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Archive for May, 2008

More bad press for Telenor

May 30,2008

Notions that Scandos have progressive and enlightened labour policies are continuing to take a battering. Following on from my earlier post where I described Tom Heinemann’s documentary about working conditions for Bangladeshi workers doing contract work for Telenor and Grameen, there seems to be more bad news for the parent company:

Telenor’s Labour Scandal Deepens

Two more workers’ deaths linked to Telenor

World Refugee Day

May 28,2008

World Refugee Day

It is World Refugee Day on 20th June 2008. According to the UNHCR there are 33 million refugees and internally displaced people. The 3rd Annual Tokyo Refugee Film Festival will be raising awareness of this by screening

“A select array of films from across the globe (giving voice) to seldom-heard stories of hope, despair and resilience.”

I am happy to note that our film Swapnabhumi - The Promised Land will be part of the film festival.

May 20,2008

This is indeed bizarre.Take a look at this story. It has not hit the mainstream press. I guess the only thing that happened here is that the good principal got an extra bath on that day. This sort of thing is mild - unbelievably. Bring back Taslima Nasreen…then you will get your headlines.

Shamokal News (pdf)


Shamokal News item 2 (pdf)

A rough summary in English would be:

Fatwabajis ( Mullahs who engage in issuing Fatwas) have forced a college principal of Syedpur, Sylhet to undergo a “cleansing” and “re-induction” process into islam for his alleged statements against the prophet and islam. Relatives of Syed Abul Ahmed were pressurised by the mullahs to take him to the mosque and give him a bath to purify him. He was then made to recite the necessary passages to re-introduce him to the faith.

The principal’s problems began when he was discussing the constraints on cultural and social functions imposed by the local religious leaders. He was doing so in a private capacity in a shop with some other people. He spoke in favour of Cable TV and he criticised the mullahs for their intolerance and terrorism. That very evening, upon hearing the principal’s commentary, the Taharikul ulema decided to act. They also decided to take to task the suppliers of cable TV in the locality. The mullahs view them as purveyors of all things “haraam” or forbidden. They have called cable businesses to assemble at the mosque in order to renounce their activities. They have also been instructed to wrap up their cable businesses.

May 18,2008

The High Court has declared that urdu-speakers or stranded pakistanis or biharis are indeed citizens of Bangladesh. At the last minute, the Attorney General tried to muddy the waters by raising a question about “allegiance” but was rebuked by the court which then went on to affirm what is natural, moral and correct - that members of this community are citizens of Bangladesh! And that they should be included in the voter list. A proud day for Bangladesh.

May 15,2008

Yunus and Telenor

Jon Fredrik Baksaas of Telenor in a grinning competition with Mohammed Yunus.

A minority of regular readers of this blog will be fed up with my …er…concern about Professor Yunus in past posts. ( Just search Yunus in the search box..!!) If you are one such reader, then I request you to close your browser or surf to the Disney site because the story below is as nasty as it gets:

A Danish documentary will tonight reveal “miserable working conditions and environmental violations at companies in Bangladesh that act as suppliers to GrameenPhone ….co-owned by Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor and firms founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.”

Tom Heinemann

The documentary was made by made by Danish journalist Tom Heinemann and is to be aired on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) tonight.

The documentary shows:

* Employees working with hazardous chemicals and heavy metals virtually without protection.
* that workers were as young as 13 years, a clear violation of child labour laws. The firms were caught allowing polluted wastewater to spill into nearby rice fields.
* the death of a worker killed when he fell into an unsecured pool of acid.

The report in this Norwegian publication says :

Telenor officials claim they were shaken by the documentary’s findings, and admit they failed to adequately monitor the operations of GrameenPhone’s suppliers

See a trailer of the film here.

Tom Heinemann is an established journalist with a formidable track-record. In 2005/6 he made a documentary about the harsh working conditions of Indian workers producing for the Scandinavian market. The film is called “A Killer Bargain.” Heinemann’s primary concern is to reveal the stark realities of globalisation¬† in the developing world.

