By Prof. Bijon B. Sarma
Even though Bangladesh is not the poorest country of the world, by all statistics and indications it is one among the poor’s. The country does not have the resources to employ the required personnel in all its service sectors. And the government does not have the financial ability to give the required logistical supports to these understaffed organizations. The level of poverty prevailing among the common people is in such a state that any foreign visitor may feel sick to see the number of beggars begging in the city and the shelter less people sleeping in railway sheds and open roads. Definitely he is fortunate that he cannot know the distress of the rural people who are shy enough to disclose their hunger or inadequacies. In extreme sickness they however visit the hospital and the foreigner should be invited to see the state of such hospitals only to witness what duty the elected government of a democratic government play in this land.
The government however, has maintained one traditional system. In Bangladesh the less-intelligent people unaware of their resources produce many children and become poor. Then they send their children to rich men’s houses to work as maids and servants. The government has not only accepted this “poor men’s’ policy” to such extent that considerable portion of the country’s valuable foreign currency are earned by them. The state of helplessness of the government to learn that the foreign countries can no more keep such people in employment because of recession indicates the government’s dependence on their earning. And it is not a story that the government of such a poor country import costly luxury items from abroad and quite often declare tax holiday, bailout program, tax remission, subsides etc. for the rich people, businessmen and industrialists.
The government has declared the program for making “Digital Bangladesh”. Details of such this ‘never heard before’ program are not yet clearly understood. But there are indications that the program would involve ever-increasing dependence on electronic gadgets and accessories, none of which are produced in this country. It is not still known who would supply the ‘big sum’ for this mysterious project and how. “Digital Bangladesh” would not only use up large sum for establishment and maintenance, but it would open up wide canal for draining out people’s hard-earned money. “How ?”
It has now been known that the development of digital communication would ensure ‘internet facilities’ every sphere, even in the elementary schools. Experienced people know that it makes the intra-country transfer of money easier. At present millions of young men and women enjoy considerable time of their internet-time in viewing “adult site entertainments”. Many English medium school going children and most of the university students residing in hostels have mastered the ‘subject”. Not only that, many of them have helped those authorities (I am not aware, whether they did it voluntarily or for money) in preparing data base (photograph and statistics) of local girls. Anybody having little doubt in this statement should first check by himself and then comment. I do not know if our government knows anything about it, or the thought of giving good businesses to certain businessmen has taught them ‘not to see’. The internet authorities have made such viewing extremely cheap for obvious reason. With it however, the foreign authorities offer to show “much more interesting materials” in exchange of bigger amount of money. Since money transfer facilities by ATM or other cards are not still everywhere, this one way business has not yet flourished. It is expected that the government would soon make such transfer easier. With that the money earned by a peasant by sweat and blood from the paddy field and given to his son for education would find no problem to travel abroad for “adult entertainment materials”. It is not known how much money the country would earn from the “Digital Bangladesh” project, but there are indications that after ‘internet communication’ and ATM facilities are ensured everywhere, some foreign people would be successful in squeezing out money from all corners of this country. In case the county intends to ensure an opposite stream, then the country would have to produce even more interesting adult programs.
In the democratic county the elected government is not the owner of the country, but the custodians and managers of everything for the stipulated period. Their plans, programs and activities determine how the country and the people would be in the coming days. The government is elected on the basis of the vote of the majority of the people. This ‘majority’ in Bangladesh are the poor people. Hence, by all considerations this vast number of poor people should be considered as “masters” by the political party in the government. But the way the government endeavours to please the rich businessmen indicate, as if these rich men are the masters. Does it indicate that the political parties accept large sum of money from such businessmen ?
KNOWING THE STATE OF BANGLADESH:
The responsibility of a democratic government is to ensure the basic requirements of the majority of the citizens who were kind enough to send them to power. In our country the basic requirements are : Food, Clothing, Housing, Medical treatment, Education and Employment opportunity. The previous governments of the country have established a number of establishments like Hospital, School, Government offices etc. One may be asked to visit such institutions only to see that most of the structures/buildings are not in good condition, the furniture unusable, supplies inadequate and in most cases the institutions are running with inadequate number of staff.
(i) The police, who are in charge of maintaining law and discipline, do not have adequate accommodation, transport vehicles and even acceptable level of furniture in the office.
(ii) The schools do not have adequate number of teachers, good building, furniture and other essential items.
(iii) The hospitals does not have doctors, nurses, medicine, well-maintained buildings and other facilities.
With the existing service organizations in such a state, quite often there arise shouts for more schools, hospitals etc. Should any one call a country like this rich a country? Now have a look at the spectacular decoration of the boundary walls, marvellous treatment of the walkways, fantastic fountains, dazzling lights of the multi-national super-markets and other decorations in the large cities, specially in the capital city of the country. Should any one call it a poor country?
Also have a inner look at the claims of the manufacturers, industrialists, importers and businessmen for reducing or waiving of taxes and giving subsides and the government’s lenient attitude to them. Does it go with the principle of democracy? The government’s attitude may remind anyone the report of the Task Forces Intelligence (TFI) in which the general secretaries of two leading political parties disclosed that the prominent leaders regularly collect big booties from the leading businessmen of the country.
WHY WAS BANGLADESH AFFLUENT?
From history we know, from time immemorial the land of Bangladesh (or East Bengal) has been regarded as the storehouse of wealth. Because of the attraction of this wealth bandits, vagabond and businessmen used to flock to this land from distant places. The old men might still remember the medicine and fruit-traders from Afghanistan or scissors and lock-knife traders from Iran to come to this land for obvious reasons.
