Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rajshahi school-goers get scope to fix English

English in Schools (EIS), a joint initiative by The Daily Star and AKTEL, is a very positive and timely initiative; it will open up a new horizon for English learners, said educationists yesterday.

This will help students know the world better and face the present global challenges, they observed at an EIS orientation session for schoolteachers.

At least 250 teachers from 118 secondary schools in Rajshahi from eight districts - Joypurhat, Bogra, Pabna, Sirajganj, Chapainawabganj, Naogaon, Natore and Rajshahi participated in the event at Nanking Darbar Hall in the city yesterday.

Under the EIS, around 1,000 schools across the country will get three copies of The Daily Star each five days a week for free. The distribution already began in 479 schools in Dhaka, Mymensingh, Comilla and Rajshahi zones. More schools in Barishal zone will be brought under the programme on July 4.

The Daily Star will bring out an extra page featuring helpful materials and discussions every week to help students learn English language. The page will also include organising contests on spelling, vocabulary and book reading, among others.

Lauding the initiative, Prof Dr M Fazlul Bari, vice chancellor of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology who attended the programme as the chief guest said, "Students in the country are brilliant but still they are lagging behind for lack of opportunities."

"It is a very positive and timely initiative. It will have far-reaching impacts on both teachers and students," said Dr Bari.

He criticised frequent changes of curriculum and textbooks and called upon secondary level schoolteachers to develop enjoyable teaching methods and avoid dependency on notebooks.

Rajshahi Education Board chairman Dr Dipakendra Nath Das said, "Most of the students fail in the Secondary School Certificate Examination only for English."

"This happens because of problems in the teaching method; students can not follow the teachers for their typical complicated method of teaching," he said, adding that many school lack competent English teachers.

The Daily Star Senior Assistant Editor Shahnoor Wahid said, "We are committed to our initiative; now it depends on teachers and students. If you can influence and inspire students, they can really do well in English."

AKTEL's Acting Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer Koji Ono described English as a very good tool to look at the world as well as a gate to information and communication technology.

AKTEL Chief Commercial Officer Bidyut Kumar Basu said, "We have talented students but the main problem lies with the resources which are not accessible."

Prof Shaheen Kabir of Jahangir Nagar University delivered a presentation on the special page on English language, which will be distributed once a week along with The Daily Star.

She suggested inspiring students to engage in extra curricular activities as much as they can along with their regular study.

Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Shingra upazila Ataul Gani in Natore stressed the need for learning English through entertainment.

Participating teachers lauded the initiative by the mobile operator and the national daily in association with the education ministry.

"It is a rare opportunity for me, my teachers and students to read an English newspaper regularly going nowhere else but sitting at my school," said Abdul Mannan Talukhdar, headmaster of Kalai MU High School in Joypurhat.

Mannan's school like many others in the country is struggling to provide better education. It saw 73 percent pass rate in the last SSC examination while 60 percent of the unsuccessful students failed only because of English.

Speakers at the orientation said the EIS programme would reduce the number of failed students and help students improve fluency in English.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Eviction of indigenous people

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Eviction of indigenous people

There must be zero tolerance for this kind of action

The news out of Khatirpur at Porsha in Naogaon, where over 50 indigenous families have been attacked and forcibly evicted from their land, shocks us all. We unequivocally condemn this barbarous act, and strongly urge the government to take remedial action.

The victimisation of Bangladesh's indigenous populations is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon. We feel that the government has a special responsibility to protect the country's minority communities and to ensure that none of their rights are violated.

It is because of their being in a minority, being out of the mainstream of society that land-grabbers and other criminal elements feel emboldened to cheat them or deny them of their rights.

Powerful members of the majority community calculate that no one will lift a finger to help such marginalised people, and that they can thus be targeted with impunity. The government must ensure that this assumption is proved wrong.

Indeed, this government has a reputation for being protective of minority rights, and, as such, we very much hope that it will move swiftly to correct this injustice and to ensure that the affected families are able to swiftly get back their land and live there without fear of reprisal.

The facts of the case could not be simpler. Firstly the land-grabber has made false documents asserting ownership over the land in question. The fact that the documents are false is evidenced by the fact that, in any event, deputy commissioner's approval is required for any purchase of ancestral land from an indigenous person, and no such approval was ever given, or apparently even sought.

