Authorities in Cumilla have placed tighter security measures this year to help celebrate the Durga Puja peacefully, following last year’s violence in the district that spilled over into other regions of the country, officials say. Cumilla Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Kamrul Hasan said that they deployed Ansar members to guard the puja mandaps round the clock while additional members of police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) have been patrolling the celebration sites. He said they will prevent any attempt to destabilise the communal harmony in the district. Read: Dinajpur murder protest: No justice, No Puja celebration! He also said that this year, organisers set up a mandap in the Nanua Dighir Par area where violence broke out in October 2021 after a copy of the holy Quran was found there. On October 13 last year, a Muslim man reportedly placed a copy of the Quran on the lap of an idol at the mandap in Cumilla while another suspect, also a Muslim man, called 999 helpline reporting the "desecration of the holy book", according to police statement.
Durga Puja is a major festival in Muslim-majority Bangladesh where close to 8 percent of more than 160 million people are Hindu. Despite communal tensions in recent years during the largest festival of the Hindu community, participation of people from different faiths has given the celebration a unique character. This year, a major draw in Bagerhat district is the largest number of idols at a single puja mandap. Also read: Disappointment in Bagerhat as Shikdar Bari avoids large-scale Durga Puja celebration for third year running Organisers say a total of 151 idols of different deities have found their place, depicting the stories of Hindu epics – Ramayan and Mahabharat – at the Chulkathi Banikpara Puja Mandap in Bagerhat’s Sadar upazila. The display is attracting not only Hindus but also people from other communities to the Banikpara Mandap to have glimpses of the idols. Celebration of Durga Puja began at the Banikpara Mandap in 2001 in a small way. But in 2005, a massive celebration was held with 101 idols.
Many reputed private universities of the country are still operating under temporary arrangement, defying University Grants Commission’s repeated warnings to shift to permanent campuses. UGC authorities said the period of temporary permit granted to them will end on December 31 this year and then it can suspend new enrolment at these universities and take legal actions against them. Fresh student enrolment and all other activities of those private universities will be suspended if they fail to move to their permanent campuses within December 31, UGC member Professor Dr Biswajit Chanda said. The commission gave the deadline as 12 years have passed after granting temporary permits to 23 private universities and most of them failed to take any significant steps to shift to their campuses or build the infrastructures necessary for it, he said. Also read: UGC set to formulate policy for new public universities The private universities are: Brac University, University of Liberal Arts (ULAB), Daffodil International University, Stamford University, State University of Bangladesh, The People's University of Bangladesh, Dhaka International University, Manarat International University, Bangladesh University, University of Development Alternative (UODA), Southeast University, Northern University Bangladesh, Green University of Bangladesh, Shanto-Mariam University of Creative Technology, The Millennium University, Presidency University, University of South Asia, Uttara University, Victoria University of Bangladesh, Prime Asia University, Royal University of Dhaka, Asha University of Bangladesh and City University. Some of these universities moved partially but most have been operating from outer campuses for years, saying that construction work is yet to be completed, according to UGC. When UGC contacted them, some of the private university authorities said they are going to seek extension while some said they are trying to follow the deadline. According to section 7(2) of Bangladesh Private University Act (2010), these private universities were granted temporary permit to operate which was valid for seven years. After that, the institutions can apply for renewal of the temporary permit if they fail to fulfil the conditions mentioned in section 9 within the period of the temporary permission. The government may renew the permission for a period not exceeding five years, subject to necessary enquiry. Earlier, the UGC sent letters to the universities which did not move to permanent campuses after the temporary permit expired. The commission later decided to set the time for the universities to respond till December 31. Prof Bishwajit said, “Of the 23 universities, many have claimed they are in the middle of moving and will have relocated by the deadline. We are assuming one or two universities will seek extension of time for five to six months for construction of infrastructure as they have started a discussion regarding this with the UGC.” But other than that, those who will fail completely to take any step regarding this, will not be allowed to admit more students in their education programmes in the coming year, he said. “No private university will be spared if they disobey UGC’s directives and compromise the quality of education,” the UGC member added. Also read: UGC warning private unis to maintain standards: Biswajit Chanda According to UGC, from January 1, 2023 these 23 universities will be considered illegal if they do not fulfil one of the conditions of temporary permit which is shifting to permanent campuses within the fixed period. Hence, the commission will take further steps against them under section 35 (7) of Bangladesh Private University Act, 2010. So far, the government has given permission to 108 private universities in the country. Of these, 99 are currently operational.
