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Political instability poised to torpedo MIC dream

Shahid Islam

In an election year, an incumbent government has all the reasons to believe and tell the people that it can meet the economic target of transforming the nation into a middle-income country (MIC) by 2021.
With that aim, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the developed countries on January 17 to come forward with financial and technical assistance to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); a precondition to meeting the much-coveted MIC stature that the government has been obsessive about for too long.

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Shahid Islam

In an election year, an incumbent government has all the reasons to believe and tell the people that it can meet the economic target of transforming the nation into a middle-income country (MIC) by 2021.
With that aim, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the developed countries on January 17 to come forward with financial and technical assistance to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); a precondition to meeting the much-coveted MIC stature that the government has been obsessive about for too long.

What is MIC?
Achieving the development goals is also contingent upon many other factors, the foremost among them being sustained political stability. The MICs are measured by per capita gross national income (GNI) between $1,005 and $12,235. It’s a stratification that the World Bank uses to classify economies for operational and analytical purposes.
It endows an uplifted status too. The World Bank uses GNI per capita as the basis for this classification due to the GNI being a broad measure, and considered to be the single best indicator of the economic capacity and the progress made by any nation. Many of the global economic minds believe the MICs are essential for continued global economic growth and stability.
And, according to the World Bank, sustainable growth and development in MICs triggers positive spillovers to the rest of the world, reduces poverty, strengthens international financial stability, and, positively helps address global issues like climate change, sustainable energy development, food and water security, and international trade.
As of now, the MICs have a combined population of 5 billion, over 70% of the world’s 7 billion people, and, include 73% of the world’s poor. The MICs constitute a major engine for global economic growth by generating about one-third of the global GDP.

Sub-groups
MICs are sub-grouped as per income and economic capability; such as the lower-middle income and upper-middle income economies. Lower-middle income economies have per capita GNIs between $1,006 and $3,955, while upper-middle economies have per capita GNIs between $3,956 and $12,235.
To become MIC, size is irrelevant. So far, a diverse group of nations by region, size, population and income level have fitted into the MIC slots. Tiny nations like Belize and the Marshall Islands are MICs, as are all four of the BRIC giants – Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Among the MICs, China and India have nearly one-third of global population and continue to play vital role in shaping and shoving the global economy. There are 109 MICs in total; 53 of them being of lower-middle income while 56 others categorized as upper-middle economies.

UNCTAD - prescribed criteria
At the minimum, a sustainable 8%GDP growth is needed to achieve the aim of becoming a MIC; all other factors being equally conducive. An UNCTD report said the graduation from LDC to MIC is “the first milestone in a marathon of development, not the winning post of a race to escape the LDC category.”
Besides achieving the desired GDP growth, for graduation to MICs, three other criteria must be met at the micro level: the income criteria, the Human Asset Index (HAI,) and the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), according to the UNCTAD report. An LDC can graduate to MIC if it meets two of the three criteria, or, if the country’s income doubles; gradually or abruptly by windfall gains of some sort.
The UNCTAD report said some of the 16 countries that are projected to graduate to MICs by 2025, including Bangladesh and Bhutan, are likely to reach the milestone through increased productive capacities, diversification, and, structural economic transformation.
Sustained political stability is a sine qua non to achieving that goal because, at present, Bangladesh meets only the EVI criteria; although, according to a CPD assessment, Bangladesh will have a fairly good possibility in 2018 to meet also the HAI criteria, and, perhaps, the income criteria too. If proven true, Bangladesh will be one of the three countries to have done so; the other two countries being Djibouti and Yemen. The caveat is: 2018 is predicted to be one of the most unstable ones politically, a second general election in a row having the prospect of being botched or derailed.

Power consumption & remittance
Then there are other structural problems. For instance, the correlation between increased growth and per capita energy consumption is an irreputed one. Yet, according to the UN’s “Least Developed Countries Report 2017”, half of the rural population of Bangladesh has no access to electricity, placing the nation at the bottom among the least developed countries (LDCs) in Asia. In 2014, nearly 60% of the overall Bangladeshi population had access to electricity – the lowest among all the Asian LDCs, the report claimed. That picture is improving, but at snail’s pace.
As well, the UNCTAD report further identified a huge discrepancy between the country’s rural and urban populations; with around 84% of the urban area inhabitants enjoying access to electricity, as opposed to 50% in rural areas.
The report observed, in contrast, two other Asian LDCs, Nepal and Bhutan, are on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) of universal access to modern energy while 47 other LDCs are falling far behind the rest of the developing world in connecting homes and business to electricity to achieve universal access to energy.
Increased income and affluence, for a country like Bangladesh, also depends on uninterrupted productivity within and enhanced remittance inflows from expatriate workers. In 2015, Bangladesh was the largest recipient of remittances among the LDCs, when migrant workers sent home $15.4 billion, according to the UNCTAD report. The country was also one of the highest official development assistance recipients in 2014, nearly $1.5 billion, which is what the PM wants more and more, and at a faster pace.

