Dhaka, Jan 30 (UNB) – Jute-made products are turning heads at the Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF). Pavilions showcasing them are attracting people, from the young to the old, with their colourful designs and diversity.
The array of products includes bags, purses, folders, tablemats, prayer mats, doormats, rugs, and room dividers, among others.
The huge, albeit unanticipated, number of visitors at the jute goods stalls is widening smiles on the faces of the vendors who say they expect buoyant sales this year.
Local brands have filled their stores with as many products with different designs and colours as possible to grab the windfall.
Md Ashequr Rahman Rumel, coordinator of Karupannya, a local company, says they are making between 300 and 400 products from jute and many of them can be bought at the fair.
Customers, mostly the young, appear to be more interested in jute-made products, says Abdur Rahim, a sales executive of at Cotton Tex stall.
‘The jute rush’
Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC), under the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, has installed a mega pavilion. Istiaque Ahmed, JPDC centre-in-charge, says most of the 25 stalls are showcasing jute goods from around the country.
Kazi Kamrul Karim, manager (marketing) of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), told UNB: “We’re trying to spread environment-friendly products at home and abroad. These products are attracting a large number of buyers.”
Two particular products – ‘Sonali Bag’ and ‘Jute-Tin’ – are standing out of the crowd in the fair. Karim says the government is planning to launch ‘Sonali Bag’, a biopolymer made from jute, in the local market this year as a suitable alternative to polythene bags.
The jute goods are exuding great response from the visitors.
Khadiza Rahman, who came from Keraniganj, is one of those impressed by the products and their quality. “I’m surprised to see such beautiful products made from jute,” she says. “If all of us shun plastic goods and use environment-friendly products, then we can save our environment. We should buy more jute made goods.”
‘Revival of the golden fiber’
The data provided by Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) shows that Bangladesh exported jute and jute products worth $421 million in the first half (July-Dec) of the 2018-19 financial year.
Jute, the country’s third largest forex earner, is estimated to involve around 10 million people. The country produces around 1.45 million tonnes of raw jute annually.
New products from jute and a global campaign against plastic have rekindled the hope of a comeback for the ‘golden fiber’. People are optimistic that jute will solve the plastic problem -- at least to some extent.
The period between 1972 and 1975 was the golden era of jute, says Dr Md Monjurul Alam, director general of Bangladesh Jute Research Institute.
“Jute was pushed to the sideline by polythene and plastic goods,” he says. “The government did not take initiatives to help the sector and instead shut down mills.”
It was not until after 1996 that the government took steps to diversify jute products and started opening new mills. Bangladesh enacted the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010, enforced in January 2014, making the use of jute packaging compulsory for 19 types of products.
The government initiatives have encouraged entrepreneurs to come up with diversified jute products. Currently, Bangladesh is also exporting ‘Patpata Paio’ made from jute’s leaf (an alternative to tea) to Germany. It will be available in the local market very soon, BJMC’s Karim says.
“Campaign against plastic is continuing across the world. Bangladesh must take advantage of these eco-friendly consumer trends in the global market,” Monjurul says.
BJMC Scientific Advisor Dr Mubarak Ahmad Khan, who led the invention of ‘Sonali Bag’ and ‘Jute-Tin’, concurred. “It’s an opportunity for Bangladesh to grab global markets,” he says.
Mubarak lamented the lack of funding. “I can increase the production volume if I’ve adequate funding. We can earn a huge sum of foreign currency,” he says.
His ‘Sonali Bag’ is completely biodegradable and does not contain any plastic particles. On top of that, it is recyclable. The ‘Jute-Tin’, on the other hand, is extremely strong and can withstand hailstorms. “It’ll last for over 100 years,” he claims.
“The prices of the products will come down if the government subsidises them. This will encourage people to buy them instead of plastic goods,” the scientist says.
“A golden era of jute is knocking on the door of Bangladesh,” BJMC’s Kamrul says.
It just needs a little push, he adds.
Dhaka, Jan 29 (UNB) - Different student bodies have demanded that the Dhaka University authorities take necessary steps to ensure the peaceful coexistence of leaders and activists of all organisations on the campus to make the much-awaited Ducsu election a participatory one.
The university authorities on January 23 announced to hold the elections to Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (Ducsu) and hall unions on March 11.
With this, the long-pending Ducsu election is going to be held after 28 years as the last one was held on June 6, 1990.
