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RMG safety 6

Dhaka bus map 18

FRIDAY OCTOBER 4 2013

vol 1 Issu e 2 4

S M Sultan 26


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CONTENTS 2 This Week in Pictures 4 Bottled Up 5 Whose Line Is It Anyway? The roads are safe A Weekly Pro ducti o n o f

10 Post-Riposte Religion in public space

DhakaTribune Vo lume 1, Issu e 24 O CTOBER 4, 2 0 13

11 Top 10 3G wonders

Editor Zafar Sobhan

12 Digital Bangladesh E-TIN

Magazine Editor Faruq Hasan Weekend Tribune Team Sumaiya Shams Faisal Mahmud Yusuf Banna Joseph Allchin Shah Nahian Phil Humphreys Adil Sakhawat Rohini Alamgir

6 pick of the week RMG safety

17 Crime File Sexual Harassment 22 WT | Leisure 23 The Way Dhaka Was Kamalapur Rail Crossing

Art Direction/Photography Syed Latif Hossain

24 Thought Plot TEDxDhaka

Cartoon Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Rio Shuvo

27 Obituary Hiroshi Yamauchi

Contributors Syed Samiul Basher Monoshita Ayurani Muktasree Chakma Sathi A M Ahad Design Mohammed Mahbub Alam Production Masum Billah Advertising Shahidan Khurshed Circulation Wahid Murad Email: weekend@dhakatribune.com Web: www.dhakatribune.com Cover Photo Dhaka bus map by Syed Latif Hossain

13 Photo Story Wall of death

28 Last Word

18 feature Dhaka bus map

26 Culture Vulture S M Sultan

EDITOR’S NOTE

A bus ride to somewhere

Ecotourism 6

rELiGioN iN PoLitics 18

Dhaka PrEmiEr LEaGuE 24

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 27 2013

vo L 1 is s u E 23

B

us rides in Dhaka are hell, but still a necessity for most. Before you actually get on an overcrowded bus, you have to harangue with the ‘helper’, not about the fare, but where the bus will actually stop. Thankfully, a new project to give Dhaka passengers a much needed direction is underway. As Faisal Mahmud reports, a comprehensive project to develop maps for all buses in the city is underway. If successful, metro commuters will soon have a pretty good idea where the next bus is headed, and where they will be stopping. Elsewhere, Joseph Allchin investigates how trouble continues to plague our garment sector, Yusuf Banna walks us through a historical exhibition of the works of S.M Sultan, we review the Top 10 things you can do with your new 3G connection, and the weekend team dukes it out on whether there is a case to be made from banning the Niqab in certain situations. Another weekend of ideas, entertainment and debate awaits! n

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 4, 20 1 3


2

THIS WEEK

INTERNATIONAL

Pakistani shopkeepers read the Quran for people who lost their lives in a car explosion in

A Sudanese woman chants slogans against longtime President Omar al-Bashir during a

street in northwestern Pakistan Sunday in the third blast to hit the troubled city of Peshawar

security forces in pickup trucks opened fire on Saturday, September 28 on hundreds of

Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday, September 30. A deadly car bomb exploded on a crowded in a week, officials said

AP/Mohammad Sajjad

protest in front of the Sudanese embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday, September 29. Sudanese mourners marching after the funeral of a protester killed a day earlier. A representation of the Sudanese flag and Arabic on her T-shirt reads, “we refuse�. 

AP/Hassan Ammar

A Syrian opposition fighter takes cover

during exchange of fire with government

forces in Telata village, located at the top

of a mountain in the Idlib province, of the

northwest countryside of Syria

AP

The Ohio Clock outside the Senate Chamber

on Capitol Hill shows the time as 12:01am on Tuesday, October 1 in Washington. Congress

was unable to reach a midnight deadline to

keep the government funded, triggering the first government shutdown in more than 17 years

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 4 , 201 3

AP/Evan Vucci


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NATIONAL

A clash erupted between polytechnic students and police in the capital’s

Dhanmondi area on September 29 as the

students demanded revision of polytechnic graduates’ status in government service 

Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh Probin Hitoishi Sangha forms a human chain in front of the National Press Club on September 30 to mark the International Day of Older Persons

Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Minister Sahara Khatun inaugurates GP 3G on September 29

Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, who has

been handed down death penalty for the

crimes he committed against humanity during the liberation war in 1971, waves

before entering into the International Crimes Tribunal on Tuesday

Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 4, 20 1 3


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BOTTLED UP

letters to the editor

LETTER

of the week

Top 10 rocks! I love reading the Top 10 section of your magazine and was not surprised at all to see Artcell as being the number one rock band in the country. Most of the bands and musicians from my generation are passing on the baton to younger people, but it was still great to see Artcell being evergreen. Top choice! Salam Mahmud, Gulshan, Dhaka

Encompassing the environment I

was so excited to read that ecotourism is becoming less of a fad and more of a sustainable way of exploring the country. The writer was spot on when he said Bangladesh’s natural resources are very suited to wooing tourists who are environmentally friendly and also want to explore our wonderful heritage. It’s also a good argument against those who think ecotourism compromises with the economy of a country; I think we can be environmentally friendly and also have a thriving economy at the same time. Hats off to the WT team for highlighting an issue that needs to be talked about by government policy makers. n Mukta Rahman Eskaton, Dhaka

Crime pays, unfortunately In Bangladesh, it’s unfortunately not uncommon to see people profiting from the misfortune of others. Your Crime File reminded us once again that even a catastrophe like the Rana Plaza disaster is a breeding ground for greedy cheats. I hope Khaleda Akter’s family finds peace soon. Rosy Akhtar, New Elephant Road, Dhaka

Tough Love tough to forget The WT Agony Aunt, Miss Dina Sobhan, makes my day. I know her advice isn’t to be taken to heart, but seriously, her advice is just awesome. I love how she combines wisdom with humour; it’s just a great way for me to start the weekend. Good job Dina! Shayan Haque, Baily Road, Dhaka

Send us your feedback at: weekend@dhakatribune.com

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 4 , 201 3


5

WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?

The roads are safe

Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

“Drivers cannot evade responsibility for the accidents and casualties on the highways. We have already conducted a research on the issue and identified 12 problems with the drivers including rash driving, tendency for overtaking, inexperience, lack of training and knowledge of traffic rules, and drug addiction.” Mrinal Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation (east zone)

“I am running the bus services in Dhaka since 2001. I have more experiences than the BRTA officials. Do I really need to sit for exam or have a driving licence? I don’t think so!” Mohammad Jalal Mia, a local bus driver

“Our drive against the drivers without licence is a continuous process. My experience says a minimum of 70% of the drivers do not have any driving licence. We file cases whenever it is possible, but in many cases, the bus drivers and their owners have connections with the law enforcement agencies. They just make a call to some influential people and make us helpless.” A police sergeant requesting anonymity

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6 Joseph Allchin is a senior reporter at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on twitter: @J_Allchin

PICK OF THE WEEK RMG Safety

That illusive light at the end of the tunnel

Joseph Allchin looks at attempts to rehabilitate our most important export industry

A

Shumaya Khatun, 16, former Tazreen worker

t the end of a tiny row of tenement housing in Ashulia, a bare room shudders in the shadows of a fallen edifice. Shumaya Khatun, turned 16 this month, however this may be the last birthday she ever has. Shumaya was one of the ‘lucky ones,’ to have escaped from a deadly blaze that swept her former place of work; Tazreen W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 4 , 201 3

fashions factory in November last year. Soon after Shumaya escaped the blaze she started having nosebleeds that she believed were from impact injuries she sustained trying to escape. Her eye then started swelling. Her and her mother sold everything they had to get treatment from local doctors. Their tenement room is

testament to this desperation; everything in it that could be sold has been. This money was added to the family’s 150,000 taka savings and spent on treatment at Mymensingh Medical Centre. The treatment however did not work, something far more sinister had reared its head; she had developed cancer. She now lives with constant, excruciating pain,

Ayon Rehal

and can barely walk out of the small alley between the cramped tenement housing. Shumaya’s is one of many similar tales in the fall out from Bangladesh’s garment sector. These paint a grim picture of how the country’s efforts to rehabilitate our most important industrial sector are progressing.


