Tomato growers in Khulna hope to reap rich dividends this season with high yield, thanks to favourable weather conditions and necessary support from agriculture officials.
The cultivation of the fruit has been increasing in the district with each passing day, and a whopping 920 hectares of land here is currently under different varieties of tomato farming, including Mangal Raza, Lovely, Mintu Super, BARI Hybrid-4 and BARI Hybrid-8.
The fruit is the edible berry of the plant Solanum Lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant.
Khulna farmers consider tomatoes to be the most profitable crop of the country due to its high demand, and say they are easily able to sell their produce directly to wholesalers and retailers, ditching middlemen. In the district town, a kg of tomato now costs Tk 50.
Solaiman Haque, a farmer of Dumuria upazila, says, “A tomato grower can easily earn Tk 1 lakh to Tk 1.5 lakh in a span of just four to five months after cultivation, which costs barely Tk 25-30 thousand."
Farmers say they get flowers from the seed after 20-25 days of planting and each tree costs Tk 30. "Almost 5-6 kg tomatoes are produced from a single plant. The market value of the same is approximately Tk 200-250.”
According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Khulna, this year, a total of 920 hectares of land have been brought under tomato cultivation.
Besides, officials say, farmers in the district have set a target to bring some 6,910 hectares of land under 26 varieties of vegetable cultivation. Already 6,690 hectares of land have been brought under vegetable cultivation in the district.
Mosaddek Hossain, agriculture officer of Dumuria upazila, said “Dumuria is one of the main centres of vegetable cultivation. In the summer season, 80 hectares of land in the upazila have been brought under tomato cultivation."
Besides, farmers have brought some 120 hectares more under tomato cultivation during the winter season, he said. "Katenga in Dhamalia union, Rinia in Rinia union and Bilpabla village in Gutudia union are the hotspots."
Agriculture officials provide necessary help to the tomato growers with advice, fertilisers, seeds and training, Hossain added.
Always criticised by political analysts for its lack of farsightedness, Khaleda Zia’s BNP has lost another year, 2020, in its efforts to remerge as a strong political party with a glowing role.
As in the previous years, the party confined itself to mainly indoor activities like discussion meetings, doa mahfils and press conferences throughout the year instead of overhauling the party and coming up with effective and time-befitting action programmes.
Though BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia was released by an executive for one year in two phases, she kept her away from politics silently staying in her Gulshan residence in accordance with the conditions given by the government.
Political analysts think BNP has failed to play its due role for long as a political party for its leadership crisis, wrong policies and lack of political acumen.
Read Also: People to change govt in New Year: BNP
They said the party is unlikely to regain its position as a major political force in the country even in the coming years if it fails to come up with a well-designed political strategies and pro-people action programmes by overhauling the organisation under able leadership.
BNP joined elections to two Dhaka city corporations held on February 1 as part of its ‘movement’, but it failed to take its supporters and polling agents to election centres during the voting.
After a massive drubbing in the polls, the party enforced a hartal on February 2 rejecting the results but it only evoked criticisms instead of public support.
Talking to UNB, Dr Tarek Shamsur Rahman, a political analyst and professor of International Relations department at Jahangirnagar University, said BNP did not take the city elections seriously as the party might have a perception that they would not be allowed to win the polls.
“Their (BNP leaders’) body language during the campaign demonstrated that the party didn’t have the strong resolve to come out successful in the election,” he observed.
Read Also: Govt ‘plundering’ public money: BNP
He also said BNP enforced the dawn-to-dusk hartal in the capital protesting ‘irregularities’ in the elections to the two city corporations injudiciously as its leaders failed to understand people’s pulse. “People now don’t support hartal. I think BNP leaders exposed their political bankruptcy by announcing the hartal going against people’s sentiments.”
Corona Led to Isolation
As the coronavirus spread in the country, BNP kept its organisational activities suspended for nearly seven months from March 26 to September 15.
With the situation getting normal after September, the party arranged some human chain and demonstration programmes. The party ended the year by staging a countrywide demonstration on December 30 in protest against the 11th parliamentary election, marking the second anniversary of its voting day.
Since the detection of first corona cases in the country on March 8, most party leaders went into isolation.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi often arranged virtual press conferences. They also joined some party programmes physically. But other leaders preferred staying home.
The party leaders at the grassroots level, however, actively joined relief distribution and stood beside the jobless and poor people extending their helping hands.
