May 26, 2011 at 19:22 o\clock

French university honors Sheikh Hasina for democracy, women empowerment

PM Sheikh Hasina pledges wiping out poverty by 2015

May 26, 2011

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday expressed her strong commitment to pull 12 million people of Bangladesh out of poverty within the MDG timeframe of 2015. “Our Hasinaaim is also to achieve the goals of 'Digital Bangladesh' and become a middle income country by 2021,” she said at a function at the Dauphine University in France in the afternoon. President of the university Laurent Batsch handed over a gold medal and a certificate of diploma to Sheikh Hasina in recognition of her contributions for 'institutionalising and strengthening democratic process and women empowerment in Bangladesh'.

The PM thanked the university authorities for awarding her the prestigious gold medal and diploma. “This gesture is a rare honour for my country and our 160 million people,” she said. Sheikh Hasina said that with the highest budgetary allocation, the government aims to achieve 100 percent school enrolment by the end of this year, and 100 percent literacy by 2014. The government has a plan to provide girls with free tuition until graduation while three polytechnic institutes have been established for attracting girls to technical education, she said. In a bid to alleviate poverty, Sheikh Hasina said the present government has created social safety nets covering pension to widowed and distressed women; “Ashrayan” or homes for the homeless; “One Home-One Farm” for small landowners; ensuring employment of one member from every poor family, and implementing a “National Services Policy” for two years' service for youths, among others. “Our success in reducing child mortality by 50 percent was recognised by an MDG Award during the 65th UNGA. We are on track on other MDGs, especially on poverty alleviation, universal primary education and gender equality,” she said.

May 26, 2011 at 12:45 o\clock

Moving towards a 'Digital Bangladesh'

by: bangladesh   Keywords: digital, bangladesh, project

Submitted by Rubaba Anwar

Rubaba “My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.

The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.

Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like “I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!

May 24, 2011 at 13:25 o\clock

Mujib's confusion on Bangladeshi deaths

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Bangabandhu, Mujib

Letter: Mujib's confusion on Bangladeshi deaths

The Guardian, Tuesday 24 May 2011 

Ian Jack (21 May) mentions the controversy about death figures in Bangladesh's liberation war. On 8 January 1972 I was the first Bangladeshi to meet independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after his release from Pakistan. He was brought from Heathrow to Claridge's by the Indian high commissioner Apa Bhai Panth, and I arrived there almost immediately.

Mujib was puzzled to be addressed as "your excellency" by Mr Panth. He was surprised, almost shocked, when I explained to him that Bangladesh had been liberated and he was elected president in his absence. Apparently he arrived in London under the impression that East Pakistanis had been granted the full regional autonomy for which he had been campaigning. During the day I and others gave him the full picture of the war. I explained that no accurate figure of the casualties was available but our estimate, based on information from various sources, was that up to "three lakh" (300,000) died in the conflict.

To my surprise and horror he told David Frost later that "three millions of my people" were killed by the Pakistanis. Whether he mistranslated "lakh" as "million" or his confused state of mind was responsible I don't know, but many Bangladeshis still believe a figure of three million is unrealistic and incredible.

Serajur Rahman

Retired deputy head, BBC Bengali Service

May 20, 2011 at 12:56 o\clock

PM Sheikh Hasina urges development partners to help combat communicable diseases at the 64th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA)

by: bangladesh   Keywords: PM, Hasina, Geneva

Geneva 18 May 2011: Hasina Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged the development partners to help design sub-regional and regional programs to combat communicable diseases like Avian and Swine flu. She said along with communicable diseases, the non- communicable diseases (NCD)- diabetes, cancer, cardio-vascular diseases, stroke, mental health, thalassemia and autism- should get due importance as it accounts for 60 percent of global mortality with 80 percent in developing countries.