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The Accord obligates its members to make the necessary funds available to fix unsafe factories. The WalMart/Gap-led plan, called the Alliance, does not. Further, the obligation of the Alliance member retailers is limited to no more than $1 million per year Notwithstanding that three-fifths of the garment factories are vulnerable to collapse, according to Bangladeshi engineers, the single effort undertaken by the Alliance to help with remediation is a strictly optional program to make “affordable capital” available to factories. Indeed, the primary purpose of the Alliance appears to be to limit the retailers’ liability – and therefore their responsibility U.S. Representatives Sandy Levin and George Miller

Rehabilitation?

After the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza disaster, “A number of things happened,” explains Lejo Sibbel, Senior Design Advisor for the International Labour Organisation’s Better Work Programme. “You obviously have the Accord and the Alliance which are working in areas where there is also a very clear commitment by the government; to undertake assessments of all active RMG exporters in Bangladesh.” Two separate plans were put forward because brands differed on how binding the pacts should be. The Accord is more legally binding; once signed companies have legal obligations. The accord includes around 100 mainly European brands. Then there is the Alliance that was headed by Wal-Mart, Gap and Sears, which is not legally binding and has only very limited labour representation. It has been sharply criticised by unions, civil society groups and politicians. The Accord and the Alliance together cover less than half of Bangladesh’s 4,000 plus garment factories. These are the ones that export directly and their foreign clients know about them. Factories not known to the brands however do much of the work. This is known as sub-contracting, as Tazreen was doing for a factory called Simco. The nature of the industry means that signatories of these deals hire third party buyers who take a cut and press for the cheapest deals amongst many keen factories. The local supplying factories have tight margins and are eager to get business whether or not their factories can meet the order. Successful

factories may have a 5% margin, ones with large, efficient facilities. However many have much smaller margins, in the region of 1%, according to Omar Chowdhury owner of Syntex Knitwear ltd. Wal-Mart typically operates with around a 25% margin of profit.

It’s a long way to Gulshan

These margins and the business model mean requisite compliance is nigh on impossible for many if not most Bangladeshi factories. Factory owner Khan Mohamed Ayub in Kaliganj Bazar, for instance, complains of a lack of credit, stating you need connections to get it, he would love to supply western high streets but has no way of gaining the required connections and capacity. The factories here are piled on top of each other, next to fetid streams; owners are unconcerned about telling visitors that their workers are 13 or 14. Kazi Reshad Islam, an engineering inspector for Holcim Cement explains that only 10% of factories were designed as such. Most were designed as commercial or residential buildings, as was the case at Rana Plaza. The problem is that factories require generators, warehouses and boilers; heavy facilities that residential or commercial buildings cannot handle. Because land is expensive, especially in or near Dhaka these heavy components are placed within the buildings, which put stress on buildings that they cannot sustain. “No matter what you do its not going to make [a residential building] suitable for a factory,” said Mr Sibbel. “In Rana Plaza it would not have been possible [to retrofit] because it was not designed for that purpose,” corroborates engineer Reshad.

It is easy to see why this is; to build an industrial building is double the cost of a residential building, says Reshad. As a result there are only around 3-400 factories that are compliant, these are the ones that will be producing for the big foreign brands and will have access to the money for upgrades from multinational brands, whether they need it or not. These will be shown to foreign buyers. But with costs and margins tight it is perhaps only the roughly 100 factories that supply to Accord factories that will be guaranteed not to subcontract, as the Accord requires transparency. The major black holes then are those factories that are not directly covered by the Accord or the Alliance. Those that either do sub contract work for the big players or indeed supply domestic or less well known exports. These says a senior adviser to the ILO, Lejo Sibbel are the “puzzle.” Bosses add that these factories also represent new market entrants that go on to be bog players in the future, without the regulation light environment it will be hard for them to establish viable businesses. For these even to do the basic Structural Health Test will cost them around Taka 1 million. This includes 5 tests and there is only one lab in the country that is capable of performing all 5. This means that for a factory that wants to supply Gap or WalMart, subcontracting becomes even more expedient; buyers aren’t going to settle with higher costs, whilst raw material prices are set to rise, according to a recent report from consultants McKinsey. With the paltry sums available for Alliance contracted

factories it is questionable whether they will be able to upgrade their entire supply chain. This gives rise to the possibility that factories will make their flagship or visible factory compliant but outsource even more of their work to undocumented, dangerous factories, as output is limited in the flag ship facilities by compliance adjustments. Wal-Mart have said they would black list noncompliant factories but according to shipping records seen by US investigative publication Pro-Publica, Wal-Mart is still receiving garments from black listed factories. Whilst many brands, including leading UK super markets, on the Accord have simply pulled out of business with factories that they have deemed unsafe instead of helping upgrade facilities.

From the cradle to the garment factory

Shumaya started working in garments aged 11 in a factory called Alligator. Her father she says “Is not in the picture.” She lives with her mother, who does back breaking work at a brick kiln to try and provide a future. At aged 13 Shumaya moved to Ashulia and sought work. She got a job at Tazreen, owned by the Tuba group, which did subcontracting work for Alliance member brands. Despite the sign, still visible on the burnt out building’s gate, which claims that they don’t employ child labour, they were the only factory unscrupulous enough to take on a 13year old. She says she got the job after doing a test in which 90 pieces had to be sewn in an hour. Reflecting a routine she would do for most of her

The Tripartite Action Plan The Tripartite National Action Plan came into life roughly a month before Rana Plaza and was initially only on fire safety. It was expanded on 4 May in the aftermath of the apparel industry’s worst ever disaster when a high level ILO delegation

visited Dhaka. In theory this is the government’s answer to the disasters. “Its divided into three categories, policy and legislation, administration and practical activities,” explains the ILO’s Lejo Sibbel. “Hopefully the government can

come to an agreement where they can say we will focus on the factories that are not covered by the Accord or the Alliance.” Practical activities have yet to be fully expedited. Funding for instance is still an issue. But says Mr Sibbel it will

also act as co-ordination platform for the government to regulate all the upgrades and minimum standards that all Bangladeshi RM factories will work under.

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PICK OF THE WEEK

RMG Safety

Joseph Allchin

The Accord One of the pieces of the puzzle, because that’s what this is, is to make sure that the factories in Bangladesh that are not part of the direct supply chain of the accord or alliance will have the means to upgrade their facilities if needs be Lejo Sibbel, International Labour Organisation

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 4 , 201 3

The Accord started life before both disasters but took on new urgency after Rana Plaza, explains Brian Kohler, head of compliance at the global union, Industriall. This has been co-ordinated by a number of unions and NGO’s such as Industriall

waking life for the next 3 years until the fateful day of 24 November 2012. This routine would see work till 10 at night on some days, having started at 8 am, with no toilet breaks outside the hour-long lunch break. Shumaya has received no compensation either for the medical ‘complications’ she has or for the loss of work. “They won’t [compensate]” says her mother, Amuran standing at the end of the row of tiny houses. She is both cynical and unfazed by the small crowd who have gathered as they depose a tale of how their dream of a future was extinguished in one terrible inferno.

and the US based Worker’s Rights Consortium. It is a 5 year plan which obliges brands to be fully transparent with their supply chain and to take responsibility for funding upgrades. US Congressman Sandy Levin described this as a potentially revolutionary

Crime does pay

At a September 11-12 meeting in Geneva to co-ordinate compensation for victims of Rana Plaza and Tazreen disasters only 1 in 3 brands involved in the disaster showed up. “The disregard of the absent brands for the plight of workers in Bangladesh whose lives have been destroyed by the avoidable accidents at Tazreen and Rana Plaza is shocking in the extreme,” asserted Monika Kemperle, from Industriall, the union organising the meetings and co-ordinating the Accord. For Tazreen, so far the government has provided the families of 99 deceased with Taka

means of regulating globalised supply chains. It has been signed up to by over a hundred, mainly European brands who source in Bangladesh. It is estimated that

1,000 each. Global mega buyer Li & Fung from Hong Kong and Dutch C&A have provided an undisclosed amount distributed in and undisclosed fashion. At Rana Plaza the UK’s Primark is the only brand involved to have paid compensation as yet. Yusuf Ali has seen nothing of this since he saved 7 people from the subterranean nightmare that the factory complex became. Since he has been in Savar’s Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) hospital his land in Barisal has been washed away, he says. On the 8th trip back into the darkness of Rana Plaza, a beam fell on his neck; he will never


