The government plans to add some 5,550 kilometres to the rural roads network, alongside 31,000 metres of bridges/culvert extensions that help to make the roads more accessible while at the same time taking them into the heart of communities.
Another much anticipated initiative will see the expansion of the climate resilient core road network to the rural areas, making them well-placed to sustain increased commercial and economic activity as the country evolves to middle-income status.
Meanwhile work on maintaining the 13,500 kilometers of pitched roads and 3,800 metres of bridges/culverts that already exist in rural areas will be carried out starting from the 2020-21 fiscal.
In addition, the document said, a total of 195 growth centres/haat-bazars will be developed to increase agricultural and non-agricultural outputs by stimulating rural economy, creating job opportunities and influencing supply chains.
To strengthen the activities of local government, 65 upazila complex buildings together with 100 union parishad buildings will be constructed.
Besides, a further 140 cyclone shelters will be built in coastal areas.
"With the development of roads, the country’s road network coverage will increase from 35.75 percent to 36.75 percent," the budget document said.
According to a senior official of the LGRD Ministry, rural roads are the main infrastructures for rural communities, based on which rural economy circulates, leading to gradual development of various amenities in rural lives in each village.
"Sustainable rural roads facilitate all other socio-economic benefits, such as access to education and health, employment, poverty alleviation, women development and business initiatives," he said.
The official said that priority areas for rural roads at the moment are- upgrading existing busy rural roads into two lanes to make them suitable for rapidly expanding rural economy, sustainable maintenance of constructed road infrastructures, and making new road connections quickly in villages currently without roads.
In addition to these development works in rural areas, the budget document added that targets have been set to construct 830 kilometers roads and footpaths, 250 kilometres drains and 3,000 metres bridges/culverts in small and big cities.
"Following the implementation of all these infrastructural development works, direct employment amounting to12 crore man-hour, and a huge opportunity for indirect employment will be created," the document reads.
The budget for 2020-21 fiscal has proposed Tk. 39,573 crore for the local government and rural development sector, up from the Tk. 37,886 crore in the outgoing fiscal year 2019-20.
The document mentioned that a commitment to increase rural road network coverage from 35 percent to 35.75 percent is on its way to being met fully.
In the last eleven years from 2009 until February 2020 - i.e. the current AL-led regime’s unbroken spell at the country’s helm - a total of 62,149 kilometers of rural roads has been built. That covers the construction of over 93 percent of roads at upazila level, almost 80 percent of roads in unions and 20 percent of rural roads.
"The expansion of this rural road network is contributing to the rapid expansion of the rural economy," it reads.
In addition, the government has built/rebuilt about 350,396 metres worth of bridges/culverts for improving the living standards of rural people in the last eleven years.
To rapidly spread development benefits to all corners of the country, it built some 20 bridges measuring over 500 metres each, to go with 480 that measure between 100-500 metres during the same period.
Ongoing infrastructure projects include 40 bridges of over 500 metres, and 220 more measuring between 100-500 metres.
In addition to rural infrastructures, 1,615 Union Parishad Complex buildings, 225 Upazila Complex/Extension buildings were constructed/ rebuilt, 2,287 growth centres and hat-bazars were developed, and 881 cyclone centers have been built in the last eleven years to make public services available for the rural people.
Although the flood situation in Kurigram district has improved a little bit, the sufferings of people have intensified for lack of relief materials and 'mismanagement' in their distribution.
Local public representatives claimed that the relief materials allocated for their areas are too inadequate to assuage the sufferings of flood victims, and they could not provide any relief for over nine days.
Deputy Commissioner of the district Rezaul Karim said they allocated 203 mts of rice and Tk 36.67 lakh in the beginning of the flashflood though a demand of 2,000 mts of rice and Tk 2 crore was sent for the flood-hit district.
The DC claimed the relief items were distributed at union level in coordination with all the local public representatives.
While visiting unions in nine upazilas of the district, the UNB correspondent found some discrepancies in allocation of relief materials for the distressed people.
Akmal Hossain, chairman of Bollov Khash Union Parishad, said they are yet to make any list of affected people as relief items have not reached his union.
However, Nageshwar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Noor Ahmed Masum said 60mts of rice was allocated for Bollov Khash union.
Chairman of Astomir Char Union Abu Taleb complained that there was no relief material for over 3,000 flood-hit people in his union.
The UNB correspondent tried to reach Chilpmari UNO AWM Rayhan Shah over phone to know about that but failed.
Rezaul Karim Amin, chairman of Bojra UP in Ulipur upazila, said he received only 200 packets of relief materials for over 2,000 flood victims in his union.
Belal Hossain, chairman of Begumganj UP in the same upazila, said they received only 300 packets of relief materials for more than 3,000 flood-hit people.
