Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lively campaign starts for Rajshahi city polls

With announcement of the schedule for Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) polls on Friday, all probable candidates for the post of mayor and councillors have beefed up electioneering.

Probable candidates from the Awami League and BNP-Jamaat coalition too passing busy days meeting people as part of their election campaign even though the major parties are still dragging feet from taking part in the elections.

Several of them, speaking in return for anonymity, said, their parties would soon understand the necessity of taking part in the elections, otherwise, they would join the polls independently.

At least 17 probable candidates from seven political parties, including two newly formed ones, have already informed newsmen that they are keen to take part in the fray.

Workers' Party's politburo member Fazle Hossain Badsha is seen to be enjoying advantageous position in the present situation.

"One can call it electioneering, but I am meeting people as usual… As far as I know, I am the candidate of Awami League-led 14-party combine," said Fazle Hossain Badsha.

Badsha, contesting the last RCC polls with Rajshahi Nagorik Committee ticket and support by Awami League, alleged polls rigging for his defeat to Minu in marginal votes and his case filed for the alleged poll rigging is still under trial.

Rajshahi city Awami League Secretary AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, an aspirant in the mayoral contest and confident of getting support of the party's central leaders, told this correspondent, "I will take part in the election. I am visiting wards on foot everyday and exchanging compliments with electorates."

City AL President Maksudul Haque Dulu said he decided to vie for the election long ago and he is working to that end.

For BNP, facing the local government race is quite difficult as it has dipped into a leader crisis following imprisonment of former Rajshahi mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu over conviction in an extortion case.

However, eight persons from the party are intending to contest the polls.

In Minu's absence, the party's central office secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi who was silent during BNP-Jamaat coalition rule, started working for the mayoral fray long ago.

Many party insiders believe that Rizvi has potential but he will have to face many emerging leaders.

Rajshahi city Jubo Dal President Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul was ahead among other BNP men who are willing to vie.

Names of district BNP's former general secretaries -- Enamul Haque and Quamrul Monir, organising secretary Alauddin, former women BNP stalwart Jahan Panna, fugitive former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mostafa's brother Shahid Hasan, BNP adherent Shahin Shawkat are being heard for the mayoral post.

If the central leaders of BNP decide to go for the city corporation election, local BNP might see disagreement for the mayoral post with Jamaat-e-Islami.

"If four-party takes part in the polls, I will be a candidate," said Rajshahi city Jamaat Ameer Ataur Rahman said, claiming that he was leading the local four-party alliance in Minu's absence.

Jamaat's city committee assistant general secretary Abul Kalam Azad and senior leader Siddik Hussain are also intending to contest.

Jatiya Party (Ershad) city unit President Durul Huda said he is hopeful of winning in the RCC polls.

Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi's newly formed Progressive Development Party (PDP) has already announced its mayoral candidate -- local PDP convenor Raihanur Rahman -- through a tele-conference on Saturday.

Abdul Matin Khan, another aspirant for the mayoral post, is electioneering under the banner of Amra Rajshahi Basi.

Many new faces are also likely to come forward following leadership crisis and internal feuds in different political parties.

Nomination Race in City Polls: Grassroots rivalries come to the fore; AL, BNP in disarray as central leaders stay silent


Divisions within the major political parties including Awami League (AL) and BNP seem growing with the local ranks vying for nominations to contest the August 4 polls to four city corporations and nine municipalities.

Alongside intra-party disputes, rivalry between prospective candidates within alliances too is obvious. In four divisional headquarters, AL and BNP leaders seeking nomination for mayoral elections brace themselves for challenges coming from components of the 14-party and four-party alliances.

In Rajshahi, dispute between the Workers Party politburo member Fazle Hossain Badsha and city AL General Secretary AHM Khairuzzaman Liton for mayor nomination has already grown intense.

As many as eight candidates in BNP have begun informal election campaign for the mayoral post. Of them, party insiders said, Central Office Secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi who has long been working for the mayoral fray has a better chance.

In Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are going to mount serious challenges to BNP candidates seeking alliance nominations.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Toll paying commuters suffer as Natore-Sirajganj road rundown in five years

A truck opts for the adjoining lane to avert the jerks on the main road of Dhaka-Rajshahi Highway in Tarash union in Sirajganj district...STAR

Five years into opening, the country's first and longest 'toll road' connecting Natore and Sirajganj on Rajshahi-Dhaka Highway has become risky for thousands of commuters due to substandard construction and poor maintenance.