You will find more about Telenor in the comments section of this post of mine on Professor Yunus.

May 13,2008

Flooding in Bangladesh

Some views on climate change in Bangladesh:

1. Land is disappearing everywhere, but new land is taking shape elsewhere. The problem is that the politicians here lack a long-term strategy of gaining, developing and protecting new land.

2. Nowadays most of the sediment simply disappears into the deep sea. This is practically a mortal sin in a country that should have started a program long ago to use the fertile silt, mica and clay to protect its coastline, thereby protecting future generations from drowning.

3. Despite climate change, the country could even grow. Ultimately, though, the greatest threat in Bangladesh comes not from water but from political chaos.

Some forthright views from Carvajal Monar of Royal Haskoning in an article by Gerald Traufetter.

Pran’s Naga Pickle - carcinogenic?

  • Filed under: Food
May 12,2008

Pran\'s Naga Pickle

Pickle lovers will rejoice that there’s a new kid on the block in the Naga pickle market. Or will they? The problem is that this delicious bottle of pickle above is from Pran - a name that I do not associate with great quality food products. They make a lot of snack related products in Bangladesh - and a lot of it is crap. Their aam shotto is simply disgusting for example. But all this is subjective….let me rather point to my main point of concern - do you remember Sudan 1? Yes it is a potentially carcinogenic dye found in chilli powder and there was a big broo-ha-ha about it a couple of years ago when it was realised that a lot of foodstuffs had this dye. The European Union banned Sudan 1 containing products. And it will be no surprise to you when I tell you that Pran products were blacklisted.

Despite all this, I am too much of a petuk and I tried the damn thing. ( And yes, I am also an ex-cancer patient in remission!) Its quite a mush and resembles red coloured mud. It sits there at the side of your plate, like a colloid, promising a punch to your taste buds and tumours in your liver.

It was good. Had a bite. It does not however have the overwhelming aroma that the original Mr Naga has. If you recall, I have already blogged about the original and wonderful Mr Naga ( of Shahnaz Foods). You will see from the comments on that post that the product has changed and sadly not for the better. Commentators have complained about its lack of bite. It has lost its capsaicin content I reckon ( that compound which produces the hot taste). The label says 70 percent Naga chilli. Pran of course gives no idea about the percentage content and it’s label is all but unreadable without a magnifying glass. To be fair to Pran the microscopic writing reveals that it is Halal compliant and HACCP ( a food safety standard) compliant too. Yes but can you believe it…?

For me, Mr Naga’s manufacturing origins - the UNITED KINGDOM - gives me sufficient assurance to continue buying this product. The only downside is, as I said, the aroma is still as strong as ever and makes your fingers pong long after you have had the stuff. Not good for stroking your pets, let me tell you or for that matter your spouse….

In fact, according to Syeed (see in the comment section), there is yet another Naga pickle called “Naga Naga” made by a UK Bangladeshi businessman. I have not tried it yet but am salivating at the thought of doing so.

ps sorry about the rubbish pic.

May 5,2008

UPDATE: 0870 60 60 900 is the DEC (MYANMAR) BURMA APPEAL.

The initial estimate by the Burmese state was 351. They revised that by 10 x. Now Western diplomats are saying that Burmese officials are putting the figure at around 10,000.

“Utter war zone”

“It’s a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation.”

Read more Here.

I did a quick check of - there is no charity doing anything. The Oxfam site is similarly devoid of any mention of Nargis. Christian Aid has labelled it as one of their 6 emergencies.. There is actually a Facebook group but it is not raising money.

Karl Marx birthday today

  • Filed under: Misc
May 5,2008

Karl Marx anniversary

Uncle Karl was born today. These days he adorns hip fashion gear more than anything else. Is that good or bad? Bit of both, I reckon. What do you think?