Bangladesh is unlikely to get any additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar before 2025 as the gulf country has recently turned down a request in this regard. According to official sources in Dhaka, Qatar straight away rejected a plea to increase its supply of LNG right at this moment when Bangladesh has desperately been looking for primary fuel at a cheaper rate. Read: Dependence on LNG import to continue, more terminals to be set up: Energy Advisor Petrobangla chairman Nazmul Ahsan, who recently led a delegation to Qatar, said the energy-rich gulf nation did not agree to Bangladesh’s request to immediately increase the supply. “They only agreed to increase LNG supply from 2025” he told UNB adding, “We can get additional 2 million ton per annum (MTPA) of LNG from that time” “But the rate and other terms and conditions have not been settled yet”, he noted. Bangladesh has been importing LNG from Qatar and Oman since 2018 under two separate long-term contracts. As per a 15-year contract with Qatar, it can supply the highest 2.5 MTPA of LNG and the supply will not come below 1.8 MTPA. Since the contract is a long-term one, the rate of the LNG was relatively lower - between $11-$17 per MMBtu (million British Thermal Unit) - compared with its higher rate in the international spot market , said a Petrobangla official. After improvement in the Covid-19 situation, demands grew for primary fuel pushing up the LNG price in the spot market. The Russian-Ukraine war that began in February deteriorated the situation with the LNG price skyrocketing to $70 per MMBtu before coming down to current price of around $37 per MMBtu. Against this backdrop, Bangladesh moved to raise import of LNG under long-term contracts. State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid visited Qatar in March this year and met with Qatar’s State Minister for Energy Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, in Doha to place a request to increase the supply. As follow-up of the state-minister’s meeting, the Petrobangla team, led by its chairman, visited Qatar recently and held a meeting with the LNG supply company to increase the supply. Petrobangla statistics show that the country currently produces about 2,773 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) where the share of imported LNG is about 470 mmcfd against last year’s 750 mmcfd. Read: Bangladesh seeks additional supply of LNG to meet growing demand Bangladesh suspended import of LNG from international sport market in July this year due to the price escalation. It also announced staggered holidays for area-based industries from August to minimise consumption of both natural gas and electricity. Under a staggering programme an area-based factory holidays will be maintained to limit consumption of both natural gas and electricity. Officials of the Power Division said that the new rationing system will help save around 500-550 MW of electricity. Under an ongoing austerity measure all the diesel-fired power plants are now shut and load-shedding is being implemented officially from July 19 to reduce diesel imports and save foreign currency. Although area-based load-shedding was scheduled for one hour, it allegedly continued for three hours at a time in some city areas across the country. Load shedding in rural and remote areas, however, stretched for more hours, consumers claim. Markets and shopping malls can now stay open until 8:00 pm. The government also prohibited illumination in different social gatherings in community centers, shopping malls, shops, offices and houses since July 7.
Already hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, shrimp farmers in Bagerhat district have been dealt another severe blow this year -- incessant showers and consequent tidal surges. This year, shrimps, crabs and different species of fish worth over Tk 6 crore have been swept away by tidal surges with more than 8,000 shrimp enclosures going under water across the southern district, pushing many farmers to the brink of starvation. In Chanditola village of Bagerhat’s Rampal upazila, for instance, most of the farmers have lost their shrimp enclosures to the late-monsoon showers and tidal surges. READ: Bagerhat fruit farmer eyes foreign markets to expand thriving business. The scenario is the same in villages across other upazilas of the district, prompting the District Shrimp Farmers’ Association to demand from the government an insurance scheme for their members to protect them from such unexpected losses.
