News and Events of Panchagarh in 2008

December 25, 2008 – FACE-TO-FACE WITH VOTERS IN PANCHAGARH 2: Candidates pledge to root out corruption – New Age

All the four candidates of Panchagarh-2 constituency (Boda-Debiganj) vowed to root out corruption and to work unitedly for development of the district, if elected. BNP-led alliance candidate Md Mojahar, Hossain, grand alliance nominee Nurul Islam Shujan, CPB candidate Asraful Alam and Bangladesh Torikat Fedaration candidate Md Sona Miah also promised that whoever wins the polls, they would extend their hands of cooperation to the wining candidate. They made the promises while answering questions to voters at a ‘face-to-face meeting with the people’ held at Boda Upazila Parisahd auditorium in Panchagarh on Tuesday. The Boda upazila unit o the Corruption Prevention Committee organised the meeting. The upazila nirbahi officer of Boda, Sarwar Alam, attended the meeting as chief guest while the CPC upazila unit president, Abu Jaker presided. The candidates also pledged to help maintain communal harmony in the district. Several hundred people from all walks of life attended the programme. Meanwhile, only two candidates out of 11 of three constituencies in Thakurgaon Sunday evening faced voters at a question-answer session, jointly organised by Shushashoner Jonno Nagarik, a citizen’s forum for good governance, and the CPC. THE CPC district unit president, Taslim Uddin Ahamed, presided over the session while the local unit president of Shujon, Montosh Kumer Dey, attended as special guest. The district unit secretary of Shujon, Nurul Fazal Bulbul, moderated the programme. More than 500 voters took part in it. The BNP-led alliance candidate for Thakurgaon-1, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, and the LDP nominee, advocate Habibullah, were present at the programme while nine other candidates skipped it. Miza Fakhrul Islam said if elected, he would give importance to development of agriculture sector as most people of the district were dependent on agriculture. Advocate Habibullah said if elected, he would work for development of the sectors in which people’s interests are directly involved.

December 23, 2008 – Growing tea sector boosts Panchagarh economy – Bangladesh Economic News

The growing tea sector has been boosting fast, changing the overall socio-economic condition of the common people and economy of Panchagarh and predicting a brighter prospect of tea sector there. Local tea growers, chamber leaders and officials recommended setting up of more tea processing industries, competitive markets for tea, and resolving problems like gas supply and power crisis to accelerate boosting of the tea sector. At the same time, hundreds of Panchagarh females, who lived in utter miseries due to abject poverty, are now changing their fates and achieving self-reliance by earning wages as plucking workers in the tea gardens. The boosting tea sector has ushered in a new hope for further enhancing the standard of their socio-economic life and women empowerment if some problems, including just wages, were resolved, a number of female workers said. Presently, more than 7,000 skilled and unskilled workers, mostly women, are working in 246 tea gardens, including 18 big estates, 13 medium-sized and 215 small-scale gardens set up on more than 2,200 acres of land in Tentulia and its surrounding areas. Nearly 2,300 workers, mostly women, are working at the giant Kazi and Kazi Tea Estate which has earned reputation at home and abroad by producing the famous Mina Organic Tea and earning foreign exchange. Small-scale tea farmer Mozahedul Hassan told the news agency that he had been farming tea in seven-Bigha land after selecting 20 Bighas for the purpose and lifting 100 kg tea leaves every week from his garden. ‘I am selling tea leaves at Tk 11 per kg to the tea processing factory of Tentulia Tea Company Ltd and earning almost no profit because of the lower prices and I had to sell the same at only Tk 9.50 per kg last year,’ he added. Small-scale tea farmers, Abdur Rahman, Esahaq Ali Mandal, Raju Mia and Motiar Rahman of different villages in Tentulia and Sadar upazilas expressed similar views and demanded green tea-leave price at Tk 15 per kg. The development officer of Panchagarh Regional Tea Board, Amir Hossain, said there were tremendous scopes for expansion of tea farming in Panchagarh and Bangladesh Tea Board had been providing trainings and supports to the farmers. ‘The total tea production by the major companies like the TTCL, KKTE and Kartoa Tea Associates Ltd might be more than five lakh tonnes this year in Panchagarh district,’ officials said on Monday. Assistant manager of TTCL Manjur Hassan said smooth supply of 220-volt power with stable voltage could further help processing and producing tea, and tea production costs might reduce substantially if natural gas was supplied to the area. According to local officials of the BTB, the government has taken steps for forming newer Tea Zones for further increase of tea production in the country to meet the growing demand. The Bangladesh Small Tea Garden Owners’ Association has been working relentlessly for further development of tea sector in Panchagarh by resolving all prevailing problems including the wage problems of female workers. Labourers Fuli Begum, Aklima, Marium, Rozina, and Halima of different villages in Tentulia upazila told the news agency that they should get at least Tk 100 per day as wages against the present rate of Tk 60. There are no rules regarding eight-hour working period, issuing of appointment letters, minimum wages, overtime payments, leave, labour law, medicare facilities, maintenance of register books, and safety and security of workers, they added. BSTGOA president Amirul Haque Khokan said the prevailing problems were being discussed with the authorities concerned to attract more investors from all over the country for further boosting the tea sector in Panchagarh.

