Avoid war and work for peace-prosperity: PM

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on the world leaders to work together for the welfare and economic prosperity of mankind by avoiding the path of war and conflict.

She made this call in her address to the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations on Friday (September 22).

The Prime Minister said, appeal to world leaders to avoid war, sanctions and conflict. Work for lasting peace, human welfare and economic prosperity for our people and future generations. Being oppressed me and a witness to the brutality of war and killing, I can feel the pain and suffering that people endure due to the horrors of war, killing, insurgency and conflict.

She said, we must make a collective effort to face common challenges to build a safe, peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for all. For this, we must choose unity, solidarity and multilateralism over division, parochialism and isolation. To achieve peace and sustainable prosperity, we must pursue principles of justice, equity and fairness, based on the UN Charter and the 2030 Agenda.

Sheikh Hasina said, after the formation of the government in 2009, we have invested heavily in the establishment of inclusive and modern democracy for the welfare of people to make the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman a reality. We have been able to transform Bangladesh from a lower middle income country to an upper middle income country through practical policy making, far reaching thinking and investment. We have reduced the poverty rate from 41.5 percent in 2006 to 18.7 percent in 2022 and the extreme poverty rate from 25.1 percent to 5.6 percent. We have made steady progress towards achieving the SDGs, continuing Bangladesh's success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, like other countries in the world, Bangladesh has also faced serious challenges in this regard. The coronavirus, various man-made crises and natural disasters have compounded the challenges manifold. For that reason, we welcome the successful hosting of the UN SDG Conference this year and the political declaration adopted at it. Despite some limitations, we believe this political declaration will accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda.

Referring to the issue of SDGs, the Prime Minister said that financing is an important regulator in achieving the SDGs within the stipulated time. But it is not very unfortunate that the existing international financial infrastructure is not compatible with the goals, nor is it capable of meeting the financial needs of developing countries in times of crisis. Today we urgently need an international financial infrastructure that will help developing countries raise money at special concessions, at low costs, at low interest and with minimum conditions. In addition, developing countries should have equitable access to the IMF's SDR funds during emergencies and disasters. All loan arrangements should include special provisions regarding natural calamities. We sincerely thank the UN Secretary-General for proposing a 500 billion stimulus package. We demand speedy implementation of this proposal.

She said, in achieving the SDGs, we have given serious consideration to ending discrimination against women. Bangladesh is committed to ensuring women's empowerment and gender equality and fulfilling expectations within the stipulated time. We have given special importance to overall education including women's education. Free textbooks are being distributed to students from 2010 to secondary level. Stipends, scholarships and one-time grants are being given to about 2 crore 53 lakh students from primary to higher education level. More than half of them are women. A total of 30 percent of our national budget is allocated for social and economic empowerment of women. In politics, we have ensured women's representation at all levels of government, from the highest to the lowest. We aim to ensure 50 percent participation of women in every sector by 2030. To achieve this goal, we are working to eliminate child marriage, violence against women, trafficking in women and other crimes through the formulation of appropriate laws and their proper implementation. We support all international initiatives for the advancement of women through the UN General Assembly's 'Platform for Women Leaders'.

The Prime Minister also said that this year we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this occasion, we must reaffirm our commitment to global humanity and take collective initiatives to ensure equality, justice and freedom for all. Also, it must be ensured that the protection of human rights is not used to create political pressure on developing countries. The constitution of Bangladesh guarantees fundamental human rights to all. Bangladesh's legal system has undergone significant reforms in the last decade to provide legal protection and justice to all. As a responsible state, we are fully committed to protecting people's human rights. As an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, we work with other members to protect the human rights of countless people around the world. Today in this session I want to unequivocally declare that Bangladesh will ensure democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression in the light of the constitution.