But far worse than merely fraudulently claim title to land that was not his, the land-grabber in this instance organised vicious attacks on the community, so that they had no choice but to flee for their own safety.

There can be no doubt as to the scale of the perpetrator's villainy, and exemplary punishment is necessary to warn others that this kind of action targeting the vulnerable indigenous communities will not be tolerated.

The authorities have so far failed to protect the evicted peoples. They are at present homeless and their rights have been grievously violated. The government must take all steps necessary to ensure that those who have been evicted can return to their land in safety and that those responsible for their predicament are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Evicted, now threatened

Naogaon indigenous families cry for help as influential land grabbers moving freely

Orao Arju's teenage daughter Shanibala is still upset by last week's eviction and arson attacks on 74 families, including 56 indigenous families, in Khatirpur allegedly by an influential land grabber.

Nightmares haunt Shanibala as she cannot forget Tuesday afternoon when the attackers chased her and threatened to kill her and her parents if they did not leave their own land.

The arsonists and armed attackers are moving scot-free in the area although they are accused in a case, allege the eviction victims.

When asked for her reaction, Shanibala could not help breaking down and went aside. Her mother said Manjurul, Ata, Dhola, Shafikul and Ahsan in their first attack on June 12 chased her daughter while she was going to the Union Parishad for relief.

Condition of another 15-year-old girl among the victim families is no better. She was beaten up and her dresses were torn apart on June 13 as she protested the attackers looting corrugated iron sheets and household stuff in presence of the police.

Traumatised since the incident, the girl prefers staying in the dark and trembles seeing any stranger, say her mother and villagers. Her mother was also beaten up until they were rescued by some other women.

Many of the families have sent their adult female members elsewhere fearing further attacks. Almost all the victims feel insecure as they allege the police are helping the perpetrators.

A four-member police camp has been set up in the village following complaints of insecurity, said M Mofazzel Hossain, superintendent of police, Naogaon.

He said Sub-inspector Pabitra Kumar Sinha of Porsha police station was transferred following allegations that he shouted at the indigenous people for building houses on "other's" land.

The villagers allege policemen including SIs Pabitra and Enamul intercepted them when they were going to repair their houses.

They add hired men of the alleged grabber Nur Hossain Master attacked the village three months ago and torched some 10 houses.

At Khatirpur Sondanga village in Chhaor union, some 90km off the divisional headquarters in Rajshahi, the villagers were seen sitting perplexed and scattered.

The indigenous people described their plight and the incidents occurred since June 12.

Monisura Soren was cooking rice and pulses she got as relief from the Union Parishad. "We can't live on relief. How can we go for work if tension of being evicted persists?" she asked.

Maina Hasda and Chintamoni Murmu of neighbouring indigenous village said they gave shelter to some of the children and women of the victim families. "Our houses were looted the next day for giving them shelter," lamented one of them.

They added the indigenous men now live under the open sky, while the children and women sheltered at some other houses or under the make-shift shades.

Over 300 members of the 74 families are living in the open almost without food and security.

"If it rains now, we will have nowhere to go," said Basona Hembrom.

Nur Hossain Master claims he bought some 6 acres of land from Chhotka Mardi, Churka Mardi and Hudur Mardi in 1976. But the indigenous men allege they were not paid for the land.

They also allege Nur Hossain's claim of the land is based on forged documents.

Meanwhile, Jatiya Adibashi Parishad started movement demanding justice for the incidents. They will hold a protest rally on July 5 and are holding token protests every day.

"Land grabbing from the indigenous people is nothing new," said Anil Marandi, president of Jatiya Adibashi Parishad.

He said around 2,000 indigenous families in 10 districts have so far lost their 1,748 acres of ancestral land.

Different organisations including the forest department also grabbed or acquired the land showing forged documents or in the name of social forestry, he added.

A team of National Coalition on Indigenous Affairs visited the scene on Tuesday.

The team includes Jayanta Achariya, representative of Adibashi Odhikar Andolan, Mohua of Manusher Jonne Foundation, VSO staff SM Saikuluzzaman and Action Aid representative Manjur Rashid.

A team of five rights fronts -- Ain O Salish Kendra, Blast, ALRD, Nijera Kori and TIB -- is likely to visit Naogaon today.

Published On: 2009-06-14

56 indigenous families evicted
Goons pounce on them since Friday; police silent

Hired goons of a BNP adherent evicted at least 74 families, including 56 Indigenous families, from their land in a series of attacks at Khatirpur in Porsha upazila of Naogaon to grab their land.