The Bangladesh Premier made the call while addressing the 64th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) at Palais des Nations yesterday afternoon. Presided over by President of the 64th World Health Assembly Dr Christos Patsalides, Director General of World Health Organisation Dr Margaret Chan and Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bil Gates also spoke on the occasion. Delegates from 193 countries met today in Geneva at the start of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Earlier, on her arrival at the Palais des Nations, she was received by the Director General of World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan. Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Hasina also urged the international community to renew their commitment to ensure "Health for All" which is an essential precondition for transforming people into human assets. "If health for all could be ensured, the world leaders will be able to promote human dignity and enhance their quality of life, as it is an obligation to their respective people," she added. Sheikh Hasina said healthcare is one of the most important aspects of people's overall wellbeing and it can be attained only through collective actions of governments, health professionals, scientific community, private sector and the international community. Regarding Bangladesh's position in achieving target of MDG- 6, she said her government is working for a greater regional collaboration for water borne diseases like cholera, hepatitis A&E, typhoid, and paratyphoid as target of the success rate against tuberculosis has been achieved and malaria is under control.

May 17, 2011 at 03:23 o\clock

Solar Power Lights Up Bangladesh Rural Areas

by: bangladesh   Keywords: solar, bangla

Solar power is in place in nearly a million homes in rural Bangladesh, which is drastically short of electricity, the World Bank said on Monday

DHAKA (Reuters) - Solar power is in place in nearly a million homes in rural Bangladesh, which is drastically short of electricity, the World Bank said on Monday.

"More than 870,000 homes and shops in remote rural areas have installed solar home systems with support from the World Bank and other development partners," the global lender said in a statement.

The World Bank had provided additional financing of $130 million in 2009 to support the government's efforts to reach more households in rural areas with solar home systems.

"Access to electricity has many benefits including better quality of life, more time spent by children for study, and opportunities for new village enterprises."

Barely 45 percent of Bangladesh's 150 million people have access to power but they still face frequent power cuts that often trigger protest.

The impoverished country faces 2,000 megawatts of electricity shortages. In addition, population growth, increased industrialization, additional connections, and rise in the use of modern, electrical appliances have boosted demand for electricity, currently growing at a rate of over 500 MW a year.

Solar home systems have proven to be a viable option to provide electricity to villages the national grid cannot reach, the World Bank said.

Bangladesh aims to meet 10 percent of its total power demand from renewable energy sources by 2020. Renewable energy contributes less than 1 percent to overall power generation.

The government, facing growing public anger over power and utility shortage, says it is exploring various means, including nuclear power generation, to overcome the problem, which is one of the key constraints to growth and is considered as a big barrier to foreign investments.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Anis Ahmed)

May 12, 2011 at 14:03 o\clock

World Bank Approved US$195 for Digital Bangladesh Project

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011 – The World Bank today approved a US$195 million concessional credit for the Identification for Enhanced Access to Services (IDEAS) Project to assist the Government of Bangladesh in developing a reliable and accurate national identification (ID) system that will enable efficient and transparent delivery of benefits and services to the people, particularly the poor.
Establishing a full-fledged and reliable national Identification system would significantly improve the delivery of public and private services. The system will be built upon the existing voter-list database by the Bangladesh Election Commission. Identification numbers and cards will be issued to about 90 million Bangladeshi citizens of age 18 and above within next five years. Modern technology will be used to produce robust national ID cards to protect the citizens from fraud and forgery.
“A comprehensive national identification system will transform the way in which public services, including social benefits, are delivered to recipients,” said Ellen Goldstein, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh. “It will also assist in better planning, minimizing corruption and increasing transparency in service delivery.”
The project also serves as the foundation for the Government’s “Digital Bangladesh by 2021” program, which envisions the mainstreaming of information technology as a pro-poor tool to reduce poverty, establish good governance and ensure social equity.
“An important foundation for effective service delivery is the country’s capacity to identify citizens accurately and quickly,” said Junghun Cho, Project Team Leader. “The system will assist public agencies in identifying and verifying the identities of citizens as well as compiling data that would help focus social programs to those most in need. It is also expected that private sector entities, such as banks and mobile companies, will benefit from their increased capacity to verify service users.”
The core information available through the system will also help track many other transactions undertaken by the public sector, including collection of tax revenues, and systematize a wide range of record-keeping, from land ownership to utility connection.
The IDEAS Project would aid Government’s effort to establish a reliable and authoritative national identification system that can serve as an efficient, secure data platform. The project would focus on developing a legal and policy framework for the national identification system, upgrading data quality, and supporting the strengthening of the Bangladesh Election Commission to administer the national identification system.
The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm. The credit carries a 0.75% service charge, a maturity of 40 years, including a 10-year grace period.
For a link to our latest blog post, Moving Towards a 'Digital Bangladesh':
In Washington: Benjamin S. Crow, (202) 473 1729,
In Dhaka: Mehrin Mahbub, (880-2) 8159001,


