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    • https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/bn/বসিলা-সেতু-ভাঙার-ভাবনা-1627471156   Published:  July 28, 2021 17:19:16 বসিলা সেতু ভাঙার ভাবনা   রাজধানীর কেরানীগঞ্জের বসিলা সেতু ভেঙ্গে উচ্চতা বাড়িয়ে নতুন করে তৈরির কথা ভাবছে সরকার। বিষয়টি বুধবার জাতীয় অর্থনৈতিক পরিষদের নির্বাহী কমিটির (একনেক) বৈঠকেও আলোচনা হয়েছে। খবর বিডিনিউজ টোয়েন্টিফোর ডটকম-এর। প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার সভাপতিত্বে একনেক বৈঠকের পর ভার্চুয়াল সংবাদ সম্মেলনে এসে এ কথা জানিয়েছেন নবনিযুক্ত পরিকল্পনা প্রতিমন্ত্রী ড. শামসুল আলম। এনইসি সম্মেলন কক্ষে অনুষ্ঠিত একনেক বৈঠকে প্রধানমন্ত্রী গণভবন থেকে ভিডিও কনফারেন্সের মাধ্যমে যুক্ত হন। সংবাদ সম্মেলনে প্রতিমন্ত্রী বলেন, বৈঠকে ‘দেশের দক্ষিণাঞ্চলে আয়রন ব্রিজ পুনঃনির্মাণ-পুনর্বাসন (১ম সংশোধিত)’ শীর্ষক একটি প্রকল্প নিয়ে আলোচনার সময় এসব কথার অবতারণা হয়। প্রধানমন্ত্রী এটি আগেও বহুবার বলেছেন, (আজ) আবারও জোর দিয়ে বলেছেন, যে আমরা কালভার্ট, সেতু তৈরি করতে গিয়ে নৌপথ অচল করে ফেলেছি।” তিনি বলেন, “আপনারা জানেন বসিলা সেতুটি একটি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ নদীর ওপর হয়েছে। এত গুরুত্বপূর্ণ নদী কিন্তু এখানে এখন বর্ষাকালে কার্গোগুলো আসতে পারে না। ২০০৮ সালে উদ্বোধন করা এই সেতুটি এখন আবার ভাঙার কথা চিন্তা করা হচ্ছে, এটা যথাযথ উঁচু করার জন্য। এটা তো জাতীয় অপচয়।” প্রতিমন্ত্রী বলেন, “বৈঠকে এই প্রসঙ্গ টেনে প্রধানমন্ত্রী বলেছেন পণ্যবাহী নৌকাসহ বিভিন্ন নৌকা যেন চলাচল করতে পারে এমন উঁচু করে সেতু তৈরি করতে হবে। আমাদের জোয়ারভাটার দেশ, পানি বাড়ে কমে। তাই প্রয়োজনে বিআইডব্লিউটিএর অনুমতি নিয়ে এটা সতর্ক হয়ে করতে হবে।“ বৈঠকে প্রধানমন্ত্রীর আরও কয়েকটি নির্দেশনা সংবাদ সম্মেলনে তুলে ধরেন পরিকল্পনামন্ত্রী এম এ মান্নান। তিনি বলেন, “বৈঠকে প্রধানমন্ত্রী সংশ্লিষ্ট একটি প্রকল্প অনুমোদন দেওয়ার সময় সড়ক ও জনপথ অধিদপ্তরের উদ্দেশে বলেছেন, এখন থেকে নতুন রাস্তাঘাট বা রাস্তার ওপর ইউলুপ এবং আন্ডারপাস-ওভারপাস এমনভাবে বানাবেন যাতে যানবাহন এবং সাধারণ মানুষ খুব সহজে চলাচল করতে পারে। মানুষ যেন সহজে রাস্তা পার হতে পারে। “প্রধানমন্ত্রী বলেছেন, সম্প্রতি বিদেশ থেকে প্রায় ৫ লাখ প্রবাসী দেশে ফিরে এসেছেন। তাদের অনানুষ্ঠানিক খাতে কর্মসংস্থান সৃজনে সহায়ক একটি প্রকল্প গ্রহণ করা হয়েছে। তাদের জন্য যেন শোভন কর্মসংস্থান নিশ্চিত করা হয়। তারা আমাদের অনেক দিয়েছেন। এবার আমরা তাদের কিছু ফিরিয়ে দিতে চাই। প্রয়োজেন যারা আবারও বিদেশ যেতে চায় তার ব্যবস্থা করার ওপরও গুরুত্বারোপ করেন তিনি।” মন্ত্রী বলেন, “বৈঠকে মহিলাদের জেলা পর্যায়ে কম্পিউটার প্রশিক্ষণের একটি প্রকল্প অনুমোদনের সময় এ ধরনের প্রকল্প আরও করার নির্দেশ দিয়েছেন। প্রধানমন্ত্রী প্রয়োজনে আরও বড় পরিসরে এ ধরনের প্রশিক্ষণের উদ্যোগ নিতে মহিলা ও শিশু বিষয়ক মন্ত্রণালয়কে প্রকল্প না নিয়ে এটি রাজস্ব খাতে দিয়ে দেওয়ার উদ্যোগ নিতে নির্দেশ দেন। যাতে প্রতিবছর বাজেটে এই খাতের জন্য বরাদ্দ রাখে। আর একবছর বা দুই বছর পর পর যেন তারা না আসে।” “এ জন্য কার্যকর মহিলা সংস্থা হওয়া উচিত বলে মনে করেন প্রধানমন্ত্রী,” বলেন মন্ত্রী। এমন এ মান্নান বলেন, “বৈঠকে ঠাকুরগাঁওয়ের বিসিক খাদ্য প্রক্রিয়াজাতকরণ শিল্পনগরী শীর্ষক প্রকল্পে খাদ্য প্রক্রিয়াকরণের কথা বলা হলেও দুগ্ধ প্রক্রিয়াকরণ অন্তর্ভুক্ত করা হয়নি। এই প্রকল্পে দুগ্ধ প্রক্রিয়াকরণ যোগ করার নির্দেশ দিয়েছেন তিনি। “প্রধানমন্ত্রী আরও বলেছেন মুন্সিগঞ্জে অনেক বালু মহাল গড়ে উঠেছে। এই বালু পরিকল্পিতভাবে স্থানান্তরের নির্দেশ দিয়ে প্রধানমন্ত্রী বলেছেন, যে যেভাবে পারে বালুর ব্যবসা শুরু করে দেবে, এটা ঠিক নয়।”