Pitch and carpeting on the 55-km road started to be dislocated and large craters appeared within one year of its inauguration in May 2003, locals and Roads and Highways Department (RHD) officials said, adding that some 27km of the highway is now hard for vehicles to ply.

In five years, the road authorities earned over Tk 12.70 crore as toll with around Tk 71,000 daily average collection from movement of 2000 vehicles. But the road with large potholes, craters and ditches is now causing one-hour sufferings to passengers from and to the Capital.

In the rainy seasons, the situation turns worse as rainwater remains stagnant on the holes for days together.

Drivers have to struggle to avoid large potholes. At times, they use the adjoining lanes meant for use by rickshaws and vans.

The road also causes transport owners count additional money for repairing vehicles damaged due to plying the bad-shaped road.

"Panic grips me when I cross the road. The coaches may slip any time as they often move from one side to another to avoid ditches," said Habibur Rahman, a regular commuter on the road.

It is difficult to tolerate such risks and sufferings after paying toll, said Abdur Razzak, the driver of a coach on Dhaka-Rajshahi road.

The road from Bonpara in Natore to Nalka-Hatikumrul of Sirajganj district is the first among two toll roads in the country, the other being the Ashulia road that provides a link with the western approach of Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge.

Constructed at the cost of over Tk 337 crore in four years, the road Running through the Chalan Beel reduced distance between the capital and Rajshahi by 75 kilometres.

Two local construction firms -- Mir Akhter Group and Monem Ltd and two Chinese farms -- China Road and Bridge Company (CRBC) and China Harbour constructed the 55-kilometre road, sources in RHD said.

About 27 kilometres of the road, constructed by the Chinese firms, developed cracks and potholes while about nine kilometres have become totally unfit for vehicular movement, RHD officials said.

The officials attributed substandard work done by the four firms and poor maintenance for fund shortage for dilapidated condition of the road.

Two tenders have been floated for repairing the 27km road, they said, earlier occasional repair work failed to make any lasting solution of the problem.

Militants may regroup as 12 decisions unimplemented

Intelligence agencies fear that militancy might rear its head again as the 12 decisions the government took to step up its campaign against the menace about a year ago remain unimplemented.

There is a strong possibility that the militants still at large might mount fresh attacks. Their leaders behind bars might pass them instructions to that end, taking advantage of slow trial of the cases against them, observed intelligence officials.

Besides, they added, absence of motivational and reorientation programmes for over 500 detained militants, mostly operatives of banned Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (Huji), keeps alive the threat of militancy even though it has been on the wane for some time.

"Since there are no motivational programmes for the militants in jails, they might become sucked into militancy again on return to society after serving out terms. Not only that, they might try to brainwash the other inmates to join them," said a top official of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), the elite crime busters who tore through the militant network and nabbed many militant leaders and activists.

Speaking in return for anonymity, he also said the laxity of the authorities could result in militants making a comeback.

Talking to The Daily Star recently, Rab Additional Director General Col Gulzar Uddin Ahmed acknowledged the risk.
Read the Daily Star report Published On: 2008-06-21

Unity is must to face national challenges, says Dr Kamal


Friday, June 20, 2008

6 JMB militants get life for serial blasts

A Rajshahi court yesterday sentenced six militants of Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) to life terms in jail for the murder of a rickshaw-puller during the serial blasts of August 17, 2005 in Chapainawabganj district.

Rajshahi speedy trial tribunal Judge ATM Mesbauddoula convicted them for murder and sedition charges under Sections 302 and 120 (B) of Bangladesh Penal Code.

The judge also fined each convict Tk 10,000, in default of which they are to spend one more year of imprisonment.

Convicted Shahidullah Faruk Selim, Abul Kashem Tufan, Shakhawat Hossain Ziad and Hafez Ali Akbor Riaz were produced present on the court dock during the delivery of the verdict.

The other two convicts, Shafiullah Shahid and Hafijur Rahman Dalim, are absconding.

JMB militants orchestrated around 500 synchronised blasts across in all districts of the country but one, with a call for an Islamists' Jihad on August 17 of 2005.

