When the Rains Spell Disaster
Every year during the monsoon season people in low-lying areas all across Bangladesh wait in apprehension to see how badly their lives will be affected by the long spells of rain. Even in the capital Dhaka it doesn't take much for a full-scale flooding. A couple of hours of rain and most of the major roads are in knee-deep water, CNG auto-rickshaws everywhere are stuck. People without their own transport have to take their sandals, roll up their pants and walk home. People living in many areas around Dhaka have to put bricks under their furniture to keep the rainwater out and children have to get to school in boats. And this is just in a few hours.
Now there's an even bigger disaster slowly creeping in. This year's floods have already taken a serious turn and many believe this is just the beginning. Floodwaters have almost completely engulfed the whole area of Narayanganj. Road communications in many parts of northern districts snapped as roads went under water, while ferry services in many areas remain suspended. As an ominous sign many flood-protection embankments across the country developed cracks creating panic among people, while people who have already been marooned are getting infected with various water-borne diseases. Hundreds of people have been infected with diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery and skin infections, mainly due to lack of clean drinking water, which had forced them to drink impure water. The numbers are expected to rise as the situation worsens. Five people died by drowning and electrocution in the flood-hit areas in Sirajganj. The floods have seriously affected production of crops including paddy, jute, sugarcane and vegetables. If the situation keeps worsening any further we might see an even bigger disaster than the one in 1988, and the whole of Bangladesh will take a long time to recuperate from a disaster like that.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
Last Monday the High Court granted detained Awami League president Sheikh Hasina bail in the extortion cased filed by Managing Director of Eastcoast Trading Pvt Ltd, Azam J Chowdhury, in which he charged her and Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim with extracting Tk. 2.99 crores from him for his work on the Siddhirganj Power Plant in Narayanganj. In addition to granting bail, the High Court also ordered the interim government not to proceed with the case under the Emergency rules. Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman and Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury passed the interim order, asking the interim government to explain within two weeks why its actions regarding the case filed by Chowdhury should not be declared illegal.
Unfortunately for the former Prime Minister, she was not released from jail as her arrest on July 16 was not only for the previous case, but an additional extortion case filed by businessmen and Awami League member, Noor Ali. The ad interim bail was in response to a writ petition challenging the legality of the government's actions regarding the extortion case in question and was filed by Barrister Rafique ul Huq, on behalf of Hasina. Additional Attorney Secretary Salauddin Ahmed opposed the writ petition and argued that it should be rejected and that there was nothing illegal about the government trying the case under the Emergency Power rules, claiming that no one is above the law, be it Hasina or Khaleda.
Despite his objections the court granted, claiming that "Until and unless you prove any accused guilty of the alleged offence, s/he is considered innocent in the eye of law." Sheikh Hasina had charges filed against her formally by the police on July 23, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court fixing August 16 as the date for her hearing.
Barrister Rafique ul Huq is also planning on seeking bail for the second extortion cased filed against her.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007