COVID-19: A non-traditional security threat to Bangladesh
All nations including nuclear power states have now bowed down to this small virus. COVID-19 did not follow the rules, power, restrictions, boundaries of powerful states and created a devastating horror psyche, uncertainty and helplessness in mankind.
Apparently "The Mother Earth" is exhibiting its natural and inherent capacity against flawed behaviour pattern and mismanagement of global resources, management and devoid of basic virtues like love, sympathy to other creations, positive implications of scientific development etc.
All the governments of the world, leaders of religions, society, politics, health sector, volunteers etc are using their full efforts, knowledge, energy, experience etc to subdue this small virus. Till April 7 in Bangladesh 17 persons have died and 164 have been infected. Around the globe, death is more than 74 thousands and 1350564 people have been infected. In Bangladesh, the government machineries including Military and all segments of people are taking all out efforts to get rid this. Prime Ministers of Canada, Italy and Spain, President of China and USA, Imam of Holy Mosque of KABA, Pope of Vatican and Bill Gaits have expressed simultaneously the causes, effects and how to save the humankind
It is also predicted that similar or stronger natural power are going to influence the life, activities, believes and thinking process of humankind. The CORVID 19 effects have paralyzed the social, economical, physiological, religious life of human kind. Most of the countries of the world have imposed self-quarantine of its inhabitants in their houses or place of work. The modern transportation and logistics supply system have stopped and near to stand still. The movements of people from house to house, locality to locality, country to country have collapsed. The food security, public health management etc have created questions of the government capacity and effectiveness before people.
The efforts taken by government and people are praiseworthy. I will not look back to see our success and failure of last three months. With complete and wholehearted participation of people of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, we are going to fight whatever resources we have. We need to fortify our houses, our areas, our districts, our country and the world in general to fight it. The honourable Prime Minister has called it as fighting a war. She has already given 31 directives mentioning actions at all levels .Truly, this is a "Non Traditional Security Threat". Bangladesh has SOP for traditional war approved by parliament. We have SOP for natural calamities published by Ministry of Disaster Management. But, we don't have proper understanding and protocols/ SOPs of employment of different ministries, organizations, NGOs, volunteers, veterans etc to support and ensure the health management, food security, production and distribution system, financial management, control of law and order, arresting the vulnerability of working class, international trade, import depended economy, dependent economy on wage earning and garments industries etc when the whole world is expected to face global recession like "great recession of Europe". Therefore, we have to act now visualizing the future of our country, region and the world in next minimum 06 months
The timeframe, different actions required, activating National Security Council, establishing warlike National Unity Government, deployment of Armed Forces, control, coordination arrangements, cooperation etc are based on my own assumptions and understanding to fight a "Non Traditional Security Threat".
Preparatory / Initiation Period (26 March to 11 April 2020):
A sense of relief; dissemination of information, awareness have been done with deployment of military and mobilization of health care department. Shock of experiences of other developed and neighbouring countries have been generally absorbed. Government have started providing directives, policies, guidelines, instructions to all and mobilizing its own and other private resources. It is also trying to cooperate with different countries and international bodies. Ministry of Disaster Management and PMO's office should work as lead Ministry and core coordinator respectively. It may take following different decisions and actions.
a. Declare National Emergency and activate National Security Council considering COVID19 as "Non Traditional Security Threat".
Ensure proper dissemination of 31 directives of PM to all and prepare action plan with timely allocation of resources.
Controlled quarantine must be enforced. Aged people above 60 years and children upto 12-13 (Class 8 or similar) to remain in home (Quarantine). Essential production units, service support, logistics supply line, all ports to remain open and ensure more production,distribution and health safety simultaneously.
d. Medical supplies including local production, import have to be geared up based on need assessment. Required number of Garment,engineering and raw material production lines to be identified and converted for producing medical supplies and instruments.
e. Essential commodity supply chain to be restored and controlled integrating all agencies including providing basic support like food, rest, maintenance etc to its service staffs and transport.
f. An "Emergency Operation Cell" under PMO's office to be activated at Parliament Bhabon. A "National Briefing Cell" to use Parliament television and provide corona related updates of home and abroad to all the people of this country and the world. Through this TV availability of resources at all level should be ensured and monitored by embedded media.
g. Armed Forces to go back to their staging camps in different Districts and important locations after end of this period and provide strategic support for COVID 19.
h. Enormous strength of Ansar & VDP, BNCC, Civil Defence Forces,Volunteers will be mobilized to support operations of different ministries and local government actions.
i. Police of different, categories including village Police,Community Police,RAB and BGB have to be deployed for only maintenance of law and order and ensuring movement security of supply chain throughout the country.
j. National Database to be used by all departments and organizations of governments and non government organizations and necessary direction /policy will be issued now.
k. A National Committee comprising of public health specialist, and other specialists will prepare health sector management action plan and government have to implement those recommendations.
l. All civil resources of health to be integrated with the government resources, decentralized and develop local support system with digital referral management system available in developed countries with proper protocols and SOPs.
m. Localized quarantine and support system to be organized between districts, local areas and houses. Basic helps like food, water, medicine, ambulance, transport etc will be provided to everybody's doorsteps under control of local civil administration.