Riddled with complaints of harassment and inconvenience from commuters, ride-sharing service Uber in Bangladesh is taking a hit in terms of reputation. Issues like failure to pick up passengers in time, transferring ride requests from passengers to other drivers, multiple cancellations of rides, exorbitant fares and not accepting bKash payments are forcing many regular users to abandon it. On September 16, this correspondent called for an Uber ride to go from Baridhara J Block to Badda. The trip got cancelled three times, and Uber charged Tk 30 from the bKash account without providing any service. Read:Uber marks 5th anniversary, pledges to curb noise pollution Jannatul Begum, who works at a private company, had to go through the same ordeal last month. One morning, she called for an Uber ride to go from Bashundhara to Paltan. Her trip got cancelled twice. The first driver had accepted her ride request but informed 30 minutes later that the trip has been cancelled due to gas shortage. The first driver then transferred Jannatul’s ride request to a second driver, who, after taking 20 minutes, informed her that he too won’t be able to make the ride. The office-goer then had to take a CNG-run three-wheeler. “I would’ve managed some other vehicle had I known that my trip will be cancelled after confirmation. Besides, fare of an Uber trip from Bashundhara to Baitul Mukarram in Paltan is around Tk 800-900, which is very high compared to other types of rides. That’s why I’ve stopped using Uber,” Jannatul said. Read:Uber, BRTA celebrate National Road Safety Day 2021 Mehedi Hasan had been a regular user of Uber before he stopped. While talking to UNB, he discussed some issues which are behind the gradual decline of the ride-sharing service. “Nowadays, passengers can’t find Uber rides when needed. Drivers also don’t want to make the trip if they don’t like the destination. Fares have also gone up, and many drivers are unwilling to accept bKash payments though Uber has added that as an option,” Mehedi said. Asked about these issues, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) Chairman Nur Mohammad Majumder told UNB that they will look into the complaints made against Uber and take legal steps if any passenger is found to have been harassed. Read Best Ridesharing Apps in Bangladesh “We had permitted Uber to operate here with a view to ease the commuting issues. In order to keep its operations running, Uber has to provide services considering the best interests of the passengers. There are certain conditions that Uber has to follow, and one of them is preventing harassment of passengers at any cost,” said Nur. About high fares, the BRTA chairman added that another condition that Uber must follow is to keep the fare reasonable. “Uber has to set the fares considering the present situation. We’ll definitely fine Uber if we receive complaints of charging excessive fares,” Nur added. Read: Uber partners with Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Contacted by UNB through its public relations agency in Bangladesh, Benchmark PR, Uber acknowledged the issues. “Long waits and driver cancelling trips fall short of our promise to deliver a magical experience to riders. We are working hard to address this and have launched a slew of new features for driver partners,” it said. It further said, “To remove frustration for riders and drivers alike, we now show trip destinations to drivers upfront before they decide to accept the ride. We are also showing drivers the mode of payment (cash or online) before the trip starts. In case of any concerns while using our platform, we also encourage our users to raise complaints through the app for timely and efficient resolution.” Read Uber Adds Auto-Rickshaws in Dhaka: Transportation Aggregation and Competition
Experts say that the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) through supply chain regulations and trade measures would be a game changer in tackling emissions. The EU is set to introduce the CBAM, which in effect will make use of trade policy in an unprecedented manner to tackle carbon emissions, they said. Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque, Chairman of Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID), told UNB the EU has been maintaining an emission trading system (ETS) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of high carbon-emitting sectors. Also read: Power Division, USAID sign agreement to cut carbon emissions. Carbon price under the EU-ETS reached a record high at EUR 98 per tonne of CO2 on 18 August 2022. Since then it has somewhat fallen and fluctuates around EUR 70, which will be effective in trade in the EU market after 2026, he said. Dr Razzaque, also an international trade expert, said the embedded carbon content in imports will be priced equivalent to the price of CO2 faced by EU domestic firms under ETS. The transition phase is 2023-2025 -in this period importers will have to report emissions embedded in their goods without paying any charge, he pointed out. Also read: IFC-led PaCT helped factories cut carbon and water footprints: BGMEA The EU and EU parliament is working on such regulation to bring about execution by 2026, which may be shifted to 2027. Once in operation, the importers will have to pay for embedded emissions, buying CBAM certificates, Dr Razzaque said. If a non-EU exporter establishes a carbon market, the corresponding cost will be deducted from total CBAM charges, he said. According to the European Commission, the CBAM will initially apply only to a select number of goods at a high risk of carbon leakage, viz., cement, iron and steel, aluminum, fertilizers, and electricity, and will be operational