Stray dogs have always been a part and parcel of Dhaka. However, in a controversial move, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has, of late, started relocating strays from different parts of the metropolis under its jurisdiction to the Matuail landfill on the outskirts.
While animal welfare associations and canine lovers have opposed the relocation strategy, claiming it is tantamount to abetting animal cruelty, the city's civic body says that the nearly 60,000 stray dogs are a menace to Dhaka.
The move has also triggered a heated debate between animal lovers and those who consider the street dogs a nuisance, on social media platform Facebook, with the former suggesting that the civic authorities undertake sterilisation drives instead to control stray population.
Maruf, a student of Dhaka University, told UNB that dogs are an essential part of urban life. "Stray dogs rarely attack people unless provoked. Strays in residential localities also keep a close watch on intruders. Instead of going after the mute animals, the corporation should focus on sterilising dogs."
Maruf’s concerns could not be more justified at a time when the relocation of dogs from DU’s TSC area and Dhanmondi has escalated the controversy.
A private university student, Samiha Islam, also argued that if relocating dogs for "scaring people" be allowed, then why not the criminals roaming freely in the streets of Dhaka?
The other group is, however, wary about health issues such as rabies and the possibility of dog bites. But instead of suggesting a more humane approach of dealing with the so-called menace, they demand culling of dogs — a step further. Both the groups held back-to-back human-chain programmes in Dhaka this month.
But how does the ‘relocation’ work?
Stray dogs around a designated spot are first caught with a special net trap and tranqualised. They are then ferried to the Matuail sanitary landfill on pick-up vans and released.
What does the law say?
Under the Animal Welfare Act, stray animal removal is an offense. But this law applies to areas other than the city corporation. As per the Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009, the city corporation authority can relocate and even euthanise stray animals.
DNCC’s step towards a different direction
In stark contrast, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has decided to aggressively carry out vaccination and sterilisation programmes to control the population of stray dogs.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam on Wednesday reiterated on his Facebook page that the city corporation will not take any lethal or inhumane action against strays.
“Not a single dog in Dhaka North will be relocated elsewhere ... DNCC has decided to sterilise stray dogs ensuring environmental balance, safety of citizens and respecting animal welfare laws," he wrote.
Read Also: Attention DSCC: "Dogs' Lives Matter"
According to DNCC sources, the sterilisation programme will be conducted in collaboration with Obhayaronno, an animal welfare foundation.
A vet from Obhoyaronno, seeking anonymity, told UNB that they're in talks with DNCC to start the sterilisation project soon. "But we could not get any such confirmation from DSCC on this," he said.
Earlier, both the city corporations had teamed up with Obhoyaronno for sterilising stray dogs. The initiative kicked off in 2012, but stopped in southern Dhaka in 2014. In DNCC, the project continued till December 2019.
On September 17, actress Jaya Ahsan, Obhoyaronno, and People for Animal Welfare filed a writ petition in the High Court, seeking a stay on the relocation of stray dogs to Matuail.
Bangladesh will bring the unresolved Rohingya crisis before the global leaders on Saturday apparently reminding everybody of the failure to find a durable solution to the crisis amid Myanmar's non-fulfilment of repatriation pledge, officials said.
Bangladesh will also seek genuine efforts from the global community to help Rohingyas return to their place of origin in Myanmar's Rakhine State, they said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to deliver her key speech (pre-recorded) at the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at 8pm Saturday.
The global leaders are staying home and joining the various sessions of the UNGA virtually due to Covid-19.
"Bangladesh will raise the Rohingya issue in the 75th UNGA. Bangladesh will seek continuation of global efforts to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis," Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had placed a five-point proposal in the 72nd UNGA seeking a solution to the Rohingya problem immediately after starting ethnic atrocities against Rohingyas in Myanmar since August 25, 2017 but the proposal remains largely unaddressed.
The international community appreciated the proposal placed by the Prime Minister, a senior official told UNB adding that Bangladesh still sticks to the proposal.
This year, Bangladesh will also highlight the accountability issue, especially the ongoing legal procedures at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Bangladesh says the Rohingya problem has been created by Myanmar and the solution also lies with Myanmar, and Myanmar’s stability and economic growth could be negatively affected if the Rohingya problem is not resolved.