more information, please visit the Project Bangladesh Feed 

May 12, 2011 at 06:15 o\clock

Bangladesh Supreme Court modifies HC verdict on fatwa

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Supreme, Court, fatwa

Bangladesh Supreme Court modifies HC verdict on fatwa

The Supreme Court on Thursday modified the HC verdict on fatwa (religious sermon), saying that no person can pronounce it (fatwa), which violate or affect the right or reputation or dignity of any individual.

It said, “No punishment including physical violence or mental torture in any form can be imposed or implicated on any body in pursuance of fatwa.”

The apex court said fatwa on religious matter may be given by the properly educated persons, which may be accepted only voluntarily but any coercion or undue influence in any form is forbidden.

A six-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice ABM Khairul Haque came up with the verdict after allowing in part two separate appeals filed against the HC verdict that declared fatwa illegal.

On January 1, 2001, the HC declared all punishments imposed in the name of fatwa illegal. The verdict came following a hearing on a suo moto rule issued earlier by the court after a newspaper report on Hilla marriage (marriage with a third person).

Human rights organisations-- Bangladesh Mahila Parishad and Ain O Salish Kendra-- argued against fatwa before the HC.

The same year Mufti Mohammad Toyeeb and Abul Kalam Azad filed two appeals with the SC against the HC verdict.

The SC on March 1 this year started hearing the long overdue appeal.

May 8, 2011 at 22:19 o\clock

Get glimpses of Tagore family fashion, art

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Tagore, Art, Exhibition

Get glimpses of Tagore family fashion, art

May 5, 2011: A showcase of the rich sartorial tradition of Rabindranath Tagore's family in Jorasanko and a display of the digital print of his art works will mark celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel laureate May 9.

These will be brought to the capital by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The fashion dance theatre production, "The Sartorial Fashions of the Tagore Family or Thakurbarir Saaj Poshak", by dancers and mime artists showing the changing fashions in the last 150 years spearheaded by women of Tagore's family will be inaugurated by ICCR president Karan Singh at Azad Bhavan Friday.

"Singh will also unveil an exhibition of digital prints of Tagore's works," a statement issued by the ICCR said on Wednesday.

According to Suresh Goel, the director-general of ICCR, "the production will pay homage to the Tagore family for liberating women and making them at home in the world".

In 1858, when India was formally brought under the British Crown, western ideas received renewed vigour. There was already a decided Persian influence on the culinary, sartorial and aesthetic style of the Tagore family, which lived in a sprawling 18th century mansion, the Thakurbari in Jorasanko, an old residential neighbourhood in north Kolkata.

The Tagores revolutionised Indian aesthetics and fashion. The family included progressive members of the Brahmo Samaj, a liberal spiritual order founded by Raja Rammohan Roy.

The Brahmo influence allowed homemakers to find a place in the world outside, building the foundation of society, while maintaining their dignity and grace.

Rabindranath's father, Maharshi Debendranath, designed dresses for young girls of the family, which combined tight pyjamas and loose tops in a blend of Western and Muslim sartorial styles. They were worn to school or to play.

In a book, "Women of the Tagore Household (Penguin-India), writer Chitra Deb says, "orders for the 'peshoaj', a multi-layered Mughal outfit, were placed at a French shop and an 'oriental' dress was stitched for Jnanadanandini, the wife of Tagore's older brother. But the dress proved cumbersome."

The current style of wearing the sari with the shoulder drape and pleats also evolved from the experiments made by the ladies of the Tagore family who were inspired from styles of various parts of the country as well as Western fashion.

May 8, 2011 at 01:52 o\clock

Joint celebration of Tagore's 150th birth anniversary begins in Dhaka

by: bangladesh   Keywords: tagore, hamid, ansari

Joint celebration of Tagore's 150th birth anniversary begins in Dhaka

It is a momentous occasion, says Hamid Ansari

TIB A joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore began here on Friday. It comprises elaborate programmes on the great poet, who represents much of common heritage and philosophy of India and Bangladesh.