Some party leaders, including Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yousuf, Shahjahan Siraj, MA Hashem, Shafiul Bari Babu, Abdul Awal Khan, Ahasnullah Hasan and Shafiul Azam, died of coronavirus.
Many others like standing committee members Mirza Abbas, Nazrul Islam Khan, Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku and vice-chairman Barkatullah Bulu were infected with the deadly virus.
No sign of Khaleda’s release
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government freed Khaleda Zia from jail for six months through an executive order suspending her sentences on March 25, nearly 25 months after she had been convicted and sent to jail in graft cases.
The government did not release her for any pressure created by BNP through any movement, but on humanitarian and health ground.
On August 27, the government extended her release for six more months.
But BNP could not gain anything politically as Khaleda has been staying at her house avoiding political activities and her party leaders. Some party leaders can meet her on some occasions.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said though their party chief was released, she has been kept under “house arrest”.
Read Also: Govt fooling people about development: BNP
Some party leaders said the BNP chief has lost interest in politics due to her falling health and bleak political future.
Shocking Election Performance
On September 7, Mirza Fakhrul announced that their party decided to join all the upcoming elections and by-polls.
Later, the party participated in by-polls to different vacant parliament seats and some local body ones, but demonstrated very poor show.
Like the city polls, the party could not send its agents and party men to the polling stations.
Mirza Fakhrul said they could not perform better in the polls due to obstruction and repressive acts by the ruling party men and the administration.
But Dr Tarek Shamsur said the party failed to encourage its rank and file to join the election seriously. “I also think the party leaders and activists didn’t get proper guidelines from their top leaders about the elections.”
Besides, intra-party conflicts following the election also widened in the party and the supporters of party’s rival aspirants engaged in fighting at different time.
No Progress in Party Overhauling
BNP has been talking about its national council by reorganising its organisations, but it could not make any good progress to this end.
The party only formed some convening committees of its some district and upazila units.
Read Also: BNP accuses ruling party of vote fraud
The party also could not fill three vacant posts in its highest policymaking body standing committee and around 50 ones in its executive body.
At the end of the year, the party faced serious intra-party conflict and some senior leaders, including Hafizuddin Ahmed and Shawkat Mahmud, were served show-cause notice for violating party discipline.
Besides, some grassroots leaders were expelled from the party for their involvement in anti-party activities.
Party leaders said they could not overhaul the party this year as their party’s organizational activities hampered for a long time.
BNP Needs New Leadership
Gonoshasthya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said BNP must bring a new leadership through a council if it wants to stage a comeback in politics.
"The party should wage a movement to free Khaleda Zia and thus invigorate its rank and file. The party top leaders must give its grassroots the light of hope. Leaders need to be united by removing misunderstandings among them. BNP will have to do politics in a positive way,” he said.
Dr Zafrullah said BNP cannot act as a major party due to its leadership crisis.
“BNP leaders always wait for messages from London and make only hollow statements, but they could neither overhaul their organisation nor work out any strategy to rejuvenate their grassroots and strengthen the party,” he observed.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said last year was very painful not only for the BNP but also for the entire world. “The pandemic has turned everything upside down. It has also had an adverse effect on politics.”
He said they have carried out political activities on a limited scale this year maintaining health safety rules due to the prevalence of coronavirus.
Fakhrul hoped that people will get united in the coming year 2021 to bring a change in the government and get success in the movement for the ‘restoration’ of democracy.
"The current year is going to end. Let’s all have the same resolve for unity in the next year,” he added.
The year 2020 will forever be remembered not only as the time of pandemic but also as the one with empty stadiums, galleries, concert halls, and movie theatres.
Covid-19 took many superstars away from us throughout the year while a lot of them also won their lengthy battle against the virus.
Also, the pandemic made lasting damage to the entertainment industry – films, concerts, drama and programmes on television channels, and advertising industry.
Despite facing a tough reality check, the show business helped people out and saved them from going insane when every day seemed like a new ordeal with the news of a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Bangladesh’s cinema industry in the first year of Covid-19
The term “survival” has never been this much meaningful in the history of the country’s cinema industry.
Bangladesh, a country well-known for catering to movie-goers with many cinema halls, now only has 194 cinema halls and cineplexes running which was 1,200 not so long ago.
The country’s first international standard multiplex chain Star Cineplex had to announce the shutdown of its successful branch in Bashundhara City in September.
