Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

September 16, 2013

Local Police in Bangladesh Capital Dhaka Sign Up for Facebook

A police department plagued by complaints in a suburb of Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka has joined Facebook for the first time in an effort to improve its relationship with the community.

A Facebook page titled Assistant Commissioner of Police Patrol Uttara has recently caught attention in Bangladesh. It provides information and guidance on many police services, especially for the Uttara suburb residents of the Bangladesh capital. It may be mentioned that there are a lot of complaints against Bangladesh police.

A recent report says that in last year alone complaints against 13,745 police officers across Bangladesh were lodged. The office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police Patrol Uttara page is an experimental page. It invites around 350,000 Uttara residents to share police-related issues.

This is not the police's first foray into new technology. They had started e-general diary (webbased station diary for recording complaints) system and SMS-based complaint system which were not successful.

Bangladesh Police force. Image by A. M. Ahad. Copyright Demotix. (13/6/2011)
Bangladesh Police force. Image by A. M. Ahad. Copyright Demotix. (13/6/2011)
For example, the Police elaborated on the page what they are doing about the ongoing problem of traffic jams in the area:
উত্তরাবাসীদের যানজট থেকে কিছুটা হলেও মুক্তি দিতে আজ থেকে আমরা এয়ারপোর্ট গোল চত্বরের দুপাশে অতিরিক্ত পুলিশ ফোর্স মোতায়েন করেছি।যেসব পথচারীরা ফুটওভার ব্রিজ ব্যবহার না করে রাস্তা দিয়ে পার হোন তাঁদেরকে ফুটওভার ব্রিজ ব্যবহারে অভ্যস্ত করতে এ ব্যবস্থা।আমি নিজে আজ সকাল ১০ টা থেকে ১২ টা পর্যন্ত রাস্তায় দাঁড়িয়ে ডিউটি করেছি।পুরো সময়টুকু সম্ভব না হলেও অন্ততঃ "রাশ আওয়ার"(Rush Hour) সময়টুকুতে উত্তরার পুলিশ তাদের যথাসাধ্য চেষ্টা করবে পথচারীদের ফুটওভার ব্রিজ ব্যবহারে অনুপ্রাণিত করতে।দুঃখজনক হলেও সত্য, কাজটি খুব কঠিন এবং পথচারীরা প্রায় কেউই এটি মানতে চান না।তবে আমরা ঠিক করেছি আগামী বেশ কিছুদিন আমরা এই ডিউটি অব্যহত রাখব যাতে পথচারীরা এতে অভ্যস্ত হয়ে পড়েন।
We have deployed additional police force near Airport Square today to relieve Uttara residents from the traffic congestion. We were there to encourage pedestrians to use the footbridge instead of crossing the street. From 10am-12pm I personally was on duty there. If not the whole day, the police will remain there helping and encouraging pedestrians to use the footbridge during rush hours. Sorry to say the job is tedious as many pedestrians refuse to comply. We have decided to maintain this campaign for a few more days so that people are used to the rules.
Police cleared illegal parking in front of Scholastica School in Uttara
Police cleared illegal parking in front of Scholastica School in Uttara
In a recent post the office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Uttara wrote how they cleared illegally parked car in front of Scholastica School and reduced traffic jam. The police has this advice for citizens:
জোরপূর্বক কাউকে আইন মানানো সম্ভব নয় এটা আমি আপনি সবাই জানি। আপনাদের প্রতি অনুরোধ, আপনারা মেইন রোডে কোনও অবস্থাতেই গাড়ি রেখে যানজট সৃষ্টি করবেন না।
We cannot make everybody abide rule by force, we all know that. I urge to you all, please do not park your cars in main road and contribute to traffic jam.
Blogger Onu Tareq called on Bangladeshis to take advantage of the page and highlight the local issues:
