The high-yielding mustard seeds from Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) have given farmers in Sharsha upazila of the district something to be cheerful about years after low yield.
Mustard has been cultivated on a record amount of field in the upazila this season. The vast mustard fields are also attracting bees, and farmers are optimistic about a buoyant production of both mustard and honey.
One of the things that encouraged the record cultivation is the good price for mustard seeds in local markets.
Officials at the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) say they hope the mustard cultivators will make better profit this year.
DAE is eying cultivation on 1,500 hectares in 11 unions of Sharsha upazila – 200 hectares more than the previous year.
Farmers have cultivated high-yielding BARI-14, BARI-9, BINA-9/10, Sharisha-15, Shonali Sharisha (SS-75) and local TORI-7 mustard.
Low-yielding mustard variety discouraged many farmers from cultivating them over the years but high-yielding BARI-14 is changing the trend.
Crop from this newly-invented variety can be harvested in less than 80 days. The yield per hectare is about 1,500 kg. After mustard is cultivated, Boro seeds can be sown on those fields ensuring optimum use of croplands.
“I’ve sown BARI-14 and BINA-9/10 varieties on two bighas. It cost me Tk 3,000 to Tk 4,000 per bigha,” said Nazrul Islam, a farmer of Shamolagachi village in the upazila. “I’m expecting bumper production.”
Mohiuddin, a farmer from Sharsha’s Ghiba village, said the DAE officials are encouraging them to cultivate mustard. “Paddy cultivation is quite good on the mustard fields and it costs less for Boro farming as well,” he said.
Sharsha DAE official Soutom Kumar Sheel said they are providing necessary advice to the farmers. “Mustard is recognised as a ‘profit crop’ as they can go for Boro farming after its harvest,” he said.
Since the plants of BARI-14 variety are long, their leaves fall on the ground and act as organic fertilizer, he described adding that less fertiliser is needed for Boro if it is cultivated after mustard.
“This year, we’ve so far helped 900 farmers in the upazila with ingredients for mustard cultivation. We expect a good yield this time,” he added.
Theatre has always been a major component in Bangladeshi cultural sphere- and in the last couple of months heading the festive season of winter, a couple of festivities had been held in capital, showered with jovial love by the theatre enthusiasts from both home and abroad.
Looking back to the festivals organized in the later months of 2019, some of the theatre fetes were arranged as international festivals featuring popular drama troupes from different parts of the world- while some of the fetes had been dedicated to showcase Bengali plays, exclusively.
The ministry of cultural affairs has been tremendously supportive in arranging these festival initiatives. KM Khalid, state minister of cultural affairs has praised these initiatives and offered supports for continuing the events. “Bangladesh earned massive appraisal from national and international level for organizing such extravagant theatre fetes, and the ministry is extremely proud of the organizers. We have always offered our supports and resources to the organizers of these festivals, and we are committed to offer more in future.”
Speaking of the organizers, country’s renowned drama groups had been playing major roles in organizing these festivals such as popular troupe Prangonemor, who arranged ‘Dui Banglar Natyamela 2019’ from 6 to 13 December, commemorating the month of victory.
The nine-day festival showcased total nine plays by nine theatre teams- three from India’s Kolkata, one from Delhi and five from Bangladesh. The fest was organized in association with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Indian High Commission.
Another groundbreaking festival concluded on the day before the inauguration of this mentioned drama fest took place- Notuner Utsab 2019 by Nagarik Natya Sampradaya. Featuring first-ever staging of seven brand new, promising plays from 29 November to 5 December at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA)’s National Theatre Hall, the festival saw the return of legendary thespian Asaduzzaman Noor as Shakespear’s Shylock in Nagarik’s successful and acclaimed play ‘Kalo Joler Kabbo’.
Private organizations also got involved in arranging these theatre festivals in recent years. IDLC Finance Limited, a renowned financial institution in the country, organized the second edition of IDLC Theatre Festival from November 19 - 23 at BSA, with ten of the top theater groups in Bangladesh- Dhaka University’s Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, Nattochokkro, Tarua, Podatik Nattyo Shongshod, Dhaka Theatre, Arshinagar, Somoy Nattodol, Theater, Shobdo Nattochorcha Kendro and Nagorik Nattyangon.
Not only Bangladeshi troupes had been stealing the shows this year- several international theatre groups showcased their tremendous plays in the International theatre festival ‘BotTala RonggoMela 2019’, held on Liberation War Museum in Agargaon. The 11-day long fest, organized by BotTala- a performance space, featured a total of 11 plays- Crutch er Colonel (Bangladesh), Amar Mukher Anchalkhani (India), Dilemmas Witch My Flamenco Tailcoat (Spain), Mysterious Gift (Iran), 4.48 Psychosis (Nepal), Biswa Mangal (India), Macbeth (Bangladesh), Shluk (India), Blackhole (India), Acharya Profulla Chandra (India) and Khona (Bangladesh).
