Saturday, December 31, 2005
Happy New Year: 2006
Happy New Year. Welcome 2006!!! I have started my journey this year in Adda to express myself under a pen name “Addabaj” (Gossip Guy). I write with hope and light to revisit things, issues challenges and possibilities that we face here in Bangladesh and else where in the world. I appreciate my readers’ thoughts as they react, comment, encourage, criticize, and inspire me to move forward. Indeed, we need new ideas, hopes and inspirations. We need enlighment and commitment to change. I live in hope and dream as I see our new generation is coming to regain Bangladesh with glory and to rescue us from our mistakes and shames. My desire and dream bounce with the lines of our great Rebellious Poet Nazrul to pronounce it on the eve of New Year:
“There comes the bold new youth
eager to wipe out all that is ugly and decayed.
He comes with his unkempt hair and careless dress
on the wings of the Deluge
with a smile on his lips.
He is the eternal beauty
who knows how to destroy and build again,
Come, make merry and rejoice!
What fear has he
for whom all this destruction and rebuilding
is but a game?
Come, make merry and rejoice
and Welcome the Beautiful
who comes today in the garb of the Terrible”
Translated by: Kabir Chowdhury
Simultaneous publication in my Bangla Blog:
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Rise of Fundamentalism: Agenda for Socio-Political Reform
In that respect, Jamatis have already reaped their own political interest by exploiting opportunities to directly and indirectly occupy administrative and socio-political set-ups by placing their own people. This kind of islamization has never happened before in Bangladesh. It has direct and unprecedented impact on socio-political fabric of our society. If you review the news and views, there has been an obvious and remarkable polarization taking place that people are facing the choice of either pro-Islamic alliance with a so-called nationalistic view point or a secular pro-democratic alliance to eliminate religious fundamentalism in the coming years. In the recent by-election, popular jamati incumbent seat has been lost to a popular pro-people anti-government candidate which is showing the turning point in our political dimension.
In order to measure the progress of anti-fundamentalist force in Bangladesh, we need to identify political polarization from people’s perspective. We need to identify the persons, faces, institutions that have been infiltrated by the religious fundamentalist Jamati forces. We need to enlist their activities, institutional influences and paradoxes, so that they can not change their color over night. We have seen in the past they became sea turtle to hide their face. In order to prevent the rise of religious fundamentalism, we need non-partisan people based socio-political agenda that will unmask the political economy and socio-political aspects of fundamentalist forces in Bangladesh. I hope my colleagues will come forward to lay out a socio-political agenda for people that will successfully annihilate Jamati politics from Bangladesh forever. If any one wants to see the proof, I’ll invite them to look at the fall of Ershad’s military regime in 1990. People still hold power in Bangladesh and they can easily and peacefully change the fate of greedy politician’s dream very unexpectedly. In order to bring war criminal Jamatis to justice, we need to free this critical issue from partisan politics and make it a popular demand. Hopefully, it is a new beginning of a socio-political agenda to free Bangladesh from the curse of fundamentalist and war criminal force.
Click here to read in Bangla:
Thursday, December 22, 2005
A Successful BNP Rally: Postscripts for Thought
Our prime minister Khaleda Zia’s speech was very straightforward as she blamed the opposition party for militancy and anarchy. As she has said: ‘Those who have stayed out of it [dialogue] are accomplices of the militants.’ Madam, dialogue does not stop militancy. Fanaticism breeds militancy. Inaction and indifference inspire militants. Whether Awami League joined the dialogue or not, how can she escape responsibility for her administration’s gross failure to tackle militancy? How can she escape the blame of breeding militancy when she forms a government on theological conception?
Since most of us now have been at least graduated from high school, I think we will love to find everything critically. In a democratic process, a political party needs to present reasonable and appropriate responses to their counterpart to convince a lay person like me. Addabaj invites readers to have a comparative analysis of BNP’s speeches in the light of 23 point common national program for political action announced by the opposition parties in Bangladesh. For the sake of time, I’ll review only the first six out of 23 demands of opposition parties and let my readers critically review the adequacy and appropriateness of BNP’s response.
1. A secular democratic government will be established through free and fair elections that will be held after bringing reforms in the caretaker system of government and the Election Commission on the basis of the guidelines announced on July 15, 2005.
BNP’s response: She refused any discussion on election process as if she owns the fair election process and shows her huge confidence in political muscles. Why will BNP deny a process of fair election that will increase reliability of the government and people’s trust in the election process? What’s her fear? Her confidence should not have been shaky in any election process, as people will elect her anyway as they have witnessed glowing progress during her regime.