Impact
But there is a flip side to uplifting one’s status from LDC to MIC. Research shows, nation’s exports will fall between 5.5 percent to 7 percent if the country loses duty-free market access upon its graduation from LDC to MIC. This will happen once the country graduates from the LDC status, loses duty-free benefits, while many of its competitors retain their existing preferential treatment, although, a graduation from LDC to MIC in 2024 will still keep the LDC privileges alive until 2027, to facilitate a smooth transformation. These are reasons why the nation must recalibrate its modes of production, diversify products, and prepare for all the eventualities that will accompany the uplifting of its status to MIC.
Once officially declared as MIC, the nation will be out of the rank and file of 48 other designated countries entitled to a total of 136 support measures; including special treatment on official development assistance, climate finance, preferential market access and rules of origin, patent flexibilities, and, aid for trade.
That is precisely why Bangladesh cannot afford to allow any political instability to derail its ongoing growth trajectory upward swing. Not only the GDP growth must not plunge below the 8 % threshold, remittance growth must climb above 8 percent.
Above all, increased investment to the tune of at least 5% of the GDP; faster human capital accumulation; enhanced productivity growth; and, reduction in level of corruption are indispensable for this catapulting of the nation’s status. Any partisan approach to achieving this aim will only delay the process indefinitely.


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Hasina wants election to keep her party in power

Faruque Ahmed

The High Court stay of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) election for three months in the wake of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement of parliamentary election in December this year seems highly misleading. Many believe it may be art of a complex political calculation in an election year although clearly one has no direct relation with the other.
Meanwhile what comes as a big shock to the nation is that the Prime Minister has not consulted the major opposition and ignored calls from all quarters to smooth out critical controversies over election time government before the announcement. Without resolving the issue, the call for election is meaningless as far as it goes to bring the opposition to election.

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Faruque Ahmed

The High Court stay of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) election for three months in the wake of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement of parliamentary election in December this year seems highly misleading. Many believe it may be art of a complex political calculation in an election year although clearly one has no direct relation with the other.
Meanwhile what comes as a big shock to the nation is that the Prime Minister has not consulted the major opposition and ignored calls from all quarters to smooth out critical controversies over election time government before the announcement. Without resolving the issue, the call for election is meaningless as far as it goes to bring the opposition to election.

