Photo: Dhaka Tribune

We shall overcome

Bangladesh seems to be going through some hard times.
On the one hand, the flood situation in many parts has worsened and people in the affected areas are jobless and without shelter. They are also in severe need of food and health care. The government is fighting an uphill battle in its attempt to help to the flood victims in those areas. Although floods are nothing new in this land of ours, whenever we are in such a disaster situation, we seem to mismanage the relief operation.
So far, fortunately, the relief operations have been considerably smooth.
However, the cause of the floods has been a worrying factor. It has been alleged that most of the areas have not been flooded due to the water, but have been inundated due to the collapse of weak flood embankments. Those who built the embankments have not done their work properly. If this allegation is true, we should certainly consider this an integrity issue. And this should be dealt with, with adequate measures.
To make things worse, the dengue outbreak has wreaked further havoc on the nation. The outbreak of this disease is a yearly phenomenon. However, it has reached the proportions of an epidemic this year. It is being said that the strain of the dengue virus that has spread this year is not like the regular one we see each year. It is also being said that the insecticide that was meant to kill the mosquitoes has not worked. The supplier had provided spurious insecticide. What a shame.
City authorities identified this fact about a month ago. But what have they done about it? The new and proper consignments of insecticide should have been here by now. How long does it take to find a replacement? And now the mayor of North Dhaka is saying that the consignment will arrive in October.
It has also been reported that the city authorities were informed about the ineffectiveness of the insecticide last year. The authorities didn’t pay any heed.
Recently, the government came up with a statement, requesting the members of the public to be aware about the epidemic and start a social movement against it. It has also announced an awareness week on the disease. Funnily, it fails to realize that raising awareness among people means nothing to the mosquitoes. They will bite anyway.
The Padma Bridge skull rumour has perhaps struck the worst blow to our social fabric. Someone had spread the rumour that the builders of the bridge are looking for skulls of children for making the bridge stronger and durable. Instantly, many people believed the rumour and a spate of lynchings was witnessed across the country.
The way people got engaged in thoughtless lynching was both phenomenal and surprising. Many were killed. According to available reports, a total of 36 people have been killed in lynchings in the past six months.
We are a lot that strongly believes many things that we haven’t seen or checked to see if what we hear is true. Remember when a few years ago someone spread the rumour that thousands of people were killed in a rally in the middle of the night by law enforcers? I still find many people who believe in that story.
Then, at a point of time, we were told by rumour-mongers that a prominent Bangladeshi politician’s face was seen on the moon. Many believed it. I still remember how, during the road safety movement a year ago, some people spread the rumour about how some school-girls were being raped in a house.
Spreading rumours is either borne out of thoughtless actions or a strategic tool of a sector that wants to create unrest in society. This time, to my mind, someone was trying to gain advantage through the lynchings. The authorities saw this coming, but they were quite late to realize that someone was pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
It’s worth mentioning that such lynchings have been going on even before this specific rumour was let loose. But no one seems to be able to do anything about them. We thought it was OK to lynch someone on suspicion, even if the person dies. We took it to be some kind of mob justice. We were wrong. How can lynching be any kind of “justice”?
It’s not justice at all.
Perhaps these things happen due to our inability to see things clearly. We neglect public issues without thinking that we ourselves are also members of society. What affects others also affects us. Flood and dengue will also invariably affect those who didn’t supply the proper insecticide or didn’t build the embankments with honesty.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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