has contributed quite a lot. This is a team effort and we work together with our partners as well as the government of Bangladesh,” he said adding that their efforts will benefit both the displaced people and host community equally.
Secretary Ghulam Farooque, on behalf of LGRD Minister Md Tazul Islam MP, inaugurated the subprojects, which include 100 bathing facilities; one piped-water supply system; and 200 lightning arrestors.
He also inaugurated the groundbreaking of seven food distribution centers, and 10 cyclone shelters in and around the Cox’s Bazar camps.
While inaugurating the facilities, Ghulam Farooque appreciated ADB’s grant assistance and speedy completion of the projects.
“I’m happy to see the rapid and impressive implementation progress of the project in less than one year after its approval,” said Country Director Parkash.
“The inauguration of subprojects reflects a high-level of government commitment in implementing the project,” he added.
After a request by the government of Bangladesh, the ADB approved a grant of $100 million in July 2018 as the first phase of a total possible support of $200 million to develop basic infrastructures and services for displaced persons in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The grant project is focusing on water supply and sanitation, disaster risk management, energy, and roads in and around the camps, says the ADB mentioning that it is being implemented in close coordination with several development partners.
The water supply and sanitation component ($35 million) will develop 40 mini-piped water supply systems, 500 community bathing facilities, 7 emergency mobile water carriers, 4 drilling rigs for installation of production wells, 3 surface water treatment plants, 3 integrated waste management systems, and 30 waste management vehicles.
The disaster risk management component ($30 million) will construct 10 multipurpose cyclone shelters, seven food distribution centres, 5-km hill-slope protection and 15-km storm water drainage.
The energy component ($8 million) will install 2,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) street lights; 50 solar PV nano-grid systems; 200 lightning arresters; 33/11 KV and 10 MVA sub-stations; 50 km 11 KV distribution line; 2,000 new mini-grid connected street lights and 2,000 new standalone solar LED lights.
Under the road component ($27 million), 50 km road from Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf will be resurfaced, 30 km internal and rural roads will be constructed, and 30 km access and link roads will be developed.
The Country Director said 30 kilometres of road will be constructed within the camps so that people can roam around in addition to improving the drainage system.
A site office for the Emergency Assistance Project was inaugurated in the UNHCR premises in Cox’s Bazar on February 14 to expedite the ground-level project implementation activities.