Moreover her call is producing two parallel scenarios among election stakeholders. In one hand, the government has geared up party leadership to embark upon nationwide electioneering campaigns. It has already set up at least 14 committees at national level to visit districts and divisional headquarters and hold meetings asking people to vote for Awami League. The Prime Minister herself is campaigning in the sideline of official visit around the country.  
 In the BNP camps on the other hand, party leaders and workers are awfully busy facing cases in the courts and police chase in the streets instead of finding time and energy to prepare for the election. Over the past two weeks BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia is appearing before the Special Tribunal in the old city on daily basis when hearing in two graft cases against her, which party leaders say based on false documents, is at final stage. Meanwhile 14 other cases against her were also transferred to the same Special Tribunal last week. Party secretary general has alone over 80 cases to suggest how overloaded the party is with politically charged cases.  
Charges against Begum Zia include instigation to violence, arson and to such other crimes that caused people to suffer mainly during January 2014 parliamentary election that BNP and major opposition had boycotted.
Meanwhile political observers in Dhaka sounded skeptical of a media report by Kolkata based Bengali daily Ananda Bazar quoting their sources in Dhaka that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has exchanged views with visiting Indian former President Pranab Mukherjee on political issues including election this year.  They said it showed she relies more on advice of the Indian leaders while avoiding consultations on such sensitive issues with opposition leaders in Bangladesh.
Pranab also visited Dhaka in 2013 facing national election. Shortly after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held parliament election keeping BNP and Jamaat out of electioneering. Pranab Mukherjee even failed to mention the name of former President and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman at Chittagong University when he remembered many leaders of the subcontinents including Gen Zia of Pakistan who lost lives in the hands of assassins. He may have his own reasons but its political interpretations will be highly controversial in Bangladesh politics.       
Many have raised question whether the government is sincere to bring BNP and the opposition parties to election. Had it been so; it would have arranged pre-election consultations with opposition and in the first place would have stopped political harassment. Such harassment without creating peaceful situation clearly strengthen suspicion in many quarters that the government wants to hold the polls without major opposition parties.  
Some also raised question why then the government is using the huge budget for the election commission if a free and fair election is apparently out of serious consideration. Election means people should be allowed to cast their votes freely for candidates of their choice from any party and it means all registered parties must get plain even field to participate.
If there is only one party or group of parties, such election exercise is not usually required. In that case selection of MPs is the best way that the Awami League widely carried out during 2014 election.
The Prime Minister’s announcement that the election will be held as per constitution comes to suggest Awami League led 14-party alliance is out again to hold a unilateral election even if BNP and the 20-party opposition alliance will not take part in it.
On January 5 on completion of four years in her second term in office the Prime Minister has surely invited the opposition to election but at the same time warned people to be vigilant against those who may try to create anarchy to hold election as per constitution. In this case, as per the political blue print of the government.
She has therefore called upon people to decide what they want instead of asking political parties to hold talk how to hold the election to allow people to give their vote freely to make their choice known in peaceful election. They would surely pick up parties and people capable to continue the development that the country is now witnessing. They will deny the anarchists to derail the nation from the path of development. This is democracy. But it needs free election; instead of asking people to resist those who will put challenge to the government in electioneering process.
The Prime Minister made no secret the government wants to remain in power over many years for achieving its far reaching development targets. So the existing cabinet will hold the election and parliament will not be dissolved to allow MPs to face challenge of the opposition candidates from the seat of power. This is the new system that the Awami League government has created shelving the caretaker government to make sure power will not slip from their hand.
BNP and the 20-party opposition had boycotted the last parliamentary election for shelving the previous caretaker government that allowed cabinet and parliament to continue. They are demanding a neutral poll-time government ever since. In their view if the government continues in power it will allow party men to rig election and use police and local administration to defeat opposition candidates. Continuation of parliament will deny possibility of contest among equals.
Civil Society leaders are also routinely bringing pressure on the government to enter into a national dialogue how an election time government can be set up to hold a free and fair election acceptable to all. Only the Awami League led 14-party alliance is sticking to taking cover of the constitution of its making as a non-negotiable document saying it can’t be changed to fulfill anybody’s wishes. But everybody knows the government has created the new arrangement to easily win the elections.
Meanwhile, the sudden suspension of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) election based on a High Court order on voter list anomalies gives different message to skeptics. They believe the government knows DNCC election may prove highly risky facing national election by the year-end.  So the writ against DNCC election is not a surprise whoever has filed it.
The fact is that if the government creates troubles in DNCC election to bring victory to its candidate, its popularity may suffer further setback. If it allows free election, a win by BNP candidate will be similarly devastating.
BNP candidate Tabith Awal was critically closer to the Awami League candidate during mayoral election in 2015. Many believe had he not withdrawn or speaking otherwise if somebody had not spread the news in mid-day of the Election Day that he had withdrawn from the race on the ground of widespread rigging, he was almost closer to success. The government is not ready to take such risks again at this stage.


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Jammu-Kashmir people tired of Militancy: Army Chief

Special Correspondent

Indian army chief, general Bipin Rawat, said on Wednesday that the people in Jammu and Kashmir are tired of militancy as they have realised that it cannot give them what they want.
In a Facebook Live session at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue organised by the observer research foundation (ORF), he also said that people of Kashmir have “come to know that it is not possible to secede from India.”

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Special Correspondent

Indian army chief, general Bipin Rawat, said on Wednesday that the people in Jammu and Kashmir are tired of militancy as they have realised that it cannot give them what they want.
In a Facebook Live session at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue organised by the observer research foundation (ORF), he also said that people of Kashmir have “come to know that it is not possible to secede from India.”

“With a country like India, to seek independence from a nation where we have strong armed forces, very strong democracy and very strong government...you cannot secede away from India. This is what people have realised and while of course some of them have gotten radicalised into joining terrorism and maybe it gives them a macho image or whatever happens, I do feel that most of them want to join the mainstream, but some of them who have got radicalized, I think we need to address those people and carry out with our deradicalisation campaign. If that works, I think we can succeed in putting an end to terrorism,” he said.
On alleged ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC), he said that Pakistan is “trying to make an attempt to revive insurgency.”
General Bipin Rawat also said that as long as Pakistan keeps attempting to send militants across the border, India will keep taking action.
Asked about his comments on Pakistan’s “nuclear bluff”, he said that though it is a weapon of deterrence, it may not completely deter war.
Meanwhile, a Border Security Force (BSF) Head Constable and a minor girl were killed as Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy fire and shelling along the international border in Jammu and Kashmir, according to latest news on Thursday morning.
The slain Head Constable was identified as A Suresh of 78 Batallion.
The girl, identified as Sabity (aged about 13/14 yrs), daughter of Sat Pal, a resident of Dayala Chak Kathua was also killed in cross-border firing.
The district administration has ordered the closure of all schools located within five-kilometre radius from the International Border in Jammu in view of cross-border firing.
However, the villagers have not been evacuated so far.
On Thursday, the opposition staged a walkout from the Legislative Assembly to protest against the murder of an eight-year-old girl of Bakerwal community in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.
As soon as proceedings of the House began, Congress and NC legislators stood up to protest against the murder of Asifa Bano of Kathua.
The body of Bano, who was allegedly abducted a week ago, was recovered on Wednesday day from bushes in Hiranagar.
The opposition legislators alleged that police did not make any efforts to trace the girl after she was abducted.
Meanwhile, the family and the relatives of the girl staged a protest, demanding swift investigation into the case and arrest of the culprit.
Responding to a question in the legislative assembly,. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said that 363 militants and 71 civilians were killed while 176 were arrested during last two years in Jammu and Kashmir.
“363 militants including 117 locals and 246 foreigners were killed during operations in year 2016 and 2017”, Mehbooba said while replying to a written question by legislator Sat Paul Sharma.


