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     Volume 6 Issue 36 | September 14, 2007 |

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View from the Bottom

About Power and People

Shahnoor Wahid

Some years back I came to know about an audacious Indian railway ticket checker who had made a state minister pay ticket money along with a hefty fine for showing the impudence of travelling in that train with a large entourage, without tickets. Minister or no minister, nothing could budge the ticket checker an inch and the embarrassed minister had to bend down before the law. Oh, you are worried about what had happened to that petty railway staff! No, the ticket collector did not lose his job or get beaten up by political hoodlums.

When I wrote that piece I had given an offer to the Indian ministers to come to Bangladesh and learn how to use, wield, brandish, exert, show off and demonstrate power before the public. They should stay here for a week to learn all the tricks on earth about how to befool the people with their short-lived power.

Now, why did I bring up this subject this Friday? There is a reason. On last Sunday's Daily Manobjamin I read this interesting news item, once again about something that happened in India. The news item says that for five minutes, just five paltry minutes, India's current aviation minister Prafulla Patel missed his flight to Kolkata! Did you say 'I don't believe it?' You better believe it. It is said that Prafulla Patel had reached Delhi Airport five minutes late and found out that without waiting for him the aircraft had taken off. He had to take another flight to Kolkata after losing some valuable hours. Now, did the aviation authorities do the right thing or have they committed an illegal act by keeping the minister stranded at the airport? You search for your own answer.

But reading about this incident my mind went back in time. I began to think about our very own ministers who are known to have kept Biman waiting for hours together while their wives powdered their nose and struggled with heavy gold ornaments. Not only Biman, they even made foreign aircraft wait for them! And while they talked politics with chamchas at home keeping the aircraft waiting, the aviation bosses ran amok all over the terminal shouting instructions to the subordinates. No one would have the guts to let the flight take off just to maintain the international schedule. So you see our ministers were more powerful than their Indian counterparts. They knew how to 'enjoy power.'

Now here is another story that tells us about some very ordinary people who exist in this country but we care so little to know any further about them. This news item also appeared in the inside page of the same newspaper (Manobjamin). It is about one Amir Hossain of Bogra who has manufactured in his workshop an automatic brick-making machine. This young man has enviable talent to innovate machinery and equipment required for agriculture and other sectors. But do we see such stories on the front page of any newspaper? No, because the front page space is to be filled up with news of VIPs(?) and their "worthy" sons. They are the 'newsmakers' and that ensures revenue. Anyway, let's go back to Amir Hossain. His machine needs a space as small as 20 feet by 30 feet to install, which will produce about 20,000 bricks in one hour. Manpower requirement would be about 25. The machine can be run by diesel or gas. The machine would save hundreds of acres of land being destroyed in the present system of setting up brickfields.

Frankly speaking, we often come across news of invention of such innovative people in the remote areas of the country. But most of them cannot make it big as banks or relevant organisations fail to show any enthusiasm in their work. The fundamental reason is banks in our country are elitist by nature and they only oil the oily heads. And government officials who are supposed to harness such talents suffer from acute form of apathy. Did you say help from local politicians? They will only help if they can have it registered in their son's name one day. Otherwise, one night unknown people will burn down the workshop.


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