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 30, 2008

Eid greetings

Wishing everyone a happy Eid wherever you are. Amidst the festivity my thoughts are with these people.

Image Credit: Radiant Guy

September 29, 2008

HUJI starts politics in Bangladesh under a new name

Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) of The Islamic Holy War Movement was formed in 1984 by Fazalur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, as the first Pakistan-based jihadist outfit, during the Soviet-Afghan War.

The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) was established in 1992, reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF). On April 30, 1992, several of the HuJI-B leaders addressed a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club in capital Dhaka and demanded that Bangladesh be converted into an Islamic State. It draws inspiration from bin Laden and the erstwhile Taliban regime of Afghanistan. At one point of time, the groups issued a slogan, Amra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan (We will all become Taliban and we will turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan).

The coastal area stretching from the port city of Chittagong south through Cox's Bazaar to the Myanmarese border, notorious for piracy, smuggling and arms running, is the principal area of activity of the HuJI-B. A large number of volunteers had gone to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Mujahideen in the war against the former Soviet Union.

The HuJI-B is also believed to be having links with Pakistan. For instance, the outfit’s ‘operations commander’ and a key suspect in the plot to assassinate the then Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, in July 2000, Mufti Abdul Hannan, after his arrest in October 2005 admitted to have passed out of the Gouhardanga Madrassa in Pakistan. The HuJI-B’s Pakistani link was further established with the recovery of a diary from Hannan’s brother Matiur Rehman, who was also arrested in connection with the assassination plot. Entries in the diary revealed that he was in touch with Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in Bangladesh.

HuJI-B also maintain links with terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast, including with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). The HuJI-B reportedly managed some of ULFA’s camps situated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh along the border with the Indian State of Tripura. HUJI-B was also alleged to be involved in numerous terrorist incidents in India.

Three HuJI-B cadres made a failed attempt on the life of poet Shamsur Rahman at his residence in Dhaka on January 18, 1999.

It was involved in a number of incidents, including the killing of journalist Shamsur Rahman, on July 16, 2000, in Jessore. Later, police arrested 10 HuJI-B activists and sealed its office at a Dhaka suburb, Khilgaon, Interrogations revealed that HuJI-B cadres had planned to kill 28 prominent intellectuals, including National Professor Kabir Choudhury, writer Taslima Nasreen and the Director General of the Islamic Foundation, Maulana Abdul Awal. The Bangladesh government banned it in 2005.

Now in a dramatic twist of events media reports say that:
"Leaders of the banned Islamist outfit Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) in Bangladesh have floated the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) ahead of the December elections with permission from the caretaker government."
And more stunning news was that:
"Last Friday, HuJI, donning the IDP label, held an Iftar party at the city's Diploma Engineers Institution that was attended by party leaders and guests including Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of Blitz weekly, Human Rights Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Choudhury and Chitta Francis, a representative of the Christian community."
What are these resident Zionists of Bangladesh doing?
HuJI official Azizul Huq said Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and Richard L. Benkin, an American citizen, helped in efforts to portray IDP in a positive light across the globe.

In an e-mail to a Daily Star correspondent, Benkin said: "Mr. Huq is correct. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and I continuously try to bridge the gulf between religious communities throughout the world and always look for opportunities to promote a positive image of Bangladesh worldwide.
Moulana Salam said about Regarding Mufti Hannan that they had expelled him in 1998 and they cannot take responsibility of what he did after that.

This is a very worrying sign for Bangladesh. Not only that a terrorist outfit is again being given legitimacy, the involvement of people like Richard Benkin and Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury means that they are being supported by a superpower which has a double face in leading a war on terror. This is insane!! I think Bangladesh government should think twice before giving permission to IDP.

Another one bites the dust

Quote of the day

"Today, if we are prepared, we could buy some of those falling banks in the United States, no problem, it's possible. Don't ignore them (the poor) ... we lend over a billion dollars a year....We have to get out of the mindset that the rich will do the business and the poor will have the charity."

- Dr. Muhammad Yunus at former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit, the Clinton Global Initiative.
Reuters: Unlike Wall Street, which is reeling from a flood of loans that may never be paid back, Grameen bank has a recovery rate of more than 98 percent.

September 28, 2008

Firefox in Bangla

Image credit: Ekushey

Firefox has introduced its updated Bangla localized version (in Beta). Download it from here.

