Monday, March 18, 2013

Case study: A poor girl trapped by girl trafficker

Case study: A poor girl trapped by girl trafficker

During my stay at home, I heard a heart-breaking story, obviously its true. But this is not the only case, there are numerous and hundred times ugly cases occur almost everyday. Some we can count, most we can't and abandon those. I'll reveal the ugly truth today.

'Saleha khala' works at our home for long, shifted to mess for years, but still frequently visited my mother. Few months ago, she permanently began to work in our home since my mother's physical condition worsened. Saleha khala is very active woman, hardly can sit without doing anything, managed all jobs. Maa was very happy as previous workers caused lots of stupid troubles.

Saleha khala had a niece, coded with more than average look, age above 20, little torubled head, hardly can differenciate between good and bad. I just saw her twice, realized that she's a childish girl who just can't get tough social matters; her childish acts made me laugh, praiseworthy innocence. But this childish gift didn't favor her in real life. She was married twice and was abused by both husbands and their families. Then she began to stay at home with her parents and worked with khala.

Things were rolling fine until late November. Few weeks ago, she was seen with a strange man several times. Her parents interrogated her, she confessed that she's in a relation with the man. She added that he loves her & wants to marry her. But her father refused the relation and her parents & relatives forbade her to mix with him anymore. They knew her weak points & unusual intelligence, that's why tried to protect her from any sort of disaster. They told her to work with her aunt as usual & forget it.

The next days seemed to be good, nobody noticed the stranger around her. But the strike is yet to come. At the end of November, she earned her salary from mess & houses. Immediately she shopped some fancy girly items like earrings, 'churi', clothes. Her parents asked her, she laughed & said that these things will be needed. Nobody could doubt the upcoming nightmare. The night passed, her door was locked, everybody called her & after hours they found that she left the house.

Since her missing, her parents & Saleha khala took all sorts of steps to make her return, but all tries ended into smoke. They called the stranger's mobile, with whom she left, the whole day, but his phone was switched off. There was no sign, no trail. After 2 days, she called her home & said in crying voice that she's held as prisoner in a illegal girl trafficking camp. She said that the devil pretended to love her, took her out of town, then hijacked all her belongings including money, mobile & those purchased items. That's why she could not contact with her family. She said that the devil is out of camp & left the mobile somehow, she's using the scope. There were more girls fetched in similar fashion, kept altogether. The traffickers are taking them to India, will sell them there, may be to brothels or illegal locations.
A helpless girl's happy dreams as a bride ended into a brothel.
Perhaps no words can console...

Her parents & khala were about mad for some days, they began to search for her, even went to Benapol & border areas to find her. But you know, you can't find a needle in heysteck.

BSF is well known in killing hundreds of Bangladeshis while fetching cows from India. They shoot, kill, even torture in animal-type ways. But this time, I didn't see them doing their respective duties. Every month, hundreds of girls are trafficked to India illegally but you will never find that BSF killed a single human trafficker!

The question is why? Why they can kill cow traffickers but fail seamlessly to murder girl traffickers? Because they gain their shares everyday, ample money from Blackers & new girls! huh!!! This is the characteristics of BSF.

And what about our BGB? What do they do?? They just collect their shares, that's it. I don't know whom to blame. But I can say that there was no GOD for the girl to save her from monsters.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do you know that illegal transport toll is the prime source of income to major political parties in BD?

Did you ever ask yourself how the political parties of Bangladesh run their daily activities that cost huge amount of funds? Everybody faces the situation in their day to day lives, but probably miss the deep impacts. The true story may shock anybody. I'll shade light to this issue today.

Perhaps you have noticed that all political parties gather lakhs of people for processions & public meetings. Did you ask how they collect such huge infrastructure costs to arrange those public meetings including preparing pandels, making 'toron', large banners & other exposing materials? Usually parties pay around 200-300 BDT to every personnel attending the public meetings & processions, if they bring 1 lakh people. Thus, 1 public meeting costs minimum 2-3 crores BDT. Infrastructure costs, transport costs will add another crore. On an average, a single public meeting costs about 5 crore BDT. How do the parties spend these huge funds while their balance sheets [as per electoral commissions] state that they have assets worth only few lakhs?

If you travel through roads throughout Bangladesh [any part], then you will find countless funny posters, wall-quotes, gates made by political parties praising their infamous leaders. Political parties paint every building, every wall & every toilet to narrate their leader's fame, how big they are & what outstanding jobs they did so far! But the question is how do they do it? To make a gate costs over 25,000 BDT, average gates cost 50,000 BDT while tremendous 'toron' pours over 2-3 lakhs BDT. To publish posters, they need handsome funds and those posters are more than sufficient in numbers!