Allegedly backed by local police, they made the series of attacks between Friday evening and yesterday morning to evict the families.

They beat up members of indigenous families, ransacked and torched their houses Friday evening and finally looted their household items, bullock carts and human hauliers yesterday morning.

According to the victims, around 200 armed goons of Nur Hossain Master, of Chhaor, attacked the families. The indigenous families retaliated with bows and arrows but they were no match against the gang's firearms, clubs, machetes and spears.

"Police were called in but they stood as spectators," said Sabin Munda, a local leader of Jatiya Adivashi Parishad visiting the spot.

Chhutar Kisku, his wife Kastantina Murmu, Suren Murmu, Jasef Saren, Biswanath Hembrom, Mosrefa, Deljan, Osnara and her daughter Samija were among at least 30 indigenous people who were injured in the attacks.

The victims alleged Ata, Dhala, Ahsan and Mozaffar of Kumarpara led the attacks in presence of Nur Hossain and his son Manjurul.

Nur Hossain, Manjurul and their relative Azaharul were seen looting corrugated iron sheets and household items yesterday morning when a group of NGO activists and journalists visited the spot.

Nur claimed he bought the six acres of land from Chhotka Mardi, Churka Mardi and Hudur Mardi in 1976. "But we could not have possession of the land," he told journalists.

He said the eviction process through proper ways would have taken a long time and that is why he captured the land by force.

Karamat Uddin, a lawyer for the indigenous people, said the documents on the land Nur Hossain produced were declared invalid by the government in May, 2007, and a Naogaon court was trying the case filed in this regard.

Naogaon Deputy Commissioner Ahsan Habib Talukhdar and Superintendent of Police Mofazzel Hossain visited the scene and formed a probe committee headed by Porsha upazila nirbahi officer.

Jatiya Adivashi Parishad rejected the committee and called for a movement from Monday saying Nur Hossain was included in the committee.

Condemning the incident, different rights organisations yesterday demanded punishment of the perpetrators.

Leaders of Centre for Human Rights, Development and Human Security in a statement said the administration did not take any action to prevent the attack.

Bangladesh Adivashi Odhikar Andolan also demanded punishment of the criminals and compensation to the villagers for their damaged homes.

Leaders of Gono forum too demanded arrest of the criminals and expressed support for the victims.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Barind Multipurpose Development Authority: Nizami found guilty of Tk 35cr misuse

A government probe team detected that former agriculture minister Matiur Rahman Nizami was behind misuse, waste and misappropriation of at least Tk 35 crore of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) during the four-party alliance rule.

The team also found that Tk 81.27 crore more of BMDA was wasted, misused or embezzled during that period.

In response, Nizami, who heads Jamaat-e-Islami, a partner of the four-party alliance, told The Daily Star, "I am surprised hearing about the probe report. I am in no way involved in the alleged corruption and misuse, waste and misappropriation of BMDA money. This is a politically-motivated move against me with an intention to defame me."

He said he never interfered in BMDA operations when he was a minister from 2001 to May 2003. The BMDA had been run by successive governments and it had no direct link with the minister, he claimed.

Headed by Omar Faruk Chowdhury, lawmaker from Rajshahi-1 constituency, the seven-member government team submitted its report to the agriculture ministry on May 31 recommending more intense investigation. The Daily Star obtained a copy of the report.

Other members of the team are lawmakers Shadhan Chandra Majumder of Naogaon-1, M Israfil Alam of Naogaon-6, Shamsur Rahman Sharif of Pabna-4, M Ziaur Rahman of Chapainawabganj-2 and Akhtar Jahan, representative of the agriculture ministry and Asit Kumar Mukutmoni, additional divisional commissioner of Rajshahi.

The probe team was formed on April 28 in a BMDA board meeting held with Ahad Ali Sarker, state minister for youth and sports, in the chair over allegations of irregularities involving at least Tk 400 crore of BMDA funds.

The probe team revealed involvement of M Asaduzzaman, former BMDA executive director and brother of fugitive militant patron Aminul Haque, in the mismanagement of funds.

According to the probe report, Nizami misusing his power as agriculture minister in April 2002 recommended Ataur Rahman Khan, a Jamaat follower and spare parts supplier, for BMDA work orders ignoring his own ministry's stance on the work.