    • Bangladeshi edtech startup Shikho raises $1.3M global capital This is the largest round raised by a Bangladeshi edtech startup yet   Shikho, a Bangladesh-based edtech startup aiming to make high-quality education accessible and affordable, has announced the completion of a US$1.3 million seed round of financing to democratise quality education in Bangladesh. This is the largest round raised by a Bangladeshi edtech startup yet, said a press release on Wednesday.  The round was led by Anchorless Bangladesh, a New York-based early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to Bangladesh, and LearnStart, the seed fund of Silicon Valley-based edtech investment specialists Learn Capital.  It also had participation from Southeast Asia-focused venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners and Ankur Nagpal, founder and CEO of a leading American edtech called Teachable.  This will be the first time Wavemaker Partners have invested in a Bangladeshi venture and the sixth deal for Anchorless Bangladesh since 2020, who have been very active in the local ecosystem; other investments include funding to Maya, AliceLabs, Loop Freight and Gaze. Founded in April 2019, Shikho is an education technology (edtech) company building a digital learning ecosystem centered on modernising the delivery of the Bangladeshi National Curriculum and making it fit for the 21st century.  Combining expertise across content, instruction, media, and technology, Shikho utilizes multi-layered gamification and modern learning methods to make online learning enjoyable, engaging, and effective for students of classes 9-12. The company adapts material from the national curriculum, helping students using the app to transition more easily to online learning environments by engaging them with the material they are already accustomed to in traditional classrooms.  The technology platform addresses each part of the Bangladeshi student journey—covering daily lessons, homework, exam prep, tutoring, and skill development—in an affordable, convenient, and cohesive way. It provides students with academic courses that include resources and tools to help students succeed in national board exams. Shikho's app includes access to animated video lessons, a library of in-app questions and solutions, along with interactive features for collaboration among peers.  Through Shikho's online platforms, students will soon be able to attend both live and pre-recorded classes taught by subject experts and professional instructors, allowing them to gain access to high-quality instruction that may otherwise be outside of their reach in physical classroom settings. Students can learn at their own pace with content accessible from anywhere and anytime at a fraction of the cost of traditional online learning and tutoring services. The outbreak of the pandemic has presented the education sector with significant challenges and opportunities. Widespread school closures across the world to reduce the spread of the virus brought about a revolution in remote learning, yet those who are already marginalized with limited or no online access were left even further behind.  This poses a pressing threat to achieving the fourth of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), "To ensure inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all" – by the deadline of 2030, which Shikho seeks to achieve in Bangladesh with close engagement with key stakeholders, which this new round of investment will help advance. Shikho is led by a team of experienced educational and technical talent. The team includes co-founders Shahir Chowdhury (CEO), a seasoned financial and business professional; and Zeeshan Zakaria (COO), an experienced educator with a decade of hands-on educational leadership. With years of overseas business and education experience, paired with an intimate understanding of the Bangladeshi education sector, the Shikho founding team brings