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Dhaka, Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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Facing earthquake disasters : EDITORIAL


Trade unions and RMG :
Militancy in check? : Comments & Analyses
Shift in UKs political tectonic plates :
My days with Michael Jackson : Off the Track
Hopes for Women :

EDITORIAL

Facing earthquake disasters

PRINTER'S LINE

The official disclosure in Parliament of grave dangers a future earthquake


poses to Dhaka city needs to be taken very seriously by the government as
it has its constitutional duty to save as many as 90,000 people from dying
following occurrence of a 7 to 7.5 Richter scale tremor. Food and Disaster
Management Minister Dr Abdur Razzak informed the Parliament Monday.
He said there is no platonic plate of the eight Richter scale intensity of
tremor in Dhaka city, but a platonic plate of 7 to 7.5 Richter scale intensity
now exists in Madhupur region, about 60 km from Dhaka.
Experts say that it is inevitable that a big earthquake will hit us, but the
question is when. If history is taken into consideration then it can be
presumed that a massive earthquake that hits this region every century or so
is now overdue. The last big earthquake was in 1897 which caused
widespread destruction in Dhaka and this is 2006. A UN report in 2003

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Editor: Reazuddin
Ahmed.
Published by the Editor
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ranks Dhaka as the most vulnerable city at risk of earthquake damage. In


another 2001 study of 20 cities of the world, Dhaka ranked topmost in
earthquake disaster risk due to its poor building infrastructure lacking
earthquake-resistant features, high population density, and poor emergency
response and recovery capability.
Bangladesh is susceptible to earthquakes due to its close location to the
plate margins of Indian and Eurasian plates. The collision of the Indian
plate moving northward with the Eurasian plate is the cause of frequent
earthquakes in the region comprising Bangladesh and neighbouring India,
Nepal and Myanmar. Bangladesh has many such fault lines under its
surface. Historically Bangladesh has been affected by five earthquakes of
large magnitude (M), greater than 7.0 (Richter scale), during the 61-year
period from 1869 to 1930. Its like living on a time bomb. But concerned
authorities must raise their level of awareness about the situation and
precautionary measures must be taken in time to minimise the impact if and
when such disaster strikes.
We must accept that earthquake cannot be prevented and we must learn to
leave with earthquake. How do we accomplish the task? We must
remember that earthquakes do not kill people rather buildings and houses
do. So, the prime task is to achieve earthquake safe construction practice.
The global experiences suggest that about 5 percent additional cost of the
total normal cost make your house safe. Strengthening of existing
seismically vulnerable houses would cost around 10 per cent of the total
cost. So an effective mass awareness drive is a must.

Trade unions and RMG

As we have written often, the RMG sector is now among the leading export
earning sectors, and this sector is progressively getting into newer markets
globally. Unfortunately, over the years, agitation and unrest in the RMG
industries is growing. It is alleged that the RMG owners do not encourage
or in some factories allow trade unions as they feel that they have to pay
higher waged and extra benefits to the workers, which will diminish their
profits. A negative attitude held by the ready-made garments owners stands
in the way of trade unionism in the apparel sector, the labour minister has
told parliament .While speaking during the passage of the labour
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amendment bill on Monday, the minister also said that violence in the RMG
sector is due to the absence of trade unionism. The minister also urged the
garment owners not to consider workers and the government as their
opponents. An independent MP, who is a garments factory owner,
however, opposed the minister saying that there were some trade unions in
some factories, and that those units face the most unrest.
Due to the absence of trade unions, labour unrests take place from time to
time, as opportunists and conspirators are out to undermine our expanding
RMG sector by taking advantage of the absence of trade unions leading to
absence of negotiated agreements and settlements to stop labour unrest in
the factories, The owners, should consider workers as their partners instead
of opponents; and the government has to be trusted to solve the RMG
problems. The government had formed a wage board to set a fresh
minimum wage for RMG workers. With the consensus of the owners and
the workers, the government must announce the minimum wage for
garment workers soon. Trade unionism in all industrial sectors had not
developed and the problem was more acute in the RMG sector, with only
20 to 25 factories having trade unions. This situation must be transformed
soon to ensure the steady progress of the RMG sector , to the benefit of the
country, the RMG owners, and the workers.

