imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for October, 2006

Musammat’s tragedy

  • Filed under: Misc
Oct 15,2006

She took her life along with those of her two children.  Her mother tells the story.

British bangalis still send their kids “home” to get married. The prospective spouse from “home” will not have been exposed to “bad” western behaviour….yes, because they are all “pure” back home. Additionally  the bargaining power is greater for the British family negotiating a marriage. For the families back “home” a prospective spouse living in the west is a ticket not to be dismissed. Its an instant solution to the uncertainties of life and life opportunities in Bangladesh. Everything else comes later - including the welfare of your child who is going off blind  into the distance…

And although Musammat Mumtahana’s story is extreme, there are many stories as hauntingly depressing as hers.

Statue of Ziaur Rahman

Oct 14,2006

Just before elections, politicians change and they become all things to all people.  So I was not suprised to read that Khaleda Zia last week promised to “solve all problems of the Chittagong Hill Tracts if voted to office again.” And how is she going to do this given the historic and irrevocable injustices perpetrated in this area? By developing tourist towns of course. Yes, pick yourself off the floor. You read correctly - all we need are tourist towns. Just think of the trade in crafts and trinkets and eateries.  And oh  yes something else. According to the same newspaper report, she has inagurated a project which will create a statue of Ziaur Rahman!  What a cracker of an idea eh? A statue of her husband to help the tourist trade and to solve the problems of the CHT. 

Myth building centred upon violent events requires physical sites. There is one in Dhanmondi. Now there is going to be another in Chittagong by the looks of it.  And the quiet violence all around the CHT will remain as it is ….quiet.

Child labour in Uttara

  • Filed under: labour
Oct 14,2006



Well done Mo!

  • Filed under: Misc
Oct 13,2006

And Mr Yunus has won the ultimate accolade.

And here is the press release of the Nobel Committee:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.


Oct 13,2006

A couple of months ago, the local TNT office in Gulshan sent one of their employees around to my flat, and he informed me that I had missed three telephone bill payments. It was total rubbish of course but I was warned that if I did not pay up, I would be disconnected. These bills were upto one year old. I found two of the payment receipts immediately but I could not find the third. It is a calculated scam. They ask for retrospective payment on old bills the receipts for which you are likely to have mislaid. And then if you don’t pay up, you get disconnected. I had no choice but to cough up. They would not listen to my case and would not explain why their systems were registering non-payment on the two bills I had provided a receipt for. I remain livid to this day and keep meaning to ask Saifur Rahman, the finance minister, who lives almost opposite me to return my money stolen from me by this state utility.

Anyway, I was shocked and suprised when I saw this automated payment procedure currently being rolled out in Pakistan. I don’t usually associate innovation with a place like Pakistan but they seem to have something going here….they have touch screen kioks for the payment of utility bills! Its “user-friendly and enabled even illiterate people to operate it with ease. ” How it works out in practice is of course another matter. But an innovation it is….and interestingly the outfit responsible for it - NADRA - are providing computerised driving licenses for Bangladesh. I first thought that NADRA must be some sort of company. But no, it is in fact the National Database and Registration Authority charged with the establishment of a new registration system for the entire population of Pakistan. Sounds like a massive technical project.  Socio-political too - citizenship registration and identity cards are contested issues - and no more so than in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh. However having a voter’s roll could also mean efficient payment systems and who knows maybe even a tax system? Saifur Rahman should endorse that?

(Our) Liberation War Museum

Oct 11,2006

“To remember is to face the enemy. The truth lies in remembering.”

A paper by Professor Shelley Feldman: Claiming a Past, Making a Future: The Liberation War Museum (Dhaka) as a Site of Struggle (word document)


  • Filed under: Jobs
Oct 11,2006

Well, kind of..

  • Do you live in Singapore, Malaysia, somewhere in the Middle East, Italy or New York?
  • Do you have a good knowledge of the Bangladeshi community in any of these places?
  • Can you help co-ordinate and make arrangements for two researchers?

If so, we are looking for you!

