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

March 08, 2011

Fans say sorry to Shakib's Mother

In Bangladesh Facebook users are growing rapidly (1,452,760 users according to Facebook stats). And with this huge user base it is natural that social activism are being organized in Bangladesh through Facebook. I have seen many such efforts in the past - like collecting winter cloths, collecting signatures for petition etc.

After the Mirpur debacle of Bangladesh cricket the Lets Say Sorry To Our Guests Facebook group has accomplished a commendable task in sending apologies and flowers to the West Indies cricket team.

The same Facebook group has accomplished another notable task. They have gone to Magura, the hometown of Shakib, the Bangladesh captain. Stones were thrown at his house too. They presented flowers to sakib's mom and gave some letters of few fans of cricket and a formal letter.

According to a Facebook note of Foisal Masum, member of the group (translated):

We are very emotional as a nation. So sometime our outburst of emotion becomes excess. But time has changed..this is not the middle ages...this is not the era of the Mughals..when showing muscle power and supremacy were the sign of the strength of the nation.

Our education, our achievements are announcing that time has changed, this is the time to change.

At this moment, during world cup, the media of the whole world are looking at us..now if we engage ourselves in fighting, bickering etc. for the sake of letting out emotion.. (this will be public)..

Let us keep the bad incidents within the country, try to fix them, let us refine the way we express emotion..let us stay away from yellow journalism.

Image Credit: Sunny and Lalon Jamil

March 06, 2011

Protests Against Removal of Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus From Grameen Bank

It all started with Tom Heinemann’s documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” which was aired on the 30th of November, 2010 on the Norwegian state Television. This had set off a chain of events which triggered much controversy on microcredit and Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus and resulted in the investigation of operations of Grameen Bank, which he founded.

Image courtesy World Economic Forum. CC BY-SA

In a latest development of this saga, the central bank ordered the removal of Yunus (70) on the grounds that he had overstayed as head of Grameen operations violating the law (the retirement age in commercial bank is 60). Dr. Yunus is challenging this in court and thousands of supporters protested across the country against his removal. This has made the headlines of many media.

The fingers are pointing towards the government as the earlier reaction of Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was a bit too harsh - as she mentioned "in the name of poverty alleviation he (Yunus) is sucking blood from the poor".

Ireen Sultana at BDNews24 Blog explains:

একজন সরকার প্রধানের মুখ থেকে এ ধরনের বক্তব্য সুষ্পষ্টভবাবে সরকারি অবস্থান এবং মনোভাবকে নির্দেশ করে। আর তাই যতই বলা হোক না কেন গ্রামীণ ব্যাংকের ব্যবস্থাপনা পরিচালক পদ থেকে ডঃ ইউনূসকে অব্যাহতি প্রদানের লিখিত নির্দেশ এসেছে বাংলাদেশ ব্যাংক থেকে, দেশি-বিদেশি প্রতিক্রিয়া ব্যক্তকারিরা এটাকে সরকারি সিদ্ধান্ত বলে মনে করছেন।

Statements like this coming from the head of the state clearly states the position and intention of the government. Although others may say that the direction to to remove Dr. Yunus from the post of Managing Director of Grameen Bank came from Bangladesh Bank (Central Bank), those who are reacting on this are presuming that this is the decision of the government.

The popular belief is that Yunus is being seen as a political counterpart because of his failed attempt to join politics in 2007. Ireen Sultana asks:

একজন অ-রাজনৈতিক ব্যক্তিত্ব কি করে একটি রাজনৈতিক দলের প্রতিপক্ষ হয়ে উঠতে পারেন?

How can be a non-political person be a political counterpart of a political party?

Philanthrocapitalism blog comments in a post titled "leave Yunus alone":

As Grameen points out, it is owned by its 8 million or so borrowers, most of them relatively poor women. It remains to be seen if the voice of these owners will be heard. There is a real danger that what is in effect an attempted takeover by the Bangladesh government will do serious damage to Grameen and the people it helps. While there are certainly examples of for-profit microlenders harming the poor, we think the greater harm to the poor is often done by the politicians who purport to be on their side.

