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     Volume 6 Issue 20 | May 25, 2007 |

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News Notes

For a Cleaner, More Efficient Tomorrow?
Every time a politician known for being blatantly corrupt is taken to jail or a case is filed against him (or her) one cannot help but feel a little smug. These so-called leaders came to power at different times, with the people's mandate, basically people's trust in their sincerity and good intention to represent them. But they all turned out to be opportunists waiting to fatten their pockets or their children's pockets, using public funds, depriving people, making no difference whatsoever to the lives of the ordinary citizen.
It is therefore with amusement that we see the same political parties that drooled with sycophancy in the presence of their corrupt leaders, have actually decided to make reforms within the parties. BNP's constitution, for instance disqualifies contesting in elections, anyone who is convicted of extortion and corruption by the highest court.
No comeback for those found guilty.

According to the provision of the constitution, 'persons convicted under criminal code, convicted under President's Order No. 8 of 1972, bankrupt persons, persons proven to be mentally unstable and persons known in society to be corrupt and ill-reputed' will be considered disqualified for membership of the national council, national executive council, national standing committee at any level or as party candidate in the national parliamentary election. This pretty much leaves out Tarique Rahman and quite a few other top leaders of the party. The list of BNP leaders charged with corruption is quite long and getting longer everyday.
The funny thing is that this provision was always there in the constitution; it's just that the party leaders did not bother to give it any importance, as it would have directly contradicted their actions. Now, with increasing pressure from the present caretaker government, the remaining party members are trying to show that they are turning a new leaf by cleaning up their act within the party. The AL has also expressed similar moves although how far it will go is another question altogether.
Meanwhile, the Chief Advisor, Fakhruddin Ahmed is losing no time in trying to catalyse an otherwise lackadaisical bureaucracy by asking top civil bureaucrats to make the system more efficient so that people can easily complain against harassment by officials and employees of service-providing organisations and also so that they can know about the follow-up actions. The CA has asked the officials to scrap the age-old acts, rules and regulations and simplify the way things are done. He emphasised the need to make sure that people get their required service in a short time and that the opportunity for corruption (eg. bribery), is reduced. This is perhaps the first time that someone from the highest post in government has bothered about the plight of ordinary folk who have had to deal with decades of inefficient, corrupt administrations and unhelpful government servants. It makes one dare to hope for an administration that actually works for the people rather than for itself.

The Mob Mindset
The whole incident was unfortunate to say the least. 25-year-old Asma Akhtar joined her 2000 other colleagues of Fortuna Apparels Limited to demand their salaries and overtime payments, which had been outstanding since March. According to witnesses, the angry workers started agitating and at one stage came out of the factory and blockaded the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway for around two and a half hours. The police tried to convince the demonstrators to leave the highway. They opened fire as the demonstrators did not pay heed to them and continued chanting slogans. The bullets hit Asma and 12 others. Asma died.
Surely Asma's death could have been avoided! 2000 people with a few thousand more family dependents rightfully claimed for their outstanding arrears. They should not have had to demonstrate for 4/5 days to get the authorities' attention. The authorities surely have a lawful duty towards its employees. If there were other issues involved surely the authorities should have had discussions with the workers or their union leaders to explain and come to a mutual agreement. A clash of such kind could surely have been avoided.
When the garment workers did not receive any responses from the authorities, what did they do? They went ballistic. They vandalised 50 vehicles and roadside shops to hit their point home. 50 vehicles and roadside shops that had absolutely nothing to do with Fortuna Apparels Limited! Many of these innocent victims of circumstances were possibly just as financially unfortunate as these garment workers. The police of course knew of only one way to deal with this mob an indiscriminate brushfire. So at all levels of hierarchy no one seems to know of a better way of dealing with a situation other than a confrontation, a violent one preferably. If we step through the whole incident chronologically, there was an opportunity at every level of avoiding the chaos, but our collective mindset subconsciously wanted a confrontation and got it. To reiterate the opening line it was very unfortunate.

Picture of the Week
This photograph taken by a Daily Star photographer shows a woman, holding a school-going child, wading through knee-deep water in downtown Dhaka. Water logging is not a recent phenomenon in the city, and it is outrageous that subsequent governments have ignored this problem. Whenever there is a heavy downpour the low-lying areas of the city get marooned in a sea of water. This is more alarming given back ours is a tropical country and rain holds a part in our seasonal delight. It makes no sense that half our capital city should get waterlogged even at the first whiff of the monsoon; the rain that our poets have once so fondly glorified in different odes and ballads have become a recurrent nightmare for those who live a little below the official poverty line. Concerned authorities must immediately make short and long term plans to solve this problem. A planned, dynamic capital city is a must to build a prosperous country.


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