And major cinema halls including Purnima, Rajmoni and Ovishar have already been closed while other halls like Balaka, Modhumita and more have been suffering losses for ages. The picture is darker outside Dhaka.
“Although we had to say that we were shutting down, we came back due to great support from the moviegoers. However, we might have to go for closure shortly if the situation does not get back to normal soon,” Star Cineplex Chairman Mahboob Rahman Ruhel told UNB.
“We are suffering a huge amount of financial losses every day. To make up for the loss of the lockdown period, the government should allow the hall authorities to run foreign movies.”
The film industry had many problems of its own before the arrival of Covid-19 in Bangladesh. As the pandemic started to wallop lives and livelihood all over the country, the problems turned into a nightmare for it.
On December 30, Bangladesh Film Producers Distributors Association, Bangladesh Film Exhibitors’ Association and Bangladesh Film Directors Association decided to screen Hindi films in the country’s cinema halls.
However, 16 films have been released this year, which was 38 in 2019.
Shakib Khan starred in “Bir” and “Nabab LLB,” Siyam Ahmed and Pori Moni in “Bishwoshundori,” and Indian actor Sabyasachi Chakrabarty appeared in a Bangladeshi film – “Gondi” – for the first time. The government-funded “Rupsha Nodir Baanke.”
These were some of the much talked about films of 2020, while 2021 is awaiting big releases including the biopic on the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Arifin Shuvoo’s “Mission Extreme,” Shwadhin Bangla Football Team-inspired periodical film “Damaal.”
Several film stars including Arifin Shuvoo, Nusrat Faria got infected with Covid-19. But the virus took away Soumitra Chatterjee – one of the most iconic Bengali film superstars of all time.
2020 was a year of online concerts and live music sessions. The annual Joy Bangla Concert paid tribute to Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech.
This year’s lineup featured F Minor, Minar, Avoid Rafa, Shunno, Vikings, Fuad & Friends, Lalon, Arbovirus, Chirkutt, Cryptic Fate, Nemesis, Arekta Rock Band, Adverb, and Sin.
Many online charity concerts and musical events were arranged throughout the year and covered all major festivals virtually to help the Covid-19 victims around the country.
These charity initiatives, from home and abroad, again proved that music can indeed heal the world.
Also read: The final countdown for cinema halls
However, the country lost several of its iconic musicians this year, including “Playback King” Andrew Kishore, eminent composer Alauddin Ali, music maestro Azad Rahman, Sarod legend Ustad Shahadat Hossain Khan.
Meanwhile, several artistes raised voices for securing copyrights of their creations, and Bangladesh Copyright Office launched the first-ever digital archive “AB Kitchen” for the artistes, in honour of the late rock legend Ayub Bachchu.
Also, several associations including Lyricists Association of Bangladesh, Singers Association of Bangladesh, Music Composers’ Association of Bangladesh saw progress in copyright issues.
2020 was a bleak year for the television drama industry, as YouTube and over-the-top (OTT) platforms took over the charge to entertain the audiences.
Many noted actors and television superstars got infected in Covid-19 in 2020, including Apurba, Azizul Hakim, Ramendu Mazumdar, Ferdousi Mazumdar, Nasiruddin Yousuff, Asaduzzaman Noor, Aly Zaker, Iresh Zaker, Tanjin Tisha, Tahsan, Abdul Kader, Md Barkatullah, Zinnat Barkatullah, and Liaquat Ali Lucky.
Also, many legendary actors including Aly Zaker and Abdul Kader lost their battle against Covid-19 and cancer.
Although 2020 was a trying year for the entertainment world, the entertainers are hoping that 2021 will be a different year under a new sun.
A new year is just around the corner. Like every walks of life, the cricketing fraternity of Bangladesh is also looking forward to forgetting the year of 2020 which started with joy and ended up with a ray of hope.
In January-February 2020, Bangladesh national team toured Pakistan for a Test and three T20Is but failed to impress in the field. But around the same time, Bangladesh U-19 cricket team won the ICC U-19 World Cup in South Africa beating India in the final.
It was Bangladesh’s first triumph at the World Cup level in any games. The year had started this way, but in next two months, the things have changed dramatically as the Covid-19, a deadly virus, has invaded the world and claimed about 2 million people around the world so far.