September 27, 2008

Perilous wonder

I found an English translation of one of my favorite Bangla poems:


-Jibananda Das

It was heard
They took him to the morgue.
Last night in the February dark
When the crescent moon, five days toward full, had set
He'd had the urge to die.

A wife had lain beside him-a child, too.
There had been love, hope, in the moonlight.
Then what ghost did he see? why was his sleep disturbed?
Or maybe he hadn't slept for days. Now, Iying in the morgue, he
He had sought this sleep perhaps.
Like a plague rat, maw smeared with frothy blood, neck slack
In the bosom of some dingy cranny, now he sleeps.
Never again will he wake.

"Never again will you wake
Never again will you know
The unremitting, unrelenting grievous
Pain of waking."
As though some stillness stretched its camel's neck
Through his window
And said these words to him
When the moon had sunk into strange darkness.

But the owl is awake,
And the decrepit, putrefying frog begs a few moments more
Among anticipated warm affections-beckoned by another dawn.
I sense all around me the unforgiving opposition
of my mosquito net, invisible in the swarming dark.
The mosquito stays awake in his blackened monastery, in love with
life's flow.

Flies alight on blood and filth, then fly again to sunlight.
How many times have I watched the play of winged insects on waves
of golden sunshine.

An intimate sky it would seem-some pervasive life force
Controls their hearts.
The grasshopper's constant twitching, caught in the mischievous
child's grasp,
Fights death.
Yet in that foremost darkness after moonset, you, a coil of rope in
Had gone alone to the aswattha tree,
Knowing that the grasshopper's life, or the doyel bird's, never meets
That of man.

The aswattha limb,
Did it not protest? Did not fireflies in cordial throngs
Appear before you?
Did not the blind and palsied owl come and
Say to you: "old lady moon has sunk in the flood, has she?
Let's now catch a mouse or two!"
Did not the owl screech out that raucous news?

This taste of life-the scent of ripe grain in an autumn afternoon-
You could not tolerate.
In the morgue, is your heart at ease
In the morgue, in that suffocating stillness
Like a flattened rat with blood-smeared lips.

However, to this dead man's tale. He lacked
Not love of woman,
Nor did married life's expectations
Go unfulfilled.
From time's churnings emerged a wife
And honey, the mind's honey
She let him know.
Never in this life did he shiver
In the cold of hunger's draining pain.
And so,
In that morgue,
Flat out he lies upon a table.
I know, yet I know,
A woman's heart-love-a child-a home-these are not everything,

Not wealth nor fame nor creature comforts-
There is some other perilous wonder
That frolics
In our very blood.
It exhausts us-
Exhausts, exhausts us.

That exhaustion is not present
In the morgue.
And so
In that morgue
Flat out he lies upon a table.
But every night I look and see, yes,
A blind and palsied owl come sit upon the aswattha branch
Blink her eyes and say: "old lady moon has sunk in the flood, has she?
Marvelous !
Let's now catch a mouse or two!"

Oh profound grandmother, is today still so marvelous?
I too, like you, shall grow old-shall cast old lady moon across the
flood, into the whirlpool.
Then we two together shall empty life's full store.

(Via Ahmad M. Kamal)

September 26, 2008

Google Map maker launched for Bangladesh

Google Lat Long Blog reports that Google Map Maker has been launched in Bangladesh and in seventeen more countries.

Google Map Maker is a new service, provided by Google, designed to expand the breadth of the service currently offered by Google Maps. In some countries mapping data is unavailable, and so to combat this problem Google has decided to open up Google Maps to a collaborative community effort in certain territories.

Using the find or browse tools, contributors are able to add to and edit existing features on the map. Three kinds of drawing tools are available: placemark (a single point of interest on the map), line (for drawing roads, railways, rivers, and the like) and polygon (for defining boundaries and borders, adding parks, lakes and other large features) (wikipedia)

Please check the YouTube channel for Google Map Maker for more.

So all the Bangladeshi netizens out there please contribute to enrich Google Map of your locality.

September 25, 2008

Keeping Jalladkhana buried or alive

So what should a nation do? Purge the memory of the genocide it experienced or keep the ghosts alive?