Comments & Analyses

Militancy in check?
The question of whether militants were involved in the Kyrgyzstan unrest
should be of interest for various reasons. More importantly, if it is found
that militants were not active in the attacks against
ethnic Uzbeks, our government might
borrow a tip or two on staving off
extremism from their counterparts
in Bishkek, writes Huma Yusuf
Kyrgyzstans interim leader voted on Sunday in Osh, epicentre of a wave of
ethnic bloodshed, in a referendum likely to pave the way for the creation of
Central Asias first parliamentary democracy. - Photo by Reuters. The
recent violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, which left 2,000 people dead and

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led to the displacement of over 100,000 others, entailed clashes between the
regions two main ethnic groups, the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.
But the dust has barely settled on the ruined cities of Osh and Jalalabad, and
already allegations are surfacing that a third force Islamic extremist
organisations and militant groups spurred the violence.
The question of whether militants were involved in the Kyrgyzstan unrest
should be of interest to Pakistan for various reasons. It could indicate
whether recent military operations in the tribal belt have successfully driven
out foreign militants from the region. More importantly, if it is found that
militants were not active in the attacks against ethnic Uzbeks, our
government might borrow a tip or two on staving off extremism from their
counterparts in Bishkek.
Earlier this week, the head of Kyrgyzstans State Security Service claimed
that relatives of recently ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev conspired
with Islamic militants to stir trouble in the countrys south. He warned that
the former presidents son and brother had been in meetings with
commanders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) as well as the
Afghan Taliban and Tajik militants.
Without implicating the Bakiyevs, a UN special envoy to the region also
cautioned of an extremist threat brewing in Central Asia, particularly in the
over-populated, multi-ethnic Ferghana valley that stretches across
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Moscow also aired fears that Kyrgyzstans
south could transform into a safe haven for transnational militants.
It would hardly come as a surprise to learn that extremists are active in
Kyrgyzstan as all the factors that breed militancy are present. The countrys
south offers a major drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan and is rife
with poverty, illiteracy, ethnic tensions and frustrated youth. Kyrgyzstan is
also a frontline state in the Great Game between Russia and the US: it
operates under Moscows political shadow even while hosting the
American Manas airbase, which supplies US troops fighting in
Afghanistan. Further, the Central Asian state borders Chinas restive
Xinjiang province, where Muslim Uighurs have recently pushed up against
Beijings restrictive take on language and religion.
As such, Kyrgyzstans geopolitical conundrum is poised to inspire much
heady militant rhetoric. The extremist group Hizbut Tahrir (HT) which
aims to establish an Islamic caliphate and enjoys some social support in the
country has championed Muslim rule as a way to free Kyrgyzstan from
the hegemony of regional and global powers. In other parts of the Muslim
world, such campaigns have proved effective in recruiting disenfranchised
youth to the extremist cause.
The country also has a history of militant activity. In 2005, extremists were
found to be behind a rebellion in the Ferghana valley. And for the past two
years, defence analysts have pointed out that IMU militants who had
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relocated to the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been
returning to their homes.
Despite this extremism-conducive cocktail, analysts, international monitors
and journalists remain sceptical of the governments claims that militants
were involved in the recent ethnic violence. An ongoing inquiry has not
pointed fingers at such groups, and no group has claimed responsibility for
the violence. There are greater concerns that the security forces of the
interim government sided with ethnic Kyrgyz in attacks against the
southern Uzbeks. Security analysts warn that invocations of militancy are a
political ploy to distract attention from this fact and permanently discredit
Bakiyev.
If it is shown that there was no militant involvement in the unrest,
Kyrgyzstans crackdown against such groups in recent years will have
proven to be effective, and could offer guidelines for other states facing a
similar threat.
In 2005, the countrys Supreme Court issued a ban on radical Islamic
groups, including the HT, IMU, the East Turkestan Liberation
Organisation, and the East Turkestan Islamic Party (the latter two act on
behalf of Chinas Uighurs). At the time, critics of the ban asserted that it
was a savvy geopolitical move, aimed at pleasing the US, Russia and
China, rather than a genuine security measure. Either way, the ban curtailed
the groups activities and drove members abroad.
The Kyrgyz authorities have also favoured long prison terms for those
found guilty of extremist activity. While in the first half of this decade
members of groups such as HT were handed down sentences of one to three
years imprisonment, recent sentences have averaged between five and
seven years. In 2008, a Kyrgyz court sentenced Islamists to 20 years in jail
for demonstrating in the countrys south. Although there are now concerns
that militant networks are being established behind bars, strong punitive
measures have minimised militant recruitment.
In January 2009, the former president Bakiyev also signed a controversial
law aimed at neutralising Islamic movements. It banned proselytising,
private religious education, and the import and dissemination of religious
literature; prevented children from joining religious organisations; and
made it more difficult to register religious groups. Human rights groups
rejected the law, saying that it violated the freedom to religious expression.
No doubt, Bakiyev should have amended certain sections of the law to
bring them in line with international standards of religious freedom. But his
non-military, multifaceted approach to tackling militancy holds a lesson for
countries like Pakistan that are taking too narrow an approach in their fight
against extremism.
Other factors have also played a role in keeping militancy at bay in
Kyrgyzstan. For instance, many IMU fighters have been distracted by
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activities in Afghanistan. That they were not involved in the recent violence
indicates that they are settled in safe havens in North Waziristan. It also
helps that the HT and IMU have disparate agendas, which has prevented a
unified extremist movement from taking hold (though the Pakistani
example has shown how easily joint militant momentum can be gained).
In the wake of ethnic unrest, Kyrgyzstans interim government is seeking to
establish legitimacy and introduce constitutional changes to strengthen the
parliament. Islamabad should keep an eye on developments in the country
its battle with militancy is a mirror of our own troubles.