together global best practices with on-the-ground know-how, addressing the unique educational needs of Bangladeshi students. Students do well when they are engaged and able to understand the material clearly; this applies to all modalities of learning, whether online or in schools and tutoring centers. Shikho differentiates itself by focusing on quality of instruction whilst making learning fun. They have created a system with multiple layers of quality checking with education experts and creatives reviewing each stage of the content creation process. Additionally, Shikho also aspires to improve educational outcomes for students by 'gamifying' the learning experience. Students are rewarded with achievement points, can compete with friends, and have the chance to earn a variety of digital badges for completing course material. The technology goes one step further to allow access to personalized real-time performance and progress tracking which students and their parents can use to better understand strengths and reinforce weaknesses. These are some of the advanced features that will be further developed with this round of financing. Shikho also plans to continue build advanced features for its learning app, including personalization, granular data analysis, live quizzes, and introduce a new web portal and parent app.In the future, the company plans to expand its offerings to cover the entire educational journey of Bangladeshi students across primary, secondary, tertiary, and continuous professional learning. "Although half of the 165 million people in Bangladesh are below the age of 25, there is a clear lack of quality online educational resources for students and young professionals. By building a digital learning ecosystem that caters to the modern Bangladeshi student and democratizes access to a world-class and enjoyable learning experience, we believe Shikho will have a powerful and lasting impact for generations to come," said Shahir Chowdhury, co-founder and CEO of Shikho. "As an experienced teacher, I understand the importance of personalised instruction and differentiated learning. This combined with regular feedback are the most powerful tools a teacher has at their disposal. With this round of investment, we look forward to furthering the technology that brings these features into an automated personalisation engine and the platform as a whole," said Zeeshan Zakaria, co-founder and COO of Shikho. "Improving access to the highest quality, most compelling digital learning experiences are essential for the future. We have witnessed the potential for technology to transform education all around the world and are excited to see Shikho do the same for Bangladesh. We continue to be committed to supporting the very capable team at Shikho as it progresses the company's vision of democratizing quality online education in Bangladesh," said Don Burton, managing partner of LearnStart, an early investor in Shikho.  "Bangladesh has one of the largest allocations of private education expenditure as a percentage of disposable income in the world but lags behind countries like India and Indonesia when it comes to edtech funding. The market is primed for growth, and we believe the team at Shikho is well-fit to lead the charge and take education to the next level," said Rahat Ahmed, founding partner and CEO at Anchorless Bangladesh. Prior to this round of financing, Shikho raised US$275,000 in a pre-seed financing from LearnStart and strategic angel investors. Shikho is available on the Play Store. To find out more please visit Shikho.tech.