Time Magazine reports:
Bangladesh sits atop an alluvial plain, so those bent on genocide needed only to dump bodies in rivers or, as at the Jalladkhana, down the wells and conduits of local water-pumping stations, where corpses were literally flushed away into the sea. "These are crimes so horrible that even God wouldn't forgive you," says K.M. Safiullah, a retired general who led the independence war effort. "There cannot be unity without this being solved."

Mirpur's Jalladkhana Killing Field Memorial is a reminder of the gruesome murders that have still gone unpunished for all these decades. Photo: Zahedul I Khan via Star Weekend

Ali Ahsan Mojaheed, general secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a powerful political party that sided with Pakistan in 1971, thinks it's better to close the book on a tragic chapter in history rather than risk opening old wounds. After all, many who supported unity with Pakistan were also killed in reprisal attacks. "This is a dead issue," says Mojaheed. "It cannot be raised."
Ali Ahsan Muzahid's activities during the war makes him one of the hated apologist of the war criminals and forces against Bangladesh. So one can reralize why he wants to keep everything buried. But there are some crimes you can never purge from History.

The infamous Dadagiri slap incident

I didn't know reality TV shows can be that repulsive. Eeew!!!!

No wonder 'Dadagiri' the Indian reality TV show has earned the fame of being TV's meanest game show maikng this video a world hit.

September 24, 2008

Remittance rule in Bangladesh relaxed

For decades, in a bid to stop foreign currency flow outside Bangladesh, there was a bureaucratic rule that to remit money to a foreign country, even for paying fees or supporting children studying in a foreign land, a permission from the central Bank was required. And you might imagine, that involves lot of bureaucratic procedures, speed money which was not worth for small transactions. It may be relevant here to mention here that only the extreme wealthy people can afford an international credit card. So paying online was not also possible.

At last we see the Bangladesh Bank has made an important policy change. Ahamed Bauani reports:
From now, any government official, official of bank and financial organizations and faculty member of a recognized banking training institute can send registration fee for participating in any training, seminar or workshop abroad through approved dealers without approval of Bangladesh Bank.
Foreign currency can also be released to Bangladeshi students pursuing professional diploma/certificate courses alongside studies in regular course like graduation and post-graduation abroad.
This change was long awaited.

September 23, 2008

Almost no improvement

The Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report-2008 has been published today and Bangladesh slipped down to the 10th position from below with a score of 2.1.

Last year, Bangladesh was in the 7th position with a score of 2.

So there is no major change in the score and position although the caretaker (interim) government had taken measures against corruption including establishing charges against the most corrupt politicians. Many politicians arrested (with faulty procedures) on charges of corruptions are now getting bails and will be ready for the election and possibly next tenure(s) for more power and corruption.

The chief of Police recently said that the proposed new police ordinance (for reforming the police department) is yet to be enacted due to lack of political will. (BDNews24.com)

Except string political will corruption can never be reduced in Bangladesh.

State of the Blogosphere 2008

After two years Technorati (which tracks Blogosphere) has published a new report titled the State of the Blogosphere in 2008. Some of the key findings:
  • Universal McCann (March 2008):
  • 184 million WW have started a blog (26.4% of them US)
    346 million WW read blogs (60.3 of them US)
    77% of active Internet users read blogs

  • The lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs.
  • Blogging is a truly global phenomenon. Technorati tracked blogs in 81 languages in June 2008
Here are some charts explaining other phenomena:

  • Who are the global bloggers?

  • Bloggers are not a homogenous group. One way of segmenting bloggers is by their blog type:
* Personal:
blog about topics of personal interest not associated with your work
* Professional:
blog about your industry and profession but not in an official capacity for your company
* Corporate:
blog for your company in an official capacity
  • Blogging is no longer a new phenomenon

Image credit: Technorati

September 22, 2008

Plights of migrant Bangladeshis

Al Jazeera's reporter Tony Birtley exposes that Bangladeshi migrant workers are subject to some highly organized scams throughout Asia. Watch the video (via Singabloodypore) where some of them are shown kept in cages in Singapore:

I was appalled to see how the owners behaved with Tony Birtly when he asked whether they had legal papers.

Meanwhile Shafiur reports that instead of looking at the miseries of the migrant workers the Bangladeshi Government is thinking of inflicting a bond of “Tk. 1 million and fixed deposit receipt of Tk. 100,000" upon the migrant workers so that they do not abscond from the employer. Whose side are they on?

