Narail, Aug 23 (UNB) – Over one lakh people of Lohagarah upazila have been suffering immensely as the construction work on a 175-metre bridge over the Nabaganga River could not be completed in three years’ time.
The work on the much-sought bridge started in April 2016 at Gandab Ghat under Kashipur union over the river. It was supposed to be completed on October 22, 2017 but the project is still far away from completion.
Locals alleged that the project work is moving at a snail’s pace due to negligence of the contractor firm.
According to sources at Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED), 85 percent works on the bridge have so far completed.
The government allocated Tk 10.19 crore to construct the bridge and PPL-NA, a contractor firm owned by Nayeb Ali Khan, got the bridge work.
During a recent visit to the construction site, the UNB correspondent found only 8-9 workers working at the site. The link roads on both sides of the bridge are yet to be constructed.
Mustafizur Rahman, deputy assistant engineer of the upazila, said five slabs have been installed over 15 girders of the bridge while the welding work on the last girder is going on. “We’re trying to complete the construction work by December next,” he said.
According to the locals, workers had to sit idle for about four months due to the delay in construction material supply.
However, the bridge is expected to benefit the residents of 40 villages under eight unions once it is opened as it will help farmers carry their farm produces to local markets easily and quickly.
Kabir Hossain, a lecturer at Lohagara Government Ideal College and a resident of Gandab village, said there are two big villages—Gandab and Chalighat—on the northern side of the river, and the residents of the villages have to cross the river to go to the union parishad and land offices and the union health centre.
More importantly, he said, there is a vast track of cropland on the southern side of the river, and the bridge is expected to assuage the sufferings of people living in Kashipur, Joypur, Noagram and Lahuria unions.
RumanaParvin, headteacher of Gandab Government Primary School, said most students of her school have to attend their classes and examinations by crossing the river taking risks.
GolamKibria, a trader in Manikganj Bazar, said he takes his farm produces to ErendaHaat through an alternative longer route. Once the construction work on the bridge is completed, he will be able to take his produces to the local haat easily at a lower cost, he said.
Nur Islam Sharif, manager of the contractor firm, said they have to suspend the construction work due to strong monsoon currents in the river, an excuse turned down by locals.
Contacted, Bidhan Chandra Somaddar, Executive Engineer of the Local Government Engineering Department in the district, said the construction work on the bridge will be completed soon.
Khulna, Aug 23 (UNB)– Rice bran oil of a company is being sold at the markets here allegedly mixed with pig fat, creating panic among consumers.
A buyer while visiting a departmental store named ‘Kenakata’ at Rupsha traffic intersection in Khulna metropolitan city asked the sales staff as to why this brand of cholesterol-free fortified rice bran oil is stored at the shop.
Is it true that Rab members seized 2000 tons of pig fat from the factory of the company, he raised question.
“Is it that. Then of course I will return the product whenever the company people come,” said a sales person.
Not only the rice bran oil but other food items banned by the High Court for two times, flood the Khulna markets.
On August 3, a mobile court in a drive in a outlet of KBC Agro Limited, an edible oil and various food manufacturing company, at Dhamrai in the capital seized about 2000 tons of banned pig meat, bone and fat worth 11 crore taka. The factory was fined Tk 75 lakh and sealed.
Executive Magistrate Sarwar Alam said, “The company named KBC Agro (Pvt) Limited Health Care imported pig fat from Hong Kong for manufacturing soybean oil in September last year. Besides, they were manufacturing and marketing fish and chicken fodder using the same ingredient. Being informed we found the evidence of the charges.”
Besides, the High Court ordered withdrawal of 52 consumer goods from the market on May 12 which failed BSTI test. At the same time, the court ordered Safe Food Authority and National Consumer Rights Protection Directorate to take effective measures against those who are still selling these food items and supply.
The High Court bench comprising Justice Sheikh Hasan Arif and Justice Rajik Al Jalil in their observation said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government should wage a war against food adulteration.
The biggest wholesale shop of the region – Borobazar, various departmental stores and the shops at the lanes, by-lanes and the locality are flooded with these banned products.
On June 11, in a notification BSTI instructed the companies to withdraw 22 products from the market within 72 hours.
After banning 52 products, 22 more items were banned in the first phase due to low-quality, but these food stuffs are being sold in the markets of Khulna region.
