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July 4, 2003

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An Officer and
Some Non-gentlemen


One-sided journalism, meaning biased, has always been criticised, even by the biased.
Now this is what I do not understand, and never will, about our journalists. I know some of them quite well and they seem to be rather nice people. But what a lot of dust they are raising about an individual who was simply trying to tell the truth about an apparently complicated matter. Believe me there is hardly anything more complicated than black money. This has no reference to the dirty currency notes now in circulation, but Bangladesh Bank may nevertheless please note.
The police boss, I believe one paper was even 'bold' enough to mention that it was the Inspector General of Police shayang, while responding at a press conference at Barisal on 22 June sang some goon-gaan (not related to goons) about policemen. We say 'bold' because these days you never know in what aajob litigation they might find their editor in for reporting a fact. You do? Oh, I see! OIC!
At least one Bangla daily even went to the extent of carrying a critical editorial on a respected officer and that too for being truthful. Nah! These days there is no glory for honesty. Come on guys, you can do better than that. This is not far from one-eyed journalism. While questioning his morality in defending sum (oops! some) corrupt policemen is justified, at least give the valiant chap some credit, if not equal, for telling the truth.
In fact, under neutral circumstances, (but alas in the current decade even the neutrals are under scrutiny by being rewarded and superseded as per political Master Plans) the report could have been headlined thus: Top cop pops sop truth and the intro could have been something like this: Society sans Sham, a social organisation is proposing the name of the police chief to the Guinness Book of World Records as the first known Bangladeshi officer for telling the truth in public. Fully aware that his revelation about a widely known fact may put the job of some of his men on the line, he dared where others feared to tread. The policemen did not mind at all because they already have a job in the police line.

Also you must give Haque Shaheb accolades for his sense of loyalty. Charity begins at home and indeed he has shown great mettle by sticking to his men. The paper Porthom Alo (the report was from Barisal, remember?) quoted the IGP, 'Why do they (truck operators) give chaanda?' Orofey 'ghoosh', alias 'bribe' in English. 'It's okay if they don't give. The policemen are not fereshta (angels)', said the police boss.
Obviously he meant that if the truck operators did not offer the bribe, the policemen would not have to bear the blame of taking it. That's commonsense. He continued, as per the press report, that 'blaming only the police will not do' because those who bribe the police take advantage of the situation and carry ten kg of goods instead of one kg. So, the IGP asked the truck operators to 'be in the right first' and culture 'awareness', so that they would stop offering the sop.
The main problem with our journalism is that there is no follow-up. So being rather helpless, I took a truck to Barisal to find out the truth. And lo! I was stopped by a policeman, who asked me, 'Monu, what do you have on the back of your empty truck?'
Replied I, 'One kg of shutki.' That's dried fish. And you don't have to be trained as a policeman to smell that from one hundred yards. He was actually breathing down my neck.
'What happened to the other nine kgs?' the man in uniform asked while rolling his eyes first clockwise and then anticlockwise, and then added quite bluntly, 'You will not be allowed to pass'.
'I left them back home as being a conscientious citizen I have no intention of bribing you for carrying ten kgs instead of one,' pleaded I.
'So you want to upset the economy of the country. Is that the best you can do? By depriving the market of the nine kgs of shutki, you will help to shoot the price of shutki sky high. Poor people here will not be able to afford their favourite dish any more', saying which the policeman started to cry.
I never realised they were such patriots. I felt really low about myself. Head down, I thought to myself that only to avoid giving a simple bribe, I was playing havoc with the socio-economics of the country. How mean of me!
I was also getting nervous, as it was not everyday that a policeman would cry before the man apprehended. I was now apologising furiously to the gentlemen, by now two others had joined the first, one was rolling his daanda clockwise and the other anticlockwise, and assured them that I will go back and bring the full ten kgs and also give them their tips.
'We have not asked for it, have we? Actually our boss is right, you guys are spoiling us,' they said in unison before asking me to turn my truck around.
As I tried to manoeuvre the truck to face the other way I realised that I was holding up traffic. The other truck drivers and operators held up because of my foolishness had by then found out what happened and as I pressed on the accelerator to head back to Dhaka, I could hear them shouting, 'Dhawr byatare!' (Catch the guy!)


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