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     Volume 5 Issue 106 | August 4, 2006 |

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News Notes

If Ershad joins the coalition, will the cases be dropped?
Though his decision to join the four party alliance has not yet been finalised, the Jatiya Party (JP) chief HM Ershad has created quite a stir in the political arena. The recent incidents of Ershad being enamoured by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has fed the public imagination. Every one is pretty sure that the deposed dictator is one step behind joining the four party alliance. The political experts are of the opinion that what seemed to be looming is the withdrawal of the corruption cases against him. While a flurry of reports in the news media has observed that the very act of Ershad joining the coalition would be rewarded by dropping of all cases against him, the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed ruled out any such possibility.
He was speaking at a press conference at Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs ministry on July 31. In response to a question from a journalist he summarily dismissed any possibility of withdrawing corruption cases against the former dictator. “The judiciary would follow its own course,” was his laconic remark. About the speculation that the four party alliance reaching an understanding with the JP chief to withdraw the corruption cases against him, Moudud said it was nothing but hypothesis. He went on to add that he “was unaware of such understanding.”
It is not difficult to find out whether Moudud was feigning ignorance or not. When the time comes for Ershad to finally get on board the BNP-led cafela and the cases are withdrawn one by one as rewards, one will be able to say that the course of events in the Ershad chapter only ended in another familiar, though contemptible, conclusion.

Babies with withdrawal symptoms
Reports published in The Daily Prothom Alo revealed a very shocking trend among the many women drug addicts in the rural areas. Not only are they harming themselves and their future but they are also putting a big question mark on the lives of their innocent babies.
Nine-month old Rony is unable to sleep, stays agitated all the time and can't stop crying if his mother breastfeeds him without taking heroin. His mother Rokeya comes to Barisal colony in Chittagong beside the city's old railway station with Rony in her lap to buy her daily dose of heroin. And this is what she has been doing for the last four or five years. She never stopped taking it during her pregnancy and now even if she wants to, she is unable to because of her son.
It's the same miserable tale for one-year-old Arif. Her mother Rahima from Bhairab reveals, “I have to regularly take heroin to keep my baby alive!” For the first six months of Arif's life, his mother used to take 1 puriya (1 toke) of heroin, now it has gone up to as much as 3 puriyas. Arif refuses her mother's breast if she stops taking heroin and goes into the same withdrawal symptoms as Rony, insomnia and restlessness.
Although these mothers took up this lifestyle because of a myriad of social and personal stresses on their lives, its anybody's guess as to what is going to happen to these innocent babies.

Torturing domestic help
Having domestic help in the household is not only a necessity, it also symbolises power and wealth for many in society. The tradition of having domestic help probably comes from the age-old concept of slavery and the situation is hardly any better today.
Last week, Salma Akhter, a nine-year-old domestic help was tied to the balcony grills and beaten up by her employer. The whole scene was video taped by the neighbours, which was shown on the news on television. Police arrested Hafizur Rahman, managing director of a security service from the Banosri residential area in the capital, where the child was tortured. The other members of the family fled after the incident had taken place.
The Khilgaon police rescued Salma, daughter of day-labourer Abdus Salam from Gaibandha, and admitted her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
With several injuries and marks to her face, hands and legs, Salma said that the housewife Chameli Chowdhury beat her up tying her hands and legs to the grill of balcony as she defecated twice on the balcony floor. Over the two months that she has been working at the house the child was not allowed to go to the toilet, as she would need to. Finding no other way, she defecatet outside the toilet. Either way, Chameli used to beat her every now and then for small mistakes.
Hafizur Rahman claims that he knew nothing of what his wife was up to, though according to the police, he was at home when the incident took place. According to him, his wife made the effort to 'correct' the domestic help when she committed faults ands nothing more than that.
It is clearly seen that not even children are spared. Poverty being the major reason, many poor families send their children to the cities to work for a meagre salary, which is sometimes not paid on a regular basis.
Salma and the others like her are never seen as innocent children, just trying to grow up like all the other children in the world. It is bad enough that they have to work for a living and not enjoy their childhood; they also earn a living for their families and get treated like street dogs in return.

Happy Holidays?
Its holiday time for the students of BUET! The only problem being that the holidays either arrived a little too early or a little late, as per the schedule. Authorities of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) in an urgent notice last week announced the university closed following a violent student movement demanding deferment of examinations.
The students were made to vacate all the dormitories by 5:00 pm for security reasons and also 'to bring back a congenial atmosphere of education' on the campus.
Angry students vandalised two dormitories but left the campus by the deadline for evacuation. They, however, vowed to continue with their new demands - resignation of the vice-chancellor (VC) and the director of students' welfare (DSW) - when the university reopens after the unscheduled closure. According to the demonstrators, they failed to maintain law and order on the campus.
In a written statement signed by Buet Registrar Md shahjahan, the authorities accused the demonstrators of vandalising about 15 cars of teachers and their houses at teachers' quarters on Sunday night.
The examinations were scheduled to begin from May 28 but even then, the students demanded that the authorities defer the exams for the World Cup. The authorities complied and announced a fresh schedule for the examinations from August 1.
According to the university administration, the authorities will take 'disciplinary actions' against the students who are responsible for 'making the campus unstable'. However, the authorities have yet to form any committee to identify the responsible. They also said that BUET would reopen in the shortest time possible when the situation is under control.

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