Mayhem in Narayanganj

Mayhem in Narayanganj

Narayanganj city Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and around 50 others were injured as supporters of local Awami League lawmaker Shamim Osman attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to a clash on Bangabandhu Road in Narayanganj's Chashara.

The entire area turned into a battlefield as the followers of the two leaders got locked in chase and counter-chase.

There had been tension in the city over the last few days as Osman took a stance against the mayor's decision to evict illegal hawkers from footpaths, locals said.

At a rally on Monday afternoon, the AL lawmaker said the hawkers could not be evicted until they are rehabilitated, and that they would do business on footpaths from 5:00pm to 10:00pm on Tuesdays till February 21.

Ivy, meanwhile, declared that she would not allow hawkers to occupy footpaths.

Around 4:15pm yesterday, Ivy along with city councillors and her followers took position in front of the Nagar Bhaban. They then marched in procession towards Chashara where several groups of hawkers had already taken position.

When the procession reached Sayam Plaza in the area around 4:30pm, some of Ivy's followers tried to evict hawkers from the footpaths, leading to an altercation.

As the two sides got involved in a scuffle, Jubo League leader Niazul Islam, who is loyal to Osman, came forward and threatened Ivy's supporters brandishing a firearm.

At this, Ivy's supporters got agitated and roughed him up, said locals.

Minutes later, Awami Swechchhasebak League city unit President Jewel Hossain, also loyal to Osman, arrived at the scene and Ivy's supporters also beat him up.

When local AL leaders and activists -- loyal to the AL MP -- arrived at the scene, the hawkers joined them. They then attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to chase and counter-chase.

Brickbats hurled by Osman's supporters and hawkers hit Ivy's leg. Her supporters shielded her and took her to Narayanganj Press Club.

Narayanganj Press Club Secretary Sharifuddin Sabuj was also injured during the clash.

Gunshots were heard and some were seen brandishing firearms at that time. Panicked pedestrians ran for cover and shopkeepers shuttered their outlets, locals said.

Later, police swung into action, fired blank shots and charged baton. The law enforcers eventually brought the situation under control.

When Osman's followers gathered in front of Haque Plaza, about 200 yards from Sayam Plaza, around 5:00pm, the AL lawmaker came out of the Rifles Club and addressed them.

He alleged that shots were fired at his leaders and workers, leaving many of them wounded.

We did not take the law into our own hands,” he claimed.

At a press briefing at Narayanganj Press Club in the evening, Ivy said, “We were attacked without any provocation. From the Rifles Club, Shamim Osman gave the order to shoot. His men fired shots one after another.

He launched the attack on innocent people with the help of the administration. I demand withdrawal of the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of      police.

She said Jubo League leader Niazul, who was spotted brandishing a firearm, is Osman's follower.

Talking to a private TV channel, Osman refuted the allegations against him.

He, however, said he knows Niazul, who is the owner of a big market.

Even though he was seen brandishing a pistol, it is to be ascertained whether he fired any shot or not,” he added.

Niazul, a resident of the city's Chadmari area, worked as a contactor from 1996 to 2001.

According to police, he had been accused in a case over the murder of a local BNP leader in 1988. But the case was withdrawn later.

Niazul, who introduces himself as a Jubo League leader, is brother of Jubo League activist Nazrul Islam alias Sweet, who was killed in a shootout with law enforcers.

Asked about Ivy's allegation, Narayanganj Additional Superintendent of Police (administration) Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman said, “We did not take any sides. We tried to prevent the feuding groups from attacking one another. We performed our duties”.

The situation is normal now. Some police personnel were also wounded during the clash,” he added.

Of the injured, at least five were sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital in a critical condition. Thirty others were treated at Narayanganj General Hospital, said Asaduzzaman, medical officer at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Narayanganj Union of Journalists and Narayanganj Press Club said they would stage a demonstration in the city this morning, protesting the attack on the press club secretary.

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No job for China Harbour in future

No job for China Harbour in future

Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said China Harbour Engineering Company Limited has been blacklisted for offering bribes to government officials and would not get any contracts in the future.

The government will take a decision about the ongoing projects where the Chinese company is involved, he said.

The company had previously got the contract for expansion of the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway.

Muhith was talking to journalists at his secretariat office.

Replying to a question on whether the company was blacklisted, Muhith said, “Blacklisted. Of course.

Queried on whether China Harbour will be able to do other works in Bangladesh, he replied, “No, No. They can't.

Regarding other projects the company is involved in, the finance minister said, “Let's see what can be done. Normal rule is blacklisted means blacklisted.

When asked whether the company offered bribes to government officials to get the contract or to increase amount for work, he said, “They have already got the contract. I think [they offered bribe] only to please [officials] so that they [company] can misappropriate money.

About punishing the officials who were given the bribe, he said, “No, certainly not. Because, they [the company] offered it to the secretary and the secretary gave it to us.

When asked who the secretary is, he replied, “Communication [road transport and bridges ministry] secretary.

