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     Volume 4 Issue 53 | July 8, 2005 |

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Gate-wise; Gas, Plane and Port Foolish


For years we have been making a big fuss, now seemingly unnecessarily, about welcome gates for dignitaries and what a waste of money that was. We spent time counting the torons and often used sheer imagination to report to the nation that there were seventy-seven bamboo contraptions, for example, from Shahbagh to Farmgate on this and this day when that and that person was expected to pass through.
Some of us ended up hating the people who put them up and the personage who went under it; and some others did the opposite, especially the guys who put them up and the VVVIP. He realised they were built for him only when he read about it in the newspapers the next day. Otherwise he was contemplating raising the issue in the building that Kahn built for he assumed they may have been for his opponent.
While we waste time on such mundane matters, little do we appreciate that these little gates and the decorated elephant and the scattered flower petals, however wasteful, are quite insignificant in comparison to a gas flame hundreds of feet high that burns for a week without even a pot of rice being cooked. It is somewhat easy to figure out how much a number of gates can cost, often met by neighbouring reluctant businesses. The elephant is priceless. But assessing a gas blow-out waste needs a committee, an underground pressure and an overland one because the amount runs into millions in dollars. But who cares? We are more concerned about a gate masquerading our heritage.
All this burning somehow reminds you of Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus. That's one person Nero, the fifth Roman emperor. We are told that much of Rome burned during Nero's reign while he played some musical instrument; more likely he was acting in some religious drama. Few of us however know that Nero was crowned Roman emperor of Rome at 17 years of age. He was a cool customer and had many of his political enemies murdered or executed, including his own mother. She paid the penalty for criticising his mistress Poppaea, whom he later kicked to death. Anyway, hero Nero had to flee Rome in the backdrop of a military revolt. He was declared a public enemy by the Senate and ended his life by committing suicide. You can get carried away by itihaash. We somehow do not learn from it.
We are a proven nation of egotists and the last thing we would want to do is learn. If for instance you are a pilot of a multi-million dollar DC 10 aircraft belonging to a poor airline like Biman, you may feel powerful enough to dislike complying with landing instructions from the tower, your guide at base, your friend on ground. That is, if already you have been able to irritate sufficiently a co-pilot (thankfully, not on the same plane, but on a different plane of thought) to have him file a written complaint against your credibility to fly. But then this is an aircraft that costs millions, and since it is not a bowl of flower petals so why take the matter of missing the landing strip with any degree of seriousness? Power and irresponsibility are standard bedfellows in this country. Who cares if the entire international schedule is upset and the fleet is reduced by half? There are several deshi companies waiting to strike oil, sorry deal in adding yet some more old and discarded aircrafts to Biman. If you did not know, we are the world's number one dumping ground and we pay by our skin for the debris. We even have lavish inaugural ceremonies to unveil the world's dustbin.
There is misuse everywhere. With the amount of money wasted in terms of ghoosh at Chittagong Port, reportedly eight hundred crore Taka as per a Transparency International, Bangladesh search, this country could put up one hundred industrial units and buy thousands of elephants every year. That would solve our unemployment problem and empty the forests of tusked jumbos in a few years time. But some of our beloved brethren are already employed at the port and we need to look at their interest more than that of thousands of others and the dwindling national image. The only positive point is that Chittagong is the costliest port in the world. It does not take much to be number one. No complains please, as you do not when suppose Tokyo is declared the costliest city in the world. Wonder how much bribe the Japanese take!
From the code set down by the Babylonian king Hammurabi till date, bribery is a punishable offence, and both the provider and the receiver of bribes are equally guilty. That does put the port chaps in a spot. No one would give a bribe until compelled to. That also points a finger at the port chaps. But who cares? They too are least concerned. They can pocket the powers that matter by erecting seventy-seven gates from jetty number one to...

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