Bangladesh

Coordinates: 23°N 90°E / 23°N 90°E / 23; 90

People's Republic of Bangladesh
গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ (Bengali)
Gônoprojatontri Bangladesh
Flag Emblem
Anthem: 

Amar Shonar Bangla
My Golden Bangla

Capital
(and largest city)
Dhaka
23°42′N 90°21′E / 23.7°N 90.35°E / 23.7; 90.35
Official language(s) Bangla
Ethnic groups (1998) 98% Bengali
2% other[1]
Demonym Bangladeshi
Government Unitary parliamentary democracy[2]
 -  President Zillur Rahman
 -  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
 -  Speaker Abdul Hamid
 -  Chief Justice Md. Muzammel Hossain
Legislature Jatiya Sangsad
Independence from Pakistan 
 -  Declared March 26, 1971 
 -  Victory Day December 16, 1971 
 -  Current constitution November 4, 1972[1] 
Area
 -  Total 147,570 km2 (94th)
56,977 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 6.4
Population
 -  2011 estimate 142,319,000[3] (9th)
 -  Density 1,074.54/km2 (9th)
2,496.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $258.608 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $1,572[4] 
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $104.919 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $638[4] 
Gini (2005) 33.2[5] (medium
HDI (2010) increase 0.469[6] (low) (132nd)
Currency Taka (BDT)
Time zone BST (UTC+6)
Drives on the left
ISO 3166 code BD
Internet TLD .bd
Calling code 880
1 Adjusted population, p.4,

Bangladesh (Listeni/ˈbɑːŋɡlədɛʃ/ or Listeni/bæŋɡləˈdɛʃ/; Bengali: বাংলাদেশ), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh (Bangla: গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ Gônoprojatontri Bangladesh) is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma (Myanmar) to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south. Together with the Indian state of West Bengal, it makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. The name Bangladesh means "Country of Bengal" in the official Bengali language. The borders of present-day Bangladesh were established with the partition of Bengal and India in 1947, when the region became East Pakistan, part of the newly formed nation of Pakistan. However, it was separated from the western wing by 1,600 km (994 mi) of Indian territory. Due to political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination, and economic neglect by the politically-dominant West Pakistan, popular agitation grew against West Pakistan and led to the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, which succeeded after Pakistan surrendered to an invasion by an Indian Brigade in Dhaka . After independence, the new state endured famines, natural disasters and widespread poverty, as well as political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress.

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy, with an elected parliament called the Jatiyo Sangshad. It is the ninth most populous country and among the most densely populated countries in the world. A high poverty rate prevails, although the United Nations has acclaimed Bangladesh for achieving tremendous progress in human development.[7][8] Geographically, the country straddles the fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta and is subject to annual monsoon floods and cyclones.

The country is listed among the Next Eleven economies. It is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the D-8 and BIMSTEC, and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement. However, Bangladesh continues to face a number of major challenges, including widespread political and bureaucratic corruption, economic competition relative to the world, serious overpopulation, widespread poverty, and an increasing danger of hydrologic shocks brought on by ecological vulnerability to climate change.[citation needed]

Contents

History

Somapura Mahavihara in Paharpur, Bangladesh, is the greatest Buddhist Vihara in the Indian Subcontinent, built by Dharmapala of Bengal.

Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back four thousand years,[9] when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, and Austro-Asiatic peoples. The exact origin of the word "Bangla" or "Bengal" is not known, though it is believed to be derived from Bang, the Dravidian-speaking tribe that settled in the area around the year 1000 BCE.[10]

The kingdom of Gangaridai was formed from at least the 7th century BCE, which later united with Bihar under the Magadha, Nanda, Mauryan and Sunga Empires. Bengal was later part of the Gupta Empire and Harsha Empire from the 3rd to the 6th centuries CE. Following its collapse, a dynamic Bengali named Shashanka founded an impressive short-lived kingdom. After a period of anarchy, the Bengali Buddhist Pala dynasty ruled the region for four hundred years, followed by a shorter reign of the Hindu Sena dynasty.

Medieval European geographers located paradise at the mouth of the Ganges and although this was overhopeful, Bengal was probably the wealthiest part of the subcontinent until the 16th century. The area's early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance.

Islam was introduced to the Bengal region in the 12th century by Arab Muslim merchants; Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region.[11] Bakhtiar Khilji, a Turkish general, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal in the year 1204. The region was ruled by several sultans, Hindu states and land-lords-Baro-Bhuiyans for the next few hundred years. By the 16th century, the Mughal Empire controlled Bengal, and Dhaka became an important provincial centre of Mughal administration.


