Goodbye Dina.Â Go well.
Yes here is a pic of the journalists gathered at Saifur’s gate in Road No47 at around 11.45pm. The great intercessor is trying to bring about unity in the fractured party of Khaleda Zia. My flat is only yards away from his residence. ( Sadly I can’t choose my neighbours….)
Greetings from Nepal. Its been nineteen years since i visited this country. And goodness, what changes…I was smitten by the place last time I was here and this time…well I will be writing about it somewhere else! I get to practice my hindi here, and I think I can understand about 20 percent of simple Nepali conversation. Damn useful when bargaining for nick-nacks.
Anyway, here is an interesting USAID study (pdf) concerning health intervention in the garment industry. They note a positive impact on turnover of staff, absenteeism and work place attitiude to management.
This intervention indicates there are economic, health and welfare benefits of developing workplace health programs. The study findings will add evidence to a broader business case for workplace and company-sponsored health services.
Yet another consultancy report and yet another fudge on the issue of labour in the garment industry? I don’t know. Anyone read the full report the CPD have produced with the South Asian Enterprise Development Facility on the RMG sector in the post-MFA period?
I say fudge because I have just turned to p8 of The Daily Star and am reading what looks like an executive summary. This is the section pertaining to labour laws:
The issues and concerns as regards various acts of the new Labour Law such as working hours, punishment for failing to provide maternity leave, retirment benefit of workers, timely payment of fired workers etc need to be reviewed. Thus government may consider setting up a committee to review different new labour laws and also review other rules and regulations relevant to the garment and textile sector with a view to changing those to suit the emerging demands of the industry.
Too vague and too conditional. A call for more lucrative consultancy than protection of workers, I say.
in the World Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters san frontieres. Yes, don’t knock it! Just behind India (120) but ahead of Nepal (137) and well ahead of Pakistan(152), Sri Lanka (156) and Burma (164)! I suspect that there are some US based bangladeshi bloggers out there who will be livid that Bangladesh’s placement isn’t 169. I shan’t name any names….!
Two weeks ago during the middle of editing a documentary, i received a desperate phone call from an ex-domestic help of ours. She was in Dhaka in a hospital with a relative, and the doctors would not explain to her what was going on despite the patient being in acute discomfort. No suprise there for me. I am very well conversant with the patronising and patriarchal attitudes of healthcare professionals in the country. She asked me to speak to the doctor in charge via her mobile. Accent and status are all important in dealing with the medical fraternity. The news was bad, and brought back personal memories. He had swollen glands underneath his arms and all down his spine. The doctor graciously explained what he had refused to do moments earlier to R. Its probably TB or lymphoma he said and that they would carry out tests and would know in about three days. He also suspected signs of organ failure. I was sufficiently unhappy with the proceedings to request R to remove her relative to another “better” hospital. Anyway, the upshot of it was that it was indeed cancer and very late on. The tumours were impacting on organs and they did not expect him to live long.
In the new hospital we enquired about pain relief. Now came the staggering and mind boggling responses. Firstly, there was surprise that we were contemplating this from the medics. Secondly, they had no regimen in place ( “We will need to have a board meeting” ) and thirdly when I made the patient’s relatives aware of the costs ( well within the budget they had indicated to me they had brought to Dhaka), they sheepishly told me “What is the point if he is going to die?”
This all brought home the point made to me by my friend Natalya, a palliative health care medic in South Africa, that access to pain relief should be a human right. It can’t be left to the individual calculus and the advocacy or otherwise of his “loved ones” or the medical establishment where the patient finds himself in. Dr Nezamuddin Ahmed of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University wrote this ( on World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, October 6th 2007):
Prevailing health care approach in Bangladesh is cure-oriented in accordance with the global trend. As a result, patients having been diagnosed as suffering from an incurable disease do not get knowledge-based appropriate attention from health care providers. Concept of palliative medicine…… is not known amongst the medical community. Official palliative care services and educational programmes do not exist here.
( cover image UNHCR-GMB Akash; design Catalin Dantis)
Swapnabhumi: The Promised Land ( Documentary, 90mins)
This is a story of six decades, three countries and statelessness. A story about the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh.