In a general comparison, any rural area of Bangladesh was far more resourceful than any such areas in other regions of India. And the reason was simple. Take a sample land of say 1 kilometre by 1 kilometre area. Excepting the red hillocks of Comilla, every square feet of land, hill or water body of this land had (and still has) got the potentiality of producing vegetable or animal protein, fruits, medicine, pearl etc. On the other hand, take a similar patch of land anywhere in India. What you may find there might have been, boulders, infertile land of red soil, sandy desert etc. with sparse growth of thorny bush or trees. With the rounding of a year with six seasons, in Bengal the land bestowed the blessings of vegetables, fish, meat, fruit, fuel-wood and so on. Of course the stream of blessing at times was disrupted due to natural calamities. After the liberation of India a considerable quantity achieved production potentiality because of irrigation facilities by dams, canals and aqua-ducts. Similar steps were taken in case of the land of Bengal also, resulting in more yields. But in spite of all these, the country became poor and poorer. The West Pakistani government took away considerable quantity of wealth from this land. By that consideration they acted as an enemy. However, their political attitude, due to which millions of Hindus left this country for neighbouring India acted as a blessing, because it lessened population.
As a matter of cat the worst and largest enemy of this land in the recent past was, at present is and in future will be its “Population boom”. Those who realize this fact are the well wishers of this country. Also those who tend to disagree by saying “educated men in excessive number are great wealth” are in fact patrons of this enemy. As we were saying, even though the migration of the Hindus acted as blessings, the remaining people encouraged by the slogan “people are the wealth” could successfully nullify the same.
The consequences of over population are the considerable number of beggars in the villages and cities, thousands of shelter less people sleeping in the stations and various sheds, miscreants and jobless people. It is unfortunate that still today no government of his country ever took a single intelligent step for keeping the population within limit.
FLOURISHING BUSINESS BY THE NGO’S:
When we find the NGO’s (who are supposed to work for eradication of poverty and for welfare of the under-privileged people) to arrange seminars, conferences and workshops in the posh hotels of the cities, we do not wonder. Whatever their preaching might say, we know nowhere in this world any NGO could ever eradicate poverty of the poor or permanently solve any of their problems. They collect money from their donors in the “name of welfare of the poor” and create acceptable type of vouchers for their donors. And in doing so, they mysteriously create their fortunes. In Bangladesh one person has proved beyond any doubt, how in the name of “micro-credit for the poor” a person can create billions for himself.
When we see the societies and organizations of various business groups to hold big and costly get-togethers we do not wonder. We know, after all they are the businessmen whose principle among others include, earning money by exploiting the people. They have absolutely no commitment or responsibility towards the general people, excepting giving alms and lip-services.
For any person with some intelligence it may be a mysterious to think how the various political parties of this country continue their extremely costly political activities and even more elections without asking help from the government or the people. The intelligent people however, could guess that they collect money from the large businessmen. And the same has been proved b the recently published report of the Task Forces Intelligence (TFI). In this report the general secretaries of the reputed political parties have disclosed the ‘million dollar secret’ citing names of the leaders, donors and amount collected. A part of such amount transferred abroad has been brought to light. Now it is not hard to guess that the political parties that collect money from the large businessmen have to show proper honour, allegiance and obedience to the ‘donors’. Thus, even though such parties are sent o power by the votes of the common people, after election they show allegiance to their “fund-giving masters”.
This is exactly similar to what happens in US election. However, the activities of the US government elected in the above way may be tolerated because of the fact that the lowest level of poverty in that country ensures a fair living and their jobless citizens are given social security. Did our government ensured those in Bangladesh ?
EXPECTATIONS FROM THE GOVERNMENT :
We cannot be sure if the common people should expect anything from the government formed by a political party that is habituated to collect big fund from the affluent businessmen. When a government ignores the state of poverty of the common people or of the country and indulge itself in ‘big sounding programs’, most of which act as financial stimulant for the large businessmen, it in fact reveals who are their “real masters”.
We are not accusing the present political party in power for following the suite. As a matter of fact this party had to fight with other parties who also were habituated in doing so. Hence there was absolutely no possibility for this party to win without following that suite. However, once in power they have achieved the golden chance to open up the knot and resolve the problem. They can do it in two different ways :
<!–[if !supportLists]–>(01) <!–[endif]–>They would have to forget that they have ever collected a single penny from any of the big companies (whosoever it might have been). By ignoring them the government would be able to think that the common people, and not those ‘donors’ are their masters. The government would never be able to fulfil the need of the country or of the common people by taking up programs to satisfy those donors.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>(02) <!–[endif]–>They would have to devise a system of election in which the expenses of the election of the genuine and leading parties will be borne by the common people and no party would ever take money from the businessmen.
Even though the common people may get frightened to learn that they would have to pay the expense for the parties’ election, they should know that once such a system is established :
(i) The contributions to the political parties would be well within their financial ability,
(ii) When the expenses are paid by the businessmen, the government needs to take such policies in their favour that in fact impose much bigger levy on the common people,
(iii) It is impossible to persuade a political party in power to work for the country or for the common people unless and until their ‘financial masters’ are eliminated.
In our present system of politics and election the two parties, i.e. the rich businessmen and the political parties have entered in an extremely tight relation for mutual interest. There is absolutely no possibility of its extinction unless the system of funding is replaced by a fair one. Whatever difficult the above proposal might sound, it in fact is not that difficult. In the country there is an independent election commission, that among others constantly work for holding elections in a better way. What the government can do is to give green signal to this commission to formulate a system of election in which the common people would bear the expenses of election of their political parties, such that no genuine political party would ever need to beg for money to the rich and then to act as their slaves.
Prof. Bijon B. Sarma. Head, Architecture Discipline, Khulna University, Khulna, Bangladesh.