1st February, 2011

Out of sight, out of mind?

by Rumbold at 1:45 pm    

Bangladesh, which is co-hosting the 2011 cricket world cup, is planning to pay around 300 disabled beggars in the city of Chittagong to stay off the streets for the next three months:

Some 300 disabled beggars would be paid about $2 (£1.20) a day for three months to compensate them for their loss of earning, Mayor Mansur Alam said. He added that the beggars would also be given a chance to move into rehabilitation centres…
The decision comes days after the government proposed to move all the beggars in the capital Dhaka to welfare centres until the World Cup was over.

The only positives in this is that the beggars may receive a steady if small income (though some of that is likely to be stolen in the distribution), as well as the possibility of accommodation. Other than that, there is nothing to recommend this scheme. It amounts to a form of cleansing, where undesirables are herded into centres and held so as not to disturb the eyes of visitors. Many of these individuals are presumably unable to work due to injuries and thus unable to pay for accommodation and food, and it would be better if they could be provided with long term care and support. Whilst that is not always possible in a poor if developing country, any sort of support must be better than this.

(Hat-tip: Sarah at Same Difference)

Filed under: Bangladesh,Disability
22nd January, 2011

Fast Food Culture in Dhaka, Bangladesh

by guest at 9:45 am    

This is a guest post by Tithe Farhana. She has previously written for publications including The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh’s economy has been transforming slowly from agriculture to manufacturing & service industries; another consequential effect sees a shift from extended families to nuclear families, where both husband and wife are working and engaging in economic activities outside the home. This social transformation includes eating out and dining out, including fast food.

Akku Chowdhury, Executive Director of Transcom Foods Limited, defined “fast food as the term for fastest life style of modern society, we have general idea that fast food means MacDonald or Italian Dishes, but it can be local dishes and menus even Birani/ Chicken Curry can be regarded as fast food, if it is served quickly and saved time for taking.”

Dual forces of globalization are causing rapid world wide change in food supplies, food consumption behaviour and population health. One of the major changes over the last 10 years has been enlarged the development and marketing of western fast food habit in Bangladesh. Information technology, rapid growth of corporate houses, private universities and hectic life-style are totally craft a path to the new thinking, new culture and new life style, the popularity of the fast food is consequence of the changes of culture and traditions of life.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Bangladesh,Culture
18th January, 2011

Muhammad Yunus in court and the attack on microcredit

by Rumbold at 9:26 am    

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of microcredit bank Grameen (an act for which he won the Nobel prize), has appeared in a Bangladeshi court charged with defaming a local politician. The charges relate to a 2007 interview when Mr. Yunus said:

Politicians in Bangladesh only work for money. There is no ideology here.

Attacking microcredit/microfinance institutions is an increasingly populist pastime in South Asia. The success of microcredit has made it a target for politicians around election time, as there are large numbers of people owing money to such lenders, so politicians bash them and encourage lenders to default. Even amongst economists, microcredit has remained controversial, with high loans rates compared to those in developed countries. Yet the alternative is far worse. Microcredit gives many poor individuals access to credit at far lower rates then they traditionally could afford:

On average, borrowers also owe over four times as much to informal lenders, which charge far higher rates, than they do to MFIs.

Default rates on MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions), remain very low, suggesting the debt is manageable.

Filed under: Bangladesh,Economics
9th December, 2010

Regarded as stranded Pakistanis: Banarasi weavers

by guest at 8:21 am    

This is a guest post by Tithe Farhana. She has previously written for publications including The Daily Star (Bangladesh).

Bihari Banarasi weavers are regarded as stranded Pakistanis, as they are the descendants of Muslims who lived in Bihar, the Hindu dominated states of India, who then migrated then newly East Pakistan during partition of India & Pakistan in 1947. Benarasi weavers of present Bangladesh are mostly living in the Mirpur area of the capital city of Bangladesh since 1947.