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Waging the war This is crucial says Sultan Ahmed, of the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, because “you need to create a space for the worker’s to voice their opinions, otherwise there is no other option [but violent protest].” Since Rana Plaza an amended labour law has been introduced. On the surface this offers greater freedom to unionise but says Nazma Akhter of the United Garment Workers Federation, the law gives incredibly vague grounds for which workers can legally be dismissed, without compensation. Maintaining the prerogative of management to punish workers for seeking to organise.

walk again, paralysed as he is from the neck down. However, the owner of Tazreen fashions, Delwar Hossain is waiting for an insurance payout for his losses at the factory, due any day from Green Delta Insurance. Activists say this will amount to some Taka 16 million, which is much less than he hoped. This will be roughly 250 years worth of wages for a worker like Shumaya working 12hour days. This is despite his actions with regards to the Tazreen fire being described as “unpardonable negligence,” by a Home Ministry report. The government has failed to press charges and private litigants who have attempted to press charges are floundering in a sea of red tape and what some suspect to be corruption. Litigant Saydia Gulrukh is keen to press criminal charges, as opposed to simply letting him pay a sum of compensation, which she says should be done anyway. Cheap costs are what sells products. In Bangladesh’s case the main plank for this is the low wages that workers get. However there are plenty of inefficiencies in the Bangladeshi factory. Electricity for instance is a big concern. The commercial building of Rana Plaza needed to have generators

on multiple floors that it could not handle and ultimately caused the collapse. This was necessary because as goes without saying, electricity supplies are sketchy at the best of times. Factory owners estimate that electricity from diesel as opposed to mains electricity is about 3 times the cost. This adds a couple of taka per item to owner of Softex Knitwear ltd. Rezwan Selim’s produce, which over millions of items soon adds up. Lead times and hartals also take their toll. Whilst to get a sock through Chittagong port takes about two weeks, a Sri Lankan sock would take 24 hours to get through its port and onto a ship destined for Europe, adds Rezwan. Thus in many ways government action or inaction is as much part of the problem as workerboss relations; basic infrastructure would take the pressure off wages. Shumaya has now lost the use of both her eyes, as the tumour behind them pushes against them. She receives treatment, which is now taking the form of radiation at the United Hospital, paid for by the generosity of private donors. However she may not have much longer left. Over a thousand bereaved families still wait for genuine compensation from both disasters. It seems then that

The RMG sector’s minimum wage was set at Taka 3,000 per month in 2010, this means that with inflation at around 8% it is actually declining, if it kept apace with inflation it would stand just bit below 4,000 in 2013. This may have been why the BGMEA proposed a minimum wage of 3,600, which is what caused worker fury around the 21 September. Just to get the 3,000 taka minimum wage battles were fought, activists were sent to jail and the disruptive protests that Gazipur and elsewhere have experienced recently occurred. The point therefore of organising and or collective bargaining is that such

activities need not occur. “We [the ILO] believe if there’s better interaction between management and workforce”… .“listen better to what workers have to say about what its like to work in their facilities, conditions will no doubt go up and we believe that quality and productivity will go up as well,” said Lejo Sibbel. Sultan Ahmed corroborates, he believes that with an 8,000-taka monthly minimum, productivity would increase. Sultan moreover states that the 8,000 is the minimum required for a living wage.

Owner of Tazreen Fashions, Delwar Hossain, outside court

Joseph Allchin

Bangladeshi garment wages are famously some of the lowest in the world. Following Rana Plaza the relationship crucial to this has come under scrutiny. One where the employer is largely in control. The inability of labour to organise is emblematic of this; garment workers do not have a BGMEA. They have a number of semi-secret, often persecuted ‘unions’ or federations, which are in reality more like NGO’s. The members are not owners of the groups; rather they are minions in a club run by one or a few individuals and as such have no real ownership of the organisation or the ‘union’.

the wheels of justice are yet to fully turn. Corners will continue to be cut, perhaps imperilling an industry, which so many rely on and this country’s future still seems to weigh on. n

The Alliance The Alliance comprises 17 North American brands that objected to the legal obligations that the Accord places on signatories. Brands such as GAP and Wal-Mart argued that the stronger US legal tradition of class actions- suing groups of people means that they were uniquely at

risk of issues that were out of their control- for instance problems in factories or conditions in Bangladesh. Europe does not have such strong class action laws and losing plaintiffs have to pick up the bill. The Alliance is co-ordinated by Washington DC based Bipartisan Policy Centre. It provides

few obligations except is a non binding agreement that brands should make sure factories are compliant and spend a limited amount of money on assisting domestic factories in achieving stated aims. The Alliance has little union representation and instead seeks to fund initiatives like Labour

Voices, where workers can make complaints with a text message, instead of taking action collectively.

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 4, 20 1 3


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POST-RIPOSTE

Religion in public space

Should the niqab be banned in certain scenarios?

A recent ban by a private university on the religious garment has sparked a debate within the Weekend Tribune team

Yes

Faruq Hasan

M

ost schools only admit students on to their premises who have a clear and valid photo ID. The logic is simple: student safety is of the upmost priority and they need to be easily identifiable at all times. As such, head coverings including hoodies, baseball hats, veils, and niqabs that can be obtrusive are

No

Rohini Alamgir

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 4 , 201 3

often banned. Although the logic behind it seems self-evident to me, such policies often raise a hue and cry amongst Muslim women who wear niqab. The religious and pro freedom of choice arguments go something like this: the niqab is obligatory for any Muslim woman to wear, and banning

A

s people, we always speak of freedom of choice. As women, we complain of oppression

it is an infringement on human rights. I will not enter into a scripturebased debate about the religious intricacies that may or may not make the niqab mandatory for Muslim women. But a clear case exists for banning, in certain situations, any garment that hides the face. It is not just students in schools,

universities and playgrounds who must have unveiled faces at all times, and not just while passing through entrances. Safety is also a concern in places like RMG factories, clinics and hospitals, where clothes that cover part or all of your face may inadvertently harm yourself and others near you. And, of course, it’s imperative that police officers, court officials, and airport security officers be generally allowed to see faces at all times, and not just during a particular incident. Safety and security issues for not just an individual, but for large sections of people, especially the young, should always trump any individual obligation to dress a certain way. n

Illustrations: Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

and the lack of said freedom to express ourselves however we want. If a woman wants to wear a bikini to

a beach, she has every right to wear one, right? So if a woman, being religious, wants to be in hijab, or wear a niqab, then why are we up in arms against that? Suddenly, we start pointing fingers at men and claiming oppression. Why? Simply because a woman cannot possibly choose to be in hijab? And who made those rules? As activist Hebah Ahmed states, she chooses to be in niqab because it gives her a sense of empowerment: not only because she has made the choice on her own, but also because it now forces people to choose whether or not they like her or wish to befriend her based on who she is, rather than what she looks like. Let’s not give in to double standards, and try to speak for all Muslim women. Sure, many might be oppressed, but there are those who believe and choose to follow Islam by wearing the niqab. Let us remember that what we should stand up for is the freedom of choice for everyone. n


TOP 10

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3G WONDERS

Get busy with 3G

Shah Nahian explores the wonders of 3G and all the cool things you can do with it. The information presented here is based on a social media poll. To take part in the next poll, visit the Dhaka Tribune facebook page

10

Radio delights

If you are a radio fan, you will love 3G. Apps like TuneIn Radio and WorldSignal work marvellously, bringing you global radio channels instantly, without even a hitch.

9

Be connected

For those of you who need to always stay on top of business, 3G is your best friend. You can now easily check your email and send in/receive important documents in no time.

8

Playing multiplayer games nationwide/ internationally

Whether you’re sitting right next to your friend, or are in a completely different country, you can still have a lot of fun playing various multiplayer games right from your mobile device.

7

Have virtual conferences and meetings

When you’re connected, you’re on the move. But even with busy schedules, meetings, and conferences can be conducted at ease, whenever and wherever you are.

6

No more lag when streaming

Gone is the era of waiting for Youtube to buffer before being able to watch videos. You no longer have to wait for SoundCloud to load music before listening to it. 3G will bring you one click closer to the world of online entertainment.

5

Use Interactive City Maps/Google Sky with ease

With smooth access to Google/Apple maps, cellular navigators, and Google Earth, getting lost in the streets is a thing of the past. While on the move, you can not only get easy access to road-to-road navigations, but you can also use apps like Endomundo to keep track of what kind of cardio-workout you’re getting from all the roaming around.