Throwing light on the Rohingya crisis, Sheikh Hasina said, qne million Rohingya forcibly displaced from MyanmarI I am drawing your attention to the community. Last month marked six years since the Rohingya were displaced. We have temporarily sheltered them for purely humanitarian reasons. But the situation has become really unbearable for us now. The prolonged presence of Rohingyas in Bangladesh has had a serious impact on Bangladesh's economy, environment, security and socio-political stability. Uncertainty over repatriation has led to widespread frustration among the Rohingya population. This situation can fuel potential radicalization. If this situation continues, it may affect our regional and international security and stability. The displaced Rohingyas want to return to their home country of Myanmar and live a peaceful life there. Let us ensure the return of these destitute people to their own country.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started her speech at 11:22 pm Bangladesh time on Friday. Sheikh Hasina addressed the UNGA session for the seventeenth time in Bengali, following in the footsteps of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's speech on September 25, 1974. The theme of this year's UNGA is 'Rebuilding Trust and Rebuilding Global Solidarity: Accelerating Action for the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals for Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Sustainability for All.'

Incidentally, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in New York on September 17 to attend the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly and other high-level events. She will leave New York for Washington on September 23 and stay there until September 29. She will leave for London on September 29 after completing her visit to Washington. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will stay there till October 3 and will return home on October 4.


Why does Titas want to increase the residential gas bill!

Serajul Islam Siraj, Special Correspondent, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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Lalmatia resident Dr. Monirul Islam uses prepaid gas meter. Tk. 500 a month gas cannot finish. The meter goes to Tk. 400 per month with rent.

Another house of Dr. Monirul Islam is in Aruna Palli of Savar. Even if there is no one there, he has to pay a bill of Tk. 1080 per month. But both of its connections are under the same distribution company Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company. He told Barta24.com about these two experiences just a few miles apart. On the opposite side of his house in Dhanmondi, customers without meters have to pay extra bills.

He said, 5 people cook in my Lalmatia house. Never had to recharge more than Tk. 500. And paying bills for 3 years in a row where we don't live. That is more than double.

Monirul Islam expressed his regret and said that he saw the news in the newspaper that the profit bonus is being taken by cutting the customer's pocket. I saw in the newspaper that the officers and employees of Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company received a bonus of Tk. 18 lakh each year. We pay the bills and they are making mountains of money.

Abed Ali, a resident of Rupnagar residential area (Road 19), a prepaid meter user, told Barta24.com that his family has 4 members. Tk. 350 to Tk. 450 taka recharge month passes. This is more or less the experience of gas prepaid meter users. Those who have more family members are spending a maximum of Tk. 600.

Fixed bill is collected for unmetered residential customers which is currently equal to two stoves of 60 cubic meters and one stove of 55 cubic meters. Whether the customer uses, does not use or uses more. Gas distribution companies have been saying for decades that unmetered residential customers are burning more gas. By saying this, the price is increased from time to time. Their point was that installing meters would increase their revenue. But when the first prepaid meter was installed in Lalmatia area (in 2016), the result was reversed. It was seen that the bills of pre-paid meter users were coming from Tk. 150 to Tk. 250 (then the bill of unmetered customers was Tk. 450 for two stoves).

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said in the question and answer session in the Jatiya Sangsad(JS) in 2016, the results of the pilot project of installing pre-paid meters are good. 33 cubic meters of gas is being saved per month in two stoves. At that time the bill of 77.41 cubic meters was fixed in two burners. That is, customers are burning 45 cubic meters of gas.

Before the pilot project, the movement to install gas prepaid meters was noticeable. But now distribution companies have taken a strategic position to delay as much as possible. Out of 38 lakh residential customers, only about 4 lakh meters have been installed in 8 years. The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) is pushing for the customers to buy and install themselves due to the slow-moving policy of the companies.

BERC ordered expediting installation of pre-paid meters in 2018 in response to hike in gas prices. It was decided to open the facility so that customers can buy and install meters from the market themselves. Accordingly, after a long wait, a policy was formulated in 2021. The policy states that the customer will purchase the meter from the store of his choice and submit it to the distribution company. Distribution companies will test and install at customer's premises. However, it has been detained due to various complications. Companies are installing meters at prices several times higher than the market. That too slowly. Companies are starting to think of it as a new sector of looting.

BERC held a public hearing on the latest gas price hike in March last year. Then, based on the usage statistics of prepaid customers of the distribution companies, one stove was reduced from 73.41 cubic meters and two stoves from 77.41 cubic meters to 55 and 60 cubic meters respectively.