Despite a severe threat to its economy, ecology, and overall societal impact, Bangladesh has given shelter, on a humanitarian ground, to nearly 1.1 million persecuted people fleeing massacre in Myanmar, their homeland.
Trust Deficit Remains
Not a single Rohingya has gone back to Myanmar for lack of confidence and trust deficit between the persecuted Rohingya and the Myanmar government.
To improve the confidence, Bangladesh suggested Myanmar many options, for example, ’go and visit’, allowing Rohingya leaders to visit Rakhine province or allowing non-military civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries like ASEAN+, or China, Russia or India or any country of their choice so that Rohingya feel assured of their safety and security, Dr Momen said.
Alternately, Bangladesh requested Myanmar officials to come and talk to their displaced Rohingya for confidence building.
“Unfortunately, Myanmar is yet to respond to our suggestions,” Dr Momen said, adding, “Bangladesh is keen on solving the crisis through constructive diplomacy with good neighbourly spirit.”
"Myanmar is our friendly country and, therefore, Bangladesh signed three instruments with Myanmar for repatriation. Myanmar had agreed to take them back after verification," said the Foreign Minister.
Myanmar had also agreed to create a conducive environment for their voluntary repatriation and they agreed to ensure safety and security of the displaced people.
"But, unfortunately, till today, no one went back. Instead of a conducive environment, fighting and shelling is ongoing in the Rakhine state," said Dr Momen.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh's fear is that, if this problem persists, it may lead to pockets of radicalism since terrorists have no borders, no faith. “There’s a high possibility of great uncertainty to be created in the region which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure and stable region.”
Attempts to send back Rohingyas to Myanmar failed twice amid trust deficit among Rohingyas.
Recalling Five-Point Proposal
Bangladesh believes the Rohingya crisis could be resolved through implementation of the five-point proposal the Prime Minister had placed in the UNGA in September 2017.
The five points are Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State immediately and forever.
- The UN Secretary General should immediately send a Fact-Finding Mission to Myanmar.
- All civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity must be protected in Myanmar. For that "safe zones" could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.
- Ensure sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar.
- The recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission Report must be immediately implemented unconditionally and in its entirety.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, has questioned Myanmar for not fulfilling its commitment over Rohingya repatriation.
"Where is justice for those stranded in refugee camps in Bangladesh while facilities are constructed on their homeland for the same military that stands accused at the International Court of Justice for committing genocide against them?" he said.
Citing Myanmar’s statement to the Human Rights Council last week that “commencement of repatriation is our priority”, Andrews asked: “But what does repatriation mean for those who once lived in Kan Kya? How can they be integrated into their place of origin when it has become a military base?
“Impunity and human rights cannot coexist,” Andrews said.
Citing the videotaped confessions of two Tatmadaw defectors to massacres, rape and other against Rohingya Muslims in August 2017, he urged the government of Myanmar to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
Andrews also referenced the International Court of Justice that is assessing Myanmar’s compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has called for an immediate ceasefire in Rakhine State, decrying the death toll of innocent children that continues to rise.
“Serious questions have been raised about whether these children, and growing numbers of others, are being caught in the crossfire of war, or are being deliberately targeted,” he said.
These assaults need to stop and that the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire must be heeded immediately, said Andrews.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has expressed Dhaka’s frustration in the UN’s failure to ensure the repatriation of the Rohingya people to Myanmar. “We’re deeply frustrated," he said.
Voices of Diplomats
Representatives of the international community in Bangladesh visited Cox’s Bazar and the Rohingya camps on September 23-24.
The delegation members were Ambassador of the United States Earl Miller, European Union Ambassador Rensje Teerink, United Nations Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson, World Bank Country Director Mercy Tembon and Canada’s Head of Humanitarian Aid, Phedra Moon Morris.
Ambassador Miller said the Rohingya crisis remains an important priority for the United States just as it is for Bangladesh and their other international partners, and even more so in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We continue working toward solutions and the safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriation of refugees to Myanmar," he said.
The delegation commended Bangladesh’s generosity in hosting the Rohingya population and agreed that returns must be voluntary, safe and dignified.
The delegation reiterated that the solution to this crisis lay in Myanmar and that is required for the root causes of the crisis to be addressed.
Holding perpetrators of the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state to account would
contribute to giving the Rohingyas the confidence to return home, they highlighted, the delegation said.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.