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Smog ignored?
Air quality report without trans-boundary impact may be challenged for authenticity

Karar M Hassan, Iqbal Siddiquee, HR Chowdhury and MM Ali

A cricket test match between host India and Sri Lanka was repeatedly interrupted on Dec 3 last since players were ‘continuously vomiting’ due to hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital. It was the first time recorded instance of an international match being halted due to the toxic smoke that afflicts much of north India year round but worsened to hazardous level during winter months. Weeks earlier, schools were shut and doctors declared a public health emergency in Delhi in November as pollution level spiked to level 40 times the WHO safe limit, reported Indian as well as international dailies.

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Karar M Hassan, Iqbal Siddiquee, HR Chowdhury and MM Ali

A cricket test match between host India and Sri Lanka was repeatedly interrupted on Dec 3 last since players were ‘continuously vomiting’ due to hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital. It was the first time recorded instance of an international match being halted due to the toxic smoke that afflicts much of north India year round but worsened to hazardous level during winter months. Weeks earlier, schools were shut and doctors declared a public health emergency in Delhi in November as pollution level spiked to level 40 times the WHO safe limit, reported Indian as well as international dailies.

This is smog – severe air pollution of urban areas that restrict visibility and cause respiratory problems. During smog the sky remains overcast by a dense cloud.
Some physicians in Dhaka complained of receiving increasing number of patients with respiratory problems during the last two months, flights to and from Dhaka for national and international destinations were cancelled on a number of days in December last and the sky was also over cast by thick cloud still it is not known whether the people in the country underwent or not experienced at all any smog - severe or mild or whatever, its nature might have been.
Neither the Department of Meteorology (DoM), that forecasts weather nor the Department of Environment (DoE)responsible for monitoring air quality, was ready to officially admit that Bangladesh was experiencing smog in winter for the last couple of years. They, however, gave their own reasoning for their respective viewpoints.
Trans-boundary impact of pollutants across geographical and political boundaries was established at the global level after the infamous London Smog killed thousands of people in December 1952.
Bangladesh too must have been experiencing the brunt of trans-boundary pollutant for some time, or else why a country with one of the lowest carbon emission levels in the world became one of worst vulnerable countries of climate change is a very big riddle.
Even when ‘Sunamganj topped the list of most lightning prone area in the world during March-May season’ last year for its ‘geographical positioning’ the national dailies reported it referring to a joint study by NASA and Maryland University in the US totally ignoring the issue of trans-boundary impact of pollutant in Bangladesh. No voice was raised from any quarter including the ‘free media’, may be with one or two exceptions like The Holiday.
Since the ‘geographical positioning’ of Sunamganj bordering with the coal mining state of India’s Meghalaya was linked to its lightning proneness wrote the Holiday on Oct 20 last questioning whether the whole country was gripped for geographical reasons as the ‘number of lightning strikes increased almost three folds in the last three years’.
It also asked ‘whether trans-boundary air pollutants are contributing to increased lightning strikes and causing climate change in the country’.
Whether it is for the state of denial ingrained in our elite mindset or for state of inertia that conditions their mental makeup, questions will be asked - why the issue of smog or trans-boundary pollutants that contributes to climate change is not being monitored and who is benefitting from it.

Smog officially ignored!
‘From the level of emission of pollutants it can be easily concluded that the country is experiencing smog now a days,’ said an official of the DoE requesting anonymity. ‘Some studies already focused on the issue,’ said, the source avoiding a direct reply to a question ‘was smog being ignored and why?’
Weather forecasting officials without ruling out the possibility of smog claimed, ‘their department was not mandated to look into that the event’.
‘Our forecasts on visibility include - haze, mist and fog – in cyclic order ascending from the top and reflect on the perspective of a given period’, said Arif Hussain at the weather forecasting desk.
Asked smog also leads to visibility problems, the official avoided a direct reply and said ‘since smog is linked with pollutants and a separate government department deals with the issue of environment and pollution, so it falls under their jurisdiction.’
Sources in the DoE, however, told The Holiday that their organization ‘never monitored smog earlier,’ since ‘the national conservation rule standardizing the smog level is yet to be finalized’.
The DoE labs in Chittagong and Dhaka during the last six months were strengthened and new equipment were installed under laboratory strengthening project and bio safety frame work project respectively, but smog monitoring was still not initiated.
A public notice by DoE in December 2016 stated that 58% of the particulate pollutants responsible for the smog in the air of Dhaka city comes from the orthodox brick kilns around and inside Dhaka, 18% from road dust and soil dust, 10% from vehicles, 8% from burning of biomass and 6% from other sources, reported The Daily Star on February 3, 2017.

