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La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 8 décembre— 15 décembre)

Selon un bilan préparé par Médecins sans frontières, presque 6700 Rohingyas, dont les enfants qui avaient moins de 5 ans, ont été tués dans le premier mois de violence à Rakhine State en Birmanie. MSF a fait une étude dans les camps de Cox’s Bazar à cet égard.

L’ armée de l’air entre en pourparlers avec Rosoboronexport pour acheter des hélicoptères de combat Mi-35M baptisé «Hind-E». L’ armée de la mer a signé un contrat pour acheter deux frégates réaménagés, déjà en service dans PLAN, de la classe Jiangwei Il. Un blog militaire a corroboré les nouvelles.

Selon un reportage, la société bangladaise  Bashundhara mettra en place une raffinerie à Chittagong. A cet égard, Bank Asia donnera crédit de Tk 63,95 milliards  afin de la réaliser .

Un homme d’affaires a été tué par balle chez lui à Dacca. Police s’est dit que c’était une acte de kamikaze. Un fonctionnaire du bureau sportif à Natore reste disparu il y a 5 jours.

Le géant des produits laitiers français Lactalis a arrêté la vente et retiré son lait pour les enfants après avoir détecté bactérie salmonella, selon un reportage.

Le PDG de la société TOTAL Philippe  Sauqet dans une rencontre avec la Première ministre bangladaise Sheikh Hasina a divulgué que le géant du gaz avait envisagé d’ investir dans le secteur de gaz naturel liquéfié dans les années qui viennent. Le PM s’est rendu en France pour assister à «One Planet Summit».

Une incendie dans un atelier des cosmétiques à Gazipur a sévèrement blessé 9 ouvriers.  Explosion d’une bouteille de gaz a provoqué l’ incendie dans FS Cosmetics Limited à Gazipur.

Un dirigeant de la succursale du parti en exercice et fils d’ un  ministre a été incarcéré pour avoir  battu des journalistes à  Pabna. Selon un autre reportage,luttes intestines de Chhatra League ont laissé 10 fidèles blessés à Comilla University.

Selon un reportage, un dirigeant du Jubo League demande extorsion aux hommes d’affaires à Ashulia à la veille du jour de victoire.


Hold Them Accountable

Unwarranted violence unleashed by ruling party affiliated organizations and sometimes by the law-enforcing agencies makes the ordinary citizens frightened.

It is not that we are unfamiliar with violence. But this time the scale and severity of violence transcend all previous precedents.
Degeneration of ruling party organizations upsets many who witnessed creation of Bangladesh. What surprised me  bad conducts barely infuriate ruling party leaders.

They, however, feel complacent by putting the blame squarely on opposition quarters and intruders.
Rare are the occasions that witness criminal party workers are brought to book unless the incident causes huge uproar in the press.

Central committee of these affiliated organizations limits their role by stripping the wrongdoers off  party positions. Saving the face before the press outcry comes into play in taking such decision rather than the desire to maintain party discipline.

If containing crime and violence is the prime goal of our law-enforcing agencies, then I have to say they miserably fail to achieve that target.

What is worrying is that more and more of them engage in unlawful acts.

A recent report published on a widely circulated daily says that Detective branch of Ramna Thana Police has been harassing CNG taxi dealers for quite a long time. The dealers took the matter to Home Minister and asked for his intervention.

The complaint only worsens the harassment. Since August, at least  four CNG dealers  were detained by DB personnel in a bid to squeeze money from them.

It is also reported in the press that bribery takes place in the recruitment, transfer and promotion of Police personnel.

How can one expect  better  law and order situation in the country when law-enforcing agencies are mired in corruption and criminal acts?

We the ordinary citizens do not see them to come forward with a complete plan to contain this getting-out-of-control  situation.

There is a pertinent  question that deserves immediate answer. Is the prevailing system, which is to a great extent caused the anarchic situation, created by political rent seekers boon for security personnel?

Another thing I notice that there has hardly been instance where law-enforcing agencies’ chiefs were hold accountable for their misdeeds or role in controversial regimes.

Just a week ago Argentina sentenced former Navy captain Alfredo Astiz to life imprisonment for his role in ” Dirty War”, which saw abduction and killing of thousands of innocent people. This captain known as “Angel  of Death” abducted and tortured many people at a Navy training facility, including Azucena Villaflor who organized a movement of mothers of the disappeared.

