What if the world is 100 Bengali

Development Forum Bangladesh e.V.

by Afzalul Haque, Lt. Commander / Bangladesh Navy Corvette Captain & course participant in General Staff and Admiralty Staff Service with international participation in 2006/2007


Bangladesh is in South Asia. It extends between 20 degrees and 27 degrees north latitude and between 88 degrees and 93 degrees east longitude over a total area of ​​147,570 square kilometers. Thus the country is two and a half times smaller than the FRG. It is almost entirely enclosed on three sides by India; only in the southeast does it have a small border with Burma, today's Myanmar. To the south it is bordered by the Bay of Bengal, which connects the country with international waters. The total length of the border is 4,246 km, of which 193 km with Myanmar and 4,053 km with India. The coastline is 580 km. The capital Dhaka is only six meters above sea level and has around 7 million inhabitants, 5% of the total population of 146 million. Other big cities are Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal. The country is about 9 hours by flight from the Federal Republic of Germany. The time difference between local time in Bangladesh and Central European time is 5 hours.


The rivers determine the landscape of my country. Some rivers have different names for the respective upper, middle and lower reaches. The rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra coming from the Himalayas with their main estuaries Padma and Meghna have given the country a delta shape through which 270 tributaries run. Most of the land is flat and averages just 20 m above sea level. An exception is the extensive mountain area - Chittagong Hilltracts - in the southeast with about 1,100 m height and some low hills in the northeast, which line the Sylhet plain. In the mouth of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, the mangrove areas of the Sundarbans extend over large parts of the coast.


Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate. We have six seasons, namely summer, monsoons, autumn, late autumn, winter and spring. Of the six seasons, three are dominant, namely monsoons, winter and summer. Around 80 percent of the rain falls during the monsoon season, which lasts from May to mid-October. The mean annual precipitation at the eastern border of the country is around 1,400 millimeters and rises to over 5,080 millimeters in the extreme northeast (in comparison in Germany it is 750 mm, in Hamburg 714 mm). Temperatures in Bangladesh are high all year round. January is the coolest and May is the warmest month. In Dhaka, for example, the average temperature is 19 ° C in January and 29 ° C in May. The humidity in the rainy season sometimes rises to 96%. So, if you are planning a trip to Bangladesh, which is what you will definitely want after reading, it is best to come in our winter, the German summer. Tropical cyclones cause great damage during the monsoons from April to May and from September to November. The November 1970 cyclone, which claimed more than 500,000 lives, was one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century. The property damage here alone was well over $ 10 billion, roughly equivalent to the total development aid my country has received since it was founded in 1971. Another cyclone in the coastal areas of the Ganges Delta claimed over 120,000 lives in April 1991; Millions of people became homeless.

Animals and flora

Although Bangladesh is a densely populated country, the country is also home to various beautiful and interesting animals and plants. Bangladesh has a diverse wildlife with 109 native mammal species, 684 bird species, 119 reptile species, 19 amphibian species and around 200 species of marine and freshwater fish. The most famous animal is the famous Bengal tiger, which lives in the huge jungle to the south. Elephants and leopards live in the Chittagong Mountains. Other animals include roe deer, wild boar, pythons, and cobras. A colorful world of birds populates the country. The national bird is called "Doel". In Bangladesh there are still impenetrable mangrove thickets and primary forests that have not yet been damaged by humans. Orchids, bromeliads and various other tropical flowers grow here. The national flower is called "water lotus".

The population

The majority, i.e. around 98% of the population of my country is made up of Bengali, who largely descend from Indo-Aryan peoples. The minorities include the Chakma and Mogh; they are of Mongolian origin and live in the Chittagong Mountains. Bangladesh has about 146 million inhabitants (2006) and is therefore in eighth place in the world rankings in terms of population. The population density, with around 1000 inhabitants per square kilometer, is also the most densely populated country in the world (excluding city states such as Singapore). Although the growth rate has decreased from 3.3% to 2.02% in recent years, overpopulation remains one of our biggest problems. About 26 percent of the Bengali population lives in cities. The population is relatively evenly distributed across the country, with the exception of the sparsely populated Chittagong Mountains and the nearly uninhabited Sundarban. The average life expectancy is 64.5 years (2005).