What is smog?
The term smog was derived from smoke and fog and was coined originally to refer to heavily polluted air that can form in cities, generally in winter under calm, stable and moist conditions due to the emissions of sulfur dioxide and aerosols from the burning of fossil fuels (primarily coal and oil).
It is now applied to all forms of severe air pollution, particularly in urban areas, that restrict visibility.
The London Smog: Prior to the introduction of air pollution abatement laws in the latter part of the 20th century, many large cities in Europe and North America regularly suffered from severe smog. The smog of December 1952 in London was sufficiently notorious that such pollution became known as London smog.
In the London type of smog, particles swell in size under high relative humidity and some of the particles serve as nuclei on which fog droplets form. Sulfur dioxide gas dissolves in the fog droplets where it is oxidized to form sulfuric acid.
In December 1952, cold air moved from the English Channel and settled over London, producing a pollution-trapping inversion fog. Over the next5 days London experienced its worst air pollution episode. The smog was so thick that people had to grope their way along the streets, buses crawled along at a walking pace led by pedestrians with flashlights and indoor events were canceled because the stage could not be seen.
By the time the smog had lifted, 4000 people had died of respiratory problems, and the smog was implicated in an additional8000 deaths in the months that followed.
After the Great Smog, laws were passed in Britain and elsewhere banning the use of coal on open fires for domestic heating and the emissions of black smoke, and requiring industries to switch to cleaner burning fuels. Nevertheless, pollution is still a serious problem in many cities in Europe and the United States. Also, many large cities, particularly in developing countries (e.g., China, India), still suffer from London-type smog due to the burning of coal and wood and to the lack of strict air pollution controls.
The Southeast Asian haze affect several countries in Southeast Asia including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.
The 2015 Southeast Asian haze affected Indonesia from at least late June to the end of October, turning into an international problem for other countries in September. It was the latest such occurrence in the region and a long-term issue that occurs in varying intensity during every dry season.
On 4 September 2015, the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management declared a state of emergency due to the haze. On 14 September, a state of emergency was again declared and this time by the Indonesian government. Thousands of residents in the affected areas fled to the nearby cities.
More than 28 million people in Indonesia alone were affected by the crisis, and more than 140,000 reported respiratory illness.
The Indonesian government estimated that the haze crisis would cost it between 300 and 475 trillion rupiah (up to US$35 billion) to mitigate. School closures due to the haze were implemented in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore; these affected nearly four million students in Malaysia alone. Among the events disrupted or even cancelled due to the haze were the 2015 FINA Swimming World Cup in Singapore and the Kuala Lumpur Marathon in Malaysia.
Dhaka’s air quality has doubly deteriorated during the last three years in dry season according to the Air Quality Index of the Department of Environment (DoE). On February 17, 2014, Dhaka’s air quality was measured 172 AQI which is considered unhealthy and on January 25, 2017 it was measured 361 AQI, that is deemed extremely unhealthy according to the standards for Bangladesh (NAAQS).
The presence of gaseous pollutants, like Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Ozone (O3) and Methane (CH4) has been found by the DoE in the air of Dhaka city in alarming quantity.
But what is more alarming is the presence of fine dust (particulate pollutants or Particulate Matters) of Sulphate, Nitrates, Ammonia, Sodium Chloride, Black Carbon and mineral in the air, says DoE director, Md Ziaul Haque.Most damaging particles are of the sizes of 10 microns diameter and smaller (PM 10 and 2.5) as they can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs. The heavier ones easily fall to the ground, director Md Ziaul Haque explains.
According to the WHO, chronic exposure to such particles increases the risks of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and even cancer in the lung and the urinary tract or bladder in human body.
Non-functional trans-boundary air quality monitoring station
There are 12 air quality monitoring stations across the country of which three are located in Dhaka and two are in Chittagong while one each is installed in Gazipur, Narayanganj, Khulna, Barisal, Bogra and Sylhet, the DoE sources said.
The lone trans-boundary air quality monitoring station of the country was set up in Satkhira seven years ago, they pointed out.
Studies conducted by several researchers and scientists already identified impact of trans-boundary pollutant in the level of pollution in various parts of the country including the capital.
Due to trans-boundary transport of pollutants, the effect of local air pollutant increases, some of those studies pointed out.
‘Apart from local contribution of pollution sources, there are regional influences on fine particulate matter levels in Dhaka,’ revealed a scientific study published in Aerosol and air quality research as back as in 2010. The study titled Identification of sources of fine and coarse particulate matter in Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducted by Begum et al pointed out, ‘regional efforts will be necessary along with local control initiatives to improve the air quality’.
In Dhaka, particulate matter (PM) is the air pollutant that is most harmful to public health and environment when compared to other measured criteria pollutants,.
Trans-boundary transport of air pollution in the South Asian region has become an issue of increasing importance over the past several decades. There lative amounts of local and long–range transported pollutants are currently unknown.
Asked about the impact of trans-boundary pollutants on the country’s pollution level or any particular area like Dhaka, the DoE sources said it was yet to be analysed. During the first few years of its installation the station was functioning well and later it started suffering from crisis of trained manpower, which persists till date, they told in response to a query.
Asked if the ratio of trans-boundary pollutant and local emission is not determined why the DoE air quality monitoring index should be treated as authentic, the sources acknowledged that there would be ‘some gaps’. They, however, would not quantify the ‘gap’ on grounds that ‘no such analysis was done’. 
Since 2013 the DoE has been uploading its air quality monitoring report in its own website on a regular basis without taking into account the trans-boundary impact. Its air quality report as important as the weather report is never published in the national dailies. Does anyone really need to challenge the authenticity of their report?


