Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 8 Issue 83 | August 21, 2009 |

  Cover Story
  Photo Feature
  One Off
  Special Feature
  Food for Thought
  Straight Talk
  Star Diary
  Book Review
  Post Script

   SWM Home

Photo: Amran Hossain

One Off

The Characteristic Bangladeshi

Blame game!

Aly Zaker

During the last deluge in Dhaka we had to move out of home for a couple of nights. This is because the 4-5 hours of downpour had flooded our area and the water had inundated the basement of our high-rise apartment building where equipment to pump water, keep the electricity going and the basement of our elevators are located. So there was no electricity, no water and no elevator service. What is more, twenty-one cars went under water, some of them of rare breed. We live quite high up in the building. And, under the circumstances, it was literally impossible for us to stay put at home.

After the flood was over, the bare necessities restored, we moved back home. It is then that we realised how infuriated our neighbours were. I don't blame them. Especially the ones who had lost their precious cars, they were doubly enraged. They did not hesitate to give vent to their exasperation. This was all right and I don't think I would have bothered to take to writing on a most valid anguish, despite some not so civil languages in which the anger was given vent to. It is after the catastrophe when I went to work and heard various people, each lashing out to every one short of God Himself, is when I felt very sad. I know that being in a tiny country like Bangladesh with exceedingly limited resources it is difficult for us to attend to natural calamities of the size that are thrust upon us from time to time. But that does not absolve our people in power of the callousness that they merrily indulge in, the callousness towards the duty that our people entrust them with. There are people within the system for these times of emergency, or that is what the authority would want us to believe, but nothing gets done. To be more accurate nothing gets done in time. Therefore, the sufferings of the people go up manifold. The foregoing statements are so common that they may sound almost clichéd. But they are also true. We hear that our drainage system is not good. Even if they are there, they are clogged or blocked. So water cannot pass through them. News reports say that our canals that were dug to flush out water from the city to the rivers around it have been systematically done away with. Even the rivers around Dhaka are being filled up by land grabbers. All these and a lot more of mismanagement are there.

But I suppose when we say all this, in all fairness to the authority that be, we should look within ourselves squarely and ask us have we, to the best of our abilities, done what is required of us? I think it was President John F. Kennedy who told the American people “Don't ask what America has given you. See what you can give to America”. I may have not been very accurate about the sentence quoted, but the spirit of Kennedy's line was essentially this. We say that the authorities haven't done all the things that they were supposed to do. The drainage system in Dhaka has failed, the electricity does not work and the traffic system is in abysmal condition and a lot more. And it goes on. Yes the authority is there to take care of all this. And the authority is controlled by the government that we have elected. So we have the right to take them to task. I have no dispute with this. Except that we seldom own up to 'our' part in this process of mismanagement or shortcomings. For instance it's a known fact that our cities are flooded in heavy rains because drains get clogged by plastic or polythene getting into the drainage system. It is the duty of the Municipal Corporations to clean the drains. But it is also true that we the city dwellers merrily litter the drains without any sense of guilt. We are oblivious to our responsibilities.

Photo: Anisur Rahman

We know that we produce less electricity than required. Here, just as our successive governments have failed to address the issue of enhancing power generation because of an innately corrupt system or sheer lack of will we the citizens have also miserably failed in our duties of practising discretion in its use. We forget to switch off the lights, fan or the air-conditioner even when we do not need them. The Government introduced day light saving time so that if things could be wrapped up early when it was dark, especially in public places like offices, shops, shopping complexes et al a certain amount of energy could be saved. Even in private houses if students would finish their studies an hour earlier or people switched off their lights an hour earlier to go to bed by the clock, an enormous amount of electricity could be saved. Unfortunately, very few behave as civilised citizens of a modern country. On the contrary, we contest the decision of introducing the day-light saving time. We do not seem to understand that if we forgot about the timings of the past and decided to go by the present time we would not lose a single second from our daily lives. Even the gridlock due to traffic jams happen because of some driver's imprudence. Ignoring norms or rules is quintessential to us Bangladeshis since the culture of impunity has had the better of us. There has to be a societal endeavour at sensitising our people about the dos and don'ts in a civil society. Failing this, a movement should start where the transgressors would be boycotted or handed over to the keepers of law.

If we fail to see the private citizens' role in society then the misery will go on unabated, along with the characteristic Bangladeshi blame game.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2009