IMF loan program can be touchstone of financial sector reforms
The government’s successful negotiation of a $4.7 billion, approved at the Executive Council of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), will raise confidence in the macroeconomy amid a volatile foreign exchange market, analysts said. They said that the IMF loan program can help bring stability to the macroeconomic situation in two ways- increasing the US dollar supply and igniting a process of reform in the financial sector. Economist and adviser to the last caretaker government Dr ABM Mirza Azizul Islam told UNB that the IMF loan works as a standard for the economic strength of a country. Other international financial organisations would be encouraged to provide loans and in other financial dealings with Bangladesh now. He said that the loan will contribute to a stable exchange rate by strengthening the foreign exchange reserve for the short term. Besides, the IMF loan will work as a remedy while inward remittance flow and repatriation of export income have slightly decreased, Mirza Aziz said. The government will be implementing reforms in the financial sector as per the advice of the IMF, which will bring good results in the long run for the macroeconomy, he pointed out. Read more: $4.5 billion loan: IMF reaches preliminary agreement with Bangladesh Many countries are seeking IMF’s loan support to face the foreign exchange crisis due to the fall of global economic growth. Bangladesh’s process for securing the loan has been much smoother than some other countries, which is a good endorsement of Bangladesh’s macroeconomic stability. Economist and former Governor of Bangladesh Bank (BB) Dr Atiur Rahman told UNB that the IMF board decision indicates strong confidence in Bangladesh's macroeconomic management and willingness to undertake necessary reforms for inclusive and sustainable growth. Besides budget support, the approval of a new loan of $1.4 billion from the Resilience and Sustainable Fund (RSF) also demonstrates the IMF's recognition of Bangladesh's capacity to address climate change challenges, he said. “The loan, of course, is focused on addressing high inflation and falling foreign exchange reserves. Indeed, Bangladesh, though not in the same club as Sri Lanka and Pakistan, has still made this pre-emptive move of asking for long term low-cost funding support from the IMF, to avoid future pressures on its macroeconomic indicators that have already been affected to some extent by the ongoing global economic crisis,” he added. Dr Atiur said the state-of-the-art technical knowledge of IMF experts in Bangladesh will certainly benefit from this program in undertaking necessary reforms in the financial sector for raising revenue and foreign exchange reserve, improving governance of the banking sector to reduce non-performing assets, and targeting better social protection for the extreme poor. These reforms are, however, already in place as a part of the indigenous development strategy of Bangladesh. The program will only further consolidate their implementation process, he said. Read more: Bangladesh receives 1st instalment of IMF’s $4.7 billion loan: BB spokesperson "Other development partners like the World Bank, ADB, and JICA will be encouraged to come forward with additional support for infrastructural development in Bangladesh. FDI will also flow at a faster pace to take advantage of the conducive investment environment in Bangladesh which will be further strengthened by the presence of the IMF program," said Dr Atiur, also a professor of economics at Dhaka University. The IMF said that the loan will help stabilise Bangladesh's macroeconomy, implement the necessary reforms to build capacity for social and development spending, strengthen the financial sector, modernise policy frameworks, and address climate change.
