Dhaka, July 24 (UNB) – The future of Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikyafront looks bleak as its partners have started following a ‘go-alone policy’ amid deepening mistrust and misunderstanding among themselves over various issues.
After the drubbing in the December-30 election, the top alliance leaders announced to be active on the streets with various programmes to force the government to hold fresh polls.
But it could not come up with any effective political programme, except submitting a memorandum to the Election Commission, visiting a rape victim in Noakhali’s Subarnachar, holding a mass hearing on election, and forming a human chain programme in the capital.
Even, no meeting of Oikyafront’s steering and coordination committee was held over the last one and a half months because of the unwillingness of its components.
The alliance leaders had a decision that its MPs-elect would not take oath, but BNP and Gonoforum moved away from it by sending their MPs to parliament, creating a misunderstanding among the alliance partners.
The alliance also did not take any programme over crucial issues like national budget, gas price hike, Feni’s Nusrat murder, Barguna’s Rifat murder, growing rape, killing incidents and the current flood situation.
Getting frustrated over the inaction of the alliance and inconsistencies in it, Abdul Kader Siddiqui-led Krishak Sramik Janata League quit the Oikyafront on July 8.
The top leaders of other components, including BNP and Gonoforum, who are still with it, have no clear answer about the future of Oikyafront.
At a press conference of Gonoforum on Monday in the city, journalists repeatedly wanted to know from Dr Kamal about the future of Jatiya Oikyafront and reason behind its inaction over various issues, including current flood, but he parried the questions insisting that it was their election alliance.
“Oikyafront was formed with some political parties ahead of the election on political consideration. But, I think, people’s unity, not the Jatiya Oikyafront, is important to tackle it (flood).” The unity of not only a few parties, but also that of all parties and people is necessary to overcome the situation.”
A Gonoforum leader close to Dr Kamal said a distance between Gonoforum and BNP has created over some issues. “Sir (Kamal) is unhappy with BNP as the party still didn’t leave Jamaat. Besides, he doesn’t want to run the alliance as per Tarique Rahman’s suggestion, but BNP wants to do so.”
He also said Dr Kamal got angry as BNP activists at a discussion programme at the Jatiya Press Club tried to force him to mention Ziaur Raman’s name by creating a pandemonium.
Under the circumstances, the Gonoforum leader said, “Kamal Hossain is trying to reorganise his own party with various programmes, like member collection drive programme and a seminar on Bangabandhu in August.”
Contacted, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said their party is now busy reorganising its own organisation.
Replying to a question about Oikyafront’s future, he said, “The alliance has no programme now. We’ll sit in talks with the alliance leaders at a convenient time to talk about its future and next course of action.”
Asked whether he supports Dr Kamal’s remark that Oikyafront is an election alliance, Fakhrul declined to make any comment on it.
However, a BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity, said they are trying to back off from the Oikyafront as their grassroots have no interest in it.
“Our party rank and file has lost interest in Oikyafront for various reasons, including Dr Kamal Hossain’s dubious role. He is unwilling to talk against the government and raise the demand for the release of our chairperson. Even, at the political meetings of Oikyafront he always praises Bangabandhu, but never mentions the name of our fonder Ziaur Rahman. It only hurts our party men,” he said.
The BNP leader said their party is now focusing on strengthening its organisational capacity to mount pressure on the government to free Khaleda Zia from jail. “We’re now holding rallies at different divisions to invigorate our grassroots. We’ll take some other programmes after eid. So, we’re not thinking about the future of Oikyafront now, and not even the 20-praty.”
The BNP leader said they do not want to draw any conclusion about the future of the alliance as Khaleda Zia will take the decision on it once she is freed from jail.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal general secretary Abdul Malek Ratan said they are doubtful about the future of Oikyafront as the alliance has become inactive. “Overall, the sign is not good.”
He said their party is now busy taking preparations for holding its next council in the last week of October.
On October 13, BNP, Gonoforum, Nagorik Oikya, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Jatiya Oikya Prokriya floated the anti-government alliance, Jatiya Oikyafront, led by Kamal Hossain ahead of the 11th parliamentary election. Kader Siddiqui’s party formally joined it on November 5, 2018.
The alliance took part in the December-30 national election using BNP’s election symbol, the Sheaf of Paddy, but got only eight seats -- BNP six and Gonoforum two.
Dhaka, July 23 (UNB) – Dengue has taken a severe turn this year with official figures showing 7,766 people getting infected since January and six of them losing their lives.
Dr Mostafijur Rahman, associate professor of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, argued that the number is much higher since only 10 percent of the infected people get themselves admitted to hospitals.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), 473 dengue patients were hospitalised across the country on Tuesday. Of them, 469 people were admitted to different hospitals in Dhaka city. Two were hospitalised in Khulna and two outside of Dhaka city.