The announcement of the polls date without resolving various issues, including finalisation of voter list and amendment to the Ducsu charter, raised questions about the authorities’ sincerity to hold a free and participatory election, alleged leaders of different student organisations.
Talking to UNB, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) DU unit president AL Mehedi Hasan Talukder expressed his disappointment over the issues, saying, “The first condition of a participatory election is the coexistence of leaders and supporters of all parties on the campus. But the cadres of Bangladesh Chhatra League are not allowing any JCD leader and activist to stay at residential halls. Even the opposition activists can’t attend the classes and appear in exams. We demand that the university administration create equal facilities for all.”
“They (authorities) are yet to publish the final voter list and confirm where the booths will be set up. We don’t understand how they announced the election date without resolving the issues,” he added.
Bangladesh Chhatra Union DU unit president Foez Ullah said, “If the authorities would have announced the date after publishing the final voter list and necessary amendment to the Ducsu charter, it would have been better for us to take preparations.”
Welcoming the announcement of polls date, BCL DU President Sonjit Chandra Das told UNB, “We’re welcoming the decision and hope that they’ll fix an age limit and find out acceptable path for the candidates. But it would have been better had the authorities resolved the issues before the announcement of the date. We’re still not clear as to who can contest the polls or who will be allowed to vote.”
The university authorities had arranged several meetings with student bodies and hall provosts, where they gave proposals to bring amendments to some parts of the Ducsu charter as it is not time-befitting.
All the student bodies at the last meeting of Paribesh Parishad, a council comprising the university authorities and the representatives of students’ organisations, demanded increasing the age limit to 30 for candidates and announcing the final list of voters.
Meanwhile, most of the student organisations, including JCD and left-leaning ones, demanded steps to ensure equal political coexistence of the activists of student wings of different political parties on the campus.
They also demanded setting up election booths at the academic buildings of the university instead of residential halls over security concerns.
Chief returning officer of Ducsu polls Prof SM Mahfuzur Rahman said they were preparing the complete schedule for the polls which would be announced within a short time.
He also said work to bring amendment to the Ducsu charter, devise electoral code of conduct and finalise the voter list is going on in full swing.
On January 17, 2018, the High Court ordered the Dhaka University authorities to take steps to hold the Ducsu elections within in six months.
Earlier on January 6, the Supreme Court vacated its earlier order that stayed a High Court order asking the Dhaka University authorities to take necessary steps within the next six months to hold the Ducsu election.
On November 1, 2018, the DU authorities published the draft voter list for the elections.
According to the draft voter list, a total of 38,493 regular students -- 23,984 males and 14,509 females -- will be able to exercise their voting rights during the Ducsu and hall union polls.
Sylhet, Jan 28 (UNB) – Unlike the able-bodied ones, people with physical disabilities, especially those sans legs, cannot move without the help of others. Even if they use manual wheelchairs, they sometimes need support from others to operate those.
But, three students of a private university here designed a special electric wheelchair with their absolute brilliance to remove their worries. Physically-challenged people now can operate the wheelchair with a finger without anyone’s help.
Shafiqul Alam, Jasim Uddin and Md Zihad Al-Sabah, students of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) department of Leading University have designed the wheelchair under the supervision of their teachers Ashraful Islam and Abu Shakil Ahmed.
The students said they have devised the wheelchair considering those who have lost their legs. Using the wheelchair, such people will be able to move to any direction -– right, left, front and back -- by pressing a button with any finger.
There is an automatic electronic brake system attached to the wheelchair, devised fully using local technology, which is the first in the country, they said. There is no need to apply the brakes if any object comes its way.
Electric light and horn have been attached to the chair for smooth movement at night.
The students also said they were working to make sure that the wheelchair is controlled using brain in the future.
Mentioning that the wheelchair can especially be used at hospitals and clinics, they sought assistance either from the government or any non-governmental organisation to market it.
Vice-chancellor of the Leading University Prof Dr M Qumruzzaman Chowdhury and chairman of EEE department Associate Professor Rumel MS Rahman Pir are excited at the feat of their students.
Dhaka, Jan 28 (UNB) – Bangladesh will import around 1.42 million tonnes of petroleum from eight state-owned companies of different countries under the government-to-government (G-to-G) arrangements in the first half of the current year.
According to sources at the Energy and Mineral Resources Division under the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, the government will require to spend about US$806.769 million, equivalent to Tk 6772.87 crore, to procure this bulk refined petroleum from January to June this year.
