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     Volume 5 Issue 98 | June 9, 2006 |

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News Notes

Poor villagers have poorer diets
A couple of months ago, there was much hoopla about the Prime Minister being on the cover of the Time magazine that ran an exclusive interview of her in which she said all sorts of nice things about the country. Apart from pointing out her government's commitment to the war on terror, evidenced by dramatic haul ups of masterminds behind numerous bomb attacks, the PM made a very strange statement saying that there was no hunger in Bangladesh." Ordinary folk of the country can only beg to differ. After all the reports on the terrible plight of Monga affected farmers and their families in the northern districts, it is indeed hard to agree with the PM's complacent statement.
A recent survey has found that only a measly 4 percent of households can afford an optimal diet and 39 percent of under-five year olds in the rural areas are stunted.
People in the rural areas spend 60 percent of their total expenditure on food. But with skyrocketing prices of essential food items and no real improvement in income it means that people are consuming less and less food and are therefore chronically hungry. Poor nutrition in children is a major cause of disease and ill health as malnourished children have weak immune systems and are vulnerable to diseases. Poor sanitation, unhygienic environment in the households and overall poverty only exacerbate the situation. The results of malnutrition and chronic hunger include low productivity, ill health and stunting of generations of Bangladeshis. If the PM still believes there is no hunger in Bangladesh she should go to the poor Northern districts and ask the people what they eat the whole day.

The evils of Polygamy
According to the web definitions online, Polygamy is defined as having more than one spouse at a time. The men of the Muslim faith are allowed a total of four wives at the same time. In many of the developing Muslim societies around the world, this has been interpreted as a privilege, which can be enjoyed by Muslim men. Most of them even tend to think that keeping four wives happen to make them better Muslims than other men. However, what most men ignore or rather choose to ignore is that there is a certain policy that governs the act of polygamy in Islam. According to an Islamic scholar, "Marriage from multiple women in Islam might not be allowed for those who might result in damaging the society with their marriage by bringing more illiterate, poor, and in many cases starving children to the society." Even today, polygamy is practiced in many parts of Bangladesh. Men see it as a noble act asked of them by God Himself and women simply go along with the decisions made by their parents, ever eager to get them hitched.
To put a damper on this practice has recently the Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) proposed to impose higher taxes on polygamist men in the budget for 2006-07 fiscal, according to which, one will have to pay the RCC Tk 10,000 for a second wife, Tk 30,000 for a third wife and Tk 40,000 for the fourth.
Currently the tax is at Tk 1,000 for keeping a wife after the first wife according to the RCC sources.
This was done for the welfare of the families, according to Mizanur Rahman Mintu, the City Mayor of Rajshahi, and also to discourage the idea of multiple marriages itself. "Multiple marriages in some cases result in women repression and increase population growth," he said.
Though it was a very small step towards uplifting the status of women, it was definitely a brilliant one taken towards the betterment of the society.

Another citizen dies in police custody
Sajedur Rahman Sajid, an official of a pharmaceutical company, was found dead while under police custody. He was arrested three days earlier on May 18 in Gaibandha. The citizens of Gaibandha observed 'Black Day' protesting the murder of Sajid. A judiciary investigation of Rahman's death was demanded along with the arrest of BNP cadres who attacked the earlier Nagorik Committee rally. Rahman was allegedly tortured to death while under the custody of the Gaibandha police. The authorities were strongly criticised for not taking action against the policemen involved in the murder. Sajid's death is an addition to the long list of individuals killed in police custody and like all the other cases, there is little hope that the murderers will be punished.

Freedom of press under attack
With the stoppage of publishing of the Dainik Andolaner Bazar, a popular local daily of Kushtia, freedom of speech and democracy as a whole is under threat in the country. The daily remained out of publication for more than seven days following threats from ruling BNP lawmaker Shahidul Islam.
Shahidul, at a meeting in Kushtia Public Library ground on Wednesday, threatened all printing presses in the district of dire consequences if they printed Dainik Andolaner Bazar. No printing presses dared to print the newspaper since then.
The daily stopped publication after Shahidul's cadres attacked Quality Press at Courtpara, the press that printed the daily, on May 30 and snatched the tracing papers required to print the paper.
Local administration did not provide any security for the newspaper despite repeated appeals by the newspaper authorities.
"We constantly appealed to the administration to ensure our security but these were of no avail," Anisuzzaman, executive editor of the daily, told The Daily Star.
"Deputy Commissioner (DC) asked us to file a case against the lawmaker while the superintendent of police (SP) assured us of police patrol but no round-the-clock watch," he added.
Reporters and employees of the daily are scared to move around in the town or go to the office fearing attacks by Shahidul's cadres. Manjur Ehsan Chowdhury, editor of the daily, is now in Dhaka fearing attacks on his life.

Areas in Comilla without electricity for 3 days
Electric supply to Mogoltuli, Ragoja, Gangchur and Chhatipatti areas remained suspended since Saturday following a transformer blast at Mogoltuli, One has to resort to violence and chaos in the streets to have the authorities lend a ear. To make their point, the residents of the areas laid siege to an electricity-distribution office in Comilla town to protest against the blackout in these areas for three consecutive days. Witnesses said the residents of the four areas came to Comilla Power Sales and Distribution Division-2 office in a procession in the morning, laid siege to it and ransacked the room of the executive engineer.
It is a wonder how the people in this country have to suffer due to the lack of some of the basic necessities of survival, namely, running water and electricity. It would not be long before civilisation goes back to the stone age. A few weeks ago, people in Kansat and Shanir Akhra in Demra also went on rampage in separate incidents when they had to suffer untold miseries as their lives came to a virtual standstill because of incessant load shedding in the mainly industry-dependent areas.

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