Currently, the Dhaka Medical College Hospital is treating 99 dengue patients, the DGHS said. There are 52 dengue patients in Mitford Hospital, 16 in Dhaka Shishu Hospital, 43 in Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, 60 in Holy Family Red Criscent Hospital, 15 in Birdem Hospital, 13 in Rajarbagh Police Hospital, 36 in Mugda Medical College Hospital, five in Pilkhana’s BGB hospital, one in Kurmitola General Hospital and 131 in private hospitals.
Meanwhile, Dr Shahahdat Hossain, 53, the civil surgeon of Habiganj district, died of dengue while undergoing treatment at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital on Sunday.
Shah Alam, administrative officer of Habiganj civil surgeon’s office, said Shahadat was promoted to the post of civil surgeon on July 9. After spending a few days with his family in Dhaka, Shahadat went to Habiganj on July 20.
“He was already suffering from fever when he joined. He was admitted to Habiganj Sadar Hospital around noon as his condition deteriorated. Later, he was shifted to Dhaka where he died on Sunday night,” Alam said.
The government says dengue has so far claimed six lives, said Dr Ayesha Akter, an assistant director of DGHS.
From January 1 to July 23 this year, a total of 7,766 people were admitted to hospitals with dengue across the country. The number of patients outside the capital is 73. Eight of them were hospitalised in Chattogram and 37 in Khulna.
So far, 5,509 patients have recovered. According to government sources, 1,823 dengue patients are currently undergoing treatment at hospitals in the country.
Mayor Sayeed Khokon at a road show to raise public awareness against Dengue, Chikunguniya and other mosquito-borne diseases on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Photo: UNB
Dr Ayesha Akter, assistant director of Health Emergency Operations Center and Control Room, told UNB that the figure may vary as sometimes private hospitals do not provide data about their patients. But she said information provided by government hospitals is accurate.
What is dengue?
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection. It is estimated that about half of the world’s population is now at risk, according to WHO.
Dengue viruses are spread to people through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes.
There is no specific treatment for dengue or severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates below 1 percent, WHO says.
Each year, up to 400 million people are infected with dengue, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Approximately 100 million people get sick from infection, and 22,000 die from severe dengue, CDC says.
An official of Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), declining to be named, said doctors at government and private hospitals were directed to send blood samples and information about dengue patients. But the request fell on deaf ears.
Govinda Chandra Roy, associate professor of medicine department at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, said many people are suffering from dengue. It is possible to get well within a few days by following the doctor’s advice.
Bank official Runa Chowdhury, a resident of the city’s West Malibagh area, said her children were affected by dengue. They recovered after being treated at hospital and returned home within a few days.
She asked other guardians to be aware about dengue. ‘’I don’t want any child to be in such condition,’’ added Runa.
Former additional director general of DGHS Dr Syeda Badrun Nahar Chowdhury told UNB, “Awareness is the key to preventing dengue. There’s nothing to fear if the home is kept clean.”
Health education instructor Mohammad Shahjahan said dengue fever is caused by aedes mosquito. A person gets dengue fever within four to six days after being bitten by aedes mosquito. When another mosquito bites the dengue patient, the mosquito turns into a dengue germ carrier.
About identifying dengue fever, Dr Mahmudunnabi Masum said, a dengue affected person suffers from high fever and bodily pain. The body temperature may rise up to 105 fahrenheit.
The patient feels severe pain in the bones, waist, back and other parts of the body. In addition, there might be headache and pain in the eyes. Besides, one may feel nauseated.
Rifat Hossain, an official of Dhaka South City Corporation, said they are providing free treatment for dengue. People have to submit their names, mobile numbers and addresses by calling at 09611000999-1. Then an authorised doctor would contact the patient.
“The physician goes to the patient's home and provides necessary treatment,” he added.
Brigadier General Momin, chief health officer of the Dhaka North City Corporation, said they have undertaken various awareness programmes and would launch a hotline.
Besides, a team of physicians will be on standby for 24 hours and provide necessary healthcare to the patients.
Khulna, July 23 (UNB) – A total of 589 people have been detected with arsenicosis, a disease caused by drinking and using of water contaminated with arsenic, in the coastal district, showing a slight rise in the number of such patients over the last eight years.
Sources at the local office of the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) said there were 538 arsenicosis patients in 42 unions of all the upazilas in the district in 2011. The number of such patients was 480 in 2003.
The number of patients rose by 51 over the last eight years, they said.
Besides, 15 arsenic-affected people died in the district since 2003.
