brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

July 25, 2006

A broader horizon, but a smaller view

Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 10:14 am

They seek the freedom to choose their own careers without disapproval; the freedom to be selfish about their own desires; the freedom to be free of the weight of family expectations. The inalienable right of your boro chacha to insist that you go into the family business and marry his best friend’s daughter is being increasingly challenged. If decisions are to be made regarding their life, the new generation would like to make them themselves

Irum Ali Khan

Call them what you want: Generation Now, Gen Yo, the Me Generation, the Djuice Generation, or simply ‘those kids’; the truth is that urban university-educated middle-class youth are on the move. They are creating a new social order, one in which the values that underpinned their parent’s realities are no longer the most influential, and in which the horizon no longer stretches to the finite boundaries of the nation. This is the post-post-independence generation brought up in a culture that is free to define its own identity, no longer constrained by the dominance of another. This is the generation firmly placed within the urban middle class, their parents and grandparents having made the physical and conceptual leap to city life and professional careers. This is the generation that is connected instantaneously to the rest of the frenetically-paced world at the click of a remote control button or a tap of the ‘Enter’ key. This is the generation whose life choices have expanded exponentially in the past decade, even compared to that of their older siblings. This is the generation who is trying to forge an identity — caught between the traditional middle-class Bengali values of their families and the siren call of the increasingly globalised world they live in.

While this urbane generation might have moved on, their surrounding society still lags behind them, insisting on obedience to the established norms — have a ‘stable’ career, marry a ‘suitable’ girl or boy, support your family, take care of elderly parents, fulfil familial obligations smilingly, be financially conservative, have the right number of children and, most importantly, maintain the desired status in society, or achieve a higher one. Yet, contrastingly the material culture all around them urges them towards a very different life — the advertisement billboards urge them to engage in ‘ajaira pechal’ or ‘jotil prem’, much against their parents’ wishes. The steady stream of serials, reality shows on satellite TV and movies they consume by the dozen on pirated DVDs show them a so-called better life overseas, replete with all the materialist trappings of globalised success.

If not available abroad, this lifestyle is to be strived for here, complete with the job at an international bank, ad firm or multinational company and the latest mobile phone model and surround-sound home theatre system. The ‘internationalization’ of their reality daily removes them further and further from any sense of rootedness or investedness in a Bengali future. The failure of the society at large, and the education system in particular, to provide them with an analytical understanding of the wider world has resulted in an ideologically bereft generation, some of whom are turning to radical interpretations of Islam to find a sense of identity. They lack a political ideology to call their own, ideals to dream and fight for, unlike previous generations. They yearn for success, usually defined in materialistic and monetary terms, and are willing to fight for it with a determination previously unknown. So, where do they go from here?

Conventional wisdom tells us that social change happens slowly, that it takes years and decades for ideals and values to change. Although each successive generation demonstrates a marked difference in thought and fashion to the one preceding it, the rapid emergence of the phenomenon that is the ‘private university educated urban middle class youth’ has been truly astonishing. Of course, one might argue that this is a limited and eventually statistically insignificant section of the population, given the vast numbers of young people this appellation does not cover. However, it is certain that given their access to myriad opportunities these young adults will one day have the opportunity to shape the nation’s economic future. While this fact is a testament to the class and region-based inequalities that plague our nation, when we consider that these are, to use an already overused cliché, the leaders of tomorrow, it gives us pause to consider their provenance and destination. Irate readers may leap to point out that their brothers, sisters, friends, children, or even they themselves are part of the group in question and do not share any of the characteristics described herein. The study of social groups by its very nature requires the analytical observation of general characteristics and behaviour that are perceived in the majority. Exceptions to the rule abound, and may acquit themselves accordingly.

Generation Who?

Sociologist Anthony Giddens argues that industrialisation has brought with it a culture that involves the accumulation of material wealth and the evolution of ‘world society’ where the individual is confronted by social institutions that are globally shaped. Bangladesh, in the throes of a highly scrutinised industrialisation process, is not exempt from the tentacles of globalisation. Globalisation is contemporary with modernisation and current capitalist development, directly allied to the manner in which modern societies are evolving. It is impossible to be a part of the world — economically, socially or politically — without opening the doors to the global juggernaut of transnational business and media. In Bangladesh, this has meant the availability of international consumer goods and technology in the local market, the indefatigable spread of the mobile telephone revolution, and the all-pervasive influence of satellite media. The appearance, assumptions, attitudes and aspirations of the new generation of urban youth are evidence of this.

