September 2006

I wrote this blog yesterday, but didn’t publish as I didn’t want to sound too skeptical and speculative about every move by the government. Today this article in the Daily Star emboldens me and kind of details on what I intended to touch base with. So here the post is open to you.

In the face of power crisis, the state minister for power sector, Mr Talukdar, has been fired. This is the second firing in 4 months. Previous state minister Mr Mahmud was also fired. I don’t know what they expected him to do in four months.

Do any of us know who is the minister for power sector? This is our prime minister, Khaleda Zia.

Two state ministers have been fired, so govt has acknowledged that the responsibility and the problem lies withing the government. Otherwise they can’t fire a state minister without any fault.

And with continuing power problems, isn’t it the turn of the minister now? Who will fire the minister responsible for power crisis in Bangladesh?

I am not sure why this public service sector is managed by prime minister’s office rather than the ussual practice of being run by the secretariate. I am still surprised why the PMO, the two secretaries involved ( principle secretary and energy secretary) are so eager to remove any other person from the circle. Why not these secretaries are punished or fired?

PMO wanted to fire this state minister at least three months earlier, only one month at the job. Apparently he came out vocal against power sector corruption. I am again surprised why government is so swift in removing this minister. In the past minister’s have been transferred after a long delay.After failure after failure Minister ALtaf etc has not yet been fired! Why govt is so sensitive about power sector corruption issues? How two hawa Bhavan connected secretaries control the power ministry rather than a minister? Why Hawa Bhavan connected newspaper Jaijaidin uses substantial energy and space to trash the state minister of power who vowed to lead a crusade against corruption in power sector corruption?

Do anyone has the answer?

I haven’t yet seen all the contestants. Yet I already have an early pick. Her stunning voice, illuminating presence on the stage has mesmerized me. I am definite she will be in top ten and very hopeful that she would be in top three.

Listen to Nishita Barua.

During the last five years current government has not allowed the opposition alliances to gain any upper hand anywhere. Main opposition party and even the 14 opposition party alliance programs were basically toothless in front of a combined effect of governments determined suppression and general lack of popularity.

NewAge Photo

However the events during the last two nights in Dhaka streets have, for the first time, made government look helpless and out of ammunitions. The all powerful RAB, police equipped with newly imported riot gears, paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles were all deployed without much success in quelling the violent street protests. The vulnerability of the government machinery in front of people’s power was exposed.

Although, all what the protesters are doing are not endorsable, these protests are very timely reminder of people’s power.

And these protests are the real grading of governments job over the last five years. At the same time the people in the streets also show us that how an opposition, without people’s involvement and how the movements without the real issues are absolutely powerless and worthless.

Dhaka streets in last couple of days may have seen the ramification of the sins committed in a place called the “Hawa Bhavan” by a hollow headed prince and his evil cohorts.

I hope someday these same people will rise again with a more radical demand. The demand to free the country off the disconnected dynasty of two families.

I was touched by Asif Saleh’s recent piece in the daily Star about the two new generation leaders of Bangladesh Awami League. Undoubtedly very true and thoughtful observation and enough to make one very depressed.

Indeed a new bunch of leadership is developing in both BNP and Awami League. In Awami league case, Saber Hssain Chy, Asaduzzaman Noor, Sohail Taj, a bunch of Sheikh generations including Liton MP, Sk Selim’s sons and definitely Shajib Wajed Joy etc have brought a refreshing air in the politics. People liked their approach to different issues and their demeanor and public speak won them nationwide attention and respect.

On the other hand the hard line BNP has taken throughout this government is generally attributed to a bunch of newbie’s in BNP politics under the leadership of Khaleda Son Tareque. These less polite, occasionally very cunning and cruel and grossly corrupt new generation include Babar, Dulu, Alal, Swapon, Tripti, Mirza Abbas, Goyeswar Roy, Illias Ali, Haris Chy etc. They control hawa Bhavan and almost certainly the prime minister’s office too. Starting from last election, BNP is effectively controlled by these young turks.

And in fact, they, so far, won all the battle against Awami league, including the April 30th dateline and others. Awami League occasionally felt helpless in front of the ruthless tactics of new leadership of BNP especially when in a matter of a week four senior AL leaders were beaten mercilessly in public and made crippled for the time being.

And an irony of fate is that, this hawk younger generation of BNP follows the teachings of a school of older generation Awami League leaders which include Zalil, Amu, Nasim, Tofayel, Maya, Razzak, Sajeda, Motiya, Suranjit etc.

