As I sing of equality; in my view there must not be any difference between men and women. Half of all great good deeds beneficial to humanity have been achieved by both —- men and women.
The “jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”, the Taj Mahal (‘crown of palaces,’) was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Behind the marble veneer of the Taj Mahal is the royal consort Momtaj Mahal.
The above lines have been liberally translated from a famous, well loved Bengali poem of our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam whose revolutionary spirit thrilled and enthused the subjugated people of the Subcontinent to vehemently protest against injustice and oppression perpetrated by the British colonialists and resolutely fight against them until the alien enemy’s total defeat. The Rebel Poet’s message is relevant to the very significant contribution of the women in Bangladesh’s economy where gender parity is still a far cry.
Given the backdrop of the ruling party’s subterfuge to pull the wool over the body politic’s eyes through interminable caroling and swaggering braggadocio that its government is in cosy comfort, even as the 300-member Parliament boasts 153 absolutely ‘unelected lawmakers’, while the essentially pro-regime Opposition party—-led by former military dictator Gen. (retd) H M Ershad who was ousted through a mass upsurge in 1990—-is in blissful double happiness since it has several ministers in Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet.
With such a ludicrously absurd, quixotic and unheard-of state of affairs under the present regime—-which has showed its fascist fangs of tyranny by ruthless steamrollering the main de facto opposition BNP [headed by a woman who was elected and became Prime Minister thrice] enjoying overwhelming popularity—-the country is in a veritable flux.
The value of unpaid household work of Bangladeshi women is equivalent to as much as 87.2 per cent of last fiscal year’s GDP, says a study conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). The government should focus on changing the estimation practice of System of National Accounting so that women’s unaccounted activities are reflected in the GDP, suggests the study titled Estimating Women’s Contribution to the Economy: the Case of Bangladesh. Based on the replacement cost method, the estimated value of women’s unpaid work is equivalent to 76.8 per cent (Tk 594,845 crore in constant prices) of the GDP in FY 2013-14. Based on the willingness to accept method, the corresponding estimate was equivalent to 87.2 per cent (Tk 675,398 crore in constant prices) of the GDP in FY 2013-14. Based on the willingness to accept method, the corresponding estimate was equivalent to 87.2 per cent (Tk 675,398 crore in constant prices) of the GDP in FY 2013-14.
About 51.7 per cent of women who are involved in paid work have the freedom to spend their earned income. Nearly 41 per cent need to discuss this with their family member while 7.2 per cent need to seek permission. These phenomena are more common in rural areas. Among the women who are involved only in household works, one-fourth wish to be involved in paid works. The willingness is higher in rural areas (28.9 per cent) than in urban areas (19.8 per cent).
We may go back to the scenario—-an anticlimax of sorts—-prior to the farcical ‘election’. Here is a strange case of incredible voluntary ‘self-detention’ as described by two Awami League ministers. An eight-member delegation of the BNP Parliamentary Party led by Opposition Chief Whip on 1 January sought Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury’s intervention in resolving the ongoing political crisis centring the virtual “confinement” of party Chairperson Khaleda Zia at her residence. During the 10-minute meeting, the Speaker assured the opposition delegation of taking steps in this regard. Law enforcers for the fifth consecutive day did not allow any opposition men to meet Khaleda Zia at her Gulshan residence, and additional numbers of policemen were deployed around her residence, while four sand-laden trucks were still in place.
As criticism poured in over placing the BNP chairperson under virtual house arrest, the environment and the information ministers insisted that the opposition leader was not under such conditions. Ruling out BNP leaders’ claim that Khaleda had been put under house arrest, the environment minister said while talking to reporters, “Khaleda Zia has kept herself confined in her house.” As of now, the BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alone—-the second important key figure in the party hierarchy—-faces as many as 47 court cases sued by the Hasina government so as to cripple or eliminate the main opposition. Any programme of rally or of forming human chain is drastically thwarted by police and other law enforcing agency personnel who swoop upon the activists and supporters. What a skulduggery!
The Gender Development Indicators in Bangladesh in recent years have shown encouraging upward trends in development. Bangladesh ranks 112th out of a total of 175 countries worldwide according to the UN Gender Development Index (UNDP, 2003).Women’s development in Bangladesh is an evolution from ‘charity’ to ‘rights’ and it has grown to become an intrinsic part of the national development policy, donor policies and all national strategy documents and frameworks. [warpo. gov.bd/ rep/wp027/gender.pdf]. However, much remains to be done by the government which should shun the warped reprehensive path of repression and vengeance.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a red carpet treatment on 30th September when he met with President Obama at the White House. Both have strategic interests for each other’s cooperation.
India realises that without American cooperation and technology, it cannot economically progress and become an economic power in Asia. Nuclear energy is essential for India and the nuclear deal exactly provides it.
On security side, India reckons that it is America that can exert pressure on Pakistan, which is likely to destabilise the country’s stability from within and outside. Terrorism highlights a convergence of interests in confronting the same menace.
The meeting between, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister was necessary for the following reasons, according to many analysts.