The question is how do they bare such huge expenses? Do they cultivate money trees so they can get money whenever needed just shaking a tree-branch?? No, its not. The fact is they earn these huge funds from illegal transport tolls and forced donations.

What is transport toll?
All vehicles pay a fee to the government for transportation; usually bus, trucks pay for using bridges and lunch, cargo ships pay to use river channels. This is legal & I don't have any question about it. Yet there is another toll and that's illegal.

What is illegal but authorized toll? These tolls are collected from every single vehicle, often from personnel’s, and collected funds are transferred to the political parties. Leading political parties enjoy most of the toll funds whereas tiny parties get negligible funds after long cries.

Case study-1: If you travel by bus from Jessore to Dhaka, then you will find 2 spots where long bamboo bars obstacle vehicles to pass through, once in Magura and other's in Manikgonj. There's no bridge, but still buses had to pay tolls.
I asked bus conductor why the toll is collected. He smiled & revealed that these tolls are not legal as government doesn't get a penny. Political parties collect the tolls, if any bus or truck tries to surpass it, parties employ musclemen to beat the driver, crews & the owner of that vehicle. Even they cancel route permit for that guilty vehicle. I was puzzled as it was my maiden journey. But my consciousness received another lash from the speaker when he claimed that the parties collect tolls from every districts & major areas. I asked him how as I didn't see the bus stopping everywhere. He laughed & replied that the parties collect their funds from cumulative toll collections. There may be non-stop fights between parties & regions, but they are very friendly in this case.

Case study-2: One of my friends shifted his computer from hall to his residence at Uttara. He went to hire a 'human-van' to carry his instruments. The van driver puzzled him asking what sort of rent he wants to pay. Chakma asked 'what do you mean by rent types'? The driver explained if he rents at fixed price then he'll cover all expenses including tolls at only 350 BDT, and he could do it for only at 250 BDT if Chakma wants to pay the tolls. Chakma was very new to this awkward situation, hence asked for further illustration. The driver told that political parties grab tolls from every road, these tolls surpass usual price. He agreed at fixed price rate.
Later he said that he initially didn't trust the driver as his journey is scheduled at very early in the morning. But he didn't know the real shape of BD politics. Soon he learned it from his journey. He started journey at 5am, when even crows sleep. They were stopped at the first alley after about 1km, a toll collector demanded money that the van driver paid off. Chakma was astonished, said they he never thought of it. In his words 'it was misty morning, anything after 10 feet was invisible, in this connection a goon appeared from the mist & demanded money'. The situation repeated 5-7 times since he reached home.

Case study-3: Dhaka vehicle owners & workers called for strike 3-4 years ago due to over-charge of tolls. To resolve the issue, DMP commissioner had to interfere; he sat with all parties and fixed daily tolls per vehicle to 70-80 BDT per day. He said that to lead a party needs huge price, so tolls are collected, everybody should know that.
Let's do a simple math. If 10 lakhs vehicles including buses, trucks, cars, cargos & other sorts of vehicles run in Dhaka city per day, then 7-8 crore BDT is collected for parties only! And how much for a year? About 2,500+ crores BDT per year is passed to political parties!!!

Case study-4: Obaidul Kader is an honest man, struggled throughout his political career but never sold himself. After Abul's case, he was appointed 'Transportation minister' and he carried out his duty with sole devotion. He tried to remove illegal activities & corruption from transport sector.
But soon he learned the truth & abandoned good transitions because he came to realize that its impossible. With a broken heart Obaidul Kader declared 'this sector is so corrupted that it can't be healed'. He knows that he can punish corrupted people but not ministers who grab money from tolls & party leaders as well as party members who solely depend on tolls for their economic demands.

How much revenue is collected through party tolls? The exact figure is impossible as government as well as parties won't let it publish.
Assume that 30 lakhs vehicles move throughout Bangladesh per day. If they pay 100 BDT for toll on an average, then gross daily toll is 30 crores BDT.
Monthly toll = 900 crores BDT.
And yearly toll is about 11,000 crores BDT.