Consumers complain LPG price higher than govt-set rate in Khulna markets
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) price witnessed a record hike recently amid increase in prices of essentials and fuel. Consumers now say they are not getting LPG at the government-set price in Khulna city either. It has come as another blow to low- and middle-income groups as they have to pay Tk 100 to 150 more than the rate for a 12 kg LPG cylinder set by the government. Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) increased the LPG price by Tk 22.15 per kg to Tk 124.85 for the month of February. Read: Retail gas prices hiked for power plants, industries and commercial users with effect from Feb 1 As per the new price, 12 kg LPG cylinder cost has been increased by Tk 266 as a retail consumer will get it at Tk 1498 instead of previous price of Tk 1,232 including VAT. Consumers alleged that there was a supply crunch in the LPG market in the last two weeks. Apprehending a possible hike in LPG price, the traders stockpiled gas cylinders instead of selling those, leading to shortage of LPG in market and the supply situation became normal after increase in gas price on February 2, they said. A large number of people in Khulna city, municipality and adjacent villages depend on LPG. Sohrab Hossain, a resident of Gobarchaka area of the city, said, “The government has fixed the price at Tk 1,498 for a 12 kg cylinder but the retailers are charging Tk 1700. After arguments, I bought a cylinder at Tk 1650.” Visiting different areas in the city, this UNB correspondent found that there is no 12 kg gas cylinder below Tk 1600 anywhere. It is being sold either at Tk 1650 or Tk 1700 across the city. Iqbal Hasan, a resident of Sheikhpara area of the city, said that the government set the price by keeping a profit of Tk 40/50 for wholesalers and retailers but they want to make more profit. Read: Fuel, natural gas price hikes to have domino effect on economy: DCCI “The greed for more profit is emptying the pockets of the customers. But there is no one to address this,” Iqbal added. Birendra Nath, a resident of Sir Iqbal Road, said, “Shopkeepers insult us when we ask about government-fixed prices. We are helpless.” BERC officials said that the prices witnessed such an excessive rise due to huge increase in the prices of Saudi CP (contract price). Last month, as per the Saudi CP, the LPG price was $599.59 per metric ton while the current month’s CP was set at $790 per MT with an increase by $190.25 per MT, he added. Bangladeshi LPG operators normally import their products from the Middle-Eastern market on the basis of Saudi CP.
BPDB seeks revised agreement with Adani before importing power from Jharkhand plant
The government has sought a revision to the power purchase agreement (PPA) it signed with Adani Power Ltd for importing electricity from its thermal power plant in Jharkhand, India. Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), the government agency tasked with overseeing the development of the country’s power sector, has already sent a letter to the Indian company in this regard, according to officials familiar with the deal. It seems the price of coal to be purchased as fuel for the project has emerged as the prime bone of contention. “We have sent a letter to the Adani Group following a request we received in relation to opening LCs (in India) to import the coal that will be used as fuel for the 1,600 MW plant in Jharkhand,” a highly-placed official of BPDB told UNB, in return for anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. Read: BPDB staring at 80% jump in annual losses after gas price hike Since practically all the power generated by the plant located in the Godda district of Jharkhand state will be exported to Bangladesh, Adani Power requires a demand note from BPDB that it can present to Indian authorities before opening LCs against the coal import. The cost incurred to import the coal, including transport from port to plant, will ultimately be borne by Bangladesh, with the price factored into the PPA's tariff structure. Adani Power recently sent a request for BPDB to issue the demand note, where the coal price is quoted at $400 per metric ton (MT) - far above what BPDB officials believe it should be given the present state of the international market. “In our view, the coal price they have quoted ($400/MT) is excessive - it should be less than $250/MT, which is what we are paying for the imported coal at our other thermal power plants," the official said. Read: The Tk 700 crore per month hole in the deal with Adani Power The same sources also said Bangladesh’s stance on the issue was communicated to Adani Power officials during the visit of a delegation led by State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid to the site of the power plant, that took place in the first week of January. Publicly however, the state minister gave no indication of any such issue during the visit, instead telling reporters that Bangladesh would start importing the power generated by one of the two units at the plant, some 750 MW, from March. The subsequent letter counts as BPDB’s formal request for the PPA to be reviewed and tariff structure to be adjusted before it can start importing the electricity, officials said. No discounts, please? A number of BPDB officials told UNB it was the absence of a provision for discounts on the purchase of coal in the PPA