Manmohan and the Deals that Weren't
Of you haven't been living under a rock nor been having nosebleeds at the slightest sound of the name “Messi”, you will probably know that Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh came to Dhaka on a very high profile visit to sign some very high profile deals, clogging up traffic on both sides of the “VIP” road. Our beloved leaders claimed that these deals are essential for paving the way towards a “prosperous future for the whole region” and will take the “friendship” between India and Bangladesh to a new high. On the surface, the deals seemed actually beneficial to Bangladesh and not just highway robbery by India but then, perhaps unsurprisingly, the deals fell through, startling most (among whom was our foreign minister, who was unavailable for comments to the press).
There were four major deals to be signed out of which only one has had pen put to paper. The one signed allows 50 Bangladeshi enclaves to be integrated within Bangladesh and 100 Indian enclaves to be given to them. Since these enclaves were formed, the tens of thousands of people living in them were cut off from their respective governments and have had to survive without even the basic services. In fact, the borders were closed off after dusk meaning that you could have a heart attack in there and nobody would bother the least.
Other than that, there were a bunch of minor deals and one about conserving tigers on the brink of extinction. Uh huh, good luck with that.
The ones that didn't happen
Manmohan's visit and all the (if any) good it did was overshadowed by the last minute cancellation of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was reportedly throwing a tantrum on account of not agreeing with the terms of the Teesta Water Sharing deal. The terms of the draft agreement said we were entitled to 50% of the Teesta's water, which has until now been diverted putting irrigation programs in North Bangladesh at a standstill for a number of years. But then Mamata Banerjee decided equal sharing of the water is not in the best interest of West Bengal, causing the deal to sink (excuse the pun). This deal was huge for us because without it, India doesn't actually have to give us the water and we can continue to not irrigate crops and have seasons of starvation.
Things like this are normally planned ahead. Someone cannot just suddenly say, “Nah, I don't feel like it” and stop something like a treaty between two independent countries from happening. According to Mamata, she was shown different percentage shares. Conspiracy theory time?
The other deals that weren't signed were deals on importing power and transit for India. Transit usually means letting a country go through one country to get to another. India wanted to go through Bangladesh... to go to India. 'Cause, you know, the other routes are full off mountains and guerrillas. Corridor is an ugly word. The eastern states of India are troubled, crawling with rebels that they are determined to squash out. It sounds almost as if they were planning to send their army through Bangladesh. Well, what do we care, right? We'll probably charge them a hefty toll for it. Wait what? We're charging them less than 30 paisa per ton of stuff that they send through Bangladesh? Somehow with our road building skills that seem to require repair every year, that doesn't sound very profitable.
Even then, why should we agree to a transit deal that may or may not involve arms travelling through Bangladesh? They put a 4000 km long barbed wire fence all along the border. Their border guards continue to shoot down our farmers and fishermen on this side of the border. They don't let our television channels to broadcast in India. But it's alright; our bureaucrats say we'll make a profit from the deal. Since the Teesta deal was torpedoed (second pun, I'll stop now), the Transit deal not being signed was supposed to be our “revenge” while BNP chief spokesperson Mirza Fakhrul Islam has said that we have already granted transit to India meaning the treaty would have been nothing more than a useless formality. You really do have to marvel at our “close friendship” with our neighbour. The press was told that if they wanted details of the deals they had to visit the Indian external ministry website. Err, does that sound a bit like our ministers were oblivious to the deals?
The ones that we wouldn't have minded
India has recently come under fire for corruption. The masses in India have turned to an 80 year old man who starves himself to protest corruption. And weirdly enough, it's working. They're passing an anti-corruption bill in parliament that actually might work. We need one of those. Maybe when India and Bangladesh have their next round of deal signings they can sign over Anna Hazare to us. Because everyone knows nothing roots out corruption like a starving 80 year old man. Just ask the British about Gandhi.
Another thing we should import from India is proper fast internet. I, personally, am tired of waiting 15 minutes for a three minute YouTube clip. The 3G internet advertisements spamming my television make me jealous and sad. I want that here. Preferably Idea 3G because it's ad shows it can lower population.
Manmohan Singh's visit was being billed as historic and crucial for the country and it's probably safe to say it was a tad disappointing. The major deals weren't signed. But hey, there's always next time. Indian Prime Ministers do come to the country... oh every 10 years or so.
Globalisation: A Bipolar Story
On 9th September 2011, at Dhaka Art Centre the first leg of the exhibition titled 'Globalisation: A Bipolar Story' was inaugurated. With several prominent key note speakers such as Dhaka University Professor Dr. Nazmul Ahsan, Assistant Professor of Mirpur Government Bangla College Dr. A K M Rezaul Hassan, photographer and filmmaker Anwar Hossain and photographer Andrew Biraj; the exhibition started off as a hit.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Bangladeshi Photographers and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Raqeebul I. Ketan, an undergraduate engineering student at MIT and a member of Bangladeshi Photographers, started the initiative with the support of Student Arts Association at MIT. His proposal won the CAMIT Grant (Council for the Arts at MIT) for its potential to promote photography as a medium of expression on contemporary issues. Later, SAA (Student Art Association at MIT) formed a partnership with Bangladeshi Photographers to implement the first leg of the exhibition in Bangladesh.
The idea is to launch the first phase of this project, which was hosted by “Bangladeshi Photographers (BP)”, in Dhaka, Bangladesh at a renowned art gallery by the beginning of September, 2011. And the second phase of the exhibition will be hosted by ““Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)” at “Wiesner Art Gallery”, Massachusetts, USA in November, 2011.
The aim of this endeavour is to put on display the work and outlook of young photographers, from two different ends of the globe, on the concept of globalisation.
The selection process will be conducted by the core organizer members of this project and the members from the jury panel, which will consist of the internationally acclaimed photographers of Bangladesh. Out of the submissions, a total of 60 photographs were on display approximately 35 of which were by Bangladeshi photographers, while the rest were selected from MIT, USA.
Each photograph in the exhibition managed to capture the mixed cultures visible in today's world as a result of globalisation. Influence of Bollywood actors on us Bangladeshis was a common theme. A personal favourite was a shot of a Veet advertisement poster showing off Katrina Kaif's legs while a woman clad in a loose salwar walked by next to it. Only the two female's legs were in the frame, and it was definitely a witty, interesting capture.
We wish the organisers and participants best of luck for the upcoming exhibition in MIT, USA in November.
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September 8th, 2011
September 8th, 2011
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