Even in neighboring India , there are examples. RN Kao former Intelligence Bureau chief of India was summoned by people’s representatives to clear his  role during the time of emergency. Indira Gandhi government unilaterally  imposed a two-year-long emergency rule and detained hundreds of thousands people including politicians, dissidents, journalists and academics. Tortures were meted out to them.

As soon as the Indira regime was brought down, the Morarji Desai government summoned Mr Kao , who was considered a close aide to Mrs Gandhi, to spell out his role behind the secret detention and tortures.

Mr Kao faced the hostile politicians and gave convincing reply to each of their questions. Having heard of his answers, Desai government cleared him of the allegations of playing any role to detention and tortures of opposition politicians and innocent people.

In Bangladesh, such precedents have never been set. So, increasing dependence of ruling parties on law enforcing agencies to  subdue rivals gives them a kind of signal that they are kingmaker and untouchable. This overriding feeling often gives birth to some kind of “showguns” who start to set their own rules.

The harassment of students by ruling party student wing stalwarts happened right before the Police at Institute of Health Technology in Rajshahi. They did nothing while harassers  humiliated the complainers.

Turning a blind eye to the wrongdoings of ruling party affiliated organizations calls into question role of police maintaining rule of law in the country.

People have grown suspicious about ruling party affiliated organizations. Organized criminal racket like operation of these organizations only popularizes depoliticization scheme and creates an ecosystem of perks that serves as incentives for police to overlook party-led anarchy.

The air is thick with growing cry  of  curtailing some of the abusive power of these agencies as the list of disappeared, widow, orphans continues to long.

We have regulatory authority to protect consumer interests, we have regulatory authority to watch the operations of mobile operators, we have regulatory authority to monitor the operations of universities. Then why do we not have such a body to have a close eye on their operations?
At least people’s representatives or higher court can summon them and hold a public question and answer sessions.

Election is knocking on the door. To put an end to anarchy by those closer to power , it is imperative that the law enforcing agencies will play an objective role while maintaining law and order. To create an equal turf for all the parties also calls for their impartial role.
Resulting political imbalance  stemming from one-sided election of 2014  will only add woes of Bangladesh.

In stead of knee capping opposition political activists and giving a carte blanche to hooligans to do whatever they wish, law enforcing agencies should concentrate on their efforts to create fear-free atmosphere for a conducive election.
They have to remember that a lame Bangladesh cannot win a race, let alone achieve the development goals set by govt’s book of visions.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

( 1 décembre — 8 décembre)

La dégradation de l’ordre public devient pire au Bangladesh.

Le dirigeant de l’ONG «Prottasha» a été tué par balles à Jessore.

A Rangamati, un dirigeant de l’Awami League et un dirigeant du United People Democratic Front ont été tués par balles.

A Rajshahi Institute of Health Technology, des fidèles de la succursale étudiante de l’Awami League ont attaqué des étudiantes qui s’insurgeaient contre leur harcèlement.

A Uttara , voleurs dérobent argents aux cyclistes tous les soirs.

A Tejgaon, le parking de camion occupe encore la rue entre Tejgaon et Farmgate. L’ancien maire l’y a évincé pour libérer la rue .

Une incendie mystérieuse a ravagé un garage de Rickshaw à Badda. Selon un reportage, l’incendie est issue d’une bouteille de gaz.

Selon un reportage, fournisseurs et des fonctionnaires se sont emparés d’ engrais, vaut Tk 2 milliards à Narasingdi.

Selon un reportage, Police a arrêté 12 Maltais et des Bangladais pour avoir fait voler drones aux Sundarbans. Les Renseignements militaires ont aussi appréhendé 4 Turcs pour avoir tenté de faire voler drones à Ukhia, petite ville près de la frontière entre Bangladesh et Birmanie.

Selon blog militaire «bdmilitary», Bangladesh va bientôt conclure un accord avec Rosoboronexport pour acheter appareil de combat de la nouvelle génération Mig-35.

Un diplomate reste disparu depuis mardi. Il était en retraite et ambassadeur au Viêtnam.

Les renseignements policiers ont tué duex auteurs présumés d’un homme d’affaires. Les familles des victimes se sont dit qu’ils les avaient enlevés il y a des jours.