এই পেজে দলে দলে যোগ দিন। আপনার এলাকার সমস্যার কথা পুলিশকে জানান, পুলিশ জনগণের সেবক, রক্ষক। সঠিক জায়গায় অভিযোগ করুন- এই উদ্যোগের মাধ্যমে ধীরে ধীরে বাংলাদেশের সমস্ত পুলিশ থানা ফেসবুক ব্যবহারকারীদের আওতার মধ্যে আনার চেষ্টা করা হচ্ছে, আপনিও সাথে থাকুন...
Please join this page in numbers. Discuss the problems in your locality. Police are the saviour of the citizens, they serve them. Kindly complain to an effective outlet. I hope every other police station in Bangladesh will join Facebook soon. Please stay with them..
Blogger Asad Mohammad Asaduzzaman said he has travelled widely and never had seen such an effort from police anywhere. He wrote:
kindly accept my sincere appreciation. it's indeed an exceptional but very effective way to ensure civic security through social media. I've been to many countries across Asia, Europe and Africa but have never heard about such innovative idea. my personal feeling is that if the mass have accessibility to the law enforcing agencies by any means, it just boost up their level of courage. please keep your motivation up and I hope people will be beside in spirit. good luck!
Junaed Hossain praised the initiative:
‘পুলিশ ফোর্স’ নয় আমরা ‘পুলিশ সার্ভিস’ চাই। আমাদের নিরাপত্তা প্রদান করা সংস্থার সাথে আমরা বন্ধুত্ব মানের সম্পর্ক রাখতে চাই।
We don't only want a 'police force' but also 'police service'. We want to keep friendly relations with our security force.
Faisal Ibne Jamal hoped that the page will augment the understanding of "community policing" and implementation of related theories:
এটি খুবই ভালো একটি উদ্যোগ। আশা করি শুধু মাত্র তথ্য আদান প্রদান কিংবা মতামত-ভিন্নমতেই এটি সীমাবদ্ধ থাকবে না। কমিউনিটি পুলিশিং এর ধারনা ও তার বাস্তবায়নে কীভাবে সবাইকে কাজ করতে হয় এ ব্যাপারগুলো ও উঠে আসবে এই পেজে। ঔপনিবেশিক আমলের পুলিশি বাস্তবতা এবং এ সময়ের পুলিশি বাস্তবতা যে ভিন্নতর তার ধারনা পুলিশ বিভাগেও যেমন গড়ে ওঠেনি তেমনিভাবে জনগণের ও কোন ধারনা নেই সে সম্বন্ধে। আমাদের সৎ পুলিশ কর্মকর্তা বা সদস্যের অভাব নেই মোটেই। কিন্তু আমাদের সমস্যাগুলি অন্য জায়গায়। ভালো সেবা পেতে গেলে যিনি দেবেন আর যিনি নেবেন তাদের সম্পর্কটা সহজ হতে হয়। বন্ধুত্বটা শুধু মুখে মুখে বললেই হবে না গভীরতম বিশ্বাসেও ধারন করতে হবে।
This is an exemplary effort. I hope it won't be confined to only the exchange of information or arguments and counterarguments. This page will highlight the concepts of "community policing" and how it is implemented with everyone's participation. The realities of the British era and the realities of today are completely different, this needs to be recognized by the police and people should realize it. We have also honest and willing police members. But our problems lie elsewhere. The relationship between service provider and receiver should be easy. The talk about friendship should also materialize with trust.
Originally written in Bangla by Pantha, translated by me. Published in Global Voices.

September 10, 2013

Indian Border Guard Acquitted in Brutal Shooting of Bangladeshi Girl

A special court in India's state of West Bengal has found an Indian border guard not guilty in the shooting death of a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl on the India-Bangladesh border, touching off a wave of anger in Bangladesh. The court acquitted Border Security Force constable Amiya Ghosh of murder charges on September 6, 2013.

Ghosh was accused of shooting Bangladeshi Felani Khatun on January 7, 2011 as she tried to cross the barbed-wire fencing at the Anantapur border point in Kurigram’s Phulbarhi Upazila on her way back to Bangladesh with her father. Fatally wounded, Khatun was left hanging in the barbed wire, screaming, for four hours until she died. Nobody helped her.

