Story behind Bidisha's Arrest
Ershad, sacked Jatiya Party (JP) presidium member and wife
of JP Chairman HM Ershad, burst into the media as she was
arrested on June 4 after her husband, the former president
charged her with stealing a cellphone set and embezzlement.
While Ershad charged his third wife of cheating, embezzlement,
theft, damaging furniture and making threats, the newspapers
were flooded with debunking reports that the arrest was a
bid by the present coalition government to pressurise the
second largest opposition party in parliament to join their
camp in the next general election.
Talking to the press in the recent past, Ershad admitted that
the cases have virtually crippled his life. "I cannot
act on my own, as the government often warned of putting me
behind the bars," he said. Meanwhile, Bidisha was reported
to have been busy courting the largest oppsition, AL. Reports
revealed that two senior JP leaders arranged a meeting between
Ershad and an influential BNP leader, who is not in the cabinet,
on June 3, where the later raised questions about some recent
activities of Bidisha.
"Bidisha works for AL alleged the BNP leader and asked
the JP chair to throw her out of the party. Ershad was also
instructed to tell her to leave the country immediately or
to face arrest on charge of money laundering. The BNP top
gun claimed that they have enough proof of her smuggling money
abroad. Sources said to The Daily Star reporter that the BNP
leader directed Ershad to axe all "anti government leaders"
from his party.
Sources also said that Bidisha's visit to India for what she
claimed was medical treatment angered a section of the government.
The coalition partners believe she made high-level meetings
with the Indian government during her stay there and worked
as an agent of the AL.
The government put her under watch since her return from India.
Both plainclothes men and uniformed police were deployed at
the hospital, where she was undergoing treatment.
After her arrest, Bidisha had been tipped that she may be
allowed a safe passage abroad in exchange for her stepping
aside from politics. She was on a three day remand after a
two cases has been slapped for theft on June 4 and a passport
forgery case on June 5. Newspaper reports claimed that the
government might clamp down on her with cases of money laundering
if she did not agree to leave the country. Two lower courts
rejected her bail prayer after she was produced before them
on June 8, asking the authorities to comply with High Court
orders issued on June 7. She was moved to the prison cell
of Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital in the afternoon
of the same day as per High court order the day before. She
told journalists that she has been tortured while in remand.
One of the counsels for Bidisha, Shafi Uddin Bhuiyan, argued
in the Court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Dhaka, that
the cases were filed to harass and humiliate his client. He
maintained that the government pressured Ershad into filing
the case to advance its own interest.
When looks can Kill
to a Daily Star investigation, the city's markets are flooded
with adulterated and contaminated food items, the looks of
which are enhanced by using harmful chemicals. The investigation
has found that wholesalers and retailers are happily mixing
substandard and artificial chemicals - some of them poisonous
- in the food to make them look more attractive. This includes
life-saving drugs, fine rice, colourful pulses, fruits, vegetables,
fish, jams and jellies. All these items were found to be mixed
with harmful chemicals.
The constitution of the country holds the government responsible
for ensuring food safety and public health. But the authorities
are not taking effective measures to stop this evil practice
that poses a major health hazard to the public. According
to the head of The Public Health and Drug Testing Laborotary,
around 99 percent of food items are adulterated. Concerned
officials, while they know about the situation, are powerless
when it comes to clamping down on the culprits. One major
reason for this that the law addressing food is 38 years old
and imposes fines that do little to intimidate the law breakers.
The highest penalty for adulterating food under the present
Bangladesh Pure Food Rules is only TK 5,000. But the expenses
involved in proving such cases in court and realising the
penalties are much higher.
A shortage of manpower is another reason for poor monitoring
practices. Before going into production, manufacturers are
required to get a certificate of approval from the Bangladesh
Standard and Testing Institute (BSTI). The certificate is
supposed to be renewed every year with the BSTI officials
required to make inquiries at the factory and test the product
on a regualr basis. But this is hardly ever done and most
of the BSTI seals are fake according to the Daily Star report.
According to BSTI there are only 13 BSTI field officers for
the whole country, five in Dhaka division for checking seals
and conducting mobile courts.
Although the BSTI Act has been amended and the fine for fake
labelling fixed at TK one lakh, the number of seizures culprits
violating the law has been unimpressive.
next time you are going over to your daughter's in-laws for
dinner or to a birthday party and decide to buy kilogram worth
of Laddus or Rasmalai, you might think of opting for something
else like fruits instead. It seems that all the 'yummy scrummies'
like Rasogolla, Kalo-jaam, Chamcham, Jilapi, Paantoa, Shandesh,
Mihidana, Khirsa, which happen to be ritualistic delicacies
of out country, simply might not be safe.
According to the food and sanitation officers from the Dhaka
City Corporation (DCC), most of these mouth-watering sweetmeats
seem attractive in the showcase but chances are that they
are made with adulterated ingredients and produced in a filthy
found that 100 percent of examined samples of Rasogolla, Kalojaam,
curds, and Sandhes were adulterated, in a survey conducted
According to the pure food ordinance 1959, at least 10 percent
milk fat is mandatory in sweetmeat. However, reports reveal
that only five percent is used in most cases. A recent visit
to Sadarghat found that traders bring milk in unclean drums,
placing unclean hyacinth on top of the milk to ensure that
it does not spill.
A source from the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB)
said that posset makers in different parts of the country
put sulphuric acid in hot milk to produce the posset quickly.
The posset makers first put the paste of ground rice into
the milk, followed by sulfuric acid to turn the milk into
posset within minutes.
There are only 20 food and sanitary inspectors against more
than a 1000 sweetmeat shops in Dhaka to ensure the quality
of food for more than 12 million people. It seems that punishments
for such crimes range from Tk 100 to Tk 1,000 in fines, in
addition to one month to six months jail time. However, because
it takes a lot of time and money to prove a case, DCC officials
generally do not file them.
Child trafficker nabbed
Uddin was handed down the verdict even though he was absent
last week, of 30 years' of imprisonment for trafficking an
eight year old boy to Dubai as a camel jockey. The same old
story repeated itself, when Reaz took Mintu alias Rajib from
his house at Shaildhar Char of Gafargaon upazila in Mymensingh
on June 2, 2000 promising his mother Halima Begum to give
him a job at a shop in Dhaka with Tk 2,000 as monthly salary.
However, the child was sent to Dubai and was used as a camel
jockey. Reaz, however, would send Tk 2000 every month to Mintu's
mother, which convinced her of her son's safety.
She came to know of her son's plight after two years when
Reaz told her that her son wound return home from Dubai. After
Mintu's return, Halima filed an abduction case against Reaz
and his wife Parveen with the Airport Police Station on June
The court acquitted Reaz's wife Parveen, another accused in
the case, as charges against her were not proved.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005