Selon un reportage, des hommes d’affaires de Dacca ont accusé les renseignements policiers de la gendarmerie de Ramna pour les avoir harcelés. Ils ont déjà attiré l’attention de ministre de l’intérieur. Dès lors, ils amplifient harcèlement. Depuis août, ils ont appréhendé 4 hommes d’affaires et leur ont demandé extorsion.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

(24 novembre — 1 décembre)

La police a appréhendé 6 dirigeants de la succursale de l’Awami League pour avoir torturé un journaliste dans l’Université de Dacca.

Haut Commissariat pour les Réfugiés de l’ONU se dit qu’il y a 26.000 familles de Rohingya qui ont des femmes comme soutienne de famille à Cox’s Bazar.

Le gouvernement a bloqué le site The Wire après le site indien avait publié un reportage indiquant que le renseignement de l’armée a enlevé prof Mubashar Hassan.

La succursale étudiante de l’Awami League a divulgué que le parti allait établir comité dans toutes les écoles au Bangladesh. Tout le monde s’en est pris à cette décision. Les gens pensent que la décision heurtera l’ambiance de l’apprentissage dans école.

Le maire de Dacca (nord) est mort. Il a été hospitalisé à Londres après être tombé malade.

La Cour d’appel a condamné à mort 139 rebelles de la force frontière et a puni 385 rebelles pour avoir assisté à la mutinerie à Pilkhana. La mutinerie s’est déroulée le 25 février 2009, laissant 74 morts dont 54 soldats supérieurs de la force frontière.

Fumbling Road To Real Democracy

Bangladesh finally wraps up the trial of BDR mutineers. According to the final verdict, 139 mutineers have to go to scaffold and 800 plus renegade jawans have to face punishment of various degrees.

Having noticed that too many were given death sentence, Human Rights Watch called for reconsideration of the verdict.

The 2009 BDR bloodbath, claimed 54 lives of Army officers, severely shocked the military hierarchy.  Despite the closure of this trial, debate is still on.  BDR’s involvement in Operation Daal-Bhaat, a fair price distribution campaign of kitchen commodities, and pay row were disseminated as prime reasons behind this tragedy.

However there are many who are not buying the arguments in face value. To them, the motive of the killing remains an enigma.

It will remain another example of Bangladesh’s troubled military past. Since it came into being, Bangladesh has witnessed dozens of coups and counter coups, latest one took place in 2012, contributing to the  political divide.

Recurrent tension in the Army is a reminder that Bangladesh has not fully recovered from this maladie in a country where rule of law is absent, social justice is lacking, inequality is widening and corruption gets approval from wider section of the society.

Since a favourable climate exists here for tension to brew, political violence shows no sign to stop.
We have law enforcement institutions to check crime and violence.

However, they work more like a militant wing of a political party under different political regimes.
Due to their political role, it is often difficult to attain desired law and order goals.

Shaken  by the BDR mutiny, people expected that there would be extra efforts to improve country’s law and order situation.

However, to our dismay, it has not been the case. Law and order situation plunged and more and more people lost their lives in violence.

Public universities turned into a constant zone of conflict. The number of students succumbed to political violence in campus from 2009 till today far exceeds that of during the tenure of Ershad.

Sometimes I feel that we live in a lawless jungle, not in a civilized society.

I was also appalled by the lack of any initiative from law-enforcing agencies in the wake of breaking down of law and order.

Back in the the second tenure of BNP, then chief of Army staff Lt Gen Hasan Masud Chowdhury, later advisor to 2007 caretaker government, came forward with Operation Clean Heart, which drew lots of criticism for its heavy handed method and violation of human rights, to contain the deteriorating law and order situation.

I am not advocating similar strategy here by citing this example. The point I would like to make is that there is no plan whatsoever to improve law and order situation when the situation is far more dire than it was back in 2001.

I have this feeling that this lawlessness is deliberately inflicted on us as chastisement. I have never seen so much loss of ordinary life due to growing lawlessness. What deeply troubles me that these ordinary people do not belong to any political party. Yet they bear the full brunt of it.

Rank-and-file political activists also incur losses. During the previous and following 3 months of 2014 General Election, we witnessed widespread killing of ruling party activists. As soon as the table was turned, we watched how opposition activists and dissidents were disappeared without leaving any trace.