Arsenic limit set by the government is 50 micrograms per litre while that by the World Health Organization (WHO) is 10 micrograms per litre.
Of the total 59,821 tube-wells in the district, higher arsenic concentration than the normal standard was found in 25,693, said senior chemist at the local DPHE office Aynal Haque.
The arsenic contamination in shallow tube-wells is high in Dumuria, Terokhada, Rupsa, Digholia and Paikgachha upazila is high, he said.
Arsenic-affected unions include Magurgona and Rangpur in Dumuria upazila, Haridhali, Kapilmuni, Lata, Deluti, Sholadana, Laskar, Gadaipur, Radhuli and Chandkhali in Paikgachha, Amadi, Bagali and Maharajpur in Koyra, Chalna, Dacope, Tildanga and Kamarkhola in Dacope, Jalma, Bhandarcourt, Baliadanga and Amirpur of Batiaghata, Aijgati, Srifaltala, Noihati, TS Bahirdia and Ghagbhog in Rupsa, Chhagladah, Chhachiadah, Ajgora, Madhupur Terokhada and Barasa in Terokhada, Jogipool, Senhati, Digholia, Gazirhat and Barakpur in Digholia upazila.
The sources said underground water layers are gradually depleting following the lifting of water in an unplanned way with air filling the vacuum. Arsenic dissolves into water after it comes into the contact of rocks and air, they said.
DPHE Assistant Engineer Joyanta Nath Chakrabarty said the affected people are taking treatment at upazila health complexes and community clinics.
Dhaka, July 23 (UNB) – BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque has said there is “no alternative to quality service” when it comes to the country’s mobile network and internet service.
“We’re working to ensure quality service. Many operators are failing to provide the requisite service to their clients due to lack of spectrum. There’ll be no compromise with operators on the issue of quality service,” the BTRC chairman said in an interview with UNB.
On tower sharing and upgrading, Haque urged all the operators to be cooperative towards each other. “Each of them has around 25-30,000 towers. The 4 companies who received tower licenses from the authority to build them are yet to reach a consensus with the operators. We’ll finalise our decision and notify the four companies concerned, and they are bound to comply with our decision.”
Talking about complaints against the four mobile operators, the BTRC chairman provided figures for last March, which revealed a total of 334 complaints against market leader Grameenphone, 448 complaints against Robi, 149 against Banglalink, 166 against Airtel and 101 complaints against Teletalk.
Replying to a query about Grameenphone subscribers being reputedly the worst sufferers of network problems, Haque mentioned that all operators have problems to some degree. “When subscribers complain, we take steps to solve those. We won’t compromise with anyone in case of quality service.”
“The Quality of Service Regulation has already been issued to verify if the relevant standards with regards to services of the operators meet best practices. Tests drives are being conducted in different areas. No operator should be labeled as best operator as the quality of service varies from one place to another. We’re working to improve the services of all operators across the country.”
The BTRC chief mentioned that work is on to solve the problems that the operators face frequently such as load-shedding and battery stealing.
Referring to the ‘call drop’ nuisance faced by almost all mobile phone users, he said a notice has already been issued to the operators seeking explanation over dropped calls.
Haque said there has been some improvement in this regard and that the customers are now benefiting from. “Hopefully, there will be more progress.”
Referring to the recovery of unregistered SIM, the BTRC Chairman said a total of 30 drives were conducted across the country to check fake RIM/SIM registration. A total of 15,124 fake SIMs were recovered. Of them, 1,118 are of GP while 2475 of Robi, 1837 of Banglalink, a whopping 9667 of state-run telco Teletalk and 27 against non-existent Citycell. Besides, law enforcers arrested 102 people in this connection.
Talking about illegal handsets in the country, Haque said 2,76,80,840 mobile handsets were imported last year. There are about 25-30 percent ‘gray market’ available for handsets in Bangladesh.
He said, “About 10 crore handsets remain active in the country. Each year, approximately three and a half crore mobile handsets are sold in Bangladesh.”
However, an IMEI database system has been set up in the BTRC to verify the accuracy of handsets and to preserve data stored on the customer's mobile phone handset.
Currently, he said, the process of collecting IMEI data from imported and domestic produced mobile handsets is in progress. The process of providing training to stakeholders concerned is also going one.
Haque said as the regulator launched the central Biometric Verification and Monitoring Platform in SIM registration process, it reduced fraudulent activities, including SIM cloning. It helps the authority to verify user’s identity according to his or her NID, to blacklist a user, if necessary, and take legal action against perpetrators, he added.
‘Significant market power’
Haque said this step was taken following the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Significant Market Power Regulation which was issued on November 14 last year. “So, there’s no fear for operators to be affected by the step.”