The report finds the process for procuring 40 kinds of spare parts for repairing old diesel-run irrigation machines was initiated in 1998-99 fiscal year and several bids were called for this.

Finally Ataur Rahman Khan, a contractor from Thanthania, Bogra, offered the lowest bid among three bidders and was given the work order for the supplies in May 2001.

In July 2001, the agriculture ministry froze the work orders following allegations of irregularities. Additional Secretary Khawaza Abdur Rahman investigated the matter, says the probe report.

Next November an 11-member technical committee was formed following the ministry's directive to outline proper actions over Khawaza Abdur Rahman's findings and the committee in its December 2001 report termed the procurement illogical and technically not viable.

The committee also reported that the procurement would be "useless and a waste of money" as BMDA had by then started converting its diesel-run irrigation machines to electricity-run machines. It also mentioned lack of fund for the procurement.

In spite of the ministerial stance on the work orders and technical committee's opinion against the procurement, the probe team revealed that Nizami, in April 2002, recommended Ataur's application, misusing his power as the then agriculture minister, for processing the work orders.

Acting on Nizami's recommendation, Asaduzzaman "unilaterally and without any authority" allowed Ataur the month after the spare parts supply work worth over Tk 7.07 crore.

The probe team said Ataur Rahman Khan was a follower of Jamaat-e-Islami and Nizami recommended him as BMDA supplier violating rules.

Bogra Jamaat Ameer Shahab Uddin confirmed Ataur's involvement in Jamaat. "He [Ataur] as a businessman used to provide us funds when needed."

Ataur is now a director of pro-Jamaat Diganta Media Corporation and he was a former director of Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd, added Ataur's son Mostafa.

However, with Ataur's supplied parts, the BMDA repaired 48 Yanmar and Duetz irrigation machines spending Tk 3 crore, the report said, adding that only two of those machines have so far been used while the remaining 46 have become useless lying unused for several years.

The team revealed that the BMDA had to manage funds from other sectors for the "high-cost procurement" while the team believes new machines could have been bought at 60 percent of the procurement and repair cost.

The BMDA would also have been able to install 700 submersible water pumps or 100 deep tube wells with the money wasted for spare parts and repairs, the probe team said. It says that facts suggest that the supplier and those who helped him getting the job got benefited.

Using Nizami's recommendation, Ataur gathered many other spare-parts-supply jobs from the BMDA during the four-party alliance government's rule that involved Tk 35 crore. The probe team observed that this money was mostly wasted and misappropriated.

The probe suggested that legal actions against people responsible and measurers to recover wasted and misappropriated money should be taken. It recommended changes in the present BMDA administration as it found some of the officials also helped Asaduzzaman in his crimes.

A team member insisting anonymity said, "The nexus between the Jamaat chief and the militant patron's brother sounds quite mysterious which prompted us to submit the primary report just after five days of starting investigation…which is yet to be over."

Asaduzzaman is the brother of Aminul Haque, former post and telecommunications minister.

Aminul was Nizami's colleague in the cabinet and was also accused in the internationally focused Siemens bribery scandal. Aminul was later convicted in a case for abetting militancy in Rajshahi.

Both Aminul and Asaduzzaman have been hiding abroad since the changeover of January 2007. However, Asaduzzaman visited Rajshahi during the 2008 general elections to campaign for his other brother M Enamul Haque, a former inspector general of police and law commission member.

"BMDA is a project for agricultural growth in Barind land but its pace was hampered by some corrupt staff," said another member of the probe team.

The team also found that M Asaduzzaman as BMDA's chief executive spent some Tk 71 crore of the revenue sector at his own will and without any proper approval during his five-year term. The BMDA did not maintain any balance sheet of its income and expenditure leaving scopes for major financial mismanagement.

The probe revealed that the government allocated Tk 9.58 crore for Intensive Forestation Project in Barind region. Asaduzzaman arbitrarily used over Tk 2.66 crore of the fund for implementing an unapproved project called plantation on field isles in 17 upazilas under Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon.

The remaining Tk 6.92 crore was stated to have been spent for planting three lakh fruit trees and 20 lakh forest trees in the three districts in 2001-02 and 2002-03 fiscal years. To the team it seemed unrealistic that BMDA planted so many trees within the short time

Most of the trees were purchased from Centre for Action Research-Barind (CARB), an NGO opened up by none other than Asaduzzaman himself. The BMDA even provided government vehicles to help CARB carry trees to project sites, revealed the report.