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Comments: As an asthma patient, I am very couscous about my habit regarding breathing fresh air. I have been suffering from this trauma since 2011, when virtual and farcical development begins to bloom so fast, at the expense of democracy and good governance. Along with this, our so-called great neighbor India has gifted us with many things. A few lists would be convenient to prove the friendship! 1. Murdered dead bodies of Bangladeshi people at Bangladesh – India border; a bloody gift indeed. 2. Acid mine drainage inside Bangladeshi fertile cultivable lands from trans border open pit mining, that ruins aquatic and soil ecology; perhaps a gift with many benefits to Indian business. 3. Let Bangladesh be the biggest market for Indian products. 4. India gets Transshipment at the expense of thumb sucking Bangladeshi elite, who want to remain in power, holding their master's hand. 5. Indian River treaty with Bangladesh is one-sided, hence desertification and climate change we received as another greatest gift from India. 6. Etc. etc. etc. A great enemy pretended to be a friend! Fascinatingly true. One of the greatest problems Bangladesh is encountering from last 3-4 years is the smog, insisted by the climate change, imposed by the Transboundary activity by Indian open pit mines. The impact of this dense smog is not only fog, but it is combined with the air pollution constituents blended up with the fog. During the last few years, the farmers reported that fog burnt their crops and plantation and they had to suffer financially. The burning of the crop and plantation is only possible if the air constituent gas contains sulfur oxides/nitrogen oxides and other toxic gases that turn fog into an acidic solution. Should we remind of the eye burning during fuel combustion that occurs due to carbonic acid formed by emitted carbon dioxide blended with eye moisture? The smoggy air not only provides the pollution constituents but also holds the nano-sized particle of various toxic origin such as dust, paint, fuel mist, etc. The development has brought about more and more patients of various major diseases. Fascinatingly the elites of Bangladesh and the researcher community are silent about these sorts of problems of our country. And the reasons are fear of losing life and power.
Commented by : Rashnal Hossain

Comments: As an asthma patient, I am very couscous about my habit regarding breathing fresh air. I have been suffering from this trauma since 2011, when virtual and farcical development begins to bloom so fast, at the expense of democracy and good governance. Along with this, our so called great neighbor India has gifted us with many things. A few lists would be convenient to prove the friendship! 1. Murdered dead bodies of Bangladeshi people at Bangladesh – India border; a bloody gift indeed. 2. Acid mine drainage inside Bangladeshi fertile cultivable lands from trans border open pit mining, that ruins aquatic and soil ecology; perhaps a gift with many benefits to Indian business. 3. Let Bangladesh be the biggest market of Indian products. 4. India gets Trans shipment at the expense of thumb sucking Bangladeshi elite, who want to remain in power, holding their masters hand. 5. Indian River treaty with Bangladesh is one sided, hence desertification and climate change we received as another greatest gift from India. 6. Etc. etc. etc. A great enemy pretended to be friend! Fascinatingly true. One of the greatest problems Bangladesh is encountering from last 3-4 years is the smog, insisted by the climate change, imposed by the Trans boundary activity by Indian open pit mines. The impact of this dense smog is not only fog, but it is combined with the air pollution constituents blended up with the fog. During the last few years the farmers reported that fog burnt their corps and plantation and they had to suffer financially. The burning of the crop and plantation is only possible if the air constituent gas contains sulfur oxides / nitrogen oxides and other toxic gases that turn fog into acidic solution. Should we remind of the eye burning during fuel combustion that occurs due to carbonic acid formed by emitted carbon dioxide blended with eye moisture? The smoggy air not only provides the pollution constituents but also holds the nano sized particle of various toxic origin such as dust, paint, fuel mist, etc. The development has brought about more and more patients of various major diseases. Fascinatingly the elites of Bangladesh and the researcher community are silent about these sorts of problems of our country. And the reasons are fear of losing life and power.
Commented by : Rx



