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     Volume 6 Issue 31 | August 10, 2007 |

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News Notes

More Coordination Needed

As the deluge has turned worse in Dhaka and its surrounding region, the Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed in his address to the nation has called upon everyone to stay united. "Any natural disaster like floods brings an opportunity for the nation to stand united, and now has come such a scope. People of various classes and professions had extended their helping hands to distressed people during disaster in the past," he has said. Though Ahmed's words have been timely, the reality in the deluge-affected areas calls for more government efforts, especially in rehabilitation of the victims of the disaster. What has made a government intervention absolutely necessary is the absence of non-governmental efforts to the victims of the flood, which has rendered as many as eight million people homeless. While a constant fear of being probed by the anti-corruption watchdog is one of the many reasons for the lack of enthusiasm from the part of the non-governmental organisations, a strong relief-effort is needed in areas where an outbreak of water-born diseases can swiftly turn the disaster into a calamity of a grotesque proportion. It must also activate disaster management committees at different levels; a greater and more efficient coordination among different government bodies is urgently needed.
Rising prices of essentials have been a sore point in this government's otherwise untainted seven-month rule, this problem has snowballed into a crisis in the northern districts of the country, parts of which are still bearing the brunt of the deluge. The government must take some immediate measures to help the ordinary people gain their purchasing power; food for work is a good temporary option to save the poor from possible starvation. As the Centre for Policy Dialogue has rightly pointed out, food grain importers need to be encouraged to open letters of credit. For the first time in the last one and a half decades we have double-digit inflation in the country. This will surely have a long-time effect in the areas where people are trying to rebuild their lives after the flood. News of no government help reaching the victims of the flood is disappointing; the government should put more emphasis in relief and rehabilitation efforts, it must also seek help of individuals and non-government bodies. The way out of this disaster lies in concentrated efforts, it is hoped that the government understands it sooner than later.

The Winter School

Ever heard of a school, which stays open only on particular seasons? Thanks to Mother Nature, the Kongchairi Para Primary School, or locally known as the 'school of the winter season' does not operate during the rainy season. However, it's not only the weather to blame. The classrooms are crumbling down to pieces and the walls are decaying. Ever since the school's establishment in 1967 and nationalisation in 1973, nobody took any initiative to rebuild the school even after 40 years.
At least 200 children of five villages belonging to the indigenous communities of Chakma, Marma and Tripura study here. These children are not getting the quality education that they should. The classrooms do not have doors and windows and the roof broke down years ago. Clearly, the children are studying at their own risk inside this structure. Thus, fearing collapse, the school remains closed most of the time. In fact, the insecurity, which prevails here, is so intense that both the teachers and students rush home at the slightest sign of a cloud or a storm. Even though the teachers, including the headmistress, did not take regular classes they made sure that they drew their salaries regularly every month.
Although, it is one of the highest priorities in the country and has been made free in government schools for all till the 12th grade, education is still deprived to a major section of the population in Bangladesh even today. The Kongchairi Para Primary School, according to parents and locals, has never been visited by government officials and neither has any initiative been taken to develop the building, leave alone the quality of education.

No Hurry to Find Bombers
Apathy seems to be a favourite pastime for those holding power. Apathy for the slum dwellers, for the roadside hawkers, for garments workers who have not been paid for God-knows-how-long, for the unknown number of home workers slaving away and for basically anything that should be at the top in the list of national interest. When 459 bomb blasts in 63 districts send a whole nation of people into a terrifying frenzy, the least people can expect after two whole years is to know the answers to certain questions - Who? How? Why?
Unfortunately, it seems that we won't be finding out the answers to these questions any time soon. Apparently lax in probe by police means that we won't be seeing any trial any time soon. By the third day of the blast 135 people had already been arrested and 300 cases lodged. But even after two years and four changes in Investigation Officers, now being under the Detective Branch, the direction of the case has become uncertain.
Although two people died and hundreds were injured in the blasts carried out by the notorious JMB, whose two kingpins Siddiqur Rahman (aka Bangla Bhai) and Shykh Abdur Rahman were hanged a few months ago, their undercover operations, said to be partly backed by the most corrupt man of the country, former prime minister's son Tariq Rahman, now in jail, are anything but over. This month again RAB found 10kilos of bomb and 10 grenades from a house in Mirpur and arrested four followers of the JMB. According to intelligence agencies, although reduced in strength, the JMB may be planning for another series of attacks some time this month. High time for the intelligence agencies to abandon their favourite pastime and put their working shoes on.

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