4

Internet and Video Calling

A 3G connection makes it possible to get the real experience of apps like Skype, Viber, etc. With the option of internet and video calls on the go, you can also save up on credit since regardless of whether it’s a local or an international call, you will only get charged according to your data plan.

Shah Nahian is a staff writer at Dhaka tribune with a passion for music and art. When he’s not being forced to work, he spends his time daydreaming and hanging out with friends

3

Instant streaming

Faster and more fluid download/ browsing speed just made being stuck in traffic less of a drag and upped the fun meter on road trips, now you can stream shows or movies, live! And when you’re stuck somewhere you don’t want to be, having access to live Tv, radio, music, and videos, can be a lifesaver.

2

Faster uploads

When you can upload faster, using apps like Instagram, Flickr, Snapfish is a whole new experience. Sharing photos and videos on Facebook, Tumblr, WhatsApp, and Youtube also becomes much easier.

1 Faster downloads and browsing

One of the greatest perks of having a 3G connection is the fast download and browsing speed on your mobile device. With a fast and stable connection on the go, you can easily download music, movies, and apps at ease, keep all apps updated, and even get live feed on news, lifestyle, and sports. n

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DIGITAL BANGLADESH e-TIN

The e-TIN saga

Want to pay your taxes online? Faisal Mahmud explains how Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis

Fact Box In FY 2012-13, the income tax wing of NBR collected Tk366bn against its target of Tk353bn with a 27.62% growth For the FY13-14, NBR set a revenue target of Tk1.36tn and the introduction of E-TIN is expected to help the revenue board to achieve the target In the recent tax fair, a total of 510,145 taxpayers were ‘served’. A total of 12,337 people registered as new taxpayers and 74,356 existing revenue payers reregistered under the new TIN (tax identification number) system During the fair, 132,017 taxpayers submitted their returns

The journey begins

Ashraful Jubaer, 28, a marketing executive, wanted to be a taxpayer, but his fear of going through layers of government red tape was a big hindrance. ‘I heard that days could be wasted in simply trying to get my Tax Identification Number (TIN). No way did I want to go through the same process,” said Jubaer. The National Board of Revenue (NBR), the country’s tax administrator, does not, however, want to lose out on potential taxpayers like Jubaer. If people like Jubaer have a tough time going to the NBR, the NBR would come to him, or at least to his computer. It was not possible to get your TIN just by clicking your mouse. All that changed this July when the NBR launched a website where you could apply for an electronic TIN. It took a month or two to iron out the kinks in the procedure. Finally on September 16, the NBR launched a countrywide tax fair in Dhaka. The e-TIN has finally arrived.

(RJSC) online. If the information provided by applicants is found to be correct, the TIN will be issued online instantly. Existing TIN holders will have to re-register by December 31, 2013 for the new 12-digit number, which will replace the current 10-digit number at the beginning of the next year. Companies will have to re-register as well, by submitting their registration numbers obtained from RJSC. The new e-TIN will have to be used for tax returns from 2014 onwards.

a huge number of fake TINs. During a cleansing drive at the beginning of this year, NBR found around 32 lakh TIN issued till now, out of which only around half were still active. The chairman said that sharing of an electronic database of taxpayers with other government and some non-government agencies will help tax authorities filtering out inaccurate information, and also stop fraud in getting a TIN, as under the new e-TIN registration process, the NBR can cross examine the information provided with the National ID database

During the recent tax fair, many of the TIN-seekers who visited the fair to get tax-related assistances were asked to provide their details manually, as the tax officials faced technical glitches while trying to get connected with the national identity database. Many of the e-TIN seekers also complained that they have found the tax servers down most of the time while applying for an e-TIN from home. ‘There are simply too many internet glitches that still haven’t been ironed out,” said Arif Asgar, an e-TIN seeker at the fair. ‘The official at the booth

Why the e-TIN initiative?

preserved at the Election Commission and RJSC online. “The e-TIN process is thus helping prevent forgery of TIN certificates, as the ones issued online would have digital security encryption and a QR code,” said an official with the tax authority. The e-TIN registration is also helping various agencies such as Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, RJSC, Banks and Land Registration Authority to verify the authenticity of TINs claimed by service seekers, the official said.

simply said that the server is down. It’s just frustrating.’ Another problem is a huge number of taxpayers are 50 years old and over, and aren’t familiar with the online procedure for obtaining an e-TIN. The Weekend Tribune found that in many places across the capital including Motijheel, Arambagh, Kakrail, Segunbagicha, small convenience stores are filling out e-TIN forms on the computer, and making a quick profit. These shops mostly use fake e-mail and user ids, and thus the whole digital process of achieving transparency and accurate information is nipped at the bud. NBR member M Bashir Uddin, however, said that e-TIN seekers may go directly to the tax office to get their e-TIN number. ‘The NBR officials at different tax points would facilitate the process in getting e-TIN number,’ he said. n

e-TIN procedure

During the weeklong tax fair, over 40,000 new tax-payers like Jubaer have received their e-TIN numbers. Since its introduction on July 1, a total of 408,642 people registered with E-TIN while 80,821 are new inductees, and 327,821 taxpayers re-registered with the electronic system. Under the e-TIN initiative, one has to log on to the NBR’s website (incometax.gov.bd) and provide details including national identity card number, mobile phone number and e-mail address. Those without national ID cards will have to use their passport numbers and upload a passport-sized photograph for registration. Adolescents wishing to get an e-TIN can use their parents’ national ID numbers, while foreign nationals would have to provide their passport numbers, mobile numbers and e-mail address. During e-TIN registration process, the NBR will cross-examine the information provided with the National ID database preserved at the Election Commission and Registrar of Joint Stock of Companies and Firms

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Currently, there are 11.64 lakh taxpayers in the country, which is less than 1 percent of the official population count of 15 crore. Experts concerned said that in this digital era, people find it daunting and irritating to go through a lengthy governmental procedure to obtain a TIN number and become a taxpayer. Finance minister AMA Muhith, while inaugurating the online tax payment system earlier in July, said that the government wants to create new taxpayers and significantly broaden the tax base, and digitalization of tax numbers is vital to achieving both objectives. NBR chairman Ghulam Rahman, also present at the September fair, said that an online database of active taxpayers would cleanse the existing database that was rife with

The problems with e-TIN

The process of getting an e-TIN is still not glitch free. During the last three months, the tax administrator has had problems connecting to the national identity card database of the Election Commission several times.


PHOTO STORY

13

WALL OF DEATH

Wall of death A M AHAD PHOTO STORY BY

A self portrait by Putu Hosain, a 17 year old adolescent. Putu was one of the unfortunate ones to be killed by BSF at the border

A 2010 Human Rights Watch report states that over 900 people have been killed near the India-Bangladesh border over the last decade. A simple fence marks the border. The fence is often called “Great Wall of India,” but now it is simply the “Wall of Death.” India’s part in the ’71 war has built historical ties between these two countries; ties which were maintained reciprocally, till January 7, 2011, when 15 year old “Felani” was brutally slain by the BSF at border No. 947. Her corpse was found hanging on the barbed wires. Felani’s father claimed that she was raped before she was murdered. According to Indian authorities, illegal migrants from Bangladesh use both land and water borders to enter India in search

of a better life. In many cases, Hindus in Bangladesh, due to religious riots, migrate to India to secure their beliefs and their lives. As a result, the Indian Border Security Force has killed a number of Bangladeshi citizens each year. What is often ignored is how this border has been used as a route to smuggle livestock, drugs, human trafficking, and weapons from India to Bangladesh. In March 2013, the Border Guard of Bangladesh and the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) had a meeting in New Delhi. BSF Director-General Raman Srivastav said that no more deadly weapons were going to be used against Bangladeshi citizens at the border. Nevertheless, every month, BSF is still killing many Bangladeshis extrajudicially in the name of security. n

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14

PHOTO STORY WALL OF DEATH On January 7, 2011, a 15 year old girl named

“Felani” was brutally slain by the BSF at the India-

Bangladesh border. Her body was found caught on the barbed wires after several hours

Felani (middle back from the right) with her two

siblings when she was 11 years old. She died four

years after this picture was taken, at the age of 15

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15 Elias Mia, along with Ashraful Islam and

Shona Mia, was extracting stones from a

river at Kalidar Stone Quarry near the IndiaBangladesh border. Indian Border Security Force trespassed into the Bangladesh side and shot them with rubber bullets

Mamun Islam, an illegal trader who was shot in the left leg by the

BSF while smuggling at the Kaijuli Border

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16

A.M. Ahad was born in 1989 and working as a staff photojournalist of Associated Press and is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He completed graduation in Mass communication, Media studies and Journalism from Stamford University Bangladesh. His work has been featured worldwide and has also been published in TIME.com, The New York Times, The Guardian, and in many other international publications. He received awards in the IUCN’s Biodiversity in Focus environmental photography competition in 2010 and Eco Foundation Student Photojournalism Award in 2012 and has participated in uncountable photo workshops. Recently he has completed his post graduation Photojournalism from the Asian Center for Journalism as a full scholar at Ateneo De Manila University, Philippines.