from January 2023, said Md Jillur Rahman, Assistant Professor, Economics Department, Jagannath University. Read Summit, JERA to collaborate for developing a carbon neutral roadmap He said that both the European Council and Parliament have adopted their positions on the Commission's proposal for a CBAM. “The European Parliament proposes a gradual implementation of the CBAM beginning in 2027, and full implementation beginning in 2032 when the free allowances are completely phased out,” Jillur added, who is doing research on CBAM. The Parliament proposes to broaden the scope of sectoral coverage to include organic chemicals, plastics, hydrogen, and ammonia. Gradually the coverage should be extended to cover all sectors under the EU ETS, he said. Read MVCs' CSOs demand end to carbon emission instead of 'net-zero' target Jillur said, the European Parliament, Council, and Commission will now engage in a trialogue (three-way dialogue) and discuss the differing viewpoints of the three institutions. The political process may be completed by the end of 2022 to adopt the final CBAM regulation for the Union. Professor Abu Eusuf, department of development studies, Dhaka University, said many countries, including India, Vietnam, and China are taking measures to reduce carbon emissions to address the negative impact of climate change in line with the Paris Agreement. “Bangladesh in its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commits to unconditionally reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6.73 percent (27.56 MtCO2e) from the business-as-usual scenario by 2030,” he said. Read Climate change to ultimately cost $100,000 per ton of carbon Prof Eusuf said that subject to technology and know-how transfer, and finance and investment support from the international community, Bangladesh intends to reduce GHS emissions by an additional 15.12 percent (61.9 MtCO2e). “Bangladesh’s NDC commitments and actions for reducing carbon emissions appear to be much less ambitious compared to other comparable countries. China commits to reducing carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60 to 65 percent (from the 2005 level) by 2030, while India intends to do the same from 33 to 35 percent,” he added. The experts said Bangladesh’s major competitors have either already established or are in the process of developing carbon markets locally. Read Environmental degradation is a burning issue, but its impact is not yet measured: Statistics Secretary China launched its carbon market in 2021; Vietnam and India are in the process of establishing their internal carbon market. Vietnam wants to formally launch its carbon market in 2028. The 8th Five Year Plan of Bangladesh aims to introduce green taxation on the consumption of fossil fuels, but it is not clear yet how this will be implemented. However, no progress has been made so far. Therefore, the CBAM can disproportionately affect Bangladesh relative to other competitors. Read Govt committed to protect ozone layer: Environment Minister
Disappointment in Bagerhat as Shikdar Bari avoids large-scale Durga Puja celebration for third year running
Preparations for celebrating Durga Puja, the largest religious festival of the Hindu community, are going on in Bagerhat with the famous ‘Shikdar Bari Durgotsob’ in limited scale like the last two years following Covid pandemic. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the elaborate puja celebrations organised by the Shikdar family will be on a limited scale for the third consecutive year to protect the rituals, said Shishir Shikdar, member of the family's Shikdar Bari Durga Puja organising committee. Like the visitors and Hindu devotees, the organisers are also upset because the grand celebration of Durga Puja is not being organised on a large scale. But provided that the pandemic tapers off, from next year Durga Puja will be organised on a large scale like before, Shishir added. Read: Durga puja: A festival that unites Bangladesh! The Tradition of Shikdar Bari’s Durga Puja In 2011, Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar introduced the grand celebration of Durga Puja with 251 idols at his ancestral home Hakimpur village of the Bagerhat Sadar upazila. He wanted to raise society's awareness of the value of practicing sanatana dharma (traditional religion, or Hinduism) through the grand puja. Since then, the number of idols of gods and goddesses has been increasing there every year. In 2019, Durga Puja was organised with 801 idols of gods and goddesses on the Shikdar Bari Puja mandap. The celebration became more vibrant and different every year to spread the festival among people of all religions. Around autumn with the fragrance of Shiuli in the air, millions of visitors and devotees from all over the country, regardless of caste and religion, flock to the spectacular Shikdar Bari’s puja mandap. The preparations for the celebration of Shikadar Bari Durga Puja ran almost throughout the year. The artisans started making idols six to seven months in advance with straw and clay. Idols were decorated with different colors and different types of ornaments, both local and foreign. Three months before the puja, the workers would be busy with decoration and lighting work. Various gods and goddesses of Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga were arranged in this puja mandap as companions of Mahamaya Goddess Durga. Eminent industrialist Liton Shikdar, son of Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar, was organising the festival with his own initiative. Unfortunately, this traditional Durga Puja is being organised in that puja mandap to protect the religious rituals in a limited scale.