In the 1930s Dhaka set up its own Banarasi Silk Industry centre. In the1940s a significant geo-political change in this subcontinent enforced to migrate of a large number of Muslim population from one region of India to another region of Pakistan who packed up their looms and came with high hopes to Dhaka to survive with dignity & start a new life in a new country; their second & third generations are still living in Mirpur area and fighting hard against manifold impediments.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Bangladesh,Economy
19th June, 2009

Solar power in Bangladesh

by Rumbold at 8:51 am    

This sounds like good news:

“In the past year alone, the number of solar-powered household systems has doubled to 300,000, delivering electricity to 2.5 million people.

Leading the rapid expansion is Grameen Shakti, a sister concern of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus’s micro credit giant Grameen Bank. The charity, along with 14 other smaller organisations, extends loans with generous conditions to enable the poor to purchase the wherewithal to produce solar energy.

“Solar systems are selling so fast in rural areas that we’re struggling to keep up with demand,” said Dipal Barua, Grameen Shakti’s head.

Growth also means new employment opportunities. “We have created some 20,000 green jobs, some 2,000 of them employing rural women who earn a decent income of 100 dollars a month,” Barua said.”

Let’s just hope this can continue. The signs are promising, in that the charity has a proven track record of loaning money which is then paid back.

(Hat-Tip: Platinum786)

28th February, 2009

Death toll of Dhaka mutiny rises

by Sid (Faisal) at 10:46 am    

The revolt by Bangladesh BDR border guards has resulted in a horrific killing spree of army officers, civilians, elderly couples and even pregnant women. The death toll has now risen to 81 after a further 22 bodies were found in sewers, ponds and shallow graves. The death toll rises hourly as reports come in.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Bangladesh
26th February, 2009

Paramilitary revolt in Bangladesh

by Rumbold at 12:16 pm    

Paramilitary forces based throughout Bangladesh have risen up in protest against alleged plans to disband them, as well as pay and conditions. Known as the Bangladesh Rifles, they number around 40,000. The mutineers have taken a number of officers hostage, and the Bangladeshi Daily Star reports that they have begun executing some of them:

“Six more bodies of Wednesday’s mutiny at the BDR Headquarters were found this (Thursday) morning at sluice gate in front of Nawabganj Park near the headquarters in the capital. Five of them were identified as Lt Col Anisuzzaman, Lt Col Kamruzzaman, Maj Mahbub, Col Zahid and Col Touhid…

Earlier, bodies of the two officers — Col Mujibul Huq and Lt Col Enayetul Haq — were recovered from a sewage system outside the BDR headquarters.”

However, reports are already claiming that some (or all?) of the mutineers are surrendering:

Continue Reading...
30th December, 2008

Sheikh Hasina’s Landslide Victory

by Sid (Faisal) at 2:53 pm    

Bangladesh went to national elections yesterday and the result is stupendous and joyful.

The Awami League led ‘Grand Alliance’ has swept back into power in a stunning landslide victory. The elections were conducted peacefully, with massive turnouts with more young people and women voting in unprecedented numbers. This is a massive vote of confidence for secularism, patriotism without nationalism and a rejection of Islamist religious supremacism.

Bangladesh is set for a government with the biggest parliamentary majority since 1973, following Monday’s general elections designed to bring an end to two years of military-backed rule.

In an election marked by high turnout and few incidents, the centre-left Awami League – headed by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina – and its allies pulled off a stunning victory, winning a two-thirds majority in the single-chamber national assembly.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Bangladesh
14th December, 2008

Abedin freed in Bangladesh

by Rumbold at 10:41 am    

Dr. Humayra Abedin, previously held captive by her family in Bangladesh in order to force her to marry, has been released after the Bangladeshi high court ruled that if her parents had not freed her by Sunday they would go to jail. She is expected to fly back to Britain tomorrow.

(Hat-tip: Golam Murtaza)

7th December, 2008

Forced Marriage Act tested

by Rumbold at 6:43 pm    

A British woman, Dr. Humayra Abedin, has been held in Bangladesh for months in order to force her into a marriage:

“Her parents and uncle were yesterday served with a Forced Marriage Order issued by the British High Court on Friday. Dr Abedin, who has worked as a doctor in the Britain since 2002, is among the first cases to be heard under the Forced Marriage Act which came into force on 25 November. The move came after the family ignored orders from the Bangladeshi high court to bring Dr Abedin to court.