In Chapainawabganj, the blasts rocked Biswaroad crossing, Old Judge Court Bhaban, Mahananda bridge area, New Market and the DC's office, and injured leaving three people --Moti Saha, Rabi Saha and rickshaw-puller Rabiul Islam.

Rabiul later succumbed to his injuries at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.

Apart from a case for serial blasts, Sub inspector Abdullah Al Masud Chowdhury of Chapainawabganj Sadar police station also lodged a murder case in this regard.

Detective Branch police inspector M Hafizul Islam submitted the charge sheet in the murder case on November 14, 2005 accusing 10 people in both cases.

Later on October 11, 2006, he submitted a supplementary charge sheet in the murder case relieving Abdullah Al Mamun Nasim from murder charges.

JMB chief Shayakh Abdur Rahman, other Majlish-e sura members Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai and Abdul Awal were also accused in the charges, but they were later relieved from the case after they were executed in 2006.

Meanwhile, the six militants and their other accomplice Abdullah Al Mamun Nasim were awarded life-term in the serial blasts case, by the same court, on January 31.

40 top outlaws still at large despite hunt for their heads

Around 40 top tier leaders of different outlawed outfits from 10 southwestern districts are still at large despite all-out efforts to trap them in last several years.

Sources say these outlaws are still active and involved in various crimes, mostly extortion and murder, in the 10 districts.

They say the leaders are also trying to reorganise their own outfits and gangs to increase strength before the local government and national elections.

The outlaw leaders are also trying to recruit new cadres and allegedly maintaining close contact with some top political leaders including former lawmakers. The sources say these political leaders had earlier used outlaws to manipulate polls and establish supremacy in the districts of Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jhenidah, Magura, Jessore, Narail, Khulna, Bagerhat and Satkhira.

Of the top criminals, all are from outlawed parties except four gang leaders. The outlawed parties are four factions of Purba Banglar Communist Party -- (PBCP-ML), Janajuddha, PBCP-Red Flag and PBCP-Communist War; Biplabi Communist Party (BCP), New Biplabi Communist Party (NBCP), Gono Bahini (GB), Gono Mukti Fouz (GMF), Banglar Communist Party, Socialist Party (SP), Biplabi Anuragi, Chinnamu Communist Party (CCP) and Sharbahara People's March.

The sources say the underground parties have over 5,000 cadres still active in the region who carry equal number of firearms.

Eight top outlawed party leaders and a gang group boss are still active in Kushtia. They are Azibor Rahman of GMF and his second-in-command Mandar, GMF chief Sahin and three 'regional commanders' -- Mukul, Tikka and Bakhtiar...
read Amanur Aman's The Daily Star story

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another Lged Sham: Bridge built without approach road

Janajuddha founder killed in 'shootout'

Abdur Rashid Malitha alias Tapan alias Dada Tapan, founder of outlawed Janajuddha, was killed in a 'shootout' with Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in the early hours yesterday.

A woman reportedly from the 'women wing' of the outfit also died during the 'shootout'.

The Rab recovered huge arms and ammunition including one AK47, books and leaflets of the banned outfit and also arrested Tapan's elder brother Akash.

Operatives of the outlawed communist outfits see the death as another blow to their two-decade underground "armed struggle" in the south and northern regions to establish socialism after the death of Mofakkar Hossain, founder of Purba Banglar Communist Party (PBCP-ML), in 2004.

Mofakkar was killed in 'crossfire' when Rab members came under attack in Kushtia on December 17, 2004.
Read the report from Amanur Aman in The Daily Star

Monday, June 16, 2008

Separate industrial development plan for north demanded

Welcoming the proposed budget, business community and economists in Rajshahi have urged the government to formulate a separate plan for industrial growth of the northern part of the country.

They also urged for setting up of a vocational training institute for overseas-job seekers, food storage and processing establishments, and special agricultural loan on minimum interests, something they demanded earlier during a pre-budget meeting with the finance adviser in Rajshahi.

The proposed budget does not have any specific plan for industrial growth of the region, they said Wednesday.

How to ensure a balanced inter regional distribution of resources was not made clear in the budget speech, said Professor of Economics at Rajshahi University Prof Dr Rafiqul Islam, who was also the former vice chancellor of Islamic University.