2. The country will be freed from chauvinist communal forces and militants. Such forces will be removed from all levels of the government and administration. Trials of war criminals will be held and there will be a ban on communal politics.
BNP’s Response: When her own party member accused the administration of sheltering militants and resigned, she even did not have guts to go forward to refute that, investigate that or clarify that to the nation. She wants to lead Bangladesh as an Islamist country as her beloved husband the former General Zia started the business of Heaven by introducing religious scripture in our political life and blessing military pardon to the Jamati-Rajakar killers of Bangladesh for validating his military regime. She has completed the legacy of her late husband’s wish by putting the war criminals into the cabinet. People are not dummy anymore that she can run the country by provoking baseless fear and anxiety of a foreign power when she fails to prove her competency to people.
3. People are the owners of all resources and power based on this principle supremacy of the constitution will be established in running of the country. Rule of law will be established, all laws contrary to the fundamental rights of the people will be scrapped, steps will be taken to stop extra-judicial killings, and the judiciary will be separated from the executive branch of the government.
BNP’s Response: There’s no response. Look at the number of mass killing, cross fire and incident of police brutality in Bangladesh. What’s her take on the anti-corruption initiatives as people are sick and tired of corruption? How’s she going to bring back transparency in the administration?
4. The parliament will be the centre of all activities. Accountability of the government will be ensured. Elections to district and upazila councils will be held within a year of the formation of the new government. Autonomous local governments will be strengthened and empowered properly.
BNP’s response: What’s her response? Democracy is not limited to a national election. It starts from the smallest unit of local government. It is the process of representation and accountability. What direction will she give? No response.
5. Criminals and their godfathers will be identified and will be brought to book. They will not be accepted as members of any political party and no party can nominate them in the elections. A healthy political environment will be ensured by stopping political corruption and criminalization.
BNP: No response.
6. A system will be introduced so that all ministers, lawmakers, politicians and bureaucrats disclose the accounts of their assets. Their accounts will be monitored in order to ensure that corruption is rooted out from all spheres of the state and the society.
BNP’s response: Where is the fear for disclosing the accounts of the assets of politicians and (also bureaucrats)? Could you tell me how many ministers had to resign from her cabinet due to allegation of corruption? Where’s law? What’s the recourse?
When we are craving for political action plan from BNP to embrace their success, her rally has really disappointed us as it has only featured joy and festivity for obsessing our minds. How long will we carry on the legacy of deception? I have put this postscript for provoking reasonable thoughts to carry on in our mind as we hate and refuse to be fooled again and again by our political parties.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Somewherein, Bangladesh & Norway: A Bridge to Future
In order to show my deep appreciation to Somewherein, I have put together few striking features on Norway and Bangladesh. Norway has been helping Bangladesh since 1973 in major areas of Education, Private Sector Development, Human Rights and Governance, and Culture.
Norway became independent in 1905 as the country peacefully ceded from Sweden after staying together for 91 years without dropping a single drop of blood. Whereas, Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971 after staying together only for 24 years through a freedom fight that claimed three million lives.
If you walk a mile in Norway, you’ll meet only 15 people as 46 million live in a country twice the size of Bangladesh. If you walk a mile in Bangladesh, you’ll bump against 1015 people as 114 million people live in a country half of the size of Norway.
Both Bangladesh and Norway proudly boast for its natural beauty. As a riverine country, Bangladesh can present silver water from its rivers; on the other hand Norway can proudly present white snow and glacier from its mountains. I don’t know whether Norway can consider exporting snow to Bangladesh so that we can keep our heads cool!!! Norway can show us how e-governance works. I’ve also enjoyed Norway’s wonderful travel site, as I’ve felt like I am visiting Finnmark on a dog sledge when I browse it. Hi Techy folks in Bangladesh, could you please do something like that fascinating travel site on our Sunderbans?
Norwegians put fish in their breakfast as sea food is their second largest export item. Traditionally, Bangladeshi villagers also pleasantly eat dry fish with rice (panta bhat) as a breakfast item. Anthropologically, do we have Norwegians descendents in remote Bangladeshi villages?
It is really fascinating to find turf roofs (torvtak) in Norway which is an old custom to put and grow grass on the roof of houses. Some of us may wonder whether Norwegian cattle will graze on the roof or not. It’s actually their love for nature. A lot of you may not know that Norwegians cow climb up to the mountain to graze. We need to import few cows from Norway so that they can teach our Bangladeshi cows how to go under water to fish for living.