We are interested in people with local knowledge and  extensive contacts within the community. Two researchers will be travelling to these places over the next 12 months, and they will need your help in carrying out their assignments. Yes your role could be substantial in terms of planning and visits etc or you could help by simply sending emails and making some calls.

Money? None of course! But you will get paid for all expenses incurred and get full credit on the web, and the publications and exhibitions  arising out of the work

Fame? Yes of course. You will be working with a renowned cultural activist and a completely unknown Bangladeshi brit. (ie me).

If the above is remotely interesting to you, please tell us a little about yourself in the contact page - where you live, what you do, your age etc and the kinds of linkages you have with the community (formal, informal, academic, business, observer.. whatever). If we like what we hear, we will drop you a line with more extensive information about what we are doing and what we are looking for.  (Our activities are dependent on permissions still being sought and hence I cannot be more specific at this stage..) If you still remain interested, we will probably have a quick chat with you before taking you on board! If you happen to live outside of the areas mentioned above we would still be interested to hear from you BUT ONLY if you are a real live wire and are connected to the community!


Tesco clothes and Bangladesh

  • Filed under: labour
Oct 10,2006

In half an hour’s time, Channel 4 is leading with this story (text from email from Jon Snow, the presenter):

Child labour making Tesco clothes

We have an absolute block buster of a lead story tonight.

Have you ever wondered, as I have, how it can ever be possible to buy brand new clothes in supermarkets for £3 for a pair of jeans? Or £4 for a shirt or less? Well one of the answers lies somewhere in darkest Bangladesh.

Channel 4 News has carried out an investigation over four months trying to track how garments get from Bangladesh’s A to Britain’s B. The B in this case is Tesco, who have an ethical policy of which they are proud.

Indeed they even audit the factories that supply them. But as we shall reveal tonight this is not the whole story. We have secretly filmed inside four factories belonging to two established Tesco suppliers and have discovered child workers there making Tesco’s own label ‘Florence and Fred’ clothing.

And what’s more it turns out that Tesco did not even know that two of these four factories were manufacturing their clothes. They have therefore never visited these two factories and hence ethically audited them. Both suppliers and Tesco have denied all the allegations and there is no suggestion that Tesco ever knew about any child workers. In fact, the supermarket said it abhors child labour and said it’s at the front of industry efforts to stamp it out.

But this report raises serious questions about Tesco’s ability to enforce the ethical standards it claims to hold.Tesco are less than happy at our revelations. They have had lawyers crawling all over the allegations. But we shall be airing the film at seven and you can make up your own mind.

Filial Ambitions

Oct 9,2006

So the two great general secretaries have been catching up with each other:

bhuiyan and jalil
Jalil: So if that despot’s son, Kim Jong Il, can explode a nuclear bomb despite the isolation, the biting sanctions, and the total impoverishment of North Korea - why can’t you sort out the power sector?

Bhuiyan: Ssssshhh! Please don’t give Tarek any ambitions along those lines…..

Weeping in the Sahara

Oct 9,2006

I find stories about migrant workers intrinsically sad. I am not referring to the grim and harrowing tales one so often encounters in the media. No I refer to the socio-economic processes which uproot and which give no choice but to leave behind everything one calls home and everything familiar and loved, and entrust one’s life to some labour tout and set sail for god knows what.

Of course, the grim tales have become a motif of our times . It was at a talk by Prof Paul Rogers when I first heard about a very prescient film which showed a great march of africans to north africa only to be met on the other side of the Med. by a huge european security force on Spanish soil. Anyone know it? The film must have been made in the 1980s. And so it is interesting to find this story in India enews about the migration of Asians to Spain via Africa, and the dangers they encounter.

When Morocco deported migrants to the desert following massive attempts by Africans to enter the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta last year, the deportees included dozens of Asians, some of whom Spanish reporters found exhausted and weeping in the Sahara. ‘I sold my land to move to Europe,’ explained Mohammed Arif Hoshain, 23, from Bangladesh. ‘I paid and was flown through Qatar to Casablanca but I was cheated. I went to Moroccan police to ask to be taken back to my country, but they beat me and took me to the desert.’