Manjur Faruk Chowdhury, president of National Association of Small and Cottage Industries in Bangladesh (NASCIB), said tax holiday for at least five years on agro-based industries is needed.

Without any clearly outlined and separate industrial policy, investors would not be interested to set up industries in the north", said Dr M Abdul Wadud, professor of Economics at Rajshahi University.

Zamat Khan, Rajshahi Rokkha Sangram Parishad convener, said Rajshahi remained neglected since independence. "People do not hope that this government too would neglect the region".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mango Fair

Rajshahi Mango Fair

These mangoes were on display at a mango fair at Rajshahi Loknath High School field...

"River of sand"

"River of sand"
The Padma appears to be a "river of sand" with water receding since September last. Experts blame the drying up of the river on the Farakka Barrage upstream in India. The photo was taken yesterday at Srirampur, Rajshahi. Photo: STAR

Top outlaw killed in 'shootout'

A regional leader of outlawed Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) was killed during a "shootout" between his accomplices and police at Akna Banshbaria village under Raninagar upazila of Naogaon district early yesterday.

The dead was identified as Abdul Majid alias Picchi Majid, son of Nur Mohammad of Bhatkoi village under the upazila.

Acting on a tip-off, a police team from Raninagar Police Station raided an area near Banshbaria Bridge at around 2.45am where Majid and his accomplices were holding a secret meeting.

Sensing the presence of the policemen, the outlaws opened fire, prompting the law enforcers to retaliate.

Police sources said Majid received bullets during the shootout and died on way to Raninagar Upazila Health Complex, while his cohorts managed to flee.

The body was sent to Naogaon Sadar Hospital for autopsy.

The officer-in-charge (0C) of Raninagar Police Station said Majid was wanted in five murder cases. Police recovered a revolver, three bullets and a knife from the scene.

Mango fair & Gambhira festival begins in Rajshahi

A three-day Mango Fair and Gambhira Festival began in Rajshahi yesterday with a call for establishing sustainable industries based on huge mangoes produced in the region.

Different local varieties of mangoes were put on display at 12 stalls set up by different government and private horticulture centres, nurseries and individuals of Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj on Loknath High School premises.

Different cultural organisations from the two districts rendered Gambhira, a popular folksong and dance of the region, in the afternoon.

Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner M Hafizur Rahman Bhuiyan attended the inaugural ceremony as chief guest while Abdul Matin Khan, president of Amra Rajshahi Basi, chaired the event.

Banglalink, a major mobile network operator in the country, has sponsored it.

President of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hasan Ali, Dr Tosikul Islam, vice-principal of Shah Makhdum College, Amra Rajshahi Basi General Secretary Sayed Ashfakul Hadi and Solaiman Alam, Banglalink head of public relation and communications, addressed the programme.

The speakers said local people feel proud for the quality and popularity of their mangoes and gambhira songs.

They however lamented that a huge quantity of mangoes worth crores of taka are damaged every year due to lack of fruit processing industries.

The speakers also called for gas and power supply in the region to set up industries.

A discussion on Rajshahi's heritage and gambhira will be held on the fair premises today while the programme will come to an end tomorrow amid a ceremony.

Friday, June 13, 2008

8 bandits beaten to death in Natore

One shot dead during Rab-robber gunfight

Villagers beat eight robbers to death while another was shot dead during a gun battle with Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) personnel at Bias Adimpur of Shingra upazila in Natore early yesterday.

All nine of them were in their 20's and seven of them were identified. They are: Al Amin of Bias, Yunus of Durgapur, Helal of Sukash in Shingra upazila, Saiful and Vaina of Paota village, Yadul of Langolmara and Abdul Barik of Dighoria in Tarash upazila of Sirajganj.

Rab quoting locals said the gang was engaged in criminal activities including robberies and killings.

The incident occurred around 1:30am when the gang of at least 13 gathered on Adimpur Primary School ground prior to launching an attack on the village, 90km from divisional headquarters of Rajshahi.

But more than 100 villagers were lying in wait for them around the field with the gang oblivious, witnesses said. The villagers chased the gang and a few of them managed to flee while most jumped into a pond, finding no escape route, on the northern part of the school compound.