PHOTO STORY WALL OF DEATH

No man’s land between the India- Bangladesh borders

Villagers working for companies to collect rolling stones from the River Dholai, often become victims of border killings. Elias Mia, a border victim points out the place where he was shot by BSF

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Momena Begum mourns at the grave of her son who was shot by the BSF


CRIME FILE

17

Sexual harassment

Unsafe streets

Muktasree Chakma Sathi and Adil Sakhawat investigate how local goons prey on the young and helpless

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Profile

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

or the past year, Dristy Patang (12) and her aunt, Lima Patang (14), both students of Class 6 and 8 respectively at the Shishu Malancha School in Gulshan, were allegedly being stalked and harassed by Bappa Ditra (22) and Babu (23). On 21 September 2013, Babu and his friends attacked Dristy’s family with bricks and pieces of tin. Apparently they were angered by Dristy and Lima refusing to have a romantic relationship with Babu and Bappa. Now Dristy’s family is thinking of leaving Dhaka, as they continue to feel unsafe, even after lodging a complaint with the Gulshan police station.

First Police on site

The police took no action until Dristy’s father, Madok Rongma, lodged a case with the Gulshan police station.

Lead investigator

“We have already arrested Bappa after Dristy’s father lodged a case with the Gulshan police station, and are actively trying to arrest the others accused in this case. The accused attacked her family and also kicked Dristy’s mother, Lipy Patang (35). We have filed the case under the Criminal Procedure Act under Sections 143/ 147/ 323/ 325/ 307/ 506. We have not filed the case under women and children Repression Prevention Act. We have filed the case according to the statement of complainant.” Sub Inspector Billal Hossain, Gulshan Police Station

First public on site

“On 19 September, I saw Babu, Bappa and their friends haranguing Dristy and her aunt, Lima, on the road when they were coming back from school. I later heard from Dristy that they threatened to abduct them, and today, I heard from my wife that those local goons attacked their house and hurt their entire family. I was very afraid for my own daughter, thinking what if these local goons attacked my daughter as well. I have also heard that a local leader is trying facilitate a negotiation between the victims and the accused. This is not a matter of negotiation. The attackers should be punished legally so that they never dare to commit the same crime against others”. A neighbor to Dristy’s family, requesting anonymity

What the victims say?

“The accused, Bappa, helped Babu make romantic advances towards my daughter. But my daughter never reciprocated. Several times they tried to harass my daughter and my sister, Lipy, blocking their path when they were coming home. This harassment culminated in an attack on us, leaving me, my husband, and my other sister, Dipy Patang (32), injured. We got admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Now we live in fear, even though we have already lodged a case with the police station. Those local goons might attack my family again, or go to the extent of abducting my daughter at any time. So we have decided to leave Dhaka.” Lipy Patang, Dristy’s mother

Witness

“On 19 September, when we were coming back to our house from school, Babu, Bappa, and their friends blocked our path and threatened to abduct us. They had a microbus with them. Being frightened, we shouted for help and they quickly left. After that, they attacked our house and hurt my family members. We are continuing with our schooling, but we take our uncle with us in the fear that those accused might attack us again.” Dristy Patang, Madok Rongma and Lipy Patang’s daughter

Prime Suspect

“Bappa was arrested by police, but Babu is still trying to negotiate with us via a political leader. Earlier, we complained about him to some respected persons in this area, but that made him angrier, and he continued to disturb my daughter and sister.” Lipy Patang, Dristy’s mother

Testimonial

“A local powerful Jubo League leader, Babul Akhter, gave us the reassurance that he would take strict action against the accused. He has called a meeting on Friday, 4 October, about this matter. We will attend the meeting and want to see exactly what strict action he intends to take against the accused.” Slang Shangma, Dristy’s uncle “I have asked the victims and the accused to inform me about the matter. I am also concerned about the case lodged by Dristy’s father. I told the victim’s family that if they want, I can take strict action against the accused. If they do not want my help, they can proceed to take legal action against the attackers.” Babul Akhter, leader of Dhaka City Jubo league (North)

Dristy Patang is student of class 6 at Shishu Malancha KG & High School in Baridhara. She lives with her father, Madok Rangma, and mother, Lipy Patang, in West Para, Kalachadpur in Gulshan. Her aunt, Lipy Patang also lives there with them. Dristy’s father, Madok, works at an apartment as a security guard. Dristy’s aunt, Lipy, is also a student of class 8 of same school and was also a victim of the eve teasing done by the defendants. They originally hail from Haluaghat, Mymensingh. They are tribal people. They came to Dhaka in 1996.

Muktasree Chakma Sathi is a selfproclaimed feminist and humanist. She loves to point out things that she believes are wrong, but she’s open to logical counter-points. You are welcome to confront her if you want Adil Sakhawat reports on crime for Dhaka Tribune. Any information can be sent at weekend@ dhakatribune.com

Crime timeline July, 2012- August, 2013

Babu, with Bappa’s help, teases Dristy and her aunt several times 2013

September 19

2.30 pm Babu and Bappa blocks Dristy and Lipy’s path and threatens to them abduct them

September 21

5.30 pm Babu, along with other local goons, attacks Dristy’s house and maims her parents and aunts 6 pm The injured are taken to DMCH by Slang Shangma and other neighbors September 22 11 pm Madok Rangma files a case against Babu, Bappa, and some five or six other, unidentified persons with the Gulshan police station

September 24

Bappa Ditra is arrested

September 25

The injured are released from DMCH

October 4

A meeting is called by local Jubo league leader, Babul Akhter, to facilitate a negotiation between the parties and to take strict action against the accused W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 4, 20 1 3


18

Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis

FEATURE

Dhaka bus map

Destination known

Dhaka buses seem to run on a schedule of their own. Faisal Mahmud writes about a venture that might make it easy for all commuters to take the next bus

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ith informal networks and unplanned stoppages, Dhaka’s bus service is a hodgepodge. It is difficult for a life-long local to figure out which buses go where, never mind a visitor. Indeed, an attempt to map the city’s myriad bus routes would be a job better suited to a labyrinth puzzle designer rather than a cartographer. Two groups, however, thought differently. The US-based social venture organisation Urban Launchpad and Bangladeshi advocacy firm Kewkradong have jointly done the ‘impossible’ job, and created Dhaka’s first bus map. “We have already printed the first 5,000 alpha paper versions of the map and handed those out for free to the city locals on June 5, 2013,” says Muntasir Mamun, coordinator of Dhaka bus mapping project and co-founder of ‘Urban Launchpad’ in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mamun, a qualified engineer by profession and a change-maker by passion, told Weekend Tribune that, “only a regular bus rider in Dhaka would understand the peril of it.” He explained, “I ride buses and I have faced it, so I thought of doing something to lessen the danger. That’s where the thought of creating a map for Dhaka’s bus routes came from.” The first map has been prepared after a years worth of research, field work and data collection. “This map can assist even an uninitiated Dhaka commuter in finding the right bus services for him/ her,” says Mamun.