Noted educationist and University Grants Commission (UGC) member Prof Dr Biswajit Chanda has said that the quality of higher studies is directly linked with the quality of a country’s universities. The UGC member said this during an exclusive interview with UNB. Asked about the dwindling standard of education at the country’s universities, Biswajit said that the number of seats has to be lowered to maintain standards. “A class should consist of only 35-50 students. If needed, the number of sections should be increased to accommodate a large number of students. In our country, sometimes there are 2000-3000 students in a single section, which erodes the quality of education to a great extent. The standard of higher education won’t develop if we can’t keep the number of seats in check,” Biswajit said. Replying to a question, Biswajit added that besides dedicated students, good teachers are also mandatory for increasing the quality of higher education. “Appointment of competent teachers along with curriculum and skills development are some of the steps that need to be taken immediately to ensure top-notch education. Proper infrastructure and training of teachers also need to be in place. Most importantly, cooperation and participation of students are necessary to create a sound learning environment,” Biswajit added. Asked about UGC’s monitoring system, Biswajit assured that his organization is constantly monitoring the higher education landscape of the country. Also read: UGC wants cluster admission system for private universities “Recently, some questions have surfaced regarding the quality of higher education at some universities, specially the private ones. UGC is repeatedly warning these universities to maintain a certain standard. There are some private universities which are providing world class education nowadays. This shows the impact of UGC’s strict monitoring,” said Biswajit. Biswajit also informed that UGC is thinking of arranging a six-month-long training program for the university teachers, which the apex academic body is thinking will make the in-person learning process more efficient. During the interview, the UGC member accepted the fact that there are some loopholes in UGC’s monitoring process. “UGC’s manpower is much less compared to the large number of private universities in the country. Although we’ve already given some directives on how to provide quality education to the private universities, it’s taking time for us to reap the fruits of our initiative due to the manpower shortage. However, we’re always trying to strengthen our monitoring process,” Biswajit added. On the quality of Bangladesh’s higher education compared to other countries, the academic said that it depends on the quality of the universities. “The standard of higher education at some public and private universities of the country is much closer to the world’s leading universities. At the same time, education provided by some universities can’t even match the local standard. As a result, any comparison between Bangladeshi and international universities is bound to be faulty. However, I would say that we’ve progressed a lot in terms of higher education in the last few years,” said Biswajit. Also read: UGC asks private universities to update syllabuses It’s the same for public and private universities, Biswajit concluded, adding “Any attempt to differentiate between them is bound to fail. Quality of higher education depends on quality of universities, not on their type.”
Suffused with the spirit of love and camaraderie, Durga puja is a festival of unity in Bangladesh. Be it the minority Hindus or the majority Muslims, all grab this opportunity to throng pandals, dance to the sounds of the dhak (a special percussion instrument) and indulge in delectable bhog during the festival. In Faridpur, Netrakona and Khulna, for instance, hectic preparations are on for the festival, slated to begin on October 1, with the homecoming of Goddess Durga post-slaying of the buffalo demon Mahishasura. The largest festival of the Hindu community will culminate with the immersion of idols on October 5. With Durga puja round the corner, the artisans -- known as the Pals -- are having a busy time giving final touches to the idols of the Goddess. Also read: DMP commissioner orders ensuring maximum security during Durga Puja The idols of deities are, in fact, sculpted from mud and straw by the artisans, before being taken to the pandals for worship