Being a rich country, Norway discourages its citizens from driving and owning vehicles by making it expensive. This is an attempt to slow down the rise of emission gases to protect their environment. In Bangladesh, we are working very hard to put more cars on congested city roads to protect our flourishing car dealers so that we can enrich our car centered culture.
In Norway, their highways sometimes end at big lakes (fjord) for scenic destinations. In Bangladesh, we try to occupy hawor/water lakes (Gulshan Lake or Dhanmondi Lake) and river banks, fill them up quickly, so that roads can quickly take us to high rise buildings.
As a predominant Christian country, only 3% in Norway attends churches regularly. May be their spirituality lives at home, so they don’t have to look for God at Churches. In a predominant Muslim Bangladesh, our spirituality is fleeing away from our homes as God is now owned by our religious parties on the streets!!!
In terms of bilateral relationship, Bangladesh can help Norway in increasing its literacy rate. Education from six to sixteen is free and compulsory in Norway, as 99% people are literate, I don’t know what happened to 1%. Bangladesh can easily absorb 1% illiterates from Norway so that our friends in Norway can boast for 100% literacy. Bangladesh can proudly teach those 1% illiterates the literacy of survival within few days.
Do you know that Norway is aging as their population growth rate is very low? Bangladesh can offer technical assistance to all newly-wed Norwegian couples by placing them in our rural areas where on-site hands-on training will teach them the value and charm of bringing new lives to families.
It is said that gender equality in Norway has been achieved as women are better treated than any other place in the world. In order to ensure gender equality in Bangladesh, we have at least put two women in leading political positions so that they can proudly present our country’s striking progress!! The way Norway honored and protected the aboriginal Sámi tribe could be a learning experience for all of us when Bangladesh thinks about its Hill Tracts population.
We are proud of our taxation policy. Norway imposes tax on everything including food, so that citizens can maintain their subsistence and poverty level consistently after paying all their taxes. In Bangladesh, we evade taxes (income tax, property tax, VAT, etc) most of the time, so that poor industrialists, businessmen and tax collectors can be rich and escape from poverty level all the time.
Norwegians found prosperity after finding oil and gas reserves on its coastal border in early sixties, whereas in Bangladesh, we let the gas wells burn down in Tengratila so that we don’t have to ensure prosperity for all.
In Norway they’ve been maintaining the Royal dynasty that people don’t have much to say where in Bangladesh our politicians work hard to create a royal dynasty all the time that people always put it down. When will poor Bangladeshis realize that they need Prince and Princess as celebrity icons? We’re working hard to inspire people about royal highness through media outlets right now.
Norway has been ranked as the Best place to live in 2005 as the country tops in wealth, education, and life expectancy. Bangladesh is the best place to escape from as political infighting and violence top every thing else (no ranking is found). Thankfully God has given us the Bay of Bengal on the South to hold all of us within our boundary. Otherwise all of us would have walked out altogether one day to baffle our political leaders as they would not a find a single breathing human being in their grand rallies!!!
If you want to study world literature, you can not escape from Norway. Norway is going to celebrate 100th year anniversary of the Norweygian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), as he has forced us to reflect on our fundamental rights and values. It is often said that Ibsen is the most popular dramatist after Shakespeare.
Addabaj (Gossip guy) finds inspiration in Ibsen’s Dr. Stockmann’s idealistic truth telling. So, let's enjoy the most favorite quote from Ibsen’s play:
“At present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good Lord!—you can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should govern the clever ones... Oh, yes--you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The majority has might on its side--unfortunately; but right it has not. I am in the right--I and a few other scattered individuals. The minority is always in the right”- Enemy of the People (1882).
Click here to read this posting in Bangla:
Friday, December 16, 2005
Bangladesh is the Best
Bangladesh is a painter’s dream come true. Hundreds of rivers crisscross this country that is the lifeline of this ardent fertile delta. It is true that rivers and streams that carry more water through this tiny nation than flows through all of Europe. Global warming and Greenland meltdown threaten low lying Bangladesh that reminds us to work together for global awareness and action. Ancient Bangla has been transferred to today’s Bangladesh through wonderful struggles over time for its distinct identity. History shows how people’s lives have always been shattered in this wonderful land by nature, by occupation, and by its own people. Yet, Bangladesh proudly comes back to its heart to regain its loss and to rebuild its life. That is why, Bangladesh is uniquely the Best.