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Despite low car ownership, Dhaka has been referred to as one of the slowest cities in the world and the buses are getting even slower: an average journey speed of 5km an hour has been forecast for 2014

Photos: Muntasir Mamun


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20

FEATURE

Dhaka bus map

Fact Box

The slow get slower

As per the data of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), there are 32 line buses (numbered bus on certain routes), 26 private bus operators on different routes running in the capital. BRTA data says, there are 8,842 buses and minibuses running in Dhaka city. There are 248 mentioned bus stoppages across the capital. As per the data of Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB), Buses taken up only 17 percent of the total road space in Dhaka even though it transport over 38 percent of the city commuters Ideally, to accommodate the huge number of Dhaka commuters, the capital should provide at least 50 percent road space for the bus services, said a DTCB study

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For many, public buses are a lifeline for getting around the relatively compact, 18 million-person mega capital of Bangladesh, which despite low car ownership, has been referred to as one of the slowest cities in the world. Because of traffic congestion and mismanagement, buses are becoming slower in most of the busy city streets, causing a major loss of time, energy, and money. A study conducted in 2008 under Strategic Transport Planning (STP), a 20-year project on the city’s transportation system, revealed that each of the examined routes became slower between 2000 and 2005, with average rates of progress dipping from

around 17km per hour to under 13km per hour inside five years. The study also predicted that it was likely to decrease to a paltry 5.2km in 2014. Experts believe the bus speed is gradually decreasing due to the absence of proper initiatives on city traffic management. “It doesn’t take an expert to understand that Dhaka’s traffic is a mess. The chief sufferers are the regular ordinary people who don’t have other options but to take public transport for moving around inside the capital,” says Mamun. The irony, however, is that Dhaka, a city with one of the highest population densities in the world, has almost no

public transport infrastructure. “We don’t have any metros, subways or even a dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) system to move around in,” Mamun says, adding that in the absence of such infrastructure, Dhaka has a five million plus ridership bus system.“But this system is like an unplanned spider web. Bringing it under a systematic map, with which a commuter can easily find bus services for his/her desired route was not an easy task”, he says.

group to get a first glimpse of not just routes, but travel times, crowding levels, who rode each line and what made the bus riders happy. Mamun says the pilot greatly exceeded their expectations and revealed some interesting insights. The survey group found that bus rider happiness was more dependent on the number of passengers, rather than bus speed: less crowding was due to larger sized buses, and where there were more women, the less crowded the buses tended to be (a big finding

in a place where less than 10% of riders were female). If confirmed, this information may shift emphasis from developing Bus Rapid Transit (which is underway in Dhaka) to Big Bus Transit. After the field work, the data collected was sent to the technical team in San Francisco led by Albert Ching, a former researcher in sustainable transport at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a co-founder and chief designer of ‘Urban Launchpad’.

“Flocksourcing” Mamun says that the herculean task of creating such a map only became possible because of some unique approaches taken by ‘Urban Launchpad’. He explains that in January 2012, a technique was piloted whereby a flock of smartphone-armed volunteers were deployed to rapidly collect data on Dhaka’s bus system. “We affectionately call this method flocksourcing”, says Mamun. In one week, the flock tracked 270 buses on two lines and surveyed 1,000 people. The data they collected helped the


21 Road rush The traffic growth rate has risen at least 10% in each of the past 15 years

The total number of vehicles on the city roads is 7.5 lakhs, at least five times more than what it was in 1990

The weight of freight moved over the city roads in recent times has jumped at least 50 times in last 20 years.

The number of passenger has leapfrogged to 70 times in the mentioned period

Diagrammatic approach “Ching tried to translate all the data that we collected into something simple to understand and excessively useful for bus riders in Dhaka”, says Mamun, “He started with the fairly complicated map of the bus lines - already clustered into fewer lines based on their general direction e.g. north-south, east-west - and mapped topologically to the exact geographic coordinates of Dhaka.” Ching says on the Urban Launchpad website that his team moved toward a more diagrammatic rendition of the bus network that would primarily display the entirety of the system

in relation to the key locations in the city, as opposed to geographic accuracy. “We did do some mental map experiments in Dhaka and tried to mimic a bit of how people from Dhaka saw their city,” says Ching, “Based on these mental maps, the team felt that topographic accuracy was less important, and people would understand the system more clearly based on labeled location names. A diagrammatic approach provided far more flexibility in terms of spacing lines and labels for readability.” Ching says they would have preferred to use the official route

numbers of the bus services in Bangla numerals but they found not every route had a number and those that did, rarely displayed them on the buses such that the riders themselves were not aware of route numbers. “Instead, we used roman numerals to re-number and re-cluster the system”, says Ching, adding that this element of the project took the longest time, but that they are hoping it will make it easier for someone to quickly understand the many lines moving through the city.

says the data collection effort that underpinned it will lay the foundation for a larger bus info-structure, including bus and bus stop signage and live bus trackers. If effective in Dhaka, Mamun believes this model could be adapted and deployed in other cities that rely on informal bus transport. “In line with the mission

of the Urban Launchpad, all data that is collected will be made open and available for anyone to mash-up and visualise into other important insights for bus riders, operators and the city.” n

What Next? Mamun says they have designed and printed an A3 size map - a little larger than a tabloid sized sheet - and made it foldable for a pocket. After the initial distribution of 5,000 pieces to Dhaka commuters, Mamun is hoping to raise funds to circulate more, free of charge. While paper maps are the main output of the project, Mamun

Although over 47% of Dhaka commuters use public bus services, only a mere 5% of the total vehicles are buses. More than half of those buses are in bad shape and run by greenhorn drivers. To make the city sustainable in terms of transport infrastructure, there is no options but to improve its bus service’ Dr Sarwar Jahan, professor of Urban and Regional Planning department of BUET

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WT LEISURE DILBERT

Across 1 6 7 8

Odds of lollies being pepper or mace (6) Material we found in short cuddly toy (5) Bird starts to divebomb throng (5) Rory loses nothing after lady drink (6)

Down 2 3 4 5

Gap in tarmac where grass grows? (7) He and 2 x 500 in vehicle making cheese (7) Tempt French nobility into peek (6) Occurs around springtime, this flower (6)

Solution and clues for last week’s crossword

Across 1 5 6 8 10 11

Mixture of earth and organic matter (5) Burn offering for a Wednesday (3) Chicken row? (5) Consent to religious class in time (5) Tool for first of annual woodwork lessons (3) Flower, like simple music (5)

Down 1 2 3 4 7 8 9

Vacation top a cycling knight keeps (7) New York after a choice of everything (3) Pitch a new art organisation (3) Queen in extravagant weather forecast (7) Easter symbol, for example, gold top (3) Laptop found in middle, of mountain (3) Average ascending music style (3

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PEANUTS


THE WAY DHAKA WAS

23

Kamlapur Kamlapur-Mugdapara Connecting Road 1984

Bangladesh Old Photo Archive

Today

One of my earliest memories of coming to Dhaka was of the many train rides that my family had to take while coming from Sylhet. One of the most popular crossings was the KamlapurMughdhapara crossing. Even 20 years ago, it was a verdant intersection, free of any kind of traffic, full of natural beauty. Now the train literally has to come to a stop to allow the busy traffic and people to pass. What a change! Ahsan Habib, NGO worker, Sylhet

Chanchal Kamal

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24 Monoshita Ayurani is the Programme Officer of TEDxDhaka, 2013

THOUGHT PLOT

TEDxDHAKA 2013

Ideas worth spreading Monoshita Ayurani explains the inspiration behind hosting a festival of ideas

L

iving in the “second worst livable city on the planet” according to one recent report, with a daily dose of traffic and all the other painful experiences of existence, can induce overwhelming pessimism and cynicism. Yet, amid these challenging circumstances, there are people making small movements to positively impact on society. While most see problems, these “changemakers” see opportunities and use the problems as a catalyst for change. Although it is too easy to get detached from the brighter side of life, they have not forgotten that small initiatives can bring hope and anticipation of improvements. Sometimes that is all it takes. In a bid to recognise the “changemakers” of today and spread hope and positivity, TEDxDhaka organised its fourth event in ISD School in Dhaka on September 21, 2013. The event kicked off with an intro animation by Ogniroth Studios, demonstrating the TEDxDhaka 2013 theme of “problems as catalysts”. The session began with stories of how the seemingly impossible can be turned into amazing potential. Speakers including the founder of the Bangla keyboard (Avro) Mehdi Hasan Khan and founder of BDCyclists Mozammel Haque retold their inspiring journeys, while Google Southeast Asia representative Jana Levene shared her idea of spreading infinite knowledge beyond borders. Mony, who is now working on her animated short film “Moving On”, talked about being “blinded with inspiration” the first time she was introduced to the Internet. During the second TedxDhaka session, speakers from diverse professions addressed current hot topics for Bangladesh. Citing the Rana Plaza building tragedy, Mamnoon Murshed Chowdhury, an architect, shared his thoughts on how greed leads to destruction. He was followed by MIT graduates Stephen Kennedy and Albert Ching, who described how their pioneering Dhaka Bus Map should make public transportation in the city more transparent and less stressful, while helping to build a community of problem solvers and social entrepreneurs. Finally, lawyer and activist Syeda Rizwana Hassan touched on the importance of using environmental laws to protect the communities most susceptible to natural hazards such as flooding, waste dumping, overcrowding, inadequate sewage, and the onset of climate change.