The constitution describes Islam as the state religion, but also guarantees freedom of belief. That is why the most important religious holidays of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians have been declared public holidays. Almost 87% of the population are Muslim. 12% are Hindus. The rest are Buddhists (0.6%), Christians (0.3%) and others (0.1%).


The population is called Bengali because they speak "Bangla". Bangla comes from the Sanskrit language and is the country's official language. English is used as an administrative and business language, and English is widely used as an educational language among the middle and upper classes. Few people know that Bangla is the sixth most spoken language in the world, i.e. approximately 210 million people speak this language. There is a bloody story about the Bangla language. As you may already know, Bangladesh was called East Pakistan before its independence. I'll get to that later. But, in 1952, when the Pakistani regime declared Urdu the language of the two parts of Pakistan, the Bangladeshi students resisted. Numerous students were shot on February 21, 1952. The victims of the students are not only remembered by Bengal, but six years ago UNICEF declared February 21 to be International Mother Language Day. Bangla has its own font and keyboard for computers.


About 48% of the population in Bangladesh are women. Twenty to thirty years ago, most women were simply housewives and had little or no education. Today people have an understanding of how important an educated and independent woman is to society. For the past 20 years every government has tried to solve these problems. The role of the media and NGOs in this area is recognized. The current policy on women's education is: a. Women receive free education up to the end of the 10th grade, i.e. up to the Secondary School Certificate. b. Young girls who go to school are given a little money and 20 kilos of rice. c. Women have a quota for studying at the university and for many jobs. The majority of the jobs are still held by men. But little by little, more and more women are working and are taking on increasingly important posts, e.g. in the past few years that of prime minister or opposition leader. Many women are currently working in schools, banks, companies, hospitals, offices and industry. About 90% of the workers in the garment industry, 80% of the workers in the tea garden, 40% of the workers in the pharmaceutical industry, and 50% in the schools are women.


Traditionally, men wear two-piece clothing called jama, i.e. shirt and lungi, but Western-style clothing is also widely worn. Many farmers or workers in the fields do not wear a top. That doesn't always mean poverty. It's just way too warm to work under the sun. Clothing is very cheap in Bangladesh. The women like to dress with the saree. Young women and girls are dressed in blouses and skirts called salwar kamiz. In addition, Bengali women wear many pieces of jewelry made from a mixture of gold, silver and bronze.


The typical Bengali dish consists of rice, fish and vegetables. Almost every dish is heavily seasoned. We usually have homemade pan bread for breakfast, called ruti or parata. Many workers and farmers also like the traditional panta: rice in water with peppers, salt, onions, potatoes or with eggs. In the evening you can also eat rice, parata or nanruti. We eat a lot of vegetables, lentils called dal, various types of spinach (shak), eggs and more fish than meat because it is cheaper. Fast food such as hamburgers, sandwiches, chicken nuggets or chicken fries and fries are very popular with young people. There is also "weather-dependent" food. For example, when it rains, people like to eat a typical dish called khichuri with fish or eggs. In winter you can eat pitha, vapa or patisapta. Our dish, kebab, is world famous. When there is a celebration, people like to eat biriani, grilled meat with a special drink called borhani. There are also lots of little things there, for example 100 kinds of candy and pitha. People drink a lot of water in Bangladesh. When it gets very hot, one also likes to drink homemade lime juice called Sarbat. You can buy drinks like cola, fuel, Fanta or juice everywhere. Alcoholic drink is not sold in public. To do this, you have to go to certain bars, pubs or restaurants that have a mandatory license. There is a lot of fruit in Bangladesh. Believe me, once you've really eaten Bengali mango or lichi, you won't want to miss the taste. But unfortunately they are only available for a short time, i.e. for a maximum of 4 to 6 weeks. Domestic fruits such as hunting fruits i.e. kathal, guava i.e. peyara, bananas, barai, atta, dates, star fruits, water fruits i.e. panifal, and so on are very cheap. Apples, oranges and pomegranates can also be bought, but these are relatively expensive. Hunting fruits are our national fruit. Many will have noticed that the Bengali food is similar to that in India, Pakistan, Nepal or Sri Lanka.