September 21, 2008

Image of the day

Living close to nature: A house in Bernburg

Bangladesh: Elections in December

At last the date of election was declared ending uncertainties as to when the postponed general election of Bangladesh would be held. The Chief Adviser of Caretaker government Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed said a general election would be held on December 18. An Ordinary citizen has more.

The Upazilla polls would be held on December 24 and 28 not prior to the general elections asthe government wanted. This is in a way bowing to the demands of the political parties.

The political parties hailed the decision.

Now there should be no barriers to a free and fair elections but there is no certain course in politics.

Merits of Social Media

"Social Media makes (one) intelligent" - Oliver Nitz of Vienna 'Web Innovation Institute'

Pakistan bleeds again

Read my latest round up of the Pakistani blogs in Global Voices summarizing reactions to the suicide truck bomb explosion in front of Hotel Marriott in Islamabad which claimed more than 60 lives including Czech Ambassador to Pakistan Ivo Zdarek.

September 19, 2008

Quote of the day

While the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has slapped a 10-year-ban on players who joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL), Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has done the reverse.
- CricketNext

September 17, 2008

Poisoned powder milk in China – why Bangladesh needs to worry

[First published in E-Bangladesh]

The world came to know about the horror only a couple of days ago that the powdered milk products produced by the Sanlu Group in China were contaminated by melamine after hundreds of Chinese babies were hospitalized for having kidney stones and some had kidney failures.

On 11th of September Sanlu first defended that “their milk powder has no problem” then announced a recall of its products. Global Voices reports:
“By estimation, the tainted formula amount to 700 tons. Not until this moment were millions of babies protected from the deadly dairy products. There are over 30 thousand potential victims (in china) predicted from Sanlu’s influence in domestic market.”

Three children already died till yesterday and the number of sick children has risen to 6200. Chinese state-run media announced that 21 more companies were found producing milk powder tainted with melamine.

A New Zealand media reveals that:
“SanLu knew six months ago that babies were becoming sick as a result of drinking infant formula containing melamine - a chemical banned from food.

A New Zealand dairy Giant Fonterra, which owns 43 per cent of SanLu and has three directors on its board, also knew of the contamination for six weeks before a public recall, which began only after the New Zealand Government blew the whistle.”

Global Voices quoted a Taiwanese blogger:
“Before the Olympic Games, China government gave orders to cover all the reports that might destroy the image of China. The Sanlu Group discovered the contamination just before the Olympic Games, and we can see the China government chose to let their people die so that they can keep the positive image of China.”

“The Sanlu Group claimed that the melamine found in their powdered milk was added by the dairy farmers and milk dealers to meet the nitrogen standard after they added water to dilute the milk. However, not everyone believes their claim.“

25 tons of powered milk products manufactured by the Sanlu Group were exported to Taiwan this August and it created a lot of panic in the country.

And Bangladesh should also worry because AP reveals that:
State broadcaster CCTV reported on its Tuesday evening newscast that One company, based in the southern province of Guangdong, exported its products abroad — to Bangladesh, Yemen, and Burma.

The Bangkok post informs:
"Two Chinese firms where tests found tainted milk products had exported baby formula milk powder to five countries including Bangladesh and Burma

The Suokang and Yashili companies had started to recall their exported milk powder products, which were also sent to Yemen, Burundi and Gabon, said Li Changjiang, the head of the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)."

We are yet to see any Bangladeshi media asking questions about this import. The Chinese milk powder imports may be hard to locate if they were imported loose and later packed in another label. Some months ago a milk powder consignment of Abul Khair group was detained because their expiry date overrun. We have seen in TV reports that the consignment was packed in large sacks to be repacked in local brands.

Arup reveals that the popular brands of Fronterra, the major shareholders of Sanlu are:

Anchor and Anlene are famous brands in Bangladesh. So there should be a nationwide awareness campaign to demand from the sellers the origin of the milk and to stop consuming non-trusted baby milk.

I hope the Bangladesh Government will take immediate action to withdraw the milks imported from China from the market and ban future imports until everything is sorted out.