With Indian Vice President M. Hamid Ansari in attendance, the Bangladesh part of the three-day programme was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

At the inaugural session, a replica of ‘Padma Boat,' used by Tagore during his frequent visits to Bangladesh, was handed over to Mr. Ansari, who arrived here on Thursday leading a delegation.

Addressing the session, Mr. Ansari said: “Enchanted by the river Padma and on his ‘Padma' boat, Tagore produced some of his finest works. It was here that the serene Shilaidaha, Kusthia, Patisar and Shahzadpur worked their magic on young Rabindranath, thereby becoming an integral part of his inspirational canvas.”

The programmes in Delhi will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday. Senior Bangladesh Minister A.K. Khandker will lead a delegation on behalf of the Bangladesh Prime Minister.

The decision to jointly celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore was made during Ms. Hasina's visit to New Delhi in January last year. Tagore was born on 25th Baisakh in 1861, according to the Bengali calendar.

Ms. Hasina, who herself is a Tagore admirer, announced that her government would set up Rabindra University at Shilaidaha in Kushtia, where the Nobel laureate spent a considerable period of his creative life. The government would also preserve the poet's memories in Patisar and Shahzadpur. It proposed to construct a Bangladesh House in Santiniketan. She also called for combined efforts in the South Asian region to alleviate poverty with the spirit of progress and non-communalism.

As part of the joint celebrations, a special train, ‘Sonar Tori,' would run between Dhaka and Kolkata. Ms. Hasina also released four commemorative stamps marking the occasion.

“As long as Bangladesh lasts,” she said, “Bangla language and its culture will remain, and Rabindranath will live in the heart of all Bangladeshis.”

Mr. Ansari said both India and Bangladesh separately celebrated Tagore's birth centenary half a century ago, but “this time we are celebrating the poet's 150th birth anniversary jointly. Today's joint celebration is a momentous occasion and the first of its kind in the history of our two nations.”

Exhibitions of Tagore's paintings, seminars, workshops, commemorative publications and joint productions and performances of dances and dramas, based on the stories written by Tagore, Rabindra Sangeet and a film will be organised as part of the programmes.

Dhaka and Delhi will also launch a tourism circuit called ‘Rabindra Tirtha,' which would include Jorasanko, Santiniketan, Shilaidaha, Shahzadpur and other places related to Tagore's legacy in both India and Bangladesh.

A set of DVDs of “Tagore Stories on Film” and Satyajit Ray's documentary on Tagore will be released on the occasion. The DVDs were put together from restored archival materials by India's National Film Development Corporation. A commemorative stamp on Tagore will also be released, along with commemorative coins in India.

May 1, 2011 at 18:11 o\clock

Corruption on the wane: Transparency International

TIB Dhaka, May 1, 2011 The rate of corruption in Bangladesh is decreasing, the head of Transparency International (TI), who is here in Dhaka, said on Sunday.

"There are some progresses (in reduction of corruption in Bangladesh) and we must recognise it," Huguette Labelle, chair of German-based TI, told jjournalists at the Jatiya Press Club.

She also asked the media, civil society, businessmen and different institutes to help the government make further progress.

Executive Director of TI's Bangladesh chapter, Dr Iftekhar Uz-Zaman, TI communication director Andre Doren and TIB communication director Dr Rezwan-ul-Alam were present.

Huguette, now in Dhaka, said Bangladesh was at the bottom in terms of high rate of corruption, but things have progressed over the years, mainly due to massive attention from the free media and growing civil society. She, however, said much more could be done to improve it further.

"We see some positive changes in some places and some negative developments in other areas," added TIB executive director Dr Iftekhar, adding that introduction of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was a step forward, but the crippling anticorruption commission was stepping backward. He said Bangladesh is now at a crossroads to arresting corruption.

Huguette said the anti-corruption campaign in Bangladesh could get vigour provided the government makes public its annual achievements against election pledges through Internet and other mediums.

The people should get information even before they need it, she said, adding Internet could help ensure wider access to information, ensure wider transparency and arrest corruption.

She also said the rich people and private companies must make their wealth statements public so the government and people could get an idea of their assets. The provision can also help find the development of a genuine businessperson against black money holder.