Photographs of her dead body tangled in the wire were widely published at the time. Ghosh's acquittal on September 6 only aggravated the already strained relations between India and Bangladesh.
Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission at Gulshan in Dhaka, protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India.  Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)
Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission at Gulshan in Dhaka, protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)
The court's decision triggered much uproar in Bangladesh, especially on social media. Asfaque Nipun called the special court a farce on Facebook:
So the verdict came; "No One Killed Felani!" What a joke!
Farjana Jannat (@farjana_neela) wrote on Twitter that this verdict was the death of justice:
Twitter user Subal Sarkar ( @burningNlearnin) believed that the verdict will escalate extrajudicial killings on the border by the Border Security Force:
RT@bewahid: The Felani killing verdict gives us the message that these kind of brutal assassinations will continue.
Bangladesh has a 3,715 km long land border with India along its three sides. Each year, many face bullets from the Indian border guards, some unlucky for traveling close to the border. According to a BBC report [bn], 38 Bangladeshis were shot dead by the security force in 2012. Shantanu Banik explained on Facebook why these people face death:
Bangladesh is a small country next to the mighty India. Therefore, illegal immigration and border-crossing isn't uncommon. Everyday, ordinary people choose to take unthinkable risk in hopes of a better life on the other side of the fence. It is [a] crime, but a petty crime. Not one that deserves the 'Shoot on sight' policy enforced by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). [...]
Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India.
Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)
  Bangladesh is a large market for Indian products and media. Many angry netizens have called for boycott of Indian products. Blogger and writer Akter Ahmed told Bangladeshis on Facebook:
এই রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে আপনার ক্ষুদ্ধ প্রতিক্রিয়া এবং অনুভূতিকে সম্মান জানিয়ে বলছি- সম্ভব হলে টিভিটা একটু বন্ধ করেন, 'কৌন বনেগা ক্রোড়পতি'র অমিতাভ বচ্চনের দরাজ গলার সামনে আপনার কথাগুলো বেশ অস্পষ্ট এবং বেমানান লাগছে!
With respect to your outraged reactions and feelings I am requesting - please turn off the TV for a while. Amitabh Bachchan's [Indian actor and anchor of India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"] loud voice on TV is overshadowing your voice.
But Facebook user Muquit Muhammad does not subscribe to that:
ফেলানী হত্যার রায়ের সাথে ভারতীয় টিভি অনুষ্ঠান পছন্দ করার সম্পর্ক কি? ঐদেশের টিভি অনুষ্ঠান পছন্দ করি বলে আমার দেশের মানুষকে তাদের মেরে ফেলা যেমন জাস্টিফাইড না, তেমনি এই কুবিচারের প্রতিবাদে ঐদেশের টিভি অনুষ্ঠান বর্জনও কোনো যৌক্তিক প্রতিবাদ না|
How is the Felani killing related to liking an Indian TV program? Just as it is not justified to kill us because we like their TV, it is not logical to boycott their TV programs because of a sham verdict.
A Facebook event has been created to organize a sit-in protest in front of the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. The High Commission requested everybody to wait till the final outcome. According to a spokesman “this is subject to review by a competent authority". But the special court does not allow the victims family to appeal.

Originally written by Pantha Rahman Reza Translated by me. Published on Global Voices

September 05, 2013

South Asia Shining in Some Ways, Suffering in Others

The countries in South Asia may be thriving economically, but the region must work together to tackle the problems of poverty, gender inequality and climate change, according to experts at the recent South Asia Economic Summit (SAES). The SAES is an initiative of the premier civil society think-tanks in South Asia.

This year's event was held in Sri Lanka from 2nd to 4th September 2013 hosted by the island's leading economic policy think tank, the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). Since 2008, the SAES is hosted in a different South Asian country annually.