signed with Adani Power, that allowed the Indian firm to quote such a steep bill for the coal. Read: CPD raises question about power tariff enhancement proposal The absence of such a provision is all the more notable since it was made mandatory in the PPAs for thermal power plants signed with other independent power producers, domestic or foreign. In these PPAs, the price of coal to be purchased as primary fuel was kept as “pass-through”. The PPA with Adani Power was signed in November 2017, in Dhaka. Then-Power Division Joint Secretary Faizul Amin, BPDB secretary at the time Mina Masuduzzaman and Adani’s Business Development President Kandarp Patel signed two documents - the PPA and an Implementing Agreement - on behalf of their respective sides. Interestingly, reports in Bangladeshi media from the time suggest the agreement had to be rushed through in the end, on the insistence of the Indian company. A date proposed by the Power Division had to be brought forward, reported Energy and Power magazine, as the Indian company ‘was insisting to sign the deal earlier’. Most of the top and senior officials of the Power Division were unable to attend, the report adds. Did this rush to sign ‘ahead of schedule’ in the end cause the absence of the discount provision to be missed? Read More: Power tariff further raised at both bulk and retail levels, effective from tomorrow Incidentally the coal for the project, it is now known, will be purchased from the Adani-owned Carmichael mine in Queensland, Australia. Normally, the price of coal is calculated on the basis of the Newcastle Price Index, with purchases of high quantities or with higher calorific values enabling the buyer to avail discounts of upto 55 percent on the bulk value. For example, the provision is present in the PPA for the 1320 MW Payra power plant, a Bangladesh-China joint venture where BPDB is benefiting from discounts on coal purchases. The amount of coal required to operate these plants typically runs into the millions of tonnes. The annual requirement of coal for the Godda plant is estimated to be 7-9 million tonnes. But given the omission of a discount provision, Bangladesh will ultimately end up paying Adani Power Tk 20-22 per unit of electricity, once all the hidden costs are piled on top of the tariff. Read More: Retail gas prices hiked for power plants, industries and commercial users with effect from Feb 1 "Compare that to the price it pays for the electricity bought from coal-fired plants in Bangladesh, which is below Tk 12 per unit," the senior BPDB official said. He and others insist that if Adani doesn’t agree to adjust the pricing mechanism for coal in the PPA, it would be simply unviable for Bangladesh to import power from the Godda power plant. As per Power Division documents seen by UNB, Bangladesh would be paying Adani Power an estimated $23.87 billion, equivalent to almost Tk 240,000 crore (considering US dollar exchange rate at Tk 100), over the 25-year life cycle of the plant, if the PPA remains unchanged. Adani Power’s investment in the plant, including transmission lines till the Bangladesh border, have been estimated at around $2.1 billion. Read More: Adani’s 750 MW power to come to national grid in March: Nasrul Hamid
All 8 airports to get facelift with state-of-the-art amenities by this year: CAAB Chief
Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman has said that the expansion and modernization works of all 8 airports – international and domestic – in the country, involving Tk 35,850 crore, will be completed by the end of the current year. “Once the work is completed, there will be major changes in infrastructures of the airports. All the airports will be equipped with modern amenities, and they will get an attractive look,” the CAAB chief told UNB in an exclusive interview recently. Work is going on in full swing to implement the projects as per the instructions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said, adding that the engineers of CAAB worked round the clock even during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have ensured the quality of the work and maintained European standard in terms of equipment and safety materials,” he added. “More than 70 percent work of the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka has been completed and the operational activities of the new terminal will be inaugurated in October this year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the third terminal,” he said. Read more: Domestic airports are getting face-lift to offer quality services to passengers: CAAB “After completion of the third terminal, passenger handling capacity at Dhaka airport will increase from 10 million to 22 million. Besides, cargo handling capacity will rise from 2.20 lakh ton to 7 lakh ton,” the CAAB chairman added. He said that passengers will be able to avail international standard services once the third terminal opens. Construction work of 73,548 square meter cargo apron of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is now underway. Eighty-five percent of the project has been completed and after implementation, the apron will be able to park additional 4 long-range cargo aircraft. Read more: World-class third terminal of Dhaka Airport to be visible by Dec: CAAB Besides, the construction of general aviation hangar, hangar apron and fire station expansion project at Dhaka airport, at a cost of Tk 430 crore, is on.