The villagers encircled the pond as announcements were made through loudspeakers of mosques alerting other villagers about the criminals.

The gang opened fire on the villagers in a bid to scare their way out of the situation. Rab personnel tried to negotiate their surrender but the criminals kept on firing forcing Rab to retaliate, said officials of Rab and police present on the scene requesting anonymity.

The criminals later ran out of ammunition and the law enforcers asked villagers to get the criminals out of the pond, witnesses claimed.

The villagers got them out of the pond, took them to the school ground and gave them a mass beating. Six of them died on the spot and the law enforcers were able to rescue two of them but they died on their way to Singra Health Complex 35km away.

The body of the other criminal was found in the pond with a bullet wound in the head.

Two locally-made guns and three bullet shells were recovered from the criminals while two other similar guns were retrieved from the pond.

Policemen were looking for more arms in the pond at the school ground as of yesterday afternoon.

"Attacks by robbers are not uncommon at the village during the harvest period. Besides, our suspicion about a possible attack became stronger as we started noticing movement of unknown people," said M Shahin, a local and a witness to the incident.

"As we started noticing movement of unknown people, we arranged regular watch with Rab and police help at the village and its surrounding areas," said Tarek Hossain Dulal, a member Dahia union parishad.

Abdul Quayyum, a local trader, said, "The criminals might have targeted three businessmen who collected handsome money through Halkhata [annual collection of outstanding dues] just a day before."

Dahia Union Parishad Chairman M Sarful Islam said, "Three weeks ago villagers complained to Rab about the movements of alleged criminals and Rab-5 arranged for an awareness meeting in the village."

Lt Col Israt Hossain, director of Rab-5, visited the spot. Additional forces of Rab and police were deployed at the village.

Rab-5 in a press release last evening said that a combined team of Rab personnel from Rajshahi Railway Colony camp and Singra police were on patrol at Bias, Ayas and Kholabaria villages.

They rushed to neighbouring Bias Adimpur village hearing a hue and cry.

The release said the patrol team saw villagers surrounding a gang of robbers in a pond at the north corner of the school and heard announcements being made from loudspeakers of mosques urging to resist the robbers.

The team took position at a corner of the pond, the release said.

The release claimed that the gang fired around 20 shots to frighten and disperse the villagers and the patrol team. The team retaliated to protect lives of locals and government properties, the press release read.

As locals stepped back during the firefight, robbers tried to flee but the mob caught a number of them and started beating them indiscriminately.

They rescued two unidentified robbers from the mob and seized two firearms and ammo from them. However, the two succumbed to their injuries on their way to a health complex, the release said.

Later the law enforcers pacified the mob. They recovered six bodies of the robbers.

The release said another body and two firearms were found in the pond.

42 rescued while being trafficked to India

42 rescued while being trafficked to India
BSF sends back 211 others

Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) rescued a group of 42 people, including 24 children, as they were being trafficked into India through Char Majhardiar border point on the outskirts of Rajshahi city on Wednesday night.

With this the total number of people rescued since May 13, rose to 112.

None of the traffickers were however arrested. The rescued people all come from Sidr-hit Khulna and Narail districts.

They were being taken to India with promises of jobs there.

The BDR Battalion of no 37, acting on a tip-off, challenged the large group at Char Majhardiar, a few yards off the Indian border at around 11:00 pm.

The group then confessed that they were being taken to India but that they did not have any legal travel documents.

They told BDR that they had paid the traffickers Tk 3000 each for the promised jobs in India. Badrul Sheikh and Nazma Begum, two of the people rescued, told reporters that some local agents convinced them about good jobs in India.

They named one such agent to be Amir Ali, from of Pirla village under Kalia upazila in Narail.

Bazle Rijvi Al Hasan Munjil, Haripur union chairman who helped in the rescue told newsmen that Abdus Sattar and Kader Bangal from Char Majhardiar, Nuru from Balia and Mantu from Gahmabona was leading the group to India.

Meanwhile the rescued people were handed over to Rajpara police station. BDR Nayek Subedar Mustafijur Rahman lodged a case in this regard, accusing Amir Ali, police said.

Human trafficking incidents have increased alarmingly in the northwestern frontier of Rajshahi. Organised international traffickers have built a strong network in the region taking advantage of people's poverty, sources in BDR and police said.

