Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 6 Issue 34 | August 31, 2007 |

   Straight Talk
   Cover Story
   Writing the Wrong
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review

   SWM Home

News Notes

Punishment Not Exemplary
Although there is a significant social divide over capital punishment, in some states of the U.S. one can apply for death penalty in cases of aggravated rape depending on the severity with which the crime was viewed. Castration is also used sometimes as a punishment for rape. In our country where many women do not even enjoy basic human rights, such atrocious crimes many a time go unpunished or the punishments awarded are so insubstantial they seem like a joke for the victim.
In a classic case of 'justice delayed, justice denied', Baby Rani Shil, wife of an expatriate, was gang raped by three men, Abul Kalam, Jasim Uddin and Solaiman, on the night of May 28, 1999. The victim filed a rape case with Mirsarai Police Station. The charge sheet was finally submitted on July 7 in 1999 and charges were framed on November 18 of the same year. After eight years of inaction a Chittagong court finally sentenced the three men to four years' imprisonment.
One of the main arguments for capital punishment is that if such a grievous crime is punished appropriately, it will make others think twice before doing the same. In our country the punishment is clearly not exemplary enough to do so. Many cases of rape and molestation of children go unchecked and even unreported because the victims are bullied into believing that their complaint will receive no response and they will just end up getting further harassed.

Dangerous Waters
In the recent floods, 702 people have died of when 619 drowned. The biggest killer of children over the age of one is drowning, which was shown in the Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey. This should be no surprise since many children are left to fend for themselves on the streets and since there is no one to care for them, they can't do much to help themselves. The foul floodwaters in surrounding parts of Dhaka and in the country are also affecting an increasing number of children. Previous floods have shown that malnutrition has immediate and long- term effects on women and children. The information that different organisations are finding isn't new and no immediate action has been taken to help this annual problem from years ago. World Food Progamme (WFP) along with UNICEF and other partners have so far helped 40,000 young children and 20,000 expecting mothers with the BP5 protein biscuits. More victims including 11,000 children and 5,000 women will receive BP5 biscuits resulting in the total amount distributed to around 400 metric tons. In the upcoming National Immunisation Day (NID) on October 27, children under the age of 5 will receive one dose of Vitamin A to help fight against night blindness and other deficiencies. The doses should be administered sooner since the condition of most of the children is more than critical. The country need more help from outside. The displaced families of children from the floods also require special attention. It is anticipated that some of the displaced families will take longer than expected to return home and restart their lives. With floods coming in during the rainy seasons and nothing to help prevent or decrease the damages, some families will probably never get the chance to recuperate. This is the harsh truth.

We're Poor, But Less than Before?

Bangladesh has been back in the international news -again for the wrong reasons. This year's floods have wreaked havoc on the country's agriculture and infrastructure making an already impoverished nation, poorer than ever. At least that would be the logical conclusion. Now while that may be true for now and most definitely for the immediate post-flood situation, it seems that we haven't been doing all that bad as far as the rate of poverty reduction is concerned, at least according to the World Bank. At a recent workshop organised by WB and attended by high profile economists such as Debapriya Battyacharya. Prof. Wahiduddin Mahmud and Hussain Zillur Rahman, a leading economist of the WB Hassan Zaman, presented a report before the workshop that says that the rate of poverty reduction in Bangladesh is one of the best in South Asia.
According to the report, during the years 2000-2005, Bangladesh's rate of annual average poverty reduction secured second position among other South Asian countries, falling behind that of India. The WB prepared the report based on Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). The WB provided technical assistance to BBS for the survey.
Some economists present at the workshop, however, raised questions about the nature and quality of data that was used to prepare the report. They also disagreed with the WB report, which stated that during the period between 2000 and 2005, inequality was stable in urban areas and it increased slightly in rural areas. Comparing the annual average rate of growth in GDP with the annual rate of poverty reduction for each country, the World Bank (WB) report said growth in Bangladesh appears to have been more pro-poor than other South Asian countries -- with Nepal being an exception.
XIAN ZHU, country director of the WB said that Bangladesh now has one of the fastest rates of poverty reduction in South Asia adding that 57 percent of the country's population was living below the poverty line in 1991 and the rate of poverty came down to 49 percent in the year 2000.Between 2000 to 2005, the rate further declined and settled down to 40 percent as around 6 million people were helped out of poverty claimed Zhu.
Debapriya Bhattacharya, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), however, was not happy about the sample size of the surveys taken and pointed out that compared to other countries of the region, the number of samples used by BBS in the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) was too few. He pointed out for example that in similar national surveys, Pakistan collected 76,000 samples while and Sri Lanka 25,000, whereas Bangladesh collected only 10,080 samples during the survey. He also argued that the WB report only considered economic growth to claim reduction of poverty in Bangladesh. The issue of increasing social discrimination during the same period should also have been considered while preparing the report. Mahbub Hossain, executive director of Brac, who chaired the first session of the workshop raised questions on the WB findings about inequality saying that it is impossible to draw the real picture of inequality in rural and urban areas without income analysis of households. M Assduzzaman, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) observed that the impact of the drastic floods of 2004 on the entire economic activities was absent in the WB report.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007