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     Volume 6 Issue 40 | October 12, 2007 |

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News Notes

Flying High
In the last six months Bangladesh's airlines sector has experienced a big boom. Two local companies have declared that they will join the fray. More are in the offing. The entrance of the United Airways (UA) and Royal Bengal (RB) is significant because this is for the first time in the country's history non-resident Bangladeshis are pumping much needed foreign investment into the country's fledgling stagnant-like economy. Of these two, the UA has already started business, and the RB will in the next month. These new investments coincide with the government's decision to opt for an open-sky policy, which has witnessed Malaysia's budget airline AirAsia's declaration that it will start its operations in Bangladesh. Although the company has not disclosed a start date, Aqeeq Aviation Holding, a Kuwait-based company has bought a 49 percent stake in Bangladesh's Best Aviation Ltd and the two are expected to jointly launch a passenger airline. This is indeed good news for the market. The government must take immediate measures to make sure that the country can be benefited from this boom. In the past we have noticed indifference from the concerned authorities when it comes to reviving this otherwise money-earning sector. Biman has to be injected with more investment, airline is a big business in the modern world, and we have so far remained far away from any benefit that a good carrier can offer to us. The government should take all-out measures to keep the world's interest in our aviation sector alive and flying.

The Mugged-Mobile Market
Glittering saris and shalwar kameezes and gorgeous panjabis are not the only things on sale this Eid. The mobile phone market has also seen a boom. These are not the regular mobile phones being advertised by every company on every station, channel and page in the media. But they still come at unbelievably low prices in a roundabout way. Regular cell phone buyers unknowingly take the first step in this process, by purchasing flashy phones from malls, retailers and brand outlets. Step two is their being hijacked from just about anywhere in the city. Step three is where they end up at mobile phone markets in Islampur, Gulistan, Bangabandhu National Stadium, Baitul Mukarram National Mosque and the Gabtoli bus terminal. Newspaper reports have attributed the multiple dealings to an organised cartel, which even includes mobile phone repair shops in slums with technicians who make the phones seem almost new. Some phones are sold at one-tenth their original price, creating a dilemma for even the most morally upright in need of a cell phone. The sellers are, however, careful and selective about who they will sell their ware to, but if one is lucky enough (and brave), he or she can buy back their recently-mugged cell phones at any of these markets at a discount if they can prove that they are the original owners!

When the Protector Becomes the Assailant
It's bad enough that this country doesn't value homeworkers and hundreds and thousands of these poor people are deprived from their basic human rights every single day, but when a policewoman who is supposed to protect these homeworkers from their memsahibs becomes the attacker herself it has got to be the last straw. But this is exactly what happened in Brahmanbaria.
Police constable Doly of Brahmanbaria Sadar police station was suspended from her duty for torturing her homeworker. Special Branch Inspector Kamal Uddin who investigated the allegations said constable Doly used to torture her homeworker, 40-year-old Mazeda Begum regularly. On October 1, when she beat Mazeda again, she went to SP Ataul Kibria and lodged a verbal complaint. Seeing signs of physical torture, the SP suspended constable Doly, closed her to the police line and asked Inspector Kamal Uddin to probe the matter.
Recently a roundtable was organised in Dhaka with human rights organisations, homeworkers' unions and journalists tackled the issue of homeworkers' rights to be recognised as part of the workforce. One of the frightening information disseminated by Ain o Salish Kendro is that no one has ever been convicted of murdering a homeworker, but the cases of death at employers' homes due to severe torture can make anyone sick to the stomach. It is a good sign that PC Doly has been suspended. It can only be hoped that exemplary punishment is given to everyone who harms or exploits homeworkers in any way so that they are treated with the respect they deserve.

At The Mercy Of The Middlemen Again
The mad rush of the Eid season is here once again - and it is reflected on everyone's faces on the streets. From the little children on the streets asking the apas and bhaiyas for a few takas more to buy new clothes to the apas and bhaiyas themselves sauntering around in the big shopping malls with multi-coloured shopping bags looking for the best bargain - everyone seems to have an extra leap to the walk. Everyone's looking forward to the big day. But for the more than a few lakh people who will be leaving Dhaka just before Eid it's a nightmare to think about.
It all begins with the wild rush for the bus and train tickets. Forget going to the ticket counter early in the day, the rush starts much earlier. Many people have complained about going to the ticket counter right after having their sehri only to find out that there were a few hundred people already waiting there. After waiting in line for hours many people have had to return empty-handed when the tickets ran out. Although bus companies have been very strict this year, scalpers have managed to find a way through the loopholes and are selling tickets for a much higher price.
The final hurdle is the actual crossing of the great Dhaka border on the last couple of days before Eid. Crammed to capacity a myriad of buses, launches, trains and many other petrol-guzzling contraptions leave the capital city, sometimes with their passengers literally holding on for their lives - especially those on top of trains and overloaded launches. But back home one must go for Eid - to see the smiles on the faces of the loved ones, to pray together on Eid morning with new clothes, to have special meals together. Because when this is all over, it'll be back to the mundane, backbreaking, under-paying work in the garments, homes, mills, shops, and construction sites of the cruel metropolis of Dhaka.

With Eid around the corner, the streets of Dhaka get busier as vendors and traders get their businesses running brisk. One such hot-cake selling street business is selling crisp new notes to customers, who have kids to give Eidi to on the occasion of Eid. Here, a seller on a footpath at Gulistan is seen bargaining with a customer who came to buy these notes. PHOTO: STAR

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