Schools and education

Bangladesh's public education system follows the model introduced by the British before 1947. In Bangladesh, there is a five-year compulsory schooling free of charge from the age of 6. Attending primary schools is free, but at least a third of children grow up without any education. The literacy rate is 51.4 percent. After the 10th grade, students must take a general exam to get a certificate, i.e. Secondary School Certificate. They can then continue to go to high school or learn a trade. After the 12th school year, the pupils get a school leaving certificate similar to the German Abitur, but that is called a Higher Secondary School Certificate, with which they can either study or start vocational training. This professional training lasts three years and a degree lasts 4 to 6 years, depending on what he or she wants to study.


The press in Bangladesh enjoys full and absolute freedom without any form of censorship. Bangladesh has a lively media landscape. In addition to a large number of national newspapers in Bangla and English, i.e. around 200 daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines that are published in the capital Dhaka, almost every provincial town has its own newspaper. The country has various news agencies and some international agencies such as Reuters, AP, AFP, Xinhua and IRNA have offices in Dhaka. Bangladesh has extensive radio and TV networks, including cable and satellite programs. The public service radio Bangladesh operates external offers in 7 languages, which are broadcast to Europe, Pakistan, India, Nepal and the Middle East. Bangladesh Television and 8 other private TV stations broadcast their programs via satellite to many countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Here in Germany at least 4 Bangla channels can be received. The Press Information Department is responsible for providing information on government policy, the Press Council handles complaints, and the Press Institute organizes training programs and seminars for journalists.


The area that is known today as Bangladesh has a rich historical and cultural past, in which Afghans, Ethiopians, Arabs, Turks, conquerors from North Asia and colonial rulers from Europe all played a part. A monolithic national culture does not exist. Today's culture has processed the impulses of different peoples; the new does not replace the old, but integrates it. This can be clearly seen in the popular Islam in Bangladesh, which includes elements of animism, Buddhism and Hinduism, among others.

Literature and music

The Bengali like poetry, music, dances, and theater. The type of music and dances are completely different from European music and dances. They are very classic in their way. Great poets like the Nobel Prize winner Tagore, Nazrul, Shukanta, Jebonananda have had significant influences on social life. The young generation in the cities also likes western music like rock-n-roll. There is an upward trend among the young people: They like to play or listen to Bangla, Hindi and English songs. In big cities there are theaters in which both folk dramas and western dramas such as "Romeo and Juliet" or "Macbeth" by Shakespeare or the plays by Bertholt Brecht, for example, are played. The typical folk theater is called "Sattra" and is usually organized regularly in the villages in winter.


Various festivals are of outstanding importance. The most important holidays are the two largest festivals in Islam, Eid ul-Fitr, a three-day festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramzan (Ramadan), and Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Hindu, Buddhist and Christian festivals are also celebrated with great exuberance. The Bengali New Year on April 14th is celebrated with a lot of joy, happiness and exuberance. Poetry, music and dance events and a carnival-like street show are the highlights of the day. Baischakhi Melas or New Years Markets are also part of the day's events. They also celebrate New Year's Eve, i.e. the first of January, but mostly only in the big cities and mostly among the younger generation.

Architecture and art

The country's architecture is a reflection of the eventful history. The Bengali traditional "terracotta" style changed fundamentally during the time of the Mughal rulers (Lalbagherkella). The parliament building is a fusion of western architecture with eastern style. The "Curzon Hall" is a building with a mixed style of western and Mughal architecture. Bengali works of art are an ingenious mixture of modern and traditional folk art.

Society and family

The Bengali are humble and friendly by nature. Having guests and visiting relatives, friends and acquaintances are common, popular social traditions. From a social point of view, we still have the extended family system. Since there is no modern social security system, the willingness to help and support in the extended family is not only desired, but necessary for us and an excellent social way of life. The oldest member of the family plays the crucial role in the family. The family tradition is Islamic. Although men run families, women still play powerful roles in the family. If you look back 20 to 30 years ago, there were many families with more than 10 children. This is rarely seen today. The so-called family planning system has brought positive results.


