It's a cognitive pain to write this op-ed which would sound more like a recurring whim of a frustrated citizen. To my personal amusement though, some people would immediately embark on checking my political blood group, A+ or B+, after reading this piece. My pleasure!
I am writing to ring a wake up call to see social entropy or cancer that is eating up our social resilience. The Covid-19 fiasco practically now shows the growing numbers of death, and agony of the mass people lacking access to health services, and the corruption spree on a day to day basis. After all, the Father of the Nation said back in 1975: "I do not know from where all these thieves have come from."
Hence, this op-ed is all about common questions, often imbecile in nature, to the political masters and their manufactured cohorts – often known as chamchas or sycophants, or organic intellecturals in a fashionable way – beating drums of perfection.
As you walk across Dhaka, forget other cities, one would notice our paradoxical approach to Covid-19. In one hand, we have an obscure form of selective lockdowns and practically opening up of public interactions. On the other hand, we see a rapid escalation of death! How does it make any sense? President Trump must be getting inspired out of it!
I have shouted many times for credible testing facilities since early March 2020, but the wiser cohorts had something else in mind then. The result is the uncovering of the recent scams such as mighty might of Regent Hospital and JKG Health Care. Are these scams anything new though? Or just a surprise pop up? God knows how many others are floating around in public!
While my friends in the government gruffly say – it is us who has unearthed the crime (that we started)! My friends from the other side of the fence told me – we detained JMB leader Shaykh Abdur Rahman in 2006, how come we are the patrons of extremism then? I am not sure who to laugh louder at.
The health information disclosed to the public is now disputed by the public agencies themselves. The recent Italian hardline response of not letting 152 Bangladeshi passengers offboard from a Qatar Airways flight is one of the countless exposures of our perennial governance failures. Health is just a part here.
The fake Covid-19 negative certificates are issued by a handful people linked with the corruption nexus or the elite club of impunity. Unfortunately rest of the nation has to bear the burden.
We rejoice picking up of peddlers, not the godfathers. Even our domestic Pablo Escober is roaming free.
We are even holding elections under such fluid state of crisis with thousands roaming around with fake Covid-19 certificates or without disclosing their illness. After all, much revered flagbearer of the state Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda has said it is not the responsibility of the Election Commission if someone dies of or gets infected with Covid-19. I wonder who gave the public agencies a license to kill people?
While I can read some growing displeasure among some politicians and people in government, with the partly-waste-of-public-money enterprises such as IEDCR (well it is a research institute though, not for massive interventions) or DGHS they have built, barely any visible changes have taken place so far in delivering credible services.
Much to public irritation, whimsical lip services are not doing any good either. Mighty 'elected' public or development champs are frequently leaving the country for their medical treatments or even to meet families when the 'electorate' keeps helplessly queuing up in the hospitals. They themselves are not using their much advertised public hospitals!
I would leave it up to God, in the absence of accountability, as only He would know how many people died in search of bare essential treatment during this pandemic.
Even one of our 'elected' public representatives is in not so pleasing custody of the Kuwaiti government these days! The election of selection has more to pay in future.
What I mean is clear, we are not likely to thrive at 8 percent growth as an infected nation. The politics of 'number' oozes a Bollywood bliss for some but won't help the public.
I don't doubt our political culture is a stumbling block in bringing large-scale changes in the cabinet composition, or health services till now, but at least one would expect enforcing of a final round of curfew-like lockdown or zoning for at least two weeks prior and post Eid-ul Adha as a way out.
Don't forget, 'there is no compulsion in religion' (Verse 256, Al-Baqara, the Holy Qu'ran). And don't forget the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him), 'If you hear that it (plague) has broken out in a land, do not go to it; but if it breaks out in a land where you are present, do not go out escaping from it.' Let us not act oversmart then.
In any case, economy will remain slow during this period. And strict sanitisation should be done before the rest of the world becomes fully functional and continues putting lock on us. The recent Rome flight embarrassment is good enough as a logic, forget all other scientific, rational reasons.
We have wasted enough resources and time in the name of livelihoods, patronised a group of cronies, and ended up in practically ad hoc or non-executable exit strategies. In all practical terms, SMEs are still in dire shamble, so is the informal economy. Half pay is no pay for them, and infections will continue to make them plunging into further poverty.
The economic costs will continue to rise if we are considered as an infected nation to the world. And are we ready to deal with the coming new compliance regimes for international trade and migrations?
I should remind, desparate time calls for desparate measures.
There is no alternative to performance and merit-based politics, bureaucracy, public health, and foreign-trade relations. There is a sharp difference between merit and sycophancy. That's what Singapore, Malaysia did to become a global economic power.
After eleven years at the helm of power, Awami League should no longer remain a rehabilitation platform for incompetency, public irritants, and sycophants backed by some of its own members. The age-old over-used excuse of 'outsiders' would only make things irritating.
This nation has unlocked potentials and it is blessed with enough merits awaiting opportunities to serve the nation.
Shahab Enam Khan teaches International Relations at Jahangirnagar University.