Bangladesh is a land of beauty where nature and people have come together to create the tapestry of lives for thousands of years. When we sing our national anthem, we submit our hearts and souls to this land’s wonderful beauty, joyful thrill of fragrance from mango-groves, sweetness of nature’s abundance in full-blossomed paddy fields. This country’s joy and sadness stir our mind uniquely. Nature and people have weaved here a rhythm of vibrant life and a resilient nation called- Bangladesh.
It presents a proud history of struggle for independence against all odds of this world. In a recent declassified oval office document shows, in November 1971 US State Secretary Henry Kissinger was blaming Indians about the independence war in Bangladesh. He was overlooking the democratic rise in Bangladesh against Pakistani Army’s massacre and therefore; he was denying rights of 75 million people at that time. Razakars and militant Jamati collaborators with Pakistan army forces killed three million in nine months, but they failed to defeat the spirit of this nation. It's true that only in Bangladesh justice never comes or even it comes, it's too late. That is why, the mass killer and war criminal Rajakar-Jamatis don't face justice the same way Nazis faced the Nuremberg trial. It always turns to be opposite in Bangladesh as these killers get rehabilitated socially and politically. Probably, Bangladesh is the only country in the world where war criminals got rehabilitated instead of facing justice.
We became independent on December 16, 1971. No one can dominate this wonderful nation. That is why; Bangladesh has become independent twice, first time from Pakistan in 1971, and second time from Ershad’s military government in 1990. Now, the same people are fighting again to free our beloved land, Bangladesh, from the evil shadow of religious extremism, militancy, and corruption.
Bangladesh sadly hit the headline on August 17, 2005, when 459 small bombs simultaneously exploded all over the country. As government is failing to take appropriate action, we are loosing our best sons in terrorist attacks. The recent rise of religious militancy is the biggest crisis that this country has ever faced. Jihadi terrorist groups are not part of the Bangladeshi community. They don't and won't reflect the inner heart of the Bangladeshi people. People will definitely stand up to fight militancy, extremism, and injustice in Bangladesh, as they woke up with a unifying spirit in 1971. People can no longer afford any demented political selfishness when the heart and soul of this nation are bleeding severely. Right now, we really need a national consensus for an interim government to combat terrorism independently, fearlessly and ferociously.
It is true that our history uniquely repeats itself. The strongest regime collapsed and tumbled down to its feet when the masses woke up. Look at 1969, look at 1971 and look at 1990. Nothing has stopped the mass uprising in Bangladesh. In the back alleys of history, attempts were taken to obsess and seduce the collective consciousness through money, poetry, and terror. All those attempts ended at the garbage can of history. All the powerful buildings collapsed, obsessive poetries evaporated and the will of people survived. We see a saga of remarkable strength and inspiration in our resiliency.
Bangladesh presents the wonderful beauty of nature. It has world’s longest sea beach. On the south west, it presents one of the biggest mangroves called Sunderban. It is a cluster of islands with an approximate area of 4500 sq. miles forming the largest block of littoral forests. It is a transboundary ecosystem that can be somehow compared to Florida’s Everglades. Cruising to the Sunderban mangrove is a breath taking journey. Thousands of meandering streams, creeks, rivers and estuaries have enhanced its charm. Sundarban meaning beautiful forest is the natural habitat of the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger, spotted deer, crocodiles, jungle fowl, wild boar, lizards, theses monkey and an innumerable variety of beautiful birds. Royal Bengal Tiger, the pride of Bangladesh faces near extinction which can be saved by a collaborative biodiversity project only. A travel blog, “A short sojourn in untainted Bangladesh” testifies the exquisite beauty of Bangladesh that will allure others to visit us.
Bangladesh is the seventh largest country (144 millions) in population and the third largest Muslim country in the world. We proudly speak Bangla, our national language that is the fourth most spoken language in the world. Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore won Nobel Prize in literature for Gitanjali in 1913. Our rebellious National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam still inspires us to rise and raise ourselves for justice, freedom and equality that we all aspire. The whole world observes 21st February as International Mother Language Day as the UNESCO General Conference took a decision in 1999 when it unanimously adopted a draft resolution submitted by Bangladesh and co-sponsored and supported by 28 other countries. It honors the brave sons of Bangladesh who have sacrificed their lives to protect Bangla language and culture on February 21, 1952. This is only country in the world whose independence movement has been ushered by its language movement.
