Space For Rent
Tuesday, June 21, 2016, Ashar 7, 1423 BS, Ramadan 15, 1437 Hijri

Pressure and the public interest
Published :Tuesday, 21 June, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 14

Health Minister Mohammad Nasim has spoken of the pressure he is often under over issues that affect the public. In what was clearly a sad instance of reflections on his part, the minister told a meeting of health reporters in the capital on Sunday that there have been instances where, having ordered some private medical colleges to close down because of unscrupulous practices by their management, he had to back down under pressure. In other words, the political pressure brought upon him was so huge that he was compelled to rescind his orders. One reason was that the closure could well have affected the students already studying there.
All of this raises the important issue of governance. If ministers come under pressure --- and they do not only in this country but in others as well --- one knows only too well how the rest of the country might be faring. Pressure, again, is of various kinds with all those lobbies working hard to have their interests upheld. Now there is certainly a basic contradiction between pressure groups and the public interest. The question is of an ethical nature here. Where does the public interest begin and end? And when does lobbying, a euphemism for pressure, come in? These questions are to be answered not just by those in government or in politics but in other areas as well.
The reality today is that there are a good number of interest groups one cannot quite ignore, for the simple reason that perspectives have changed. That is when the role of multinationals in society or in the corridors of politics comes in. That is also when the media, themselves given to the feel of pressure in some critical areas, often know to what extent they can fulfill their responsibilities and to what degree they need to compromise. There is the question of advertisements to consider. Unless there is something hugely wrong from an ethics point of view, newspapers and television channels will not be ready to part ways with those firms which advertise with them.
Again, however, there is the matter of the supremacy of the public interest. In the case of the private medical colleges the health minister has mentioned, the imperatives are clear: those colleges which have failed to meet the criteria for being in the public domain ought not to be there at all. But it is a move that must take into consideration the future of the students who are already there and many of whom are already preparing for their final examinations. And yet the question remains as to whether degrees from such institutions will be of any help to students in the coming years. The dilemma is acute.
It will not do to ignore the public interest. When it comes to a question of choice, when the issue relates to an upholding of the idea of public welfare, the need for a demonstration of leadership ought to be paramount. And leadership stems from a full and proper comprehension of what is best for citizens. It is a lesson which applies to every stage of life. Or should apply.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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