Bangladesh: Student protesters force capital standstill

11th Sep 2015
Bangladesh: Student protesters force capital standstill
By Mainul Islam Khan

 

DHAKA,  (AA): Bangladesh’s already heaving capital was brought to a standstill on Thursday as thousands of students from private universities protested a move to charge them extra taxes.

The students were angered by a government move to charge students of private universities Value Added Tax (VAT) on top of their fees, arguing that education is globally considered exempt from such taxes.

The blockades outside at least 10 major universities in the capital Dhaka meant traffic in parts of the densely populated city stood completely still for hours.

The protesters carried placards and wrote slogans on their bodies saying: “No VAT on education”, and “we won’t VAT, shoot us”, referring to often heavy-handed police tactics.

One of the demonstrating students Rony said: “Education is not a product; this VAT is just creating a gap.”

One protester, who refused to give his name, claimed students will boycott classes and exams on Sunday as a continuation of the protest.

The demonstrations began on Wednesday in the city’s Rampura area, in front of the East West University, but the students were forcibly dispersed by police, compelling others to expand the demonstrations on Thursday.

Bangladesh’s finance ministry had proposed private university students be charged 7.5 percent VAT on their tuition fees.

The government responded to the protests with a statement claiming the students will not have to pay the VAT and that the burden will lie with the universities.

While some students saw this as a victory, others felt it would not change much.

“If the VAT exists, the university would just raise their tuition fees anyway,” said one of the students, Shihabul Alam.

Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith told reporters Thursday afternoon that there would be no reversal of the VAT policy.

With a fast-growing middle class in Bangladesh keen to pursue higher education, private universities with various specialisms have been set up all over the city to cater for the increasing demand.

Author: Ekip
[Photo:: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Anadolu Agency]

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