On January 16, 2018 Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
It is always difficult to actively manage traffic on any busy road and things become even harder when there is a severe shortage of manpower. This is exactly the problem the traffic police in Cumilla city are facing today.
Currently, officials said, there are 49 traffic constables and eight sergeants working in the city, a number too inadequate to dynamically handle the traffic flow here.
Maintaining discipline on the busy roads is becoming a challenge with the number, said a senior police official.
According to the Cumilla District Traffic Police, if only two constables are allowed at 25 important roads in the city, including Chwakbazar Bus stand, CNG stand, Rajganj intersection, Thana road intersection, Kandirpar Liberty intersection, Pubali Chattar, West and East side of Shashangachha Bus Stand, Tamsam Bridge, Court intersection, Ranir Bazar, Police Lines, Salauddin intersection, Paduar Bazar, Nazrul Avenue Modern School, Jhautala Moon Hospital, Badurtala YWCA School, Ramghat Cumilla Tower Hospital, Kichaitali Cumilla Medical College and Hospital, Telikona intersection, then 100 policemen will be needed to manage traffic in two shifts.
Kamal Uddin, in-charge of the district’s traffic police, said: “The authorities concerned are managing the traffic system with only one-third of required workforce.”
There are 49 constables, seven sergeants and one PSI. Two of them work in the traffic branch while nine others are in charge of Daudkandi, Laksham and Debidwar upazilas.
If eight of them from two shifts fall sick or go on leave then it is up to 30 policemen – 15 in each shift – to manage traffic in the city.
“It’s too tough for them to bring discipline on the roads with a fewer number of traffic police personnel in the city,” said Kamal Uddin.
Badrul Huda Jenu, president of Swacheton Nagorik Committee, said it is impossible to deal with the traffic system systematically with such a small number of traffic police. Besides, a traffic police is needed at every important road of the city round the clock following the rise in the number of vehicles.
Syed Nazrul Islam, superintendent of Cumilla police, said it is necessary to increase the number of traffic police and raise awareness among the people to properly manage traffic in the city.
Onion prices continue to remain high in Dhaka kitchen markets, despite imports coming into this country from neighbouring India.
In markets like Anondobazar and Shyambazar, for instance, onions — a staple in many Bangladeshi dishes — are retailing between Tk80 and Tk120.
Despite around 1,000 metric tonnes of the bulb having come into this country from India through Satkhira’s Bhomra land port in the last three days, traders say they are yet to get the imports.
According to Ashikur Rahman, a shopkeeper at Anandabazar, there is still a supply shortage in the capital, which is leading to a spike in onion prices in the capital markets.
“The prices of onions have already doubled over the week, following a ban imposed by the Indian government. Today I bought only local onions from the wholesale market at Tk75 a kg. There is transportation cost too. So, I am selling onions for over Tk100 to customers. We are yet to get Indian onions," he told UNB.
Ashikur said Bangladesh is dependent on India for most products, not only onions. “If the Indian government imposes a ban on a single product, then it has a cascading effect on Bangladesh markets. Besides, many businessmen hoard onions to make extra money at times of shortage."
Shyambazar wholesaler Manik Shaha echoed similar sentiments. "There are no Indian onions in the wholesale market due to the ban on exports to Bangladesh. So, we are compelled to sell only local onions at high prices, following huge demand. The 925 metric tonnes of Indian onions that recently entered Bangladesh are yet to reach the city markets."
After the abrupt September 14 ban, India on September 19 decided to partially relax the same by allowing limited exports of onions. But that did not help.
Shaha fears that onion prices could see a sharp rise in the coming days if the Indian government doesn't lift the ban on exports to Bangladesh. Onion is a seasonal crop and its shortage during the offseason often leads to price rise. “However, after September 30, onion prices may stabilise as imports are likely to come in from Pakistan, Turkey and Myanmar."
UNB has learnt that 96MT of onions in four trucks entered Bhomra through Ghojadanga land port of India on Monday, 721MT in 31 trucks on Saturday and 108MT in five trucks on Sunday.
Mostafizur Rahman Nasim, general secretary of Bhomra Land Port C&F Agents Association, however, said 40 onion-laden trucks were still stranded at the port. They had clearance but could not cross the border after India’s export ban on September 14.
“Most of the onions rotted as the trucks were stuck at Ghojadanga for about a week now,” he said.