BPDB staring at 80% jump in annual losses after gas price hike
The financial loss of the state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) is likely to cross Tk 54,000 crore in the current fiscal after the hike in the price of gas increased their input cost. In 2021-22 its losses were Tk 29,915 crore. “We have to count Tk 10,000 crore extra cost to pay the gas bills following the new gas price enhancement,” a top official of the BPDB told UNB. He said the new cost of gas purchase was already communicated to the Power Division which had already raised the issue at a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking further instruction. The government on January 18 raised the retail gas prices for public, private and captive power plants and also for industries and commercial users with effect from February 1. Also Read: Saudi firm, BPDB sign deal to set up 1000MW solar power plant in Bangladesh As per the new government announcement, the gas prices have been increased by almost three times for public and private power plants while almost double for captive power plants and industries, and significantly hiked for commercial users. However, prices for household consumers, CNG-run for motor vehicles and tea estates were kept unchanged. The Energy and Mineral Resources Division set the prices through a gazette notification issued on Wednesday applying the new amendment to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) Act, which empowered the government to set all kinds of energy prices bypassing the regulator’s jurisdictions at any time. As per the gazette notification, the public and private power plants including the IPP and rental power plants will pay gas price at Tk 14 per unit (each cubic metre) instead of previous price of Tk 5.02. The rise is 179 percent. Read More: The Tk 700 crore per month hole in the deal with Adani Power The captive power plants, small power plants and commercial power plants will pay Tk 30 per unit instead of the previous price of Tk 16 which is an 88 percent rise. It means after the current enhancement in gas price, the loss in the space of one fiscal will go up by over Tk 24,000 crore, said the sources at the BPDB - an almost 80 percent jump. According to BPDB’s own latest estimates, the financial loss was supposed to cross Tk 48,000 crore in the 2022-23 fiscal from Tk 29,915 crore in the fiscal year 2021-22. But after the hike in bulk power tariff, the loss was calculated to come down by about Tk 4000 to Tk 44,000 crore. “But now the loss will go up by Tk 10,000 crore due to the gas price hike effective from February 1,” said the official referring to their latest calculation. Read More: Saudi firm, BPDB sign deal to set up 1000MW solar power plant in Bangladesh The directorate of finance of BPDB prepared this calculation on the basis of an audited report, official sources said. On November 21, the bulk power tariff was raised by about 19.92 percent – to Tk 6.20 per kilowatt hour (each unit) from the previous Tk 5.17 – with effect from December 2022. As per the calculation, the loss has shot up excessively mainly for the two reasons — primary fuel price escalation and devaluation of the local currency. "Among the two, the devaluation of local currency emerged as the major reason," a top official of the BPDB told UNB. Read More: BPDB’s financial loss set to increase by over two-thirds to Tk 48,000cr He informed that the BPDB was going to incur a loss of about Tk 10,000 crore solely due to the high rate of dollar. Earlier, the US dollar exchange rate was calculated at Tk 85 which is now at Tk 107 which means the cost increased by Tk 22 per dollar. The BPDB has to pay about $9 billion annually to buy electricity from private sector plants, to pay capacity charges and also to import other materials from abroad for its own purposes. The BPDB has a power purchase agreement with a huge number of private power generation companies to buy their electricity. Available statistics reveal, currently, the country’s installed power generation capacity is over 25,500 MW and more than 50 percent of electricity is generated by the private sector through independent power producers, rental and quick rental power plants. Read More: BPDB submits retail power tariff adjustment proposal seeking a 19.44 percent hike Import of electricity from India is also counted as private sector generation. The private sector operators mainly use furnace oil, natural gas and diesel. Of these, 4,700 MW is generated by using furnace oil.
Borrowing at 9 percent could be troubling for Islami, Al-Arafah and National Bank: Economists
Some private sector banks in Bangladesh are in deep crisis because of lack of adequate liquidity and are being forced to borrow money from state-owned Sonali Bank at a 9 percent interest rate to stay afloat. Islami Bank, Al-Arafah Islami Bank and National Bank are borrowing money from Sonali Bank at a 9 percent interest rate, which is the highest commercial lending rate at present. Economists and banking sector insiders say that it means the sector is passing through a hard time due to higher non-performing loans, lack of good governance and serious corruption in the management of the respective banks. They say at present the call money rate is between 6-7 percent while banks are borrowing at 9 percent rate, which proves the crisis has mounted in these banks. They also say the troubled banks have no other options, but to borrow money. Also read: 5 held for spreading rumors on social media about Islami Bank, S Alam group Both such borrowing and lending are very risky considering the ability of investment of these banks, they say. BRAC Bank Chairman Dr Ahsan H Mansur told UNB that some banks have lost their customers’ trust due to their mismanagement. “As a result, people have withdrawn money from those banks,” he said. Giving an example he said that the deposit of BRAC Bank increased by 33 percent in the last quarter while the deposit volumes of many banks decreased. Also read: Scam-hit Islami Bank earns operational profit in 2022, Basic Bank reports loss Usually, banks charge a higher interest rate to lend to other banks while considering it risky, he said. On 13 December 2022, the Sonali Bank’s Board of Directors approved the investment of Tk200 crore in fund placement in favour of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited and Tk75 crore in favour of Al-Arafah Islami Bank Limited at a 9 percent lending rate for a period of 90 days. On the same day, the bank's Board also agreed to the proposal to extend the term of the Tk150 crore loans to