He said no mobile operators would be allowed to do monopoly business. “We announced the SMP and will notify soon which sectors will be under SMP. We’re behaving equally with everyone. BTRC is conducting its activities as per law.”
Referring to fitting of the telecommunication act, he said a process is on in this regard, which is expected to be completed soon.
On BTRC’s action regarding blocking of porno sites, Haque said it blocked nearly 4,000 such sites so far. Besides, about 15,000 sites were blocked using cyber security system.
Regarding BTRC’s initiative to reduce internet price, he said the commission has taken initiatives to fit in telecommunication service and make internet service affordable for all.
According to BTRC, there are 160.590 million subscribers as of April this year. Of them, 74.473 million are GP subscribers, 47.574 mn of Robi, 34.547 mn of Banglalink, and 3.995 million of Teletalk.
Currently, a total of 93.702 million internet users are in the country. Of them, 87.910 million browse internet through mobile while 0.060 million people use WiMAX. Some 5.732 million use ISP+PSTN.
The Mobile Number Portability service is a recently launched service under which subscribers can change their operator without changing their contact number.
As of February last, the chairman said 163,321 subscribers have changed their operators. Among them, 76,000 subscribers are from GP, 57,000 from Banglalink, 27,000 from Robi and 3000 from Teletalk.
Besides, Robi added 118,000 new subscribers after the launching of MNP system, while Banglalink another 28,000, GP 14,000 and Teletalk just 2,000.
Gaibandha, July 22 (UNB) - It was a building of Jubilee Government Primary School in Sadar upazila, where around 450 people had taken shelter by Saturday as their homes got submerged.
As evening fell, Hamida Bibi, an elderly woman of flood-affected Baniyarjan village, appeared at the shelter centre-cum-school and sought shelter in the building which was already overcrowded, leaving hardly any room for newcomers.
People who were already there had their minds made up: room after room, they refused to welcome her, citing lack of space. No, not even for just one more frail, elderly woman who had just lost everything.
In the last classroom-cum-bunker that she tried, a strapping youth named Sumon turned her away, saying, “A total of 46 people of 15 families are staying in this room. Where will you stay?’’
That was the last straw for Hamida. Spent, she became speechless as she collapsed outside the room, with nowhere else to go. And that is where she would spend the entire night, hoping against hope that they would take her in. That of course wasn’t to be.
And so it is also where journalists visiting the facility the next morning would find her, slumped out of weakness and fear, almost abandoned.
‘’Please bury me in a grave. They didn’t provide me a little space to sleep, though lots of people have taken shelter there. I spent the whole night sitting in front of the door. All the people inside got eggs and rice but I didn’t get any food. I starved the whole night here,’’ she rolled off in a miserable monotone.
‘’It seems that torture in hell is better than my current situation,’’ she continued to admonish. And yet there she was, living and breathing and feeling, surviving. Even as she looked like death, Hamida embodied instinct for survival. Her whole life had been a story of fighting for survival.
Mokhles Mia, the husband with whom she had four children, died during the Liberation War. Like so many of the war widows, the end of the war in 1971 was only the beginning of a new war for them - this one to raise her children in a fledgling new state where everything was asunder and to do so without a man by her side. Like so many of those mothers, Hamida took stock and she got on with the job, for the sake of her children. Because that’s what mothers do.
Till the floods came along this year, she had been leading a happy-enough life with her three sons and their families, all three pulling vans to deliver goods for a living. The only daughter was married off to a family in nearby Nuniyagari. On their plot of land, Hamida herself was rearing a good number of cattle. If not opulence, she did have something resembling contentment.
But that all came to an end this summer, as the Alai River - despite being one of the smaller rivers in a district through which the Teesta, Brahmaputra, all flow - kept rising, exceeding the danger mark at one point, then another, till all along and Gaibandha slowly started going under water. The overflowing waters started inundating Gaibandha municipality area. In course of time, vast areas of the district were submerged in water.
At one stage, on July 12, the sons along with their wives were forced to move out, leaving the vans as it went under water. From then onwards, Hamida’s vigil was a lonely one.
By Friday, even her neighbours were all gone, and large parts of Gaibandha were marooned off by floodwater. Hamida knew she had little time, and although she would have preferred to guard her sons’ vans, the chest-deep water forced her hand on Saturday. How she made it to the shelter is a mystery itself.
Ayub Ali, a volunteer with the shelter centre, said about 450 people had taken refuge in the school building. Even the roof and staircases of the building were filled out with people who had lost most earthly belongings.
They were only surviving. And that is enough to hope and build for another day.