Echo

 

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DIVERSE LIFESTYLES

* Kama, an Indian born University student in London is also a parttime sex worker who wants to be a Devadasi in true sense. She keeps an interesting blog, where she also gives her 2 cents about anything and everything. She has been interviewed by the EGO Magazine. Human lives are so diverse.

* The Indian idol fever has spread in the Indian blogosphere too. Amit & Yazad discusses about who should win and about the wisdom of the crowds who will be voting for the candidates by millions of SMSs. Yes, you have read correctly; the voting is being done by mobile short messages. Unrestricted entries are being accepted for eight days long to choose between two finalists on the basis of TV stage singing performances. Considering the craze of the viewers, I think I would have wanted to be a mobile phone operator in India.

* Via Chan'ad in Bahrain the non-Asian readers can learn more about "the Boghole" which is also part of the lifestyle in many Asian countries.

* Can people blog to earn his/her living? Jason Kottke has quit his web-design job to spend fulltime on his blog. If you have questions then go read his post.

 

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QUOTES OF THE DAY


* Give us a religion that will help us to live -- we can die without assistance..

- Elbert Hubbard 1859-1915, American Author, Publisher

* Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.

- Thomas Paine 1737-1809, Anglo-American Political Theorist, Writer

* Don't try to tear down other people's religion about their ears, Build up your own perfect structure of truth, and invite your listeners to enter in and enjoy it's glories.

- Brigham Young 1801-1877, American Mormon Leader

* There's no reason to bring religion into it. I think we ought to have as great a regard for religion as we can, so as to keep it out of as many things as possible.

- Sean O'Casey 1884-1964, Irish Dramatist

 

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QUOTES AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE

* "Democracy has not eaten India; rather, India has eaten democracy. " -Zaid at Worldchanging.

* "Bangladesh is not another Afghanistan; however, it may become another Pakistan. " - at FOSE.

* "We are uniquely and equally liable for the consequences that the future holds, unless we take the responsibility to change the course of such consequence. Who will?" - Imtiaz.

 

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GOOD NEWS FROM BANGLADESH

Eating their own words that 'there are no Islamic extremist organization in Bangladesh' the government banned all activities of two militant organizations called Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB: Awakening Muslim) and Jamatul Mujahedin (Group of Fighters). They were accused of the recent series of bomb attacks and killings and the government also arrested Dr Muhammad Asadullah Al Galib, chief of another Islamist militant outfit Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab) and many other suspects. Howver the key leaders of the two organizations, namely the notorious Bangla Bhai is still at large. Dak Bangla has extensive coverage on this.

After all the bad news, this was a welcoming relief. I hope the BNP government realizes that had they have done this a couple of years, the law and order situation would not be that bad.

I somehow am not convinced that we will be seeing the end of these groups very soon. Because they are working on a definite blue-print and whom they are benefiting is still to be ascertained. We will be watching how Jamaat-e-Islami is shaping Bangladesh's political future. The opposition leader thinks that the govt. order to arrest Bangla Bhai is a hoax.

In a rather unconventional press-note, the Islami Shariah Council lauded the government ban of the two extremist organizations saying Islam does not permit extremism. It seems they are saying what they do not believe themselves.

Now, was the international pressure and the media coverages bowed Bangladesh government down to these decisions? FOSE (Focus on Sunni Terrorism) says its because of the New York Times coverage. Although Bangladeshi media always covered the Bangla Bhai activities, soon after the coverage the international community became aware of this.

 

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TASLIMA, WHERE DO YOU BELONG?

Taslima decides to ask for Indian citizenship. She is now holding a Swedish passport which she got while in exile after the fatwa on her. It is likely that she will not be allowed to enter Bangladesh anytime soon; but should that make her resentful for her own country? Did she consider the fact that if she is given the Indian citizenship, she will have to decline the Bangladesh nationality? I thought all her bold writings were inspired by the love for her country of Birth.

Moreover what is the reason behind asking for immigration rather than asylum? Nitin says :

If she does not intend to seek asylum then she must not be treated any differently from any other person seeking Indian citizenship or residency.