Shift in UKs political tectonic plates


Normally, British politics is a ferocious sport. Its parliamentary debates are
often pugilistic and personal. The questions asked of politicians by
journalists are often so aggressive or implicitly insulting that one wonders
why their recipients dont walk out of interviews in a huff, or
wither on the spot from humiliation, writes Eva Hoffman
Normally, British politics is a ferocious sport. Its parliamentary debates are
often pugilistic and personal. The British media have been described as
feral (a word used by Tony Blair, among others). The questions asked of
politicians by journalists are often so aggressive or implicitly insulting that
one wonders why their recipients dont walk out of interviews in a huff, or
wither on the spot from humiliation.
But nothing has been normal in Britain of late. For one thing, there is the
new coalition government a rarity unseen since the end of World War II.
Then, there are the reactions to the new government, which have been
marked by a temperateness of tone that is highly unusual and all the more
surprising, given that David Cameron, the new prime minister, has not
exactly been the bearer of good news.
Camerons central proposition is that Britain is in a state of crisis, and
that getting through it will require fortitude and patience. In a major speech,
he warned that there is pain ahead, and that it will be felt by everyone, as
severe spending cuts will be required to bring down Britains massive fiscal
deficit.
Ordinarily, such pronouncements would provoke outcries of dismay, and of
real or pretended indignation. And, of course, there have been demurrals
and criticisms. But, aside from former Labour ministers, protesting bitterly
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at being blamed for the state of the economy, the response has been
remarkably civil and thoughtful. What has happened?
Perhaps an alliance between Conservatives and Liberals the two parties
ostensibly farthest apart in their views confounded everyone out of their
certainties. This in itself may be no bad thing. But the absence of war, as
the British playwright David Hare once called it, suggests that Britains
political tectonic plates have shifted.
For one thing, the coalition exposes an undercurrent in British political life
that has coexisted almost furtively with heated rhetoric: convergence
among the main parties towards a kind of centrist synthesis on most of the
big issues.
In a sense, the Conservative-Liberal coalition represents a culmination of
this trend. The policies and positions articulated by the new government
suggest not so much the once vaunted Third Way (a slogan for the age of
prosperity) as a carefully calibrated Middle Way. It is clear, for example,
that the sacred cows of public services and social benefits among the most
extensive in the world will not remain untouched. Both will be subject to
cuts.
In addition, Cameron is proposing other reforms, such as requiring people,
after several years unemployment, to accept a job offer, even if it is not the
applicants preference. This may help break the demoralising cycle of
unemployment and alienation. But, to be clear, no one is thinking of
eliminating basic services, or dismantling the social safety net.
There will also be new restraints on immigration. These come, however,
after a vast influx of legal and illegal immigrants. But no one is suggesting
that Britain should become a mono-cultural country again.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, banking practices will one
hopes be better regulated, following a prolonged period of stunning
financial irresponsibility. Clearly, however, nationalisation, or a statemanaged economy, is not in the cards.
For all the discomforts that may lie ahead, Britain is not about to enter an
age of brutal austerity. Instead, what the coalition seems to be proposing is
a sort of correction, a retrenchment from various excesses and dysfunctions
to something more restrained and disciplined.