National Bank for another six months at 9 percent interest subject to payment of the previous interest. It is a normal practice that when a bank faces a liquidity crisis it borrows from another bank via the interbank money market. Read More: 60% bank sub-branches must be outside city corporations, municipal areas: Bangladesh Bank But the liquidity situation in three private sector banks is so critical that they are forced to borrow from another bank at the highest commercial lending rate. According to the Bangladesh Bank's guidelines, banks can charge a maximum of 9 percent interest on all types of loans other than consumer loans such as auto loans and personal loans, in which case the highest lending rate ceiling is 12 percent. Professor Dr Abul Barakat told UNB that any short-term borrowing at such a rate is not harmful, but it could create trouble while getting such loans will be lingering. He said banks sometimes face a liquidity crisis, then it is required to borrow to meet the instant crisis. But a 9 percent lending rate for banks is high. Read More: Bangladesh Bank expects first instalment of $4.5 b IMF loan to arrive by next month: Spokesman “Then how much a bank would have to charge against any commercial loans,” he asked. Sector insiders say corruption and lack of good governance are the main reasons behind such a crisis. Some questioned the role and the ability of the central bank of Bangladesh to regulate commercial banks that fail to check corruption.
Shrimp industry reels from changing demand patterns, slump in world economy
Bangladesh’s shrimp export industry was already facing major declines, as 72 percent of the world’s shrimp market is occupied by vannamei shrimp, also known as white leg shrimp, while the country mainly exports black tiger shrimp, or ‘bagda’, and scampi shrimp, or ‘galda’. According to industry sources, Bangladesh's shrimp export business suffered another major setback as the current global economic slump also took a heavy toll on the world's food market. As a result, one of the major export items of Bangladesh, shrimp, has lost 80 percent of its previous demand on the world market. On top of that, export prices decreased by 40 percent. Read More: Exporters worry about losing markets as shrimp adulteration continues unabated Exporters and traders urged the government to approve commercial vannamei farming promptly. “Due to the high demand for vannamei shrimp in the world market, bagda and golda shrimp are gradually losing market share in the western market. Against the backdrop of the ongoing global economic recession, demand for bagda and galda shrimp from Bangladesh dropped by 80% in the previous year,” said S. Humayun Kabir, vice president of the Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters’ Association.
Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar rail line to open this year: Railways Minister
Mentioning that the work on Chattogram-Dohazari-Cox's Bazar train route is going on in full swing, Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujon says the rail line will open within this year. Talking to UNB the minister says they are working to complete the project between June and July of this year. “Hopefully, we can finish the work by this time. And if the work is not completed in June for any reason, it may take one or two more months. Even then we will be able to travel to Cox's Bazar by train within this year,” he says. The minister says that 80 percent of the construction work of Dohazari-Cox's Bazar project has been completed, and the remaining 20 percent will be finished by this time. When completed, the 100-km new railway line from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar will ensure a 'pleasant and comfortable' journey, the minister says. Besides, it will bring a revolutionary change in overall economy and boost tourism in Cox's Bazar, he says. READ: Dhaka underground metro rail: Inauguration of construction work on February 2 The railway minister says that the services will run with high-quality coaches for tourists in Cox's Bazar. A new project has been taken to implement this, and 54 coaches will be purchased under this project, which is designed with wide windows. “Travelers will get a chance to enjoy the natural scenario very easily,” he says. According to the project, there are eight stations along the 100-km railway including at Satkania, Lohagara, Chakaria, Dulahazara, Eidgaon, Ramu and Cox's Bazar Sadar. To facilitate this, three big bridges have been constructed on Sangu, Matamuhuri and Bakkhali rivers. Besides, 43 small bridges, 201 culverts and 144 level crossings have been constructed on the railway. A flyover is being constructed in Keochia area of Satkania, and two highway crossings in Ramu and Cox's Bazar areas. An overpass of 50 metres and three underpasses are being constructed for the movement of elephants and other wildlife. Mofizur Rahman, director of the project, said that more than 50-km of the railway line is now visible. Most of the construction of bridges and culverts has been completed. The remaining ones will be finished in the next few months. READ: Chattogram also to have metro rail service: Quader As of last December, the progress of the project is 80 percent. The project deadline is June 2024. “However, we are trying to complete the work by June-October 2023,” the official added. He also said that a spectacular iconic railway station is being constructed on 29 acres of land in the Hajipara area of Jhelongja Union, seven kilometers east-north of Cox's Bazar Sadar. The station is being modeled after a beach oyster. The area of the six-storey station building is 1,82,000 square feet. Three platforms of 650 metres in length and 12 meters in width are being constructed near the iconic building. Besides, a railway residential area has been built next to it. Eight buildings are nearing completion. Apart from residential hotels, the station also has facilities like canteen, lockers and car parking. Tourists can leave their luggage in the station lockers and spend the day at the beach. At least 46,000 people can travel through this station a day, the project director added. “A direct railway connection with Cox’s Bazar will change fortunes in the beach town as tourists always want to reach their destinations without hazards for their perfect vacation,” he said. READ: Metro rail operates upon electrical & mechanical system installed by L&T On April 3, 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone for the construction of the railway between Dohazari-Ramu-Cox's Bazar and Ramu-Ghumdhum.
