A number of people in the Jamuna char areas have stepped onto the path of improving their living standards through boosting local silk yarn production.
Many residents of erosion-affected river islands are being economically benefitted by farming silkworm. Sirajganj district Sericulture Extension Office says it is possible to earn Tk 15,000-20,000 in a month by investing Tk 1,500-2,000.
Rural people involved in sericulture have formed a Resham Samabay Samity with the help of the office.
After receiving training, 102 people, including woman from erosion-affected char areas in Shahjadpur, Chowhali, Belkuchi, Kazipur and Sadar upazilas are rearing silk worm (Polu poka) to produce silk cocoon.
Besides, 215 silk worm farmers have taken preparations by planting mulberry tree.
Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board has distributed 59 polu farming houses worth Tk 40,000 among the farmers. Besides, process is underway to distribute 30 more houses.
Currently, the board is also distributing silk worm eggs free of cost. It cost Tk 200 to collect 100 eggs, according to the officials of the board. Mulberry trees are also being supplied.
The farmed silkworm cocoons are being collected by the board at Tk 350 per kg.
Reshma, Jahir Ali and several others who are involved with silk worm production, said that silk worm farming will create employment for many in the areas.
The farmers of the char areas are benefitting economically. Mulberry trees grow easily in the soil of the area. A huge potential has been created in these areas, said Shahadat Hossain Hira, official of Belkuchi upazila Sericulture Extension Office.
Anisur Rahman of Chowhali office said that as the farmers found success in the experimental initiatives taken by the board, they are now expecting good results in future. But the board’s shortage of manpower prevented them from spreading sericulture across the entire char area.
Anisur called for the special attention of government to this sector for bringing economic prosperity in the remote river islands.
Besides selling books, the Chinese pavilion at Bangla Academy premises at the Amar Ekushey Book Fair-2020 has turned into a place for cultural exchange and interaction. People of all ages, particularly the youth, are gathering in front of the pavilion and browsing through books about China.
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Bangladesh and Bangladesh Bureau, China Media group jointly set up the stall at Ekushey Book Fair for the first time.
"Selling books is not our top priority. As the relation between Bangladesh and China is developing day by day, we feel responsible for helping the Bangladeshi readers know easily about China," Zha Mingwei, Third Secretary of Cultural section of Chinese Embassy in Dhaka told UNB.
He said many visitors are gathering at the stall to buy books for children about language, Chinese history and culture in particular. “We offer the books at more affordable prices than at other times," he said.
Among the books, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, China’s Culture, China in the next 30 Years, Healthy China: 1949-2019, Where is China Going, Studying in China, China Creative Digest and Chalkbazar to China (written in Bengali), among others, are attracting the visitors most.
Rasel Sharker, a third year student of Dhaka University, was buying a book from the stall."I’ve bought a book on higher study at China as I want to do my masters there. As the Chinese government is offering lots of scholarships for international students, Bangladeshi students are becoming interested about China," he said.
He said the prices at the Chinese pavilion are lower than the stores outside the fair, adding that visiting the pavilion is very useful for those searching books about Chinese culture, history and study.
Praising the initiative,Md Delwar Hossain, president of Bangladesh-China Friendship Centre, said a lot of Chinese people are working in different development projects in Bangladesh while the number of Bangladeshi students and workers is also increasing in China. “The move to set up a Chinese stall at the book fair will be helpful for both countries,” he said.
Alhaj Enamul Haque Babul’s modern method of ‘Pabda’ (Butter Fish) farming in Abhaynagar upazila has not only grabbed the attention of locals for its uniqueness but helped many to become self-reliant.
He has set an inspiring example of fish farming in a small plot of land at a low cost.
President of Abhaynagar upazila unit of Awami League and former municipality mayor, Enamul Haque began farming fish at Aamdanga village of Sundoli union in 2002.
Although he could not make profit initially by farming fish every year, he was successful in the modern method of Butter Fish farming in 2019.
Locals said his record production of 52.48 metric tons of Butter and Carp type fish drew attention of the Fisheries Department.
Enamul has become an inspiration to many by producing 11.25 metric tons of Butter Fish and 5.10 metric tons of Carp type fish per hectare.
Locals meet him every day to learn and take advice from him. The farmers who were inspired by him also became successful following his method of farming.
Enamul was awarded by the Department of Livestock and Fisheries for his success in farming various types of fish and became the best fish farmer at the upazila and district levels.
Sources at the Fisheries department said Enamul began cultivating ‘Pabda’ and Carp types of fish on 3.21 hectares of land last year. Now he has around 50 permanent workers and 600 temporary ones in his farm.