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Off the Track

My days with Michael Jackson

One year on from Michael Jacksons death, US musician Sheryl Crow pays
tribute to the late performer as she prepares to release a new record inspired
by soul and R&B.
Like so many other people, I didnt really weigh the importance of his
presence until he was gone, says the 48-year-old, who toured with Jackson
in the 1980s.
The Jackson 5s ABC record was the first album I ever owned, and
Michael ended up giving me my first gig as a back-up singer.
Crows latest album, 100 Miles from Memphis, features a cover version of
the Jackson 5 song I Want You Back, which the singer describes as a sort
of homage.
It was a bitter-sweet moment for me to sing that song with the experience
that Id had with him, she reveals.
Crows last album, 2008 release Detours, followed a eventful period in her
life in which she split from fiance Lance Armstrong, adopted a baby son
and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
All the above inevitably influenced the finished record, an emotionally
charged collection of songs with a pronounced political edge.
Having since adopted a second son, however, Crow has produced a more
upbeat disc that harks back to the music she listened to while growing up in
Kennett, Missouri.
For years I wanted to make a record that was directly linked to my earliest
influences, she says.
After Detours, it seemed a great time to make something that was a more
light-hearted, a little more sexy and not quite as heavy.
As the title suggests, Crow grew up near to Memphis, Tennessee - an
important force in the genesis of country, rock & roll and the blues.
I grew up listening to a lot of Stax music, a lot of Memphis artists like Al
Green, and a lot of Motown, the singer recalls.
This record is really a throwback to old soul, with a lot of lyrics based in
sensuality and emotion, she continues.
Rolling Stone Keith Richards appears on one of the tracks, while Memphisborn Justin Timberlake sings on Crows version of the Terence Trent
DArby hit Sign Your Name.
Its a great song, she says of the track, which reached number two in the
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UK singles chart in 1988. It was really fun to out a sort of Al Green twist
on it.
The year has been one of transition and change for the Grammy awardwinning artist, typified by the adoption of baby Levi she announced on her
website last month.
Its always an enriching experience having a new little member in your
life, she continues, saying her other adopted son - Wyatt, now three - is
very excited about having a little brother.