Titas Gas has applied to BERC to increase the existing one stove from 55 cubic meters (Tk. 990) to 76.65 cubic meters (Tk. 1379.70), two stoves from 60 cubic meters (Tk. 1080) to 88.44 cubic meters (Tk. 1591.92). Although the application was submitted in May this year, the matter was kept under wraps after much controversy. However, recently it has been known about the start of activities in this regard quite secretly.

BERC Chairman Nurul Amin said that the proposal to increase the gas bill of Titas will be taken up in the commission meeting soon.

Titas claims that unmetered consumers use more gas than the prescribed amount (55 and 60 cubic meters). As a result the system loss has increased. An application has been made to make one stove 76.65 cubic meters and two stoves 88.44 cubic meters. The earlier orders given by BERC were not realistic.

Former member of BERC (then member - Gas) Maqbul E-Elahi Chowdhury told Barta24.com, I think it should have been below 50 cubic meters. 55 and 60 cubic meters were done for the first time respectively. Provisions are then made for installation of prepaid meters and subsequent reductions.

In response to the question that on what basis 55 and 60 cubic meters have been made, he said that they had 3.5 lakh prepaid meters where it was seen that 45 was used on an average.

In response to a question, he said, will you consider 3.5 lakh meters, or their (Titas gas) 100 meters. If more gas is used in a particular area, then a meter should be installed there quickly, it will not be logical to increase the bill of 34 lakh customers.

BERC has started the process of increasing the gas bill of unmetered residential customers. It is said that two officials entered the field in collaboration with Titas and Petrobangla. They want it quickly to implement the card application.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) senior vice-president and energy advisor Shamsul Alam told Barta24.com that BERC must hold a public hearing to respond to Titas' application. There is no opportunity to increase the bill without public hearing. When the public hearing starts, there will be a discussion on this matter with data. I don't see any justification for increasing the bill.


Air passengers increased by 38 lakh in one year

Ishtiaq Hussein, Special Correspondent, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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Not only Bangladesh, after the corona pandemic, air passenger transportation has increased all over the world. The annual publication of Boeing, the world-renowned aircraft manufacturer's Commercial Market Outlook, predicts that Bangladesh's annual GDP will grow at a rate of more than 5 percent by 2032, which is more than double the global GDP growth average. Also, the annual growth rate of air travel is expected to be 8.5 percent.

On the other hand, the Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) also predicts that the number of passengers by air from Bangladesh will increase several times in the next decade. An audit by CAAB says that in 2022, Bangladesh's airports handled about one crore passengers. Last year in 2019, this number was a little more than 85 lakh. By 2031, the number of air passengers from Bangladesh will double.

The truth of those predictions of Boeing and CAAB has also started to match in the aviation sector of the country. A recent report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, analyzing the data of CAAB, says that air passenger transport has increased by 32 percent in the financial year 2022-23 on both domestic and international routes. In the financial year 2022-23, all airports of the country, including Shahjalal International Airport, handled 1 crore 53 lakh passengers on domestic and international routes. However, in the financial year 2021-22, the airports handled 1 crore 15 lakh passengers. And in the financial year 2020-21, the airports handled only 58 lakh passengers.

Aviation experts say that the rate of increase in the number of passengers by air was upward not only in Bangladesh but globally. Air passenger traffic rose 45.8 percent year-on-year in April despite global economic uncertainty, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported. Air passenger increased by 48 percent in April. All markets have seen strong passenger growth records. Among these, the airlines of the Asia-Pacific region are ahead again.

They say, because of these domestic and international forecasts, the government started the construction of the third terminal. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina partially inaugurated this terminal last October. It will be fully operational by the end of next year. It is being said that its size is more than double compared to Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of Shahjalal Airport. The previous two terminals served 80 lakh passengers annually. And with the third terminal, it will be possible to serve one crore sixty lakh passengers.

The increase in passenger numbers from Bangladesh is encouraging aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus to sell their aircraft. Recently two companies have been seen courting in Dhaka to sell aircraft to Biman.

