Gaibandha, Jan 21 (UNB) – Imbued with the light of education, Lutfor Rahman has been involved in spreading education to poor children living in the villages along the banks of the Brahmaputra River in the district, exceptionally in exchange of only one taka from each student since 1984.
Lutfar Rahman, himself a resident of Uria village in Fulchhari upazila, could have been labeled a ‘floater’, rendered homeless after his ancestral land and valuables were washed away by the mighty river in 1974.
Afterwards, he even could have been called a “Laundrywala”, as he opened a laundry shop in his village after the fatal erosion.
Now, his name takes only one adjective and that is ‘One Taka Master’, ever since he took up tuition as a profession, of course with a focus on teaching poor students in the area.
Lutfar Master has been conveniently spreading the light of education among students in Baburia, Madanpara, Dhulipara, Kangipara, Pulbandi and several nearby villages.
Then, he took shelter on the bank of Brahmaputra river in Gadhari village, which is only 7 kilometres away from his former native village and started imparting knowledge to poor children there since 1984.
The name may seem to be a name for demeaning someone to those unknown, but local people call him by this name, holding him in high esteem and, it perfectly goes with his familiarity for inculcating primary school students for only Taka 1 per day.
Now the 69-year old, who passed his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination in 1974, could not go for further education, and could not manage a job for his family as he had to instantly survive with his family members.
He, then, started reaching door to door in search of such students as are too poor to manage their money for tuition, averse to go to leave them away from schools
“I saw many poor children getting averse to education and, in many cases, leaving their education due to facing high price of tuition, that prompted me to involve in this profession to do something for those, and that, at the same time ekes out my family subsistence.
“I take only one taka from each of my student after daily tuition, and thus I have five batches consisting of at least 25 students that, in total, brings me around TK 3,000 to 3,500 every month,” said master Lutfar. “My 4-member family is dependent on the paltry amount but makes it somehow.”
“I started tuition in 1984, when I used to receive only 25 paisa, that also would suffice for my family with a struggle like this today,” he continues.
Akhtar Majhi of Madanpara in the upazila said, "We are poor people and cannot afford to bear expenses of our children. The private master or coaching centre takes TK 200 or TK 300 as compensation. We cannot afford it. So, we must go to Tk 1 master. He is as we expected a truly great, great teacher, better than any other tuition options.”
About the teaching of the Tk 1 Master, one of his students Ruhul Alam who is currently working as an NGO worker said, “During our childhood, Sir (Lutfar Rahman) had been a constant mobile school for children, we all used to gather round him for even taking our lessons.”
“Militancy does present a huge loss of our people and country, I hope my students will not indulge in militancy, they would be as rational as a human should be,” said the master.
“There is no substitute for education to create a poverty-free society,” he said. “I motivate my students to spread the light of education as best as they can.”
Dhaka, Jan 21 (UNB/IPS) - Polythene bags are everywhere – literally – and the world is not sure how to deal with them. Shopping bags made from polythene have become ubiquitous, showing up everywhere from the summit of Mount Everest to the deep ocean floors to polar ice caps.
The main concern is the environmental challenge they pose. There have been attempts to create environment-friendly alternatives but nothing has worked – until now. A Bangladeshi scientist says the South Asian country has the answer.
Professor Dr Mubarak Ahmed Khan and his team have created a type of polythene from jute cellulose that looks and feels like plastic but – according to him – is ‘completely’ biodegradable.
“This means, the bag will not cause any harm to the environment when it decomposes,” Dr Mubarak, a scientific adviser to Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, told UNB. “The colour used in the bag is extracted from vegetables and the binder is the same edible one used in capsules.”
The bag, named ‘Sonali’ after the moniker of jute, can support more weight than conventional polythene bags, he says. It can survive about five hours in water and gradually melts after this period. It takes the bag five to six months to decompose on land.
“If the bag is thrown into water, it’ll decompose and become food for fish because it has cellulose. Burn it, you’ll get ashes that can be used as fertiliser,” he says. “It’s compostable and biodegradable.”
