imperfect | world | 2010

Jan 25,2009

A study last year by World Vision found Bangladesh had the highest rate of child marriage in the world. Fifty-three per cent of girls were married before the age of 15, it said.

Jan 23,2009

“The Rajendrapur Conversation will be an annual conversation between architects, engineers and poverty researchers in the North with poor people, ngos and practitioners in the South. It is a partnership between the Brooks World Poverty Institute at The University of Manchester and the BRAC Development Institute, Rajendrapur, Bangadesh.”

Good old Joseph Stiglitz is involved and my ex-head of department, Prof David Hulme, when i was at the IDPM in Manchester!

Jan 20,2009

A couple of days ago I blogged about the news of the Thai military maltreating Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants and effectively consigning them to their death on the seas. Now we hear that the labour recruiters are shamelessly exploiting all the uncertainty to extract even more money from the anxious relatives of these migrants.

Jan 19,2009

published in the Pakistan Observer. Chauvinist and ill-informed bilge by some clown called Ibn-e-Rehmat.

Jan 16,2009

Thai soldiers tied up our hands and then put us in boats without engines. These were towed into the high sea by motorised boats and left to drift.

“We were without food and water. The Thai soldiers clearly wanted us to die on the boats.

Read it HERE

Jan 15,2009

In the New Nation of 18th December 2008, Monsur Reza Chowdhury (Joint secretary, Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment)  is reported to have said that Bangladeshi labour markets abroad are not likely to be adversely affected by world economic recession. Read  here. Doesn’t that sound bizarre? I mean why would Bangladeshi migrant workers be unaffected?

So it wasn’t surprising to find in the Daily Star yesterday Abdul Matin Chowdhury, the minister for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment,  saying that joblessness amongst Bangladeshi workers in Singapore is a direct consequence of global economic recession -  contradicting the earlier statement by the official from his ministry.

Surely it is not rocket science to realise that there might be a knock-on effect of the global recession? Well apparently there is room for doubt.  The Centre for Policy Development doesn’t seem to thinks so. They reckon that Arab countries are NOT likely to experience the crunch as badly. They are predicting a healthy and steady rise in remittances from Bangladeshi migrant workers. They point to these figures  - $8.22billion last year; $6.55billion the year before and are predicitng $10billion by the end of the current financial year. The CPD are looking for

” greater dynamism and facilitation from the foreign ministry, expatriate welfare ministry and our overseas missions” so that “manpower export could be diversified, especially at a time when the traditional labour markets are likely to face a crunch if the global recession lingers.”

Ifty Islam of Asian Tiger Capital partners takes another view and  writes :

“It is becoming increasingly evident that remittance inflow from Middle Eastern countries is likely to be adversely affected.” He goes on to describe Dubai’s property and financial woes.

And if this is indeed the case, then the situation of almost 3 million Bangladesh and Pakistanis in the UAE becomes very precarious. They make up the greatest proprotion of construciton companies’ costs ( even though they are paid about 3-5 dirhams or about one dollar an hour) and they lack employtment protection.

You would think that given the worsening situation, the government and the think-tanks would be a bit more circumspect about sending abroad as many workers as they can cram into planes. Remember that in the favoured destination areas - the middle east -  migrant workers have no one to turn to and next to no rights.

Jan 12,2009

The curious story of Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Maldives.

10,000 tourists go to the Maldives per week

330 tonnes of rubbish dumped on Tilafushi island every day

Rubbish now covers 50 hectares or 120 acres.

hand sorted by 150 Bangladeshi workers

Striking hotographs by Elin Hoyland. Guardian article here.

Craig Murray’s new book

Jan 11,2009

If you have read “Murder in Samarkand” then this is also a must

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo.

Dec 30,2008

The hitherto stateless urdu-speakers of Bangladesh (or Biharis) exercised their right to vote in the parliamentary elections yesterday as citizens of Bangladesh. Here are some snaps from Mohammadpur  - the site of one of the original “camps” in which urdu-speakers were interned in 1971. ( Voting booth was at the Mohammadpur Model College)

I will be writing more soon. Notice the female only queue ( applied to all areas not just urdu-speaking areas!)

What can they expect?

Dec 29,2008


Dec 28,2008

The Hidden Face of Globalisation

part 2

part 3

Images of Ship Breaking

Dec 25,2008

Take a look.

Dec 18,2008

This, my friends, is the staggering figure quoted in this article in the New Nation. Do you believe it? Do I believe it? Hell no. I have had occasion to blog about the Manpower ministry before when they were looking for measures to punish absconding labourers. Now I read that they have exacted fines from labour recruiters and have distributed the accumulated money - about a million quid - to labour victims. This sounds too far fetched to even contemplate. Someone should tell them its December and not April 1st.

Dec 17,2008

This article is interesting in that it gives a flavour of what it is like to be born and grow up in a country and yet not be a full citizen of it. The article looks at a Bengali Paara (locality) in Karachi and the biharis in Bangladesh. But in terms of the forthcoming Bangladeshi elections, these figures are worth noting:

Official figures note that 15,000 refugees (sic, but referring to biharis) out of approximately 300,000 have applied for enrolment in the voting system to date. According to data collected from various sources, some 6,000 people spread across 70 different camps in Bangladesh preferred to register themselves. The number includes 360 inhabitants of Mohammadpur Geneva Camp, Dhaka. However, only 180 were able to provide all the information and photographs necessary for the registration process.

So firstly there is a discrepancy between the government figure (15,000 registered) and figures from other sources (6,000 registered) it seems. The same article hints at some of the apprehensions of the Bihari community which might be responsible for this. Many apparently felt that taking up citizenship would entail letting go of their current status ( The article incorrectly notes this status as “refugee status.” The biharis do not have refugee status in Bangladesh as far as the UNHCR is concerned. Their current status has some very meagre and rapidly vanishing benefits in terms of camp access to services etc). And it was this fear of losing out on these scraps of assistance that possibly explains the low numbers.

The article notes:

Their fears crystallised after several families in camps in Khalispur, Kulna were issued with legal notices ordering them to evacuate the camps, as they were no longer officially refugees.

The figures in the article are a bit surprising and I wonder why a newspaper would publish without references or anything. My own sources - Hasan Mohammad of AYGUSC tells me

- About 15,000 camp inmates living in Mohammadpur and Mirpur of Dhaka enlisted their names in this process. But the actual number of voters may be more.

- Out of the above number about 2,600 Geneva camp inmates enlisted their names and got NIC (official report)

- 80% of the total eligible voters will be enlisted in the voters list and NIC of 116 camps

- There are 116 settlements all over the country according to survey conducted by Al-Falah and UNHCR not 70 camps.