Surcharges on overloads multiply funds: A truck can carry up to 5 ton loads. But what if a truck carries overloads? If you are born in Bangladesh, then you should be habituated to this view. Hardly can you find a truck carrying only 5 tons. By default, all trucks carry 5-7 times loads than specified weight. Most trucks carry 25-35 tons of product loads in their day to day carriage.
What's the toll policy for overloads? Nothing for government tolls, authority doesn't receive a single penny from it. But parties grab multiple times tolls than regular fee. They add surcharges to overloads and collect between 300-500 BDT per overloaded truck.
Such surcharges yield parties additional 10+ crores BDT per day.
Annual surcharges collected over 3,000 crores BDT. And the total funds are passed to the parties.

Impacts of overloads: Our roads are poorly constructed due to contractor's profit robbing tendency. Parties make large amount profits from contractor's shares too. That's why; the roads are poorly constructed and prone to decay after 5-6 months of making.
This decaying process accelerates with the blessing of overloaded trucks and vehicles. Overloads abandon the roads with multiple times extra pressure. As a result, the roads begin to fade quicker than usual. Frequent accidents are the gifts of such overloads.

Lunch tolls: Bangladesh made an unbreakable record in lunch accidents and non-stop death trolls in rivers between 2001 to 2006 during BNP's 3rd term reign. Akbar ali, the minister of water transportation, was the key person to these deaths. He's such a stupid & arrogant [don't know who dared to produce such bastard] that killed over thousands of people. Almost every week we watched a water vehicle, either lunch or steamer drowned and number of people died.
Lunches carry 2-3 times people & products than its capacity. Due to overloads, most lunches crash in the rivers. Parties play vital roles along with lunch owners. Lunch owners multiply their profits carrying overloads and so the political parties. They surcharge lunches for overloads.
Thus, the parties collect huge amount of illegal tolls every year from water vehicles.

Does illegal tolls surpass yearly budget of Bangladesh? If you closely collect data about illegal tolls, then you may wonder at the outcome. The political parties collect over 50,000 crores BDT just from illegal tolls from transportation sector.
And they raise couple of times more funds from other sorts of tolls & forced donations from businessmen every year. Thus, collective illegal earnings may surpass the total budget of Bangladesh [last year's budget was 1917.38 billion BDT].

Can you imagine this??? But its true.
We can construct 10 Padma bridges every year if these illegal tolls are passed to the government in proper ways.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Transport vehicle owners' syndicate

Dhaka-Khulna route is busy with numerous bus companies along with local routes, Satkhira-Benapol routes added double amount of buses few years ago. 3-4 old bus transport companies like Eagle, Sohag, Hanif exist since the beginning; their vehicle quality was good once but now below average. New companies including Talukdar, Alom brought newer models of vehicles facilitating added flexibility, better frame & quick schedule.
While passengers had to struggle to place their legs in old bus models, now they enjoy enough room to position. It’s due to new bus architecture.

But the problem is universal; all bus companies ally a nasty syndicate. You can never expect a business in Bangladesh without syndicate. If one tends to stand alone, others will give their lives to ruin it.

The bus carried me & my fellow riders were an ancient  model of Eagle bus. Its condition was so ugly & old that we never dared to expect a good journey. While changing tires, driver confessed to the passengers that he never faced such situation where people wanted to beat him. He unfolded further stating that the former driver [who should have driven the bus as per schedule] requested him to drive it saying that the bus condition is good. He claimed that if he knew the true condition of the bus, he would never agree to such stupid requests.

When the former driver drove the bus to Jessore terminal, found that the perish glasses are broken due to jerk. He soon realized & abandoned bus to our driver. On request, he took it, but soon began to repent for his decision. The bus is already expired, its validity age is over, now it’s time to recycle or demote to local area.

At this moment, I had 2 questionnaires:
1. Why don't they recycle bus as they make a lot of money from these vehicles?
2. Why BRTC allows such buses to carry passengers?

I got the replies immediately. The owners don't recycle or repair it for some reasons. First one is bus companies don't own these buses, they have less than 30% of total buses. Rest 70% buses are taken from small to mid level owners. So, they simply don't care to repair.
And these individual owners are poorly treated by the companies. They pay the owners very tiny amount compared to real income.
Let's break down the issue:
A trip from Khulna to Dhaka earns about 16,000 BDT on average. Fuel, toll & party wages cost about 7-8,000 and employee fee covers rest 2,000 BDT. Net profit is about 6,000 BDT while owner is paid only 1,000-1,500 BDT per trip. The rest is swallowed by bus company. Thus, an individual owner gets around 45,000 BDT. Its not enough for them to see any real profit after paying bank mortgages. Thus, they simply deny repairing any troubled bus.

Second reason is very clear, every single person learns it since birth. If any charge comes upon you, simply put some money in their hands and you are free from any sort charges.

