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     Volume 4 Issue 41 | April 8, 2005 |

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News Notes

Anyone for fried chicken?
If you really want to eat that juicy piece of chicken breast, steaming right in front of you, think again. Wholesalers from the Tejgaon Poultry Wholesale Market, the largest in the city, revealed that some collect dead fowl and sell it to groups of buyers. It seems that a thriving market in dead fowl is supplying the city's restaurants, including the major eating-places.

Businessmen estimate that nearly a thousand chickens die everyday as hundreds of cages of fowl arrive in the city everyday to meet the growing demand of the capital. "For the last six to seven years people have been collecting and selling those," said Nabi Hossain, who has been engaged with the poultry business for the last 40 years.

Public concern about the quality of restaurant food has grown since last week's arrest of a man, Azad, with 53 dead chickens in Mirpur, who later admitted under police interrogation that he and many others regularly supplied dead chickens to various restaurants in Mirpur and Pallabi. Posing as a catfish farm owner, a Daily Star correspondent visited different poultry markets in the city last week and asked for dead chickens, explaining that rotten chicken is a popular feed for the catfish. It came to be known that the demand for dead hens is very high and that some people continue to collect discarded fowl.

"If you come early in the morning, you will get dead fowl. Everyday at least 200 dead birds have been supplied from the Tejgaon market," said one trader from Tejgaon.

When asked what buyers do with the dead birds, another wholesaler replied, "We do not know what they do with those birds. We just throw it away and some people collect them at night and sell them in the morning at Tk 30 a piece."

An officer from the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) said that, in an effort to stop this practice, poultry sellers would have to take the responsibility of dumping the fowl themselves. "Following the published news, the authorities directed me to take the necessary steps and soon I will issue letters to the food inspectors," said Foyez Ahmed Khan, Food and Sanitary Inspector of the DCC. He also said that food inspectors do not have any technology to ascertain whether restaurant owners have cooked the meat of dead birds. "We just smell the food and check out the environment in the kitchen."

Six days after Azad's arrest, police nabbed a woman with 21 dead chickens she collected to feed her customers at a mess. Acting on a tip-off, a team of Sutrapur police raided the mess on Monir Hossain Lane and arrested its owner, 28-year-old Jahanara Begum.

Bad Cops Stories
The cops are increasingly getting publicity these days, though negative. One of the latest misdemeanours is a police sergeant getting caught while trying to kidnap a man at gunpoint on the Supreme Court premises! The traffic sergeant and his brother apparently apprehended the man near the Bangladesh Bar Council at around 2:00 pm. Although the cop denied committing any such crime, eyewitnesses have said that they saw him brandishing his pistol, shouting at the man and then dragging him towards their car.

Meanwhile, true to their tradition, RAB men have killed another civilian, but this time it was a little difficult. The victim was not some obscure miscreant who was bumped off during 'cross-fire' but the General Secretary of Bangladesh Workers Party who was allegedly tortured to death by RAB. According to the victim Shymal Sarkar's family, the law-enforcing ninjas arrested Sarkar from his village home in Ibrahimpur on December 9 last year and allegedly tortured him severely while in their custody. On March 31, Sarkar was being taken to Jessore Central Jail when his condition deteriorated. He was taken to Jessore general Hospital instead of the jail hospital where he died. The RAB men of course have their own standard explanation: Sarkar had been nabbed from the house of a member of an outlawed group and they had recovered firearms and ammunition from that place. Furthermore, RAB's commanding officer has termed the allegation of death from torture as 'absurd'.

A False Start Indeed
Though its network is expectedly bad, some Bangladeshis it seems are ready to give their eyes and teeth for a Teletalk connection. Twelve aspiring clients were injured as the police lathi-charged an angry crowd that went on rampage after they were refused entry to several sales outlets of the company. In fact the state-run Teletalk had to resort to riot police and armed police battalion to, what a newspaper report called, "tame the marauding crowd". Desperation ran high among the buyers as a place in the queue was reported to be sold at Tk 500 at the Teletalk's Maghbazar outlet.

Though after much hype and a fair bit of hoopla the company has launched its cellular phone service, it is found that all the 10 sales centres across the city have been given an inadequate number of subscription forms.

Quoting an unnamed subscriber, a Daily Star (DS) report said, "Form distribution centres preliminarily received 200 forms against thousands of intending buyers in the queue. Later, the Teletalk management sent additional forms, which also failed to meet the huge demand." Another newspaper report blamed some BTTB officials for playing it foul. Some BTTB officials have allegedly collected subscription forms beforehand from Teletalk employees to create an artificial crisis in the market. BTTB officials have opposed the creation of Teletalk: A debut that marks the end of the BTTB's monopoly over state-run telephony.

Though Teletalk boasts 570 base receiver stations, customers who braved the police batons and got a connection complained bad service quality. "The call completion rate is very poor. It takes several efforts to get through," Istiaq Ali, a disgruntled subscriber, told the DS. Another subscriber said, "The network is so poor that it does not even work while moving from one room to another."

The Teletalk's much publicised commercial launch witnessed yet another twist last Saturday when the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications suspended distribution of its subscription forms. The ministry, however, has assured the frustrated would-be Teletalkers that it "will resume soon after a proper distribution system is developed".

The ministry, in fact, has made a fool of itself by flip-flopping so frequently about the fate of its sole cellular phone operations. Teletalk, which is the fifth cellular phone operator entering the market, has to prove that morning does not necessarily show the day.

Papa Should Preach (Sometimes)
Using Daddy's political clout has become a habit with bratty sons of parliamentarians these days. A few weeks ago, the Chief Whip's son whipped up terror in a mobile showroom in Old Dhaka, firing shots from a gun, breaking things and basically acting like a thug before being arrested Now the son of a BNP lawmaker has shown his bratty side by beating up a traffic policeman when the cop stopped his car for defying a red signal. The car was headed for Asad Gate when it was stopped. A young man got out and started shouting at the constable introducing himself as M.P. Ali Kader's son. After an on-duty traffic sergeant came to the spot and settled the issue, the M.P.'s son Noman Kader drove away and came back 15 minutes later with six of his cronies in two private cars. He then snatched the traffic constable's stick and mercilessly hit him with it until the cop collapsed on the road. Later Constable Majid was rushed to the Suhrawardy Hospital where he was given three stitches for wounds on the left side of his forehead.

Later a police team raided various places to arrest Noman but could not find him.

Finally Kamal Kader Noman turned up at the high court to seek bail. The court granted him a two-week anticipatory bail. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's court allowed a three-day remand of Noman's friend Billal who had joined Noman in beating up the traffic constable.

This type of behaviour from sons of politicians is hardly a surprise for Bangladeshis. It is a common phenomenon all over the land. But the fact that a lawmaker's son can beat up a traffic policeman because the cop was trying to enforce a traffic law, is ironic and illustrates the fact that in Bangladesh, rules and regulations are only for the ordinary folk.

The rich and politically powerful, meanwhile, are above the law. An even more sad fact is that many of those who make the law do not have the minimum sense of responsibility to keep their darling offspring from breaking the law.


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