Asaduzzaman allegedly wasted Tk 40 lakh for planting "high-yielding" mango trees in 2006-07 year. He purchased 24,168 mango plants for over Tk 6 lakh from CARB for planting those in Natore, Sirajganj, Pabna, Kurigram and Rangpur.

The probe found another stunning fact that the BMDA employed some 68 dealers for collecting irrigation water bills from farmers between 2001-02 and 2007-08 fiscal years and 28 of those dealers were CARB employees who drew about Tk 29 lakh as five percent commission on the bills.

This is an example how Asaduzzaman used a government institution for the benefit of his NGO, the probe report read.

Asaduzzaman was the executive director of both BMDA and CARB simultaneously and the probe found that around 50 BMDA staff were "forced" to enrol as CARB's life-long member by donating Tk 5,000 each, Tk 2,55 lakh in total, in 1998-99 fiscal year.

At least 72 BMDA staff enrolled as CARB members donating a total of Tk 13,920 at the same time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

50pc drop in mango output, Prices dearer, Spraying pesticides rampant

Climate change blamed

Mango growers fear 50 percent drop in production this year in Rajshahi region due to irregular weather pattern.

Horticulturists attributed the sharp slump in mango production to abnormal variations to the climate that has an adverse affect on the Mother Nature.

"Mango yield might drop to around 2.14 lakh tonnes from last year's average 4.28 lakh tonnes", said M Abul Bashar, Rajshahi regional additional director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE).

The annual average mango production is about five lakh tonnes from over 45,000 hectares of land in eight districts including the mango capital Chapainwabganj where mango grows on the highest 22,000 hectares of land while it is about 8500 hectares in Rajshahi.

The prolonged drought due to change in the climate caused mangoes to ripen earlier, said agriculturist Dr Ittefakul Azad adding, "It eventually affects the taste of mangoes".

"About 30 percent buds are damaged during flowering while over 20 percent mangoes are lost in storm and other natural factors of", said horticulturist SM Quamruzzaman in Natore.

Horticulturist Mohammad Mofazzal Hossain of Kollyanpur Horticulture Center in Chapainawabganj explained that a heavy dense fog instead of hot temperature in early January affected the flowering.

Most of the trees grew new leafs rather than buds and buds in huge quantity were ruined as the chill continued and scanty rainfall since October prolonged the drought affecting the mango yields, he said.

"Mango production was the worst hit by the climate change this year," he added.

Mango growers in Chapainawabganj have their own words for explaining climate change. "We are cursed with Moha this year", said 55-year-old mango grower MA Mazid Fazlu at Kansat.

Horticulturists explained that Moha is a kind of disease appears in the form of mould on leaves. It happens specially when the mist shrouds the nature during summer nights, another change in the weather pattern.

They said that adequate rainfall could save mango trees from this kind of disease.

This correspondent found mango growers worried in Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi as the number of trees bearing fruits is inadequate.

The largest mango markets at Kansat, Bholahat and Sona Mosque roadsides were vacant and a very few traders were found waiting for buyers at Sadarghat in Chapainawabganj town.

"A week of the Jaistha has already elapsed and we are yet to take mangoes to the markets as weather changed the harvesting schedule", said Shawkat Ali, a mango trader.

"I can hardly expect 60 mounds now from the orchards where 300 maunds were yielded last year", said Shahidul Islam at Kansat.

However, at Baneswar market in Rajshahi, Guti mangoes were being sold at Tk 800 to Tk 1000 while Gopalbhog in between Tk 1600 and Tk 1700 per mound.

"I am wondering if I can manage to get half the profit of last year", said Bulbul Islam, a college student and seasonal mango trader at Baneswar.

The authority concerned is doing very little about the adverse effects of climate change on this sector that where a huge number of people find their livelihood especially during the summer season.

Rajshahi regional DAE chief admitted the fact and said it is due the priority given to staple crops paddy and wheat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Mango turns dearer

Savouring the season's king fruit, mango, may not be a common man's delight this year as low production levels in the north has pushed its prices up, said growers and traders.

Mangoes are selling at 1.5 times higher prices in the local markets, while growers anticipate prices to soar by 30 percent, as mangoes fell from the trees because of the cyclone Aila.