Also read: Bangabandhu T20 Cup Cricket begins Nov 24
Joy in South Africa
Bangladesh never won a World Cup in any game before the U-19 cricket team create history in South Africa. Bangladesh performed well throughout the event and lift the title without losing any game.
They started beating Zimbabwe in the event opener by nine wickets and outclassed Scotland in the second game by seven wickets, but the third match, which was against Pakistan, ended with no result due to bad weather.
The junior Tigers, however, thrashed the hosts South Africa and New Zealand by 104 runs and six wickets respectively in the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final, and in the final, Bangladesh beat India by three wickets in DL method to lift their first title in the event.
Also read: BCB eyes to resume domestic cricket soon
Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Tanzid Hasan, Shahadat Hossain, Akbar Ali, Rakibul Hasan, Shoriful Islam did exceptionally well in this edition of U-19 World Cup.
Disappointment in Pakistan
It was Bangladesh’s first tour to Pakistan after more than a decade. So the expectation was high among the Bangladeshi spectators. But the Mahmudullah Riyad-led Bangladesh T20Is team and Mominul Haque led-Test team failed to impress in this series as they lost all the matches.
Bangladesh were due to travel to Pakistan to play a Test and one ODI in April, but the Covid-19 invasion halted those games indefinitely.
Familiar result with familiar foe Zimbabwe at the home
Zimbabwe came to Bangladesh in February-March 2020. They faced the hosts in two T20Is, three ODIs and one Test and lost all the games. The once-powerful opponent of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, proved that they are not a strong opponent of the Tigers anymore.
In the last ODI of the series, Liton Das smashed 176 off 143 with 16 fours and eight sixes. This is the record of the highest individual total by a Bangladeshi in an ODI. Along the way of making this record, Liton surpassed his opening partner Tamim Iqbal who also hit 128 in that game.
In the same game, Bangladesh recorded their highest partnership in ODIs at any wicket— 292 by Tamim and Liton.
Sports halted indefinitely
In March, along with the other sporting events, cricket was also halted by the authorities to stop the contagious coronavirus. Due to the Covid-19, the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League was stopped after a few matches. Despite some talks at the Bangladesh Cricket Board, the league was never restarted.
After the lockdown of more than four months, some cricketers started individual training in July. And the national team started preparation ahead of their Sri Lanka tour. But due to the Covid-19 situation in the island nation, the series was later postponed. Sri Lanka had set a strict two-week-long quarantine for Bangladesh, but BCB asked to reduce it. Sri Lanka denied to do that, and thus the series was postponed.
Bangladesh missed many matches
Apart from the Sri Lanka series, Bangladesh missed at least 11 international games due to Covid-19. Bangladesh missed an ODI and one Test in Pakistan, three ODIs and four T20Is in Ireland and two Tests at the home against Australia.
It’s still unclear what will happen to these games, though, BCB has been saying that they will try to convince the other boards to play the halted games in future. However, there is no development in this regard now.
Cricket makes a return
In October, BCB hosted President's Cup 50-over competition involving three themes consist of the national team, HP and U-19 cricketers. After organizing this event successfully, BCB hosted a T20 event on November-December— Bangabandhu T20 Cup 2020.
This event was a fresh platform for the local players to prove their mettle to do well in the larger stage of the game. Many youngsters played some wonderful cricket in this event which has prompted BCB president Nazmul Hasan to say that this league might have a permanent place in the local cricket calendar.
BCB maintained a strict bio-secure bubble in these events. All the participating players had to undergo several Covid-19 tests during these leagues. The BCB had also arranged Covid-19 testing facilities for the journalist who covered these competitions.
During this event, a two-member delegation of West Indies paid a visit to Bangladesh to see the arrangement for their tour to Bangladesh in January-February 2020. They expressed happiness after observing the health protocol that Bangladesh whould provide them during the tour.
Also read: In 2020, cricket took a backseat to COVID-19
A ray of hope
The West Indies have confirmed the Bangladesh tour in January-February 2020. It’ll be marked as Bangladesh’s first international cricket event after the Covid-19 hiatus.
The Cricket West Indies have already announced the team for Bangladesh tour, which have missed some key players who opted to stay out of this series due to the current Covid-19 situation around the world.
But if BCB could make this series a flawless and provide the best health protocol to the touring side, the more teams might be interested to tour Bangladesh during the pandemic.
The recovery of the country’s economy following the coronavirus crisis is long and slow due to data scarcity, experts say.