The new legislation allows judges to issue protection orders to prevent forced marriage and help to rescue victims who have already been married off. Those convicted of forcing people into marriage can be jailed for up to two years.”

It is good to see the resolve of the British courts, However, as the Bangladeshi courts have failed to save her so far, I wonder if this attempt will succeed. Moreover, as a new report shows that one in five 14-15 year old girls (and one in four 16 year olds) have experienced violence at the hands of boyfriends, while another study revealed widespread misogynistic attitudes amongst teenage boys, we should remember that anti-female attitudes and actions are far from uncommon in this country, even in the younger generation.

11th May, 2008

Bangladesh does (more than) its bit

by Rumbold at 9:27 pm    

The Burmese regime is continuing to hamper relief efforts, yet some aid has got through. One of the most useful countries has been Bangladesh, thanks to its long history of disasters, proximity, as well as its reasonable relations with the Burmese dictatorship:

“A plane carrying UN relief aid from Bangladesh to cyclone victims in Burma has landed in the capital, Rangoon. Aid agencies say the cargo was impounded on arrival after the World Food Programme won permission from Burma to send the shipment. Two planes carrying aid supplies organised by Bangladesh’s army have already been sent…

The BBC’s Mark Dummett in Dhaka says Bangladesh has stockpiles of emergency aid because of the frequency with which natural disasters strike the country. There are also hundreds of aid workers in Bangladesh with the experience of coping with the aftermath of a cyclone.”

It is nice to see a story like this, especially in the midst of all the suffering.

24th April, 2008

Justice for Rizwan Hussain

by Sunny at 8:47 am    

The story of Riwzan Hussain’s treatment by the Bangladeshi authorities has gotten East London’s Bengali bretheren very, very annoyed. The story hasn’t made the national papers yet but it is covered on this BBC London page. There’s a demonstration this Saturday according to the v popular Facebook group.

Continue Reading...
21st March, 2008

A call for justice, or re-opening old wounds?

by Rumbold at 5:50 pm    

Bangladeshi veterans from the 1971 war of independence have called for collaborators to be put on trial:

“Hundreds of the veterans who took part in the victorious war against Pakistan travelled to Dhaka to issue the call at the request of their former commanders. They say Bangladeshis who collaborated with Pakistani forces caused the deaths of thousands of civilians. Many of those they want tried are politically influential figures.

They include the leaders of Bangladesh’s largest party largest religious-based party, Jamaat-e-Islami – which at the time opposed the break-up of Pakistan. To this day, the leaders of the party deny a war of liberation took place, rather calling it a civil war between Pakistanis. They also deny involvement in a youth militia which carried out many of the killings.”

Thus the question is not whether they are guilty, but whether this will benefit Bangladesh. We in Britain have allowed terrorists to walk free in Northern Ireland for the sake of peace, while many constantly urge Israel and Palestine to do the same. Should justice be sacrificed to stability?

Update: Sid points out that the BBC report is inaccurate, as Jamaat-e-Islami is not even close to being Bangladesh’s largest party. The BBC has now changed it to “largest religious-based party”.

15th March, 2008

Child sex slaves from Bangladesh

by Rumbold at 5:43 pm    

Johann Hari has just published a long (c.5000 words) piece on sex trafficking between Bangladesh and India. In it he speaks to a number of prostitutes, Bangladeshi children who don’t want to be prostitutes are at risk from pimps, and an organisation dedicated to helping the children stay one step ahead of the traffickers. It really is worth reading the whole way through, but if you don’t have the time, here are a few choice extracts:

“This is the story of the twenty-first century’s trade in slave-children. My journey into their underworld took place where its alleys and brothels are most dense – Asia, where the United Nations calculates one million children are being traded every day. It took me to places I did not think existed, today, now. To a dungeon in the lawless Bangladeshi borderlands where children are padlocked and prison-barred in transit to Indian brothels. To an iron whore-house where grown women have spent their entire lives being raped. To a clinic that treat syphilitic eleven year-olds.”

