Photo: Dhaka Tribune

I had heard of a wealthy man who helped to build a mosque in their residential compound where many other families lived. They also employed an imam for the mosque who also stayed in the compound.
The man was very religious. However, the only problem was that he didn’t follow a timetable for his prayers. He was always late to come to the prayer assembly. He had instructed the imam not to start the prayers without him. There wasn’t any courageous person who could defy his decree. Therefore, everybody had to wait for him to arrive to start the prayers. Sometimes, they prayed when the prayer time was over.
The government official who held the ferry for almost three hours which resulted in the death of a boy who desperately needed medical care, reminds me of this person. The government official is a so-called VIP.
In our country, the public servants are regarded as VIPs; everything is easy for them; they enjoy all facilities of the government; they cross the vehicle-choked roads in minutes with their flagged cars whereas the people wait for hours; they get to perform pilgrimage with public money.
Now, who can be called a VIP? They could be heads of state, politicians, military high-ups, wealthy citizens, celebrities etc. But can the servants of the people be called VIPs? Our idea of a government has certainly changed from what we used to know during British colonial time and the Pakistani oppressive period.
The government that we would now like to accept is the one that cares for the people and serves the people, not the government that enforces all sorts of struggles for the people to endure. The time for establishing a government as a ruler has passed.
The VIP culture in this country is a naked display of how the state puts least importance on the people. The mentality of the government officials is: “People may suffer, but the VIPs should receive all the facilities.” They don’t value people’s needs, wants, and lives. Otherwise, why would an official delay a ferry knowing fully well there was a patient who needed emergency care? The nonchalance towards a dying person will remain as an extreme example of irresponsibility for many years to come.
Have you seen the VIP vehicles? Have you heard how they honk with a different sound?
Have you thought about how intense their honkings are when their chauffeurs try to alert the pedestrians and vehicles of the common people? Their attitude is: “Let me pass first!”
There are some who accompany motorbike escorts along with their vehicles. The bikers drive the people and other vehicles away from the road so that the VIPs can pass through without any trouble.
A friend of mine was telling me about one of his plane journeys. The entire flight was delayed by an hour because there was a VIP among the passengers who was on his way to the airport. He delayed the flight schedule. How audacious! More than a hundred passengers suffered because the VIP couldn’t reach the airport on time! Well, he may be truly a VIP, but does he have the right to make a large number of people suffer?
Bangladesh has earned accolades as a humanitarian country across the world for housing the Rohinya refugees who have been driven out from their homeland. Sadly, this official who had delayed the ferry, resulting in a boy’s death, has tarnished the image of the country. His and the terminal authority’s action tells the opposite story to the world — how we have created amlas and not humans by following the VIP culture.
Now, where did this culture come from? From the colonial era? From the kings and monarchs of the past? Maybe, but the most unfortunate fact is that we have nurtured the culture and turned it into a practice that creates sufferings for others, especially for the owners (people) of the country. Developing a humble attitude within the psyche of government officials requires a conscience which our officials shamefully lack.
The court of law finally had to speak out as the conscience of the society. The court has now announced that apart from the president and prime minister of the country, everyone is a public servant. We ardently hope that the court announcement will have an impact on the heartless government officials.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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