How to make election festive

M Alamgir Hossain

Festive election focuses the pleasant and pragmatic manners of the electoral stakeholders and voters for strong democracy. Scholars of political science would no doubt consider festive elections as one of the most important events in a democratic society and expect effective measurements in gauging the quality of democracy of any country. Festive election paves the way to increase voter participation rate. In this context, festive election and particularly higher voter participation will be certainly a very good measure of a healthy democracy of any country. Today election festivity is becoming very popular in democratic countries.

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M Alamgir Hossain

Festive election focuses the pleasant and pragmatic manners of the electoral stakeholders and voters for strong democracy. Scholars of political science would no doubt consider festive elections as one of the most important events in a democratic society and expect effective measurements in gauging the quality of democracy of any country. Festive election paves the way to increase voter participation rate. In this context, festive election and particularly higher voter participation will be certainly a very good measure of a healthy democracy of any country. Today election festivity is becoming very popular in democratic countries.

Mr Green, a professor of political science at Columbia university recognizes it festive attraction, with polling places setup in saloons where voters would spend the day casting their ballots. He also presents a research study that organising community festivals- everyone invites for things like live music, sno-cones, and hotdogs - near polling sites can create a significant increase in voter turnout, often for less money than direct mail or door to door canvassing.
A week ahead of voting day hectic electioneering by the candidates and their supporters turn into a festive locality. During voting day voters from different sections of society queue up early in the morning outside the polling booths. From first time voters to centenarians, cricketers see people of various hues coming out to exercise their franchise. Film and media stars also gather to express keen interest to cast votes.
The voters show profound interest in exercising their franchise to elect honest and committed persons having better background and educational qualification for the continuation of the development. The competing candidates put in their all- out efforts to reach the doorsteps of the voters with a hope to get their support in any election. Common voters, including the young generation express their optimism over festive polls as positive commitments are being made by the competing candidates. Through casting votes in festive election the young voters are encouraged to expect competent, patriotic and educated leadership. At the same time the election management body does take adequate preparations, including proper tier security measures to hold polls peacefully in impartial manners amid festivity.
Actually EMB, electoral stakeholders and voters should play pivotal role in making festive election and consider it ‘ as a social event where Voters would talk with friends hilariously and listen to live music. Polling will be held in popular community gathering spots. By obeying a legal grounds Casting a ballot may be a public act that often occur in front of a crowd. A pertinent remarks from the noted book “Election as popular culture in Asia” by Chua Beng Hua can be mentioned here. ‘In spite of the professionalization of campaign, elections remain the primary channels of popular participations in politics. The character and the intensity of popular participation obviously depend on the social and political culture of the country in question. So political commitment, EMB’s stringent steps, fearless environment in voting day and spontaneous participation of the voters may be very essential for emphasizing festive election.
The following and focal initiatives may be taken under considerations with a view to making more festivity in any election. a) The social nature of polling places must be rapporteur, harmonious and friendly environment. b) Voter turn out should be much higher than it once was. c) Voters should be encouraged to display NID cards / voters slip, while they are in the queues. d) For all the members of the political registered parties voting should be compulsory. e) Politicians should meet voters systematically who do not belong to their party. f)By obeying the electoral code of conduct Contesting candidates may extend their performances on the arrangements of talk-shows ,debate shows, party presentations or any combined social events in their respective areas. g) the volunteers, social workers or the supporters may come forward to repair the surrounding roads of the polling centres which are miserable condition for the voter transportation. h) Candidates may be inspired and motivated to use election campaign materials all- around giving the ward or constituents a special look. I) During election campaign members of the parties may clean a statue of party founders, wave the party flags, can paste the tattoos of the candidates’ symbol in their bodies. j) supporters or members can urge the kite makers to ferry products made by their symbols or motivating leaflets, or life- size cutouts candidates. k) elderly voter being helped by security forces at a polling booth. l) Horse riding show or uses of image of EVM or any electoral goods painted on voters’ body may be displayed. m) Supporters/voters may decorate outside of the polling centres like the mood of holly places. n) Candidates may give away electoral calendars among the voters and agents to increase consciousness in festivity.
We may emphasize on a pertinent information. Our electoral code of conduct is only for political parties and contesting candidates. There is no legal provisions in the electoral process to monitor the third party expenditure management. So for the sake of making election festivity, spontaneous and voluntary roles of the third party should not be considered rigorously. Our voters love to wait for result, regardless of what the competition is.  It could be an event like an examination, a lottery, a cricket match or an election. So it is high time to join the election with a willingness to embellish democracy. Let’s enter the upcoming election with joy and make the election a festival of ideas and works.