False promises of jobs and marriages in India and Middle East countries are used to lure poor people in the area. Sometimes the traffickers themselves pose as grooms and take girls across the border as their wives.

"In such kind of situations, there is little that law enforcement agencies can do, " Rajshahi DIG Mokhlesur Rahman said.

Rahman suggested launching a massive awareness campaign at grassroots level by the administration, local governments, NGOs and other socio-cultural bodies.

Our Benapole correspondent adds: Indian Border Security Force (BSF) members handed over a total of 211 Bangladeshis -- who had been languishing in an Indian jail for the last two years -- to Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and police over the last four days.

They were handed back through the Benapole check post.

BSF sent back 49 people yesterday, 53 on Wednesday, 56 on Tuesday and 53 others on Monday.

On their return, the Bangladeshis said human traffickers had taken them to India with promises of employment but police arrested them and sent them to jail.

Sources said Bangladesh Women Lawyers Association contacted the authorities of Damdam jail, where these people had been confined, through the Bangladesh High Commission in India to bring them back home.

The victims are from Jessore, Madaripur, Faridpur, Sylhet, Sirajganj, Magura, Feni, Narail, Jhenidah, Sunamganj, Pirozpur, Narayanganj and Chandpur.

Newly appointed British HC takes over June 23

The newly appointed British High Commissioner (HC) Stephen Nicholas Evans will take over his charges on June 23.

Simon Lever, first secretary (political) to the British HC, during his two-day visit to Rajshahi said this while talking to the local media yesterday evening.

Evans succeeds Anwar Choudhury who has been appointed to a critical senior diplomatic position at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

Evans, a highly experienced and accomplished diplomat with in-depth experience of South Asia, has previously served as British ambassador to Afghanistan and British high commissioner to Sri Lanka.

Simon Lever was accompanied by Ejazur Rahman, a political analyst of the high commission.

He had talks with Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner Hafijur Rahman Bhuiyan, BNP acting office secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi and newsmen on the first day.

He is likely to meet the officials of the joint forces, chiefs of other law enforcement agencies, Rajshahi University vice chancellor, leaders of Awami League and other political parties and leaders of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

While talking to the media, Simon Lever said the state of emergency should go as soon as possible as it is interrupting the human rights.

Accountability and transparency of the political leadership should be ensured for establishing human rights in the country, he added.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Alarming rise in trafficking thru' Rajshahi border

71 rescued in 4 drives in 3 weeks

Law enforcement agencies rescued 71 people from traffickers on Rajshahi borders only in four drives in three weeks, sending a warning that trafficking has increased alarmingly in north-western frontiers.

Organised international traffickers have built a strong network in the region taking advantage of people's poverty, sources in BDR and police said. Law enforcers have increased vigilance on the border and areas nearby.

Police on June 4 rescued 16 people including five women and seven children from Seroil bus stand area in Rajshahi city as they were about to be trafficked to India through Barakuthi ghat in Padma river.

Two days back, BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) rescued 21 people of six families, including 11 children, from near Godagari border in Rajshahi. Police rescued five teenaged girls from Shiroil bus stand on May 27.

On May 13, BDR rescued 28 people of seven families including 11 children from Char Asariadaha border in Godagari.

Law enforcers said, all the victims were extremely poor and were lured with false promises of jobs in Indiaa and some Middle East countries. They were from different southern districts including Narail, Jessore and Khulna, and the five adolescent girls were from Chapainawabgaj.

The victims gave traffickers up to Tk 3000 each, the sources said.

"Only poverty made them land in the hands of traffickers", said Rajshahi Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Mokhlesur Rahman.

"In this situation, actions by law enforcement agencies can do a little", he said suggesting launching of a massive awareness campaign at grassroots level by the administration, local governments, NGOs and other socio-cultural bodies.

Deputy Commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, Zillur Rahman, and some senior BDR officials also echoed the same sentiment.

The victims are promised good jobs, but women often land in brothels, said law enforcers.

They said traffickers mainly use 20 points in north-western border.

Family dispute is also a cause that contribute to trafficking. Sometimes, victims are kidnapped and women are lured with false promises of jobs and marriage. At times traffickers pose as prospective grooms and take girls across the border as their wives.