Maratha empire, a Hindu empire which overran Mughals in 18th century also devastated the Nawab of Bengal from 1742–1751 in a series of raids on Bengal and Bihar which were under Nawab of Bengal, Maratha demolished much of Bengal economy and was not able to withstand the continuous onslaught of Maratha for too long. Nawab Ali Vardi Khan made peace with Maratha thus giving whole of Orissa and parts of Western Bengal to Maratha apart from this a Chauth (1/4th of total revenue) was imposed on other Parts of Bengal and Bihar the amount was 20 lakhs for Bengal and 12 lakhs for Bihar per year.[12][13] After Maratha defeat in Panipat by a coalition of Muslim forces, Maratha returned again under Maratha general Madhoji Sindhia and raided Bengal again. British Empire has stopped the payment of Chauth, to collect this amount they invaded the territory of Bengal in 1760s. This raid continued until Maratha was defeated completely by British Empire in the series of Anglo-Maratha Wars.

Sixty Dome Mosque in Mosque city of Bagerhat was built in the 15th century and is the largest historical mosque in Bangladesh, as well as a World Heritage site.

From 1517 onwards, Portuguese traders from Goa were traversing the sea-route to Bengal. Only in 1537, were they allowed to settle and open customs houses at Chittagong. In 1577, Mughal emperor Akbar permitted the Portuguese to build permanent settlements and churches in Bengal.[14] The influence of European traders grew until the British East India Company gained control of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757.[15] The bloody rebellion of 1857—known as the Sepoy Mutiny—resulted in transfer of authority to the crown with a British viceroy running the administration.[16] During colonial rule, famine racked the Indian subcontinent many times, including the war-induced Great Bengal famine of 1943 that claimed 3 million lives.[17]

Between 1905 and 1911, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones, with Dhaka being the capital of the eastern zone.[18] When India was partitioned in 1947, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines, with the western part going to India and the eastern part (Muslim majority) joining Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), with its capital at Dhaka.[19]

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (3rd person from right) and Maulana Bhashani (4th person from right) in 1953

In 1950, land reform was accomplished in East Bengal with the abolishment of the feudal zamindari system.[20] Despite the economic and demographic weight of the east, however, Pakistan's government and military were largely dominated by the upper classes from the west. The Bengali Language Movement of 1952 was the first sign of friction between the two wings of Pakistan.[21] After staging compromise talks with Mujib, President Yahya Khan and military officials arrested him in the early hours of 26 March 1971, and launched Operation Searchlight,[22] a sustained military assault on East Pakistan. Yahya's methods were extremely bloody, and the violence of the war resulted in many civilian deaths.[23] Chief targets included intellectuals and Hindus, and about ten million refugees fled to neighbouring India.[24] Estimates of those massacred throughout the war range from three hundred thousand to 3 million.[25]

Awami League leaders set up a government-in-exile in Calcutta, India. The exile government formally took oath at Mujib Nagar in Kustia district of East Pakistan on 17 April 1971, with Tajuddin Ahmad as the first Prime Minister and Syed Nazrul Islam as the Vice President.

After Mujib declared independence of Bangladesh, Yahia’s brutal crackdown, including a virtual massacre of the intelligentsia in the universities of Bangladesh, was comparable in method to the war crimes of the Nazis. International public opinion was revolted and a tidal wave of hapless refugees, their number soon reaching 10 million, sought shelter in India.[26]

The Bangladesh Liberation War lasted for nine months. The Bangladesh Forces formed within 11 sectors led by General M.A.G. Osmani consisting of Bengali Regulars, and Mukti Bahini conducted a massive guerilla war against the Pakistan Forces with all out support from the Indian Armed Forces. Jointly, the Mukti Bahini achieved a decisive victory over Pakistan on 16 December 1971, with Indian Armed Forces taking over 90,000 prisoners of war.

After its independence, Bangladesh became a parliamentary democracy, with Mujib as the Prime Minister. In the 1973 parliamentary elections, the Awami League gained an absolute majority. A nationwide famine occurred during 1973 and 1974,[17] and in early 1975, Mujib initiated a one-party socialist rule with his newly formed BAKSAL. On 15 August 1975, Mujib and most of his family members were assassinated by mid-level military officers.[27] A series of bloody coups and counter-coups in the following three months culminated in the ascent to power of General Ziaur Rahman, who reinstated multi-party politics, and founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Zia's rule ended when he was assassinated by elements of the military in 1981.[27]

Bangladesh's next major ruler was General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, who gained power in a bloodless coup in 1982, and ruled until 1990, when he was forced to resign after a massive revolt of all major political parties and the public, along with pressure from western donors (which was a major shift in international policy after the fall of the Soviet Union). Since then, Bangladesh has reverted to a parliamentary democracy. Zia's widow, Khaleda Zia, led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to parliamentary victory at the general election in 1991, and became the first female Prime Minister in Bangladeshi history. However, the Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, one of Mujib's surviving daughters, won the next election in 1996. It lost again to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 2001.