Quote of the day

"I am not here just to have the team win a game or two. I am trying to develop this squad and the future of Bangladesh cricket to a point where they can compete regularly against the top-ranked teams. This will take time as the players have so many lessons to learn and skills to develop."
- Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons

Directory of Bangladeshi Blogs

A cool new Bangladeshi Blog Directory was launched recently by Tanim. Check it out (click the image):

September 16, 2008

Testing time for Bangladesh cricket

"Playing for money or the pride of the country which comes first?" this is always a tricky question. Bangladesh's cricket is facing a deep crisis after 13 of its national players was lured by the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Playing in the ICL ensues an automatic ban from all forms of official cricket. But they will be able to earn up to US$200,000 from a three-year contract, which is a lot of money in Bangladesh's context. According to Reuters this amount is five times more than a top Bangladeshi player's annual central contract, with which they were unhappy.

Cricinfo reveals:
The exodus of 13 players from Bangladesh to the Indian Cricket League - and into virtual exile from all official cricket - has been formalized with the unveiling in New Delhi of the Dhaka Warriors. The team, which will compete in the second season of (ICL) from October 10, will be led by Habibul Bashar, the former national captain, and includes recent internationals Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board The BCB attempted to discuss with the six players still on contract, but the Daily Star reported that none of them turned up.

Not all could be lured. All rounder Sakib Al Hasan tells Cricinfo:
"I think it's a personal choice. But I am very much clear in my position. I want to play for my country and I believe everything will come in my way if I keep my position on the national side."
Many Bangladeshis were outraged by the rebel cricketers decision. Unheard Voices echoes the sentiments and claims that the Bangladeshi cricketers are trying to hide their incompetence and greed under fake outrage against the Board.

Kotha-Chilo argues in these cricketers defense:
What makes you think they have betrayed their country? These boys are professional cricket players. If they get better chance anywhere, they are entitled to leave.
Journey2infinitive comments:
This game is become monopoly of some Mafia people. Team like Bangladesh is suffering for that. Now Bangladesh (Cricket Board) should take the right step. They should not bow down to any unethical decision. They should see the interest of the players and equally for the future of Bangladesh cricket.
Sri Lankan Cricket board is rescheduling their England tour because of their players schedule in Indian Premier League(IPL).

Cricket is an individualistic game. If these players get the chance to play competitive cricket with higher standard players these could make them more experienced which can be beneficial for Bangladesh.

So I think Bangladesh Cricket Board should reach an agreement with these rebelling cricketers to allow them to play in the future for Bangladesh on certain conditions. An outright ban will not bring any good for them nor Bangladesh cricket.

September 15, 2008


I was traveling the last four days. There is a lot to tell but time is the enemy. So let pictures speak:

Sparrenburg Castle, Bielefeld

Hermannsdenkmal in the Teutoburg Forest near Detmold
The Externsteine in the Teutoburg Forest near Detmold
View of a castle during a boat ride on the Rhine river.
The famous Federal Guest House on Petersberg mountain (One of the seven mountains in Bonn).
Kölner Dom

September 09, 2008

Picture of the Day

September 07, 2008

Young and audacious

Do you remember what remarkable thing you did when you were 21? The website of elite security forces of Bangladesh -Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was hacked by a 21 year old was accessed on last Friday and the website displayed: 'Hacked by Shahee_Mirza'. After defacing the site the proud hacker claimed:
The government does not take any step for ICT development but passed a law about anti-cyber crime. You do not know what the cyber security is or how to protect yourself.

Listen, hackers are not criminal. They are 10 times better than your (RAB) experts. We are genius beyond your imagination.

Image by Ahmed Bauani

Apparently this young man tried to infect RAB site before with virus an probably succeeded. But he forgot that the web archives a lot of activities on the net and by a simple search many information can be found and he was courteous (read stupid) enough to leave his name, email and even mobile phone no.

The inevitable happened. BDNews24.com reported that Shahee was arrested with three of his friends yesterday. He has admitted to hack many other sites which he already boasted in many of the forums.

Now what this episode teaches us is that the ICT policy of the government need to be rethought. They should concentrate on security issues. What Shahee did was wrong but he should not be treated as criminal as he did it to warn them> I suppose he did not have destructive intentions, otherwise he would have hidden his id.

Some bloggers are suggesting that Shahee's talent can be used by the security forces for government interest and security.