You will notice if you read the full story that Morocco points the finger at the Gulf states. Trafficking along with bonded labour and other forms of coercion are rife. And that is where Sigma Huda , Bangladesh’s foremost activist on these issues, is headed to “investigate various forms of trafficking including prostitution, forced labour, sexual slavery and bonded labour.”

Got Banglalink? Get Tommy Miah!

  • Filed under: Food
Oct 7,2006

Well his recipes at least. Yes yet another use of texting technology in Bangladesh.

Recipes by the Edinburgh-based chef known as the Curry King can now be ordered by text message in his native Bangladesh.
Leading city restaurateur Tommy Miah, owner of The Raj in Leith, is a celebrity chef with his own television show in Bangladesh.

I am trying to keep abreast of this proliferating use of sms. So far in this blog I have noted that you can call the fire service, dig for arsenic free water, contribute to good causes and get mouthwatering recipes all by sms technology.

Oct 6,2006

I am involved in a wee project concerning the bangladeshi diaspora. Well its not that small …it straddles about 7 countries. Anyway, more on that later….I have been genning up a bit about bangalees in the Big Apple in readiness for a trip next year. And here are some interesting links for you:

Jahed Ahmed writes in Mukto-Mona about the faction ridden Bangladeshi cultural and political organisations in New York. He writes despairingly “there are individual associations/organizations for Bangladeshi people of every district, Thana , sometimes even at Union Parishad level. What do they do?” Well for starters, they create godawful messes with their functions and get fined by the city, and banned from using public premises! They are also lavish in their spending : “I just learned that Bangladesh Society, Inc. New York spent nearly half a million US dollars in recently held elections….” Go read the full thing here!

There are about 12,500 street vendors operating in New York, and only half of them have licenses. A report suggests that “the majority of vendors were from Bangladesh, China and Afghanistan and the average immigrant had been in the United States for more than 11 years.” The Vendor Project is asking for a revision of licensing  regulations concerning sidewalk (pavement) space for those hawking hot dogs, handbags, sunglasses etc - with a view to a creating more licenses and a fairer system in general.

And I learn from the website of the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN in New York that according to Pliny “Ladies of Imperial Rome were literally crazy for Bangladesh’s Muslin and luxury items….” and that this resulted in a “serious drain of gold of the Empire.”
He is having a laugh right? Old Pliny the elder….When I did Latin at school I could never tell when these roman philosophers and historians were larking about. Anyway, does the BGMEA know about this and what was social compliance like two thousand years ago in our garment industry?

Victor with Priyanka

  • Filed under: Cinema
Oct 4,2006

V and P

Not to be outdone by my foray into the film world, Victor has just sent me this amazing shot. Partly shot in Oxford, the film is called …ooops that is a secret…..and is a kind of “Love Actually,” and will be on your screens next year. Victor assures me that Priyanka was standing on a box…..

Goat F*ck in Dhaka

Oct 4,2006

Goat Fuck is apparently an american journo term for “a hassle involving many confused or stupid people.” ( Hat tip to Dominic for his erudition). The term has crossed the atlantic, and apparently there was a “goat fuck” at the Tory party conference yesterday. But the mother of all goat fucks must be what is happening with Patricia Butenis’ tea party in Dhaka for the general secretaries of the BNP and the AL.

As you know, everyone has been trying to get these chaps to calm down. And everyone was hoping they would sit down and have a chat. And then to the utter amazement of all and sundry, Jalil the gensec of Awami League announced that the talks would be held at Pat’s place - which happens to be the US embassy. No one I have asked has been able to provide a plausible explanation for this. And Abdul Bhuiyan - the joint gensec of the ruling BNP, was not having any of it.

My own humble explanation for this is as follows, and it involves teacakes and scones: Patricia sorted out the CPD and Mahmudur Rahman with some tea and cakes. Do you remember? Jalil, the gensec of AL, probably heard about it all and wanted to try some of her scones too. Hence his insistence. Bhuiyan soon realised his folly in rejecting the invitation. He twigged that he might be missing out on a real treat, and so promptly changed his mind!! About having tea that is. He is happy to go along and have those yummy savouries and stuff, but he is not gonna talk shop. Bon appetit gentlemen! You have made us proud!