They said the Energy and Mineral Resources Division and state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) will import the bulk petroleum. Of the total fuel, the BPC will buy 1.19 million tonnes of gasoil (diesel) while 1 lakh tonnes of Jet A-1, 30,000 tonnes of petrol ((mogas) and 1 lakh tonnes of furnace oil.
Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase last week approved a proposal of the division allowing the corporation to import the bulk fuel.
The committee also approved the premium of the fuel import proposals which are $2.95 per barrel for diesel, $3.95 per barrel for Jet A-1, $5.50 per barrel for petrol and $29.75 per tonne for furnace oil.
As per the proposal, the state-owned corporation will import 90,000 tonnes of diesel, 40,000 tonnes of furnace oil and 15,000 tonnes of petrol from BSP Zapin of Indonesia while 1.10 lakh tonnes of diesel, 10,000 tonnes of Jet A-1 and 20,000 tonnes of furnace oil from PTLCL of Malaysia, some 90,000 tonnes of diesel and 20,000 tonnes of furnace oil from ENOC of the United Arab Emirate (UAE), and some 60,000 tonnes of diesel and 20,000 tonnes of furnace oil from Thailand’s state-owned PTTT.
It will buy only diesel from two state-owned Chinese companies. Of this, some 90,000 tonnes of diesel will be coming from China’s Petrochina and 1.5 lakh tonnes of diesel from Unipec. Some 51,000 tonnes of diesel and 90,000 tonnes of Jet A-1 will be imported from Kuwait’s state-owned KPC and some 90,000 tonnes of diesel and 15,000 tonnes of petrol from Philippines’ state-owned PITC.
Officials said the government is following a certain practice from the last few years for the import of petroleum as part of its energy import strategy.
Under the strategy, the BPC imports 50 percent of the total required fuel from state-owned companies of different countries through a negotiated premium at an international rate while remaining 50 percent is imported through open tender from open sources.
About the strategy, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the government follows such a strategy to secure its fuel import. “If the entire import is made through open tenders, there always remains a risk. In case of any international crisis, the supplier might decline to supply fuel which will push the country’s fuel import towards uncertainty,” he said adding that they are now following the strategy for this.
Dhaka, Jan 27 (UNB) - The government will increase the number of Commercially Important Person (CIP) status of non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) nearly threefold from this year to encourage the expatriates to send more remittances.
The CIP status is given to NRBs for their outstanding contributions to the country’s economy. Currently, 35 NRBs are enjoying the CIP status.
The Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment (MEWOE) issued a circular on January 10 and sent it to all Bangladeshi embassies and high commissions for distribution of the information among expatriates.
This year, the government will award CIP status to five highest NRB investors, 75 highest remittance senders and top 10 importers of Bangladeshi products.
“The government has decided to increase the number to inspire more people to send higher remittances through legal channel,” MEWOE Additional Secretary Munirus Saleheen told UNB.
Last year, a World Bank report said Bangladesh was the ninth highest recipient of remittances in 2018 with $15.9 billion. In South Asia, the country came in third after India ($79.5b) and Pakistan ($20.9b).
Any NRB who has sent at least $1,00,000 to Bangladesh in the 2017-18 fiscal year can apply for CIP status, he said. Previously, one needed to remit $2,00,000 to be eligible for application.
Criteria for the other two categories — investor and importer – will remain unchanged.
The NRBs who have directly invested money equivalent to $3,00,000 in the industry sector and those who imported Bangladeshi goods worth $3,00,000 in 2017-18, are eligible to apply for the CIP status, said Saleheen.
Guidelines for application are available at www.probashi.gov.bd. One has to apply with necessary documents either directly to MEWOE or at the concerned Bangladesh missions by February 15 this year.
Replying to a question, Saleheen said the government would announce names of 35 NRB CIPs for the 2016-17 fiscal within June.
Of the NRB CIPs announced last year, 29 were given the status for remitting the highest amount of foreign currencies and another six for importing Bangladesh goods for the year 2015-16.
CIP (NRB) cardholders are entitled to a number of facilities for one year from the day of the issuance of gazette. They get reserved seats in government airlines, trains, buses and water vessels for business-related visits, while their spouses and children also get priority in getting cabin facilities at government hospitals for medical treatment.
CIP cardholders can use VIP lounges and receive special luggage handling facilities at airports. They also get special treatment in meeting high officials at home and abroad.