Asked about the shortage in relief supply, Ulipur UNO Abdul Quader said, “The relief materials were distributed as per the ratio of affected people.”
About the ratio and allocation for his upazila, Quader said he will inform it once he receives information from the Relief Department.
Meanwhile, 400 affected families among 700 at Biddyananada union in Rajarhat upazila received relief materials, said its chairman Tajul Islam.
According to information received from three unions in Char Rajibpur upazila, 2,900 families among 17,250 were provided with relief materials.
However, Char Rajibpur UNO Nobirul Islam said 1,500 among 5,000 families in Rajibpur union, 900 of 6,250 families in Kodalkati union and 900 of 6,000 families in Mohanganj union received relief goods.
Meanwhile, water in the Brahmaputra River was flowing 13cm above the danger level at Chilmari point while Dharla 52cm above the red mark at Dharla Bridge point on Sunday morning.
However, the Teesta River was flowing 20cm below the danger mark at Kaunia point.
Fish farmers in Sunmganj are in troubled waters as the recent floods have reportedly caused a Tk 21.45 crore loss to the potential sector.
According to district fisheries office, the floods have also affected the livestock and poultry sector in addition to creating a widespread scope for cattle lifters to lift cattle.
Nurul Haque, owner of a fish enclosure at South Sunamganj, said there were about two and a half lakh fish fry in his different fish enclosures which have been washed away by floodwaters.
Another fish farmer, Safiul Islam, of South Sunamganj had invested crores of taka in his farm, and was dreaming of making huge profit within a few months. But that was not to be.
“I started my fisheries business with a dream. I invested crores of money in the fish farm. All my dreams have been washed away with the floodwater,” he said.
“Now I've no idea how I'll recoup the losses. I urge the government to pay a little bit of attention to those who've lost everything in the floods."
Moni Begum, a resident of Ward No 3 of Sunamganj sadar municipality, said, "I had to take shelter at Sunamganj Government College with my children as floodwaters poured into my house. A dozen of ducks have been stolen while I was at the shelter centre.”
South Sunamganj Upazila Fisheries Officer Jahidul Islam said a list of flood victims, including those of the fish farm owners, will be sent to the authorities concerned seeking government assistance.
District Fisheries officer Abul Kalam Azad said, " The floods in Sunamganj didn’t last long but I think the loss is big, especially in the fisheries sector."
He said, "We're demanding maximum allocation for 1,21,743 fishermen in Sunamganj from the Tk 5,000 crore stimulus package announced by the government for the affected fish farmers across the country to recoup the losses."
The apparently ‘miraculous’ survivor from Sunday’s tragic accident on the Buriganga near Sadarghat was traced down Saturday in a different part of Mitford Hospital from the one he was alleged to have fled on Wednesday.
A family member who has accompanied Sumon Bepari, a fruit-seller in Sadarghat who it was claimed survived 13 hours under water before being rescued, refuted that they had ever fled the hospital, or even left cordially.
Rather, they had merely changed buildings within the Mitford complex, said Foysal Ahmed Shakib, who is Sumon’s nephew.
A visit to Sumon’s home address in Abdullapur union of Munshiganj, within Tongibari upazila, presented a very different picture.
There was no shortage of locals there, including Union Parishad Chairman Abdur Rahim Bepari and Sumon’s elder brother Shahajahan, who all said Sumon had indeed returned home on Wednesday, and spent entire Thursday there, before receiving “an urgent call from Dhaka” the next day, following which he went back and got admitted to Mitford Hospital again on Friday night.
Who called Sumon is unknown - it is presumed to have been “higher-ups”.
Whoever it was would seem to exercise influence at Mitford as well. Visiting the hospital on Saturday, UNB’s Keraniganj correspondent was told Sumon is off-limits to journalists. When our correspondent tried to meet Sumon, he was told by Dr Isahak Majumder that “No media man can meet Sumon now. Nor can any doctors speak on his condition.”
These directives too have just been passed down by “the higher-ups”, Dr Majumder confirmed.
“There is a bar on a specific group of people about meeting Sumon at the hospital,” he said, adding that “As doctors, we are also barred from providing any statement in this regard.”
However, UNB managed to talk to Sumon’s nephew Foysal Ahmed Shakib over phone, who said his uncle never fled from the hospital.
“We have been in the hospital throughout, but shifted from building number two to three here,” Shakib added.
However a number of people in Sumon’s neighbourhood in Abdullapur, Munshiganj claimed that Sumon did come home on Wednesday.
One of them was Abdullahpur UP Chairman Abdur Rahim Bepari, who captured the general skepticism in the village by adding “Allah knows better about how Sumon survived 13 hours in the water.”
He insisted that Sumon was home on Wednesday night, but went back and got admitted to the hospital again on Friday.
