Dhaka, Aug 29 (UNB) – As the national election inches closer, the Election Commission has planned to finalise over 40,000 polling stations across the country on September 6.
The Commission has already asked its field-level officials to send lists of possible polling stations to the EC Secretariat after disposing of complaints by August 30.
There may be more than 40,000 polling stations and 200,000 polling booths in all the 300 constituencies against some 104.14 million voters across the country during the next national election to be held in December next, said an official at the EC Secretariat preferring anonymity.
He said election officers working at the district level have already sent the lists of some 40,657 possible polling stations to the EC Secretariat.
On August 5, they published the draft polling stations to receive complaints over the polling stations till August 19 and dispose those of by August 30.
As per the EC’s roadmap for the 11th general election, the name of polling stations will be published in a gazette notification just 25 days before the polls and the lists of the polling stations will be sent to registered political parties after the announcement of the election schedule.
The number of polling stations was 37,707 against 91.96 million voters in the 10 national election held in 2014, while it was 35,263 against some 81 million voters in the 9th national election held in 2008.
The Election Commission usually fixes a polling station against 2,500 voters on average.
Election Commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury said the process of fixing election centres is now underway. “The list of polling station will be finalised in early September,” he told UNB.
Talking about other preparations for the next national election, he said the Commission has already completed the delimitation of constituencies and updated the electoral roll, while the procurement process of election materials continues and the works for the process for legal reform (particularly amendment to the Representation of the People Order) are going on.
About the use of electronic voting machine (EVM) in the election, the Commissioner said they will arrange an EVM fair centrally in Dhaka and regional fairs in the EC’s 10 regional offices across the country in September or October next.
All the stakeholders, including political parties, will be invited to attend the EVM displays, and there will be a separate session for political parties at the event, he added.
The Election Commission has already sent a project proposal to the Planning Commission to procure some 1.5 lakh EVMs. With 1.5 lakh EVMs, the EC can arrange the election in one-third polling stations fully based on the electronic machines instead of ballot papers across the country.
Besides, the EC needs to reform the RPO to incorporate a provision for the use of EVMs in the national election as well as prepare a new rule in this regard.
As part of the preparation, the EC also issued a public notification inviting new political parties to get registered with it ahead of the 11th national election, though the Commission finally did not award the registration to any party among 76 applicants.
In April, 2018, the Commission completed the delimitation of constituencies redrawing 25 parliamentary constituencies.
The 25 constituencies are Nilphamari-3 and 4, Rangpur-1 and 3, Kurigram-3 and 4, Sirajganj-1 and 2, Khulna-3 and 4, Jamalpur-4 and 5, Narayanganj-4 and 5, Sylhet-2 and 3, Moulvibazar-2 and 4, Brahmanbaria-5 and 6, Cumilla-6, 9 and 10, and Noakhali-4 and 5.
This year, the Commission will not conduct any voter list updating exercise anymore ahead of the national election.
Dhaka, Aug 28 (UNB) – Although the imported LNG supply to Chattagram began on August 18, the region is still experiencing ‘huge gas shortage as the bulk consumers there are not getting gas’ to run their facilities.
According to official sources, the situation is unlikely to improve much until the second consignment of LNG reaches the country in the second week of September and the constraints in the pipeline are removed.
Officials at Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Ltd (KGDCL), the distribution entity of Chattagram region, said they are getting about 100 (million cubic feet per day) mmcfd gas from imported LNG to feed 512,431 consumers under the company’s command areas.
“We’re now receiving 100 mmcfd of gas to increase our supply to about 220 against a demand of 500 mmcfd. But, this is not enough as our largest bulk consumers are not getting gas,” Engineer Khaiz Ahmed Mozumder, Managing Director of KGDCL, told UNB.
He noted that there are three largest consumers — Raojan Power Plant, Shikalbaha Power Plant and Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Factory Ltd (CUFL) — the combined gas demand of which is over 200 mmcfd.
After the start of the LNG supply, just one unit of Shikalbaha Power Plant is getting 30-36 mmcfd of gas and it still needs 47 mmcfd of gas to run its remaining two units, he said adding the Raojan Power Plant’s requirement is 90 mmcfd while CUFL’s requirement is 50 mmcfd.
These three facilities still need 180 mmcfd of gas to meet their requirements, Mazumder said.
He also informed that some 1,300 applications remained pending with KGDCL for new gas connections.
The KGDCL chief executive informed that although the imported LNG is being supplied to Chattagram, gas from its existing supply line is being diverted to Dhaka and other regions as part of the government’s supply rationalisation plan.
Admitting the gas supply shortfall in Chattagram region, M Quamruzzaman, managing director of State-owned Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL) hoped that the arrival of the second LNG consignment will further improve the supply situation both in the port city and other regions, including capital Dhaka.
He said the second LNG consignment will reach the country on September 9 and raise the LNG supply capacity to 500 mmcfd.
“But it’s not clear whether the Gas Transmission Company Limited (GTCL) would be able to receive more than 300 mmcfd due to its pipeline constraints,” he said.