Residents, however, say that not only onions, prices of most vegetables in the kitchen markets are high these days in Dhaka. “Potatoes are selling at Tk40 a kg, tomatoes Tk120, green chillies Tk200, bitter gourds at Tk80 and carrots Tk100. The government must act against traders who manipulate prices,” said Billal Hossain, a resident of Old Dhaka.
Lives, livelihoods and lifestyle have drastically changed ever since the COVID-19 hit Bangladesh but the pandemic cannot stop social functions like wedding ceremonies.
Initially, marriage, known as the sacred bonding between two human beings - has got heavily affected in Bangladesh in recent times due to this pandemic like never before, but not for long.
The country had gone into apparent lockdown from March 26 last. Since then, people had to shelve themselves inside homes, affecting domestic relationships in some cases.
Though Bangladesh saw a growing trend of domestic disturbances in the initial stage as surveys and reports claim, the number of weddings has increased from the mid-year.
Imran Jayed (Not real name), a travel-agency businessman, tied the knot in late August with his fiancé, Alvira (Not real name).
The 29-year-old man and his 26-year-old newlywed bride had a scheduled wedding plan back in March. They had to postpone the marriage due to the ‘lockdown’. The couple then finally decided to complete their 'Akhdh' in August last and thus shifted it to December, hoping that the situation would get better for attendees to join the ceremony.
Jasmine Mou (Not real name), a 27-year-old corporate affairs officer at a leading multinational company married recently his university senior, Nahian (Not real name), a 30-year-old banker.
Unlike the case of Imran and Alvira, the couple decided to get married in the first week of September with having full-set of ceremonies, including the pre-wedding ones separately at their homes, followed by the 'Akhdh' and the post-wedding reception where they invited a large number of guests and relatives at a convention centre in the capital.
Both the scenarios and case studies have one thing in common that the newlyweds had long been eagerly waiting for tying the knot.
Asked why they got married during the pandemic, people representing the newlywed couples shared interesting perspectives with this correspondent.
“These days, both individuals in a marriage are mostly busy with their jobs or businesses. So, they don’t get much time to enjoy each other’s company after marriage. Many are working remotely from home. Many want us to get married now to avail of the opportunity to spend more time together at home,” said Babu, a newlywed graphics designer currently working for a private television channel.
However, marriage registers (locally known as ‘Kazi’s) are not happy, as the numbers are significantly poor. “I’ve rarely registered marriages in recent times, even though people now have started getting married,” Moulana Khairul at Baridhara Kazi Office, Gulshan Zone.
What experts say
"Marriage is one of the pivotal parts in our societal system, which has been largely affected by this ongoing pandemic like never before. After being in the lockdown for several months, the festivities are slowly resuming as part of 'new normal' in society," Prof Sadeka Halim, Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty of Dhaka University, told UNB.
Talking about the new wave of marriages, Dr Sadeka said, "As elderly people who finalise the family decisions in our societal system, are more vulnerable to the Coronavirus and they are in the higher mortality rate -- so they are also insisting their younger generations to get married as soon as possible after the lockdown got lifted."
"Many of my students are getting married in recent times. Many of them said the pandemic has impacted their perceptions about marriage, and they are now trying to get accustomed to many new realizations regarding their careers and future plans," she added.
Many people are dependent on wedding management-related service providers, including wedding dressmakers, makeover salons and beauty parlours, photographers, flower providers, rental car providers, band parties and as always - the caterers. As one can understand, these business associates went through hard times during the ‘lockdown’ with no extravagant, grandeur event taking place. The norms and rituals of wedding ceremonies are constantly changing!
During a recent visit to different parts of the city, the UNB correspondent found many community centres and convention halls still closed, while some others reopened with special offers and packages to attract people.
Meanwhile, the wedding photography business which also had to undergo losses during the lockdown is hoping to overcome the situation.
“The winter season and a few days right after the Eid-ul-Fitr are the usual festive slots for arranging wedding ceremonies in recent times and we never thought that we would miss any of those occasions due to a deadly pandemic,” Jisan Mirza, co-founder and photographer of the photography agency Cafe Creation, told UNB.
“Whether the pandemic situation improves any time soon or not, it’s clear that potential brides and grooms are getting ready to tie the knot, no matter what,” said Engineer Mujibul Haque who recently joined a wedding ceremony.