The first thing you notice are the way they look. These kids would be cool anywhere — anywhere being the operative word. The upper-middle-class youth of Santiago bear a strong resemblance to their counterparts in London, or Delhi, or Dhaka. Satellite media, having made its way into every middle class home, ceaselessly transmits a mass culture of standardised and dictated tastes, fashions and aspirations. Be it on the ubiquitous Hindi movies or film-based programming or the international music channels (lead by MTV), young people are exposed to an increasingly homogenised representation of what it is to be ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’. The rising importance of appearance, lifestyle-based gadgets and access to the latest technology is what sets this generation apart from its predecessors.

For this generation, what you wear says a lot about who you are. And who you are seems to be an aspiring citizen of the world. Dhaka’s ‘Generation Now’ follows the same internationally hip style code. The guys, especially, nearly to the last man will have the hair in the regulation spikes, the necklace of wooden beads, a silver ring or two and the carefully composed uniform of fitted t-shirt and jeans or cargoes. The women, still governed by an adherence to the shalwar kameez, will improvise on this standard garment to the point that it is no longer recognizable as such. Those who have the nerve to be more ‘daring’ are seen to eschew any pretence of local flavour at all and head straight for the jeans and t-shirt combination. The defining fashion trend of the past few years, the fotua, is yet another step towards a more Western silhouette while still keeping within traditional boundaries of acceptable dress. The ever-diminishing proportions of the ‘ideal body’ suggest the internalisation of international standards of beauty and desirability. Sadly, the traditional Bangladeshi proportions aren’t exactly the same as a supermodel’s, but this doesn’t seem to deter legions of girls from aspiring to look like an impossible dream.

And it doesn’t stop at the clothes. Look at any 18- to 23-year-old standing outside a private university and chances are that he or she will have a mobile phone attached to their ear and a look of intense concentration on their faces. If they aren’t actually talking on the phone, they’ll either be sending SMSs to each other, playing games/taking pictures/listening to music on their phones or showing off the latest model they’ve just purchased. This is a generation that is attached at the hip, or rather the ear, to their telephones. Phones have moved beyond a medium for basic communication to the basis of a whole lifestyle.

This addiction to consumerism and technology goes beyond mobiles. This generation is defined by a techno-savviness and internationalism that often leaves their parents baffled. DVD players, MP3 players, computers and associated paraphernalia, musical instruments, cars and the ability to travel widely are standard objects of desire. Cool is having the latest music from the international charts downloaded via your broadband connection from your home computer onto a tiny MP3 player dangling around your neck; cool is the aspiration to own these international symbols of materialism and comfort.

The cultural life of university students is yet another area where we see the relentless influence of globalisation. Yes, the campus bands still sing of broken hearts and forbidden romance in the grand tradition of the Bengali balladeer, but they also sing of teenage angst, disaffection with society, anger at limited opportunities and dissatisfaction with the status quo. The favoured bands on campus all seem to be purveyors of the alterna-metal genre of music, whether they be local or foreign. Music that speaks to the generational disconnect is what’s in, and what strikes a chord. Black t-shirts emblazoned with the name of some massively successful band that makes its money from moaning about how terrible life is seem to be adorning young men all over town.

If it begins with what they wear and what they listen to, it ultimately ends in who they think they are and where they want to be.

Who they think they are is simple — they are a generation who feel entitled to be able to fulfil any dream that they have, and believe in being go-getters. This sense of entitlement, this conviction that they deserve that job at a multinational or a foreign bank or an up-and-coming ad firm is new to this generation. Their parents were often surprised by their own successes, and grateful for them — holding onto them and sheltering them from misfortune. Not these kids. Brought up in lives of relative comfort built on the endeavours of their parents, to them success will be there for the taking, their attitude one of assured success. A financially secure future is the number one aspiration.

