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Friday, July 23, 2010

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Ethnic Minorities the Hardest Hit by Poverty

Source: UNPO

Sample ImageA Study conducted by the Bangladeshi Government and the United Nations, in over a thousand households between 2009-2010, concluded that Minorities in particular suffer from poverty and illiteracy.

Below is an article published by the Bangladeshi New Nation

The rate of poverty among ethnic minorities in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is apparently more acute than that of the people in the Monga-prone plain lands in the north, reveals a study in the city on Tuesday July 31st 2010.

The study, conducted over 1,012 households in greater Rangpur as well as Bandarban and Rangamati in 2009-10, said around 65 percent of study population in CHT was found living below the poverty line, compared to nearly 60 percent of plain lands.

Unlike Chakma tribe, the study said, the literacy rate among the ethnic group was also poor compared to people living in Monga areas, one of the country's poorest parts where erosion from river Jamuna and its tributaries renders thousands homeless every year.

The study, done under joint sponsorship of the government and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, says the problem of monga, a seasonal unemployment and food crisis, has subsided partially in greater Rangpur and parts of Pabna, but permanent solution to it is far from sight.

It said the total vulnerability to poverty and food crisis for the people in the north was found to be much higher than that of the people in the hill tracts because of high variability of food consumption in greater Rangpur.

"Although the rate of poor in CHT areas is higher, the number of hardcore poor people, who consume food that contains less than 1,800 kilo calorie, was higher in the north," Prof Rezai Karim Khandker, principal investigator of the study, said at the warp- up session of two-day workshop in the city today.

Food Planning and Monitoring Unit of Ministry of Food and FAO jointly organized the workshop to review the findings from 11 researches done under grants from a project titled 'National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Programme'.

Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque on Monday formally opened the workshop, where US Ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty also spoke.

Rezai Karim, also head of economics department of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), said the poverty in CHT was partially minimized by the ethnic group themselves because of their dependence on both agriculture and non- agriculture jobs.

In contrast, he said, the people of the north have no other options but to depend on agriculture in the Monga-prone areas. The over-dependence on agriculture coupled with river erosion have outweighed the advantages of the people of the north than that of the CHT.

He said severe food insecurity persists in the monga-prone areas, where social safety net coverage from the government should be widened and strengthened along with raising awareness among the people on health and nutrition.

As mid-term solution, he said, the agriculture extension department should diversify agro-based products in the areas to raise poor people's income and inspire them to send all their kid to schools. The river erosion should be checked and labour- intensive industries can be set up as a long-term solution, he observed.

FAO headquarters representative Kostas Stamoulis, who supervises the all researches under NFPCSP, said non-agricultural interventions such as poultry farming and fisheries need to be recognized side by side with agricultural interventions to offset poverty.

Hindus in Dhaka face cremation problem

Source: The Daily Star News

Much of the three cremation grounds grabbed

The Hindus living in Dhaka city are facing a severe shortage of cremation grounds due to wholesale encroachment over the years.

The cremation grounds are also weighed down with numerous problems such as water shortage, worn out building, lack of sitting arrangement and toilet, coupled with the drug peddlers gathering after dusk.

Only one cremation ground has been established since independence taking the number to just three for the city's growing number of Hindus. No statistics are available on the Hindu population in the capital, but the community leaders claim it to be around 20 percent of the city's total population of over one crore.

According to Hindu religious custom, bodies of adults are usually cremated while the bodies of children under eight are buried. However, some of the Hindu castes bury the deceased, both young and adult, instead of cremating. Baishnobs, for example, are buried.

Established over a hundred years back, the two cremation grounds located in Postogola and Lalbagh are maintained by the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) while the one established in Sabujbag some 10 years ago is maintained by Sabujbagh Borodeshwari Kali Mandir.

Postogola Mahasmashan, recognised as the national cremation ground, was set up on some 180 kathas of land. It has now been reduced to only 40 kathas as some re-rolling mills and iron sheet cutting factories have encroached a large portion of the land, said the general secretary of Postogola Jatiya Mahasmashan Committee Babul Das.

DCC Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka knows about the encroachment problem. Talking to The Daily Star, he said DCC also recovered parts of the encroached land during the last caretaker government's tenure.

“A committee was also formed with Major General (retd) CR Dutta as the convenor to recover the rest of the encroached land. But the committee didn't continue its work,” he added.

The one in Lalbagh was originally established on 100 kathas of land but now only half of it remains because of gradual encroachment over the years.

Sabujbag ground also faces similar problem with its burial ground. However, in general, it is in a better condition in terms of other facilities, Hindus say.

The burial ground at Postogola has capacity to bury only 70 bodies. Due to the space constraints, graves are replaced within three months and the authority is no longer permitting bodies of adults to be buried there.

"The main problem is to bury children as every single inch of the burial ground has already been used," said Babul Das.

Mongol Ghosh, secretary general of Lalbagh Smashan Unnayan Committee, gives a grimmer picture. “The situation in Lalbagh is so depressing that shovelling up to just one foot brings out bones of previously buried children,” he said.

To add to the sufferings of the Hindus, the cremation grounds are too far away for many residents across the city's newly developed residential areas.

“This grave problem has been overlooked in the city plan," said Kajal Debnath, a presidium member of Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad.

Community leaders said they have time and again raised the issues like establishment of new burial grounds, modernisation of funeral pyre with gas furnace and ensuring hygiene of the people living around the cremation grounds to the authority but did not receive much response.

Khoka, the city mayor, however says the Hindus never brought it to him that the issue of burial ground is so severe.

He also said an electric incinerator worth Tk 3 crore was installed in Postogola to modernise it but is now lying idle because it is not cost effective for the users.

The DCC is now thinking of a gas burner, he said.

Introduce special govt system for CHT

Source: The Daily Star News

Santu Larma urges govt

Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Regional Council Chairman Jyotirindra Bodhiprio Larma alias Santu Larma yesterday called upon the government to introduce a special governing system in the CHT region by amending the constitution.

He said a 'different reality' would surely emerge in the region, if the High Court verdict scrapping the CHT Council Act is upheld by the Supreme Court.

Therefore, the government would have to take initiatives to amend the constitution to make the CHT Council Act and CHT District Council Act effective.

Santu Larma was speaking at a regional workshop on 'Land problem in the CHT and measures to overcome' at Rangamati district sports council auditorium.

CHT Forest and Land Rights Movement, Kapeng Foundation and Khagrachhari Headman Association organised the two-day workshop.

Criticising the CHT land commission chairman, Santu Larma said he was making the things complicated instead of resolving the problems.

Presided over by CHT Forest and Land Rights Movement President Goutam Dewan, the workshop was also addressed by Chakma Circle Chief Raja Debashish Roy, Bomang Rajkumar Chalapru Chowdhury Jimi and Khagrachhari Headman Association President

Shaktipada Tripura.

Professionals from Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban are taking part in the workshop.