Dr Mubarak says the so-called biodegradable polythene bags that are coming to the market are mostly made from starch and they contain plastic. “What makes our biopolymer stand out is that it doesn’t have any plastic in it,” he says.
A lasting affair
Polythene bags are cheap to make and durable. By 1979, shortly after they became available, polythene bags controlled 80% of Europe’s bag market, according to UN Environment. In the following years, they replaced almost all paper bags around the world.
Last year, the UN estimated that polythene shopping bags were being produced at a rate of one trillion a year.
But they take hundreds of years to decompose. After breaking down, polythene bags turn into microplastics and nanoparticles that contaminate the soil and water. Scientist Jacquie McGlade told a UN conference that microplastics had been detected in environments as remote as a Mongolian mountain lake and deep sea sediments.
Humans are affected when these particles enter the food chain. The adverse effect of polythene on the marine life is well documented. They are said to have the same effect on human beings just as they have on the environment.
A 2016 UN report called Frontiers noted that the presence of microplastic in foodstuffs could potentially increase direct exposure of plastic-associated chemicals to humans and may present an attributable risk to human health.
Last year, scientists found microplastics in human stools for the first time. The finding suggests that they may be widespread in our food chain.
“Polythene is like poison,” Dr Mubarak says. “One should not drink it even if it is given for free.”
The ‘Golden’ Hope
There is no data on the daily or annual demand and production of polythene bags in Bangladesh. An environmental organisation estimated last year that the residents of capital Dhaka use 14-15 million pieces of polythene bags every day.
Polythene is considered to be one of the main reasons for the clogging of drains. In 2002, Bangladesh banned thin polythene, becoming the first country in the world to do so.
Eight years later, the government formulated the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act making the use of jute bags compulsory instead of plastic sacks for packing paddy, rice, wheat, maize, sugar and fertiliser.
But lax implementation of the law means polythene bags are still widely available and used throughout the country.
Dr Mubarak says he chose jute because of its abundance in Bangladesh. Only 30% cellulose can be extracted from a full-grown tree but jute has 70% cellulose and needs about three months to mature.
It took the scientist and his team about a decade to invent Sonali Bag.
“We started around 2008 and had a breakthrough about seven years later. We finally made it in 2017,” he says. The research was government funded.
Bangladesh is in talks with a foreign company for sourcing machines to start commercial production. Dr Mubarak says cost is one of the barriers to the bag’s popularity. “The price will come down when we go into mass production,” he says.
“But if you consider the environmental cost, then a Tk-10 Sonali Bag is cheap,” the scientist says. “Because of its properties, it can be a substitute not just for traditional polythene bags, but also other plastics.
NB: This report is produced by United News of Bangladesh (UNB) and Inter Press Service (IPS)
Dhaka, Jan 20 (UNB) - Bangladesh can explore more ways with much importance on “moral diplomacy” reaching out to everyone in global society to put pressure on Myanmar for ending the Rohingya crisis, says a US professor.
“States and citizens of the world must engage to put such pressure on Myanmar and its supporters,” Prof Mohammad A Auwal of Department of Communication Studies, California State University, USA told UNB.
Prof Auwal, also a senior research fellow of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) who visited Rohingya camps recently, laid emphasis on networking with and supporting local and international human rights and church groups that seek to end the Rohingya sufferings.
He recommended organising high-profile interfaith trips to Myanmar to open opportunities for change through dialogue saying moral diplomacy with a moral consciousness is a potentially effective approach to the conflict.
Acting BEI President M Humayun Kabir said Bangladesh can do more to reach out to Myanmar society and try to influence people at policy level but noted that Myanmar’s political structure is very difficult one.
“But we can work and can make a serious effort,” he said adding that not Myanmar only, Bangladesh can intensify its efforts to reach out to India, China, Russia, Japan and even the USA.
The former Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA said this (Rohingya) is an issue which has a number dimensions -- humanitarian, rights and justice -- and from Bangladesh’s perspective it has a geopolitical challenge, too.
“This is a test case for our diplomacy. We need to solve this problem,” Kabir said adding that they also need to think of what will happen if it does not get resolved.