Where they want to be, for many, is anywhere but here. Sad but true. The urbanite youngsters who have changed the way Dhaka thinks about youth dream of a better life far away from these shores. If they are ‘stuck’ in Dhaka then the universally middle class aspirations towards professional commercial jobs seems to be the norm. Banking and advertising seem to be glamour industries that are drawing young BBA graduates by the truckload. However, ask any number of students today and they will tell you that their plans include working for a few years, and then applying for immigration to Canada/Australia/USA, etc. Ask them why they want to leave, and they look at you as if you are crazy for even asking and cynically shrug, ‘What’s there to do here? What’s there to stay for?’ Not very much it would seem, even for those who have been given so much more than so many of their fellow country folk.

Generation Why?

Ay, there’s the rub. Even the prospect of better jobs, better pay and a brighter future than any generation before them do not seem to satisfy many of the young. Why would a generation who have lived a far better life than their parents be so ambivalent about their futures and reluctant to imagine a fulfilling life here? The answer is twofold: firstly, while there has been a sea-change in the values of the urban youth, the society around them has not kept pace. Secondly, this is a generation bereft of any guiding political ideology or social commitment that urges them to strive to improve their societies — that inspires them to dedicate themselves to build a better Bangladesh.

A cursory look at the group of young people in question is enough to tell you that they are governed by their own norms and values that at times are in conflict with that of the world around them. ‘Bengali middle-class mentality’ — which in itself is a relatively new concept in sociological terms — has already been eclipsed by the urban youth who yearn to march to the beat of their own drummers. The pre-eminence of the family as the guiding concern in a person’s life is slowly, but surely being disputed. The divergence in norms is especially apparent in matters pertaining to gender, and to family obligation.

Unlike the previous generation, the opposite sex is not a mystery to today’s young who are educated in co-educational schools followed by co-educational universities. Even if their schooling has been segregated, at university the complementary gender becomes an inalienable part of their daily lives, both as friends and more-than-friends. So what’s new about young love flowering in-between classes and during tea-addas? Well, what’s new is that these young lovers are not held back by middle-class norms that dictate only the briefest of contact with the object of their affections before the romance culminates in marriage. These days, marriage is not even on the horizon when love blooms. The freedom to get to know each other, to love each other and then to walk away if life goals, obligations and personalities do not match is increasingly being demanded by today’s young. Now, all of this is quite recent news to their parents, who are still stuck in the days when ‘a common friend’ brought news of ‘a good match’ with ‘a steady income’ and ‘from a suitable family’. Especially for young women, while the doors to personal interaction and freedom have opened in one direction, they are still closed in another — despite their CSc degrees and their 3.9 GPAs, they will still be expected to let ma-baba decide on their life partner. For the vast majority of these university graduates, it will be status and familial approval that will eventually decide their fate.

This is not a situation that sits well with many of them. When asked what is the one thing they want more than any other, many people of both sexes will answer with one word: ‘freedom’. Freedom to do what, you ask? Aren’t they more free than any others before them? But they want something more. ‘Freedom to be me.’ Me is the important word in that sentence. The young don’t want to be defined by someone else’s story, they want to make their own. They seek the freedom to go out late without a million questions; the freedom to choose their own careers without disapproval; the freedom to be selfish about their own desires; the freedom to be free of the weight of family expectations. The inalienable right of your boro chacha to insist that you go into the family business and marry his best friend’s daughter is being increasingly challenged. If decisions are to be made regarding their life, the new generation would like to make them themselves. Traditionally, Bengali sons and daughters have borne the responsibility for fulfilling not only their dreams, but that of their parents; of gratifying not only their desires, but that of their parents. This is increasingly being seen as a burden, something to be rejected. Commentators would say this is the beginning of the end — it starts with an erosion of family values and ends God-knows-where. But really, it’s just evolution, yet another way in which the outside world is impinging on ours and bringing a different set of mores with it. Every generation has striven to push the boundaries of their world to see if they stretch. This one is no different.