Hopes for Women

A women committee has been successful in bringing peace and hopes for
the women at Bishnupur under Shathia police station in Pabna district.
According to an exclusive news item carried by the News Today, the 695
strong committee works against superstition, illiteracy, dowry and torture
on housewives. The Women Action Committee of Bishnupur has
spectacularly organized 386 dowry-free marriages. Besides, they have
resolved 23,940 cases of disputes between husbands and wives. They have
also convinced every family of the village to send their children to school.
We understand the actions of the committee have ensured gender equality
and women empowerment in their area. The women have therefore
included mainstream development activities. This very important for the
country. Sustainable development of the country is not possible keeping the
women in a pitiable condition.
In Bangladesh, a little more than a half of the population are women. They
must be allowed to join their hands in development activities. They must be
freed from all kinds of disparities. They must also be freed from violence.
Besides, we need to ensure their freedom of choice. They must be allowed
to say yes or no according to their wish in every situation.
The national poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam, has very wisely observed that the
credit goes equally to men and women for all the wonderful achievements
of the world. It is therefore clear that women have the ability to do every
thing like their male counterparts. We cannot therefore keep the women
outside development activities. The women should get equal opportunities
in every spheres of the society. They must also be freed from fatwas
(rulings by religious courts) and illiteracy. Women everywhere in the
country should follow the examples of the women at Bishnupur and bring
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peace and hopes at every family in the country.


Shaila Karim
Gulshan-2, Dhaka
Noise pollution
It sounds strange that the government has no policy for controlling sound
pollution. Many individuals and organizations have continued to pollute the
environment with loud and avoidable sounds though various environment
pollutions including noise pollution are responsible for more than 30 human
diseases. We demand immediate formulation and implementation of a
policy for controlling sound pollution.
It is unbelievable that automobiles blew high volume horns almost without
any acceptable reason. Industrial units, including those situated in
residential areas create sounds of dangerous decibels. Music shops do the
same without considering the trouble it creates. These are only a few of the
long list of violators.
The government has to react to this nuisance immediately and effectively.
A publicity campaign should also be launched to create awareness about the
harmful effect of noise pollution. Each and every member of the society
should be conscious about the devastating effect of pollutions, noise
pollution in particular.
Nobody should undermine noise pollution. It is no better than other
pollution. People must have to avoid unnecessary noises. Then they must
not make sounds beyond acceptable decibels. Residential areas and areas of
schools and colleges must be freed from excessive noises.
Keramat Ali
Sadarghat, Dhaka
Smelly water
Many city dwellers are forced to use contaminated and smelly running
water and subsequently develop several diseases including dysentery and
diarrhoea. The problem has reached a dangerous level at Shewrapara under
Mirpur in the city. The water supplied by Dhaka WASA remains unfit for
human consumption even after boiling. It is understood that the water lines
have been damaged at several places and got mixed up with sewerage lines.
So the water tastes extremely bitter and gives very bad smell. But the
WASA has taken no step to remedy the situation.
Polluted water has been taking its toll. Diarrhoea and dysentery have
broken out in the city in an epidemic form. We understand that a final
improvement of the situation will be possible only after solution of the
water crisis.
It has resulted in an influx of diarrhoea patients at the ICDDR,B Hospital in
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Dhaka. The number of patients was already three times it had this time last
year. The running WASA water is extremely scarce. Still more dangerous is
the fact that it is dirty and smelly. But the people are compelled to consume
it and develop the disease. Experts say, warm weather helps the bacteria of
diarrhea to replicate faster leading to increase the number of patients.
Usually diarrhea breaks out in late April. But this year a huge number of
diarrhea patients have been coming to the ICDDR,B a month ahead.
It is clear that water and power crises are causing this horrific situation.
City dwellers, particularly those residing at slums and suburbs, are forced to
drink polluted water as frequent load shedding disrupts the WASA supply.
WASA has many justified reasons for their failure to supply sufficient
quantity of clear water. The main reason is power crisis. For it the WASA
cannot tape and supply water to the residents. The crisis is very likely to
aggravate. The government must take some emergency measures to address
the crisis. The situation is so grave that there is no scope to ignore it. The
authorities must ensure that the WASA get necessary quantity of electricity
daily. Failure to ensure this may cause death of thousands residents,
particularly the children. Subsequently it will result in violent public
outburst.
Soharab Hossain
Shewrapara, Mirpur, Dhaka

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