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Opinions of Saturday, 11 December 2010

Columnist: Adu, Joseph Ampomah

A Black Pebble In White Sand

Ninety days, yes this is how long the time I have spent in Dhaka a city which inhabitants are mostly light in skin or brown , if there is any color of such for human race, and where you hardly come across a black man. For the benefit of those who do not know where Dhaka is, it is the capital of Bangladesh. One of the countries in Southern Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India, The population of Bangladesh is 156 million by July 2010 estimate living on a total land area of 143,998 sq km, compare this to my country, Ghana with total areas of 238,533 sq km and yet with population of 22 million. Hey do you know that Ghana and Bangladesh have something in common, the capital of Bangladesh which is Dhaka have same population of 22 million people living in a land space of 1528 sq. Km which is the same as Ghana’s population. We are both third world countries by economic standard, Ghana’s per capita income is slightly better than Bangladesh but when it comes to industrialization, Ghana is far behind Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is ranked 94 in sizes of countries compared to Ghana which is ranked 81 in the world. The first five biggest countries are Russia, Canada, USA, China and Brazil.
So what can I tell you of my experience in 90 days in Dhaka? Bangladesh also has Old colonial building which serves as historical artefacts. One such place is
the Land Owners Palace.
Baliati Palace
The Baliati Rajbari, Saturia Upazila of Manikgonj District, is one of Bangladesh's remaining evidences of rich architectural heritage located 35 miles northwest of Dhaka and 5 miles east of Manikganj district headquarters.It is undoubtedly is one of the finest examples of feudal palace architecture developed in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, the buildings of the Rajbari are gradually falling apart and in a condition of neglect. The Rajbari marks a distinct milestone in the evolution of an architectural trend in Bangladesh, one that will hopefully be restored for the eyes of generations to come.
This architectural trend has not stopped and the country use of land for development is something to be marvel at.
Equitable use of the space is essential due to population density and needs. My apartment is one of such good use of space, a 24 flat six storey building which look cramped from outside but inside gives you such large space and comfort.
What is now called Bangladesh is part of the historic region of Bengal, the northeast portion of the Indian subcontinent. Bangladesh consists primarily of East Bengal (West Bengal is part of India and its people are primarily Hindu) plus the Sylhet district of the Indian state of Assam.
The earliest reference to the region was to a kingdom called Vanga, or Banga (c. 1000 B.C.). Buddhists ruled for centuries, but by the 10th century Bengal was primarily Hindu. In 1576, Bengal became part of the Mogul Empire, and the majority of East Bengalis converted to Islam. Bengal was ruled by British India from 1757 until Britain withdrew in 1947, and Pakistan was founded out of the two predominantly Muslim regions of the Indian subcontinent. For almost 25 years after independence from Britain, its history was part of Pakistan'. West Pakistan and East Pakistan were united by religion (Islam), but their peoples were separated by culture, physical features, and 1,000 miles of Indian Territory
Tension between East and West Pakistan existed from the outset because of their vast geographic, economic, and cultural differences. East Pakistan's Awami League, a political party founded by the Bengali nationalist Sheik Mujibur Rahman in 1949, sought independence from West Pakistan. Although 56% of the population resided in East Pakistan, the West held the lion's share of political and economic power. In 1970, East Pakistanis secured a majority of the seats in the national assembly. President Yahya Khan postponed the opening of the national assembly in an attempt to circumvent East Pakistan's demand for greater autonomy. As a consequence, East Pakistan seceded and the independent state of Bangladesh, or Bengali nation, was proclaimed on March 26, 1971. Civil war broke out, and with the help of Indian troops in the last few weeks of the war, East Pakistan defeated West Pakistan on Dec. 16, 1971. An estimated one million Bengalis were killed in the fighting or later slaughtered. Ten million more took refuge in India. In Feb. 1974, Pakistan agreed to recognize the independent state of Bangladesh.
Founding president Sheikh Mujibur was assassinated in 1975, as was the next president, Zia ur-Rahman. On March 24, 1982, Gen. Hossain Mohammad Ershad, army chief of staff, took control in a bloodless coup but was forced to resign on Dec. 6, 1990, amid violent protests and numerous allegations of corruption. A succession of prime ministers governed in the 1990s, including Khaleda Zia, wife of the assassinated president Zia ur-Rahman, and Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the daughter of Sheik Mujibur.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina completed her five-year term as prime minister in July 2000—the first leader to do so since the country gained independence from Pakistan in 1974. In Oct. 2001 elections, Khaleda Zia again won the prime ministership. After Khaleda Zia, there was a caretaker government for two years as a result of the deadlock in countries politics which eventually resolved in 2008 when the current Prime Minister was elected.

Most of Bangladesh lies within the broad delta formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and is exceedingly flat, low-lying, and subject to annual flooding. Much fertile, alluvial soil is deposited by the floodwaters. The only significant area of hilly terrain, constituting less than one-tenth of the nation's territory, is the Chittagong Hill Tracts District in the narrow south-eastern panhandle of the country. Bangladesh is an agricultural country. With some three-fifths of the population engaged in farming. Jute and tea are principal sources of foreign exchange. Bangladesh is an agricultural country. With some three-fifths of the population engaged in farming. Jute and tea are principal sources of foreign exchange.
Average living allowance of $2 is enough, this country where you really lives on two dollars without going hungry. How can food be so cheap in a country with such explosive population? This perhaps defies economic logic. But there is a reason for it. Food is produce in abundance, most staple food in the country are not imported. Every arable land is under cultivation, every nook and cranny has electricity which allow for cottage industries to thrive. Every vehicle which requires fuel runs on natural gas which the country has in abundance. Appropriate technology is in action here. The crowded streets are full of rickshaw a form of transportation using manpower. Average cost of utility tariff for water is about $4 for a month. If you are among those who frequent United States and Britain to purchase clothes, you are probably purchasing from Bangladesh, Majority of the fashion houses in US and Britain buy from many garment manufacturers in Dhaka and other cities in Bangladesh.
Being one of the few black skin people in Dhaka, I get a lot of stare, but who cares; the natives are very friendly and want to know which country Joe black comes from. Hello Ghana, Bangladeshis does not know where Africa start from but everyone who I come in contact with knows something about Ghanaian footballers, Essien, Asamoah Gyan et al.
If you are in Ghana and want to come to Bangladesh, sorry you will need to get a visa from Senegal or South. The Government has plans to open a consulate in Ghana soon and I am hoping it happen soon for Ghanaians to tap some knowledge from this part of the world.

This is written for the knowledge of mankind.


Profile:
Joseph Ampomah Adu works for Management Sciences for Health program – SPS as Deputy Country Director Technical