The second problem highlights a more pervasive problem in our nation’s social institutions. When you ask any of the group in question what they ‘believe’ in, most of them will be at a loss for words. This is a generation of cynics, not idealists. Their grandparents dreamt of a free India, their parents dreamt of a free Bangladesh, their older siblings dreamt of a government free from dictatorship. What do the current generation dream of? A better life, for sure, but a better life that concerns only them. This is not to accuse them of selfishness, but merely to highlight the absence of any guiding socio-political philosophy that would tether them to their society. The radical leftist and/or pro-independence political leanings of their parents’ generation seem a distant dream to a group of youth who are wary of politics. They see politics as destructive, and ultimately pointless. Look at their Dhaka University brethren, they say — caught in the mire of endless session jams due to the whims of the all powerful student wings of the major political parties. Nothing will change, and one party is as bad as the other, so why get involved? They see no marked ideological difference in the manifestoes of the reigning parties, and see elections as a merry-go-round where one party steps off to let the other on while the music and background remain the same. One party in practice is as bad as the other, so what’s the point in being engaged in the political process at all?

Asking them about the possibility of social change through activism unallied to politics brings forth an equally indifferent response. What’s the use, they shrug? All the aid money gets pocketed or squandered, NGOs are a rip-roaring business, the poor will get poorer and according to the news and we will remain the most corrupt country in the world. All around them, they see the failure of civil institutions to serve the needs of the people. Many of the young do not demonstrate an iota of faith in the power of advocacy to change society. They exhibit a feeling of helplessness that eventually morphs into apathy and a desire to do what they can for themselves, rather than fight a losing battle for a lost cause. They do not see the power of small changes, of small steps forward. They see the process of degeneration as too far gone to halt. If people truly do define themselves through a sense of place, draw their identities from the cultures they live in, then the culture has failed our young — it might have given them material advantages, but it has failed to give them faith in their own abilities to make a difference.

The education system that they have been exposed to might have given them the basics of algebra, expound formulae and know the law of demand and supply, but it has not given them the analytical tools with which to carve out a niche in society. The task of education is not merely to educate the young, but also to socialise them into the norms and values of the society. Education should both anchor the mind in an understanding of the social structure, yet free it to move beyond it. It is in this that they have been miserably failed by their previous generation. The fact that students today do not aspire to the civil service or to political life, and only see it as a last resort, is testament to the fact that the system has not imbued them with a sense of civic responsibility, or an understanding of society that goes beyond their immediate parameters. It has failed to give them a dream to be committed to what involves a vision for a better future for all.

Generation Where?

To give this generation an excuse for apathy would be defeatist. While there is much to be said for the fact that society cannot fulfil their dreams, looking back through time, there has never been an age where society has kept up with the demands of the young. Social change has occurred when those dreaming of a better future have pushed society’s boundaries, raced forward with these dreams and taken their culture to a new plane. This generation should be no different. The student revolutionaries of the 1950s, 60s and 70s fought against tremendous odds to create massive social change — they saved a language, inspired the dreams of a nation, and eventually freed it. They did not give in to the apathetic attitude that nothing would change. Subsequently, they carved out meaningful lives in a nation that was beset by poverty, and made huge strides towards improving that nation. Thirty-five years in the life of a nation is but a chapter, but Bangladesh has come a long way towards self-sufficiency and fulfilment during the interim. It is the task of this generation, armed with a better education, a better material existence and a strong link to the rest of the world to take us further.

The struggle will be to inspire the young to take up this challenge, and ally their dreams of individual success to those of the nation. We must give them a sense of place and belonging, teach them that freedom is not to move away and start a new life, but to stay here and build a better life. We must give them the freedom to think freely, to define themselves, their aspirations and their future in a way that reshapes Bangladesh, and takes it to a better place. Those of us in a position to do so must think long and hard about how we can inculcate the youth with a sense of purpose, a sense of identity, a sense of tomorrow…