Firstly it was to be a ‘rite of passage’ to mark his transition from the status in which he was, denied a US visa in 2005, to honoured state guest at the White House. Secondly, he came to reassure a disillusioned and sceptical US business community that he would make it easy, safe and lucrative for them to invest in India which the country badly needs for economic revival.
Finally, as it became painfully obvious during Xi Jinping’s recent visit to India, India needs a diplomatic act to provide some leverage with Beijing. It is fortuitous that the US too happens to have a somewhat similar requirement at this juncture.
The advent of a new government in India is perceived as a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen bilateral relationship which for many reasons ran aground. The op-ed in the Washington Post written by both leaders sumps up: “With a reinvigorated level of ambition and greater confidence, we can go beyond modest and conventional goals.” That means that the two countries have to work harder to achieve their common goals.
Was the meeting successful?
Economic is a high priority for Modi as he won election in May by promising to free business from constraints, restore growth in India’s economy and create jobs for millions of young people. India-America trade grew to $97 billion and the goal is to expand that fivefold.
The meeting produced some agreements on renewal of defence cooperation, a promise to cooperate on maritime security including in South China Sea and several clean energy initiatives. The leaders pledged support for Afghanistan, and efforts against the menacing threat of ISIS and Pakistan Taliban. But India has not joined the coalition with the US to fight against the ISIS.
Most importantly, the meeting failed to break an impasse on many important issues, such as taxes and trade. Chief among the issues is India’s refusal to endorse a new WTO pact if it does not address New Delhi’s protectionist concerns about food security.
India wanted more progress on a pact giving it more freedom to subsidize and stockpile grain. India’s new national government wants a permanent agreement on stockpiling for food security for indefinite period which WTO members refused.
Most members of WTO had expected the pact, which according to some estimates would add $1 trillion and 21 million jobs to the world economy, to be approved and many were shocked when India unveiled its veto.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited New Delhi in recent times, told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India’s refusal to sign the trade deal sent the wrong signal. Failure to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement sent a confusing signal and undermined the very image Prime Minister Modi is trying to send about India.
The Modi government, meanwhile, is also looking at delicencing and deregulating sectors while focusing on a €œquick response mechanism€? to address concerns of foreign investors. Modi said the government has also liberalised FDI regime in the defence, railways and construction sectors to give a push to the manufacturing sector.
US Chamber of Commerce expresses concerns
However Bloomberg writes that in retrospect, expectations that India’s prime minister would revolutionize a troubled economy overnight were wildly overblown.
But even some Modi skeptics may be wondering whether Modi could be a modernizer because since taking office, Modi has refrained from letting foreigners hold majority stakes in key domestic sectors. He remains vague about the broader structural reforms investors hoped he would inaugurate.
Modi was outmaneuvered by opposition lawmakers on opening India’s insurance industry a bit wider to global investors. He announced a bold scheme to turn India into a manufacturing superpower without providing any details—better infrastructure, less red tape, increased training—of how he might pull off such a feat.
India had fallen to a lowly 134th rank out of 189 countries this year (three down from 2013) in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.
The key reform measures needed, including a Goods and Services Tax (to reduce cascading of taxes in business to business and comprehensive labour reforms, are yet to be implemented. Currently, it takes 12 procedures and 27 days to start business, 35 procedures and 168 days to get construction permits and 1420 days to enforce contracts in India. The aim is to take the share of manufacturing in the country’s GDP from a stagnant 15-16% currently to 25% by 2022 as stated in the National Manufacturing Policy as well as to create 100 million new jobs by 2022.
The US Chamber of Commerce along with 15 other business and corporate associations have written to President Obama urging him to seek more clarity on policy reforms from Prime Minister Modi. The letter said: “The previous Indian government pursued a variety of policies that prevented U.S. companies from contributing fully to India’s economic growth and development – including raising tariffs; imposing discriminatory local content requirements; pursuing unworkable domestic regulations at odds with international standards; denying patents, revoking patents, and issuing and threatening compulsory licenses for patents; and failing to combat piracy of music, films, and software. These issues are systemic, going far beyond any one industry sector”.
India has few cards to play
Special mention of stringent intellectual property laws which is crucial for defence production and other areas, along with India’s signing of Trade Facilitation Agreement would be key for US participation in India’s growth story. The Trade Facilitation Agreement oblige Members to undertake certain actions to facilitate easy trade and business.
Even the US Congress has sought a report from its International Trade Commission on the findings of the industrial policies of India under the new Government so that American corporate groups’ interests are addressed while doing business in India. They expect the commission to submit the report by September 2015.
On broader issues affecting the global and regional security, the nuclear weapons race between India and Pakistan or the dispute between China and India over their border, serious questions remain between the two countries which were not raised.
As India ponders over the form and content of cooperation with the US, China is watching closely. Equally obvious is the fact that India currently has few cards to play – economic, diplomatic or military vis-a-vis an increasingly ppowerful China.