No filmmaker should experience what I did: Farooki
After getting the clearance for his much-anticipated film ‘Shonibar Bikel’ (Saturday Afternoon) from Bangladesh Film Censor Board on Saturday afternoon, acclaimed filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki said that he is thankful but does not want any filmmaker to experience what he had to endure film for the last four years. “I feel relieved to get this news finally after all these years. At the same time, I just want to say that whatever I have gone through for this film - I don’t want any filmmaker to go through those,” Farooki told UNB on Saturday. For the last four years, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s 8th directorial film Shonibar Bikel - a Bangladeshi-German-Russian co-production, a political thriller inspired by the 2016 Holey Artisan massacre in Gulshan shot almost entirely in a single take, was stuck and denied the censor certificate from Bangladesh Film Censor Board. It features an ensemble cast of Nusrat Imrose Tisha, Zahid Hasan, Mamunur Rashid, Iresh Zaker, Nader Chowdhury, Gousul Alam Shaon, Indian-Bengali film actor-director Parambrata Chatterjee and Palestinian actor Eyad Hourani in the lead characters, and received multiple awards at different festivals across the world since being ready for its theatrical release in 2019. Read: ‘Shonibar Bikel’ gets censor clearance on a Saturday afternoon Despite the filmmaker claiming several times that the film was fictionalised based on the incident and not direct documentation of the event, Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud previously stated that the Bangladesh Film Censor Board did not grant the film its censorship as the board's members at the time considered a number of factors, including the internal security and external reputation of the nation. He also stated that the film did not properly highlight the contribution of members of the police, RAB and army during the 2016 Holy Artisan attack. “Unfortunately, it has been banned in Bangladesh on the grounds it could “damage the country’s reputation” and incite religious hatred. The only thing this Bangladesh-Germany co-prod could do to the country’s reputation is improving it, and its plea for religious tolerance is nothing short of touching. While the body of the film is shot in a single, excited take, it opens with a series of shots emphasizing the deceptive stillness of Dhaka on a lazy Saturday morning,” The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the film in May 2019. Although Farooki and Shonibar Bikel continued fighting for its approval and censor certificate, Bollywood, in the meantime, moved forward with the movie ‘Faraaz’. The Hansal Mehta directorial is based on the same incident and is scheduled to have its theatres release in India on February 3, and the film narrates a more direct reflection of the actual event than ‘Shonibar Bikel’, many audiences and film observers opined after the release of its theatrical trailer. Read: Holey Artisan victim's mother vows to fight release of Bollywood film on tragedy When Shonibar Bikel's clearance was not granted before ‘Faraaz’, Farooki and numerous other acclaimed and renowned artists, cultural personalities and filmmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the media and demanded justice for the film. The filmmaker and associates raised their united voice in two major events in the past year against the ‘unnecessary censorship’ and injustice against the film - first at a unique press conference on August titled “Golpo Bolar Swadhinata Chai” at the Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital, and also at the maiden edition of the daylong summit on December 30 titled ‘FAB Fest 2022’, organised by Film Alliance Bangladesh, a think-tank comprising stakeholders in the film industry and media professionals of the country. Finally, when the release date of ‘Faraaz’ was announced and the trailer of the film got released on the T-Series YouTube channel last week, a united outrage cast over the social media platforms and many urged the censor board to rewatch and review the decision. Read More: Holey Artisan Victim Faraaz's Heroism is Now on the Silver Screen The members of the appeal board - consisting of actress and lawmaker Suborna Mustafa, Jatiya Press Club general secretary and former censor board vice chairman Shyamal Dutta, eminent silver screen actress Sucharita and former Additional Secretary Nurul Karim, saw the film on