Prisons are filled with political prisoners and law-enforcing personnel resorts to knee-capping in a bid to maim organizational capacities of political parties.
Similarly, coercion and increasing surveillance of the press muzzled freedom of expression.

At the same time, a defense spending spree gets underway to modernize the Armed forces. Government has given several business concessions to the Armed forces including operation of commercial banks, container transport, cement factory and dock yard. This in the end contributes to the sprawling Fauji economy that cannot get along well with the private entrepreneurs.

At one hand there has been gradual decline of law and order situation that makes life untenable in Bangladesh;on the other hand, institutions tasked with curbing crimes and violence fail to come up with holistic approach and instead indulge in business activities that are not part of their responsibilities.

Bitterness caused by lawlessness triggers suspicion within many who see another derailment of democracy may be in the offing. This uncertainty provokes an aura of panic that leads to draining of country’s hard earned forex.

As a nation of 165 million people, we cannot pay the price for few miscreants’ folly and greed. Just look how incident like BDR mutiny ruined family lives of thousands of jawans and 54 Army officers.

Our failure to build institutions to resolve dispute is partly to blame for recurrence of this kind of tragedy.

When I feel low amid growing sign of malgovernance, I leaf through economist Rehman Sobhan’s writings on governance.  He penned these brilliant lines  in an editorial titled “Politics of Violence”,published on 24th January 1970 on Forum:

“The sources of violence lie deep in our society. They can only be uprooted when the cesspool, which breeds it, is cleansed, and political institutions take root. The danger is that before we can begin to cleanse urban society and political institutions can even begin to function, acts of violence may be deliberately misinterpreted to rationalise the intervention of anti-democratic forces to frustrate our fumbling footsteps towards a real democracy.”

Forty seven years later we are yet to build institutions, we are still fumbling around on our way to become a full-functioning democracy and shadow of anti-democratic forces still looms large.

La Semaine Dernière A Mes Yeux

(18 novembre — 24 novembre)

Le gouvernement a augmenté le prix d’ électricité par 5 %. En signe de protestation, les partis gauchistes appellent grève dans tout le pays le 30 novembre.

Selon le blog militaire «bdmilitary», ST Kinetics a remporté le contrat de livrer obusier léger Pegasus.

Selon un reportage de «The Wire», le renseignement de l’ armée bangladaise a enlevé le prof de Mubashar Hasan. Dès lors que le reportage a apparu dans les réseaux sociaux, BTCL a bloqué le lien de ce site indien.

Luttes intestines du parti en exercice dans Chittagong Medical College and Hospital ont laissé 20 fidèles blessés. La succursale du parti en exercice a décidé d’établir comité dans école pour disséminer le principe de Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Dans les réseaux sociaux, la décision a été sévèrement critiquée.

Le Farmers Bank Limited subit des difficultés à satisfaire les besoins de ses clients.La banque manque de liquide et n’est pas arrivée à payer argent à société publique, BTCL. La banque opère sous la houlette de Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, ancien ministre de l’intérieur et dirigeant de l’Awami League.

Un étudiant a massacré son camarade dans le dortoir d’une école coranique à Dacca. Les deux ont déjà eu des altercations.

Waiter-robots Are Not Game Changers

This week I was taken aback by two news. First one says robots are introduced in a restaurant at a posh neighborhood of Dhaka.

The other one says govt will allocate Tk300 million to provide car loans to deputy secretaries.

I have no issue with automation or robots replacing people. But who are they replacing?Is it a prudent decision to employ such an expensive piece of marvel that took lots of human efforts to replace poor people? It is indeed a good advertising for govt’s “Digital Bangladesh”. But robots have far more greater role to play in govt’s Digital Bangladesh than to serve foods and beverages to a pack of curious clients, who are more eager to take a few snaps of the waiter-robot than to devour Bangladeshi style fast food.

The owner of this restaurant explained the journalists why he recruited robots: robots never shirk, robots never sleep and robots never fall sick.

I do not know how much he paid for the robots , but felt pretty bad for the waiters who may now look for jobs somewhere else.

It is projected that automation and artificial intelligence augur ill for labor intensive economies.

Many fears textile and RMG industries may bear the full brunt of automation. The sectors remain sources of jobs for millions of workers in Bangladesh.

