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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 13, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta inc kBirwmvwc Rice diet still at starvation level villages struggle even economic keel A TWO PART REPORT ON BANGLADESH By RICHARD CRITCHFIELD Christian Science Monitor JOYPUR Bangladesh It is a land of golden dreams and dreadful fiercely naked in the enormity of its and the depth of its poverty. It is the great delta of the Himalayan-watered Ganges and Brahmaputra silt- flat and so lushly green and fertile that despite regular and drought it has managed to precariously support 76 million Bengalis in an area smaller than the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It was created after a bloody civil war in 1971. It is the world's newest country as Prime Minister Mu- jibur Ranman told it is poorest of the It is the international extremity as far as you can the rock bottom Bangladesh. Land holdings are fragmented and small. Very few 10 per are as much as 8 acres. Most farms are between one and two acres and closer to one acre. Of the many holdings that are less than half an most are subdivided still further into .disconnected plots. flice and a few vegetables are the with a daily average of 841 grams per person in the villages and 726 grams in the towns both amounts considered by some experts to be at the starvation level. Yet experts believe that if the peasantry is given an op-. portunity and supplied with all the resources it the potential is there for doubling rice output in 10 to 20 more years. This would be more than enough to feed the pro- jected population. Unlike the arid and nemiarid parts of Africa and India where population already may have outstripped resources and no corrective agricultural technology ex- at least Bangladesh has a degree of discernible hope for its future. This hope has been reduced to a flicker in the villages. But it is not too late. Now in the out in the rural Bangladesh is a very beautiful with a soft languor and gentle rhythm of its own. Great swirls of white cumulus towering 000 to drift over its pale-green surfaces. Mist hangs over the endless sea of rice paddies like steam over a vat. Deceptively peaceful By it is a deceptively peaceful scene. The village of Joypur 306 six high-school primary and a mos- lies steamy and som- nolent in the sun its busy ac- tivity out of sight off in the or hidden from view in the women's courtyards. Chickens scratch for naked children play in the there is the soothing creak of bullock a tailor sits crosslegged before his an- cient sewing machine. In the provided the diesel fuel and spare parts can .be found to keep it run- there is the drone of the pump engine at the village's only tube which water 60 of Joypur's 250 cultivated acres. The lack of more wells is a bone of water means the difference of one or three crops a year. The village has been promised two more deep wells and pumps to irrigate all its land. But although local politicians from the ruling Awami League Vowed something would be' done before last March's general nothing has happened. At dusk the village comes to life. As crows leave the village in screaming flocks for their night roosts in the the men come in to settle in groups before one of the open pavilions and talk warm Bengali argumen- tative and fervent and excited in and indignation. But as night fear seeps into Joypur. The as it always does these centres on growing the gangs of or who at- tack the villages at night. are always frets Ram the Hindu coppersmith. govern- ment cannot cope with all this lawlessness. Sheikh Mujib Prime is a good but those around him are dishonest and The dacoits came here just after 11 o'clock one 15 or 20 young men armed with Sten guns and rifles and landing in small boats from the river some wearing dark cloths below their eyes but others with war paint like savages in a Hollywood film. The villages suspect it was an inside job. They attacked two houses whose owners had just sold their rice crops. One man refused to open the they shot through it and wounded him. Who will protect No one but the villagers and now each night five volunteers patrol ready to sound a general alarm the moment anyone suspicious 'approaches. Ram one of the village's few is most fearful of all. During attacks on some of the nearby -he has the raiders are telling the people that what the Pakistanis had not destroyed the Indians would now that Sheikh Mujib mollycoddled Hindus and was not standing by the tenets of true Islam. Ram Lai knows too well the age-old phenomenon of Bengali Muslims reacting to pressure in unpleasant anti- Hindu ways. He and his wife and children were among the 10 million refugees who fled to India during the civil war and he tells are a minori- ty and we must always worry about how we will be treated by the Muslims. Mujib is not com- munal and has declared Bangladesh a secular state. But if times get bad we will be made the victims and must as everyone sits in silence somewhere the darkness comes the mournful cry of a tnrr... 11 Ram Lai shudders. I feel a asks Rashid. snorts an old are not salt that will melt After another he the educated people are dacoits these days. But they do it sitting from a chair in Dacca. The real dacoits come to your they affirms the drawing nearer his. familiar Muslim neighbors as if he has grown apprehensive. a rugged-faced sinewy man who is one of a group of itinerant landless laborers now in the makes fun of the paunchy Hin- du. don't bother poor he scoffs. we possess is our bedding. Who will slit our throats for Ahmed and his group had journeyed two days by boat from their distant village part of the army surging across the Bengali countryside looking for field in return for rice to eat and 50 cents a day. Rashid has let them sleep in a lean-to at his threshing ground. Plundered by night Young Rashid is troubled. got independence but not he tells the others. dacoits come to plunder us at night. Who dares to sleep in his own Without what good is In the yellow glow cast by the oil lamp his handsome face has a haunted appearance. The chief of the co-operative we listened to what the government said. Now who can believe the We just turn away from their the dacoits are not the worst of interrupts Rashid. at me. My whole life is growing rice. But these days I cannot grow a good crop for want of fer- and fuel to keep the irrigation pump going. we had a sure supply of these I for one would like the government to stop its Mujibur Rahman subsidy. Let us pay The other men enthu- siastically agreed. Some of the villagers may not nor remembering Allah's but Rashid is determined to im- prove his lot. Although like his neighbors he completed only five years of primary he keeps careful records of all his earnings and the money he spends. Rashid possesses two acres more than the average sized owns-' two and supports a family of five and a widowed mother. he married when his wife was 13 and he A student also lives with the in return for rice and a place to tutoring his children in mathematics and the Koran not an unusual arrangement in Bangladesh where learning is held in high esteem. Last year Rashid raised 7.5 tons of IR20 and IRS dwarf plus some traditional varieties for his often-flooded lowland by triple cropp- ing half his land. The total worth of his harvest came to the equivalent of giving him after to build a new house. But figuring in his bullocks' labor and his Rashid gives his farm a net profit of only As a Rashid sym- pathizes more with a laborer like Ahmed than the more prosperous coppersmith Ram who loans money at 100 per cent interest. the Hindus fled to Rashid than twice as many came back. It is some Indian Government policy. Some tried to claim land they sold 10 years ago. Maybe Sheikh Mujib favors I. don't Future hope in Bangladesh rests with Rashid and the millions like provided law and order is restored. A Bangladesh farmer waters cattle Sears Ladies' WINTER COAT SALE Limited Quantities and Size Range Full Length Tweed Coats are Chamois lined to the hips at back. Dry clean only. Reg.59.99............. 49 99 Camel Walking Pant Suits Some with skirts and few with lamb collars. Reg.59.99 Car Coats 49 99 Car Coats in look and the leather look. Reg. to 29 and 39 Cabretta Leathers Stylish cabretta leathers with detachable fox col- lars and zip out lining. Reg. Ladies' Coats For Pre-Season Sawngs it pays to nave a Sears All-Purpose Account 5199 1231 SblfiS nocm IUOPP ino ST IOH -Simpsons-Sear's Ltd.- at Simpsons-Sears you get the finest guarantee MtftfacHon or money refunded and free delivery STORE Open Daily from a.m. to p.m. Thursday and Friday a.m. to p.m. Centre Village Telephone 328-9231 ;