Profits versus the Poor

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“I have lost a son, maybe I’ll lose another, but I won’t let them setup a coalmine here.” To Tahmina Begum who had lost her son Toriqul to police bullets, her land was also her family. It could have been a ‘B’ rated western except that it is set in the east. People wanting to hang on to their ancestral land versus mining companies wanting huge profits. There have been only minor changes from previous scripts. When farmers wanted fertilizers and seeds, the police had opened fire killing them, when they wanted electricity to irrigate their soil, the police had opened fire killing them. Now that they want to retain their land rather than have it converted into coal mines again the police have opened fire killing them. The Shaotals, being indigenous minority groups, find themselves even more vulnerable within this persecuted community. In the shootings on the 26th September 2006, in Phulbari, Dinajpur, in northwestern Bangladesh, at least six villagers are known to have been killed, over a hundred are said to be missing.

Reminiscent of his predecessors on this land, Gary Lye, the CEO of the British company Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd, which wants the mining rights, denied the Phulbari project would harm the environment saying it would benefit local people instead. He did add “It is up to the authorities to determine exactly what happened, but it would appear that the unforgivable events and the needless loss of life and suffering that took place yesterday in Phulbari are entirely the fault of the organisers (of the protest).”

It had been the fault of the farmers when they wanted fertilizers and seeds, it had been their fault when they wanted electricity to irrigate their lands. It was now the fault of Tahmina Begum and her son Toriqul, for wanting to stay on land that was their own.

The poor deal that Bangladesh appears to be getting, the massive profits predicted for Asia Energy, The foot dragging on the investigation of Nasreen’s death, are suspicious on their own. The close friendship between Asia Energy and Bangladeshi government officials that has emerged looks ominously close to Shell’s friendship with General Abacha. Despite this friendship, faced by the massive protest of over 20,000 people, the government has again had to back down, but with the increasing appetite for energy of war hungry nations, and with pliant governments ready to please in the hope of hanging on to power. Tahmina Begum might well lose the other family member that she has nurtured and tilled all her life. The west meanwhile continues to promote ‘freedom and democracy’ worldwide.

Photos: Munim Wasef/DrikNews.

Text: Shahidul Alam

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This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Capitalism, Governance, Human rights, Imperialism, Media issues, politics, Shahidul Alam, Sites of Drik and Pathshala photographers, South Asia and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Profits versus the Poor

  1. cabalistic says:

    this is beautiful

  2. pbsweeney says:

    When will we all stand up… everywhere… as big companies and big government annihilate us at every turn. Is it worse now, or has it always been this way and I have not “seen” it.
    Every day there are 50 transgressions and perhaps one rectification, then 50 more transgressions the next day and so on.

    These photographs are so important.

  3. Salam Dhaka says:

    I wish the press would really dig in. We would like to know who the “freinds” of Asia Energy are. Who paid whom and when and how much.

  4. Rahima says:

    I scrolled down your website and photo after photo..your work has ceased to impress me…. I am a freelance artist with a passion for the paints on canvas but your frozen flats of life are powerful have instilled a new appreciation within me..i look forward to seeing more. Keep up the stimulating work. x

  5. John Neil says:

    Your countrys impoverished state continues because you will not let development and economic modernisation progress. With a proportion of the revenues generated from the mine going to the local people, why would you not want to capitalise from this project and let your lives prosper? Foreigners are continuously stopped from investing in countries like Bangladesh and trying to assist in the economic modernisation of the country, this looks poor on you and until this stance changes you will always suffer from the consequences. Unfortunately things have to be forfeited for the rest of your country to progress and achieve at least self sufficient power generation. You cant have it both ways unfortunately.

  6. Wasim Khan says:

    If this project does not go ahead then it will look terribly bad to foreign investors in Bangladesh. Countries and companies are waiting on standby to invest in the future of Bangladesh and bring prosperity to the peoples. This is not the right image you should be portraying to foreign parties right now.

  7. prothom chobite je mohilar chobi dekha jachche tini toriqul er ma non. ami toriqul er ma ke meet korechi. apni ki arekbar check korben?

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  11. Webmaster says:

    Urgent Appeal by World Orgnization against Torture (OMCT): Risk of Violent Suppression of Public Opposition to the Phulbari Coal Mine Project

    http://banglapraxis.wordpress.com/2007/12/22/urgent-appeal-by-world-organization-against-torture-risk-of-violent-suppression-of-public-opposition-to-the-phulbari-coal-mine-project/

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  13. Webmaster says:

    Blow for British coal company’s controversial mining plans

    http://www.wdm.org.uk/news/blowforcoalcompany07042008.htm

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