Recently, a gang of local drug-peddlers kidnapped a school-girl from Srimantapur village in Godagari upazila and gang-raped her. She was rescued as the traffickers were preparing to send her to India.

Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi borders are mainly used by traffickers.

"Traffickers adopt a strategy of changing routes…When they fail at one point, they try another route…Our eyes do not reach everywhere", said a senior BDR officials requesting not to be named.

Mosquito menace continues to cause sufferings to Rajshahi residents


Mosquito menace continues to cause sufferings to people of Rajshahi city.

There was no drive against mosquito in the city due to shortage of fund in last one and a half years.

Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) authorities said they were unable to contain mosquito menace as their limited resources are being used in other areas.

"Our mosquito control activities are now restricted to areas where government establishments are located," said RCC Chief Executive Officer Korban Ali.

"We have already stopped using fogger machines for public places for fund constraint although spraying mosquito larvicides is still going on in certain areas, said Dr Rizvi Sultan, RCC chief health officer.

This year only Tk 7.20 lakh has been earmarked from revenue budget for controlling mosquito menace.

"The amount is inadequate, and the situation will improve only when more funds will be available from development fund," said Dr Rizvi.

Lack of skilled manpower is another problem, he said, adding, "We have sought government approval for skilled manpower."

According to mosquito department sources, of the 43 fogger machines, 27 are now out of order.

The remaining 16 fogger machines remain idle.

Anti-mosquito coils, which are hazardous for health, are being used at several wards including that of children at Rajshahi Medical College and Hospital, said sources.

The city residents have already expressed their dissatisfactions over the mosquito control initiative of the city corporation.

Acting RCC Mayor Rejaunnabi Dudu, however, called for cleanliness at home and outside.

"Clogged-up drains is one of the major reasons for mosquito menace," he added.

Menon warns about perils of constitutional review

Front Page

Workers Party (WP) President Rashed Khan Menon yesterday warned about the dangers that would result if an unelected government does a review of the constitution.

"Our constitution is based on our independence. Only an elected government can review it. If it is reviewed by an unelected government, a dangerous situation will be created," Menon said at a press conference in Rajshahi.

"If a review of the constitution is opened up, Jammat-e Islami can claim for establishment of Islamic rule, for example, or some other can say that the liberation of the country was a wrong thing," Menon said illustrating his point.

The press conference was held at a city hotel prior to a WP city and district level workers' conference.

Gono Forum leaders on June 2 proposed a review of the constitution and post-election national unity government.

On Wednesday last, Commerce Adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman revealed a government bid to form a "constitutional review commission" which would leave its recommendations to the elected government who would implement them.

"If the reviews are to be implemented by the next government, why should the review body be formed now?" Menon asked adding, "The elected government can do it."

Menon criticised the government steps for framing new laws for local government polls and described the rules as marks of de-politicisation attempts.

He also said the recent mass arrests of grassroot politicians are clear indications of the government's intention of creating terror and fear among political parties, suppressing them and controlling the local government polls.

Tk 162.32cr RCC budget announced


Acting mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) Rezaunnabi Dudu yesterday announced a Tk 162.32 crore budget for 2008-09 fiscal year proposing new taxes on holding and water.

"In fact, the holding tax will be adjusted as it had not been reassessed since 2003 during which many new houses were built and developed," he said.

"We have decided to raise an amount of Tk 1 crore from holding tax and another Tk 1 crore from water tax, " said Abdul Hamid Sarker, ward commissioner and acting chairman of the finance committee.

Explaining the increase in water tax, he said the RCC is spending Tk 3.50 crore every year in water sector, but getting a return of less than Tk 1 crore in revenue.

"Our power bills have been remaining outstanding for long and we could not pay a single power bill of current fiscal, " he added.

The acting mayor said the city areas and its population have increased and the corporation had to extend its activities and manpower to provide modern services, but its income has not increased in proportion.

"For adjusting the increased expenditure, we are to fire some 300 labourers in July," he added.

The budget envisages an income of Tk 32.74 crore as revenue, Tk 24.07 crore as development grant and Tk 93.65 crore as project grant.

The proposed expenditures include Tk 29.07 crore for salaries and other organisational purposes including Tk 25.80 lakh for road repair and maintanance, Tk 25 crore for second phase of Medium Town Coordinated Flood Control Project, Tk 10 crore for municipal development fund and Tk 5 lakh each for digital city project, SME and information technology development and Green South Asia project.