On 11 January 2007, following widespread political unrest, a caretaker government was appointed to administer the next general election. The country had suffered from extensive corruption,[28] disorder and political violence. The new caretaker government has made it a priority to root out corruption from all levels of government. To this end, many notable politicians and officials, along with large numbers of lesser officials and party members, have been arrested on corruption charges. The caretaker government held what observers described as a largely free and fair election on 29 December 2008.[29] Awami League's Sheikh Hasina won the elections with a landslide victory and took the oath of Prime Minister on 6 January 2009.[30]

Government and politics

Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban houses the Parliament of Bangladesh and is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world
National symbols of Bangladesh
Anthem Amar Shonar Bangla
Animal Royal Bengal Tiger
Bird Oriental Magpie Robin
Fish Hilsa
Flower White Water Lily
Fruit Jack fruit
Tree Mango Tree
Sport Hadudu
Calendar Bengali calendar

Bangladesh is a unitary state and parliamentary democracy.[31] Direct elections in which all citizens, aged 18 or over, can vote are held every five years for the unicameral parliament known as Jatiya Sangsad. The parliamentary building is known as the Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban and was designed by architect Louis Kahn. Currently the parliament has 345 members including 45 reserved seats for women, elected from single-member constituencies. The Prime Minister, as the head of government, forms the cabinet and runs the day-to-day affairs of state. While the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the President, he or she must be an MP who commands the confidence of the majority of parliament. The President is the head of state but mainly a ceremonial post elected by the parliament.[32]

However the President's powers are substantially expanded during the tenure of a caretaker government, which is responsible for the conduct of elections and transfer of power. The officers of the caretaker government must be non-partisan and are given three months to complete their task. This transitional arrangement is an innovation that was pioneered by Bangladesh in its 1991 election and then institutionalized in 1996 through its 13th constitutional amendment.[33]

The Constitution of Bangladesh was drafted in 1972 and has undergone 14 amendments.[33] The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court. Justices are appointed by the President. The judicial and law enforcement institutions are weak.[34] Separation of powers, judicial from executive was finally implemented on 1 November 2007. It is expected that this separation will make the judiciary stronger and impartial. Laws are loosely based on English common law, but family laws such as marriage and inheritance are based on religious scripts, and therefore differ between religious communities.

Major parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). BNP is led by Khaleda Zia and has politically been allied with Islamist parties like Jamaat Bangladesh but practise secular politics. Sheikh Hasina's Awami League aligns with more leftist parties. Hasina and Zia are bitter rivals who have dominated politics for over 15 years; each is related to one of the leaders of the independence movement. Another important player is the Jatiya Party, headed by former military dictator Ershad. The Awami League-BNP rivalry has been bitter and punctuated by protests, violence and murder. Student politics is particularly strong in Bangladesh, a legacy from the liberation movement era. Almost all parties have highly active student wings, and student leaders have been elected to the Parliament.

Two radical terrorist organizations, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), were banned in February 2005. Several small-scale bomb attacks taking place since 1999 have been blamed on those groups, and dozens of suspected members have been detained in security operations, including the heads of those two parties in 2006. The masterminds were tried and executed. The Bangladesh government won praise from world leaders, including Western leaders, for its strong anti-terrorist stance.

The January 22, 2007 election was postponed indefinitely and emergency law declared on January 11, 2007 as the Army backed caretaker government of Fakhruddin Ahmed aimed to prepare a new voter list and crack down on corruption. They also assisted the interim Government of Bangladesh in a drive against corruption, which resulted in Bangladesh's position in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index changed from the very bottom, where they had been for 3 years in a row, to 147th in just 1 year.[35] A large alliance led by the Bangladesh Awami League won the December 29, 2008 poll, in a landslide victory. They got 230 seats among 300 seats in the parliament.[36]

Foreign relations and military

A BAF MiG-29
BNS Bangabandhu, a Bangladeshi Navy frigate

Bangladesh pursues a moderate foreign policy that places heavy reliance on multinational diplomacy, especially at the United Nations. In 1974 Bangladesh joined both the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations and has since been elected to serve two terms on the Security Council in 1978–1979 and 2000–2001. In the 1980s, Bangladesh played a lead role in founding the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in order to expand relations with other South Asian states. Since the founding of SAARC 1985, a Bangladeshi has held the post of Secretary General on two occasions.

