Dhaka, Bangladesh
PM warns of stopping govt funding

Unrest in public univs

PM warns of stopping govt funding

Provocateurs to face music

News Report Another warning came from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina against troubles in public universities that the government would stop funding for them if the "provocative" activities do not stop. Her strongly worded remarks came Saturday after her previous warning that the protesters at Jahangirnagar University, who have been in a movement for long to press their demand for resignation of Vice-chancellor Prof Farzana Islam on allegations 'corruption', failed to prove the complaints. A delegation of the protesters, meanwhile, submitted to the education ministry through an official on Friday night what they called 'evidence of corruption' involving a mega-scheme for JU development works. A group of teachers and students continued their campus squatting to press for the VC's exit. Also, educational activities are being hampered by unrest in a number of other public universities on different counts of charges, but principally involving VCs. Sheikh Hasina reminded that it is written down in the law that if the complainants fail to prove their complaints against anyone, they instead are subjected to punitive action. She blamed a section of teachers for such provocative activities designed to take their students onto a wrong path "in the name of movement". "The government will stop all funding…why government should provide funds as these are autonomous institutions. Now, you have to think what you will do," she said while addressing the 13th council of Jatiya Sramik League, her party's labour wing, at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka. She noted that no one can ever accept taking students to a wrong path through provocation and uttering crunchy words. "If it's done, then (you) have to find your own funding, you've to manage your own salaries, you've to bear your own cost of study," she said. Sheikh Hasina, also the Awami League chief, observed that the students of the public universities can pursue their higher education as the government allocates funds for their universities through the University Grants Commission (UGC). "No country in the world provides higher education at such a low cost… it's true the autonomy is there but who's paying the money? It's the government," she said. Hasina mentioned that it is the government that provides salaries and wages for the public university teachers and tuition fees of their students. "How much a student spends on his or her study a year? It's hardly Tk 150! Is this possible to get higher education paying this petty amount of money?" The prime minister asked the students to go to private universities and see how much they spend for just one semester. "The government spends Tk 2-2.5 lakh for each university student…the amount is higher for engineering and medical students. All the money comes from the government." She said discipline must prevail in public universities, students must get their due and appropriate lessons and they must build their lives in a better way. "We seriously want that, but we see some people saying we don't understand what public universities are. As if it is they who only understand it and they ensure indiscipline," she said in an implicit response to volleys of critical talks regarding the situations in the universities. Hasina said this section of people is destroying the academic activities and working hours of the students engaging them in strike for days. "All the money will go from the government, all the development activities will be done by the government and this section of people will feel very good accepting that. And the government will not be able to take any step…this is not acceptable at all. There is a proverb, freedom is good, but it is not for the boys," she quipped. About raising allegations against anyone, the prime minister said as per the law it his his/her duty to prove who raises the allegation, and if that person fails to prove that, then steps can be taken against them as per the law. Turning to government steps taken for development in different sectors, Sheikh Hasina said the government has changed fate of people implementing massive programmes for the welfare of the garment workers, labourers of industries and farmers of the country. She said her government has so far raised wages of the workers by 380 percent thrice, increasing the amount to minimum Tk 8300, and it is rare in other parts of the world. In this regard, the prime minister called upon all including leaders and workers of Jatiya Sramik League to work unitedly for establishing Bangladesh as the most developed and prosperous country in South Asia. Chaired by Jatiya Sramik League President Sukkur Mahmud, the function was also addressed, among others, by Labour and Manpower Affairs Secretary Habibur Rahman Siraj, State Minister for Labour and Employment Begum Munnujan Sufian, ILO Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen, General Secretary of the ITUC Asia-Pacific Shoya Yoshida and General Secretary of South Asian Regional Trade Union Council Laxman Bahadur Basnet. Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader attended the programme, where Sramik League general secretary Sirajul Islam delivered the welcome speech while executive president Fazlul Huq Montu read out the condolence motion. Earlier, the prime minister inaugurated the council of Sramik League by hoisting the national flag with national anthem playing. She also released pigeons and balloons. She also witnessed a colourful cultural programme. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman founded the Sramik League in 1969 aiming to protect the rights of workers. The last council session of the Jatiya Sramik League was held seven years back on July 17, 2012, when Sukkur Mahmud and Sirajul Islam were made president and secretary, respectively. Now, Fazlul Huq Montu, Azam Khasru and Molla Abul Kalam Azad became Sramik League's new president, general secretary and executive president respectively, in the process of renewal of leaderships of Awami League and its associates through councils. Their councils, incidentally, are taking place at a time when a purge of the ruling party is on steam. (Inputs taken from UNB, agencies, media reports)

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