Vol. 5 Num 689 Mon. May 08, 2006  

Utilities nightmare nerve-racking
Tokenism can't solve the problems
The public indictment on the government's unmitigated failure in delivering basic amenities like electricity and water to the people taking a severe form, the ministries involved, in a sudden break of sleep, are displaying signs of desperation to assuage aggrieved public sentiments. At the end of the day it looks like a strange volt-face.

At first, there would be an outright denial of any serious utility problem existing, it would then be underplayed in the face of persistent public clamour, its origins traced to the previous government; and when the public outcry and agitation will hit the streets it would be blamed on opposition incitement with the police brutalising it and local ruling party youth elements taking to the field to crush it all. And as the situation goes out of hand the government eventually concedes the agitators' demands.

The case in point is the government's forming a four-member committee headed by a joint secretary with representatives from Dhaka Wasa, Desa and Desco to devise a 'permanent' solution to water and power crises in Demra area. After a huge lot of public commotion, brutal police action on the agitating crowds, the diabolic ruthlessness of the local MP, wounds inflicted on more than hundred persons, the dialogue option was finally taken resulting in the constitution of a committee. It has a seven-day deadline for a report which hopefully will not be dumped after all this. Similar embarrassing climb-down was performed by the government in Kansat at a grievous cost to the nation which one shudders to recall even in passing.

It is an well-formed impression in the public mind today that unless they wage an agitation and movement, have some blood spilled, court arrest and beating and get the highways blockaded to disrupt traffic, no serious grievance will ever be addressed. That's why even after Kansat and Demra, 400 industry owners and local people of three sub-districts of Narayanganj like Sonargaon, Araihazar and Rupganj are bracing for a movement to demand and obtain regular supply of electricity. As part of the movement they have plans to barricade Dhaka-Chittagong highway.

This is what unfortunately the government can go on expecting so long as it takes a piecemeal, localised and ad-hoc approach to problems that are nationwide calling for holistic and sustainable solutions.