Sources at the GTCL said they are installing a new pipeline between Anwara and Fouzdarhat which needs further time to get ready for operation.
State-owned RPGCL has been importing LNG from Qatar while state-owned GTCL is entrusted with the responsibility of transmitting the gas to the national grid.
The maiden consignment of imported LNG reached the country on April 24 through the FSRU-based ship. But due to some leakages and technical glitches, the RPGCL could not supply the imported gas to the network over the last three months.
The leakages and technical problems were fixed recently and FSRU is getting ready for supplying the gas to the network.
RPGCL imported the LNG from Qatar and moved for re-gasifying it through the FSRU, set up at Moheshkhali by US-based Excelerate Energy.
Dhaka, June 13 (UNB) – Despite various measures in place to get rid of dowry system and dowry-related violence against women, the county is still experiencing significant number of dowry related incidents and violence outshining achievements came on women empowerment front.
Related statistics of recent years show that dowry violence remains at an alarming level. More concerning that number of cases being filed in this regard are far less than the actual incidents where women are at the receiving end of violence.
According to human rights body, Odhikar, as many as 5,699 women faced dowry-related violence from 2001 to 2017 and the rate of homicides and suicides owing to dowry incidents has been high too.
Odhikar stated that at least 256 women faced dowry related violence and 129 women were killed or committed suicide in 2017.
After years of anti-dowry campaigns and related law reforms, the number of dowry violence incidents continues to increase on year-on-year basis.
To replace the 1980 law government enacted Dowry Prohibition Act-2017 but, the number of cases filed is still low when compared against the number of violent incidents.
According to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), 188 dowry related cases were filed in last year as against 303 reported incidence of dowry violence.
Though the country achieved significant development in women education and empowerment, but the dowry violence is far from dying down, data suggests.
The Dowry Prohibition Act-2017 has provision of 14 years' rigorous imprisonment with fines for any individual or individuals who provoke any girl to commit suicide over dowry. It has a provision for a life-term of 12 years for hurting a woman over dowry.
But data suggests all victims are not reaching to the court of laws for getting the recourse.
Talking on the issues, rights activist advocate Sultana Kamal, told UNB that these incidents are a manifestation of women’s status and position in the society because here the women are perceived as a liability and many don’t respect them equally.
She said, “There is a tendency of underestimating the girls and most of the family made the girls to believe that they are less important in the society which brings their misfortune in every step of life”.
Sultana Kamal also mentioned that the women do not have property ownership and many of them have to depend on males of the society for economic and safety issues.
These dependencies make them passive and subject to insults and tortures, she said.
Advocate Sultana Kamal said, “There have several acts for eliminating violence against women and prohibiting dowry but the dowry system still exits, because it is culturally established in Bangladesh”.
Sultana Kamal said the practice will remain until the girls do not establish their equal rights and achieve economic independence.
She said the whole social system needs to be re-arranged and every unit of the society from family to state has to be gender sensitive otherwise only rules, regulation and temporary campaigns cannot eliminate the problem from the society.
President of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Ayesha Khanam, told UNB that the social attitude to women is very partial where the women are not recognised as a full ‘human being’.
She said, “In Bangladesh, women are running the country, achieving victory in cricket, putting their footprint in Mount Everest, contributing excellent input in economy but still they are experiencing violence and dowry practices”.
said dowry prevention act has been passed but the public mindset on dowry has to be changed in a positive way too. So, she thinks, social awareness and rejection the dowry system from all walks of life are necessary to abolish it.
Higher blood lead found in pregnant women of Bangladesh: icddr,b study
Dhaka, July 18 (UNB) – Presence of higher blood lead level (BLL) has been found in some pregnant women of rural areas in Bangladesh, said a recent icddr,b study done in collaboration with Stanford University, USA.
A third of pregnant women surveyed were found having elevated BLL greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter (DL) while 6 percent of them had more than 10 micrograms per DL. One sample was found at 29.1 micrograms per DL, which is 6 times greater than threshold noted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Findings published in Environmental Research analysed BLL among 430 pregnant women in some districts, said icddr,b on Monday.
The study identified multiple possible sources of lead exposure from the environment and food sources, said Professor Stephen P. Luby, senior author of the study and professor of medicine at Stanford University.
“Compared to women with low blood lead levels, women with the highest blood lead levels were more likely to be exposed to consuming food from lead-soldered metal food containers (cans), consuming food from agricultural fields where herbicide and pesticides have been used and consuming ground rice,” said Sarker Masud Parvez, co-author of the study and research investigator at icddr,b.
Since women with higher BLL were more likely to have been exposed to possible lead sources in the environment, the researchers examined soil, 382 agrochemical samples including herbicides and pesticides and 127 ground and unground rice samples.
Of the food and agrochemical samples analysed, seven out of 17 turmeric powder samples had excess lead than the tolerable limit at 2.5 micrograms per gram, designated by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI). One unpackaged and unbranded sample contained over 265 microgram/gram lead.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elevated BLL in pregnant women is a cause for public health concern. It is a threat for mothers and their developing fetus as well for the newborn as lead deposits in the mother’s body are released in blood and subsequently into breast milk. Lead exposure in pregnancy interferes with children’s brain development. In adults, lead exposure increases the risk of heart and brain diseases.