September 05, 2008

Waterlogged lifestyle

This year heavy rains have brought floods again in Bangladesh. According to today's news 25 percent of Bangladesh's landmass is flooded. I was watching a Bangladeshi channel where it was showing that a damn is protecting a small town. The area outside the damn is submerged in waist high water. People are struggling to lead their lives. They don't have their personal boats, so its hard to commute. Children cannot go to school which is also submerged. Students cannot go to the college inside the city because the bus has stopped commuting. The District Commissioner was on the camera. He says these people are used to this lifestyle and these places are usually submerged at this time of year. The time has not come yet to engage administrative resources.

This cannot be compared with Venice, which is a city with all its basic amenities functioning except they commute in waterways. The people of Venice don't have to walk in waist deep water. Each year many Bangladeshis have to bear this pain and our usual response is "hey they are used to this".

So why do people cling to their dwellings in these locations? Tahmima Anam tries to answer the question in her article in guardian.co.uk about the char-dwellers of Bangladesh:
"Who owns the land," I ask, "is it the government?" He smiles in such a way that I feel foolish for even asking. Of course not; a place that will only exist for an unknowable amount of time is not going to come under the umbrella of the state.

Chars don't become habitable until they are a few years old. You can tell their age, Bahar tells me, by the wild plants that grow on them. When chars are taken by the river, often their inhabitants have to move in with their relations, or find some other piece of land on which to build a house. In any case, they will only have enough on which to live: they have nothing to till, so the men hire themselves out as weavers or day-labourers. This is why, according to development-speak, char-dwellers are the "hard-core poor". It is because they own nothing, and even the ground beneath their feet is a fleeting luxury.
Here is a great album- photographs by Hasan Bipul.

Flashmob Iftar

If you don't know what a flashmob is, its a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse. The word is spread via social networking sites, including Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, private blogs, public forums, and personal websites. (Wikipedia)

All around the world this trend has grown in recent years and even in Pakistan it was used to protest during the state of emergency and the protesters disappeared before the police could reach to them.

Fugstar is reporting that a recent flashmob in Lincolns Inn Fields (Chancery Lane/Holborn) in London was arranged to have Iftar (evening meal breaking the fast during Ramadan) with the homeless. The instruction was to spread love, "just bring food, friends and share them around." Isn't that exemplary and if you are religious isn't that your religion tells you to do?

Now are you ready to flashmob your social cause in your locality?

September 03, 2008

The sewers of gold

The price of gold rose to $1,000 an ounce and its more than a luxury in places like Bangladesh where gold used to be something worn by people as a symbol of prosperity, security, wealth.

There is a street called Tanti Bazaar in old Dhaka which houses a range of goldsmiths. While producing jewelery they produce gold dusts that end up in the sewerage drains of the street. This has created a new job for some people, to pan for gold in the sewerage drains. BBC has details.

Google Chrome

The Google chrome is here and I am testing it. Take a look at the new features.

Here is a detailed review by Geeks are Sexy and a verdict:
"What Chrome provides is more of the same paradigm, but more efficient and arguably more user-friendly."

(Image credit Geeks Are Sexy: Chrome could be roughly 2 to 20 times faster than Firefox or Safari)

The Yahoo review sums up the performances:
While Chrome's performance is a little better than that of Firefox, in practical terms, it is far less useful, because it lacks the broad array of third-party add-ons programs like Flashblock that make Firefox so customizable. With time, it might catch up.

September 02, 2008

The banking industry vs. the poor

Only 13% of Bangladeshis have access to traditional banking accounts (19 million accounts). The rise of Dr. Muhammad Yunus's Nobel prize winning microcredit model Grameen Bank provides banking facilities with its 2100 branches spread in Bangladesh to 7.34 million people (as of October 2007, 97% of those are women). There are also many other microcredit institutions trying to bridge the gaps with their financial services but the purpose of those are purely self sustaining and ignore the wider social agenda of the Grameen Bank model.

Micro Capital blog examines a New Nation article:
According to the article, commercial banks in Bangladesh have begun to focus only on “rich clients” and have reduced attention on rural areas, leading to a “gradual decline” in credit to those areas of the country. The article also cites “exploitation of the poor loan-seekers from a section of micro-credit providers” and a lack of incentives for “small savers” as hindrances to expanding financial services.

Supporters of commercial institutions would argue that despite the success of the Grameen Bank and other non-profit Bangladeshi MFIs, the fact that Bangladesh’s poor are still without basic financial services points to a need for quicker expansion fueled by profitable organizations. Those opposed to for-profit organizations would contend that commercial institutions ignore the poor and that Bangladesh requires an expansion of non-profit lending in order to benefit the poor.

