Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 30, Tuesday August 30, 2008




The plight of a nationality

The shoppers stood still in awe, baffled and surprised as they watched the guards dragging the man by his already half torn shirt to the front counter of Panda, a super market chain in Riyadh. My curiosity led me to join the crowd who also couldn't resist the temptation of witnessing live, such a rare incident of crime and punishment.

As we found out, the man who was probably in his late thirties and had an obvious 'desi' look, was accused of shoplifting and he was to be handed over to the police. But just before resorting to the law, the manager with the phone in his hand asked the man in Hindi. “You are Bangladeshi, right?” to which the man answered strongly: “No! I'm Indian!” Shattered and sort of disappointed, the manager faintly asked the man to produce his papers and convinced, he just simply let the man go with a brotherly advice of not doing such acts in future. There was no police, no punishment!

While some of the audience murmured their disapproval and some others thought the crime not worthy of punishment, I wondered whether it would have been the other way around if the man was a Bangladeshi. Then the question struck me, “Have we really let ourselves down this far?”

I know my answer would be a biased one, devoid of logic and based solely on my inflated sense of patriotism. But if I broaden my horizon and look beyond the colour of red and green, the image I would see won't be a very pleasing one; not to mention it might lead up to the much-feared answer: “Yes, we have.”

Of late, Bangladesh has been making it to the front pages of the local newspapers here in KSA quite frequently but mostly for wrong reasons. As reported by Saudi Media, some Bangladeshis were engaged in illegal activities such as claiming shops, selling banned CDs, running illegal telephone business, stealing manhole covers from roads and footpaths, stealing electricity and telephone cables and what not. Moreover, they were also charged with 114 severe cases of homosexuality, rape, drug abuse, gambling and prostitution which are utter violations of the Islamic Shariah-based Saudi laws and punishable by death.

Adding to this already big list is the malice and dog fights in the Bangladeshi community itself. Just a week ago two groups of people, apparently from Sylhet and Feni engaged in a bloody fight against each other over divisional supremacy. The fight resulted in leaving three people critically injured and the Bangladeshis to face yet another embarrassment. Then there's this ever-greedy, corrupted manpower business too, which doesn't make the situation any better, if not worse.

Now, there can be substantial amount of justified arguments as to the authenticity and reasons behind these crimes. But there's no denying that such reports put the image of Bangladeshi workers in the Kingdom and Bangladesh in general in question.

If we didn't know, the damage has already been done. The anti-Bangladesh feeling has been on the rise among the people here and it won't be an exaggeration to say that it has already infected the Saudi Government.

Saudi Arabia is Bangladesh's largest labour market whose number has exceeded 1.5 million as per current statistics. This labour force constitutes $1.7 billion of the total remittance ($3 billion) sent to Bangladesh by the expatriates and blue-collar workers. And this remittance, as we all know, is playing a vital role in Bangladesh's economic growth. But the report has it that the flow of remittance will be ceased in the next two years as Bangladeshi workers are fast loosing their credibility in the Saudi job market. Bangladeshi workers might be replaced by workers from India, Thailand and Myanmar, according to the labour market sources.

Not only in KSA, the same situation prevails in some other countries too. Bahrain has officially banned any new recruitment from Bangladesh, Kuwait has taken steps to minimise the numbers of Bangladeshi workers and the scenario in Malaysia is no less well known. And all these countries seem to have the same allegations and concerns of increasing crimes by the Bangladeshis.

Of course it is vary shallow to hold all the Bangladeshis accountable for the misdeeds done by a handful of people who are probably fugitives in disguise and have fled the country to avoid being arrested. But the fact remains that our identity of nationalism is at stake.

What we forget is that each of us, as individuals, are an ambassador to our country when we travel abroad. The green passport we hold is not only a mere book to stamp the visas on; it bestows us with great responsibilities of representing our people, our culture and tradition. The sooner we realise it the better for us. After all, our country is what we are.

By Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb


Let's deal with water scarcity!

Global use of water has been growing at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century. And today, the impact of water shortage is being felt throughout the world in the industrialised nations as well as in developing countries. More than one billion people lack access to clean and safe water while millions are embroiled in conflicts because of water scarcity. The dearth of water affects every continent; more than 40% of people in the world are its victims. It is also said that by the year 2025 about 1.8 billion people will be affected in different regions with absolute water scarcity and around two-thirds of the people in the planet will be under water stressed conditions.

Lack of access to adequate, clean and safe water hinders our chances to produce enough food or earn enough money; it limits our capacity to operate industries and to provide energy. Without proper access to usable water it is not possible to maintain hygiene and impossible to stop the spread and impact of life threatening diseases that occur due to lack of safe drinking water and proper sanitation. More than two and a half billion people in the world live in dreadful and fearful hygiene and sanitation conditions; thousands of children die from diseases associated with lack of clean water. To worsen the present condition the situation is being exacerbated by climate change, particularly in the driest areas in the world, which are home to more than 2 billion people and to half of all the poor people. Water scarcity is a global problem, not an issue of rich or poor, north or south, east or west, developed or developing nations.

Fresh water resources are being stretched thin; climate changes, population growth, global development and growing economy will make the situation worse. Water supply shortages are becoming a global problem too. According to the World Water Institute, a mere 2.5 percent of the earth's ground and surface water is available for human use. This finite resource, maintained by the earth's hydrologic cycle, is used for everything from drinking water to sanitation, agriculture and industrial processes. Undermined by overuse, pollution and inefficient infrastructure as well as natural occurrences like drought, humankind's water supply is nearing its limit.

Yet we overlook and ignore all these problems, maybe because most of us have water when we turn on the tap most of the time. Are we waiting for the day when water will be traded like oil, God knows how many dollars a barrel? It is high time each of us became a water conservation professional. Yes, a drop in the bucket will make all the difference. We need to think and implement better strategies for better management of water, to use it efficiently and share it fairly. We need to create partnerships that involve not only the government but also the civil society, groups, businesses and individuals.

Save water while using the bathroom, while working in the kitchen, when taking a shower, washing clothes, your car or utensils. Check and repair leaks. Always remember the three R's- reduce, reuse and recycle. Every day make sure you make a conscious effort or do at least one thing to save and conserve better. Remember you will be making a huge difference!

By Syeda Shamin Mortada


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star