Since women with higher BLL were more likely to consume food from lead-soldered food cans, the researchers examined 28 cans which the women had used to store dry food such as puffed rice and turmeric.
“It is possible that food stored in these cans absorbs lead from the soldered seams, depending on the chemical composition of the food, especially liquid,” said Jenna E. Forsyth, a doctoral researcher at Stanford University and first author of the study.
However, the women reported storing only solid food such as puffed rice. Since these cans are old and rusty, it is possible that old and rusted oxidised particles flake off into puffed rice and then inadvertently consumed, read the study.
Since there was insignificant lead level in the soil, rice and agrochemical samples analysed, the study notes that currently banned agrochemicals (herbicide and pesticide) may have contributed to lead exposure in the past.
“Lead exposure over time results in lead deposit in the bones and it may be released in the blood during pregnancy,” mentioned Dr Rubhana Raqib, co-author of the study and senior scientist and head of immunobiology, nutrition and toxicology laboratory at icddr,b.
Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that exposure to lead for these women could have taken place over a decade prior to sample collection, the study noted. Some of the banned agrochemicals are often rebranded with other names and may be a source of occasional contamination which is yet to be proven.
However, the tangible evidence of lead in some turmeric samples issues a warrant to investigate this further to ascertain possible sources of lead contamination.
The study was supported by Stanford University's Woods Institute, USAID, Stanford's Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford's Center for South Asia, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dhaka, May 26 (UNB) – Hazera Begum still remembers how she had run away from her family in the mid-1970s as an eight-year old.
In an attempt to escape from the torment of her stepmother, she initially began her homeless life as a street urchin, collecting garbage waste, selling them and even begging for a living.
After facing molestation, she was taken by the police to Kashimpur Vagrant Home, from where she was later taken to a welfare officer’s home to work as a household help.
She was molested there as well, forcing her to escape and become a street urchin again. After becoming a victim of gang rape while visiting Mirpur Zoo, she was finally lured by a man, offering a job, and being sold off to Sadarghat’s Kundopatti brothel to work as a prostitute.
Rawshan Ara, 27, another floating sex worker from Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban area, has a similar troubled childhood and went through similar ordeals before turning to prostitution.
They are two of millions of girls who are forced into the sex trade in Bangladesh, thanks to fall of social values among the lower sphere of society.
According to a 2015 report by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), there were 1.5 million street children in Bangladesh, out of which one-fourth were young girls.
Many of them turn to prostitution as other means of earning such as selling flowers, begging, garbage collecting and such do not bring enough income for them.
Most of them are deprived of their basic needs such as secure living place, proper food, healthcare, education, sanitation facilities and entertainment.
A research conducted by Unnayan Onneshan in 2012 showed that 70 percent street girls were sexually abused and 19 percent began prostitution from as early as the age of 11.
A 2016 Sex Workers Network report states that there are over 1.02 million sex workers, out of which 29,000 are underage ones.
They are mainly reported to work in various areas in the city such as Dhaka University campus, Karwan Bazar, Chandrima Uddyan, High Court Mazar, Sayedabad Bus Terminal, Sadarghat and Kamalapur Railway Station.
Both Unnayan Onneshan and Unicef reported in 2012 that the major reasons for young girls turning to prostitution are family detachment, poverty, physical and sexual exploitation and more.
Sahanaz Begum, former president of Durjoy, an NGO for sex workers, said when she was an activist, she found that many street girls were duped by their family members or lovers and sold into whore houses, and it is still the case.
“Many men used to sell their wives for Tk 20,000-50,000,” she added.
Though trafficking girls and women and pushing them into prostitution are crimes according the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act 2012, little prosecutions see the light of such cases.
According to statistics provided by Bangladesh Police Headquarters, some 3,500 cases were filed across the country since formulation of the act.
There are several government and non-government safe homes and dropping centers, which provide day or night, or both, shelters for vulnerable street girls, but due to low capacity, many girls cannot avail themselves of the facilities.
Wahida Banu, executive director of Aparajeyo Bangladesh, one of the NGOs which run at least 200 dropping centers, children shelters and emergency homes for street children across the country, told UNB that if a social movement can be created for a better future for these girls, then their misfortune can be averted.
She said the NGOs run by project-basis work of few years, but individual projects cannot bring any significant change in their lives.
The Social Welfare Ministry has been working for the street girls while the Women and Children Affairs Ministry started some programmes for them in 2013.
Social Welfare Minister Rashed Khan Menon told UNB that his ministry has some safe homes and shelters for the street children and they take the children’s issue under consideration when they get involved in any anti-social or criminal activities.
He said the Women and Children Affairs started rehabilitation activities for the girls along with his ministry, but still the government facilities are not enough.
The minister added that the government is very sincere to solve the problem and will gradually expand the area of the existing programmes for ensuring better lives for these street girls.