General

Year of the Pandemic: Bright spots few and far between

While the whole world has been grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, many negative and positive incidents have occurred in 2020.

Here we look back at some of the major events that left their mark on the outgoing year in Bangladesh.

Covid-19

Bangladesh reported its first coronavirus cases on March 8 and the first death on March 18.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Bangladesh exceeded 510,080 after the health authorities recorded 932 new cases on Monday.

The death toll has risen to 7,479 with 23 more deaths till Monday.

Coronavirus cases were first reported in China in December last year. In March, the World Health Organization declared the crisis a pandemic.

The government on March 23 declared general holidays from March 26 to April 4, aiming to protect people from being infected by the fast spreading virus as elsewhere in the world.

Later, the holidays were extended five times until April 25 -– first from April 5 to April 9, then from April 10 to April 14, later from April 15 to April 16, then again from April 17 to April 25 and finally from April 25 to May 5.

Later, the government decided to allow businesspeople to keep shops and shopping malls open till 4 pm every day maintaining health guidelines during the general holidays extended until May 16 considering Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.

All government, semi-government, autonomous and private offices resumed on May 31 ending a 66-day general holiday amid spike in coronavirus cases and deaths across the country.

The pandemic’s local outbreak and the response resulted in the poverty rate, or proportion of people under the poverty line, being pushed up to 35% from 23%.

Millions also lost their jobs as the economy slowed down considerably, although it avoided a contraction unlike most other economies including giant neighbours India. This allowed Bangladesh to overtake India in terms of per capita income in the year’s final quarter according to the IMF.

Padma Multipurpose Bridge

The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, the country’s flagship development project, nears completion as its main structure became fully visible with the installation of its last span.

The last span, named 2S, was installed on pillars 12 and 13 of the bridge at Mawa point around 12:02 pm on December 10.

This is one of the top priority projects of the government as it has planned to strengthen the country’s communication network, aiming to give a boost to economic activities.

The construction work on the 6.15-km bridge started in November, 2014 and the mega structure is expected to be open to traffic in 2022.

Once in operation, the Padma Bridge, Bangladesh’s largest infrastructure project till date, will connect 21 southern districts with its capital Dhaka and boost the GDP by 1 percent.

Deadly capsize of a vessel in Buriganga

At least 34 people were killed when a Dhaka-bound ‘MV Morning Bird’ launch carrying around 150 passengers from Munshiganj sank after being hit by the much larger ‘Mayur-2’ near Shyambazar close to Sadarghat in the capital on June 29.

Regent scam

Law enforcers raided Mirpur and Uttara branches of Regent Hospital on July 6 on charge of issuing fake Covid-19 certificates and charging the admitted patients exorbitant fees.

The Regent Group head office and both hospitals were sealed off and 16 people, including owner Kazi Shahed, were sued on charge of issuing fake coronavirus test reports.

Rab arrested Shahed, a braggart known for boasting of his ties to the ruling party, from the bordering area of Satkhira on July 15. They also recovered a pistol, some bullets and foreign currencies from his possession.

Narayanganj explosion

Some 40 people suffered burns after air conditioners of a mosque exploded during Esha prayers in Fatullah, Narayanganj on September 4.

Of them, 37 were taken to the Dhaka hospital in critical condition. 34 people died in this connection.

Major Sinha killing

On July 31, Major (retd) Sinha Md Rashed Khan was killed in police firing at Baharchhara police check-post in Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar district.

Sarmin Shahriar Ferdous, elder sister of Sinha, filed a case at Teknaf Senior Judicial Magistrate Court in this connection.

Officer-in-Charge of Teknaf Police Station Pradeep Kumar Das and Inspector Liakat among nine people was made accused in the case.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on December 13 submitted charge sheet against 15 people in connection with the case.

Of the charge-sheeted accused 14 are behind bars now while one is absconding.

The actions of the law enforcers came in for severe criticism, and by the end of the year may have resulted in a marked decrease in extrajudicial killings following this incident.

Violence against women

Two gang rapes, at Sylhet’s MC College and of a housewife in Nokakhali sparked a wave of protest across the country.

In Sylhet, a group of youths tied up a man and raped his 19-year-old wife at a dormitory of MC College on September 25.

After police rescued the couple, the victim’s husband filed a case with Shahporan Police Station against nine people mentioning the names of six.

Protesters also took to the streets demanding capital punishment of the rapists.

The much-talked-about ‘Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020’ was passed in Parliament on November 17 for ensuring death penalty as the highest punishment for the heinous crime of rape.

The bill was amended to incorporate the death penalty as the maximum punishment in rape cases.

In the proposed law, the punishment for rape is death penalty or life imprisonment. According to Article 9 (1) of the existing Women and Children Repression Prevention Act-2000, the punishment for rape is life imprisonment.

This was earlier promulgated through an ordinance on October 13 as Parliament was not in session, in the face of populist demands to ensure death penalty for rapists.

As per the legal obligation the ordinance was placed in Parliament for its approval by Law Minister Anisul Huq.

The ordinance was issued following waves of anti-rape demonstrations across Bangladesh after a serious of heinous rapes, most notably the gang rape of a housewife in Noakhali’s Begumganj upazila, which was videoed by the perpetrators and later the video turned up on the internet, which went viral.

The incident occurred at Joykrishnapur village under Eklashpur union of the upazila on September 2.

ICC Under-19 World Cup

The young Tigers wrote history for Bangladesh cricket beating four-time champions India by three wickets in the final of the tournament at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom, South Africa on February 10.

Closure of Educational Institutions

The government has extended the closure of schools and educational institutions to January 16, as it looks to allay fears of a potentially brutal ‘second wave’ of infections exacerbated by the winter season.

Students have been asked to stay home and follow the guidelines and instructions of the Prime Minister’s Office, the cabinet division, the Public Administration Ministry and the Health Services Division.

The government closed schools and educational institutions on March 17 and extended the closure several times, most recently until December 19.

Rohingya relocation proccess

As part of the government’s initiative to relocate Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, 1,134 Rohingyas started their journey to the island by five ships on Tuesday in the second batch.

In the first batch, 1,642 Rohingyas were transferred to Bhashan Char on December 4.

Source: United News of Bangladesh