July 19, 2006

Trouble in Paradise: first San Pedro riot

Filed under: belize — admin @ 11:32 am

[ocr scan of local paper] by. Rowltuul A. ,..”,. SAN PEDRO, Mon. Feb. 16,2004 On Thursday night, sometime after 9:30 p.m., Leroy “Dan”Pilgrim, 23, a fisherman on San Pedro, . kissed his infant daughter good night and told his wife that he would be back shortly to eat the food that she had cooked for him. He never returned. A few minutes later he was’ dead from a single bullet that was fired into his head, allegedly by a police officer who had stopped him to conduct an apparently routine search after Pilgrim had emerged from behind some mangrove bushes, where he Leroy ~d ~Iena were married on Nov. 10, 200 I. She had and his brother had just been WIth him since 1999. finished refueling his moored boat. and began to advance upon the In their press release the following’ officer. day, Friday, February 13, police, without “One of the officers pulled his naming the two officers involved, service revolver, whereas. one of the reported that “On Thursday February individuals grabbed the officer in an 12, San Pedro Police visited an area attempt to relieve him of his weapon. in the San Juan area of San Pedro, A struggle ensued, whereas both where they conducted a search. As a individuals fell into the water and result, police discovered an illegal firearm and thereafter attempted to apprehend two brothers, who were present. The individuals then resisted
whereas the weapon discharged. with the bullet hitting the suspect near the left ear. “The brothers were identified as Leroy.Pilgrim, 24. who later succumbed to the injury received, and San jay Pilgrim. Leroy Pilgrim was then transported to the Lion s Clinic in San Pedro, where~re a group of individuals believed to be associates of Pilgrim began to throw objects at the clinic, breaking a number of glass windows in the process…. ” But the police’s’s version of this tragic event differs sharply /Tom those of several eyewitnesses, with whom Amandala spoke. Benjamin Rodriguez, 16, who lives at #10 La Isla Bonita Street, told Amandala, “I live about 90 feet fro”} where the police took Leroy Pilgrim. I saw this man (Pilgrim) coming out from in the back where he kept his boat. By the time he reached in front of my yard, I saw the police approach him to rub him down. They did not find anything on him. “Police Constable ‘C’ then walked him to where he had just come from. PC “C” was holding him from behind the collar of his shirt. From where I was standing, I could only see the policeman s flashlight, as they were searching. They had just come to do their routine check. They always (Please turn to page 2)

Present’ truth,h minis'” banned Irom HIIHieville Prison

[the way I heard it: Leroy was “interrogated’ by forcing his head underwater – local folks stormed the dispensary where his body remained and pelted the police with stones – the army from the mainland was called-in]

Travellers told to forget malaria pills for India

Filed under: bangladesh,india — admin @ 11:20 am

A passage to India has long involved taking tablets to ward off malaria – but travellers to the subcontinent are being advised to forget the pills. Instead, they should focus on avoiding bites.

The recommendation comes from an organisation known as TropMedEurop, an electronic network of infectious disease specialists. Researchers analysed all the malaria cases imported into eight European countries from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka between 1999 and 2004. Even though malaria remains a hazard in the subcontinent, the study concluded that, for the average holidaymaker, the dangers from taking prophylactic drugs rated higher than the risk of disease.

Things are looking up in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 11:14 am

07/14/2006 09:45 PM | By Kuldip Nayar

Whenever I have visited Bangladesh in the past, I have wondered whether the country would ever make it.

The words like “a failed state” have haunted me and I have often expressed apprehension over the future of 150 million people with practically no natural resources, except gas.

Still I have not lost faith in Bangladeshis as I have followed them in their liberation struggle. How bravely they defied the ruthless Pakistan army to be on their own. There is nothing more difficult than to initiate a new order of things. The Bangladeshis did it.

First, they created an environment of independence and then established the democratic system which even Pakistan envied.

No doubt, the ever-increasing bomb blasts scare you in Bangladesh but back home I found in Mumbai a series of blasts which were no less alarming. Fundamentalists are responsible in Bangladesh and so is my inference in the case of Mumbai.

There were only freedom fighters when I went to Dhaka within a few days of its independence. I heard the slogan Jao Bangla at the airport itself. Passengers looked like people returning to the promised land. They were willing to make any sacrifice to stay free.

When Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rahman, founder and father of Bangladesh, said: “We will have to turn the independence movement into a struggle for building our country,” it sounded more of faith than a programme.”

Dhaka was then an over-grown town. The countryside was poor and the teaming millions had all the aspirations.

Today, Dhaka is an expanding city beaming with confidence and spreading like any world capital. So many offices and restaurants are coming up that I lost count by the time I reached the hotel from the airport.

The country has already recorded an annual growth rate of six per cent. The yearly remittances are $6 billion and the trade with India exceeds $3 billion.


The plus point in Bangladesh is that its people are conscious of their limitations and realise that they have a long distance to go. In contrast, the civil society in India and Pakistan believes that it has already arrived.