The terms “urdu-speakers” and the more loaded “biharis” are used to refer to muslim people who originally emigrated from India to the newly created East Pakistan in 1947 and afterwards.
Many of them, but by no means all, originated from the state of Bihar and were fleeing large scale communal massacres.
Three decades later, during the struggle for independence in Bangladesh in 1971, this community became embroiled in conflict. Isolated as collaborators against Bangladeshi independence, this moment was a defining one for the urdu-speakers and has had a devastating legacy.
This is a story abou the 160,000 people from this community who live isolated in 116 “camps” or “settlements” in Bangladesh.
Script & Direction Tanvir Mokammel; Co-Producer and Researcher Shafiur Rahman; Editing Mahadeb Shi; Cinematography Anwar Hossain; Background Music Syed Shabab Ali Arzoo; Sound Mashrur Rahman; Assistant Directors Uttam Guha & Sarwar Tamijuddin; Commentary Chittralekha Guha; Assistants Research Khalid Hossain & Mohammad Hasan; Produced by Kino-Eye Films.
The Jumma Peoples Network, UK are organising a silent demonstration outside the Bangladesh High Commission on 25 October between 10am and 11am. They are supported by Awami League, Survival International and others.
The protest seeks to register
in the Chittagoing Hill Tracts area in recent days. See the Word Document Here which is a letter to the chief adviser of the caretaker government.
Has just finished in Nepal. There were 48 films selected for showing out of 300 and I am pleased to say that Bostrobalikara: Garment Girls of Bangladesh was one of them ( soon on Amazon…yes, i know, I am waiting too). Read the synopses of some of the films at the festival here.
No not Dhaka but outside my parent’s place in Glasgow, Scotland. I am back home for a week before I fly back to Dhaka. Taken with my Nokia n95. Incidentally, I upgraded the firmware on my n95 to the latest v12. It takes away bloody everything including the Gmail application. Thankfully I backed up properly. So proceed with care if you have one of these delightful machines.
Launch and ferry tickets are getting impossible to acquire as people rush home in time for eid. The roads in Dhaka are however an absolute delight. Gulshan to Dhanmondi in a mere 15 minutes instead of the usual 55. The shops are nowhere near as busy as they were only a few days ago. And the road side stall holders have pretty much packed up. The fruit selling shops are looking decidedly sad.
The heat wave we went through only a couple of weeks ago seems to have gone. Today its not only cool but there’s a lovely mellow ‘holiday feeling’ light out there. All this means I am going home with a suitcase full of pitha, women’s clothing and books. See you in Scotland and Eid Mubarak.
Want to save yourself a lot of grief? Avoid dial ups. Want to save money? Avoid dial ups. Want acceptable speeds? AVOID PROSHIKA, AVOID BOL-ONLINE. Want freedom? Avoid flippin dial ups.
Get yourself a data card ( pcmcia) or a usb card and connect at 2.5G to 3G speeds. Anywhere. In traffic jams. In your Dhanmondi or Gulshan flat why look out at ugly construction sites when you can surf the web? It is simply amazing and I don’t know why I havent subscribed before. Grameen does an EDGE version but if your PC is Vista, then you are scuppered (at least for now). However CityCell’s is compatible with XP and Vista ( and they have software for Mac too). Yes I know its a crying shame to use American cdma technology but life is about compromises.
Last week, in the midst of our documentary team’s ideological battles, I sorely missed the October hues of good old blighty - my absolute favourite month mired though it is in sadness and passing. I even contemplated how I would stage my walkout if some things weren’t sorted. This week after several revisions, and as many sleepless nights, i think we have a decent film in our hands. Actually a substantial film. This film, as one observer told us last night in a small but difficult preview session (!), was a film about unresolved histories. There is a politics of remembering and forgetting, a politics of creating and revising social memory. In Bangladesh there is a serious contestation about what can be, should be and allowed to be remembered about the war and about the “bihari” or urdu-speaking community. Maybe it is about time and distance.
Anyway I would like to introduce Khaled and Hassan of Geneva Camp, Mohammedpur, Dhaka. My good friends, brave souls, and participants and researchers for our documentary. More details, MP3s, video on the web site for the doc soon!