The 22 products include Pran Dairy premium brand ghee, spices of Square Food and Beverage and salts of various companies.
Besides, BSTI has cancelled the licenses of powdered turmeric of Three Star Brand of Three Star Flower Mills and Khushboo Brand ghee of Agro-Organic for being low-quality. However, these goods were on sale in Khulna markets.
SM Nazimul Islam, Deputy Director of Khulna divisional office of National Consumer Protection Directorate, said, “ The companies concerned whose products were banned by the court, have been asked to withdraw their items from the market. Drives will be conducted against them if these items are found in the markets.”
Polash Mahmud, Executive Secretary of Conscious Consumer Society (CCS) who filed more than one writ with the court for ensuring safe food items, said, “We are continuing movement for ensuring safe food products across the country but it is regretting that my city has been beset with goods banned by the court.”
“Everyone must realise that if gunshot is fired, then only one person dies while the nation faces premature death due to adulterated food items,” he added.
Advocate Enayet Ali, President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh Khulna district unit, said, “The court said that Bangladesh has turned into a country unfit to live in regards to food safety. The state has failed to ensure our food safety.”
Sylhet, Aug 22 (UNB) – With its abundance of manpower, cheap and easily available, conventional wisdom has always dictated that any productive economic activity in Bangladesh has to be labour-intensive, low-skilled, and thus add little value (low ‘value-added’).
This holds true for pretty much the entire economy, but perhaps nowhere more so than the still vital agriculture sector - the largest employment sector in the country that provides employment for about 41 percent of the labour force, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey 2015-16.
That number however is dwindling, having been as high as 63 percent just about a decade earlier, and is estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to come down to 36 percent by 2020.
In view of the generational shift that sees less and less of the country’s youth interested in entering the agri-economy, even as the challenge of increasing food production for a growing population remains, a decision was taken at the start of 2019 to frame, for the first time, a policy on agriculture mechanisation.
An expert panel convened by the Agriculture Ministry has already submitted the draft of the policy, that aims to “increase farm productivity by speeding up the process of adoption of low-cost but efficient machinery at growers’ level.”
Yet even before the policy has been officially adopted, a farming community in Bishwanath upazila in Sylhet has stolen a march on the authorities by taking the path to mechanisation on their own initiative.
Much of what the government envisions for the agri-sector as a whole has already been implemented in Bishwanath, where they are already reaping the benefits in terms of falling costs, increased efficiency and bigger yields afforded by the use of machines such as the rice transplanter.
Upazila Agriculture Office sources said that there are eight rice transplanter machines in Bishwanath. The farmers took advantage of the 70 percent government subsidy facility for expansion of machinery in agriculture.
Although some mechanisation in various processes has existed in Bangladesh (e.g. upto 95 percent of land is tilled by power tillers and tractors), it is particularly the adoption of potentially game-changing machines like the transplanter that the government now wants to encourage. Department of Agriculture Extension figures indicate just 1 percent of planting is done using machines at present.
In one estimate, a rice transplanter increases the approximate area that a person can plant in a day by almost 15 times.
“Not only that the technology is being used in all the agricultural works including making seedbed, producing seed, sowing, harvesting and threshing of paddy, and collecting stalk to cultivate as per demand at lower cost and lesser time.”
Jaber Hossain, a farmer of village Alapur of the upazila, said, “I sowed rice seed on about 15 acres of land during last boro season and harvested rice using a Combined Harvester Machine after getting training from Agriculture Machinery Testing and Training Centre under Farm Mechanisation project.”
“Using the CHM has been a boon for me. I have benefitted by spending less money and also less time, which is also equal to more money,” he said, adding that non-arable land would reduce and demand for using agricultural machinery would increase immensely if the growers get training on using the machines.
Monohor Hossain Munna, Convener of Bishwanath Sadar Union Juba League and himself a farmer said, “I have sowed the paddy seed using rice transplanter for the first time.”
“I have sowed the seed of aman paddy on one and a half acres of land using transplanter. This year I will sow seeds of aman paddy on five acres of land using this machine. I am hopeful that the yield would be better than in the past,” he added excitedly.
Upazila Agriculture Officer Ramjan Ali noted that food production would have to almost doubled by 2030 in accordance with the government’s vision., towards which all agencies of the state are working according to a plan.