Relief distribution is also affected due to the lack of a proper database, according to them.
The experts also claimed that the data scarcity has appeared as one of the major challenges in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
They would like the government to resolve the data scarcity problem, enabling them to take up proper plans to tackle the socioeconomic challenges.
Distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Professor Mustafizur Rahman underscored the need for the formation of an “Independent Commission” to provide accurate data for the sake of proper policies of the country on the overall economic situation.
The noted economist said providing wrong information influenced by political perspective will distract policy makers from formulating proper policies. So, data gathering has to be strengthened in the government institutions for the sake of sustainable employment too.
“Accurate data is much needed to overcome the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. We’re getting a wrong signal observing overall economic indexes like employment, inflation, income disparity and GDP growth. The unemployment problem won’t be resolved if the government formulates policy in the dark,” he added.
Read Also: Covid-19 claims 28 more lives in Bangladesh
According to CPD, poverty rate could go as high as 35.0 percent, (24.3 percent in 2016) as a result of COVID-19 with the consequence that, an additional 1.75 crore (17.5 million) people could have fallen into poverty. A study by the thinktank in June 2020 indicated that due to COVID-19, about 1.3 crore (13 million) jobs were at risk, which is approximately 20 percent of the domestic labour force.
Dr Sajjat Zohir, Executive Director of Economic Research Group, said the government’s different good initiatives can’t be implemented in a transparent way due to lack of accurate data.
“We appreciate the government’s initiatives like cash allowance, housing and social safety net programme. But initiatives will be criticised for not having proper data. We should improve our database and upgrade the country’s firms who work here,” he also said.
Dr Sajjat urged the government to improve the quality of the country’s consulting firms. “If we can improve our consulting firms then our institutions will remain safe as well,” he also said.
He opined the data scarcity has appeared as one of the major challenges in implementation of the SDGs.
Dr Firdousi Naher, professor of economics department at Dhaka University said the coronavirus created an impact on overall society and economy. “In this circumstance, we should make a list to identify “new poor” to overcome their problems quickly,” she also said.
Dr Firdousi added that accurate data will help to take innovative activities.
Read Also: Global COVID-19 cases exceed 82 million
CPD’s Research Director Dr Khondoker Golam Moazzem said the recovery trend of Covid-19 impact in the country is slow and long due to data scarcity. Some 28 percent young people left their studies to support their families.
“The government’s stimulus package has covered 33 percent poor in the country. The Covid-19 created huge number of new poor. So, all of them should be assisted. Proper data is needed to help them and take innovative programmes,” he told UNB.
The Executive Director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) Dr Selim Raihan added a proper assessment of the challenges posed by the pandemic is crucial through data collection and research. “Without regular data collection and surveys, informed policymaking will not be possible. Increasing the frequency of data collection is needed to overcome the statistical limitations in policymaking. So, the government needs to develop its capacity,” he added.
Dr Raihan said there are no data matches among the government agencies including the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) that’s why it’s tough to estimate the supply of essentials here. Data scarcity creates many problems in Bangladesh.
Dr Shamsul Alam, Member (Senior Secretary) of General Economics Division at Bangladesh Planning Commission mentioned the country is facing many challenges in implementation of SDGs. One of the major challenges is mobilisation of required resources for implementation of interventions for achieving the SDGs.
According to SDGs First Progress Report 2018 made by him, “The data paucity has emerged as a major challenge for monitoring of SDGs. We have felt the pinch in preparing the 2018 SDG progress report, because we have data for only 70 indicators (30 percent) out of 232 indicators prescribed by the UN to assess progress of SDGs. The National Statistical Organization (NSO) needs to step up its efforts to reduce the gap. For this to happen, capacity of the BBS needs to be strengthened, perhaps revamped.”
Dr Shamsul added that the Line Ministries/Divisions should also take initiative in generating administrative data related to SDGs. UN agencies and other development partners have to come forward immediately to strengthen BBS and other Administrative line Ministries capacity to generate quality and reliable data in a timely manner.
“A bit sadly, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) ranked Bangladesh 120 out of 157 countries in the SDG Index and Data Dashboards Report 2017 observing change for only one year (2016). The ranking could have been made based on partially available data or data gathered from non – credible sources. Latest data, albeit often with a lag of 2/3 years, of course do not support this ranking. It is therefore necessary to harmonise data between the Government of Bangladesh source and UN SDSN,” he mentioned in the report.