Bangladesh is often introduced to media to symbolize poverty. Yes, we are poor but our hearts are really rich. In our culture, entertaining guests with a heartfelt hospitality has become a long cherished tradition from the prehistoric time irrespective of rich and poor people. People somehow manage to survive even in hardships without much complaint. That is a part of our living, you can not frame it in any economic or GNI definition. Clarence Maloney says, “The intensity of human interaction, the expressive culture, the grace, the fullness of life, and the verbal arts – in short, many innately human qualities – are more fully expressed in Bangladesh than in many cultures” (Behavior and Poverty in Bangladesh, 1986).
It is a salient feature that poverty is increasing both in the poor and the rich in Bangladesh. While the poor are becoming poorer financially as economic opportunities are shrinking and the rich are becoming poorer mentally as they’re increasingly living outside the touch of reality and sanity. Bangladesh is no longer a test case of development; it is presenting the glowing picture of the best consumeristic economy in the developing world. Bangladesh shows perfectly how a reverse mercantile economy flourishes when you look at a sudden rise of retail business in Bangladesh. A poor woman in Bangladesh is selling her eyes to come out from poverty when few rich people are on waiting list for Lexus Cars in Dhaka proves the increasing inequity in economic growth. Bashundhara City, a gargantuan new $80 million shopping complex in downtown Dhaka was featured as ‘an epic sign of changing fortunes’ in the New York Times on July 20, 2005. According to the Bangladeshi developers, the 2,000-store retail colossus is called the Mall of South Asia.
The economic success in Bangladesh holds pains and promises simultaneously. Bangladesh appears as a puzzle to a foreign journalist who reports our continued struggle for good governance on the backdrop of natural calamity and political infighting. A Bangladeshi diplomat finds satisfaction in refuting the notion of poverty in 1995 as he says, “Bangladesh is among the top 30 economies in the world. It is above Nigeria, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand and several other countries…The country has doubled its gross domestic product, contained inflation at below 2 percent, slowed population growth, immunized 92 percent of its children against major diseases and made safe water available to 90 percent of its people. It now produces enough food to feed its population of 116 million”.
In order to fight poverty, Dr. Yunus from Bangladesh introduced Grameen Bank on the concept of banking without collateral for the poorest of the poor. His initiative shows how technology can alleviate poverty. Grameen Foundation USA replicates the success of Grameen Bank around the world. GFUSA has partnered with forty-six microfinance organizations in twenty countries, and touched the lives of an estimated 2.5 million . Grameen Bank’s success story inspired the eBay founder Pierre Omidyto to donate 100 million dollar to generate micro credit for the poor for entrepreneurship.
Grameen Phone, an initiative of Grameen Bank with the Norwegian telephone company Telenor, accepted the challenge to wire Bangladesh through mobile technologies for income generation. Stories of phone ladies from Bangladesh amazingly show how a simple mobile phone technology can change the life line of 50,000 poor rural women in Bangladesh. Now their number has reached to 180,000 who are pioneering a new model to bridge the digital divide in the developing countries. Wiring Bangladesh without wires emboldens others to work for positive social impact by putting digital technology in the hands of the poor. Even mobile phone company Nokia is working with GFUSA to bring affordable telecommunications to rural Africa encouraged by the success story of phone ladies in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has also shown how an award winning Sustainable Rural Livelihood Information Network can revolutionize information technology for the farmers. The Bangladesh experience in a simple family based poultry firm comes up as a tool for poverty alleviation for the poorer nations in Asia and Africa. Bangladesh shows how tilapia can be cultivated in the rice paddy field to diversify income for the farmers. On the other hand, Bangladesh shows insensitive project that brings profit at the cost of environment and threatens Sunderban’s mangrove forest.
Bangladesh shows its long struggle against natural calamity of tornado and flood. In the recent years, we have shown a successful progress in disaster management. Devastated floods in Bangladesh turned worse as environment pollution and drainage clog in Bangladesh cities caused by careless use of polythene bags. Bangladesh joined the polythene ban in 2002 with Ireland, and South Africa after two decade long polythene bag use. This move, indeed, promoted use of environment friendly jute bag.
Jute, an agro base industry, really holds answer to environment when people think about man-made pollution. Bangladesh produces 80% of high quality jute in the world that is famous for biodegradability. Jute has brought fortune to many people except who produce it. If you look at history, Dundee in Scotland remembers its profit in jute production from Bangladesh. Dundee's textile industry was founded on the production of linen from flax but jute from Bengal became increasingly important. Korean War veterans may remember how jute bags have saved their lives in the war zone. It was a lucky break for Pakistan when a sudden and unexpected demand for jute from Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) pushed its price to an unprecedented level for using them as sandbags in Korean War.
