Barisal

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INTRODUCTION

Formed in 1993, Barisal is one of the eight administrative divisions of Bangladesh. Located in south-central Bangladesh, it shares borders with Dhaka Division (north), Bay of Bengal (south), Chittagong Division (east) and Khulna Division (west). Six districts (zilas) which are further divided into 39 sub-districts (upazilas) together make up the Barisal Division.
Numerous rivers flow through Barisal resulting in the Bengali saying, “Dhan-Nodi-khal, Ei tine Borishal”, that translates to “rice, river and canal built Barisal”.

 

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the 2011 national census, the total population of Barisal Division was estimated to be 8,325,666. Of this, 4,089,508 were males and 4,236,158 were females. Over the years, Barisal continues to have a weak population growth.

The population is mainly composed of Muslims, followed by Hindus and very few numbers of Christians and Buddhists.

At 83.5 percent, it has the highest literacy rate among the population aged above 15 years.

Major languages spoken in Barisal include Bengali, Barisali dialect, English and marginalized Bengali (mostly spoken by migrant workers and other menial laborers).


ECONOMY

Traditionally referred as the “Granary of Bengal”, Barisal has always been an important rice producing area in the country. It continues to serve as an important river port, trans-shipment point for jute, rice, dried beans, lentils, chickpeas and a market for betel nuts and fish. At present, the port is in a declining state and is in urgent need for restoration and modernization.

Barisal is a coastal division traversed by many water bodies; thence has an economy largely based on a thriving fishing sector.

The poverty mapping exercises conducted as a part of the Bangladesh Poverty Maps 2010, indicate that Barisal Division was one of the two divisions with highest incidence of poverty in Bangladesh. It had a poverty rate of 38.3 percent. Due to its geographical location, Barisal Division experiences high incidence of natural calamities such as river erosion, tidal surge, cyclone etc. In addition, the region has a weak communication system, poor supply of electricity, gas and energy and inadequate employment opportunities. There are many more factors which together explain the prevalence of high poverty in Barisal Division.

The monthly household income of Barisal Division, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data 2010, is Tk.9158. This is much below the national average.


POLITICS

The administrative head of a division is a Divisional Commissioner appointed by the government, who is directly responsible for supervising the revenue and development administration of a division. Mr. Mohammad Shahiduzzaman is the current Divisional Commissioner of Barisal Division. He was appointed in May 2017.

The office of Divisional Commissioner was created during the rule of East India Company. It was the then Governor of Bengal, Lord William Bentinck, who created a division in 1829 with the help of certain districts in order to establish the revenue system.

The elections to the Barisal city corporation are due to be held in August 2018. In the last elections in 2013, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) turned out victorious.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Barisal Division houses the Kuakata beach – main tourist spot as well as one of the only two South Asian sea beaches where both sunrise and sunset at sea can be seen.

A curious local phenomenon “Barisal guns” has been reported for past many years. Unexplained sounds resembling distant thunder or cannon that may have a seismic origin may be heard on one or more days in a given year, and not again for the rest of that year.

 

SUGGESTED READINGS

Basu, I., Devine, J., Wood, G.D. (2017) Politics and Governance in Bangladesh: Uncertain landscapes. London: Routledge

Halder, K., Saiful, Azim. (2011) Demanding effective Intra-city bus service for a secondary city: A case study on Barisal city. Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Muller

Aminuzzaman, S.M., Khair, R., Basu, I. (2003) Governance at Crossroads: Insights from Bangladesh. Bangladesh: BRAC Development Institute

Sylhet

Introduction

Until 1947, Sylhet was part of the Indian state of Assam. After the partition of the Indian subcontinent, it became part of the Chittagong division, and in 1995, it became a separate division. It is bordered by the Indian states of Meghalaya, Tripura and Assam as well as the Mymensingh and Comilla divisions. Thirteen rivers flow through Sylhet, feeding its abundant tea plantations.

Demographics

The Division of Sylhet has a population of 9.9 million, and is predominantly (87.57%) rural. The literacy rate of the division is 45%, with most educational institutions (especially those of higher education) concentrated in Sylhet district. School attendance (ages 5 to 24) is more or less uniform for both men and women at 48%. In terms of faith, the population is majority Muslim (81.16%), followed by Hindu (17.80%), Christian (0.06%), Buddhist (0.02%) and others (0.96%).

Economy

Sylhet is a major tea-growing region and home to 150 tea gardens, including three of the largest tea gardens in the world. These tea plantations employ 300,000 people, of which over 75% are womenSylhet is also home to eight gas fields and the country’s only oil field. This division has the lowest average poverty rate in Bangladesh.

Politics

The main political parties in Sylhet are Awami League (AL), Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jatiya Party (JP). The administrative head of the division is the Divisional Commissioner, and the current Divisional Commissioner is Mohammed Jamal Uddin Ahmed.

 

Further Reading
Mominul Hoque, The History of Sylhet Division (Centre for Bangladesh Research UKSeptember 2001)

Chittagong

Introduction

Chittagong is geographically the largest division (zila or bibagh) of Bangladesh and was formed in 1984 out of 11 districts, including the port city of Chittagong after which it is named. It shares its borders with Dhaka, Sylhet and Barisal as well as Myanmar and the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura. Three major rivers run through Chittagong: Karnafuli, Halda and Sangu.

Demographics

Chittagong has a population of 7.6 million, of which 54.3% are literate. Primary education, especially of girls, received a major boost under nationwide Education For All (EFA) policies. 86.9% of the population identifies as Muslim, 11% as Hindu and 1.5% as Buddhist. The entire division is serviced by only 205 union health centers, with 41 of those concentrated in the city of Chittagong alone.

 

ECONOMY

Chittagong is a key trading hub for Bangladesh, with 75% of the country’s total export and 80% of its total imports passing through it. Its economy constitutes 12% of the GDP of Bangladesh at $25.5 billion. Key industries include garments, textiles, electric and electronic goods, leather goods and shipbuilding.

The Chittagong Stock Exchange (CSE) was established in 1995 and has a market cap of $30.42 billion

Politics

Chittagong Division is governed by the Divisional Commissioner; the office is currently held by Mohammed Ruhul Amin. Chittagong city is governed by the Chittagong City Corporation. It is headed by the current mayor Abu Jahed Mohammed Nasir Uddin, general secretary of the Awami League. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) consisting of Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban were the site of an insurgent movement, led by the Parbattya Chattragram Jono Samhati Samitee (PCJSS). Its key grievances were against the state’s feudal practices, against the erasure of their culture, inadequate facilities for education and other social services as well as displacement in light of the Karnafuli irrigation project. The conflict came to an end with the signing of a Peace Accord on December 2, 1997 between the Bangladesh government and the PCJSS. The PJCSS has since fractured into a number of political parties that remain active in the hill tracts.

 

Further Reading

Amena Mohsin, The Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: On the Difficult Road to Peace (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003)

Structural Roots of Violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bhumitra Chakma Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 45, No. 12 (March 20-26, 2010): pp. 19-21