Queried about the amount of bribe, the finance minister said, “I forgot the amount. Maybe 50 lakh. He, however, did not mention the currency used.

He also said they were proud of the secretary for his actions.

Contacted, MAN Siddique, who went on leave preparatory to retirement (LPR) as the secretary of Road Transport and Bridges Division last October, said: “This incident did not happen during this tenure. It may [have] happened later.

Declining to give any more details, Siddique said, “You better talk to the incumbent secretary.

The Daily Star could not reach incumbent Secretary Nazrul Islam even after sending texts.

However, sources at the road transport and bridges ministry said China Harbour gave the bribe money “as a gift” to the newly appointed secretary of the ministry in November last year.

The secretary did not receive the money, and the ministry later sent it to the Chinese embassy in Dhaka with a letter, they added.

On Monday, the finance minister had said: “[The expansion of] Dhaka-Sylhet Highway, somehow, we had to drop it. Because, the party who got the contract, they came up, in the very beginning, with offer of bribe, open bribe.

So, we gave the money, which they gave to some of our officials, back to the Chinese embassy and naturally blacklisted the company. The government decided to fund the expansion work of the 226km Dhaka-Sylhet road to a four-lane highway on its own, Muhith said.

Bangladesh and China signed a memorandum of understanding during the Chinese president's visit to Bangladesh in 2016.

Under the deal, China had promised to give soft loans of $21. 5 billion for 26 projects, including the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane highway project.

China also selected China Harbour Engineering Company Limited for the project and asked Bangladesh to sign a commercial contract with the company.

Soon, the negotiation process started between the company and the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), finance ministry sources said.

Bangladesh estimated Tk 10,000 crore as the cost of the project, but China Harbour demanded near about Tk 20,000 crore, they said.

The Bangladesh government planned to sign loan agreements for eight of the 26 projects with China's Exim Bank within 2017. This project was one of them, but the loan agreement for it was not signed, sources added.

Earlier, the government on October 9, 2016, signed a primary deal with China Harbour. RHD Chief Engineer Ibne Alam Hasan and the company's Vice-President Tang Qiaoliang inked the agreement at a hotel in Dhaka.

On September 21, 2016, the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved RHD's proposal, allowing China Harbour to carry out the project.

China Harbour is one of the few Chinese companies to establish good relations with some local firms and government officials.

Arriving in Bangladesh in early 1990s, this firm now uses its local connections to get projects. It even has the ability to increase costs in the middle of a project's implementation, some contractors and sources in RHD told The Daily Star.

They [China Harbour and their local agents] are smart and well-connected. They can easily reach a minister or an influential figure in the government in a bid to get contracts,” said the owner of one of the country's largest construction firms, requesting anonymity.

He said agents of the companies regularly visit ministries and meet officials. You can also find them at the RHD office, trying to woo officials.

Allegation of bribing Bangladeshi influential people is not new about the Chinese company.

The company had earlier bribed Arafat Rahman Koko, younger son of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, and Ismail Hossain Saimon, son of former shipping minister late Akbar Hossain, to get the construction work of the New Mooring Container Terminal at Chittagong port.

The two were awarded six-year jail for laundering the bribe money to Singapore. The Anti-Corruption Commission later brought back the money.

Additional Chief Engineer of RHD Abul Kashem Bhuiyan, who is involved in Dhaka-Sylhet expansion project, denied any malpractice in the project. It is beyond my knowledge. Nothing like that [bribing] happened here. It may happen somewhere else,” he told this newspaper.

Asked about the local agents of China Harbour, he said the firm has local agents whom he did not know.

According to Kashem, the Chinese firm demanded far more money than what RHD had estimated for the expansion work.

We calculated every cost keeping in mind inflation and price escalation of materials, but the company came up with such a rate that was not acceptable,” he explained.

He said local experts, including a teacher from Buet, was involved in the pricing procedure.

RHD Chief Engineer Alam said he was surprised to know about it and declined to comment.

On February 8 last year, the cabinet committee on economic affairs awarded the Chinese company the job of developing an economic and industrial zone for Chinese investors in Chittagong's Anwara.

On December 8, 2016, China Harbour and another Chinese company entered into preliminary agreements with Bangladesh to develop three components of Payra seaport with $510 million.

On September 21 that year, the cabinet committee again selected China Harbour for implementation of another project, which includes construction of a marine drive and a 160km four-lane expressway and land reclamation from Sitakunda to Cox's Bazar.

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Three-wheelers to join ride-hailing bandwagon

Three-wheelers to join ride-hailing bandwagon

They had called a strike demanding a ban on fast-growing ride-hailing services in order to ensure their long-held dominance on the streets and keep competitors at bay. But CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers are now coming to terms with the changing reality and accepting the technological transformation.

They have started joining a new mobile app platform called "Hellow".

The mode of transport, which has drawn a lot of flak over the years because of high fares and poor customer service, will start using the app from March.

A local software company, Top II, started the test run yesterday. As many as 500 CNG-run auto-rickshaws have so far been registered with the service expected to be launched in a month and a half, said Rakibul Hasan, director marketing of the firm.

