There are a lot of things in Bangladesh that may evoke nostalgia about the countryside. Having a glass of fresh date sap on a misty winter morning maybe one of them.
Solid molasses produced from date juice are also used for making various mouth-watering pithas (cakes) and other sweets.
And Jashore, a southwestern district, is very well-known for molasses due to the presence of numerous date trees in the district.
With the advent of the winter, date sap collectors, locally known as ‘gachhis’, started preparing their trees in different upazilas of the district, including Sharsha.
Sap is extracted from the soft trunk of the top-most part of a date tree. A clay pot is attached to the top of date tree for collecting the sap.
At first, the outer part of a portion of the tree is peeled off on the top to prepare the tree for producing sap.
Jasim Uddin, a gachhi of Goga Kaliani village in Sharsha upazila, told UNB that they have already started the process to collect date sap.
He said it takes time to prepare a tree for the sap production and it costs about Tk 100 to prepare a tree and early preparation brings more profit as the tree gives more sap.
“I’ll collect sap from over 300 date trees and all of these are not mine. I borrow trees from others on contract,” he said, expecting to earn over Tk 30,000 from selling sap this winter.
Shahidul Islam of Tebaria village under Dihi union said they are proud that Jashore is traditionally famous for date sap and molasses made from it.
Goutam Kumar Shil, upazila agriculture officer of Sharsha, said sap collectors were preparing the trees and it seems the winter has arrived in right time.
Over 1 lakh date trees are being prepared in Sharsha upazila this year, he said.
Although the kitchen markets in the capital have seen the huge supply of both the imported and newly-harvested onions in the last few days, the prices of the cooking ingredient is still too high.
Visiting a number of kitchen markets in the city, the UNB correspondent found the local variety of onion being sold at Tk 220-250 per kg while the imported one at Tk 100-180 at the retail market on Saturday.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, 4,159 tonnes of onion were imported through different ports on Thursday alone.
It also said the import will continue until the supply of onion and its prices become normal.
Last week, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi also said the onion price will become stable within the first week of December when imported and local onions hit the market. “Huge imported onions are coming to markets. The onion will be available in market within the next 10 days. Onion costs Tk 32 per kg to reach the port. It’ll be sold at maximum Tk 60 per kg. Besides, local onion will hit the market during this time,” he had said.
However, there is no reflection of the huge import and the minister’s comments on the market as onions are still selling at higher prices.
Meanwhile, traders claimed that the onion prices are gradually falling.
According to state-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), imported onion was selling at Tk 90-210 per kg while the local one at Tk 240-250 in the city kitchen markets.
Yusuf Ahmed, driver of a private firm executive, said he bought one kg of local onion for his employer at Tk 250 from Shantinagar Kitchen Market on Saturday.
Debashis Biswas, a resident of old Dhaka, said he bought one kg of Burmese onion at Tk 190 from a Bangshal shop.
He alleged that the government has completely failed to control the onion market. “There’re huge onions in stock but traders are not selling those in lower prices. How do the middle- and lower-income people buy onion if the prices are so high?”
Arafat Mia, a retailer at Najira Bazar of old Dhaka, said they have to buy onion still at much higher prices from wholesale markets although the prices somewhat came down compared to the last week.
“Today we bought Chinese onion at Tk 70 kg while the Burmese one at Tk 150, and the newly-harvested local variety at Tk 180 from a wholesale market. We’re selling onion adding a profit of Tk 10-12 per kg,” Arafat said.
He, however, said better quality local onion is selling at Tk 220 a kg.
Almas Hossain, a stockist at Shyambazar, said they were selling Chinese variety of onion at Tk 65-70 per kg while the Burmese one at Tk 120-180, Egyptian one at Tk 100-110 and newly-harvested local variety at Tk 150 and old local variety at Tk 200 on Saturday.
Mohammad Hafiz Uddin, an importer at the market, claimed that the onion prices are gradually falling. “It’ll further come down and the market will be stable within one or one and a half months.”
Bolai Kumar Poddar, proprietor of Grameen Banijjaloy at Khatunganj of Chattogram which stocks onion, told UNB that they were selling Chinese onion at Tk 30-60 and Burmese one at Tk 140-155 a kg. “The onion price is slowly falling. It’ll come down further,” he said.
