Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A poignant pointer to growing lawlessness in society

THE execution—there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was—of six young man at Amin Bazar in Savar on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka early Monday provides a poignant pointer on the increasing lawlessness and growing sense of insecurity in society. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, the ill-fated six, all students of different educational institutions in Dhaka, went to Keblar Char after offering prayers on the night of Shab-e-Barat where people from nearby villages, armed with sticks and sharp weapons, attacked them on the suspicion that they were planning a robbery. Al-Amin, who was with the six but survived the mob beating, was quoted in the report as saying that they had gone there on an outing and taken drugs for fun. The Dhaka district superintendent of police told journalists that the ‘tragic incident proves how terrible the consequences could be if people take law in their own hand.’ Indeed, when people take law in their own hand it only adds to the lawlessness. However, the police official and, for that matter, the government should know that people take law in their hand only when they lose faith in the justice system and the law enforcement mechanism. Suffice it to say that people of not only Amin Bazar but also elsewhere in the country have reasons to feel let down by the justice and law enforcement systems.

There has been a sustained surge in crime—from mugging to murder, rent-seeking to rape, extortion to abduction—since the Awami League-Jatiya Party government assumed office in January 2009. In many cases, criminals have used on their links with the ruling party and its front organisations to perpetrate crimes with impunity. The law enforcement agencies have been found inadequate, if not indifferent, when it comes to arresting the law and order downslide and bringing the culprits to justice. Worse still, the home minister and the top brass of the law enforcement agencies have time and again come up with the claim that law and order has never been better, thereby not only dismissing the people’s increasing sense of insecurity but also giving them the impression that they are on their own when it comes to ensuring their safety and security. Meanwhile, extrajudicial killing of crime suspects by members of the Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcement agencies has continued unabated, which could very well have given rise to thought, at least in a section of society, that it is alright to take the law in their own hand once in a while.

According to the human rights organisation Odhikar, quoted in another report also front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, 75 people became victim of mob justice between January and June this year. Between January and September 2010, 126 people were beaten to death across the country. The sustained surge in the incidence of mob beating suspected criminals to death, as indicated before, is a reflection of increasing restiveness in society brought about by a widespread anger and frustration with the justice and law enforcement system and the consequent sense of insecurity. The incumbents need to realise that the responsibility lies with them and them alone. They have thus far failed to send out a strong message to society at large that they will not tolerate any extrajudicial actions, including killing, be it perpetrated by the law enforcers or an angry crowd. They need to realise as well that such a message needs to be through deeds, not words alone.

The Tipaimukh Dam

Neepco has received the go-ahead from the Indian central government to build the dam at Tipaimukh on the Barak River. But this is an international river and the source of the 350-kilometer-long Surma and 110-km-long Kushiara rivers and the lifeline of Bangladesh's north-eastern region. A diversion barrage, including an irrigation project, is to be built downstream of the dam at Fulertol in Lakhipur in Assam. The 1,500-megawatt Tipaimukh hydroelectric project located 500 metres downstream of the confluence of the Tuivai and Barak Rivers in Manipur, near the Manipur-Mizoram border, will be one of the largest in India.

When our environment and agriculture experts are saying this is a catastrophe waiting to happen we should pay attention because the dam will heavily reduce and dry up Surma and Kushiara in winter and trigger river erosion and flood in the rainy season, displacing thousands of people of greater Sylhet. The dam will also affect the Meghna River and turn Bangladesh's mid-east and north-eastern regions into desert. Water and agriculture experts said Tipaimukh will create a severe water crisis in Bangladesh's north-eastern region turning vast arable farm land into arid land, greatly affecting agriculture and threatening food security.

Initially proposed in 1954 to reduce annual flooding, the Indian Central Water Commission presented a report in 1984 that was turned down because it didn’t have a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA). The EIA was completed twenty years later but the report was never shared with Bangladesh. Now that the go-ahead has been given to Neepco, it is a serious political issue and unless someone knowledgeable is prepared to face this head-on and try to work out an integrated solution, things will soon start to become worse. Problems like this are already dragging Bangladesh into severe environmental and economic crises and if this one is not resolved immediately, the nation could be crippled.

For more than four decades the people of Bangladesh have experienced numerous environmental disasters due to the construction of dams/barrages on the Ganges, Teesta and some other common rivers. Before their construction and commissioning the magnitude of the problem did not reveal itself, but now, with knowledge gained from hindsight, we know well what can happen. The Farakka Barrage is the direst example that comes to mind because, though India managed to write an EIA that identified the effects on the Ganges River, the evaluation went only as far as the site of the Farakka Barrage.  After that – nothing.  As far as our neighbouring country was concerned, Bangladesh did not exist!

Bangladesh opposition threatens election boycott, hints of overthrow

BANGLADESH'S MAIN opposition party has threatened to boycott the election if the government refuses to hold polls under non-partisan neutral government.

She urged her supporters to overthrow the government through a popular uprising such as those that have occurred in some Middle East countries since the beginning of the year, a definite shift of strategy of her anti-government campaign launched two weeks ago.

Criticizing the government that has been in power for two and half years, Zia said should her party win the election, she would scrap the recently overhauled constitution that dropped the impartial non-party caretaker administration to ensure holding of a credible general election.
The opposition fears that the election would be rigged and manipulated, which would further marginalize their share in the 300-member parliament. The next election is scheduled in 2013.

“Election without caretaker government cannot be held in the country and any election without participation of BNP will not be acceptable,” she warned.

The ruling Awami League has amended the constitution, which not only prohibited the interim government from holding a general election, but also included a Koranic verse in the constitution. In a radical shift from secularism, the government has adopted an Islamic constitution.

Ruling party vehemently opposed the argument and said the election commission, literally a paper tiger would hold the election independently after it is significantly strengthened, the government promised.