Unfortunately, jute has lost its competition to synthetic fiber, yet it holds potentiality for rebound. Visit the product galleries about what jute can offer:
The textile industry of Bengal is very old. Bengal cotton fabrics were exported to the Roman and the Chinese empires and they are mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography and the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, and by the ancient Chinese travelers. But Dhaka Muslin became famous and attracted foreign and transmarine buyers after the establishment of the Mughal capital at Dhaka. The Muslin industry of Dhaka received patronage from the Mughal emperors and the Mughal nobility. Muslin is a fine artisan product that a 50 meter long Muslin fabric could be squeezed into a matchbox. The British, during their occupation, ended the Muslin production brutally by having the Muslin weavers' thumbs chopped off. The weaving technology is lost forever.
The art of making jamdani designs on fine fabric reached to its peak during Mughal rule. There were handlooms in almost all villages of dhaka district. Traders from Europe, Iran, Armenia, as well as Mughal-Pathan traders used to deal in these fabrics. The Mughal Emperor, the Nawab of Bengal and other aristocrats used to engage agents at Dhaka to buy high quality muslin and jamdani for their masters' use. Jamdani is still very popular in Bangladesh as Sari.
Sari, a predominant colorful outfit, of Bangladeshi women did allure pop star Madonna to wear it on the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. Bibi Russell, a Bangladeshi fashion designer and entrepreneur, takes Bangladeshi fashion to the west as she says, “fashion is a part of culture,", "and “textiles are a part of the history of Bangladesh”. Now, Sari makes waves in BBC for newscasters as History Talking feels proud in rising diversity of culture. When British Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair wears sari, it promotes Sari, a predominant traditional dress of South Asian women.
Bangladesh is trying to diversify its exportable products. Garments is still a leading product worth nearly 5 billion US$ per year to the USA, EU, Canada and other countries of the world. At present, Bangladesh is the 6th largest apparel supplier to the USA and EU countries. Life of workers in a garment factory has often attracted news headline. Recently, a lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of working children of some developing countries including Bangladesh has appeared to be very sensational.
Bangladesh has shown huge success in transforming automobiles from gasoline to concentrated natural gas (CNG). In a research paper, it shows the comparative cost for driving a gasoline-driven vehicle in Bangladesh is Tk. 245 ($4.20), compared to only Tk. 42 ($0.72) for CNG over the same distance. CNG use as a vehicle fuel was first introduced in Bangladesh in 1982 through a World Bank pilot project. Bangladesh has been in the forefront in utilizing CNG for automobiles contributed to drastic reduction in emission pollution in city areas. It is true that due to large reserve in natural gas, Bangladesh is also becoming increasingly important to world energy markets.
It is amazing to find how Bangladeshi faces have contributed to change this world. Fazlur Rahman Khan, a Bangladeshi architect with a difference, symbolizes his fine work in building Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the USA. It was World’s tallest building until 1996. In 1998, the City of Chicago named a street in his honor called “Fazlur R. Khan Way”. In the lobby of the Sears Tower, a sculpture is erected by the Spanish artist Carlos Marinas in Mr. Khan’s honor.
Bangladesh has pioneered a model of preventive public health care program almost half a century ago. Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim led this country in 1956 to raise public awareness and care for diabetic treatment. If anyone wants to see how a low cost community based public health intervention against deadly diabetic disease helps thousands in a poor nation, they need to visit Diabetic Association of Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi thinker and educator Abdullah Abu Sayeed has become famous for global change through literary movement as in 1975 he founded Bish-wo Sha-hitto Kendro (World Literature Center) in Dhaka. In an interview with CNN Talk Asia he says, “I dream for the new generation, for them to become turn out as enlightened human beings and they are inspired to do good things for their fellow beings and to mitigate their sufferings...”
Tommy Miah, a Bangladeshi chef and entrepreneur, dominates UK’s Indian cuisine show. The money raised through the show doesn’t only promote interest and popularity of Indian cuisine; it also helps an orphanage in Bangladesh. Tommy Miah, curry king of Britain, has been honored and recognized by Queen Elizabeth II who wrote the foreword to his latest book, a move described by Buckingham Palace as the queen’s first and last celebrity endorsement.
Bangladesh Army’s participation in the UN peacekeeping in 12 countries across three continents has earned reputation for helping the most distressed people of the globe. When a citizen from Sierra Leon expresses deep appreciation of Bangladesh Army’s noble role in rebuilding his country, it makes us proud. Bangladesh soldiers sacrificed lives in Congo for peace keeping.
