Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 37 | March 11, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Food for Thought
   Eating Out
   Time Out
   Slice of Life
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks
   On Campus

   SWM Home


Water …


The papers last week were rife with news about big time land-grabbers devouring last chunks of water bodies in and around the capital. While we appreciate such concern, albeit drowsy, the total inaction by appropriate agencies (RAJUK being one of them) should not be ignored.

The fact is that such feasts have commenced in small ways in many other parts of the city, the inaction continues, and we shall only know of their collective damage ONLY when the entire river oblique lake has been gulped. Needless to say, in this case if you miss the boat it will unload some more earth in the waterway.

Dumping usually begins besides a lake or a pond or a river with innocent rubbish. After a few weeks some 'becharaa' erects two three bamboo sticks, never four in case one gets suspicious, to hold a worn down polythene sheet. Soon there is a family living there; soon a few more. Then a tin fence goes up all a round the place. This is followed by visits of officious looking people. They are the thieves. The ‘becharaa' is in their payroll. One fine morning neighbours realise that the water has receded by five katha or a bigha. On another not-so-fine morning neighbours are greeted by a suited-booted newcomer, who queries: 'You guys live here?'

Since you, we, are fighting homra chomra elements within the administration which is part of the scam, the only way to try to stop this illegal occupancy is by putting a stop to it when the first bucket of rubbish is dumped. Strike when the iron is hot. The important things of tomorrow are probably going to be things that are overlooked today, so said Hungarian-born U.S. business executive Andrew S. Grove. Even earlier, in fact much earlier, Roman poet Horace (65 - 8 BC) said, 'Seize the day, and put as little trust as you can in the morrow'. And you all know the proverb, 'Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today'. And remember William Congreve (1670 - 1729), the English playwright and poet, who warned, 'Defer not till to-morrow to be wise, To-morrow's sun to thee may never rise'.

Simultaneous to such meaningless and delayed hype, it has become almost a cliché to blame every problem in the city on the poorer section of the population--crime, theft, murder, fancy deal (some bottled product), prostitution, environment, water-logging, land grabbing. The charges are given further credence because the rent-paying (?) slum dwellers are illegal occupiers.

As if the well-to-do are not involved in any of those? Has not the business of a premier bank suspended because of hundreds of fictitious accounts? Those bankers do not live in the slum. Have not millions in foreign currency found in a pair of slippers NOT belonging to a slum dweller? Let us get one fact straight: None of the land grabbers are slum people. They may belong there but they can afford to live elsewhere.

The uselessness in our protests and news headlines lies in the fact that we all notice the land-snatching when it is too late, when the grabbed land is bigger than our own, the property under threat. It could even be that the land grabbers make it a point to get the news published to give their newfound possession legitimacy. They only know too well that all bold banners fizzle out after a couple of weeks.

Land pinching is not only taking place besides water bodies. No Sirree, no! Land is being eaten in forests, in rural areas, you name it; even in posh residential areas.

It is now common in Gulshan-Baridhara areas to be asked not to park your car on the side of a road. The uniformed darwan of the adjacent elite force, oops plot is sure to approach you and tell that it is forbidden to park there. If you are a weakling you drive away. If you are normal you ask him why, he says sir has told him so, you switch off the engine, he watches, you get down from the car, he watches, you walk away to attend your business, he watches. That is why he is the watchman.

The situation has become so outrageous, despicable, ridiculous and alarming in these areas that insatiable plot owners have grabbed the six-seven feet of land between the road and the boundary wall, and put up a handsome (sugar-coated) grille of brass or stainless steel or wrought iron, as if that patch of land is his (or her) baaper shompotti. The plot owners have even started gardening illegally on the designated footpaths. As a result pedestrians are forced on to the narrowed down vehicular road. That patch of open land belongs to the people, the public, the pedestrians, and NOT to the plot owners.

These are small patches of land but cumulatively they make a whole lot of difference to the overall ambience and working of a residential area. These footpath grabbers are no less guilty than the big time land grabbers. Their greed is turning this city into a large slum. There is one more glowing factor common among the two groups of burglars: they do not live in the slums.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2005