The older ” standing Committee”, gentlemen generation of BNP including B Chy, Saifur Rahman, Col Oli, Shamsul Islam, Moin Khan, Mannan Bhuiyan, MK Anwar etc were totally helpless in front of hawks like Tofayel, Nasim etc. during BNPs 91-96 rule.

There is a general appreciation that with some exceptions, BNP’s 91-96 rule was the most democratic and tolerant of Bangladesh governments and a failure of that government gave birth to these dark hawkish generation of Treque Zia and Haris Chowdhury. And the now helpless hawkish Awami League stalwarts have to take some responsibility for making the seniors of BNP a failure and letting the hawks take over BNP.

The future of Bangladesh democracy is in extreme danger at the hand of the hawks of both side.
To nurture the infant democracy, Bangladesh needs a BNP free of Tareque-Haris, and led by 91-96 like generation and an Awami League led by this new Saber Chy, Noor, Sohail Taj generation, not by the generation of Zalil, Amu or Tofayel. .

She was only 21 year old when she killed herself by taking a cyanide pill on this day 74 years ago.

Pritilata Waddedar’s life sound like any other very meritorious student of our time. Aftre doing matriculation from Dr Khastagir girls school in Chittagong, she did her intermediate from Eden college and she stood first in then then combined Dhaka board. After finishing her graduation from Bethune college of calcutta, she returned to Chittagong to start teaching in a local school, where she got involved with master’Da Shurjo Sen and started participating in the freedom struggle against the British. She killed herself after taking the hidden cyanide pill when she was caught after an attack on a white only European club in Pahartali, Chittagong.

A article in prothom-alo today described how little we know of our heros. It is a shame that if you ask 10 girls in a Chittagong streets about kareena Kapoor, each one will know her, however if you then ask who is Pritilata, none of them will have the answer.

A major disadvantage for them is that they work and live out of our views, even out of the radar screen of any dedicated NGO. Otherwise, like garments industry workers, ship breaking workers, the deep sea fisherman of Bangladesh are also vital to Bangladesh economy and with their blood and toil, Bangladesh earns millions of foreign currency every year.

These fishermen, while fishing with their self made trawlers, brave the rough seas at the largest and arguably the wildest delta of the world. They compete with the fishermen from neighboring countries who has modern sonar, radar, automated net and fishing gear equipped vessels and yet they come back home with catch enough to sustain the economy of the country.
Because they live in so remote coastal parts of Bangladesh, there is very limited knowledge about their life.

However, on a regular basis we read in newspapers about missing fishermen in the Bay of Bengal. This is almost a monthly event. We never know how many actually ever return. There is no registry for these people who are lost on a regular basis.

They have many problems, first being the danger of working in the rough seas with ill equipped boat without any navigational and rescue device.

Without navigation knowledge and equipment, very frequently they find themselves in foreign water and a large number of Bangladeshi fishermen are now in jail in countries like India, Myanmar, Thailand etc.

They don’t get adequate wages for their risky and very hard job. The fishermen can only keep 40% of the catch while 60% goes to the owner of the trawler. Yet, unlike garments workers, they have no association and their anger/sorrow is far removed from our policy makers to really make any law protecting their rights. Here is a picture of some fisherman who otherwise would be another 40 lost fishermen lost in the Bay of Bengal. But luckily they were rescued from yesterday’s storm.

These are the excerpts from today’s press about Thailand, copied exactly as it is.

The army commander Gen Sonthi Boonyarataglin staged a coup d’etat Tuesday evening (Thailand time) and ousted the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

A so-called “Democratic Reform Council” declared itself in control and declared martial law nationwide. Terse announcements said the coup was necessary to correct “unprecedented division in the country.”

The Council said there seemed to be widespread corruption, and independent agencies were subverted by politicians. “The current administration has caused conflicts and undermined the harmony of the people as never before in history.”

Former Prime Minister and opposition leader told AP that Thaksin had forced the military to act. “As politicians, we do not support any kind of coup, but during the past five years, the government of Thaksin created several conditions that forced the military to stage the coup. Thaksin has caused the crisis in the country,” he told The AP.

Should the people of Bangladesh get alarmed at the developments in Thailand? This coup came at a time when observers around the world were getting comfortable in ruling out any possibility of military coup as an obsolete political culture.

Thailand resembles Bangladesh in many ways. The last military coup in Thailand, in 1991, was extremely unpopular and was overthrown by violent opposition in the streets. The country was recently locked in a fierce political battle between the prime minister’s party and the opposition party. The opposition has boycotted the previous election.