‘Rickshaw’ (tri-cycle) is a popular, environment friendly, cost effective means of transport in city areas that features the huge availability of cheap labor for investors in Bangladesh. Riding Ricksha is fun, pulling rickshaw is not. Bangladeshi Rickshaws’ colorful and artistic designs feature talents of traditional artisan folks who are now loosing their income. The International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico holds rickshaw arts--both panels and hoods from Bangladesh. Joanna Kirkpatrick, an American Cultural and Social Anthropologist, is credited for promoting Bangladeshi rickshaw and its arts.
The huge competition between Rickshaws and Motor cars for driving spaces on city streets of Bangladesh takes us back to the earlier days of industrial revolution and urbanization. Increasingly blamed for traffic gridlock in city areas, Rickshaw is facing restrictions in main thoroughfares in Dhaka. Traffic gridlock in Dhaka along with other city areas in Bangladesh poses policy questions and challenges to ease traffic jam without displacing poor rickshaw pullers. A move to ban rickshaw in Dhaka city has faced huge protest by advocacy groups. When Bangladesh blames rickshaw for gridlock and plans to phase it out, New York City may consider rickshaw as an answer to solve its traffic gridlock in the downtown area.
Bangladesh is a land of colorful festivity. Outside Bangladesh, people need to go to London or New York to see thriving Bangladeshi community. 'Banglatown' in London's East End comes alive when the sights and sound of Bengali culture on the Bangla New Year festival attract thousands of visitors. Brick Lane in East London welcomes its visitors to get a flavor of Bangladesh along with other South Asian communities. Jackson Heights features a multicultural community and a vibrant culture in New York where you will find the highest concentration of Bangladeshi stores. In Queens and Bronx of New York City, we have created a little show case of Bangladesh where Americans and Bangladeshis flock to get the authentic taste of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
When Bangladesh creates showcases of its vibrant culture, it also attracts global attention for its arsenic problem. In early 1990s, arsenic hits the headline as the largest mass poisoning in history that may have been caused by unregulated irrigation project in some area of Bangladesh. Government initiative along with international help in preventing arsenic problem has dramatically raised public awareness to use arsenic free water. Bangladesh has pioneered in Cholera Research for last four decades that is credited to introduce rehydration salts (ORS). Low cost home made oral saline (ORS) saved thousands of children in the developing countries. In 1979, this cholera research project appeared as an International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), a leading public health and population research organization.
Bangladesh shows how an elected government can create a controversial law enforcement branch RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) drawn from the Police, Military and Para Military to model lawless law enforcement in the country. This is the only country where the government can no longer trust and use its police force alone–the legal arm of law enforcement. Bangladesh creates RAB in 2004 as another layer of law enforcement entity parallel to Police force which is a total wastage of public money and manpower and allegedly a pretext of involving military forces in civil affairs. RAB’s brutality in deliberate killing of alleged criminals and innocents in the pretext of cross fire has drawn world wide human right concern.
“The nexus between criminals and politicians appeared to reinforce institutionalized corruption, violence, and impunity for human rights abuses” as Amnesty International presents in its 2005 report on Bangladesh. Bangladesh has managed to maintain its top rank as the most corrupt country on earth that calls for transparent and accountable public governance. The general people are helpless and abandoned when government remains inactive and ambivalent to battle deep rooted corruption. They don’t realize, “corruption isn't a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves”. World Bank pulls Bangladesh cash out of the allocated money is a no surprise.
The gravity of controversy surrounding bribery charges involving Bangladesh Oil Minister’s dealing with Niko shows the urgency of public accountability in Bangladesh. It is interesting to find out how an oil well blowout in early 2005 that caused the evacuation of up to 20,000 people in Bangladesh, prompted a series of discussion and hearing at Yale University to find its plan to help fix the situation in Bangladesh, as the University holds share in Niko in the amount of $50 million dollars.