Her actions will leave many people guessing about the truthfulness in her writings, which is very controversial itself as regards to the quality and she will be continued to be termed as provocative and provider of cheap excitement.

 

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CONSPIRACY THEORY

We have been hearing about different kinds of conspiracy theories like this and the political parties are passing the pillow to one another trying to shift the blame. Meanwhile extremists like these will continue to grow like virus and one day they will one day take the host over unless they are stopped. Whose job is it anyway?

Measures like this will keep the truth outside the door for sometime. But the truth will shine one day when the dark cloud above would be blown away by peoples' consciousness.

 

Posted by Rezwan

UNDER BOMB THREAT

If you are a native resident of Dhaka and have been away for a while then you will notice the change in the security measures all through the city. Like it or not, you have to walk through the metal-detector archways and manual checking of your possessions in all the major cinema halls, 5 star hotels and in open public events like the book fair, cricket match in stadium and other festivities. I am wondering what next; shopping malls, schools & colleges perhaps.

I will try not to be sarcastic about the security measures as these reduce the general citizens' tension to some degree. But I am surprised that we are slowly accepting this culture instead of pushing the authorities to find out the real culprits of the recent bombings and discover why they are doing these. Somehow I get the same feeling of fear the US citizens had after the 9/11 as something evil is up against them and how the urge for better security changed their lives and behaviors.

I do not want archways to protect me. I want to go to the ekushey book fair without having a fear that there is a bomb lurking somewhere to hit me. I do not want to build a cage around me like the behula-Lakhindar story because even a strong cage could not prevent Lakhinder from dying.

 

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NEW BANGLADESHI WEBLOG SHOWCASE

"Inspirations & Creative Thoughts" - a blog by Sadiq M. Alam, who is currently residing in Singapore.
The tagline says: Reflection on Life ... Spirituality ... and an effort to "Know Thy Self"

Yes the site has lots of posts featuring spiritual figures like Lalan Shah & Bhagwan Rajneesh. I liked specially the posts of Baul Mysticism featuring Lalan's works.

 

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LOVE UNDER SIEGE

Happy Valentines day to all. Although Valentine's day is being widely celebrated in Bangladesh since 1994, love is part of Bengali culture from the beginning. Lots of old Bengali literatures were inspired by this notion, which is one of the main driving factor of our lives. Love crosses all barriers like religion, race and country. Apart from the love birds, parents show their love to children and vice versa, friends exchanges gifts on this day. It is becoming a widely enjoyable and healthy celebration in Bangladesh. You can find many valentine gift e-commerce sites (just google) offering services in Bangladesh. Last night, while purchasing gifts for my wife and sister from a hallmark outlet, I saw plenty of young people lining up to buy cards and gifts for their siblings, parents, teachers and of course their loved ones.

But it seems that many of the older generations try to give no importance to this event. Some extremist quarters might as well see evil in this. However Bangladesh seldom faced problem in celebrating Valentine's Day like Saudi Arabia, where the religious authorities have issued a fatwa:

"A Muslim is prohibited from celebrating, approving or congratulating on this occasion"

This year, young people were awestruck by another fatwa, by the supposed to be the progressive political parties lead by Awami League. They have declared a 36 hour long hartal (strike) across the country. The ruling qualition decided to challenge the opposition protest by their own rallies across the country. More than 10,000 troops are on the streets to tackle the face off. This means schools, shops and restaurants remain closed today. Lovebirds have no option other than to be confined in the home and try to communicate via phone where available.

Nashat observes:

All the couples of the city is now acting like a bomb ready to Xplode. At least 15-20 of my friends has already declared that they'll never cast their vote for the Awami League(leader of the opposition parties)...now that tells how nastily politics can affect the lovers...Sad...really sad

I think Awami League should transfer their leadership to more younger persons until it is too late for them.

 

Posted by Rezwan

THREATS AGAINST FREEDOM OF OPINIONS

Case #1: In Nepal, the King has dissolved the government and taken full control. It is in a state of emergency where a censorship on internet, print and broadcasting media is in force. In a group blog of Nepali journalists "United we blog", blogger Dinesh writes:

"Because of my basic human rights, like right to express, speak and writing, are suspended and I am in no position to express my feeling or opinion regarding the royal takeover. ... For the first time in my life, I knew the importance of this site, a place to express myself, ourselves... A great forum to share ideas."

