May 2006


They also work in the production line. But instead of producing shirts, sweaters, undergarments, hats, pants etc., these workers are busy producing educated human being. Most of them have more than twenty years experience in these production lines.

They are the teachers of non government schools in Bangladesh. For the last 11 years they have been demanding a raise in salary.
While standard salary of these teachers is Tk 2600 a month ( $35), some of them are paid as low as Tk 750 a month.
One such teacher Mahbubul Alam says,

“We used to get Tk 500 as monthly salary from the government in 1992. Now after 12 years, we get Tk 750 when prices of essentials have shot up tenfold since 1992,”

Employed to teach 10 lakh students across rural Bangladesh, they also do not get their salaries regularly whereas the education sector always gets the highest allocation in the national budget.

“We are given our salaries most of the time three months after the salary dates,”

said Hafizur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Community Primary Teachers Association.

A teacher’s salary even in the government primary school is less than of a driver in a government office. It is even lower in the registered non-government primary schools, reports Mr Manjoor Ahmed of BRAC university in an in-depth analysis.

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These are pictures from last 3 years. This scene is repeating every year for the last 11 years.

They only want their salry to be equal to their government school counterparts, i.e. Tk 4000 a month.

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The sad part is that nobody listens to them. Even as I write this blog, hundreds of teachers are in hunger strike. And these news was absent from most of Bangladesh news media. I could not find any nerws in the Daily Star, neither in Ittefaq or prothom Alo.

Rather than sticking to non violent means, should they start burning their schools, breaking public properties, cars, I am pretty sure they would have been very much in the radar screen of our media, our nation and definitely our bloggers.

As soon as you are violent, you are noticed, you are mourned, you are talked about and you are taken care of. People start deep analysis of your plight.

You follow Gandhi doctrin, remain within civilized means, don’t break the law, you are doomed, nobody will talk about you.

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In the pages of Bangladesh interest blogs, where you will be labeled BNP supporter if you dare disagree with even a single policy of Sheikh Hasina and where neutrality is a hated concept, one needs a lot of courage to write a tribute to Late President Ziaur Rahman. And I decide to take the unwise step to show the arrogance of writing a blog on Ziaur Rahman, foreseeing a barrage of attacks and a bleeding myself at the end of the ordeal.

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Zia

A quarter of a century passed since President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated by a group of ranking army officers. Before being assassinated he could rule Bangladesh for around five years. Here are some of my observations about Zia, his life and death, the people’s love and the legacy.

1. Freedom fighter Zia is way overshadowed by military ruler turned president Zia. His role in 1971 war never got the due respect, even during the current hay days of his party.
First attack on freedom fighter Zia came from his fellow jealous freedom fighters like Major Rafiq who smeared against Zia’s activities preceding March 25 revolt.

Intellectually retarded leadership of post Zia BNP, while unduly focusing on his declaration of Independence, always failed to portray the valiant fighter sides of Zia, his brave, shrewd war plans, his overall contribution to the warfare of 1971.

It is yet unclear to me why Zia, senior most sector commander in active duty was superseded by Gen Shafiullah, an officer of significant lower caliber and courage, to be the first army chief of independent Bangladesh.

2. While Zia is blamed ( To some extent rightly) for his heavy handed dealing with the army coups, killing of dozens of freedom fighter army officers, killing of sector commander- war hero- war wounded Colonel Taher; his role is stabilizing Bangladesh Army into a disciplined force has never been appreciated. We have to understand that when Zia was rescued from house arrest on 7th November 1975, a large portion of Bangladesh armed forces was under control of Marxist philosophy, and the other part of army was resorting to coup and counter coup on a weekly basis. The whole chain of command was shattered. And at the end, when Zia paid for his cruelty with his own life, Bangladesh Army was a more disciplined force.

3. Zia could have kept the one party rule mandated by 4th amendment of the constitution, but he decided to nullify the fourth amendment to pave the way for multi party democracy. He was well aware of the grassroots power of Awami League and he opted take the challenge with tools of democracy.

4. While Zia was immensely popular to the youth and the students of the 80s and 90s, he failed to develop any following among the intelligentsia. In my observation, the weakest link of Zia legacy is that there is not a single progressive intelligent mind in Bangladesh who will talk publicly in favor of Zia. Bangladesh media or blog scenarios are such examples. You will get hundreds of trash quality books on Zia written by BNP MP wannabees, not a single enlightened analysis of his political philosophy.