Experts say that domestic airlines do not have the capacity to transport the number of passengers. If this capacity is to be increased then they will have to buy new aircraft. Meanwhile, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is planning to buy 10 wide body aircraft (Airbus 350-800) from Airbus. They will first deliver 350 aircraft within the next year if they get the work order from Biman.

On the other hand, more than 15 foreign airlines have already shown interest in operating Bangladesh flights. These foreign airlines include Iran Air, Iraqi Air, Korean Air, Jin Air, Indonesia's Garuda Airlines, Wiz Air. Also defunct Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), British Airways. Also Emirates, Air Asia, Air Arabia operating flights from Dhaka are interested in increasing the number of flights.

Shafiul Azim, managing director and CEO of Biman, says that their network will be expanded when new aircraft arrive. The number of flights to Canada will be increased; new routes will be launched including New York flights.


Migjaum is moving towards Andhra Pradesh, India

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com
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The deep depression formed in the Bay of Bengal has turned into a cyclone. Moving towards India, the cyclone is likely to hit the coast of Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday (December 4).

Due to its effect, it may rain all over the country, including the coastal areas of Bangladesh, and the temperature may also decrease. As a result, the normal winter of December may descend in the next two-three days. Then the winter can set in.

This has been said in the forecast of the Meteorological Department. At 12:30 pm on Sunday, the special weather bulletin said, Cyclone 'Migjaum', which is located in the South-West Bay of Bengal and adjoining areas, is moving further towards the North-West and is staying in the same area.

At midnight, it was located 1,555 km southwest of Chattogram seaport, 1,515 km southwest of Cox's Bazar, 1,410 km southwest of Mongla and 1,420 km southwest of Payra. It may move further north-westwards and intensify.

The bulletin also said maximum sustained wind speed within 54 km of the cyclone center is 62 kmph, increasing to 88 kmph in gusty form.

In this situation, all the seaports of the country have been asked to show remote warning signal number 2. Apart from this, fishing boats and trawlers operating in North Bay of Bengal and deep sea have been asked to move cautiously near the coast till further instructions.

Manowar Hossain, a meteorologist of the Meteorological Department, said, "There is no danger of the cyclone coming towards Bangladesh. However, due to its effect, it may rain all over the country including the coastal areas next Thursday and Friday. After one or two days of rain, the temperature will gradually decrease. After December 10, winter may set in the northern and southwestern regions of the country.

Meanwhile, according to the observations of the Meteorological Department, the temperature and rainfall were higher than normal in most parts of the country last November. Rainfall was 65 percent above normal.

The forecast for Monday from the Meteorological Department said that the temperature will remain mainly dry across the country. However, daytime temperatures may be a little higher than normal. Light to moderate fog may prevail over different parts of the country from midnight to dawn.


EC directs the returning officers not to do biased work

Staff Correspondent, Barta24.com, Dhaka
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The Election Commission (EC) has instructed the Returning Officers to take steps to increase the number of voters in the upcoming 12th JS elections. The EC has also directed the Returning Officers not to do anything that is derogatory or prejudicial to the public.

This was stated in a circular signed by Deputy Secretary Atiyar Rahman of the election management branch of EC.

The purpose of Returning Officers is to act in accordance with laws and regulations to ensure that they do not act in a way that would bring discredit to the competent authorities or the local public and that they do not create the impression that they are biased.

In order to increase the number of voters, the EC has instructed the officials to organize a joint meeting with the district administration and upazila administration to encourage everyone to vote, and to keep in touch with the leaders of the local political parties.

In the circular, EC has instructed to work in the light of law, rules and code of conduct so that no influence or interference from any particular quarters can undermine the neutrality of elections.

The objective of the officials is also stated- not to act in a manner which may bring disrepute to the competent authorities or the local public and to ensure that they do not create the impression that they are biased, to act in accordance with the law and regulations.

According to the circular, intensive patrolling of law and order mobile units, strengthening of security measures in vulnerable areas and important polling stations and extensive pre-election publicity about the locations of polling stations after the finalization of the polling station list to create an assured environment for voters to come to the polling station smoothly and comfortably.