A convivial drama fete of West Bengal and Bangladesh titled Ganga-Jamuna Theatre Festival 2019 was held from October 11 to October 20. A total of 36 theatre troupes from Bangladesh and 4 theatre troupes from India staged 40 plays at the festival. Besides, 19 music troupes, 15 recitation troupes, 7 dance troupes, 3 mime troupes and others, altogether 3,000 artistes from Bangladesh and India performed at different venues of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and Bangladesh Mahila Samity during the 10-day long festival.
In September, a total of 10,000 children from 95 drama troupes and 64 districts exhibited 85 performances in the 14th National Children’s Drama and Cultural Festival which is considered as Bangladesh’s biggest drama and cultural fiesta, exclusively dedicated to children. This festival was organized at BSA from 20-28 September.
Although the theatre blooming in Dhaka started right after the liberation in Bangladesh Mahila Samity as the primal venue, recently the scenario has changed. Analyzing all these above mentioned vivid theatre festivals, the most common venue in recent years had been Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, which offers tremendous amenities for stage performances.
“BSA has always been a great place to organize cultural events, and this year we have seen so many successful theatre festivals in this venue including our Notuner Utsab 2019. We do not have any plans to shift anywhere else for our upcoming festivals” - Nagarik Natya Sampradaya’s Pantha Shahriar, a renowned theatre director told UNB about preferring the Academy as the festival venue.
Some other venues are also getting ready to thrive this series of festivals, including the newly located spacious venue of Liberation War Museum in Agargaon. BotTala Ronggomela 2019 director Mohammad Ali Haider expressed his opinion on the new venue to UNB, saying “This venue is still new and fresh but surprisingly good for staging plays and holding this types of festivals- also, it can be a great venue for theatre enthusiasts and admirers living in greater Mohammadpur, Mirpur and Dhanmondi area.”
Regardless of places and venues, theatre lovers did not show any hesitation to shower these festivities with enormous support- both financially and emotionally. Each of these festivals observed audiences waiting in lines for tickets- and this can certainly be considered as the best possible scenario for Bangladeshi theatre and all the cast and crew members.
The coal hidden beneath the cold waves of the Jadukata River flowing through Tahirpur upazila in Sunamganj lures thousands of people, mostly women and children, with prospects of making a quick buck.
The women come from diverse backgrounds – some are widows, some divorced or from extremely poor families – but they have one thing in common, they are fighting to put food on the table.
Jannat Ara, a coal labourer of Sarupganj village in Bishwambarpur upazila, said: “Me and my two sons earned Tk 3,00,000 by selling coals in last six months.”
With the money, she married off her two sons, built tin-shed houses for them and brought cattle and goats, making her life a little easier, she said.
The gift of nature has changed the fate of hundreds of families like Jinnat.
But an often overlooked sight is the presence of a huge number of children, many of them school students. Some of them help their parents to collect coal while many others are forced to quit studies to scour the river.
These children know that life is hard and one must fight persistently to survive.
All the working children bear signs of toil and indigence on their faces but seem happy. Coal mixed with sand are separated by sieving and sold to the local wholesalers. Each sack rakes in between Tk 400 and Tk 500.
Jadukata River, flowing from the bordering hills of Meghalaya, brings large volumes of coal mixed with sand with its currents in the monsoon. The villagers begin their work when the water level drops during the dry season.
Each female worker earns an estimated Tk 40,000 to Tk 50,000 annually by working for five to six months. They spend the amount on their children’s education and other family needs.
Tahirpur Upazila Parishad Chairman Karuna Sindhu Chowdhury said collecting coal from Jadukata River is a toiling job but locals prefer doing it as there is a scarcity of jobs.
A large number of women and children from Tahirpur and Bishwamvarpur upazilas are involved in this trade. It is not only pulling people out of poverty but also helping to bear expenses of studies and other needs.
Badaghat Union Chairman Aptab Uddin said Tahirpur upazila and its adjacent upazilas are blessed by nature.
“In the past, most of the workers in our area had to starve, but selling coal has helped them overcome extreme poverty,” he said.
The Election Commission (EC) plans to hold the elections to two city corporations -- Dhaka South and North -- on the same day towards the end of January next.
More importantly, EC officials said, the elections to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) will be held using electronic voting machines (EVMs) instead of traditional ballot papers.
“We’ve decided in principle to arrange the elections to the two city corporations in January, and declare the schedules in December next,” Election Commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury told UNB.
EC Senior Secretary Md Alamgir also said the EC will arrange the polls to the two city corporations in the last week of January 2020 and declare election schedules in third week of December. “The entire elections will be held using EVMs,” he told UNB.
