Photo: Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Five patients died at a five-star hospital when a makeshift ward caught fire on Wednesday last.
One of the deceased was Vernon Anthony Paul, a 75-year-old man who was found to be coronavirus negative and was waiting to be transferred to a different section of the hospital. However, the transfer didn’t take place. His son, Andre Dominic Paul, told an English daily that the on-duty hospital officials were waiting for a hard copy of the transfer order.
In the meantime, Andre, who was present there, saw an electric spark in the air conditioning unit and informed the officials. The maintenance was called, and nobody responded. Then the fire broke out. Andre, an electrical engineer, understood what was going to happen and he tried to alert the officials and requested them to remove the patients from that makeshift unit — but no one listened to him.
His father along with four other patients died.
Now, if this is the state of health and safety measures in one of the most expensive hospitals of the country, we can easily imagine the situation in other hospitals. If this is the level of sincerity and skill of the medical staff of one of the biggest hospitals, we really don’t know what is happening in other hospitals across the country.
It was also been reported that most of the fire extinguishers of this hospital weren’t replaced after their dates were expired. Now, this may not be the only hospital or the only building that has faulty extinguishers in place. If we run a proper survey, I’m sure we would find most of the fire extinguishers in all the buildings across the country are out of order.
Whenever there’s a big fire somewhere in the country, we start making noise, the media churns out a few reports, we form a committee, and then, in a week’s time, we all forget everything and wait for the next disaster.
This proves that we are not really sincere about the physical security of our citizens. We remember there was a time when many garment workers used to die in big fires in our apparel factories. We were quite nonchalant about those deaths. It’s only when our overseas buyers came running and compelled us to ensure the safety of the workers that we took some actions. The number of fire incidents in the apparel industry has declined.
If we take the physical insecurity of the citizens as far as the road accidents are concerned, it is a horrendous picture. Thousands of the people still die in road accidents across the country, and we have not been able to do anything to prevent those. According to data compiled by the Passenger Welfare Association from media reports, in April 2020, 211 people died while 227 others were injured in 201 road accidents during the pandemic lockdown.
Now think. It was a shutdown and the public transport operations were banned. So, how did those road accidents occur? That’s quite surprising, isn’t it?
A new report in January this year said that incidents of child rape had doubled in 2019 from that of 2018 with three children becoming victims of rape each day in 2019. All these happened due to an atmosphere of delayed justice delivery — where verdicts were pronounced in only 27 rape cases in 2019. The statistics were provided by a child rights group.
Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum said a total of 1,005 children were raped in 2019. Of the victims, 47 children were killed after rape, and 108 were gang raped. 44 of them were children with physical challenges. Some 133 of them were aged between one to six years.
Can you even imagine the situation?
However, we seem very fortunate that the number of deaths from political violence has come down over the past decade. We have had nightmarish experiences of bombings, setting public transport on fire, and gun-slinging in the political arena.
Thankfully, the present government has been very successful in containing the gruesome incidents of violence across the country. Maybe we need human security and our right to live a normal life more than we need democracy.
Who is to ensure human security in a country? The government? The law-makers? The officials of the government? The local people’s representatives?
Yes, we expect them to protect us; we expect them to teach us our part; we expect them to take the criminals to the court of law and punish them. You have to remember that it is the people who run this country with their hard-earned money.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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