Talking to UNB, fish farmers Kamrul Hasan, Shafi Kamal, Babul Akhtar, Golam Mustafa and Hiramon Roy said once fish farming was not profitable for them. “Now we’ve become really successful in fish farming by following Enamul Bhai’s advice,” Hasan said.
“The unemployment problem in the country can be resolved through fish farming by using modern information technology. It’ll benefit the country economically as foreign exchange can be earned by exporting fish after meeting the local demand,” Enamul said.
Talking to UNB, Md Faruk Hossain, an official at the Fisheries department of the upazila, said crop cultivation is quite low in the area due to waterlogging.
“So, one can be successful in crop cultivation alongside fish farming by cultivating fish on a small scale as Enamul does,” he said.
The Fisheries department is always working so that farmers can apply advanced and modern techniques in fish farming, he added.
According to Md Anisur Rahman, another official of Fisheries department official in Jashore, Enamul made his mark in politics as well as fish farming. “He has created a record in producing ‘Pabda’ fish using the mechanical method at a low cost in a small water body.”
The fisheries official said Enamul is not only meeting the demand for protein but also creating jobs for many.
“The job crisis in Bangladesh can be minimised if Enamul Haque’s great initiative can be spread across the country,” he said.
Kaptai Lake, the largest manmade freshwater body in Bangladesh, was created in 1956 when a dam was constructed on the Karnaphuli River for the Kaptai hydropower plant. The dam obstructed regular water flow in the river and inundated vast swathes of farmlands which later transformed into a lake.
It is now a popular destination of tourists for its soothing beauty. I had long been waiting to go on a trip to see the beautiful view of the water body. Finally the time came when Javed Karim, chief organiser of ‘De Chhut Bhromon Sangha’, an online platform of travellers placed a proposal to go on a trip to Kaptai with them.
I grabbed the offer without hesitation and embarked on the two-day trip.
On Thursday night, Jashim and I boarded a bus from Gabtoli. Five others joined us from Motijheel and Kamalapur. After an overnight journey, we reached Rangamati early Friday.
After having snacks, we took a speed boat to Thegamukh, a bordering area under Barkal upazila. The boat began running on the surface of the lake at high speed. The cool breeze did not spare us though we wore life jackets. We had to wear mufflers and monkey caps to save ourselves from the stinging cold.
The boat had been running on the lake for a while. It seemed that boat driver Shanto Chakma started a never-ending journey on water.
However, members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) stopped us at different spots for registration. After completing the procedures, we resumed the journey again.
On the way, we were enthralled by the scenic beauty of the lake. The fishermen were netting fish. How long I did not see the fishermen fish!
The sight of the plums hanging like a garland on the banks of the lake drew our attention. Locals and Bangalees constructed houses on both banks.
After a several hour ride, the boat reached Choto Horina Bazar and anchored near a BGB camp. But our destination was a few kilometres away.
As regular process, we submitted photocopies of our national ID cards. But the authorities informed that no one was allowed to go to Thekamukh due to some complexities. We were totally helpless at the time.
After failing to get permission from BGB, we visited some hills of the area and had lunch at a hotel of a Marma family.
We began the return journey to Rangamati on the boat. Although all were upset as we could not visit Thegamukh, the boat ride on the lake cheered us up. On the way, we took breaks at different spots and visited Barkal Upazila, police station, Press Club and some other places. When we reached Shuvalang, the sun was setting. It was mesmerising to see the scene as it reflected on the lake.
We reached the Rangamati town around 8pm.
The next day, we woke up early in the morning, took an auto rickshaw and went to Manikchhari to visit Furman hill, the second highest hill in Rangamati. We began climbing the hill around 9:30am. Few people were seen in the first 30 minutes of our trekking.
We managed to reach the peak around 12:15pm, passing a long, narrow and undulate path. There was an army camp to ensure tight security at the hilltop. We walked for 10 more minutes to see a Buddhist idol and the nameplate of Furmon hill. We stopped there for around half an hour and took some photos.
Finally, we started our return journey.
Amid growing frustration among the party followers for its failure to free her either through legal way or mounting political pressure, BNP is going to observe the second anniversary of the jailing of its chairperson Khaleda Zia with various programmes on Saturday.
Party senior leaders and Khaleda’s lawyers think there is slim chance of having Khaleda freed through the legal process unless there is a negotiation with the government or strong street agitations.
According to party insiders, Khaleda Zia’s family members are taking steps for filing an appeal to the President to free her on humanitarian ground as they believe that BNP has no ability to wage any street movement.
They, however, could not yet convenience Khaleda to submit any appeal, the party sources said.
BNP grassroots leaders said their party could not yet come up with any effective programme to push for the party’s demand for Khaleda’s release.