The Commission will soon finalise the specific dates both for the voting and schedule, said EC officials adding that the EC Secretariat is now taking preparations to hold the polls with the existing voter list as the country’s updated voter roll will be made public after the two elections.
They said the EC Secretariat initiated a move to enlist election officials –- presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers -- to operate voting in the two important elections.
It has already sent a letter to the Dhaka district election officer and thana election officers concerned to prepare the initial panels of the election officials, they added.
The 180-day countdown for the EC to complete elections has already started as the two city corporations opened for polls in mid-November last.
DNCC was up for election on November 14, while DSCC on November 18 last.
According to the Local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009, the election to any city corporation should be held within the last 180 days of its five-year tenure that starts with the first meeting of the corporation.
On April 28, 2015, the last elections to DSCC and DNCC as well as Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) were held on a single day. But the first meeting was held in DNCC on May 14, while DSCC on May 17 and CCC on August 6 in the same year.
So, the DSCC’s five-year tenure will expire on May 13, 2020, while that of DNCC on May 16, 2020 and CCC on August 5, 2020.
However, the EC is yet to take any decision for the arrangement of CCC election.
Meanwhile, the boundaries of DSCC and DNCC have got extended with the incorporation of 36 new wards – 18 in Dhaka South and 18 in Dhaka North – after the last elections to the two cities.
Following the death of DNCC mayor Annisul Huq, the by-election to the DNCC mayoral post was held in February 2019. Besides, the by-polls to councillor posts of 36 new wards were held on the same day.
But now the 48 councillors - 36 general councilor posts and 12 women from reserved seats- who were elected from the new wards in February, 2019 want more time to serve as concillors.
The councillors also applied before the EC seeking extended time arguing that a councillor is usually elected for tenure of five years.
In this regard, the EC Secretary said their argument is not logical as the five-year tenure is applicable for the corporation, not for any mayor or councillor according to the law.
Referring to Article 6 of the Local Government (City Corporation) Act, 2009, he said, “The law states that the tenure of a corporation shall be five years from its first meeting after its formation.”
There are some 54 lakh voters in the capital’s two city corporations. Of them, 30.36 lakh are under 54 wards in DNCC and 23.67 lakh under 75 wards in DSCC.
In the upcoming elections, the number of possible polling stations will be 2,500 in the two cities.
The elections will be held to a mayoral post, 75 councillor posts and 25 reserved seats (exclusively for women) in DSCC and a mayoral post, 54 councillor posts and 18 reserved seats in DNCC.
With the slogan, ‘Sonali Anshe Bhorpur, Valobashi Faridpur’ (Full of golden fibre, we love Faridpur’), the district administration has arranged the month-long Faridpur Branding Fair that has nevertheless failed to cover the full range of goods produced in the district.
Faridpur is the largest jute producing district in the country and golden fibre is the brand of the district.
A day before the fair began on November 30, Deputy Commissioner of the district Atul Sarkar said the aim of the fair is to create market for jute and jute products at home and abroad.
However, the fair has so far failed to serve the original purposes as many local products have largely been ignored.
During a visit to the fair recently, this correspondent found that 75 stalls were set up although 120 stalls were supposed to be there.
Jute products are being sold at only one stall set up by the district administration. Besides, three other stalls are only showcasing jute products.
A staggering 22 stalls are for cosmetic products, much to the disappointment of visitors.
Karim Group, Razzaque Industries Ltd and Golden Jute Industries Ltd have set up stalls only to exhibit their jute products. They are not selling any item.
Around 11 stalls are of clothes where saris, blazers, Modi Koti, jackets and boutiques have been put on display while 10 others of food.
Besides, there are Muktijoddha Corner, Golden Citizen Corner, stalls of the Department of Women Affairs, Social Welfare Department’s stall and Protik Mohila Samity.
There is a Bangabandhu Corner where books written by and on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman have been kept.
Bangladesh Agenda-2030 and Rashin NGO have separate stalls but they have no product to display for the visitors.
Sujan Kumar Paul of the pottery stall of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) stall said the sale volume is too low. He said they could only sell products worth Tk 500-Tk 1,000 every day.
Faisal Hasan, a representative of Akbar Shoe Stall, said the fair is yet to gain momentum.
Shipra Goshwami, president of the district chapter of Conscious Citizens’ Committee, said if it is named as the branding fair, the district administration should have emphasised on exhibition and sales of jute products as jute is the district’s brand.
Aslam Mollah, additional deputy commissioner (revenue) and convener of the fair organising committee, admitted that the branding fair should be of jute products. “But we’ve kept a blend of handloom, handicraft and cottage industries as any fair can’t be arranged with only jute.”
About the 22 cosmetics stalls, he said they permitted those as people use cosmetic items in a large scale in the winter.
The ADC said there are 12 running jute mills in the district and all of them were invited to join the fair. “Only three of them are taking part in the fair but they aren’t selling any product.”