A recent news report says China invested heavily in automation in RMG industry. Germany and US followed suit. China’s investment in automation bleaks the possibility of shifting RMG factories to Bangladesh in any kind of wage rise in China.
Bangladesh barely affords to lose its grip on this vital strategic sector. However, there was no plan afoot to spur research on this sector.

Researchers at Cornell University made a breakthrough in computational textile this week. They managed to produce customized woven fabric in small batches,which was earlier thought impossible. Anyone can upload any image of a pattern into their database, can alter design, can pick up preferred color and produce the customized fabric in small quantity. This is a good news for both high-end and low-end RMG manufacturers.

This is no rocket science. A bit of innovation and commitment to make investment in this sector could consolidate Bangladesh’s position in post-automation textile business.

Sorry to say our business leaders and politicians lack the courage and will to initiate research on automation in RMG sector.

Russian president Vladimir Putin quite correctly felt importance of Artificial Intelligence. He said that countries leading in AI would dominate the future.

It is not just the textile and RMG, AI heralds its presence in agriculture and health. A South China Morning Post report says Indonesia embraces AI to detect crop diseases and to send remedies. Thailand introduces AI to treat cancer patient.

Even non state actors like big corporations are not lagging behind. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has recently announced that it will set up an AI research center.

It is not just the lack of will, a formidable presence of crony capitalism and “hunter-gatherers” culture hold our entrepreneurs back from investing in AI.

Silver lining is that all the Asian countries playing a pioneering role in AI that I have mentioned earlier witnessed rise of crony capitalism at preliminary stages of their development. However, they managed to move on, dispelling its evils.

Bangladesh should tread their paths. But before embarking on AI research, Bangladesh should decide what it wants to achieve by investing in AI. Another important issue is to select the areas where AI research will fetch visible benefits.

I throw my bets on agriculture, health, textile, manufacturing, defense and sectors where leakages of public resources are endemic.
Imagine we have nearly flawless meteorological forecast model. We will not only insulate our crops from unusual weather patterns, we will be able to save time, money and effort.

And AI may help us to understand the devastating impact of a contagious disease and may churn out solutions for increasing salinity level in cultivable land.

In textile and RMG industries, AI may be used to find cost-effective production technique and affordable solutions for treating industrial waste. As a labor rich country, we cannot fully automate a RMG unit. Instead, automation may reduce the number of stages to produce a RMG item. It will be a smart move.

AI and robots may play a greater role in our defense sector. Introduction of combat bots can easily save lives in war fields. If we look at expenditure needed during active service period of a soldier , then the sheer size of investment in AI will not bother us much.

Moreover, automation of artillery units, engineering units and defense intelligence will also reduce dependence on humans. Another good thing is robots do not have political ambitions, nor do they spray bullets on their Commander-in-Chiefs. They do not eavesdrop on people’s conversation and use it to gain political mileage. In a deeply divided country, they are less likely to agitate in the wake of political controversy or debate and do something rash.

In addition, we do not need to create wage employment where chances of leakages are high in public office. Automation may be introduced in land registration, application for license /permit, tender, government procurement and emergency help line.

Given overwhelming presence of kleptocracy and kleptoeconomy , AI can help check the two evils.

Now come back to the second news item mentioned earlier : allocation of Tk 300 millions to deputy secretaries to purchase car.
I hold high esteem for our bureaucrats. Country’s brightest and competent minds hold bureaucratic posts. They do need cars. The perks in their jobs are already too high. However, over the years our bureaucratic system has rotten to the core. It keeps alive the kleptocracy.

Moreover, the decision came at a time when upcoming election is knocking at the door. This is another move by the government to buy loyalties at key positions rather than addressing transportation woes of the bureaucrats.

This money can easily be diverted to the research on AI.

Political use of our development expenditure is another source of leakage of public fund. Research funding on AI can vie for this money .

Before setting aside fund for AI research, we do need to answer few questions: Do we need robots and AI to replace poor waiters and drivers? Or do we need robots and AI to stop leakage and to augment productivity and efficiency? A dedicated institution like National Academy of Science is needed to formulate policies in addressing the issues.

Even before that there should be a political will. But why do the politicians feel the need of AI research in a country where corruption is rampant, where fauji economy is thriving, where kleptocracy feeds politics and bureaucracy? Perhaps, that is why robots are finding jobs at restaurant. Because, waiter-robots do not pose threat to prevailing system.