Bangladesh's most important and complex foreign relationship is with India. This relationship is informed by historical and cultural ties and is strengthened because of India's involvement of liberating the people of Bangladesh from Pakistan. This forms an important part of the domestic political discourse. Bangladesh's relationship with India began on a positive note because of India's assistance in the independence war and reconstruction. Throughout the years, relations between both countries have fluctuated for a number of reasons.

A major source of tension between Bangladesh and India is the Farakka Dam.[37] In 1975, India constructed a dam on the Ganges River 11 miles (18 km) from the Bangladeshi border. Bangladesh alleges that the dam diverts much needed water from Bangladesh and adds a man-made disaster to the country already plagued by natural disasters. The dam also has terrible ecological consequences.[37] On the other hand, India has voiced concerns about anti-Indian separatists and Islamic militants allegedly being harboured across their 2,500-mile (4,000 km) border, as well as the flow of illegal migrants, and is building a fence along most of it.[38] However, at the 2007 SAARC meeting both nations pledged to work cooperatively on security, economic and border issues.[39]

The current strength of the army is around 200,000 including reservists,[40] the air force 22,000,[40] and navy 14,950.[41] In addition to traditional defence roles, the military has been called on to provide support to civil authorities for disaster relief and internal security during periods of political unrest. Bangladesh is not currently active in any ongoing war, but it did contribute 2,300 troops to the coalition that fought in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Bangladesh is consistently a top (10,736) contributor to UN peacekeeping forces around the world. As of May 2007, Bangladesh had major deployments in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, Timor-Leste and Côte d'Ivoire.[42][43]

Bangladesh enjoys relatively warm ties with the People's Republic of China which has, particularly in the past decade, increased economic cooperation with the South Asian nation. Between 2006 and 2007, trade between the two nations rose by 28.5% and there have been agreements to grant various Bangladeshi commodities tariff-free access to the Chinese market. Cooperation between the Military of Bangladesh and the People's Liberation Army is also increasing, with joint military agreements signed and Bangladesh procuring Chinese arms which range from small arms to large naval surface combatants such as the Chinese Type 053H1 Missile Frigate.

Divisions, districts and upazilas

Rangpur Division Rajshahi Division Khulna Division Barisal Division Chittagong Division Sylhet Division Dhaka DivisionA clickable map of Bangladesh exhibiting its divisions.
About this image

Bangladesh is divided into seven administrative divisions,[44][45] each named after their respective divisional headquarters: Barisal (বরিশাল), Chittagong (চট্টগ্রাম), Dhaka (ঢাকা), Khulna (খুলনা), Rajshahi (রাজশাহী), Sylhet (সিলেট), and Rangpur (রংপুর).

Divisions are subdivided into districts (zila). There are 64 districts in Bangladesh, each further subdivided into upazila (subdistricts) or thana. The area within each police station, except for those in metropolitan areas, is divided into several unions, with each union consisting of multiple villages. In the metropolitan areas, police stations are divided into wards, which are further divided into mahallas. There are no elected officials at the divisional, district or upazila levels, and the administration is composed only of government officials. Direct elections are held for each union (or ward), electing a chairperson and a number of members. In 1997, a parliamentary act was passed to reserve three seats (out of 12) in every union for female candidates.[46]

Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. Other major cities include Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Barisal, Bogra, Comilla, Mymensingh and Rangpur. These cities have mayoral elections, while other municipalities elect a chairperson. Mayors and chairpersons are elected for a span of five years.

City City population (2008 estimate)[47] Metro population (2008 estimate)[47]
Dhaka 7,000,940 12,797,394
Chittagong 2,579,107 3,858,093
Khulna 855,650 1,588,425
Rajshahi 472,775 775,496
Sylhet 463,198
Barisal 210,374
Rangpur 251,699

Geography and climate

Satellite image presenting physical features of Bangladesh
Boats are a major method of transportation in Bangladesh, a floodplain with more than 700 rivers.

Bangladesh lies between latitudes 20° and 27°N, and longitudes 88° and 93°E.