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Photo source: TEDxDhaka Official Photographs

The session began with stories of how the seemingly impossible can be turned into amazing potential


25

I do not believe in extraordinary people. I believe in ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they are desperate MehediHasan Khan, OmicronLab

Pacing the stage during the first afternoon session was one of Bangladesh’s most artistic minds: Shahidul Alam. The founder of Pathshala is an award-winning photographer whose institute in Bangladesh trains journalists, helping to imbue them with the skills and values necessary to create positive change. Next, Rubaiya Ahmad, an animal rights activist and the founder of Obhoyaronna, talked about why and how everyday cruelty against dogs in Bangladesh should be stopped. Yamin Khan provided the comic turn before TEDxDhaka 2013 was wrapped up by three women and one man, who each relayed their breadth of knowledge, powerful thinking, and insightful perspectives. First on stage was Wasfia Nazreen, one of the first Bangladeshis to climb Mount Everest, who spoke of her physical and spiritual journey to the summit of some of the highest peaks in the world. Then, Shahid Hussain Shamim shared her stories of Jamdani weavers, educating the audience about these artisans and their craft. Finally, Anushesh Anadil, spoke and sang about feminism, bipolarity and religion, ably supported by Palki Ahmad on the guitar. This final message was simple: love can overcome fear and open doors to new connections.

As a collective, the speakers shed light on the positive side of Bangladeshi society, highlighting how people from diverse backgrounds are coming together and building initiatives to protect the environment and culture. Although drawn from assorted vocations and communities, each contributor shared one common idea: that of giving back to society. They played on the importance of individual action and the impact this could have on the government, the economy and the world. Alex Tyers, one TEDxDhaka attendee, wrote of the “Inspiring, absorbing, provocative and, at times, sublime ideas” on show, adding: “The Economist may say Dhaka is one of the world’s worst cities, but there are amazing people here doing amazing things.” The TEDxDhaka team provided the platform, but the speakers stole the show. n

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Culture Vulture

S m SULTAN

The Sultan of modern art

Yusuf Banna writes about the historical exhibition unveiling an unseen era of the maestro

Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

Yusuf Banna is a staff writer at Weekend Tribune. He would be happier if he could be a poet. He also dreams of being a painter and is envious of those who are

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or most modern artists, biographers and critics are able to segment the individual artistic journey into distinct periods. For Picasso, for example, these include “rose”, “blue”, “cubism” and latterly “synthetic cubism”. Such divisions make a painter more accessible on a massive scale, while also providing a vivid linear description of his or her life. If we wanted to do the same with Sheikh Mohammed Sultan, it would not be possible. Undoubtedly a pioneer of Bangladeshi Art, Sultan was indifferent to worldly affairs, and so he was not serious about preserving his work. He was a prolific painter, and yet we have not seen much of anything that he produced in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Now, however, art lovers have a once-ina-lifetime opportunity to appreciate Sultan’s drawings and watercolours in ‘Unseen Splendour’, at an exhibition running at the Bengal Shilpalaya in Dhanmondi. Before his passing in 1994, Sultan would give away his drawings and paintings to his friends and loved ones. These fortunate few and their scattered surviving examples of Sultan’s genius are the only true testament to his life. Among them is Sultan’s lifelong friend, Mr. Abul Kashem Joarder. The 96-year-old geography graduate met Sultan while teaching at Michael Madhusudan College in the 1950s. The artist gave him a book containing 86 unsigned charcoal drawings, unfinished sketches,

doodles, and a few watercolours, which lay forgotten until a few months’ back when Joarder’s nephew, Syed Aminul Haque Kaiser, asked him about his days with Sultan. Joarder uncovered the astonishing collection from among a pile of books and papers. Besides the drawings, the exhibition includes a flute, hand-carved by Sultan. The myriad genius had a mastery over playing the instrument, singing gazals and ragas, and this is reflected in the curvy lines of his paintings, which have dancing postures and a musical rhythm. Sultan was born as Lal Mia in Narail in August, 1923. His father, Sheikh Meser, was a master carpenter and uniqueness of the Victorian structures and curved designs of his wood panels was an early inspiration for the young artist. In 1940, at the age of 16, Sultan was admitted to the Calcutta Art School, where he was given lodgings by the art critic, Shahed Sohrawardi. Wearing long coats like Nawabs and riding in Cadillacs, his threeyear stay in Calcutta was a world away from his life beside the Chitra River in Narail. But the restless Baul in him was evoked and he shunned formal education halfway through his six-year course, instead choosing to travel and wander the subcontinent as far as Kashmir, where he began to draw landscapes on a massive scale. After traveling and exhibiting in India, Paris, and New York, he returned to his roots in Narail. The irony of Sultan is that the more enigmatic and complex his life was, the less opaque and simplistic his artistic language became. Based on the known information about Sultan it can be assumed that he led a versatile life, full of twists and turns. He was not concerned about the usual norms and values of social dogma. From classical oriental sculptures like Ajanta, to grandmasters of Italian renaissance like Michelangelo and Raphael, Sultan mastered them all. In the drawings exhibited in ‘Unseen Splendour’ we see the finest rendition blending the two methods, which more proved that he was an artist of global magnitude. Although the papers of Joarder’s sketchbook have become sepia brown with the passage of time, the contours of the drawings remain intact. The bold lines of charcoal in particular are classic Sultan; their authenticity beyond question. To Sultan, farmers were his gods. He used to say: “If we don’t have the right on the crops we harvest, we should burn them”. As such he always glorified his figures in his paintings. His philosophy of prophesying the subaltern people has made him a visionary in the art world of Bangladesh. Each of the paintings in the ongoing exhibition are valued at over Tk100,000, which makes the total collection worth over one crore. Were it not for one lucky beneficiary’s nephew, the works of one of Bangladesh’s finest artists might have lain undiscovered for many more years to come. They can now be viewed at Bengal Shilpalaya until October 11. n


OBITUARY

27

Hiroshi Yamauchi

Game over

Faruq Hasan revisits the life of the man who brought us Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong Faruq Hasan is the Magazine Editor and the resident devil’s advocate

At a glance

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t’s difficult to imagine what the Nintendo Company was like before Hiroshi Yamauchi transformed it. Founded by Yamauchi in the late 1950s, the video game company that gave the world Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers, and Legend of Zelda, started off as a humble “hanafuda” playingcard manufacturer that had more existential headaches than deciding on how to reinvest the billions it would later make by selling the world’s most popular video games. Pivotal to the transformation was Yamauchi’s vision of what his company should do, as opposed to what it was doing already. And it was not serendipity that paved the way forward. “In 1956, I visited one of the biggest playing-card companies in the U.S. Their whole business was operating from a hole-in-the-wall office with a bunch of secretaries running most of the show. That’s when I realized that I was in the wrong line of work,” explained the reclusive Yamauchi in one of his rare interviews. “I made a very conscious decision to evolve.” Yamauchi didn’t just leap into a different sector though: he realized that there were millions to be made bringing entertainment to families, a rival to television shows. Nintendo began shifting first to making toys for kids, especially toy guns, and then

to gun-based games for arcades that were becoming hugely popular with people of all ages in Tokyo. It wasn’t until the end of the 70s that the company came up with its own video game console, aptly titled the Family Computer, or simply the FamiCom. FamiCom wasn’t just a gaming system; it was a prototype of a gaming console that was meant exclusively for playing in your living room. Its remarkable commercial success—it sold 25 million units in the first year of its production, making Nintendo the most commercially successful gaming business for most of the 80s—ushered in new competitors in the form of Sega and Atari, but Nintendo eventually shrugged them all off. Central to killing off the competition was Yamauchi’s constantly changing vision for what gaming would be like in the future. Strangely enough, for a man who revolutionized the gaming industry, the gruff, perfectionist entrepreneur wasn’t really excited by the hugely popular games his company kept on churning out. “I don’t have time to play video games all day, I have a company to run,” was his answer whenever he was asked to review his own games. Yamauchi was, to the very end of his days, a stout businessman, who was motivated by profits and margins, not with the type of gameplay the sequel

to Mario Bros should have. But that didn’t mean he was any less interested in the meticulous details of how his company functioned.

