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     Volume 7 Issue 26 | June 27, 2008 |

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It's about Class
I thought 'Dreams Interrupted' (June 20, 2008) was a very good story. Unfortunately, many similar reports over 20 years have recommended changes to the way embassies and the GOB work. Very little happens. I met the Minister for Expatriate Welfare, Mr. Qamrul a few years back. To a friend (not me!), he actually said he was disappointed with Khaleda Zia for putting him in such a backwater job. What motivation he must have had. When he got his feet under the desk, he was regarded as representing the interests of manpower agencies only. He achieved next to nothing for the worker, though that's not unusual.
Let's be brutally honest. It's about class. All regimes since the seventies have seen the 'export' of labour as a safety valve (no jobs at home, go and work in the desert) and a source of foreign exchange. Period. No one in power gives a hoot about their welfare. Forget about embassies helping - London NRBs, with much more awareness and clout, haven't succeeded in changing behaviour. How are the vulnerable migrants going to do it?
And the Dhanmondi-Banani talking class is not interested. They hardly ever talk about it in seminars. Even the Left are exercised much more about export of gas and coal, and have spent very little time on the migrant issue.
Clouding any rare attempt at bettering the lives and conditions of migrants is the whispered fear of upsetting the callous regimes of Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States. A useful excuse for inactivity. So the abuse will go on for several more years, until a crisis/war results in the infrastructure projects drying up (like Iraq 1990).
I would be more optimistic if I saw political parties convincing us they have real programmes to follow the recommendations. They prefer to limit their debates to when/where to hold elections.
Farid Bakht, London

Congratulations Star
I would like to congratulate The Star family on their 12th anniversary. I hope this magazine will go a long way and always maintain its super ability to serve the readers best. I welcome the new look and new spirit of The Star, which really deserves appreciation.
Md. Fazle Rabby Haider
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism
University of Dhaka

Rice Power
Your cover story 'Rhythm of Rice' (June 13, 2008) focused on an important subject -- rice and its role in fighting hunger and poverty in the developing world. It was a fascinating piece. The writer Syed Zain Al-Mahmood presented the issue in a very interesting way. Rice is an important part of our diet but to most people in the villages it is a part of their everyday life. It is their tireless efforts that put food on our plates. I hope Bangladesh will soon achieve self-sufficiency in our main staple food!
Saima Rahman
Umesh Datta Road
Bakshi Bazar, Dhaka


Recently there has been a suggestion from the state level that potatoes should be considered as the staple diet in place of rice. But it would be difficult for Bangalis to accept that as a substitute. Rice to Bangalis is not just food, but a way of life. Last year we had to fight heavy floods and a devastating cyclone, which also destroyed a huge amount of crops. They added to the food scarcity and spiraling price problem. In this season, it was almost recovered by the farmer and the bumper Boro crops. But sadly the market price of rice remains unchanged. Long lines are seen everyday in front of the BDR shops. Rice prices have really changed the lives of people. In the last one year the price has nearly doubled. It was a challenge for the caretaker government to control the price. Unfortunately it appears from the situation that there are no market control activities made by the government. It seems that all the efforts from them have totally failed to fulfill people's expectations.
Md. Arifur Rahman
Dept. of Textile Engineering
Primeasia University

An Honest Mistake
This is in reference to the Star Diary entry 'An Honest Mistake' (June 20, 2008). I would like to tell the writer that I really appreciate how she has tried to help the beggar mentioned in the note. Many of us would not do the same in that situation. She should not be disappointed at all. You did not make any mistakes at all, honest or dishonest. Stories like these encourage us to do the morally correct thing.
By email

Public Bus Service
The public bus service has improved a lot in the last few years. Many complaints regarding the drivers' reckless attitudes, inadequate seats, the late arrivals of buses and the overall non-cooperative outlook of the attendants at stoppages are frequently heard. We often find that the attendants don't ask the passengers to queue up before they get on the bus.
Despite all these objections, the demand for public transportation has increased the number of quality buses. Hence, buses charge higher fares. It is reasonable if we can expect from these bus companies a certain standard of quality -- such as drivers who are mechanical experts and are always ready in the case of an emergency. Last month, I rode on a so-called quality bus. In the midway, a bus of the same company was found broken down. The driver couldn't repair it. So, all the passengers of that bus were moved to ours. Later, our overloaded bus also broke down. Again, the driver couldn't fix it and vanished along with the helper leaving the passengers in a helpless situation. We all got down and waited until the next bus came to pick us up.
That day I returned home safely but my point is why can't these quality-bus-owning companies provide us with experts who are well-equipped and ready for emergency situations.
Rabeya Rowshin
Dept of Economics, DU

Education in Budget
If the backbone of our country, education, is weak, then none of its development can sustain nor make it fit to survive in the highly competitive world. But our annual budget doesn't echo this as we have found that education and technology have lost its first position after many years to a non-productive or ambiguous sector of repaying interest of loans. In last ten or twelve years the education sector was getting a high allocation in black and white but this year it has gotten only 12.3% which was 14.5% in the fiscal year of 2007-08 while the interest of loan sector has got 12.6%. When it's a general hope and admiration of the society that education will get priority day by day such a decrease boggles the mind and makes us wonder whether the government is losing its enthusiasm towards this long term investment from where you cannot get a quick output. In addition, we know that a big share of the budget will be pocketed by corrupt people so, as a result, this poor allocation will make the education sector more vulnerable. Now we have to repay the interest. This is a clear indication that in the distant future our dependence on foreign loan will increase thereby decreasing the allocation in the education and health sector.
Every year the government holds a pre-budget meeting with the business sections of society but we never hear about any meetings with the various academic institutions. As the whole country is now feeling the fever of the upcoming election and the release of the two PMs no one is talking much about the budget, whereas we are all informed about what is going on in our primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. Lack of institutions, high drop-out rates, teacher crises and no research work already has made a dent in our education sector. Now the apathy of the government will accelerate the downtrend of the flourishing of the education and technology sector.
Shakawat Hossain
B.Com, Final Year, Deparment Of Accounting
Govt City College, Chittagong

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