Bangladesh is in the low-lying Ganges–Brahmaputra River Delta or Ganges Delta. This delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma or Pôdda), Brahmaputra (Jamuna or Jomuna also known as "Yamuna"), and Meghna rivers and their respective tributaries. The Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna to eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal. The alluvial soil deposited by these rivers has created some of the most fertile plains in the world. Bangladesh has 57 trans-boundary rivers, making water issues politically complicated to resolve – in most cases as the lower riparian state to India.[48] Most parts of Bangladesh are less than 12 m (39.4 ft) above the sea level, and it is believed that about 10% of the land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 m (3.28 ft).[49]

In south east Bangladesh experiments have been done since the sixties to 'build with nature'. By implementing cross dams, the natural accretion of silt has created new land. With Dutch funding, the Bangladeshi government began to help develop this new land in the late 1970s. The effort has since become a multiagency operation building roads, culverts, embankments, cyclone shelters, toilets and ponds, as well as distributing land to settlers. By fall 2010, the program will have allotted some 27,000 acres (10,927 ha) to 21,000 families.[50]

The highest point in Bangladesh is in Mowdok range at 1,052 m (3,451 ft) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to the southeast of the country.[51] Cox's Bazar, south of the city of Chittagong, has a beach that stretches uninterrupted over 120 kilometres (75 mi).

Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, Bangladeshi climate is tropical with a mild winter from October to March, a hot, humid summer from March to June. A warm and humid monsoon season lasts from June to October and supplies most of the country's rainfall. Natural calamities, such as floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and tidal bores occur almost every year,[52] combined with the effects of deforestation, soil degradation and erosion. The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 were particularly devastating. A cyclone that struck Bangladesh in 1991 killed some 140,000 people.[53]

In September 1998, Bangladesh saw the most severe flooding in modern world history. As the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and Meghna spilt over and swallowed 300,000 houses, 9,700 kilometres (6,027 mi) of road and 2,700 kilometres (1,678 mi) of embankment 1,000 people were killed and 30 million more were made homeless with 135,000 cattle killed, 50 square kilometres (19.3 sq mi) of land destroyed and 11,000 kilometres (6,835 mi) of roads damaged or destroyed. Two-thirds of the country was underwater. There were several reasons for the severity of the flooding. Firstly, there were unusually high monsoon rains. Secondly, the Himalayas shed off an equally unusually high amount of melt water that year. Thirdly, trees that usually would have intercepted rain water had been cut down for firewood or to make space for animals.[54]

Bangladesh is now widely recognized to be one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Natural hazards that come from increased rainfall, rising sea levels, and tropical cyclones are expected to increase as climate changes, each seriously affecting agriculture, water & food security, human health and shelter.[55] It is believed that in the coming decades the rising sea level alone will create more than 20 million[56] climate refugees.[57] Bangladeshi water is contaminated with arsenic frequently because of the high arsenic contents in the soil. Up to 77 million people are exposed to toxic arsenic from drinking water.[58][59] Bangladesh is among the countries most prone to natural floods, tornados and cyclones.[60][61]

Flora and fauna

Royal Bengal Tiger

A major part of the coastline comprises a marshy jungle, the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to diverse flora and fauna, including the Royal Bengal Tiger. In 1997, this region was declared endangered.[62] The Magpie Robin is the National Bird of Bangladesh and it is common and known as the Doyel or Doel (Bengali: দোয়েল). It is a widely used symbol in Bangladesh, appearing on currency notes and a landmark in the city of Dhaka is named as the Doyel Chatwar (meaning: Doyel Square). The national flower of the country is water lily, which is known as Shapla. The national fruit is jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), which in Bengali is known as Kathal. In late 2010, the Bangladeshi government selected the Mango tree as the national tree.[63]

Economy

Worker in a paddy field – a common scene throughout Bangladesh. Two thirds of the population works in the agricultural sector.

At April 2010, USA – based ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) awarded Bangladesh a BB- for a long term in credit rating which is below India and well over Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia.[64] And, despite continuous domestic and international efforts to improve economic and demographic prospects, Bangladesh remains a developing nation.[65] However, Bangladesh gradually decreased its dependency on foreign grant and loan from 85% (In 1988)[66] to 2% (In 2010) [67] for its annual development budget. Its per capita income in 2010 was US$641 compared to the world average of $8,985.[68] But, if purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account, Bangladesh's economy is the 44th largest in the world at US$257 billion according to the IMF.