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ruthless competitor, his colleagues at Nintendo headquarters in Kyoto, Japan, were always on the edge. Months of hard work would be brushed aside with just a scowl, meticulously researched designs were dismissed simply because they “felt wrong”, while performance related pay became the norm in a culture which prided itself on emphasizing on seniority within the corporate ranks. Yamauchi’s inputs and obsession with practicality over aesthesis though, were invaluable for the company: throughout the 80s and well over the 90s, Nintendo was miles ahead of any of its competitors. Two out of every three Japanese families had a Nintendo game system, while whole generations of Japanese children grew up with Nintendo characters like Mario and Zelda that became household names not only in Japan, but also in lucrative North American and European markets. In just over three decades, Yamauchi had transformed a provincial company into a global behemoth. Darker times lay ahead though: competitors caught up with Nintendo eventually, and the prophet’s visions,

which had long given his company the edge over its rivals, started to draw blanks. Sony, for example, started producing devices like the Playstation that gave more value for money, while at the same time realized that their customers were no longer kids, but increasingly adults who craved more sophisticated games than what Nintedo was offering. Microsoft too joined the race in the late 90s, and its financial muscle, along with its clout over the rest of the computer world, meant that Nintendo simply could not match its rivals just by making games alone: the one creative cul de sac that the company still hasn’t come out of. In the end, Hirochi Yamauchi’s legacy may ultimately be the loveable games and characters he so grudgingly had to accept. At a time when playing video games inside your homes was completely unheard of as a concept, let alone an actual, working system, Yamauchi’s company revolutionized what we did with our leisure; both inside our homes or while sitting in traffic. A businessman to the very end, the irony that he would be remembered more as a gaming guru than a profit-cruncher by millions of his fans, would probably have been met with a grimace rather than a smile. n

1959 First “hit” comes with a licensing agreement with Walt Disney in 1959 for his plastic playing cards 1981 Donkey Kong becomes smash hit, becoming the biggest selling video game in Japan 1990 Releases Super Famicom, the highest selling gaming console worldwide 1994 Releases Virtual Boy, a portable gaming system, which does not do well: his first failure 2002 Steps down as CEO of the company, after almost half a century in the driving seat

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28 Rohini Alamgir likes looking into the details of seemingly simple matters. She is constantly working on her autobiography because she thinks her life is worth reading about

LAST WORD TEDxDHAKA

Facilitating progress Rohini Alamgir engages in a progressive dialogue with TedxDhaka

T

ED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design), started as a four-day annual workshop featuring talks from leaders across the globe. Since its inception, TED has grown not only in size - now boasting a video website, two annual conferences, TED fellowships, and TEDxprogrammes - but also in content. The TEDxprogramme is a worldwide extension of TED, albeit independently organised by local communities, to bring TED right to our homes. TEDxDhaka, our local version of TEDTalks, began in 2009, and since then it has been organised entirely by volunteers. Each event is themed differently, and this year’s talk, which took place on 21 September 2013, at International School, Dhaka (ISD), went by the tagline “problems as catalysts for change.” What does that mean? ShahidulAlam (DRIK, Paatshala) explained that, “catalysts [are those who] do not benefit from the process, but facilitate how things happen.” This was certainly a daunting undertaking. What TEDxDhaka 2013 gave us was an understanding of how, while facing difficulties of a certain nature, we sometimes stumble upon solutions to much larger problems than those we

This much was extremely evident by the end of the day. The only hang-up in the talk was that although we were there to hear these speakers enunciate the problems that inspired creative solutions to much bigger problems, some speeches felt like plugs for certain groups or products, while others just made us feel good with their amazing accomplishments. While the premise itself is not exactly unique, bringing such a themed platform to Bangladesh is, and sitting in the ISD auditorium, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far Bangladesh has progressed over the years. Here were men and women who were not afraid to stand tall and speak about any and all manner of topics, ranging from politics to sex. In all the years that I have lived in Bangladesh, this openness was a definite “change” for me. I have been lucky enough to attend a TED event in New York, and my college, Skidmore, had a version of TEDx on campus, so the setup and approach were not entirely new to me. What stands out from TEDxDhaka is the quality of the speakers. Without a doubt, each and every one had a story to tell, but while some told theirs well, others strained to get their points

It always bothered me that when I went abroad, people didn’t know where I was from. We’ve existed for 42 years as a country, so it hurts that they don’t know us. Despite all the negatives that international media hail us for, there’s a lot more to Bangladesh Wasfia Nazreen, Everest Summiteer

began with, and pursuing this stream of thought can lead us to creating positive change in our communities. And it was obvious that all of the chosen speakers wanted to help our community to better itself in some way or the other. Whether through healthier lifestyles and social bonding that BDCyclists provides for us, or through understanding how and where corruption has seeped into the system, and weeding it out, we are all working toward a common goal.

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across. I guess Bangla’s Anushe Anadil put it best when she said, “I have been asked to speak in English today to reach out to a global audience, a language that we colonised people have a bittersweet relationship with.” And while she herself managed to enthrall her audience with her lyrical speech infused with transcendental soul music, many struggled onstage with this secondary language. Perhaps it would have been

better if each speaker could speak in whatever language they felt most comfortable with, and the video could later be dubbed over by a translator, or a translator could have been present on stage to aid them along. As some of the speakers racked their brains to find the right words, my mind

Maybe if we had icebreakers to start with instead of jumping straight into the program, we might have been a friendlier crowd. Regardless of the glitches, TEDxDhaka is necessary for Bangladesh right now. The conversations we need to have are being given a platform, so

Why do we do what we do? Because we’re passionate about it Salman Hossain, Co-organiser

went back to the first, Mehdi Hasan Khan of Omicronlab, who developed Avro, the complete Bangla package for both Macs and Pcs. His program allows entire computer systems to be translated into Bangla. Maybe he could have figured out some better method for those presenters who were not as comfortable speaking in English, to interface with the audience. TED thrives on the ability of the speakers to incite inspiration, to motivate their listeners into action, to foster collaborations. TEDxDhaka has brought that trend to Bangladesh. Given the unpaid, voluntary nature of the organisation, TEDxDhaka was operating with limited resources. In terms of general events organised in Bangladesh, TEDxDhaka stood out. Maintaining the time schedule perfectly, and handling over 350 people (I believe) with never faltering smiles on their faces, was definitely a grand feat. The pressure to ensure the smooth operation of the event must have been monumental, and these guys did a truly magnificent job. The only thing missing was the icebreaker. From the moment we stepped in to collect our badges and programme booklets, until we were seated in the auditorium, it was left entirely to us to mingle and make friends. Very little facilitation was provided until halfway through the programme when they gave us a short break and asked us to get out and mix, stating that, “We Bangladeshis are not necessarily the friendliest.”

kudos to the TEDxDhaka team. Not having attended previous TEDxDhaka talks, I feel somewhat under-qualified to comment on the success of the event in general, but it did seem as if we are still struggling to put a handle on old issues: February 2012 focused on a “Different Bangladesh,” and September 2012 urged us to “Be the Change.” One thing that became immediately clear to me was that although TEDxDhaka has yet to become a catalyst for change, it is still valiantly trying to be. But change, as all the speakers of this year’s event can attest to, is slow in nature. Perhaps real progress will come: in certain parts of Bangladesh, it already has. Strangely enough, the comedian Yamin Khan’s quote of Abul Kalam Azad stands out the most in my mind, “Dreams aren’t those that you have while sleeping, but those that don’t let you sleep.” And going home from TEDxDhaka, I am sure many of us spent sleepless nights. Even if it did not succeed as a true catalyst, TEDxDhaka has become a definite facilitator of progress, and I, for one, cannot wait for next year’s event. n


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Weekend Tribune Volume 1, Issue 24