Continue Reading...
18th February, 2008

Tasneem Khalil’s story

by Sunny at 3:18 am    

In May last year I blogged about news I heard then that Bangladeshi writer and blogger Tasneem Khalil had been arrested by the military police. The story was picked up across other news media once Human Rights Watch also issued a statement and bloggers across the world, especially Drishtipat, Mash and Global Voices started sounding the alarm. Even after he was released, around 24 hours later, Tasneem went into hiding.

Then last week I got this email:

Dear All:
This has been a long overdue. But before writing to you I talked to myself at a length and decided that the first thing I need to do is to tell the world what exactly happened to me on May 11, 2007. For me it was not a easy battle. Given my weak and feeble character I had to fight first with myself and come in terms with the truth, with the sheer ugliness of what I was forced to go through. Add to that the fact that fleeing a country with a six-month old son is a disastrous business. So, I hope that you will forgive me for not writing this mail earlier. That night I have seen how inhuman people can be, how they have developed a science of killing one’s soul.

I could have easily lost my faith on humanity if you did not stand by me and my family at those darkest hours of my life. No language can describe what that support means to me. The difference between my dead body and my freedom was drawn with the love and support I received from you. To all the editors, writers, commenters and visitors of Drishtipat, Somewhere in Blog, Pickled Politics, Butterflies and Wheels, other blog networks and individual bloggers who campaigned for my release from DGFI custody: I remember and I will remember, for ever.

The report is online at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/bangladesh0208

Tasneem had to seek asylum in Sweden with his newly married wife because Bangladesh still remains unstable. This story of torture has only just come out and was also been mentioned in the Guardian and CNN. Thankfully, this story has ended well. Bangladesh however still remains under military rule. Mash continues to cover the situation there (though he’s been a bit obsessed with Barack Obama lately, like us all).

27th November, 2007

Update on Bangladesh

by Sunny at 10:56 am    

Reuters Alternet has an update on situation in Bagladesh:

U.S helicopters and a C-130 aircraft flew in supplies of food and water for survivors of Bangladesh’s worst cyclone in a decade as a military-led relief operation kicked into high gear on Monday, ten days after the storm struck. A medical team from the U.S. naval ship USS Kearsarge set up a unit in the town of Barisal on the southern coast where survivors requiring urgent attention will be airlifted from remote areas, officials said.

Cyclone Sidr, which hit the impoverished South Asian country on Nov. 15, killed about 3,500 people, left thousands missing or injured, and displaced some 2 million. Despite intensified relief operations thousands of survivors were yet to get food and water. Many crowded river banks and roadsides in the hope of food handouts, reporters at the scene said.

If you know of any fundraising events taking place please mention them below.

Filed under: Bangladesh,South Asia
21st November, 2007

Unrest in Bengal

by Rumbold at 3:19 pm    

Calcutta has been hit by a wave of riots:

“Troops have been deployed in the Indian city of Calcutta after protests over a controversial writer turned into riots. Police using tear gas and baton charges were unable to control crowds calling for Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen to leave India. Rioters blocked roads and set cars alight. At least 27 people were hurt. More than 100 arrests have been made.

Wednesday’s trouble in the state capital began after the predominantly Muslim All-India Minority Forum called for blockades on major roads in the city. The group said Ms Nasreen had “seriously hurt Muslim sentiments”. Many Muslims say her writing ridicules Islam.

The All-India Minority Forum says Taslima Nasreen’s Indian visa should be revoked and she should be forced to leave the country. Critics say she called for the Koran to be changed to give women greater rights, but she vehemently denied making the comments. Ms Nasreen fled Bangladesh in the early 1990s after death threats and has spent the last three years in Calcutta after a long stay in Europe.”

Sunny’s update: In the comments, pounce points out that the riots are actually about the killing of villagers, not the writer Taslima Nasrin. Bad BBC reporting in other words.