They think the party policymakers should try to wage a strong movement or make an understanding with the government to release her from jail.
Political analysts suggested the party to reorganise its grassroots and take to the streets with well-planned action programmes to have Khaleda released from jail.
On February 8, 2018, Khaleda was sent to Old Dhaka Central Jail after a lower court sentenced her to five years imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
On October 30, the High Court doubled her five-year jail term when she challenged the lower court verdict.
On October 29, Khaleda was convicted in Zia Charitable Trust corruption case and sentenced to seven years' rigorous imprisonment by a special court.
The BNP chief is now facing around 36 cases, including Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable corruption ones.
What did BNP do to free Khaleda?
On the first anniversary of Khaleda’s jailing, BNP senior leaders promised to wage a strong movement reorganising the party’s rank and file to force the government to free her alongside carrying out a legal battle, but the party confined itself to mainly indoor activities like discussion meetings, doa mahfils, human chain, and press conferences throughout the last year.
With their serious worry over Khaleda’s health condition, BNP senior leaders met Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on March 5, 2019 and demanded her better medical treatment.
Later, she was shifted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) on April 1, and she has been staying there since then.
There was a speculation that BNP MPs were sworn in as part of a negotiation with the government over Khaleda’s release.
However, BNP MPs reportedly tried to free Khaleda on parole, and they met her at BSMMU on October 2, but Khaleda did not agree to their proposal.
The party leaders carried out the legal battle to have Khaleda freed, but the scope for having Khaleda freed through legal process has apparently ended as the Appellate Division on December 12 rejected the bail petition of the BNP chief in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case.
On January 24 last, Khaleda Zia’s sister Selima Islam said they are planning to make a special appeal seeking her release as they are worried about her life.
Selima, however, did not make it clear whether they will make the appeal to the government or the apex court.
A BNP senior leader, wishing anonymity, said Khaleda’s family wants to make an appeal to the President for saving her life by allowing her to receive treatment aboard.
He said their chairperson’s relatives will discuss the issue with Khaleda during their next meeting. “The appeal will be made if Khaleda agrees to the proposal.”
BNP ‘planning to intensify movement to free Khaleda’
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the government kept Khaleda Zia in jail for two years unfairly. “She’s not been even given bail thought it’s her legal and constitutional right. “We repeatedly went to the court, but it’s known to all what happened there.”
He said their party has been on a movement, and they will now intensify it to free her from jail.
“The country is now facing a serious crisis as there’s no democracy, rule of law, people’s rights”, the BNP leader said.
Fakhrul said it is a difficult task to ‘restore’ democracy and intensify the democratic movement. “So, we’ll free Khaleda Zia and then restore democracy by intensifying our movement.
BNP ‘needs good strategy, effective programmes’
Dr Tarek Shamsur Rahman, a professor of Jahangirnagar University’s International Relations department, said BNP has failed to work out any effective political action programme and work plan to reorganise the party and boost the morale of its grassroots leaders and activists to mount pressure on the government to free Khaleda from jail.
He said BNP leaders should now design an effective plan to stage a comeback in politics reorganising the party. “BNP should a well-designed political strategy to stage a comeback in politics with pro-people action programmes.”
Dr Tarek said BNP leaders also need to go to their grassroots leaders to take their opinions and organise the party and take preparations for remaining active in politics.
Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, known as a BNP sympathiser, said BNP has miserably failed to push its demand for the release of Khaleda Zia with effective programmes as the party policymakers could not devised action programme independently.
He said BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman should now stay away from politics enabling its standing committee to take the right decisions and strengthen the party’s movement for Khaleda’s release.
He said senior leaders must take to the streets with courage to encourage the party rank and file to follow them to have Khaleda Zia freed from jail.
BNP, JOF to observe Khaleda’s jailing anniv
BNP chalked out a two-day day programme, including a rally in the city on Saturday, demanding BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s release, marking her second anniversary of her imprisonment.
As part of the programmes, the party arranged doa mahfils in mosques after Jum’a prayers today seeking early recovery of Khaleda as she has been suffering from various critical ailments.
Besides, BNP will hold a rally in front of its Nayapaltan central office at 2pm on Saturday. The party’s all district units will also stage demonstrations on the same day.
Meanwhile, BNP publicity affairs secretary Shahidul Uddin Chowdhury Anee said Dhaka Metropolitan police gave them verbal permission to hold the rally in front of their office on Saturday afternoon.
Besides, BNP’s alliance Jatiya Oikyafront is scheduled to stage a protest rally at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity (DRU) protesting Khaleda’s jailing.
The programme is also meant for pushing their demand for the release of the BNP chairperson.
Oikyafront top leaders are expected to address the programme that will begin at 11am.