Has any poet ever write poem on Zia? Did any painter lovingly painted Zia’s portrait? Did any Zia follower dedicated a website on Zia? Answer to all of them in NO. And these are Zia’s failure.

5. Zia’s rehabilitation of dalals and razakars was, although short sighted, very much needed to politically face a huge grass root party like Awami League. Shah Aziz is one such example who very successfully tackled AL in the parliament. But all these razakars kept their name by dumping BNP for Ershad’s JP in the first opportunity.

6. Zia’s scrapping of secularism, another short sighted step, was, although very popular at that time, took Bangladesh a leap backward. Zia didn’t have that significant political opposition at that time to resort to this sort of drastic constitutional measure.

The irony is that although Zia is regularly termed as “unknown major”, ” Military dictator”, ” tyrant”, his vision of Bangladesh’s political system, a ‘quasi religious, quasi nationalist, half-hearted democracy”, is being followed page by page by all the proceeding governments. Nobody ever expressed any feeling of discomfort in this system.

7. While Zia struggled and succeeded in maintaining a corruption and nepotism free image, his legacy, his dynasty, his family is solely based on rampant corruption and shameless nepotism. This is probably the worst failure of Zia legacy.

8. I used to live in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar when Zia was killed. I’ve never seen a bigger human gathering in Bangladesh and I’ll probably never ever see the collective spontaneous expression of deep grief by millions present in the funeral service. Unfortunately that generation is not in existence anymore. Zia’s party, although carry Zia’s image in election posters, depend more on votes from Awami League haters than the votes of Zia lovers.

9. Zia should never be compared with Bangabandhu Mujib. They are not comparable. Mujib will always have a different, high up place in history. But there should not any hesitation in crediting Zia for holding the country in steady hand during the post-Mujib vacuum.

Thousands more die in Indonesia. Earthquake strikes once again. Poor Iran, Indonesia, these countries lie on the fault line. Historically most of the earthquakes happened on the fault lines. California is also situated on a tectonic plate border, the fault line. And all the structures in California are built earthquake safe.

Here is a map of all the major and monor tectonic plates of the world.

platemap

If you can locate Bangladesh in the world map, you will see two plate bounderies, i.e. two fault lines cross Bangladesh. On the noth, the Indian plate clashes with the Eurasian plate and on the east, Indian plate borders Australian plate and continues to Burma plate.

I am not a geology student and won’t pretend to know or understand the basics of the importance of these plate bounderies and earthquake possibilities.

Different newspaper reports inform us that many scientists have been warning about the probability of a devastating 8-9 richter scale catastrophic earthquake in the northeastern and southeastern parts of Bangladesh.

So, major earthquake is also possible in Bangladesh. Are we ready?

Can the authority in Bangladesh speak out with certainty that at least one, only one single rsidential apartment in Bangladesh have been bult to withstand a7.0- 9.0 richter scale earthquake?

We we talk about issues, a variety of issues. There is a word in english dictionery, ‘Priority’. Should we, as a nation, relearn the meaning and implication of the word?

Today is the 107th birth anniversary of our rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.

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One of my early childhood memories is that of visiting Nazrul. It was probably the fashion of early seventies to go visit Nazrul. I remember, me with my mother and some aunts, waited in line for long time before getting to enter the room where Nazrul was sitting.

Nazrul, as I can remember, was visibly angry and probably uncomfortable at being treated like a zoo inhabitant.
The room was full of people, visitors like us was passing in a line, and a room full of musicians singing Nazrul’s songs.
And Nazrul’s attention was apparently on the fly which was trying to sit on his nose.
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After falling ill in 1942, Nazrul quickly became irrelevent. Wife Pramila died, financial, physical handicap slowly overwhlemed the rebel poet. Wikipedia puts the rest of his life this way,

He entered a world of increasing isolation, until 1972, when the newly formed nation of Bangladesh rediscovered him. He was taken to Dhaka and honoured as the national poet. However, Nazrul’s physcial and mental condition never improved, and he died on August 29, 1976. In accordance with a wish expressed in one of his poems, he was laid to rest beside a mosque on the campus of the University of Dhaka.

Now three decades later I ask myself, was, what we did with Nazrul those days, fair way to treat a severely demented person? May be he was the national hero. Did any of us ever saw Ronald Reagan after he got Alzheimer’s?

I still don’t understand the rational to ship Nazrul out of calcutta to Dhaka. Nazrul was born in Bardwan in West Bengal and spent most of his adult life in Calcutta. Does it mean that Nazrul, because he is a muslim is ours and Rabindra Nath Tagore not ours because he is a Hindu?