Jute was once the economic engine of the country. Its share of the world export market peaked in the Second World War and the late 1940s at 80%[69] and even in the early 1970s accounted for 70% of its export earnings. However, polypropylene products began to substitute for jute products worldwide and the jute industry started to decline. Bangladesh grows very significant quantities of rice, tea, potato, mango, onion and mustard. According to FAOSTAT, Bangladesh is one of world's largest producers of:[70] Rice (4th), Potato (11th), Mango (9th), Pineapple (16th), Tropical Fruit (5th), Onion (16th), Banana (17th), Jute (2nd), Tea (11th).

Although two-thirds of Bangladeshis are farmers, more than three quarters of Bangladesh’s export earnings come from the garment industry,[71] which began attracting foreign investors in the 1980s due to cheap labour and low conversion cost. In 2009–10 fiscal year the industry exported US$ 12.6 billion[72] worth of products where in 2002 the exported amount was US$ 5 billion. Recently[when?] Bangladesh has been ranked as the 4th[73] largest clothing exporter by the WTO (The World Trade Organization) .[74] whereas, according to The Economist Bangladesh is world’s third-largest clothes-export industry[75] The industry now employs more than 3 million workers, 90% of whom are women.[76] A large part of foreign currency earnings also comes from the remittances sent by expatriates living in other countries.

Jamuna Bridge: one of the longest bridges in South Asia

Obstacles to growth include frequent cyclones and floods, inefficient state-owned enterprises, mismanaged port facilities, a growth in the labour force that has outpaced jobs, inefficient use of energy resources (such as natural gas), insufficient power supplies, slow implementation of economic reforms, political infighting and corruption. According to the World Bank, "among Bangladesh’s most significant obstacles to growth are poor governance and weak public institutions."[77] Despite these hurdles, the country has achieved an average annual growth rate of 5% since 1990, according to the World Bank.

Bangladesh has seen expansion of its middle class (world's fifty-fourth largest, just below of Singapore & Vietnam), and its consumer industry has also grown. In December 2005, four years after its report on the emerging "BRIC" economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), Goldman Sachs named Bangladesh one of the "Next Eleven",[78] along with Egypt, Indonesia, Vietnam and seven other countries.

Bangladesh has seen a dramatic increase in foreign direct investment. A number of multinational corporations and local big business houses such as Beximco, Square, Akij Group, Ispahani, Navana Group, Transcom Group, Habib Group, KDS Group, T.K Group Of Industries, Dragon Group and multinationals such as Unocal Corporation and Chevron, have made major investments, with the natural gas sector being a priority. In December 2005, the Central Bank of Bangladesh projected GDP growth around 6.5%.[79] In order to enhance economic growth, the government set up several export processing zones to attract foreign investment. These are managed by the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority.

One significant contributor to the development of the economy has been the widespread propagation of microcredit by Muhammad Yunus (awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006) through the Grameen Bank. By the late 1990s, Grameen Bank had 2.3 million members, along with 2.5 million members of other similar organisations.[80]

Next Mega-Projects

Bangladesh government is planning for construction of the largest deep sea port in South Asia at Sonadia Island. The 50,000 crore taka project will be completed in multiple phases and enable Bangladesh to service the whole region as a maritime transport and logistics hub. India, China, Bhutan, Nepal and other neighbouring countries will be able to take full advantage of the strategic location and Bangladesh’s LDC status for exporting their goods, which are manufactured in Bangladesh.

Furthermore, with $7.5 billion a new international airport will be constructed too, which will be South Asia’s largest airport. The airport is being modelled on Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in size and capacity.

Recently the government of Bangladesh signed a deal with a Chinese company to provide high-speed modern DEMU trains and is also going to construct metro rail system and high-speed electric powered inter city rail network. More expressways, large bridges (such as the multi-billion Padma bridge project) and national highways are also being constructed to facilitate trade and regional development.

Demographics

Languages of Bangladesh map.svg
Population[81]
Year Million
1971 71.0
1980 90.4
1990 115.6
2000 140.8
2004 150.7
2009 162.2
Source: OECD/World Bank

The population of Bangladesh at 15/03/2011 is 142.3 million (census 2011 results; this is a preliminary figure which has been disputed by the UN and now by Bangladeshis themselves[82]), much less than recent (2007–2010) estimates of Bangladesh's population range from 158 to 170 million and it is the 8th most populous nation in the world. In 1951, the population was 44 million.[83] It is also the most densely populated large country in the world, and it ranks 11th in population density, when very small countries and city-states are included.[84] A striking contrast is offered by Russia which has a slightly smaller population spread over a land area that is 120 times larger than Bangladesh. Bangladesh's population growth was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when the country swelled from 65 to 110 million. With the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, the growth rate had slowed. The population is relatively young, with 60% being 25 or younger and 3% being 63 or older. Life expectancy is 63 years for both males and females.[85]

Dhaka had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest metropolitan area in Bangladesh.

The overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengali, comprising 98% of the population.[86] The remainder are mostly Biharis and indigenous tribal groups. There is also a small but growing population of Rohingya refugees from Burma around Cox's Bazaar, which Bangladesh seeks to repatriate to Burma. The indigenous tribal peoples are concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast. There are 13 tribal groups located in this region, the largest being the Chakma. The Hill Tracts region has been a source of unrest and separatism since and before the inception of Bangladesh.[87] Outside the Hill Tracts, the largest tribal groups are the Santhals and Garos (Achiks), while smaller groups include the Kaibartta, Meitei, Mundas, Oraons, and Zomi.

Nearly all Bangladeshis speak Bangla as their mother tongue and it is the official language.[88] It is an Indo-Aryan language of Sanskrit origin with its own script. English is used as a second language among the middle and upper classes.[89] English is also widely used in higher education and the legal system. Historically, laws were written in English and were not translated into Bengali until 1987 when the procedure was reversed.[90] The Bihari population speaks Urdu, which was also the language associated with the government prior to separation from Pakistan.

Health and education

Health and education levels remain relatively low, although they have improved recently as poverty (31% at 2010[91]) levels have decreased. Most Bangladeshis continue to live on subsistence farming in rural villages. Health problems abound, springing from poor water quality and prevalence of infectious diseases. The water crisis is acute, with widespread bacterial contamination of surface water and arsenic contamination of groundwater.[92] Common diseases include malaria, leptospirosis and dengue. The literacy rate in Bangladesh rose to 56.5% in 2009.[93] There is some gender disparity, though, as literacy rates are 62% among men and 51% among women, according to a 2008 UNICEF estimate.[93] Among the most successful literacy programs are the Food for education (FFE) introduced in 1993,[94] and a stipend program for women at the primary and secondary levels.[95]

In June 2011, the United Nations Population Fund released a report on The State of the World's Midwifery. It contained new data on the midwifery workforce and policies relating to newborn and maternal mortality for 58 countries. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Bangladesh is 340. This is compared with 338.3 in 2008 and 724.4 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 55 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5's mortality is 57. The aim of this report is to highlight ways in which the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, particularly Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality and Goal 5 – improve maternal health. In Bangladesh the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 8 and 1 in 110 shows us the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women. [96]

Religion

The Bishwa Ijtema, the second-largest Muslim congregation after the Hajj.[97]

The main religion practiced in Bangladesh is Islam (89.6%), but a significant percentage of the population adheres to Hinduism (9.3%).[98] The majority of Muslims are Sunni. Many people in Bangladesh practice Sufism, historically Islam was brought to the region by Sufi saints. There are also followers of the Deobandi movement, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Ahle Hadith. The largest gathering of Muslims in the country is the Bishwa Ijtema, held annually by the Tablighi Jamaat. Ethnic Biharis are predominantly Shia Muslims. There are also a small number of Muslims, numbering some 100,000 belonging to the Ahmadiyya community. Sufi influences in the region go back many centuries.[99] Other religious groups include Buddhists (0.7%, mostly Theravada), Christians (0.3%, mostly of the Roman Catholic denomination), and Animists (0.1%). Bangladesh has the fourth largest Muslim population after Indonesia, Pakistan, and India, with over 170 million. Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was briefly made the state religion, before returning by decree of the High Court to the principles of its 1972 constitution.[100] The High Court also strengthened its stance against punishments by Islamic edict (fatwa), following complaints of brutal sentences carried out against women by extra-legal village courts.[101]

Culture

Reflecting the long history of the region, Bangladesh has a culture that encompasses elements both old and new. The Bengali language boasts a rich literary heritage, which Bangladesh shares with the Indian state of West Bengal. The earliest literary text in Bengali is the 8th century Charyapada. Medieval Bengali literature was often either religious (for example, Chandidas), or adapted from other languages (for example, Alaol). Bengali literature reached its full expression in the 19th century, with its greatest icons being poets Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Bangladesh also has a long tradition in folk literature, for example Maimansingha Gitika, Thakurmar Jhuli and stories related to Gopal Bhar, Birbal and Molla Nasiruddin.