Another blogger writes:

"Dear friends world over, Nepal is closed for the time being. So we won’t be able to put our views here. But you are free to put your views. Please continue to use this blogging site."

Case #2: Dristipat(Voice for human rights in Bangladesh) is a non-profit, non-political website maintained by some expatriate Bangladeshis in the US. Its one petition for protesting the killing of the ex-finance minister S.A.M.S. Kibria was surprisingly interpreted by the law minister as a malicious propaganda against the state and he has threatened to take action against them enacting a cyber-law. Drishtipat protested rightly:

"These allegations against Drishtipat are inappropriate and an unfortunate diversion from the task at hand."

A post in Drishtipat asks the law minister:

Like you we agree that we should not resort to hartal or violent means to protest but if we cannot even write a letter to our own mission as well, then how are we going to protest?

I think what the law minister wants that we should see no evil, hear no evil and write no evil which might expose the failure of his party. That is autocracy.

Long live the internet. Because of it any injustice, breach of human right can be protested from anywhere in the world. In addition, one government can restrict viewing or publishing opinion in its geological boundary by enacting law, but it cannot hide the truth as internet reigns beyond borders and no law is ever going to stop it.

 

Posted by Rezwan

CORRUPTION OUT OF NECESSITY

The new pay commission report has been submitted to the prime minister for consideration. The highest salary in government service has been proposed at Tk 27,500 and the lowest at Tk 2,800 per month, which is a significant increase from the current rate (lowest Tk. 1500 and highest 15,000) revised in 1996. The pay commission sources claimed that it is commensurate with the government’s projected increase in revenue earning. But I doubt whether government will be able to give nod to the recommendation because of its revnue crunch.

That is a bad news. Because to tell frankly, private sector pays its employees a couple of times what a government employee comparatively earns. This is a big anomaly. During the sixties and seventies government jobs were deemed a prestigious one, which comprised of a good pay in comparison with the private sector and perks like free accommodations, subsidized rations. But as the inflation continued to pile on, government salaries revised did not match those. Comparatively a government employee of India & Sri Lanka gets much more than a Bangladeshi. The government servants gets subsidized accommodations built in the 60s and 70s, many of which are not in good shape and not of standard.

Now the question, why there is this overwhelming corruption in every government sector. Its simply a necessity and because of a will to survive. In a village, where the living is simpler, a family can survive well with Tk. 2400 ($40) a month. But in cosmopolitans like Dhaka you will need at least double of that for a family. The govt. minimum pay is Tk. 1500 ($25). How can a person can maintain his family on that earning? The police are deeply corrupted. But how much do the police earn? Tk 2000-5000 officially. A government top executive gets a maximum Tk. 15000 ($250) salary with other allowances. Whereas if he finds job in a private sector he could earn much more than Tk. 60,000 ($1000) per month. Here is the catch: if a person is corrupt he can earn a fortune from bribes, which in private sectors you can never get. You see that corruption is a cyclic process. People starts from small things, out of necessity, to maintain his living standard. And when you lose your morale and ethics, you get more heartless and greedy and corruption spreads. For this reason I never opted for a govt job. Because I know I would have faced a situation where I have no option to get corrupted. Not only people like me, now a days most brilliant and competent students are reluctant to even dream for a government job. And those people are the most unfortunate, who are in government jobs and are not corrupt, because they are having the hard time to survive. Some people also lower their productivity and try to have a supplemental job to sustain. No wonder this is why Bangladesh has become the number one corrupt country.