This year’s SAES discussed regional issues like harnessing human capital, managing water, food security and climate change, and sought for more regional cooperation. One hundred and twenty renowned socio-economic experts gathered in Colombo for the summit, whose theme was "Towards a Stronger, Dynamic and Inclusive South Asia", to debate and discuss over the course of the three days.

An important feature of this event was the active debates on the conference theme by participants and followers in social media. The conference blog was very active as well as the Facebook, Flickr and Twitter channels. The event was live webcast.

Tahmina Shafique, a blogger and an Youth Delegate from Bangladesh, wrote about the scope of the summit and challenges of the participating countries:
The summit has brought together a wide range of stakeholders from the eight SAARC countries. The stakeholders consist of representatives from key think tanks, academic institutions, policy institutes, and international agencies. Perhaps the key highlight of this summit is the inclusion of a group of young leaders who will be engaged in analysis and dissemination of the key discussions. This is certainly a move away from the traditional closed-door civil society talks and opens up the platform for engagement of young leaders in these cooperation initiatives. The summit is most relevant at a time when there is an urgent need for increased synergies among the South Asian countries. A region that is thriving and growing at the back drop of its rich culture, traditions, economic activities and overall increased growth, faces numerous challenges. Arenas such as poverty, gender parity, food security, climate change, and various other factors remain to be areas that need to be focused upon in a more strategic and sustained manner.
Photographs from South Asian countries compiled by Easa Samih. CC BY (Click on the image for info on photographers)
Photographs from South Asian countries compiled by Easa Samih. CC BY (Click on the image for detailed info on photographers)
Abdul Halik Azeez, blogger and an youth delegate from Sri Lanka, started with the changing weather in Colombo and what it means for the region:
The unpredictability of monsoons, while mildly inconveniencing the city’s cubicle warriors with cumbersome umbrellas, plays havoc in the region’s agricultural sector, the rise in sea level threatens low lying islands, the melting of ice caps in the Himalayas threatens norms of water flow and while Colombo may have been benefited with a welcome bout of cooler weather other parts of the region have faced extended spells of debilitating heat. Besides, of the sea level rises that stroll along Galle Face could soon turn into a wade. All these changes affect millions of lives and threaten the already struggling development processes of the region.
Blogger Aarya Nijat, an youth delegate from Afghanistan, mentioned that politics is the game changer:
The Afghan-French author of The Patience Stone Atiq Rahimi wrote: “…in Iran just as well as in Afghanistan (and perhaps South Asia) words defy tyranny… the existential problem isn’t “to be or not to be …” but to say or not to say… Thus, any act becomes political. Even silence. Even lies… The problem lies in each of us, because our hearts are sealed… So should we still doubt the political dimension of literature? I’d say NO, because literature is a fight against all political systems. It is the power of words against the words of power.”
In a post on the last day of the summit, Nijat asked "Are We Discussing the Real Questions?":
Is the public and private sectors pursue similar interests or goals, if you will? What is it that the two share in terms of their sense of purpose, upon which a potential partnership can be built? Why don’t we talk about this?
Nandish Kenia, youth delegate from India, discussed whether the private sector can bring the change:
One of the arguments that persists is that why is it wrong to trade if the farmer is getting a huge lump sum of money for his small piece of land by an industrialist? Is he responsible for moving away from green revolution?
Trisha Rana, youth delegate from Nepal, commented that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an organization of South Asian nations established in 1985 for the promotion of economic and social progress, cultural development, friendship and cooperation within the South Asia region, has failed to make an impact among the South Asian countries:
How can we move ahead with a coming together of South Asian hearts, even as we have failed to merge our practical, finance heads?
There were also discussions in Twitter: Pakistani economist Nadeem Haque (@nadeemhaque) wrote:
Top Google executive Ann Lavin spoke at the event. Abdul Halik Azeez (@HalikAzeez) from Sri Lanka wrote:
First Published in Global Voices