Clearly the country has been divided on this issue. The opposition has been quick to back Yunus saying that he has been victim of vengeance. Netizens are also divided. Bloggers like Ichcha Manab thinks that this sudden decision to remove Yunus from the board is a disrespect to the Nobel Laureate and is a dent to the country's image. Columnist Shamsher Chowdhury at The Financial Express says:

The lone Nobel laureate of Bangladesh should have been dealt with a little more dignity and respect. The entire saga clearly smells of jealousy, anger, vengeance and vendetta on the part of those who orchestrated the campaign against Prof Yunus. People at large are confused and would like to have a complete picture of what charges or irregularities Yunus is guilty of.

On the other hand Shafiur at Imperfect|World says:

For decades his zillions of fawning supporters have twisted the truth and failed to see the limited creature that microcredit is. I hope today that grin has been wiped off his face. For sure he is fighting back and he has powerful friends both at home and abroad. But this is a day to savour.

Some like Mahbub Morshed cannot understand what the fuss is all about as they think that Yunus's credibility and achievements will not be lost if he is no longer the MD of Grameen operations.

Himu writes:

তিনি যদি এতই বিচক্ষণ আর বিবেচক হবেন, কেন এই প্রতিষ্ঠানটিকে স্বাভাবিক প্রশাসনিক প্রক্রিয়ায় যোগ্য কোনো পরিচালনা পর্ষদের কাছে হস্তান্তর করলেন না?

If he is so considerate and knowledgeable, why he did not transfer his responsibilities to a legal and efficient board of directors?

Alamgir concludes his post at Sachalayatan with this:

দারিদ্র্যকে জাদুঘরে পাঠাতে চেয়েছিলেন ড. ইউনূস। সেটা হবার নয়। তবে দরিদ্র মানুষের ভাগ্যের কিছুটা পরিবর্তন নিশ্চয়ই করতে পেরেছেন; কতটুকু পেরেছেন সেটা ভবিষ্যৎ বিচার করবে। সরকার আইনের দোহাই দিয়ে একজন বুড়ো মানুষকে বিদায় দিচ্ছে। যে মন্ত্রী সেটা করছেন তিনি আরো বুড়ো কিন্তু মন্ত্রী হবার জন্য বয়স, শিক্ষা, যোগ্যতা কোন বিষয় নয়। প্রধানমন্ত্রীও তাঁর পূর্বপ্রতিশ্রুত অবসর গ্রহণের বয়স পার করেছেন। দেখা যাক কী হয়।

শেষ বিচারটা সবসময় জনগণই করবে। ড. ইউনূসের জন্য অনেক অনেক শুভ কামনা রইল।

Dr. Yunus wanted to send poverty to museum. But it is not to be. At least he could contribute to changing the fate of the poors in a limited way; to what extent he has achieved this, only time will tell. The government is sending an aged man home citing regulations. The minister who executed this order is a lot older than Yunus. But for Ministers age, education, capability does not matter. The Prime Minister also has already crossed the legal age limit for retirement. Lets see what happens.

The citizens will judge at last. Our best wishes to Dr. Yunus.

March 05, 2011

Bangladeshis say sorry to the West Indies Cricket Team.

Friday was a dark day for Bangladesh cricket. Not only Bangladesh succumbed to West Indies feebly, one incident took away all the hospitality Bangladesh has been providing to their "guests". The West Indies team bus was stoned on their way towards the hotel.

Many Bangladeshis were outraged by this despicable act. One of my Facebook friends commented - 'wrong bus, you morons'. Immediately I saw petiotions, Facebook pages coming up. A notable event was announced which was titled Lets say sorry to our guests.

(Image courtesy Facebook user)

Today these internet activists gathered in front of Hotel Sheraton, where the West Indies cricket team is residing. Prothom Alo has the detailed report. However, it will not make everyone forget the gravity of the offense by a few perpetrators.

The actions have been swift from the police. As per BdNews24.com police and RAB detained 38 persons from that area and a case has been filed against them. And this is one interesting revelation:

It turned out the angry fans attacked the bus assuming it contained Bangladesh players, not the West Indies.

Surely the team buses cannot be distinguished from far - but still the attack on Bangladesh team was also cowardice. I hope people come to their senses and uphold Bangladesh's age old hospitable character. Bangladeshis want to forget that day and wish that it never repeats again.