Funneling money to rural Bangladesh is crucial for poverty alleviation because 80 percent of the countries poor live in these areas and 54 percent of the country is employed in the agricultural center.
Another option is of course mobile banking. Bangladesh is well connected with mobile telecommunication networks thanks to the competitive industry and so far they have tapped about 45 million users. A huge portion of them do come from the remote rural areas where even the basic infrastructures like telephone, paved road or electricity are lacking. Mobile banking can really provide them opportunity to avail banking and financial services in their locality without investment in infrastructures like setup of branches etc.

The idea of mobile bank is floating and people are trying to make that possible in Bangladesh but they are facing resistance from the traditional banks.

David noticed this:
Banks, the traditional leader in payment systems, see mobile banking as a new threat if private telecom operators are allowed to use their outlets for money transfer without law,” writes journalist Sajjadur Rahman. I don’t know what he means by “without law”, but I do know what’s behind this quote by a government official: “We won’t let anything, which hurts the banking industry, happen.”

It is a classic example of powerful lobbyists delaying a new technology to protect their industry interests. Mobile banking allows any mobile phone customer to deposit money into his or her phone account at any mobile phone outlet (which are everywhere in countries like Bangladesh) and transfer that money to any other mobile phone user. M-PESA in Kenya has shown how this can bring basic banking services to millions of rural residents who would otherwise never open a traditional bank account.

..Traditional banks in Kenya are irked that Safaricom is able to operate its M-PESA mobile banking service with so few regulations in place. With 2.7 million clients, it may be that M-PESA became too successful too fast and, having learned their lessons, banks in other developing countries won’t allow mobile phone companies to dig into such a large market share.

Image of the day

IFA 2008 consumer electronic exposition full of high tech and illusions.

Georgian enclaves are not Bangladesh!

In Pravda.ru Babu G. Ranganathan draws an analogy of South Ossetia and Abkhazia's independence from Georgia as declared by Russia with the involvement of India in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

I wish things were as simple as that. The resentments started in 1952 when Bengalis wanted to protect their mother tongue. Bangladesh was wanting autonomy since long. We had a great leader who was going to be Pakistan's head of government according to the election results but was denied. Sheikh Mujib almost declared the independence (on the 7th of March, 1971) almost 9 months before the India-Pakistan officially engaged in the war. Bangladeshi freedom fighters fought the war for eight and a half months before India joined the full fledged war with Pakistan.

Georgia's case is different as with every such cases including Kashmir if you compare. Its true that Shakashvili wanted to teach the South Ossetian insurgency a lesson and can be scolded for that but Russia took over the situation and threatened Georgia with its power by shelling and bombing. The innocent civilians were both parties least priorities.

Now the question should be asked what does the South Ossetians want? Do they want to be seperate or merge with Russia or remain with Georgia? I don't even know who their leader is! Who is deciding things for them, the Russians?

The Global Voices special page gives you a real insight into the effected people of the region, not what the Western or the Russian media provides you (two extreme points of view).

Is there really that much hatred present for an ethnic cleansing and genocide as claimed by Russia? Read how the non-friction inter-ethnic relationships between Russians and Georgians are. This might be an answer:
It is very clear. In the quarrel with the Western countries Russia is using a concept and a clear picture which are known to them. A mention of Srebrenica is a slap to Dutchmans and Gavrilo Princip is mentioned in the context of how Englishmen think and talk about him: the fool that pulled them into an expensive and unnecessary war. Reading English reactions, this reminder is effective.
And the irony pointed out by a commenter in a Serbian blog:
I think that Russia proved it is not different from the West when its interest is in question. […] Just in this way Russia indirectly supports the position of the West about Kosovo.
War is a bad Omen, it makes people suffer and creates hatred and acrimony. The present situation in the effected region is nothing else but a case of power struggle and showdown.

Today's Links

*Local government practice in Bangladesh: A perspective

* Bangladesh’s diplomat rebuts Selig Harrison on anti-terror efforts

* Bangladesh may become middle income country in 17 years: UN

* Steaming into Bangladesh.

* Momtaz, the traveling songbird of Bangladesh.

* No country for gentlemen and gentlewomen.