17th November, 2007

Updated: Cyclone in Bangladesh (3000 dead)

by Sunny at 4:21 am    

I know it’s the weekend but this needs flagging up. Over 1000 3000 people are now feared dead in Bangladesh after a cyclone hit the country earlier this week. It could have been much worse, the last cyclone of similar strength caused much more damage.
Blogger Rezwanul has been doing his best to cover this calamity. Mash has a few heart-felt words on blogging about Bangladesh. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is reporting on work they’ve been doing out there and you can donate to them (via).

Filed under: Bangladesh,South Asia
2nd October, 2007

Commemorating the Past

by Rumbold at 11:08 am    

Who has the right to commemorate the past?

A week or so ago British tourists upset the BJP and others in India by trying to visit Lucknow in order to commemorate the actions of the The Rifles (a British regiment) during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Lucknow is widely held to have been one of the centres of the Mutiny (or the First War of Independence, as some Indians know it), and the tourists were accused of wanting to celebrate the retribution meted out to the natives by British forces.

Continue Reading...
11th May, 2007

Important: Tasneem Khalil arrested by military police

by Sunny at 3:40 am    

I’ve just had an email informing me that prominent journalist Tasneem Khalil has been arrested by the military police in Bangladesh, a serious attack on press freedom in the country. An editor and outspoken journalist for the English daily newspaper Daily Star, he also worked for CNN and Human Rights Watch in the country. Of late he has been documenting the military’s attempts to take over Bangladesh and restrict political rights and free speech in the country.
Mash says:

Apparently Mr. Khalil’s crime is that he did his job. He spoke truthfully about the current situation in Bangladesh. He was interviewed by Nora Boustany of the Washington Post last month – that interview may have cost him his freedom and now possibly his life.

I have been speaking out over the last month about the military takedown of the democratic system in Bangladesh. One by one the fundamental rights of Bangladeshis have been taken away. But, Bangladeshis have recently started to fight back against the military. The press, the people and the courts have begun speaking out. The military now aims to silence them. Their thuggery is now plain to see.

Other bloggers covering: Drishtipat, Global Voices, Rezwanul, Golmal Sid, Salam Dhaka, Keep me honest, My dear Bangladesh, Adda, Deshi Voice and Butterflies and Wheels.

Human Rights Watch has also issued a press release. SD says this has also been elevated to the US State dept and Washington Post should be doing a story.

We need to organise joint protests in Washington and London in front of the Bangladeshi embassies to raise the profile of this arrest and highlight human rights abuses there. Who’s with me? Email me if you’re interested or post below.

Update 1: Coverage now at: CNN, IHT, Washington Post, Reuters Alertnet and the BBC.

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7th May, 2007

When the US government actually saves lives

by Sunny at 4:07 pm    

“Let me tell you a story of a disaster that you have probably never heard of and the overwhelming American response that you should know about,” says one of our favourite comrades Mash. He goes on to recount a US military operation that took place in April 1991 in Bangladesh.

In late spring of 1991 a US Navy Amphibious Task Force (ATF) returning from the Persian Gulf war was diverted, on order of President George H.W. Bush, to the Bay of Bengal.

Less than two weeks ago, on the evening of April 29 1991, Cyclone Marian, a storm with top sustained winds of 160 mph (Category 5), made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm (155 mph) along the coastline of Bangladesh. The resulting 20 foot high tidal wave killed over 138,000 people and left over 5 million people homeless. Marian was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record.

The United States responded on May 10 1991 by launching Operation Sea Angel, a relief operation that involved over 7000 US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. The man leading the effort, Lt. General Henry Stackpole, declared, “We went to Kuwait in the name of liberty, and we’ve come to Bangladesh in the name of humanity.”

That operation is estimated to have saved as many as 200,000 lives. Drishtipat’s Rumi Ahmed recall that fateful event (and has responses from servicemen who actually served during that humanitarian mission).

The point here, as Mash also makes, is obvious. The United States has massive operational capability in saving people during difficult circumstances and it has done so repeatedly, including offering vital help during the recent Kashmir earthquake and the one in Bam, Iran.

