Eid festivals go on while people die
WHILE people were busy in this part of the country visiting, eating and looking good on account of Eid-ul-Fitr, about 20 lakh people in the northern Rangpur, Kurigram, Nilphamari, Gaibandha and Lalmonirhat districts, Monga hit areas, were facing a near famine situation caused by joblessness. The season going bad for most, the region can hardly have one meal a day, let alone hope for new clothes and yummy food to celebrate the festival. Besides, recent floods have worsened the situation this year.
Food crisis during two months from mid-September to mid-November is an every year phenomenon for the farm labourers along the Teesta, Brahmaputra and Dharla rivers in the districts but this year it became acute as the prices of all essentials including rice and vegetables went a great deal higher.
A large number of mud houses were damaged and transplanted aman rice submerged in the flood that made thousands of farm labourers unemployed and, thus, victims of food scarcity.
Elderly Nazir Hossain of Kurshamari of Teesta union in Lalmonirhat said Eid-ul-Fitr and monga has been coinciding for five years and so, hundreds of his likes in the village remained cheerless on the Eid days and this year it would not be otherwise.
Most of the villagers of Moubhasa, Gajghanta, Mornea and adjoining unions over char areas along the Teesta under Gangachara upazila remain half-fed and even starved, in absence of farm work throughout the district.
"The chairman and members of our union parisad are at once deaf and blind. They can neither see our misery nor hear our appeal for food assistance," Abu Hossen of Moubhasa village said, adding, "We were in the queue from morning to midnight to collect rice at subsidised rate but the chairman did not issue a slip for me."
The district administration records show that 10 kg of rice was given twice to each of about eight lakh people of 333 unions and 12 municipalities in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Rangpur, Nilphamari, and Gaibandha districts during September and October under the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme and 10 kg more awaits distribution ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. But many poor people in the districts alleged that they did not get any relief from the government or any other organisations.
There are also allegations of misappropriation of relief food. Regarding this, the DC said that he visited many unions in the district but nowhere except Milonpur union in Mithapukur did he find any irregularity.
"Milonpur Union Parishad Chairman Abdul Hakim is now in jail in connection with misappropriation of VGF rice," he said.
YET another portion of Gulshan Lake is being grabbed, this time the large portion next to the BRAC Centre. The offending developer has claimed that the portion is privately owned and that Rajuk has issued a 'no objection certificate' and has approved a plan for a 20-storey structure. When residents complained to the police, they detained the guard who was at the site. Around a hundred residents staged a rally on the site, protesting the lake filling by Times Tower.The company claims that the High Court and the Apellate Division have ruled in favour of Times Tower. Even more strange is the story some local people have given regarding how they got a piece of this waterbody. Apparantly Times Tower had purchased 15 kathas in the lake area from Mansur Dorji (which means tailor by the way) for 3.5 crore taka in the early nineties. It wangled Rajuk's no objection certificate' in 1995 and the approval for the building plan in 1997. But the present Rajuk Chairman has told the Daily Star that as soon as he heard about the lake filling he lodged a case against the developer under the water body protection acts. The Rajuk Chairman has further claimed that he and his organisation will stop this filling at all costs. He announced that several hundred workers would be deployed to remove the earth that had been dumped by the developer. The Managing Director of the company has insisted that they do own the piece of land and if Rajuk wants to regain it for environmental considerations then they would have to pay the appropriate compensation for it. It all goes to show that thanks to the corruption of government officials unscrupulous businessmen have eaten up our precious water bodies over the years. The only silver lining in this sad scenario is that the public is becoming more vocal and getting together to protest these horrendous acts. Whether this will save whatever is left of our water bodies and public spaces is something only time will tell.
Foy's Lake tragedy
TO celebrate Eid, Sylhet forest official Azad from Natore had gone to Chittagong to spend time with friends and family residing in the port city. Little did he know that, this would be his last leisure trip ever.
Tragedy stole away the happiness of the visitors to the Concord Amusement Theme Park in the city's Foy's Lake on Saturday afternoon as three riders, including an elderly woman, were thrown off the park's Ferris wheel killing two of them.
The dead were identified as Azadul Islam, 50, forest ranger of Sylhet Forest Division, and Sufia Khatun, 60, elder sister of yet another forest official, Saiful Islam, who was also visiting from Joypurhat to celebrate the Eid with her two younger brothers.
Their companion, Aziza Islam Moyna, 35, was seriously injured.
Md Emdad, younger brother of Sufia Khatun, filed a case with the Khulshi Police Station, accusing the Concord authorities of mismanagement.
It seems that one of the 18 boxes developed technical faults and started to turn upside down. They were screaming for help, but there was no operator to stop the wheel. As it reached the highest altitude at around 50 feet, it turned completely upside down and the three fell down straight on the ground, according to Saiful.
Meanwhile, following the incident, the park staffs and employees fled the scene. The visitors stopped the Ferris wheel and rescued 64 other riders.
Deputy General Manager of the park, Zakaria Chowdhury, denied any technical fault and claimed that it was Sufia Khatun's saree that caused the accident.
"A part of her saree suddenly got stuck in the box of the Ferris wheel and when she leaned over the box to release it, the box turned upside down and they fell on the ground," he said.
A Robber of a Cop
JAFAR Iqbal, assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of Savar Police Station, has allegedly tried to exact a bribe of Tk 5,000 from Ashraful and Rashed, two garment-factory workers. On October 27, the ASI went into Ashraful and Rashed's workplace and threatened to arrest them if they did not give him Tk 5000; on the other hand, when asked to show warrants, Jafar came up with a document that had 13 different errors. In fact one of the 'offenders'' name in the warrant was wrong. Of the accused, Ashraful smelt a rat and immediately called a relative who worked with the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Within an hour the relative found out that Jafar actually forged the seal and signature of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. But this revelation could not dissuade him from demanding a hefty douceur: "We told the ASI that the warrant was a fake one, but he did not give a damn. He yelled at us and started to drag us as if to take us to the police station," Ashraful says.
To avoid any further harassment, they gave Jafar Tk 5,000, which the police officer denies to have taken. "I have joined the police station only recently and I do not know how to distinguish a false warrant from a genuine one," he says. As lame an excuse as it could be.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005