Prof Auwal said only pressure from the international community on Myanmar and its supporters remain a viable option.
He said big powers have aligned their policies with Myanmar out of their political or economic interests.
Given the geopolitical equations, Prof Auwal said, the best or reasonable option for Bangladesh is to negotiate bilaterally.
“Moral diplomacy, as I conceive it, has three components -- conventional diplomacy, public or citizen diplomacy and focus on soft power and nonviolence approach. Everyone can be a moral diplomat,” he said adding that moral diplomacy is a strategic communicative response.
Prof Auwal said moral diplomacy has a role for everyone including the state officials and citizens who care about human rights, human dignity, liberty, and justice.
“In this world society, we can reach out to almost anyone. We must have faith in the innate human goodness. We can expose the character of the criminals or immoral powers,” he mentioned in his paper presented here recently.
The Rohingya crisis is thorny because of the recent shift in the regional or even global geopolitics over the recent decades, he observed calling on the governments to stop supporting the inhumane policies of Myanmar at the expense of their values and soft power.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said the Rohingya issue will remain a priority one for the government. “I think this problem won’t be solved easily. So, we’ve to overcome many hurdles.”
Emphasising the importance of stability and development in the country and beyond, the Foreign Minister said if stability prevails, development will take place and everyone in the region will be benefited from it (stable atmosphere).
“The international community has a big responsibility for their (Rohingyas) repatriation and rehabilitation,” he said adding that the interest of Myanmar, India, Thailand and China, not only Bangladesh, might be affected if the Rohingya crisis remains unresolved.
Terming the Rohingya issue a very serious one, the Foreign Minister laid emphasis on further analysing economic, social and security impacts and subsequent consequences due to the Rohingya crisis.
Minister Momen briefed diplomats stationed in Dhaka recently and thanked the international community for their support.
He hoped that the international community would continue to play a constructive role in resolving the Rohingya crisis which lies in their safe, sustainable and dignified return to Myanmar.
The international community appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s humanitarian support to over 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the first batch of Rohingya repatriation on November 15 last year but it was halted due to lack of a conducive environment in Rakhine State, the place of origin for Rohingyas.
Khulna, Jan 19 (UNB) – A farm of Emu bird, popular worldwide for its meat and oil, has been set up in Batiaghata uapzila here purely on experimental basis. Now the farm is abuzz as visitors stream in every day.
Ashraful Alam Khan, chairman of Bhatiaghata upazila, set up the farm on one bigha of land at Kismat Fultola, aiming to create jobs for youths. Now people from different corners of the upazila are visiting his farm every day to see it for themselves.
Emu bird is the second-largest living bird by height after Ostrich and the national bird of Australia. Emus are soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds with long necks and legs, and can reach up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in height. They forage for a variety of plants and insects but have been known to go for weeks without eating.
Besides, it can adapt to a variety of conditions ranging from excessive hot to excessive cold and it can be raised anywhere of the world. Emu is considered as friendly bird as it can easily live in grassy plains and dry open farms. Emu grow from 5 to 6 feet high and weight between 45 to 60kg. Female Emu are capable of reproduction for at least 25 years old.
It generally lay down eggs from October to March. They lay down 25-35 eggs in per year. The colour of egg is green and 10—12times larger than chicken’s egg.
Talking to UNB, Ashraful Alam said he bought per pair of Emu bird at Tk 16,000. He first bought 200 Emu chicks and 12 Ostrich chicks. When he bought the Emu chicks, their weight was from 600-700gram. Now, the weight of each emu bird is 40-50kg.
As Ostrich chicks could not adapt to the weather condition, his 10 chicks died but 190 Emu birds are still alive and growing well, Alam said.
The farming of the bird has gained popularity all over the world for its meat and oil. Emu oil, collected from fat of Emu bird, are used to make medicines.
The chairman expressed the hope that Emu farming will soon get much popular across the country and unemployed people will become self-reliant through its farming.
Dr Bamkim Kumar Halder, livestock officer of the upazila, said the meat of the bird is tasty and 98 percent cholesterol-free which makes it popular in the world.