Cumilla, Aug 22 (UNB) — Villages in some upazilas of the district were once abuzz with sounds of Khadi, or handspun fabric, being woven. But with the changing times, this traditional handloom cloth, spun into yarn on a spinning wheel, is slowly but surely heading towards extinction.
Fearing for the worst, the Khadi weavers and traders have been demanding to keep this traditional cloth alive by injecting funds and training the craftsmen.
In the past, a number of villages in Chandina, Debidwar and Muradnagar upazilas used to produce the traditional cloth from dawn to late at night.
But a lack of capital, yarn and necessary manpower are making it hard for the old generation to continue and discouraging the young generation from entering the sector.
Khadi industry expanded quickly in Cumilla region during Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement against the British rule. The handspun fabric became popular among the poor at the beginning of the 18 century.
Later, the traditional cloth gradually gained popularity at home and abroad. Now, people mainly buy and wear Khadi during various festivals.
After visiting Chandina and Debidwar, the UNB correspondent found only 8 to 10 spinning wheels in operation. Many weavers have left the profession of their forefathers having failed to survive the cutthroat competition.
The weavers and the Khadi traders urged the government to immediately take measures to protect the industry and feared that it may go extinct otherwise. The Khadi craftsmen said the industry can be saved by forming a board or association and organising exhibitions at home and abroad.
“The craftsmen must be given proper training. Khadi exhibitions at Bangladesh embassies will help create interest among foreign buyers,” said Khadi organiser Prodip Kumar Raha Kanti.
Cox’s Bazar, Aug 21 (UNB) – “The Myanmar government has betrayed us many times in the past. We don’t trust it anymore” – this is how Joynab Begum, one of the 3,450 Rohingyas set to be repatriated on Thursday, reacted after learning that she is on the list.
Distrust of the Myanmar government runs deep among the Rohingyas, who have been forced to flee their homeland in Rakhine State over the years and live in cramped camps in Bangladesh.
Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed a deal in 2017 to send back Rohingyas but there has been very little progress. A 2018 repatriation attempt was halted after protests by the refugees.
The Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Myanmar and Bangladesh to suspend the latest plan “until the returns are safe, voluntary, and dignified”.
“Myanmar has yet to address the systematic persecution and violence against the Rohingya. So, refugees have every reason to fear for their safety if they return,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director.
Some of the Rohingyas included in the repatriation list reportedly demonstrated in front of camp 26 on Tuesday afternoon but the camp’s in-charge M Khalid Hossain insisted that there had been no protests.
Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas. Most of them came here after Myanmar military launched a brutal offensive targeting the minority on August 25, 2017.
The refugees and rights groups have accused the army and its local collaborators of killing, rape, torture, arson and loot – charges Naypyidaw denies. The then top UN human rights official described Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingyas as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
State-sponsored discrimination against the Rohingyas stretches back decades and they are denied citizenship. The HRW says the remaining Rohingyas in Rakhine State are confined to camps and villages with no basic freedoms.
Refugees on the repatriation list have raised a few demands before they willingly return. Some of them told UNB that their demands include granting them citizenship, giving back their belongings and houses, releasing imprisoned Rohingyas, trials for killing and rape, and assurance of free movement and security.
The UNHCR interviewed Rohingyas on the final list at camps 24, 26 and 27 on Tuesday morning. Leaflets were also distributed in the camps on behalf of UNHCR and the government containing information about the repatriation.
M Zubair, a resident of A block of Shalbon camp told UNB that an UNHCR team came looking for family data card. “I didn’t know anything about repatriation but later learned that my name was on the list,” he said.
When asked if he was willing to return, the Buchidong resident said: “I’ll go back only when citizenship is granted, and security as well as rights to free movement are ensured. My land and belongings must be returned. Otherwise, we’ll surely be killed. In that case, it’ll be better to die here.”
Hasina Begum, who is also on the list, echoed Zubair.
The HRW said conditions in Rakhine State are not conducive for voluntary, safe, or dignified repatriation of Rohingya and accused Myanmar of doing nothing to improve conditions or address the root causes of the crisis.
Meanwhile, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said preparations for sending back the Rohingyas are complete. “We’re optimistic about Thursday’s repatriation programme,” he said.