It is more worrisome for Bangladesh considering the following facts,

1. Armed forces in Bangladesh has gained significant popularity by their involvement in RAB. RAB experience also gave the military a much needed experience in crowd and protest control in the streets. Previous military rulers lacked this experience.
2. It has been made clear that in Bangladesh, there are only two ways you can get the job of ruling the country, either you are a family heir to an ex ruler or you are ex martial law ruler. There is no reason to believe that Bangladesh army lacks some ambitious generals vying for the top job.
3. Ershad, far from behind the bars, now a political power player, is no longer a deterrent to an ambitious general.

4. In the ground of political turmoil in Thailand, a muted world response to Thai coup and apparent acceptance of the military rulers may also encourage copycat events in Asia/ Africa including Bangladesh.

A more dangerous thought, if true, is that, both the mainstream political parties in Bangladesh will prefer army than the other party to rule Bangladesh.

Picture courtesy Daily Prothom ALo.

In a blog titled ” What Khaleda Zia should tell India”, about six months ago, I wrote the following,

she should mention of a more serious threat, coming out of India through it’s border into Bangladesh.

She should remind India that rather than spending money in rocket, nuclear science, and not pretending to be world’s most advanced country, India should focus a bit more into some basic issues.

She shoukld tell that ..”Only 4 countries are still polio-endemic – : Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. ” This deadly polio virus is more dangerous than any possble terrorism.

Bangladesh is a succes story in immunization campaign agaist different deadly diseases. Polio was eradicated six years ago. But as India ( While focused on showcasing herself as world’s super power, did a poor job eradicating Polio; and this polio is spreading Back to Bangladesh.

Following this blog, I took a great deal of lashing as being an ultranationalist xenophobic, anti-India bigot, religious fanatic etc. However better late than never , World health Organization has finally came out with this statement yesterday, India actively ‘exporting’ polio to Bangladesh. I am not surprised at this statement. Considering the gravity of the situation, I knew it was coming.

Yesterday I wrote about Bangladesh being the Asian hub of MDR TB putting the whole region at great danger of having a MDR TB epidemic.

These are not issues of politics. These are matters of priority. While India is busy climbing up the stairs to become a superpower, they are forced to neglect in this basic sectors. At the same time, Bangladesh turned into a five year cycle of election-new government-political agitation-hartal-violence-lathicharge-caretaker govt.-new govt. Other than sporadic incidents, issues other than good old politics has been out of public’s mind.

We must set our priorities straight. We must tackle these looming public health calamities with all the resources we have. There is no alternative to political stability, national consensus, good governance and regional cooperation to achieve our goal. We can’t afford to fail in this endeavour.

Power lust is ruining all the last remaining institutions we have.

Partisanship is rampant in every sector of the society, starting from the elementary school admission to the highest court of law.

Morality, honesty, ideology are now lost arts in Bangladesh.

The nation is split in half by party lines. Partially blinded, this split nation fail to see that the other half, at the end of the day,has the same flesh and blood, same hope, same fear, same joy and the same love, the love for Bangladesh.

It’s about time we make a unified effort to regain our national morality and integrity. Let the Love prevail.

We need to make room for this future generation to grow.


[Thanks to DP blogger Rehan for allowing me to use this picture of his kids, 18 and 7 months old]

Can there be any worse terrorist in the world than that kills one people every ten minutes?


*TB kills one every 10 minutes in Bangladesh

*A total of 70,000 TB infected persons die each year and 300,000 new TB cases are expected every year in Bangladesh. Globally, one third of the world population is already infected with TB, while more than 10 million develop TB each year.
60 percent of the TB cases are still undetected.

*Millions of children are contracting TB every year. Our physicians are not adequately trained in treating children with TB. There are no curricula and any concerted effort in launching a campaign for treating children with TB.

*There are estimated 3-4% multi drug resistant TB in Bangladesh. There are very few available medication for multi-drug resistant TB and these medicine are not produced in Bangladesh. And some of these imported medications are abused as they are being used for common cold or viral infections without any real need. As a result, resistance is developing against these antibiotics in Bangladesh.

*Multi drug resistant TB is a clear and present danger. If we can’t control it now, a perilous future awaits us in Bangladesh.

* Bangladesh faces the possibility of being a pariah country where foreigners will not visit. An epidemic of multi-drug resistant TB may even prompt all foreigners currently living in Bangladesh to leave this country. Foreign business, investment, manpower export, all will stop. If Bangladesh fail to contain multi-drug resistant TB it will poses a grave danger to the dense population in this subcontinent.

Bangladesh has many problems. Jamaat, Shibir and Bangla Bhai are few of such problems. But while we are focused on those problems, please, let’s not forget about the clear and present danger like multi-drug resistant TB in Bangladesh.