The price of local onion price shot up as high as to Tk 270 per kg in the last week of November.
Bangladesh will make its presence felt through various engagements among the international community during the three-day hearing at The Hague as top UN court is set to hear Myanmar genocide case beginning on December 10, says an official.
A Bangladesh delegation, led by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, will leave for The Hague, Netherlands on Sunday, the official here told UNB.
“The delegation has some civil society members, too,” he said adding that they will have meetings with stakeholders and will observe the hearing.
The official who wished to remain unnamed said a minister-level delegation from Canada will also be there during the hearing.
Bangladesh and Canada are working closely over the Rohingya issue, especially on accountability front, officials said.
Though Bangladesh will watch and listen to the hearing making no statement, it will be helpful for Bangladesh to interact with other stakeholders during the hearing, officials said.
Gambia Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambadou and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will lead the lawyers on behalf of their respective countries during the December 10-12 hearing at International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.
Suu Kyi will make her statement on December 11, another official told UNB adding that over 120 international media outlets got registered to cover the three-day hearing that will begin at 10am (local time).
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s (DU) International Relations department is also among the delegation members.
On November 11, Gambia filed a case with the United Nations’ highest court, accusing Myanmar of committing “genocide” in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
Gambia, which filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately.”
The case was filed by Gambia, as Chair of the OIC Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Accountability for Human Rights Violations against the Rohingya, for violations by Myanmar of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
As part of the lawsuit, the ICJ is requested to impose Provisional Measures, as a matter of extreme urgency, to protect the Rohingya against further harm by ordering Myanmar to stop all of its genocidal conducts immediately.
Genocide is a crime under international law, as well as international criminal law and all States have an obligation to prevent, to punish, and to not commit genocide, said the OIC in a statement.
The Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee was established at the 45th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 5-6. 2018.
Gambia, as Chair of this Committee, was tasked with submitting the case to the ICJ, following a decision by the OIC Heads of State, during the 14th Islamic Summit Conference, May 31 in Makkah Al Mukarramah.
Bangladesh keeps exploring all available avenues through bilateral and international mechanisms to send back Rohingyas safely to their place of origin in Rakhine State with an active trilateral effort with China and Myanmar in place.
“We want to work in all areas with the same pace,” said Secretary (Asia and Pacific) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Masud Bin Momen recently.
He said it will be a very difficult proposition if the Rohingya issue is left on bilateral front only considering the past experiences.
Responding to a question, he said the issue of “accountability and justice” is a matter of high moral ground as genocidal acts took place; and the international community has responsibility to address the issue.
On November 14, the pre-trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her investigation will seek to uncover the truth. “My office will now focus on ensuring the success of its independent and impartial investigation."
Meanwhile, Suu Kyi is among several top Myanmar officials named in a case filed in Argentina for crimes against Rohingya Muslims and it shows the Nobel Laureate, for the first time, has been legally targeted over the crisis.
Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar since August 25, 2017 amid military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine State.
Not a single Rohingya was repatriated over the last two years due to Myanmar’s “failure” to build confidence among Rohingyas and lack of a conducive environment in Rakhine State, officials here said.
Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1 lakh Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently is expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from Bangladesh, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
Lack of an educational institution and connectivity with the mainland have forced an estimated 200 schoolchildren in Amtala Char of Chilmari Upazila to quit studies.
Most of them now spend their days working in the fields or grazing cattle.
Afsana, a young member of a newly-settled family, said she used to go to school when her family lived at Lal Chamar Char of Char Rajibpur upazila. The family took shelter at Amtala char after their homestead disappeared into the river.
“It’s tough to continue studies in the absence of a school,” she told UNB.
Rubel, another former student, said he grazes cattle and works in crop field instead of going to school.
Chilmari Union Parishad Chairman Gausol Haq acknowledged that the lack of educational institution in the river island was forcing students to quit studies. “No school has been set up here although a good number of people have been living here for some years now,” he said.
Over 400 families have so far settled on the river island that surfaced around four years ago. Most of them used to live in chars but were forced to move when the river devoured their homesteads.