In Bangladesh, cricket, soccer, volleyball, hockey, basketball and badminton are predominantly played. But people also like to go swimming and rowing. Unfortunately, due to financial restrictions, sporting activities could not be funded as desired in the past. Nevertheless, Bangladesh permanently qualified for participation in the World Cricket Championship last year. Bangladesh has also received what is known as the tenth Test Playing Nation status in cricket. The national sport, however, is “Kabadi”, which is particularly popular in the villages.


While Bangladesh is a relatively new name on the political map, the region it comprises is undoubtedly one of the cradles of civilization. The inhabitants of this area took part in the great war of "Mahabharata", which supposedly took place in the 9th century BC. At that time, an East Asian race inhabited this area. In the 5th and 6th centuries BC Drawidia from Central Asia and Ariyans from the West Indies populated this area. Later came Maura (4th to 2ndVc), Guptas (4th to 5th centuries AD), Palas (750-1162 AD), and Senas (1162-1223 AD) who were Hindus and Buddhists. Between the 10th and 15th centuries, Arabs, Persians, Turks and Afghans arrived and Islam spread to the area. Bangladesh remained independent until 1576. At that time, the Mughal ruler "Akbar" conquered the country and made Bangladesh one of its twelve provinces. Attracted by the wealth of the country at that time, first Portuguese and then Dutch and British merchants came to Bengal in the 16th century. Through clever political and military maneuvers against the then Bangladeshi ruler, British rule was first established in Bengal in 1757 and then extended to all of India. With the end of colonial rule in August 1947, two states were formed on the subcontinent: India and Pakistan. Bangladesh belonged to Pakistan due to the same religion and was first called East Pakistan. Despite the common Islamic religion, West Pakistan and East Pakistan were separated not only by linguistic and cultural differences. The two parts of Pakistan were over 1000 km apart. The residents of Bangladesh felt that they were severely disadvantaged by the government in Pakistan at the time and often protested in vain. The first riots broke out on February 21, 1952, when the then Pakistani government declared Urdu to be the national language, without taking into account the largest part, i.e. 56% of the Bengal population. The government tried to suppress it by force and many people died at the time. But, Bangla, the language of the eastern part of the country eventually gained its status as one of the state languages ​​in Pakistan. That was actually the first step towards independence. The fertile east achieved surpluses with its rice exports, which benefited almost exclusively from the west, where they were in turn spent primarily on the military. In the Pakistani-Indian Kashmir War in 1965, in particular, it became clear that, on the one hand, West Pakistan made no efforts to secure East Pakistan militarily, and on the other hand, the Kashmir issue in East Pakistan hardly aroused any interest. In addition, the Bengali were severely underrepresented in both the military and the state administration. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the charismatic leader of the East Pakistani Awami League, therefore called for extensive autonomy for the Bengali (East Pakistan). After the resignation of President Mohammed Ayub Khan in 1968, his successor General Yahya Khan saw no alternative to calling for the first free elections in all of Pakistan since the state was founded. In view of the landslide-like election victory of the Awami League in the east and the population conditions in both parts of the country, this should have led to an East Bengal government for the entire state. This met with resistance in West Pakistan, especially from the election winner there, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and the West Pakistani army. They decided to bloody suppression of the separatist endeavors, which resulted above all in the elimination of the Bengali elites. Just one day after the army came to power, Mujibur Rahman proclaimed the country's independence. After the persistent use of force by the Pakistani military against the Bengalis, a Bengali freedom army, the "Mukti Bahini", was formed, which took up the armed struggle against the Pakistani military for an independent Bangladesh. In their quest for an independent state, the Bengali were supported by India and what was then the Soviet Union. The conflicts lasted until December 1971. In December 1971 there was a war (December 3 to 16) between India and Pakistan, which also led to the victory over the Pakistani army in what was then East Pakistan and the war of independence of the Bengali was decisive helped rapid success. On December 16, the Pakistani army's surrender was officially signed and what was then East Pakistan proclaimed its independence (as the new state of Bangladesh). On December 17, 1971, East Pakistan finally gained independence under international law and gave itself the name "Bangladesh". In spring 1972 it was gradually recognized by the majority of the international community. This civil war claimed about 3 million lives. But the conflict between Bangladesh and Pakistan is now a thing of the past. There have been friendly and tension-free relationships for years.