“The entire issue is a mystery,” he said, adding that “Sumon had no symptoms of having been 13 hours under water.”
Abu Bakar Mridha, a gas cylinder seller of Uttar Paikpara in Abdullahpur, told UNB that “Sumon came to the bazaar on Thursday and spoke with everyone here.”
He was said to be doing well, and Mridha too struggles to understand why Sumon was admitted to hospital again. “It’s mysterious,” he says.
Back in the capital, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Joint Director AKM Arif Uddin and Sadarghat River Police Station’s officer-in-charge Rezaul Karim Bhuiyan were both dismissive of the media reports regarding their involvement in what many perceive to have been a staged rescue drama.
Sumon can tell better about how he survived for 13 hours under water, they added.
Earlier on June 30 (Thursday night), Syed Kamrul Hasan, duty officer of the control room at Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters, claimed that “Sumon Bepari, 55, of Abdullapur area under Tongibari thana in Munshiganj, was rescued at around 10:30pm from Buriganga River.”
Since then, he had been undergoing treatment at Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital.
However, media reports published on Friday night said that Sumon had fled from hospital two days earlier while receiving treatment after media reports and analysis triggered much debate over his ‘mysterious’ survival incident.
Dhaka-bound ‘MV Morning Bird’ launch from Munshiganj sank at 9:33 am in the river after being hit by another launch ‘Mayur-2’ near Shyambazar in the capital’s old town.
A total of 33 people were killed.
Also read: Buriganga death toll climbs to 33
The government has taken a huge development programme in the new fiscal to upgrade the railway communication of the country considering the public-friendly role of railways as a cheap and safe mode of communication across the country.
According to a budget document, construction of 900km dual gauge double track and 1,581 km new rail track will be completed within this fiscal.
"Refurbishment of 1,527km rail track and 100 passenger coaches, procurement of 31 locomotives, and improvement of the signaling system at 222 stations will be done in the running fiscal year," it also said.
Besides, the document adds, steps will be taken to begin implementation of the construction of the High-Speed Dhaka- Chattogram double track rail line project via Cumilla/Laksam, the Bhanga Junction (Faridpur)-Payra rail line project via Barishal, the Navaron-Satkhira-Munshiganj broad gauge rail line project, and the Dhaka City Circular rail line project.
According to a senior official of the Railways Ministry, the government has taken a number of measures for the overall development of this sector. He mentioned that implementation of the 30-year ‘Railways Masterplan (2016- 2045)’ at a cost of Tk. 5,53,662 crore has already begun.
"Works, such as expansion of railways, construction of new rail lines and refurbishment of old ones, conversion of railways into dual gauges, opening of closed rail stations together with the new ones, introducing new trains and improving the services of other trains, procurement of train coaches, etc. have been continuing," he said.
As per the budget document, construction of 25kms of new rail lines, refurbishment of 25kms of old rail lines, construction of 30 new rail bridges, reconstruction of 14 old rail bridges, procurement of 136 new passengers carriages, introduction of 6 new trains (inc. Benapole Express, Kurigram Express, Jamalpur Express), and expansion of 4 existing train services (Rajbari Express and Dhalarchar Express) have been completed in the last fiscal that ended June 30.
"The implementation of the Dhaka to Padma Bridge Railway Link Project is progressing fast," it reads.
The budget for development of the railways is Tk 12,491 crore in the 2020-21 fiscal,which was Tk 10,249 crore in the last year's revised budget.
Meanwhile, to establish an integrated and uninterrupted communication network in the country, many large projects including the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli river, the Dhaka Elevated Expressway from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway, are being implemented.
According to the document, construction of the Padma Bridge with our own financing is progressing fast. The work on Maowa and Janjira connecting roads and Service Area-2 has already been completed.
"Overall physical progress of the Padma Bridge project upto February 2020 is 78.0 percent; 4.5 kilometer of the bridge has so far become visible."
It also mentioned that 51 percent of construction work of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel has already been completed.
Besides, construction work of the 24 kilometer-long Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway is expected to begin soon.
"There is a plan to carry out a Feasibility Study to construct a tunnel under the Jamuna river connecting Gaibandha and Jamalpur districts," the document said.
Feasibility Studies were carried out to construct five large bridges in the southern part of the country over the Paira river in Patuakhali-Amtali-Barguna road, the Meghna river in Bhulta-Araihazar-Nabinagar road, the Tetulia and Kalabadar rivers to connect the Barishal district with the Bhola district, and the Bishkhali river in Barguna-Patharghata road, and efforts are being made to get finance for their construction.
Some Tk 24,825 crore has been allocated for the development of road transport and highways division for 2020-21 fiscal while it was Tk 23,960 crore in the revised budget of the last fiscal.