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           Volume 11 |Issue 07| February 17, 2012 |


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The Land Where Anything is Possible

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Apathy and inefficiency have become the basic characteristics of government offices in most countries of the world. We do not know much about countries like Finland or New Zealand that can flaunt their 'least corrupt nation' status. When it comes to South Asia, of course, the images that come to mind are those dust-covered files, the cobwebs on the ceilings, the general lethargy of the staff, the absent official.

The last image, however, could very well be the basis of a film called: The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing UP Chairman. An intriguing report by Prothom Alo tells the bizarre story of an upazilla chairman named Abdur Rahman.

Photo: Anisur Rahman

Rahman, the protagonist of this tale, gets his position in 1989 from one upazilla in Nilphamari, three years later, is caught stealing wheat when he is in charge of a food-for-work project , goes missing for a decade or so, is given a three-year prison sentence along with a six lakh taka something fine in 2004; but in 2003 he has already bagged a government position in another upazilla. So the mind-blowing riddle is how can he be both in prison and in a government office at the same time? Does he know how to teleport, does he have an equally deviant identical twin, is there something supernatural going on...?

The news report reveals that none of these were the reason for this mystery. The clever man had actually found someone to pose as him for three years in jail in exchange of money. Abdur Rouf pretended to be Abdur Rahman, the wheat thief while Abdur Rahman pretended to be a good, law abiding government official. For the awful prospect of spending three years in a dingy prison, Abdur Rouf was promised 50,000 taka. He called his wife and told her that a neighbour would give her some money. Sure enough, the neighbour did give the money but admitted to the reporter that he had taken 10 thousand from the fifty - his commission of course!

Now, with the cat out of the bag and the media having a heyday with his story, Abdur Rahman disappeared. He apparently went on leave from his latest job and his wife said she had not heard from him since that phone call. Meanwhile poor Abdur Rouf went back to his cell, this time for pretending to be someone else! Thankfully, a few days ago Rahman was caught in Rangpur by undercover cops.

While this may be a particularly drama-filled tale, there are many more situations where government employees have not turned up for work or pretended to be attending office.

Then again we, the ordinary citizens of this country are more than used to officials flouting their own rules. It's the name of the game.

Take the parliament's recent passing of an act to control the onslaught of indiscriminate sticking of posters and graffiti on every possible piece of solid object. The “Graffiti Writing and Poster Sticking Control Act, 2012” allows local authorities to designate places for sticking posters or scrawling graffiti. But of course over enthusiastic candidates of mayoral elections have no intention of following the rules and have pasted their images in every conceivable public structure - even the lampposts on main roads have not been spared although one has to do a 360 degree spin to see the face of the candidate properly, which is a little risky on a busy day.

We, the apparent citizens of the country, the voters who select who will rule, are a little confused. Why did we elect them again?

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