Because of the extreme overpopulation, Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world with a per capita income of almost 500 euros per year (fiscal year 2005), a GDP of around 57 billion euros and 146 million inhabitants. But the Bengali weren't always poor. First as part of British India, then Pakistan, the economic development of today's Bangladecsh has long been neglected. The country supplied large quantities of agricultural products, including the world's largest harvest of jute, but received little investment in expanding transport links or building industrial plants. This is why the young nation suffered from structural deficits from the start, as there was neither adequately trained management personnel nor a developed market with the appropriate infrastructure. In addition, Bangladesh suffered political instability until the 1990s. Currently 52% of the workforce work in agriculture, 23% in industry and 25% in the service sector. Unemployment and underemployment are among the country's biggest problems. If one looks at the most important points of the current economic status of the country, one finds the following: The focus is of course the nutrition of the 146 million inhabitants. With that, the country is almost 100% successful today. Despite the political turmoil, regular floods and natural disasters, the country achieved economic growth of 6% -7% in the past four to five years. Although the poverty rate fell by an average of 1% per year in the 1990s, almost 35% of the population are still living below the poverty line. If Bangladesh wants to achieve the goal it has set itself of reducing the poverty rate below 10% within one generation (by 2020), the World Bank estimates that continuous economic growth of 7-8% is necessary.

Natural resources

There are few natural resources in Bangladesh. However, natural gas, limestone, china clay and salt are mined or extracted. The natural gas reserves in the northeast and in the coastal zones of the country are estimated at 1,400 billion cubic meters. Crude oil was found near Sylhet in 1986 and is produced to a small extent. Further occurrences are suspected in the coastal zones and in the continental shelf of the Bay of Bengal. Around 530 million tons of coal were discovered at great depth near Bogra.


After independence, only the rudiments of a manufacturing industry existed in Bangladesh. Today, Bangladesh's industry only generates around 20% of the gross national product (GDP). The most important branch of industry is the cotton textile industry. Next come the jute processing industry, fertilizers, cement, sugar and paper factories, as well as the food industry, leather processing companies and pharmaceutical production. A great deal of investment is currently being made in the field of computer and information technology.

Agriculture and fishing

Bangladesh is predominantly an agricultural country. 62% of the area is used for agriculture. Around 60% of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. The fertile soil and high rainfall enable three harvests a year. Bangladesh is one of the largest producers of jute and rice in the world. The jute brings 75% of the export earnings. Tea, sugar cane, cotton, tobacco, various fruits and vegetables are also grown. Fish is an important food. Fish products, especially crabs and prawns, are exported annually to the value of around US $ 500 million.

Trade: import and export

Bangladesh exported goods worth a total of USD 8.5 billion in the 2004/2005 financial year. The USA is the most important sales market, followed by Germany and Great Britain. Taken together, the member states of the European Union are the largest customers ahead of the USA. Approx. 75% of the main export goods are clothing. Frozen seafood, jute and leather goods follow. However, Bangladesh's exports of its traditional export goods, tea and jute, are declining. The imports amounted to around 10.4 billion USD in 2004/2005. The main supplier countries are China, Singapore, the EU and India. Food, yarn, fibers, fabrics, mineral oils and capital goods are imported. Private foreign direct investments are very significant due to government subsidies (tax breaks, establishment of export zones) and the ongoing exploitation of natural gas and oil as well as the liberalization of the telephone sector and show a clear increase.

Trade with Germany

As with other Western trading partners, Bangladesh has had a high surplus in trade with Germany for years. German imports from Bangladesh in 2004 totaled EUR 1.1 billion (2003: EUR 819 million), while German exports to Bangladesh totaled only EUR 300 million (2003: EUR 144 million) in the same period. The bilateral trade volume has been growing by around 10% annually for several years. More than 90% of Bangladesh's exports to Germany come from the finished clothing sector, German exports mainly consist of machines and medicines. Germany is the second most important export market for Bangladesh after the USA.


