Daily Archives: February 2, 2009

Our Politics of Dispossession

Naeem Mohaiemen

Published in the Forum on February 2009

When talking about human rights, complacent analysis comforts us with nostalgic notions like: “Bangalis have always been egalitarian/secular/(insert favourite value).” But in the context of life in a subcontinent with too many people fighting for too few resources, legal infrastructure is far more important than attitudes and social norms.

Within this context, there are certain laws that stubbornly stay in place. In some cases, this is because political parties consider them to be useful future tools (Special Powers Act). In other cases, it is because questions of patriotism and security are considered off limits to debate (anti-terrorism laws). Continue reading

Food Prices and Food Security

Jyoti Rahman

Published in the Forum on February 2009

“We will have to … reduce price hike and improve people’s living standard,” said the prime minister at her first news conference after the landslide election victory. Since then, she and her senior ministers have repeatedly stressed that bringing down the prices of essentials within people’s purchasing power is a priority task for the government. This is not surprising given the importance most voters accorded to high prices in the lead up to the election.1

The Awami League capitalised on voters’ concerns by pointing to its better record on this issue. Prices of essentials — the proverbial rice, lentil, cooking oil and salt — either remained virtually unchanged or fell between 1996 and 2001, while all prices rose under its rival (Chart 1). To put the price rises in context, a male farm labourer earned an average daily wage of 48 taka in 1996 (with which he could buy 3.1 kg of rice), 67 taka in 2001 (buying 4.3 kg of rice) and 95 taka in 2006 (buying 3.7 kg of rice). Continue reading

1/11:An Obituary

Rumi Ahmed

Published in the Forum on February 2009

This is not an anniversary piece on the events that took place in Bangladesh on January 11, 2007. Rather, this is an obituary of a thing called 1/11. And unfortunately this obituary does not have much good to say about 1/11.

As a political-national event, 1/11 has not been clearly defined yet. There has not been any consensus about what to call the events of January 11, 2007. It was definitely not a popular mass uprising like 1969 or 1990. Whatever it is, the event was definitely a result of violent street agitations by Awami League or deceitful dialog by BNP. Continue reading

Digital Bangladesh: Going Beyond the Rhetoric

Mridul Chowdhury

Published in the Forum on February 2009

In the lead up to the 2008 election, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia seemed to be on a race to promise a Digital Bangladesh to the citizens. Khaleda went on to promise the “delivery of a Digital Bangladesh” much before 2021, the AL-proposed date, as if the concept is something tangible like a bridge or a highway! All this war of words indicates two things:

  • Even if those leaders do not really know what they mean by Digital Bangladesh, it is a positive sign that they are thinking that this term associates them with modernity and progressive-thinking;
  • There is a growing public demand from at least the educated section of the society to see their government place more strategic emphasis on the use of information technologies (IT) for national development. Continue reading