They are oblivious to their social obligation and lead a life which has the parameters of class, caste and the region to which they originally belong.

Unlike India and Pakistan, non-government organisations in Bangladesh have done a tremendous job.

The credit given by voluntary bodies has changed the complexion of several parts in the countryside and made people self-sufficient.

They are so confident now that the perennial floods do not drive them to cities as was the case a decade ago.

They manage their own affairs locally, without depending on the government which in any case is far behind the people’s initiative.

The postponement by the Tatas of $3 billion investment till after the elections early next year is unfortunate.

It looks as if Dhaka was not willing to offer the required use of gas lest it should become a poll issue. But the fact is that the impression built over the years is that India’s use of gas, however remunerative, is not in the interest of Bangladeshis.

The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is said to be responsible for this. Probably, things will work out after elections. But, in the meanwhile, the Tata deal postponement may become grist to the propaganda mills in India against Bangladesh.

The point to worry about in Bangladesh is that public and political culture appear increasingly premised on playing the religious majority card and marginalising minority groups despite a long history of accommodation and tolerance of diversity.

It is evident that Bangladesh is undergoing a process of Islamisation that has eclipsed a more inclusive and hybrid Bengali national ideology.

The Jamat-e-Islami is after the Ahmediyas these days. The hate politics is being engineered against them. The pressure on the government is so immense and relentless that the Ahmadiyas may be declared non-Muslims as in Pakistan.

Still, a Bangladeshi is offended if you compare him with a Pakistani in any way. I find in Pakistan a sort of nostalgia for the days when East Pakistan (Bangladesh) was part of Pakistan.

Many wish the two countries should become one again. But they are living in a fool’s paradise. The Bangladeshis have not forgiven the Pakistanis for what their army or the Punjabi culture did to them.

Meanwhile, Islamabad would do well to repatriate some 300,000 “Biharis” – the stranded Pakistanis, who have been living in Bangladesh for the past 34 years in deplorable conditions.

Kuldip Nayar is a former Indian High Commissioner to the UK and a former Rajya Sabha MP.

Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 9:03 am

July 18, 2006

St. Martin’s Island critically endangered

Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 10:35 am

The sunrise is so heavenly beautiful breaking in the greenish water of the sea. It is so divinely pleasant at a small island with long rows of coconut trees along the line of sandy beach. The first rays of the sun so clearly reflect on a combination of stones of different colours and sizes. We are talking about Sat. Martin’s Island, the country’s lone coral island. Locals call this treasure trove of nature Narikel Jinjira. But as a visitor you will no more have to step in on the typical rocks of the island when you get down from the boat. Rather the concrete is now gradually changing the typical Narikel Dip, once famed for its rich bio-diversity and excellent natural beauty.
Surrounded by the rough sea St. Martin’s is a unique creation of nature having 66 different types of rocks around it. Apart from sea fishes, the island is a hub for 300 species of snails and jhinuk, five species of amphibian lizards, five species of sea tortoises, 15 species of snakes, 20 different birds and 20 mammals. Besides 483 of species of plants enriched the biodiversity of the island. The environment ministry literatures said no islands in the Indian Ocean have so much bio-diversity within such a small land area.
Scientists assume that Narikel Jinjira is actually an extended part of the Chittagong hills, which remained as an island in the Bay of Bengal. The exponents of this concept believe that St. Martin’s is not actually a coral island. That means it is not based on coral reefs at the bottom of the sea. Historical documents show that the island was named after a governor of Chittagong, Martin.
Director of the biodiversity conservation and eco-park project of the island, Qamar Munir, said that proper care would be taken up by the Ministry of Environment and Forest for the protection of this gift of the nature by preserving all aspects of its biodiversity.
Rainwater is the lone source of drinking water in the island and it is deposited beneath the surface line of sands. Qamar Munir said due to unplanned sewerage system the entire deposit of the sweet water could get polluted anytime making the island unliveable.
He also expressed concern at the massive growth of human settlements and infrastructures and said the government was officially notified of the concern last year following a meeting with Environment Minister Shajahan Siraj, who later formed a 10-member expert committee to suggest remedies.
A report prepared by the committee said the very existence of the island is now at stake because of the extraction of coral rocks to construct buildings and roads there. The report called it a suicidal act and feared that unless the extraction of coral rocks are stopped immediately, there will be no sign of St. Martin’s Island or Jinjira Dip in Bangladesh’s map in the near future.
Though the government declared this island as ecologically endangered area last year, rich people are buying the shorelines of the eight-square-kilometre small island. Environmentally critical Saint Martin’s is losing its natural look as buildings are replacing the corals, which emerge from the bottom of the sea.
The promise of the government to protect the island is apparently more in paper than in action. The island is eroding slowly.
Dr. Mohammad Ali Reza, an eminent nature scientist, has called for preserving this unique gift of the nature with its rich biodiversity. About the plight of the marine turtles, he said when the baby turtles break out of the eggshells the first thing they do is to move towards the light seen on the sea and breaking waves. But if the baby turtles see the electric lights on different buildings dotting the beach, they get confused. They cannot survive without going into the water first, he added.
According to official statistics, the population of the island is 5,500, while the figure is, unofficially, 6,000. Some 750 people live in one square kilometre area.
Local residents and officials said different plots of the small island were transferred for 20 times on an average. The affluent people of the capital Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet are purchasing the attractive shorelines and developing hotel businesses. Hossain Ali, an elderly islander, said the hotels did not require so much of land and wondered why they are purchasing all the lands here? But he had no answer to the question why the islanders are selling their land. He, however, hastened to add that money has made people here crazy. A hotel owner said two years ago he bought 40 decimals of land at a cost of Taka one lakh while the piece of land would have cost only Taka 7,000 five years ago.
Abul Kashem Chowdhury, a 72-year old former union parishad chairman and schoolteacher, regretted that the islanders could not realise that though the islanders who sold out their land were initially benefitted in terms of money, their posterities would become land starved in the near future and will have no alternative to leaving the island.
The islanders are mainly fishermen and sea is the main source of their livelihood. A number of islanders go to the deep sea in trawlers to catch fish as the stock around the island is apparently dwindling. There are numerous ghers of shrimps and dry fishes along the beach. But many families still run by selling species like Rupchanda, Vetki and Coral fishes. Coconut trees are another major source of income of the islanders.
People in the past did not use to take much interest in visiting the island because of lack of accommodation facilities. But the situation has changed now. The small island has at present some 12 hotels with good menu chart. There are two- or three-storied hotels as well as small cottages in the island. The rent of the rooms ranges from Taka 200 to Taka 600.
Defying the rough sea, a sea truck operates between Teknaf and St. Martin’s Island every day, excepting in the summer and the rainy season. It leaves Teknaf at 10 in the morning reaches St. Martin’s after nearly three hours. The travel cost of the truck is rather high – Taka 200 for return journey. The locally made country boats are the other mode of transport, which operate round the year and charge Taka 50 for one-way journey.


Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 9:26 am

Narikel Jinjira, popularly known, as St. Martin’s Island is only Continental Island in Bangladesh located in the northeastern part of the Bay of Bengal. The island people own this island and the early settlement were started in 1880’s. The present population is about 5000 and the economy is based on seasonal fishing and natural resources like shell, cones, corals, sea-turtles eggs, etc.

Ecologically, the Island contains a variety of unique habitats and a number of rare (e.g. cone shells) and endangered (e.g. Lepidochelys olivacea) species in Bangladesh. Extensive algal and seagrass beds in the coastal waters may be important spawning and/or nursery grounds for a number of economically important fish and shellfish species. The island is also an important nesting ground for endangered marine turtle species (Lepidochelys olivacea and Chelonia mydas). It is the only continental island in Bangladesh with coral communities and associated flora and fauna, which are found on many true coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Narikel Jinjira is now identified as one of the Environmentally sensitive area in Bangladesh has suffered deforestation thrice in this century. On the other hand the extractable natural resources also depleting very quickly. Government of Bangladesh has passed a gazette notification saying that a marine park will be developed on the island and banned many of the economic activities of the island people without arranging the alternatives. Bangladesh navy has taken 20 acre of land which is the only available farming land of the island people on requisition to develop a naval base, Local Government Engineering Department did some embankment works around the island which has caused erosion on the west side and limited sea turtles nesting area on the west. This shows that there is no coordination between the government agencies to maintain the environmentally sensitive area like Narikel Jinjira.

