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Thursday, August 03, 2004

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PM seeks world help for post-flood rehabilitation

The Bangladesh Observer

ARAIHAZAR (Narayanganj), Aug 2:–Prime Minister Khaleda Zia today urged international community to come forward responding to her government’s appeal for helping Bangladesh people rebuild life blighted by the worst floods in decades, reports UNB.

She expressed the hope for international help while addressing briefly a gathering of flood-stricken people here at Jhaupara, against the background of an unending expanse of floodwater all around.  

The Prime Minister billed the current flooding, which engulfed two-thirds of the country, the severest since Bangladesh’s birth.

The magnitude of flooding this time is heavier than the floods that washed the country in 1998 and a decade back in 1988, she told her audience, adding that international assistance is necessary to cope with the scale of damage done by the natural calamity.

Prime Minister Khaleda regreted that whatever the alliance government had done in development work, particularly building infrastructures like roads, culverts, bridges, embankments, were all undone by the devastating floods.

“The floods caused massive damage and losses across the country,” she said.

The Prime Minister, however, assured that the government would start massive reconstruction work for infrastructure and schools in right earnest.

And rationing on VGF card and other supports of the government to flood-affected areas and people would continue until the flood victims rebuild their homes and harvest new crops.

She said the government would provide farmers with seedlings for free as well as fertilizers at reduced rates along with other necessary supports so they can recoup the losses.

In apprehension of outbreaks of various diseases in the flood aftermath, Begum Zia said the government is armed with preparation with medicines and physicians alongside relief supplies to combat the adversities.

“Even army is ready to provide health service to the flood-affected people alongside relief operation,” she told the gathering.

Prime Minister Khaleda, also chairperson of the ruling party, said BNP is a time-tested friend of the people – as she herself and the party stand beside the people, be in power or out in the opposition, at their time of need.

She said there was no reason to worry as BNP and the coalition government would come up with whatever needed.

The Prime Minister thanked the well-off people of society as well as organizations for donating to the Prime Minister’s relief fund in aid of the flood victims. She hoped that more affluent people and organizations would come up with help for the down-and-outs.   

She distributed relief materials among flood victims at Jhaupara and Safar Ali Government College. She also visited some flood-affected areas of Araihazar.

Water Resources Minister Maj (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed, also minister in charge of Narayanganj, State Minister for Liberation War Prof Rezaul Karim, local MP Ataur Rahman Khan, Giasuddin Ahmed MP and Narayanganj BNP general secretary Advocate Taimur Alam Khondokar, among others, also spoke and accompanied the PM during the relief distribution.

PM’s Political Secretary Harris Chowdhury and BNP leader Khwaja Samsun Nahar Ahsanullah accompanied the Prime Minister.

On return from Araihazar, the Prime Minister drove straight to Badda and distributed relief supplies to the flood-affected people of Bhatara union.

Dhaka City Mayor Sadek Hossain Khoka, State Minister for Expatriates Welfare and Oversees Employment Maj (retd) Qamrul Islam, PM’s political secretary Harris Chowdhury and Red Crescent Chairman Maj General (retd) ZA Khan were among others present on the occasion.

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Saifur to be requested to lift VAT

Energy Ministry wants to see decline in LPG price


The Bangladesh Observer

The Energy Ministry wants to see a decline in the price of LPG, used for domestic cooking purpose in areas where there is no piped gas, through fiscal measures, reports UNB.

Its domestic tariff has marked a rise following the price hike of crude oil on the international market and thereby the costs of LPG ingredients -- propane and butane.

Besides, the budget for fiscal 2004-05 imposed an additional 15 per cent VAT on imported LPG cylinders while there had already been a 7.5 per cent import duty on propane and butane.

State Minister for Energy AKM Mosharraf Hossain said his ministry would make a formal request to Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman to withdraw the VAT and import duty to lower the price of LPG.

In a meeting of the advisory council on his ministry on Monday he also asked Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation to bring a uniformity in the price of local and domestic LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).

His directive came as the private companies engaged in LPG bottling and marketing business in the country are facing an uneven competition with the BPC-controlled LPG Gas Limited.

The company sells a cylinder of gas at Tk 335. But, in practice, the users do not get it at that price and buy gas at the tariff equivalent to private companies’ gas. The profit goes only to the dealers.

On the other side, the price of each cylinder of LPG of the private companies for the dealers was Tk 365 to Tk 370 even six months back, which went up to Tk 400-430 due to price hike of crude oil.

In India, the price of a 16-kg cylinder of LPG is Tk 340 (Rs 265). On the other hand, a 12-kg cylinder of LPG in Bangladesh at buyers’ level is Tk 450 and in some cases (based on distance) Tk 600.

The country needs annually 60,000-70,000 metric tonnes of LPG. Of the requirement, 20,000-22,000 metric tonnes come from the government-owned Chittagong and Kailashtila LPG plants.

Besides, Jamuna buys LPG from the government and bottles it. Its production capacity is 23,000 metric tonnes, but it can bottle only 6,000 metric tonnes for lack of sufficient supply of LPG.

On the other hand, 60 per cent of the country's total demand is met by imported LPG. Four LPG companies import LP gas, bottle locally and sales it in the domestic market.

The production capacity of the private sector industries is around 500,000 tonnes. But, as there is a lack of market, they are utilising only 20-22 per cent of their production capacity.

After investigation, it was learnt that if the present demand of the country shots up by 6-7 times, the existing plants would be able to meet the additional demand.

A major barrier in popularising LPG is the initial cost of an LPG-system (cylinder and oven) which is Tk 2,000-Tk 2,300. The price has shot up due to imposition of 15 per cent VAT on cylinders.

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650 cases of women repression reported in July

The Bangladesh Observer, Staff Correspondent

As many as 650 incidents of torture on women were reported in July this year according to the findings of the Bangladesh Mohila Parisad.

Of the total incidents of torture on women, 178 were the victims of rape. Among the rape victims, 23 women were gang raped. Nine women committed suicide after rape.

Some 32 women were tortured for dowry and of them 19 were killed for failing to provide dowry. Sixteen women received acid burns and 23 were abducted in the month.

Four incidents of torture were reportedly across the country in July, through fatwa. For different reasons 93 women and children were killed and 88 received physical uyunes during the period, the findings revealed.

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