The nearest school, located in Brahmaputra Char, is an hour’s boat ride from Amtala.
But distance and hazardous boat journey could not deter everyone. Nazim, a resident of the char, said some of them attend that school. “We've to start early in the morning to reach school in time,” he added.
However, dozens of children like Afsana and Rubel, who cannot make the journey have no choice but to get involved in laborious activities to contribute to family income.
Residents of the river island feared that the children may get involved in anti-social activities if the situation does not improve. They urged the authorities concerned to establish a school there as soon as possible.
Enamul Haque, an assistant teacher at Dushmara Government Primary School of the upazila, said it has been several years since people started inhabiting in the river island. “Now, it’s essential to establish an educational institute to ensure that children get the opportunity to study,” he said.
When approached, State Minister for Primary and Mass Education Md Zakir Hossain said, “We’ll keep an eye on the issue so that those children don’t lag behind. A primary school will be established there, if needed.”
When they left the country for Algeria a few months back with dreams of changing their fate, they all were ecstatic. Now they feel trapped and are living in inhuman conditions in the North African country.
Sumon, Delwar, Mohsin, Helal and Alamgir, all hailing from Munshiganj, are some of those ill-fated Bangladeshis who sought help though video messages to arrange their safe return to the country as they fell prey to fraudulence by recruiting agencies, according to Brac Migration Centre.
For the rescue of the tapped workers, Brac Migration Centre has appealed to the Wage Earners' Welfare Board BPDB following requests from the victims’ families. The Board has sent a letter to the Bangladesh Embassy in Algeria for taking necessary steps for their safe return, it said.
The relatives of the trapped workers said the youths were sent to Algeria with promises of highly-paid jobs, standard works and easy entrance to Spain.
Delwar Sheikh of Baniagao village in Munshiganj paid Tk 3 lakh to Selim, owner of a recruiting agency, for going to Algeria nine months back but so far he received salary of two months and the amount is also poor, said Delwar’s father while talking to the UNB correspondent at Brac Migration Centre.
“We've been passing days amid financial hardship as the whole family depends on Delwar’s income,” he said.
Some of the victims’ families alleged that after getting approval from the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Trainingsome recruiting agencies are cheating on the workers intending to go abroad.
Recently, nine Bangladeshis have returned home from Algeria while four remained stranded in Morocco on their way to Spain, and 42 are living in Algeria in injuman conditions.
Jasim Mia, who returned home recently from Algeria, said he along with 32 others went to Algeria on February 19 paying Tk 3 lakh each to Singapore Training Centre in Shovochoni area of Tongibari in Munshiganj, and promised a job of Tk 50,000 salary per month.They agency assured them of sending them to Spain from Algeria.
They received only Tk 43,000 each after working in Algeria for six months. When they contacted, the agencies concerned demanded Tk 4 lakh more to send them to Spain.
“We had no money to pay as we're extremely poor, and seven of us finally returend to Bangladesh on September 28 last,” he said.
Mohammad Faruq, who also returned from Algeria, said Singapore Skill Training Centre and Bonnya Overseas Limited recruiting agency which has the clearance of Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training sent 56 youths to Algeria taking Tk 3 lakh from each of them in February last.
Before leaving the country, the agency told them that they can go to Spain after a few days. After going to Algeria, they did not get any salary and were tortured for demanding salary, he alleged.
Another victim, Faruq, said he and eight others had no other option but to return home.
“We've returned empty-handed as we had to borrow money for purchasing tickets for saving our own lives,” he said adding that now the recruiting agency is threatening them.
Brac Migration Project chief Shariful Hasan said the families of seven trapped workers in Algeria sought help from them for their safe return. They have sent letter to Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry and Wage Earners' Welfare Board on October 9 in this regard, he said adding that the Board has also sent a letter to Bangladeshi Embassy in Algeria.
“It's a matter of grave concern. Hope, that the government will take necessary measures in this regard. Such fraudulence must be prevented. Otherwise, many others might fall in the same trap,” Shariful Hasan said.
Director of Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training DM Atique told UNB that they are not aware of such allegations and legal action will be taken when formal complaints will be lodged.
“Bangladeshis go to Algeria with legal visa but I don’t know the the specific figure,” he added.