    • https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/lockdown-leaves-food-processing-industries-limping-280021 Shawkat Ali 28 July, 2021, 12:00 pm Last modified: 28 July, 2021, 12:16 pm Lockdown leaves food processing industries limping    The food processing industry is continuing production amid the strictest lockdown over the pandemic now in place, but it is facing obstacles in marketing products at home and abroad, people involved in the sector have said. Transportation cost and production cost have increased, but sales of products in the local market have declined. As a result, some companies are reducing their production, which is having an impact on local raw material suppliers. According to a number of companies in this industry, the food processing factories are operating amid the lockdown, but transporting their products to shops by small vehicles has become very difficult. Sometimes the law enforcers bar small vans, carrying goods, for a long time, which makes them unable to enter the designated areas. This is hampering the marketing of processed food. Jasim Uddin, chief operating officer (Brand and Marketing) of Bashundhara, told The Business Standard, "Those responsible for delivering goods to shops are being harassed." He said the law enforcers sometimes do not allow goods-laden vans to move and the company's main office has to make phone calls to clear the halted vehicles. As a result, delivery of goods on time is not possible. "If there is any problem in the mills, local and foreign technicians are needed, but it is not possible to solve the problems quickly amid the lockdown. All in all, production is not going to be as usual," he added. The processed food exporters are facing even more severe problems as they cannot export goods on time due to ship and container congestions. Those who are able to ship the goods have to pay rents several times higher compared to normal times. Industry insiders said the cost of transporting goods inside the country has doubled. On the other hand, containers are not available for export despite several times higher rent being paid. Normally, shipping a 20-foot container to Dubai would cost $300-350, which has currently increased to $1,100, said sources. Besides, the price of raw materials has increased by 20-25% on average. This has resulted in increased production cost, but product prices have not increased accordingly, people involved in the sector have said. They also said demand for their products has declined due to restrictions on people's movement and the limited time during which shops are kept open. The food processing companies have reduced production due to the difficulties in marketing goods at the local and international levels. Production of a number of products, like milk and dairy products, has dropped by almost half compared to normal times. Md Mosleh Uddin, chief operating officer, Dairy, Akij Food and Beverage Ltd, told TBS, "Grocery shops have reduced the milk and dairy products they keep because they do not know how long they can keep the stores open. People's movement is also limited. So, we are producing goods, but we cannot sell them much. As a result, we have to reduce production by half." "If we reduce production, it will have a direct impact on farmers, because they cannot stop producing milk," he said. Pran RFL Group Director (Marketing) Kamruzzaman Kamal told TBS the company has been facing more difficulties in exporting goods abroad than in marketing at home. The firm has to spend at least four times more than the usual cost for exporting products. Despite the hike in cost, containers are not available and they cannot ship their goods.  Opening packaging industry essential for food processing Keeping the packaging industry closed amid the lockdown has posed another problem for the food processing industry. These factories make different types of packets, cartoons and labels. Some big companies have a large volume of these in stock, but small and medium enterprises do not have that. If these backward linkage factories are not opened soon, the food processing companies will have to stop marketing goods for lack of packaging. Syed Mohammad Shoaib Hassan, vice-president of the Bangladesh Agro-Processors Association, told TBS, "If the packaging industry remains closed during the lockdown, there will be severe problems because most companies have very little stock of packaging material." "We are already facing difficulties in providing good quality cartons for export products. If the packaging is not good, there will be problems in the quality of the product, which will create further problems for us in the future. For all these reasons, it is necessary to reopen the packaging industry." Meanwhile, there is no obstacle in transporting vegetables, fish, meat and eggs. However, due to the increase in transport cost, consumers have to buy these products at higher prices. Mostafa Kamal, a vegetable seller in Karwan Bazar, said the goods have to be brought to Dhaka at a cost which is almost double than the normal. This definitely will have an effect on the prices of products. 
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