The safety of the commuters and government-approved fares would be maintained, he added.

According to the government-set rate, fare for the first two kilometres is Tk 40 while it is Tk 12 for each of the next kilometres. The waiting charge is Tk 2 for every minute.

Commuters have to spend close to double for availing a ride-share service like Uber or Pathao cars. For motorbikes, the fares are more or less similar.

Actually, we are trying to modernise the auto-rickshaw service as its demand is still high despite the ride-hailing services," said Rakibul.

CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers are often criticised for charging way more than the government-set fares and behaving badly with passengers.

We have addressed these issues and arranged training session for many drivers over the last four months. We want to make it clear that the platform will not have any indecent drivers," Rakibul told The Daily Star.

Leaders of the Auto-rickshaw Workers' Oikya Parishad said the drivers also have understood the challenges and they are now willing to cooperate.

Sometimes, people get scared even at the mention of the words 'CNG driver'. We want this situation to change," said Shakhawat Hossain Dulal, general secretary of the platform.

It will take time but at least we are giving it a try," he said.

Talking to this correspondent, Fathema Khatun, who uses Uber to go to work, said she hopes that the CNG fare would go down significantly if the vehicles are run using any app.

Drivers will share 15 percent of their revenue of each trip with Top II, Rakibul said.

Dulal, however, said they have not yet finalised anything about the issue.

The inception of Pathao and Uber, when launched in 2016, was a much-desired relief for commuters against the “hard to get” auto-rickshaws. is resulted in a drastic drop in CNG auto-rickshaw demand.

Late in November last year, CNG drivers even demonstrated across the capital and the port city demanding withdrawal of the Pathao, Uber and other ride-sharing service.

CNG-run auto-rickshaws started losing customers since ride- sharing services began,” said Rokeya Prachi, communication director of 'Hellow' authorities.

Prachi, who is also a national film award winning actress, said, “Riders were also not comfortable with the auto-rickshaws for many reasons. We have worked on those issues following a survey.

She also said auto-rickshaw drivers will get adequate passengers if their vehicles can be brought under this app-based service and hoped that this will end squabbling over fares.

The app will now come under the “Ride-sharing Service Guidelines 2017” approved by the government yesterday.

Prachi said they also have plans to launch car and motorcycle services through their app, which will be in Bangla.

At a recent press conference, Top II said their service will be available round the clock and the drivers will be bound to go anywhere in the city.

Within a short time we will introduce a customer care service," said Rakibul.

Currently, there are only 13,000 government registered CNG-run auto-rickshaws in the city. The total number of the vehicles is over 25,000.

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3 lakh pieces yaba seized at St Maritn’s Island

3 lakh pieces yaba seized at St Maritn’s Island

Being tipped off that a big consignment of Yaba pills was being taken to St. Martin's Island, members of Coast Guard conducted the drive at the west beach of the island and recovered the contraband pills worth Tk 12 crore, said station commander of St. Martin's Island Coast Guard Lt Jahid Al Hasan.

However, sensing the presence of the law enforcers, the drug peddlers fled the scene, Jahid added.

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2 ‘robbers’ beaten dead in Narayanganj

2 ‘robbers’ beaten dead in Narayanganj

Two youths, believed to be robbers, were beaten dead at Narayanganj’s Bandar upazila early today.

The identities of the deceased could not be known, but they were aged around 25-28, our local correspondent reports.

Abul Kalam, officer-in-charge (OC) of Bandar Police Station, said some 10-12 masked robbers attacked the house of one Rafique Munshi in Musapur union around 3:00am.

Locals gave a chase and managed to catch two of them and beat them dead, he said. Six villagers were also injured during the chasing, the police official said.

The bodies have been sent to Narayanganj General Hospital morgue, he added.

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No bar on academic activities of 57 Uttara medical college students

No bar on academic activities of 57 Uttara medical college students

The apex court lifted the injunction imposed by the High Court restraining the Uttara Adhunik Medical College authorities from undertaking any academic or other activities of the 57 students.

It also asked the authorities to admit one Tariqul Islam who was deprived of admission to the college in next seven days.

A five member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, who is performing functions of the chief justice, came up with the order after disposing of a petition filed by the medical college challenging the High Court order.

Barrister Mehdi Hassan Chowdhury, a lawyer for Uttara Medical College told The Daily Star that there is no legal bar for the Uttara Adhunik Medical College authorities to continue undertaking academic and other activities of the 57 students following the Supreme Court order.

All the 57 students were on the merit list for the admission into the college.

The HC bench on January 9 imposed the injunction after hearing a writ petition filed by the guardian of a deprived admission seeker challenging the legality of the admission of 57 students.

Writ petitioner’s lawyer Advocate M Asaduzzaman told The Daily Star that the director of health services on August 20 last year issued a notice directing the medical college authorities to admit students on the basis of merits.

But Uttara Adhunik Medical College admitted 57 students in December last year on “first come first served” basis in violation of the government notice, he added.

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