The ways to put a plug into the trend of corruption in Bangladesh government sector:

* To match the salaries of the government employee with the market
* To computerize much of the administrative and archiving works to reduce unnecessary manpower
* To have a competency assessment of the existing government employees and match their salary accordingly
* Pay increase should reflect performance, rather than seniority
* People should be made aware that giving bribe is also a crime and is punishable

 

Posted by Rezwan

INFLATION, BEGGARS & CLASS STRUGGLE

The rate of inflation in Bangladesh has galloped forward from under 2 in 2001 to above 6 in the recent year.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The effect of this is evident in the growing number of beggars, who are migrating from village to urban areas. In Bangladeshi culture, there is a tradition of giving alms to the beggars by the well-offs. Many poor people (slackers I guess) tend to capitalize on this by taking begging as a profession. Almost 3% of the workforce are engaged in this profession officially. But many farmers become beggars in their lean cultivation period as there are not enough manufacturing industries to engage them. It is a dishonorable profession which breaks one's morale and self respect. Some of the NGOs have tried to do something for the beggers with programs like these. However, these are no solution to the growing number of beggers in the country where only creation of mass jobs through industrialization can change things.

Almost 40% of the population of Bangladesh live below poverty line. The power struggle of the major political parties has hindered the industrialization of the country for many years by detering foreign investment. The party activities mostly represent the remaining 60% lead by the rich businessmen leaders (representing the rich 10%). The usual good citizen remain complacent, happy in the knowledge that these events are well-circumscribed within the democratic world, where class struggle is absent. Because in the event of general strikes (hartal), the lower middle class and above do not lose much, but the poor day laborers do not get his daily earning and may starve for a period. Now where is the mutiny, where is the revolution against all these repression? The politicians (ruling or opposition) turn social crisis in their favor by following the directions of any movement. The real issues get shadowed by new confrontations; ruling party against opposition, left against right, extremist vs. secularist. Everybody is admonishing the other and nobody tries to think together in national issues.

Where will it end? Will we see a revolution when these have-nots will rise and ask for their fair share of our little prosperities? Will we see them rise and ask the leaders for accountability of their actions and corruptions? You can fool some people some time but you cannot deceive many people for a long time. And will the so called good citizen again turn over and go back to sleep? Only time will tell.

 

Posted by Rezwan

DHAKA'S NEW LOOK UNDER QUESTION

Last Thursday night I was surprised as-well-as amazed to see the extensive lighting in the city streets. Really Dhaka was looking lovely all the way from Farmgate to Old Airport. The road-dividers, krebs and alleys enroute to the Zia Int'l Airport also had massive facelift and lightings. These were meant for the SAARC Summit and the delegates. Everybody was looking at these beauties in broken heart as they new that the lightings would be put off the next morning as the SAARC was postponed. If I had not seen the lightings I certainly would have missed a lot.


(Picture courtesy the Daily Star)

Targeting the summit, the City Corporation beautification cell took a step last June using both the private sector and government agency resources to revamp the city. 81 private sector companies contributed but they did not forget to advertise their logo.

The drawback of this beautification project is that it had mostly visuals in mind ignoring the comfort of the pedestrians. More criticism here.

I am wondering whether these would be maintained properly to benefit the people of Dhaka for a longer period of time or whether these would wear out in the shortest possible time without proper maintenance. Butification is always welcome but without proper planning and usefulness this may turn out to be a great loss of government money.

 

Posted by Rezwan

PEOPLE UNITE APOLITICALLY

"Ami BNP ba AL er dalal na, Ami Bangladesh'er dalal". (I'm not a stooge for either BNP or AL, I'm a stooge for Bangladesh)." -Maqsud (a famous pop singer)

The people of Bangladesh have been disgusted with the rotten politics of the country. Hundreds of people lined up on the streets in the capital last Thursday afternoon staging a peaceful protest in response to a call of Ms. Asma Kibria, wife of the assassinated Mr. S.A.M.S. Kibria. People participated spontaneously carrying black flags and standing hand-in-hand for 30 minutes to show the Kibria family that they were not alone.

Inspired the response, the family members announced to launch a non-political platform demanding justice into the killing of Kibria. Awami League, whom Kibria served as a think tank and a high command leader is conspicuously absent from these endeavors.

Meanwhile, Awami League and the allies kept crippling the country with more strikes on Kibria issue upto today. The prices of essentials have risen and now export is threatened. Meanwhile the ruling government is in the hardline in battering the opposition activities as always. They have denied the right of peaceful protests and procession by using police brutality.

The general people are held hostage to these parties hunger for power. I am not sure how Awami League expects to win votes by putting people in misery. Time has come for the people to join hand-in-hand to protest these.