Writer  is  an  Election officer, Election commission secretariat. alamgir01912@yahoo.com.


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Human rights situation continues to decline

Shakhawat Hossain

At least 139 people fell victim to ‘crossfire’ and 86 to enforced disappearance in Bangladesh in 2017, says annual report of the human right organisation Odhikar.
The Odhikar report which was released on Friday last, also said that 59 people ‘died’ in jail custody and 77 people were killed in political violence last year. Besides, 783 women and girls  became victims of rape, 242 were subjected to sexual harassment, 256 women became victims of violence for dowry and 52 were injured in acid attacks during  2017.

Full Story

Shakhawat Hossain

At least 139 people fell victim to ‘crossfire’ and 86 to enforced disappearance in Bangladesh in 2017, says annual report of the human right organisation Odhikar.
The Odhikar report which was released on Friday last, also said that 59 people ‘died’ in jail custody and 77 people were killed in political violence last year. Besides, 783 women and girls  became victims of rape, 242 were subjected to sexual harassment, 256 women became victims of violence for dowry and 52 were injured in acid attacks during  2017.

The report said 13 apparel workers were killed, 362 were injured and 3141 were terminated from their jobs. Besides, 82 workers of other sectors were killed and 80 others were injured in 2017.
The Odhikar report said 32 citizens  were arrested under notorious ICT Act ( Information and Communication Technology Act) , one journalist was killed, 24 injured, 9 were assaulted and 11 journalists were threatened in 2017.
It also  reported that Indian border security force (BSF), killed 25 Bangladeshis injuring 29 . Another  28 Bangladeshi  citizens  were victims of abduction by BSF in last year.
The annual report of 2017 is the outcome of a compilation and analysis of the monthly human rights situation monitoring reports published every month in 2017.
The Odhikhar  report  illustrates  systematic  violations  of civil  and  political  rights, including  violations   of  the  rights  to  freedom  of  expression, a  shrinking   democratic   space   and dysfunctional justice   delivery   system due   to politicization in  the  judiciary; and  deprivation  of  the  right  to  life.
 Odhikar  says,  human rights violations continued in an endemic form in 2017, since  the rule of an authoritarian regime has been in operation in Bangladesh
If  the state  is  not  established  on  a democratic  foundation, its  potential  political  target  cannot  be  achieved,  the  report  says  recalling  that  Bangladesh has  ratified  eight out  of  nine  core  international  Conventions  and  Treaties,  including  the  International  Covenant  on  Civil  and  Political  Rights  (ICCPR),  Convention  against  Torture  and  Other  Cruel,  Inhuman  or  Degrading  Treatment  or  Punishment  (UN CAT).  It has  also  ratified  the  Rome  Statute  of  the  International  Criminal  Court.
The human rights situation of Bangladesh in 2017 remained   detrimental due   to   the   failure of   implementation of the   mandatory obligations of these treaties. The Awami League has remained in power since 2009, thus the background of the human rights situation of 2017 is the continuation of the 2009 human rights record, says the report.
Furthermore, another  trend, of  shooting  in  the  leg or  knee capping by  the  security  forces, was added to  the  list  of human  rights  abuses since  2011, of  which  a large  majority  of  victims  were  leaders  and  activists  of  the  opposition  political  parties.
On many occasions, the ordinary citizens became victims during political violence. In 2017, the government imposed various repressive  laws, targeted  at dissenters  and  also  suppressed  and  harassed  the  opposition  and people  belonging  to  alternative beliefs and ideology, by accusing  them  of different  criminal acts, including  sedition and   defamation. 
The  Adhikar mentions  that  accurate   and   independent   news reports were barred from publication due to the government’s imposition of restrictive policies and by putting pressure on the media  by different  ways  and  means;  and  in  most  cases  journalists  were  forced  to  maintain  self-censorship  while  publishing  reports.
The  government  controls  most  of  the  media;  particularly  the  electronic  media,  which  are  mostly owned or controlled by sup porters or members of the ruling party and closed down some  pro-opposition  electronic and  print  media.  Many journalists were attacked by criminals backed by and supporters of the ruling party while performing their duty during this period.
In  2017,  surveillance  and  monitoring  on  social  media  by  the government was  wide and the  Information  and  Communication  Technology  Act  2006  (amended  2009,  2013)  and the  Special  Powers  Act  1974  were imposed  against  people who were critical of the decisions and activities of  those in high positions of the government.


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