However, the budget did not show any allocation for controlling mosquito menace, one of the major problems of the city.

Outlaw killed in 'crossfire'

A member of outlawed Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) was killed yesterday in crossfire between Rab and his accomplices at Namkan village of Bagmara upazila.

The dead was identified as Abdur Rashid alias Sagor, 28, son of Ishaq Ali of Jhikra Joanbhagpara village.

In a press release, Rab said when the law enforcers conducted a drive at Namkan village at about 2:30am, a gang of terrorists opened fire on them prompting the Rab members to retaliate.

Rashid sustained bullet injuries during the shootout while his cohorts managed to escape the scene.

He was rushed to a local health complex where the on-duty doctor declared him dead.

Rab said Rashid was accused in a number of cases on different charges including murder, extortion and robbery.

The law enforcers recovered a shutter gun, a bullet, an empty cartridge, two machetes and two knives from the scene.

Two students crushed under wheels of train

Two motorbike riders were run over by a local train yesterday while they were crossing a railway track in Laxmipur Bhatapara area.

The victims, identified as Miko, 30, of Chhotobongram housing area and student of Rajshahi University, and Robin, 25, of Shibganj upazila in Chapainawabganj and student of Bangabandhu Degree College.

The riders were hit by the Rohonpur-bound local train while they were crossing a narrow cattle crossing. They died on the spot.

The train movement on Rajshahi-Chapainawabganj route remained suspended for three hours since 1:30pm as the damaged motorcycle blocked up at the train's engine bumper.

Local people said the crossing is being used for many years for the convenience of the locals. The railway authorities have never closed the crossing nor they posted any guard to maintain security in the area.

When contacted, Chief Operating Manager (western railway) M Shahjahan said the crossing was unauthorised.

"We noticed it after the accident… We can't keep vigilance on railway tracks regularly for lack of manpower".

Mass Arrests

Over 200 people including 33 district and upazila level top leaders of Awami League, BNP and their front organisations, municipality and union parishad chairmen and transport leaders were arrested as of yesterday during a sudden crackdown by the joint forces starting Friday midnight.
...    ...   ...
Our staff correspondent in Rajshahi adds: Joint forces held four persons including two grassroots politicians and a Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militant at Godagari upazila in Rajshahi yesterday.

District Krishak League Vice President and former panel chairman of Godagari municipality Wayej Uddin Biswas was arrested from his Sarengpur residence while ex-president of Awami League Gogram union Subhas Chandra Murari was detained at a market.

JMB member Minarul Islam was arrested at Machhmara in Godagari while suspected terrorist Marshal was held at Laxmipur.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bamboo poles being used to supply power

Front Page
Bamboos are being used on the Rajshahi city protection embankment to supply power to houses violating Power Development Board rules. Photo: STAR
The Power Development Board (PDB) is using bamboo poles for supplying electricity to different areas in Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) violating existing rules.

As per the rules, the PDB can give electricity connection from a standard pole to households at a maximum distance of 100 feet and the electricity cables have to be at least seven metres above the ground.

But the rules are being violated in many RCC areas including Bulonpur, Keshabpur, and Mirzapur.

Electricity is being supplied using bamboo poles to about 400 houses at Keshabpur several hundred feet away from a standard pole on the protection dam at Bulonpur.

Moreover, many bamboo poles used for supplying electricity were found in a bad shape with power cables hanging just overhead at some points.

Locals said four standard poles were installed in the area about six months ago but those still remain unused. They said although they had requested the PDB authorities several times to remove the bamboo poles that pose risks to the local residents, the PDB is yet to take any step.

The PDB had provided them electricity metres several years ago and they have been paying bills regularly, they added.

"I had informed the PDB authorities of the matter and also wrote to the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources. But any step is yet to be taken to settle the issue," said RCC ward no-4 Commissioner Sajjad Hossain.

When contacted, Rajshahi PDB Chief Engineer Arjad Hossain admitted that supplying electricity using bamboo poles is a clear violation of existing rules.

Replying to a query, he said the bamboo poles used for supplying electricity would be removed during implementation of the Ten Town Development Project.