November 18, 2008 – BSF regrets killings on Panchagarh border – The Daily Star

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) yesterday regretted and apologised for killing three people and wounding another in Maynaguri village in Tetulia upazila of Panchagarh Sunday night, according to Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) officials. The BSF at a flag meeting with the BDR also assured that such incidents will not recur in future. The meeting, held at zero line near Majhipara border in Tetulia, decided that a BSF member caught by the villagers would be handed over to BSF after treatment, said BDR officials in Panchagarh. The BDR team at the flag meeting was led by Col Aftabul Islam of Rangpur sector and the BSF team by R Chandra Mohan from Kishanganj camp in India. Meanwhile, BDR officials of Pachagarh 25 Battalion said at least eight to 10 drunken BSF personnel from Nayabari camp in India entered Maynaguri village near Majhipara border, at least 500 metres inside Bangladesh, after 10:00pm Sunday and ransacked several houses. When the villagers protested this, the intruders entered the house of one Shahidul Islam and fired indiscriminately leaving three people killed and one injured. The deceased were identified as Mazeda Begum, 25, her one- year-old son Mamun, and Golam Mostafa, 45, a neighbour.  Mazeda’s husband Shahidul Islam, who was bullet-hit, and the BSF member held by villagers, were rushed to Rangpur Medical College Hospital. Shahidul’s condition was stated to be critical. Following the flag meeting, people of Maynaguri village who had fled their houses in panic, started returning. Contacted, Maj Sheikh Farid, in-charge of Panchagarh 25 Battalion, said, ”We have protested the BSF firing. It’s a serious border violation by them.”

November 15, 2008 – Fund Crisis threatens closure of GPMC in Panchagarh – The Financial Express

The country’s only Germ Plasm Maintenance Centre (GPMC) at Sakowa in Boda under Panchagarh is going to be closed due to lack of necessary fund. The GPMC project was launched for preservation and development of silk products at the cost of Tk 25 million under the assistance of the World Bank (WB) on two years agreement. The tenure of the project came to an end in 2003, as the deal was not renewed further. At present there is no fund available for conducting any research work. Earlier, the researchers of GPMC added new dimension to the national silk industry by introducing longer lasting varieties of silk. About 600 local families were also benefited from the project and became self-dependent. If the only GPMC was closed for lack of fund allocation, our silk industry would face a serious crisis to survive as well as earn foreign exchange, opined the experts. They also demanded that necessary steps should be taken immediately to revive the project for the sake of the country’s silk industry.

October 12, 2008 – Major archaeological discovery by ULAB’s Dr. Shahnaj Husne Jahan in Panchagarh – ULB Events

Dr. Shahnaj Husne Jahan, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the General Education Program at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) announced today: “For the last 15 days I have carried out an extensive archaeological investigation in the district of Panchagarh, and discovered the largest fortified city at Bhitargarh in Amarkhana Union, Panchagarh district.” Dr. Shahnaj has carried out excavation at the site and will be presenting the findings of the archaeological exploration and excavation in the ULAB Auditorium on Wednesday, 5 November 2008 at 5 pm.

September 2, 2008 – Small-scale tea farming wins firm foothold in Panchagarh – Daily Star

Small-scale tea farming changes the economic conditions of ordinary people: marginal farmers and working women. It speeds up growth of the tea sector in Panchagarh. Officials and experts have suggested further government assistance, setting up more tea processing plants, competitive markets for tealeaves and resolving the power crisis to accelerate further growth of the sector. Hundreds of women, who lived in poverty, are now better off by achieving self-reliance from earning wages as plucking workers in the gardens of the country’s third tea zone. The growing tea sector has raised hope for enhancing the standards of socio-economic life and women empowerment in Panchagarh and adjoining districts in future, the industry insiders said. Over 8,000 skilled and unskilled workers, mostly women, have been working in 246 tea gardens, including 18 big estates, 13 medium and 215 small gardens on about 2,000 acres in Tentulia and its surrounding areas. Small-scale tea growers are now happy as the tea processing factories of Tentulia Tea Company Ltd (TTCL) and Karotoa Tea Garden in Panchagarh area are purchasing green tealeaves at Tk 11 per kg, though the rate was only Tk 9.50 some days ago.

According to a survey, conducted by Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB), there are 16,000 hectares of land suitable for tea farming in Panchagarh and nearly 2,000 acres have been brought under tea farming in the area since 2002. Tea farming is expanding by the year in Panchagarh and its adjoining areas thanks to growing interest among the small-scale and marginal farmers. Although landlords and businessmen have set up many tea gardens and processing factories in the tea farming zones of Sylhet and Chittagong long ago, the situation is quite different in Panchagarh. In Panchagarh, most tea gardens are smaller in size and many have been cultivating tea on their own lands and selling green tealeaves to the processing factories and companies. Most small tea garden owners are local farmers.

On the other hand, the owners are rich people in Sylhet and Chittagong tea zones. BTB has taken necessary steps, including finding newer areas for tea farming to expand tea-farming areas and increase tea output in the country to meet growing local demand and increase exports. BTB has identified huge areas in Panchagarh, Thakurgaon and surrounding areas in the sub-Himalayan region suitable for tea farming because of soil composition, climatic conditions and weather. “It will create huge job opportunities and enhance economic activities in the region,” said Panchagarh Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Iqbal Kaiser Mintu. Bangladesh Small Tea Garden Owners’ Association President Amirul Haque Khokan echoed him. Tea is being cultivated mostly in the area on a “small-scale gardening basis” — a concept that has attracted the small, medium and marginal farmers in signs of bright prospects for tea farming. Hundreds of women workers have been earning their daily wages from the garden owners and tea growers. Tea farmer Mozahedul Hassan said he has been farming tea on seven bighas of land. He lifts 50 to 60 kg of tealeaves a week from the garden. Tea farmers Abdur Rahman, Esahaq Ali Mandal and Mostafa Jamal Raju in Tentulia upazila and Motiar Rahman said tea farming was getting firm footing in the area. Amir Hossain, developing officer of BTB, Panchagarh, said there is wide scope for expansion of tea farming in Panchagarh. BTB is providing training for farmers.

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