July 15, 2006

Security intensified at Rameswaram

Filed under: india — admin @ 6:34 am

Ramanathapuram, July 14 : Security has been intensified at places of worship and railway stations at Rameswaram following the July 11 Mumbai bomb blasts.

Police said security personnel checked Ramanathaswami Temple, Pambam Bridge, Rameswaram and Paramakudi Railways Stations for explosives using metal detectors while the dog squad searched the trains.

Pamban Bridge and temples were being guarded by armed police personnel and vehicle checks conducted on National Highways and other important roads. Orders have been passed to arrest persons on suspicion.

All vehicles entering Rameswaram were being subject to intensive checks, they added.

July 12, 2006

She leaves behind all but these birds

Filed under: india — admin @ 5:02 am

Rameswaram : There are two unusual `guest refugees’ from Sri Lanka. The Government need not spend a single paisa on them. The police or security personnel, who interrogate all refugees, did not do so and instead, the guests were given a warm welcome at the Dhanushkodi police station on Sunday.

Curious? The ‘guests’ were a pair of parrots. Immediately after the box, in which they were kept, was opened, the ‘guests’flew out and fondly sat on the shoulders of 15-year-old Bhovana Nishanthini Lombert, a refugee from Pesalai in Mannar district.

On seeing the visitors, more than 100 refugees, who arrived at Dhanushkodi from Sri Lanka, and policemen surrounded the girl to watch the friendly play of the two birds. The departure of Bhovana and her family to Tamil Nadu through illegal boats was delayed, thanks to these birds, as she was unwilling to part with her loving parrots. Pasool Rock (39), father of Bhovana, who decided to abandon all his belongings decided to put the birds in a safe box. ” I love these birds as much as I love my three brothers and parents,” said Bhovana.

July 5, 2006

How Papi Poti Got His Bike Back

Filed under: belize — admin @ 5:43 am

It was big news on the police report today that a team of officers on patrol had acted quickly to recover a stolen bike. Generally, that’s not big news, but it was bigged-up by police as a sure sign of what the partnership between police and community can produce. But what you get isn’t always what you see, and there’s another side to that story. The man involved is known on the streets as Papi Poti and here’s what he had to do to recover his bike.

Papi Poti,
“I saw this young man just walk up to my bike. For a minute I thought he was moving the bike out of the way so that a vehicle can park because I put in the way because I wanted it where I could see. I was watching him just walk up to my bike, take it off the stand, and walking slow with it. That is when I realized this is a play. He didn’t ask anything, he just looked back into my face as to say, ‘well your bike, hell no,’ and he took off. I did the same thing and took off behind because that is my bike, this is my car. This is how I mind my family. I need my bike for my job. So I ran behind him but he kept riding and I saw that he stood up on the pedal to make more speed and as he hit the curve my chain fell off the bike. Then I saw well this is a chance to catch up with him. I started closing the gap, running. He didn’t leave the bike. He continued running with the bike without pedaling condition. He is running with my bike.

The police vehicle came up and asked me what happened. I told the police there goes the guy with my bike, he just stole my bike from in front of Brodies and he is going with it running. I could say this much, they did a good job. They flew past me and went behind the guy and I was behind them. The officer immediately came to me and told me don’t do him anything, go in the vehicle and sit down. I sat down and asked if they could take me back quickly to the drug store so I could get my medicine for my child.”

Alfonso Noble,
Were you going to beat the guy?

Papi Poti,
“If the police weren’t there it would have been a disaster. I think God was watching the scene because my intention, honestly speaking from my heart, was that I have lost five bikes and reported everyone to the authority, to the law enforcement and to the Magistrate-I think I would have tried my best to kill him. The bike means a whole lot to me, this is my car. This is what I go to work with everyday and I have to have a bike to go to work and to do my job. So this is a part of me, a part of maintaining my family. I am very happy that I got back my bike but I am going to be more happier to know that he committed that crime and he must do the time. He must go to jail and spend time for what he has done or it could make people decide to take law and matters into their own hands because if nothing is done to him, if he does not spend time for that then we will have to look at things like this. This is the time, you do what has been done to you..”

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