Green mangoes have flooded the markets, including Baneswar in Rajshahi and Kansat in Chapainwabganj, and are selling at Tk 130 to Tk 160 per mound (40kg).

Manzur Hossain, a trader at Baneswar, said they stopped selling mangoes, as they are not finding buyers for the fallen immature mangoes, even at low prices.

Four varieties of mangoes -- Guti, Ati and Gopalbhog and Kirsapat -- have hit the market and prices remain higher than last year.

Gopalbhog, which was available at even Tk 1,600 even last week a mound, is now selling at Tk 1,800 to Tk 2,000 per mound. Price of the variety was Tk 1,000 last year.

The Kirsapat variety hit the market at Tk 1,800 per mound against Tk 1,400 last year.

The well-known Langra will come to market in the next 10 days, followed by the king of mangoes Fazlee, said Arabinda Das, a mango trader at Shaheb Bazar.

Traders hinted that prices of these varieties may rise to a staggering Tk 2,400 per mound this season.

An increased import of mangoes this season from India is unlikely to help control prices, as India too has suffered a blow.

"Traders hinted at doubling the import of mangoes from India because of low output in Bangladesh this year", said Lutfar Rahman, commissioner of Rajshahi Divisional Customs.

He said despite better production last year, over 29,000 tonnes of Indian mangoes worth around Tk 73 crore were imported through the Hili port in Dinajpur and Sona Mosque in Chapainawabganj.

This year, importers brought in 29,000 tonnes of mangoes till May and they hope to import the item worth around Tk 100 crore, bringing in an additional 6,000 tonnes this season.

However, importers expressed anxiety over low yield of the fruit in India.

"Our increased imports may not have much effect on the local market, following a low output in India", said Samar Kumar, a mango importer in Kansat. He already imported some 100 tonnes and started procedures to import more.

In Baneswar, there are some 150 'arats' for mango business, each of which deals with nearly Tk 1 crore daily this season, said Bulbul Hossain, a mango trader.

"We normally sell around 10 to 20 trucks of mangoes a day, from the first week of 'Jaistha'. But this year, we are yet to get buyers from outer districts," said Nakim Uddin of Shahbazpur.

"The supply of mangoes is poor," he said.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rampant spray of pesticides on mango trees

Unaware of health hazards, a worker spraying pesticides on mangoes at an orchard in Kansat upazila of Chapainawabganj. Photo: Anisur Rahman

Most mango growers in Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi districts are using pesticides and other chemicals at least 20 times for 'protection and better yield' against experts' suggestion for three times safe use.

Mindless use of the toxic chemicals in the country's mango zone is posing serious threat to public health as well as to environment and wildlife, thanks to the authorities' lax monitoring and lack of awareness campaign.

"We suggest using pesticides only three times after flowering, when fruits take the size of grams and then at its marble-size," Mohammad Mofazzal Hossain, horticulturist of Kalyanpur Horticulture Centre in Chapainwabganj, said.

If pesticides are applied on fruits, it must not be consumed within 15 days, he said.

During visits to Chapainwabganj, this correspondent saw rampant spraying of pesticides on mango trees.

Several growers said they spray pesticides, fungicides and 'vitamins' over 20 times for protection and making the fruits look colourful.

More chemicals are used when pest attacks are frequent.

Different local brands like Noin, Carbendazime, Aimcozim, Cartap Hydrochloride and even Overmethrin containing Cypermethrin were seen in use.

The highly toxic items, also used as ant and cockroach killers, adds to groundwater contamination.

"We spray these first before flowering for washing the trees, again when fruit appears and then once in every week till harvest," said Shahidul Islam of Sankarmaria in Kansat.

"As per suggestion from pesticide traders, we spray even the day before plucking fruits for marketing," he said.

Mango traders again use chemicals before selling.

Sprayers seldom take any protective measures while handling the poisons.

Liton and Milon, who were seen spraying chemicals at a mango orchard in Sankarmaria with bare hands and legs, said they sometimes feel irritations on skin and eyes.

Contacted, Jamir Uddin, Senior Scientific officer of Regional Horticulture and Research Station, said, "Traders lure growers to overuse pesticides by providing them on credit and it overpowers our limited outreach efforts."

Dr M Rezaul Karim, a biochemistry teacher of Rajshahi University, said eating chemically treated foods can lead to deadly diseases like cancer, hypertension and birth defects.