That's how buses work for route transitions. A good quality bus runs for 10-15 years. After that they are used occasionally for more 5-10 years without repair. And they are sold out to local routes after expiry. Individual owners prefer to sell at low cost instead repair at high price.

Therefore, passengers had to travel often on these ugly vehicles. You can't guarantee if can get a good bus. May be you purchased a bus ticket with high price and thought that you can travel in comfort, but all on a sudden your expectations may be stubbed by an ugly bus.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

13 hours journey tasted our nurves

It took 13 hours to reach Dhaka from Jessore. The journey was delayed and cursed. I experienced 2 longer journeys earlier, 16 hours and 17 hours due to getting stuck at 'chor'. But this one was really irritating.

'Morning shows the day', the proverb is well accepted by all. But unfortunately I don't believe it, rather my trust is in 'Afternoon proves the day'; I learned it from numerous real life acts.

I chose 29th December, Saturday for my return, living only 4 days at home, shortest period of my life, in order to attend my new & last job on 1st January. I had to prepare documents as they asked for it, thus left home 2 days ago, though I never needed any document for any previous job, because IT sector is somewhat different from other fields, we focus on works rather than certificates.

Thursday was disgusting; ferry jam was common due to mid-level cold strike, all time bittering cold wind made life devastating. Jessore's situation was much worse than any other side, adjacent Chuadanga saw 6.4 degree Celsius one day ago. Ferry stopped trafficking at night due to heavy mist for 8-10 hours, all buses used to delay. However, I went for ticket on Friday morning, though didn't see sunlight till then.

Saturday, 10:30am, my bus should've left by this time. The day surprised me with glazy sunlight; it was bright, no sign of mist. All other buses arrived & left in schedule time, except my bus; you know my bus is always later than me! Bus counter was full, other series went by, but this crowd didn't move, realized that they are  same my bus riders. Counter-men told that the bus arrived at nearest terminal in time, but delayed to change glass as they're broken. The ugly bus arrived after 1 hour and left at 11:45am; on landing we realized it's old like ancient mariner cursed with fragile pattern and stupid seats.

After 1 hour we realized that the bus is moving like cow-wagon. The driver was horrible, even local buses crossed our bus. I'm not fan of fast rides, but needed quick shift towards ferry before evening. Trucks are preferred for ferry after evening & buses wait for the day. However, our bus reached 'ghat' after 3 hours, though usual time is around 2+ hours. I feared a big line, but it exceeded my thoughts; 2 parallel lines of trucks were already there, buses made 3rd row. The road got stuck, it’s impossible for any vehicle to cross this line, ferries arrived at this side, but bus can't make way. Driver made another stupid move, slided right by the melting line to cross front bus, but too narrow space pushed it to shake violently. Passengers began to shout as it was about to dive into pond.

Girls' panic began immediately. A teenage girl began to scold her somebody in loud voice, charged why he purchased ticket for this bus! When crisis strikes, women tend to loose common sense. Else, she should realize that its not driver's fault for the traffic jam, if she rides on a Pajero then the same case she had to face.

I decided to walk down the road, a fresh graduate from Chittagong varsity sat beside me, accompanied me. We walked for about 20 minutes, viewed harsh reality & concluded that its impossible for the bus to reach ferry in next 2 hours. There's just 1 road for vehicles of both ferry & lunch. And that's stuck.

It was sunny day though morning was misty. Marvel clouds in deep blue sky, big river, the annoyed crowd added some eternal flavor. I enjoyed the moments.

Finally we crossed Padma 15 minutes before evening. I was happy not to face another night waiting at ghat. But frustration embraced every passenger, even him who's highly affirmative when our bus crossed ferry & immediately stopped at a corner. Driver informed that 1 tire is gone, needs to be repaired, will cost only 1 hour. To my count, 3-4 babies were in bus, they simply began to cry as passed massive 7 hours already. I chose not to step out due to shivering cold, but had to get down after 45 minutes, watched tire operation. Another bad news kicked our hopes, one more tire is punctured, would take another 1 hour. I didn't know whom to blame.

After 2.5 hours, bus began to roll at about 8pm. But heavy fog prevented its speed, can't see anything after 10 feet. I knew it, village area sees thick fog, while Dhaka may not see at all. We traveled in slow motion, but I'm happy that it was a safe journey. Aminbazar jam is a must for all, it delayed us another 30 minutes.

After 13 hours I reached my home at 11:45pm. What a memorable journey!