Imtiaz's anguished petition to both AL & BNP:

"Maf koren apnara, onek hoise r parchi na amra (Please excuse us. We can't stand it anymore)."

 

Posted by Rezwan

NEW INDO-BANGLA BORDER TENSIONS

According to this news, one person was killed by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and a boy abducted amidst the tensed situation arising out of the BSF effort of constructing barbed-wire fence within 30 yards of the border along the three border villages in Comilla. The International law forbids construction within 150 yards of the zero line.

"Para-military Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) have been asked to remain alert about the sudden move by the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) to construct the fence" - the report says. However it is not a sudden move by BSF. According to the Telegraph, Delhi has given the nod to agencies like the Border Security Force to erect the fence within 150 yards of the zero line at places where human habitation does not permit leaving the space. The diplomatic initiative on this issue is still inconclusive.

"India has already fenced 1,670 km and has set an ambitious target to complete fencing 3,286 km of the 4,086 km-long border by March 2006. The remaining 800 km cannot be fenced as the terrain is either riverine or has thick vegetation." says the Telegraph.

Surely more border clashes are bound to happen in the controversial border areas when India pushes on the no-mans land.

Meanwhile Odhikar, a human right body, has said that some 357 Bangladeshi citizens were killed in the hands of BSF and other Indians in the last five years. Besides, some 1,774 Bangladeshi citizens became the victims of human rights violations by the same quarters.

The controversial border issues should be settled through diplomatic channel and not by force. The last thing the Bangladeshis need is another tension with its neighbor, India and many Bangladeshis killed or violated in this process.

 

Posted by Rezwan

INDIA POSTPONES SAARC

Bangladesh has all the reasons to be angry as India refused to attend the seven country regional summit SAARC scheduled on 6th and 7th on the ground of recent developments in Nepal and citing deteriorating security situation in Dhaka. I personally do not buy these excuses.

Because I know how well Bangladesh had completed all the preparations for the summit. The pre-summit process had already started with full participation of all seven member states. When my wife joined office after the maternity leave she was assigned to SAARC duty and she had to work day and night participating in all the security drills, rehearsals, working out schedules for the delegates etc. She was annoyed with the facts that she could give the child less time. I even had a couple days leave to baby-sit. She was hoping that SAARC summit would end successfully. But now she is frustrated as all the hard works will have to be repeated. Many government offices had been working for months for the cause. One of her colleagues had an heart attack and died in office presumably for the extra work load.

Now the question remains was there a security concern for the delegates? In fact the opposition strike (called on 3rd, 5th & 6th) would have eased the movements of the delegates because of the minimal traffic. As per Bangladesh government spokesman:

"comprehensive and blanket security arrangements were made at an unprecedented level. All Indian security concerns were fully considered and accommodated. It is ironic that India undertook to announce the decision when an Indian security assessment team was still present in Dhaka and consulting with our security agencies."

About the Nepal issue the spokesman said: "It is a shared belief that SAARC should not be held hostage to bilateral considerations."

The SAARC charter says that the summit can only be held in the presence of all the leaders of the seven member states.

India has "deeply regretted" the inconvenience caused to the other member states for this decision. But how can they mend all the waste of money used for the preparation? Did they even consider these? Two 5 star hotels were completely booked for the participants. Now the government will have to pay the demurrage in millions of Taka. All the man hours of the preparatory committee would have to be repeated when SAARC starts in a new schedule. Have you seen pictures of Dhaka lately? Dhaka has a new look for SAARC. All the roads are mended and roadsides beautified. I am talking about expenditures of billions of Taka for this poor country. And as a tax payer of this country I see wastage of my money as these would have to be repeated again.

Bangladesh has done all of these to get a regret statement from India. Deeply shocking.

Update: Nitin also thinks that it is a bad idea for India. He says:

Dr. Manmohan Singh lost an excellent opportunity to demonstrate India’s regional leadership. Manmohan Singh should have used the SAARC platform to state the obvious —unless South Asian countries pay attention to their internal stability and national reconciliation, progress and development will remain a chimeric dream.

Related: SAARC Summit postponement costs the nation Tk. 120 million (US$ 2 million).