Besides, its death rate is also low compared to Turkey and poultry chicken. There is huge potential of Emu farming in Bangladesh commercially, he added.
Dhaka, Jan 19 (UNB) - Still reeling from the shock of its massive defeat in the 11th parliamentary election, BNP is unlikely to join the upcoming upazila elections as most of its senior and grassroots leaders think the party should boycott all the elections under the current Election Commission (EC) following their bad experience in the December-30 polls.
However, the party is likely to allow its interested leaders to join the elections independently instead of using the party symbol -- the Sheaf of Paddy.
Some party leaders, however, think it should participate in the upazila polls to show the country’s people and the international community again how the country’s election system got collapsed and justify their allegations of vote rigging and various irregularities in the national election.
Talking to UNB, some senior BNP leaders said the 11th parliamentary election demonstrated that no election will be fair and credible under the current government and the EC, and their party’s participation in the upazila elections will only invite further repression and harassment of their grassroots leaders and activists.
They also said it will be very difficult for their party candidates to contest the upazila elections and carry out frantic electioneering as they might not get good response from the party’s ‘demoralised’ followers while many of their grassroots leaders are in jail or on the run facing many cases filed before and during the national election.
Under the circumstances, they said, their party should now focus on reorganising their different units and associate bodies and take some effective programmes to revitalise the grassroots and give legal shelters to the party men facing political cases instead of joining any election.
A BNP standing committee member said they recently held a meeting and elaborately talked about the upazila elections. “Most of our standing committee members suggested boycotting the upazila polls.”
Contacted, BNP standing committee member Mahbubur Rahman said their party is not going to join the upazila polls as they believe no fair election is possible under the current Commission.
“Our standing committee has taken a decision to boycott the upazila polls, and it’ll be made public very soon. We won’t join any election unless the current Election Commission is reconstituted,” he said.
Mahbub said most of their party standing committee members think BNP should not participate in any ‘farce’ in the name of election under Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda-led Commission.
Another party standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said their party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir will soon covey the media about their decision on the upazila polls. “We don’t have any confidence in the current Election Commission after the national election. What’s the point of joining farcical polls under it?”
BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said they are now collecting various information and documents from their candidates across the country about the irregularities and vote frauds during the December-30 election. “We’re assessing the national election. So, we’re not now thinking of upazila polls.”
BNP’s mid-level leaders, including organising secretaries and assistant organising secretaries, recently held a meeting at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office and most of them suggested boycotting the upazila elections as party acting chairman Tarique Rahman, who joined the meeting through Skype, sought their opinions.
Contacted, BNP’s Chattogram divisional organising secretary Mahbubur Rahman Shamim said, “I think joining the upazila polls will be a meaningless and useless exercise. It’ll only invite more problems for our disturbed and dejected leaders and activists.”
He said the 11th parliamentary election demonstrated that no election can be held in a free and fair manner under the current administration and the Election Commission. “So, I think our party high-ups will take the right decision to boycot the polls.”
Another party organising secretary, wishing anonymity, said, “We’re demanding reelection bringing allegations of vote robbery in the national election and raising the question about the neutrality of the current CEC and the Commission. So, if we now join the upazila polls, our allegations of vote frauds in the national election will lose its credibility.”
“Ruling party men are still repressing our leaders and activists after the general election. Our many leaders and activists are on the run in fear of arrest in false cases. If we join the upazila polls, police will intensify their drive to arrest our activists and implicate them in more cases. So, I think our party should not join the polls.”
BNP publicity affairs secretary Shaheed Uddin Chowdhury Anee said he does not think their party should further join any election under the current Commission. “This Commission is biased. There’ll be serious vote-rigging in the upazila polls like that in the general election.”
However, a party vice chairman, preferring anonymity, said their party should join the upazila polls to unmask the true nature of the current EC and the government further. “We couldn’t have talked about the vote frauds in the national election had we not been there in the election race. So, I personally think our party needs to go to the polls to justify again our allegations of vote robbery in the national election.”