“Bangladesh is the Best” - it is not a slogan or an article, it is an interactive catalog of few selected faces, facts, incidents, challenges and promises that we have encountered at different times. All these distinct features reflect a true portrait of Bangladesh. As a citizen of this global village, we need to carry on this interactive catalog to inspire us to work together for a common human wellbeing across nations. Our strengths lie in our positive and forward looking outlook as we believe in “We shall overcome”. Bangladesh inspires our hearts like it did for George Harrison and his friends in 1971. We need to reach to an uninhibited heart of Bangladesh that has really captivated our poet Jibanananda Das who wants to come back to this wonderful land even as a bird:
“When I return to the banks of the Dhansiri, to this Bengal,
Not as a man, perhaps, but as a salik bird or white hawk,
Perhaps as a dawn crow in this land of autumn's new rice harvest,
I'll float upon the breast of fog one day in the shade of a jackfruit tree.
or I'll be some young girl's pet duck-ankle bells upon her reddened feet-
And I'll spend the day floating on duckweed-scented waters,
When again I come, smitten by Bengal's rivers and fields, to this
Green and kindly land, Bengal, moistened by the Jalangi river's waves….”
(Translated by the Poet)
Click here to read this posting in Bangla:
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Bangladesh is the Best: Final Update
Read the rest in Bangla:
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Addabaj on BBC's World Have Your Say
Designating recent terrorist activities in Bangladesh as a simple law and order issue is a superficial window dressing to cover up the root of this problem which won't be solved by a rally led by religious clerics in Bangladesh. At this critical time, people don't need rallies, seminars, and dialogs to make them conscious, they have already been conscious enough about terrorism as they have seen this whole country is bleeding and grieving. I'd like to reiterate that we really need to go to the very source of terrorism that carefully breeds it, protects it, and denies it. It is no surprise, when militant and religious Islamic parties have partnered with the government, it has simply produced an ideal recipe to breed militancy.
As a Bangladeshi blogger, I think I’ve tried to clarify in my short remark that Jamat's role in 1971 and the current government’s alliance with the same militant islamic party have encouraged this unprecedented militancy in Bangladesh. Mr. Shah Abdul Hannan’s support for 'Jamat as a political party mandated by people' won’t give impunity to Jamat-Shibir for its involvement in chopping wrists of students in Chittagong and Rajshahi Universities in the name of Islam. Jamat should be brought to justice for its act against humanity. How can we forget and forgive Jamat's role in the worst massacre of innocent Bangladeshis in 1971? Mr. Hannan's ambivalence how Jamatis killed innocent people in Bangladesh and pioneered militancy in this country won't change the history of Bangladesh. Don’t need to say any more, read my columns that I've been publishing on terrorism.
Click here to read in Bangla:
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Tribute to A Mentor: Personal Thoughts
I installed Bangla software in my computer, started sharing my thoughts with him that I would write about. The deal was that he would review my write ups and would direct me to the dailies in Dhaka that could probably consider my work. He was really excited as he had seen a breakthrough as he was able to convince me to write!!! I was also excited to find a Mentor who was enthusiastically standing by me to hold my hands to move me forward!!! Then, suddenly the news broke- my beloved Mentor had suddenly, silently, and sadly left me and his beloved readers. He’s gone forever. Now, it's been almost two years that he's gone, even I still wait for his call...
He left me right after I finished my first draft to e-mail him for his review. I kept reading my first draft over and over in my lonely mind. I know, no one would ever call me again to write any more. My Mentor is my unsung hero whom I've lost very prematurely. How can I pay my respect and tribute to my beloved Mentor who inspired me so greatly? May I ask my readers to join me to show respect to my Mentor? If you agree with me, could you please please please call or see your personal Mentor who helped you the most to rise? If you do that I would find peace as I couldn’t do it any more!!!
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Fighting Shadows: How to Combat Terrorism in Bangladesh
We need to inspire and revive our national spirit and pride of freedom fight to combat the overgrowing curse of terrorism in Bangladesh. The confused, dejected, dissected spirits of Bangladesh are in desperate need to wake up with only unifying spirit of 1971 that brought together the whole nation to fight the Pakistani military junta and its collaborators Rajakar Jamatis. Now the same monsters are back with new masks and new missions. They simply want to destroy our country, our pride and our distinct identity. The ruling party may have been suffering from political amnesia to remember anything from the past. Enough is enough. People are tired with their political show and tell games and band-aids. Their huge failure to combat terrorism is built-in in their politico-administrative mechanism: How can they fight their own shadow?
We’re not asking for political favor to pave road for Awami League in the next election. If Awami League can unify this nation with a nationalistic secular view point, people will definitely weigh them in into the coming election. Right now, people are helpless and speechless. They are in desperate need of their safety. At this critical time, instead of dividing thoughts, we simply need a unifying spirit. We need to reach to a national consensus for an interim government to combat terrorism independently, fearlessly and ferociously. People of Bangladesh can not afford any more demented political selfishness when the heart and soul of this nation are bleeding severely.