Saturday, before announcing that there are now no obligations to theatrically release the film. According to Shyamal Dutta, since the film is not an exact adaptation of the events of Holey Artisan, there is no obstacle to its release. There is no need to add or modify any scenes; the events of this film have nothing to do with the events that took place in Holey Artisan. This is not a direct depiction of the events of Holy Artisan, and the appeal board suggested the director make such a declaration before realising the film. “How does it feel to watch everyone else sprint while you remain still? I felt so useless for a very long time! Although I have no idea how it appears from the outside - but I can tell from the inside, there are no lonely people like artists. The feeling that engulfed me, along with my own worthlessness on ‘Shonibar Bikel’ for the past four years, was loneliness,” Farooki said, as his last theatrical work was the late Indian actor Irrfan Khan starrer 2017 film ‘Doob’ (No Bed of Roses), which was the Bangladeshi entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Read More: Foreign envoys remember those killed in Holey Artisan attack Finally relieved with the clearance, Farooki told UNB: “I want to convey my gratitude to the Film Alliance of Bangladesh (FAB) alongside my colleagues and friends from the filmmaking community and most importantly, our audiences. Many people from different sectors of our society raised their voices for the film, and I am immensely grateful to all of them.” “To receive the film censor board's approval for ‘Shonibar Bikel’ - I had to wait four long years. I sincerely hope that no other filmmaker goes through something similar. The appeal board has yet to send us a formal letter regarding the censorship. We will complete all necessary procedures, include a disclaimer, and submit the letter after receiving it. We want the movie to be out on February 3 or sooner," Farooki said. Read More: Govt satisfied with Holey Artisan attack verdict: Law Minister.
Dhaka underground metro rail: Inauguration of construction work on February 2
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the construction work of the country's first underground metro rail on February 2. MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), said they have completed the preparations for the inauguration of the country’s first underground metro line, MRT Line-1. The PM will inaugurate the depot of the MRT Line-1 in the Pitalganj area of Rupganj upazila. “As part of the MRT Line-1 plan, the first rail depot will be constructed at Pitalganj area in Narayanganj,” he said. Hasina will inaugurate the construction work at an empty plot beside Janata High School. ABM Amin Ullah Nuri, Secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division, told UNB that Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) will implement the mega project by 2026. Read: Chattogram also to have metro rail service: Quader The underground metro line will have two parts: around 19.87 kilometres from Dhaka airport, which includes 16.4 kilometres underground, and around 11.36 kilometres that is elevated from Notun Bazar to Purbachal, he said. It will take 24 minutes to travel from Dhaka airport to Kamalapur, with breaks at 12 underground stations along the route, and 20 minutes to travel from Notun Bazar to Purbachal, with breaks at seven stations. The secretary also said that after MRT Line 1 is launched, this route will allow 8 lakh passengers to travel. MRT Line-1 underground stations will have three floors. The ticket counter and other facilities will be located on the first basement level. The platform will be on the second level. The ticket counter and platform for the elevated station will be on the third floor. Both the elevated and underground stations will have lifts, stairs and escalators. The DMTCL signed contracts with Japan's Tokyo Construction Company Limited and Bangladesh’s Max Infrastructure Limited for the project. The project will be implemented in 12 packages. An agreement was signed with a consulting firm on October 23, 2012, to supervise the construction of MRT Line 1. Another agreement was signed for package CP-1, related to the construction of the depot, on November 23, 2022. A total of 12.9725 acres of land in Pitalganj and Brahmankhali Mauza of Rupganj Upazila of Narayanganj have been acquired for the construction of the depot and depot access corridor of MRT-1. TK140 crore were given as compensation to the victims.