Nazrul

Or, Bangladesh, a new born state, needed a national icon like Nazrul to promote and solidify Bengali muslim nationalism? Did it serve it’s purpose?

Our sick President was flown to Singapore for further treatment. One news told he was in coma, one news told he had chest pain. But there has been no clear press briefing from a medical person about the real conditions.

Last week Shafiur mentioned leader Saifuddin Ahmed manik was also in Singapore for treatemnt.

What a testimony to our healthcare system! Even our head of the state don’t have the trust in our healthcare systemhas and travel to foreign land for for an emergency critical treatment.

Our prime minister goes to Saudi Arabia for her knee treatment.

Our opposition leader goes to Singapore for treatment of her ear injury.

And every hour, hundreds of thousands of people die in Bangladesh with diseases which were easily preventable.

Recently I wrote a post about the remedy of our politicians power lust.

One remedy was to bar government leadership and politicians, law makers from going abroad for treatment.

That will help im multiprong way.

1. One our leadership will be sincere in cleaning the mess in healthcare sector in Bangladesh.
2. Leadership positions hopefully will be less tempting
3. According to good old friend rafiq ahmed, it will help in this way, ” Actually another net benefit of barring medical treatment abroad, or forcing treatment at home, is to allow government officials to die natural deaths, therby cleansing the system a little at a time. I like this one.”.

Is it really all about the class struggle between oppressed workers and the blood sucking garments/textile factory owners? May be. Most likely. Then shouldn’t we all, who talk and work for the oppressed, support all what is being done by the workers in Bangladesh today?

But I am really having trouble loooking at the events in plane black and white and take the right side i.e the side of the workers and start supporting all the anarchy that is happening in Bangladesh right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no sympathy for the garments factory owners or current government. Garments and it’s subsidiary industry has the highest rich and poor gap in Bangladesh. Time and again I have seen what a lavish life the garments buusinessmen’s children lead around the private universities in Bangladesh. You, with your western wage, go to Helvetia and can afford to have a chicken brost once a while. This kids do it daily, hours after hours a day while indulging in Tk 5000 an hour pool game. And I have no doubt the money for this chicken brost and Tk 5000 an hour pool game comes from exploiting those poor teenage boys and girls working behind the locked collapsible gates.

But what good it brings to the nation when bands of hooligans go in rampage, start burning industries that come in front of them. These industries are backbone of the nation.

Today, about 500 garments factories around Dhaka are closed. They are closed for an indefinite period. What will be the immdediate implication?

Those poor daily paid workers will have no income for days. Who will feed the famly?

Factories will miss shipment datelines. They will definitely loose business to competitors in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam ,Cambodia, Mexico, Jordan, Oman, Nepal, Jamaica etc.

I know garments owners also play with the sentiment, they kind of blackmail the nation with these issues.

But other than being blackmailed by these businessmen, what option this nation has?

Like all of you, I also can write emotional or factual stories on garments horror. But what purpose it will serve?

Should we support the anarchy of burning all the compliant units, all the showcase better workplace units or the joint venture units in EPZs?

Then what?

Peace?

Prosperity?

How?

I see the media in Bangladesh has taken a middle of the road aproach in this event. Lets follow that lead. First let the anarchy stop.
Then keep vigil for a follow up. Lobby, pressurize the government, regulatory agencies, owners association to ensure a minimus wage, work hour requirement. With buyer’s help, this is doable.

Please don’t burn a single more industrial unit. Bangladesh needs more industry. Can’t afford to burn whatever few we have.

News: After 4 and half years of corruption and utter failuire, our state minister for power is finally punished, –He has been transferred as state minister for agriculture.

We need Mr Donal Trump to join the government of Bangladesh as the ‘minister of firing. While the ministry of hiring has always been supervised by our crown prince His highness Tareq Zia, in the backdrop of repeated failure of our prime minister Khaleda Zia to pronounce the word, ” You Are Fired”, the addition of Mr Trump as the minister of Firing of the governmnet of Bangladesh will definitely embolden the government functioning and enhance the image of Bangladesh.

You're Fired

The popular TV realty show Apprentice host Donald Trump has become famous for his tardemark words, ” You’re Fired“. With his long experinece in firing, Mr Trump will sure bring dynamism in the day to day business of Bangladesh Government.

Fired

Otherwise, our governmnet will have to open another ministry and hire another minister to take care of the ‘Jobless officeless ‘ ministers– the ministry of transferred ministers.

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