The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
Supply of various kinds of modern firearms, especially pistol and revolver, and drugs through bordering districts has become rampant. Firearms are being smuggled into the country as professional criminals like to use mainly because of cheaper price of those fire arms. Different types of pistols and revolvers are sold in under world market of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country at Tk. 50,000 each while it is sold in border areas in between Tk. 30 thousand to Tk. 35 thousand only. The detective police arrested arms traders Md. Moniruzzaman alias Simul, Md. Kamal Hossain and Md. Ruhul Amin and recovered 5 foreign pistols, 8 magazines and 24 rounds of bullets in a private car from their possession from Kalyanpur area in Dhaka city. Simul confessed that he was involved in arms trade and brought illicit firearms and bullets from Chapainawabganj border area. Recently a BCL (Bangladesh Chhatra League) cadre was caught red handed at Central Saheed Minar by the detective while he was purchasing firearms. This was reported in a Bangla daily on October 21, 2014. (see the Naya Diganta).
Over 9 thousand bullets
The Rapid Acton Battalion (RAB) recovered two plastic drums loaded with 9 thousand 454 rounds of bullets, 80 magazines, 5 walkie-talkie sets, one radio set, 11 ammunition boxes and 425 aircraft destructing bullets lying in the cave of a hillock in Satchari forest in Chunarughat upazila in Habiganj district. The RAB also recovered three machine guns, 4 mm barrels, 8 machine gun chain magazines and high-powered VHF radio set from the same area in two days’ raid. This was the 4th raid of its kind.(ibid, dated October 18, 2014)
Earlier, three detections of the arms and ammunitions took place on 3 June, 2 and 17 September respectively in this year at the same place. In the first detection the RAB found eight bunkers and recovered one machine gun and rocket launchers, five machine gun barrels, .22 bullets, 248 rocket chargers and 12 thousand 987 rounds of bullets.
9 SMGs, 6 SLRs, 2 LMGs, 2400 bullets
In the second detection the RAB recovered 9 SMGs, one SMC, one 7.62 mm auto rifle, 6 SLRs, 2 LMGs, one sniper telescope and two thousand 400 rounds of bullets and ammunitions. In the third raid the RAB recovered 14 bags arms and ammunitions and 112 tank destruction rockets and 48 rocket chargers. (ibid, dated September 18, 2014)
These arms and ammunitions are not at all used by ordinary thugs or robber groups. It was not mentioned in the news report who had left these arms and what are the objectives of the users? How could it be possible to bring arms and ammunitions four times within four months in the same place in the dense forest of Satchari?
West Bengal-based militants
According to a news report, the DB police quoting Indian sources said that the West Bengal-based militants are taking shelter in Rajshahi and other areas adjacent to the Indo-Bangla border to operate their acts of terrorism. Indian law enforcers recently arrested six Jamaatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) operatives for their alleged involvement in Burdwan blast and Al-Qaeda links. The report also said that Rajshahi and Satkhira railway routes were being used as their main transit points as Indian militants targeted the Bangladesh border to pass their lethal weapons and explosives safely. (see The Daily Observer, dated October 16, 2014)
The same paper on the same day also reported that the police arrested a woman allegedly having link to a robber gang along with two long guns, 20 rounds of bullets and a revolver from Kadurkhil area of Boalkhali upazila in Chittagong. The barrestee was identified as Ferdous Ara, 30.
Another news report said, the RAB arrested a police officer of the Special Branch with his two accomplices possessing one 9mm pistol and 3 rounds of bullets from an under construction building at the Uttara Sector No. 6 in the city. The arrestees were allegedly involved in illegal arms trading. (see The Independent, dated September 11, 2014) The police officers are also doing arms trading nowadays.
Yaba tablets, heroin, phensidyl
A news report said, despite continuous drives by different law-enforcing agencies, a large quantity of illegal drugs are entering into the country through porous Bangladesh-India border. Drugs worth more than Tk. 4.8 crore were destroyed by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) in Phulbari, Dinajpur recently. The drugs included phensidyl, lificop syrup, wine, yaba tablets, heroin ,ganja , drug ampules etc. seized by them during December 2013 to July 2014. The report further said a large number of illegal factories in Indian territory along the border produce phensidyl everyday and supply it to Bangladesh. Bangladesh authorities had handed over the list of phensidyl factories several times when they met in the past. Though Indian authorities assured every time of looking into the matter yet phensidyl production is going on unabated. (see The Independent, dated August 31, 2014)
Another news report said that Awami League (AL) lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi of Cox’s Bazar – 4 constituency, who is now facing corruption case filed by the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) on charge of amassing illegal and abnormal wealth, is the king of yaba traders. He controls yaba trading in Myanmar –Teknaf border. The income of Bodi has risen by 351 per cent and neat property by 19 per cent during the last five years. Bodi sought nomination from the BNP in 1996 election. But the BNP high command did not give him nomination because of his involvement in various crimes. He then got nomination from the Awami League (AL) and became MP (Member of Parliament). (see Ajker Surjodoy, 21 -27 October 2014 issue).
It appears from the news report that political leaders and activists mainly from the ruling party AL are involved in drugs and arms trading, and they remain out of touch of law enforcing agencies.
As peace loving citizens we expect the government will do its best to stop smuggling of fire arms and drugs in the country. The government must launch a combing operation to recover illegal arms and drugs as well as arrest of criminals in order to ensure peace and secure life of the people.