It is on this basis that many also supported the war in Iraq: that it would help saves lives from Saddam Hussain’s brutality. I think that was/is a laudable aim in itself. But I did not support it because, as a keen observer of American politics, I’d come to the conclusion that Bush cared little for the lives of non-Americans. He pulled out of half a dozen international treaties before 9/11, making the world more dangerous, in the name of American self-interest, and because the rhetoric for attacking Iraq was deeply dishonest. There were flaws in the reasoning, the evidence and the operations. There was no coherent planning and it showed from the start.

To classify all American intervention as good is misplaced too. They were bitterly opposed to India entering the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh, one of the few wars during the 20th century that saved more lives than it cost. So not everyone who opposed their intervention in February 2003 wanted to let more Iraqis die and not everyone grateful for their help is an imperialist lackey. History shows the picture is a lot more muddled.

11th April, 2007

News roundup from the sub-continent

by Sunny at 7:12 pm    

India’s top female civil servants are being asked to provide information about their menstrual cycles as part of a new job appraisal process, according to reports today. The All-India Services Performance Appraisal Rules 2007, intended for senior government staff to fill out, contains a three-page health section asking women for a “detailed menstrual history” as well as other personal information, such as when they last took maternity leave.

The form has caused outrage among some women employees. “The questions are too intrusive and have no bearing on our work,” Seema Vyas, joint secretary of the general administration department in Maharashtra state, which includes Mumbai, told the Hindustan Times newspaper. [Guardian]

It is, as everyone says, a bloody outrage. Much more intelligent and productive are these Indian slum children who have decided to launch their own newspaper to provide better facilities for their community. Brilliant.

Another positive piece of news: a group of annoyed middle-class graduates have launched a new political party against corruption called the Bharat Punarnirman Dal (India Reconstruction Party) [via capt bananabrain].

In the three months since its formation, it has attracted 1,500 paying members, and 25,000 nonpaying online members through its website, www.bharatpunarnirman.org. “By the end of this year we’ll have a full-time staff of 50, and within ten years we’ll establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with,” Mr Shukla said.

Not good at all: the first ever report on child abuse in the country finds that unfortunately it is quite common. [via Jai].

In other news I hope Bangladesh beat England today in cricket, though it is unlikely to happen. The Bengalis have played fantastically in this World Cup and deserve to go further.

Although the political situation in the country has gotten worse, with more charges now filed against Sheikh Hasina.

23rd March, 2007

Bangladeshi independence and Tahmima Anam

by Sunny at 4:05 am    

t-AnamTo celebrate 35 Years of Bangladeshi Independence, human rights organisation Drishtipat are hosting an evening of festivities including a reading by acclaimed new author Tahmima Anam from her book ‘A Golden Age’ and musical performance by the exciting folk and blues band Parapar today at 5.45pm, the Brady Centre, Hanbury, Street, London, E1.
Sid recently interviewed Tahmima Anam on his blog.

Filed under: Bangladesh,Events
16th January, 2007

Unfolding events in Bangladesh

by Sunny at 6:21 pm    

Time to move on to more serious events I think, more specifically about the situation in Bangladesh. First, Mash provides some background.

Bangladesh was scheduled to hold national parliamentary elections on January 22, 2007. However, those elections were postponed and a State of Emergency was declared by the President on January 9th. Now Bangladesh faces an uncertain future.

Could the country become “another Afghanistan”?

Continue Reading...
13th October, 2006

Nobel Peace Prize

by Sunny at 1:55 pm    

Bangladesh’s Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank have been awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Yunus, an economist, founded the bank, which is one of the pioneers of micro-credit lending schemes for the poor in Bangladesh.

The bank is renowned for lending money to the least well-off, especially women, so that they can launch their own businesses. [BBC News]

Definitely well deserved. The Grameen bank is well known all over the world for helping women in Bangladesh empower themselves, pull themselves out of poverty and provide them with self-respect. I’m more surprised he did not win earlier.
[hat tip: Mirax and Shoque in the comments]

Filed under: Bangladesh,South Asia
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