The currency unit is called "Taka" and is divided into 100 "Poischa". One euro is currently worth around 85 taka.


The official name of the country is People's Republic of Bangladesh. The constitution has existed since 1972. The constitution contains the principles of nationalism, democracy, the state religion Islam, and economic and social justice. Bangladesh has a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system and a one-chamber parliament, the "Jatiya Sangsad". The parliament has 300 elected members and elects 30 female MPs. The legislative period is 5 years. The head of government, who determines the guidelines of the policy, has the most power in the government and is chosen by the majority party. The cabinet is responsible to parliament. The head of state with predominantly representative tasks is elected by parliament every 5 years. 47. This system has existed for the last 16 years and was developed as a result of various traumatic, changeable experiences. After our independence in 1971, a civil and elected government could only last 3 years in the already torn state. In 1975 the founder of the nation "Sheikh Mujib" introduced a quasi-socialist one-party government. However, he was murdered with his entire family that same year. The country was mostly under direct or indirect military rule until 1990. In 1990 the political system was reformed as follows. After a term of office, i.e. after 5 years, the ruling party must automatically leave office. A neutral government called the “Caretaker Government” takes on this office for three months and organizes the election during this period. This ensures that the participating parties accept the election. Bangladesh has a neutral government at this time, the Caretaker Government. The head of government or chief adviser is Professor Yajuddin Ahmed. He has been Head of Government or Chief Adviser since October 28, 2006. He is the successor to our Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. The opposition leader is called Sheikh Hasina. The transitional government is trying to stabilize the situation in the country after some unrest and to work towards the goal of organizing the next parliamentary elections. The system of government is based on the principle of the separation of powers. The citizens of the country enjoy all basic democratic rights and freedoms under the constitution, such as the right to vote and stand for election, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of demonstration, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and all individual freedoms.


The president is the head of state and is elected by members of parliament for five years. Except for the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, the President performs all of his duties in consultation with and in agreement with the Prime Minister. Every citizen of Bangladesh aged 35 and over has the right to run for president. The prime minister is the head of government and selects a cabinet of ministers who are appointed by the president. The cabinet has collective responsibility to parliament. The President appoints the PM who has the support of the majority of Members of Parliament.

legislative branch

The constitution gives all legislative power to parliament, the Jatiya Sangsad, which consists of 300 members who are directly elected in the constituencies. The Jatiya Sangsad is convened, adjourned and dissolved by the President on written advice from the PM. Parliament also decides on the budget, decides on taxes to be levied, ratifies treaties and can initiate constitutional amendments. Legal system The law is essentially based on the earlier British law in India and on Islamic tradition. The judiciary consists of local courts, district courts and the Supreme Court with its two departments, the High Court division and the Appelate Division, with permanent seats in Dhaka. There are also separate labor and family courts.


2006 Nobel Peace Prize for Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank 2007 Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) for Grameen Shakti

Bangladesh - Country and People of Afzalul Haque, Lt. Commander / Bangladesh Navy Lieutenant Commander & trainees of the General Staff and Naval Staff service with international participation 2006/2007 Geography Bangladesh is located in South Asia. It extends between 20 degrees and 27 degrees north latitude and east between 88 degrees and 93 degrees longitude on a total area of ​​147 570 square kilometers. Thus, the country is two and a half times smaller than the FRG. It is almost completely surrounded on three sides by India, only in the southeast, it has a small border with Burma, now known as Myanmar. In the south it borders the Gulf of Bengal, which connects the country with international waters. The total length of the border is 4246 km, of which 193 km with Myanmar and India by 4053 km. The coastline is 580 km. The capital Dhaka is only six feet above sea level and has about 7 million inhabitants, 5% of the total population of 146 million inhabitants. Other large cities are Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal. The country is about 9 hours flight away from the Federal Republic of Germany. The time lag between the time in Bangladesh and the Central European time is 5 hours.