The musical tradition of Bangladesh is lyrics-based (Baniprodhan), with minimal instrumental accompaniment. The Baul tradition is a distinctive element of Bengali folk music. Numerous other musical traditions exist including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya, varying from one region to the next. Folk music is often accompanied by the ektara, an instrument with only one string. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute and tabla. Bangladesh also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music. Similarly, Bangladeshi dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance tradition.[102]

Celebrations of the Pohela Baishakh at Dhaka.

Bangladesh produces about 80 films a year.[103] Mainstream Hindi films are also quite popular.[104] Around 200 daily newspapers are published in Bangladesh, along with more than 500 periodicals. However, regular readership is low at just under 15% of the population.[105] Bangladeshis listen to a variety of local and national radio programs like Bangladesh Betar. Four private FM radio stations named (Radio Foorti, ABC Radio, Radio Today, Radio Amar) are popular among urban youths. International Bengali language broadcasts include BBC Bangla and Voice of America. The dominant television channel is the state-owned Bangladesh Television, but in the last few years, privately owned channels have developed considerably.

The culinary tradition of Bangladesh has close relations to nearby North-East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine as well as having its own unique traits. Rice, and fish are traditional favorites. Bangladeshis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, some common ones being Rôshogolla, Rasmalai, Rôshomalai, chômchôm and kalojam.

The sari (shaŗi) is by far the most widely worn dress by Bangladeshi women. A guild of weavers in Dhaka is renowned for producing saris from exquisite Jamdani muslin. The salwar kameez (shaloar kamiz) is also quite popular, and in urban areas some women wear western attire. Among men, western attire is more widely adopted. Men also wear the kurta-paejama combination, often on religious occasions, and the lungi, a kind of long skirt for men.

Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, being the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar, are the subject of major festivals. The day before Eid ul-Fitr is called Chãd Rat (the night of the moon) and is often celebrated with firecrackers. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated in the memory of great sacrifice of Prophet Abraham. Major Hindu festivals are Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Saraswati Puja. Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, and Christmas, called Bôŗodin (Great day), are both national holidays. The most important secular festival is Pohela Baishakh or Bengali New Year, the beginning of the Bengali calendar. Other festivities include Nobanno, Poush parbon (festival of Poush) and observance of national days like Shohid Dibosh and Victory Day.

Education

The educational system in Bangladesh is three-tiered and highly subsidized. The government of Bangladesh operates many schools in the primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels. It also subsidizes parts of the funding for many private schools. In the tertiary education sector, the government also funds more than 15 state universities through the University Grants Commission.

Primary (from grades 1 to 5), Secondary (from grades 6 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12) and tertiary.[106] The five years of lower secondary education concludes with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of Higher Secondary or intermediate training, which culminate in a Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) Examination.[106] Education is mainly offered in Bangla, but English is also commonly taught and used. A large number of Muslim families send their children to attend part-time courses or even to pursue full-time religious education, which is imparted in Bangla and Arabic in madrasahs.[106]

Bangladesh conforms fully to the Education For All (EFA) objectives, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children between the ages of six and ten years receive a basic education free of charge.

Universities in Bangladesh are mainly categorized into three different types: Public university (government owned and subsidized), Private University (private sector owned universities), and International University (operated and funded by international organizations )

Bangladesh has some thirty public and forty-five private universities. National University has the largest enrolment amongst them and University of Dhaka (estd.1921) is the oldest university of the country. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology is oldest and prominent engineering university in Bangladesh and well known in south Asia. Bangladeshi universities are accredited by and affiliated with the University Grants Commission (UGC), a commission created according to the Presidential Order (P.O. No 10 of 1973) of the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.[107]

Sports

The Bangladesh players pose with the trophy after beating New Zealand 4-0.

Cricket enjoys a passionate following in Bangladesh and it is the most popular sport followed by football (soccer). The national cricket team participated in their first World Cup in 1999, and the following year was granted elite Test cricket status. But they have struggled to date, recording only three Test match victories, one against Zimbabwe in 2005 and the other two in a series win of 2–0 against the West Indies in 2009.[108] In July 2010, they celebrated their first ever win over England in any form of match. Later in 2010,they managed to whitewash New Zealand for the first time in history. In 2011, Bangladesh successfully co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 with India and Sri Lanka.

They participated at the Asian Games 2010 in Guangzhou, defeating Afghanistan to claim their Gold Medal in the first ever cricket tournament held in the Asian Games. Hadudu (Kabaddi) is the national sport of Bangladesh. Other popular sports include field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, basketball, volleyball, chess, shooting, angling and carrom. The Bangladesh Sports Control Board regulates 29 different sporting federations.

See also

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