n. Chairman Zilla Parishad, Mayors of different levels will be the Chief Coordinators of local administration and support.
o. All NRB's are to be accounted by Embassies and advised not to visit Bangladesh now. Any arrival of NRB,s are to be strictly monitored. In the same manner, all foreigners in coordination with respective embassies in Bangladesh will be looked after with proper medical and other logistics support.
p. All ministries especially Trade Ministry have to plan for "Self dependency" against import based economy of Bangladesh in every sector.
q. The damage and impact assessment and remedial measures to be worked out by all ministries using the recommendations of expert committees and research organizations.
r. Veterans may be asked to provide volunteer support for ministries and local administration in this crisis management under Bangladesh Armed Services Board.
s. Gonosastho Centre, Daffodil University, different research components of government and private, pharmaceutical companies, resources of universities etc may organize joint research on different measures and activities to combat COVID19.
t. Provide monetary and food supply directly to enlisted vulnerable groups, labors and all require support by integration of NGO's and volunteers through local administration.
u. Provide necessary support to farmers to get proper price of their products at local level and organize direct supply to different stores by establishing "Cooperative Bureau coordinated supply chain" cell.
v.All instructions related to import/export of medical equipment and supplies, taxation system, transportation leverages etc should be reviewed and adjusted. Export of medical supplies to other countries is a good step to diversify export against garment products using capacity of garment industries.
w. A set of computer specialist and technical committees (economic, finance, health,trade etc) will be organized with all ministries to provide constant support and overview operations/effectiveness of the planning.
x. Bureau of statistics to organize compiling of data and share with all ministries and departments of government for immediate planning and resource mobilization by other departments of government to combat CORVID19.
y. A special cell to be activated under PMO's office to provide inter ministerial resources redistribution support. It should be housed to Parliament Building.
z. A " National Unity Government" comprising of all political parties, specialists and capable citizens should be formed for fighting this "Non Traditional Security Threat".
aa. All individuals of different religions to seek forgiveness to Almighty Allah/ creator to get salvation from this CORVID19.
bb. All capable persons and individuals should provide support to government and administration so that support can be given to the door steps of all individuals of Bangladesh by economizing the efforts.
Operational Period (12 April to 30 June 2020):
In this period, all have to fight back relentlessly. All directives, instructions, policies, PM's 31 points to be enforced by different ministries, local government and NGO's. All must maintain centralized control, communication, coordination with decentralized execution, cooperation and communication to get result at root level with maximum effects. Local Civil administration under elected Peoples representatives will implement all actions with the resources, manpower and volunteers available with them.
a.Localized dependence on food, healthcare system and resources allocation mechanism to be established. Strict and timely allocation of resources is the key to success.
b. Cottage Industries to be supported extensively and developed. Necessary entrepreneurs should be given resources and facilities to establish their industries for immediate production. .
c. Migrant workers skill should be developed for upcoming employment in abroad. Health, ICT and other skill force will be enlisted, trained, prepared to fight at home and support abroad countries.
d. Import dependency to be reduced for food, medical instruments and supplies, engineering, chemicals, backward linkages of garments factories etc. Small cottage industries may be an option.
e. Communicate bringing lack of specialized NRB's who are capable to support self reliant Bangladesh in Education, health, engineering Science and technology, finance etc. This needs lot of planning at all levesl.
f. Strict fiscal discipline measures at all levels to be enforced. This area needs special and critical attention. All individual, public and private programs must be curtailed.
g. Healthcare and medical system will be overhauled, refurbished with proper laws, instructions, financial and logistics support. A major policy shift and change of mindset is a must.
h. All the Corona health related measures and instructions are to be followed and enforced strictly. General cleanliness adopted by all and life style of, Japanese experience may be helpful.
i. All the bank interests of individual, trade companies and institutions etc will remain suspended till 30 June 2020. Bank will get only 0.50% service charge and it will be provided by government.
j. Garments industries and all exporting industries will get compensation after necessary scrutiny and recommendations of specialist committee report.
k. All the economic, social, Banking etc research institutions to provide research outcome through specialist committees to government. It will help ministries to take appropriate actions against global recession.
l. All kind of support to mid income, low and poor income generation population should be given through "Common National Fund". It must be monitored and coordinated by local government institutions and local administration.
m. Too much control/monitoring cell at different ministries, district administration to be avoided. "Integrated Coordinated Operation rooms" may be set up by District Disaster Management Committee supported by Armed Forces to meet up the local needs.
o. Civil administration to re-evaluate their organized capacity and restructure its organization by decentralizing it. More attention and allocation of resources, authority should be given to local government.
p. The political activities should be reduced to divert energy and resources in supporting National Unity Government.
q. The NRB's to be integrated in this period by short term/mid term and long term engagement to rebuild the country and specially its health and production system.
r. Foreign investment by people of foreign countries and NRB in small scale industries to be encouraged.
Recovery and Consolidation Period( 01 July to 30 October 2020): In this period major implementation of strategic decisions and resources mobilization, reconstructions and reorganization to take effect. All ministries and civil institutions/organizations to implement their macro and micro policies. The food, social, law and order and economic security or in general all aspects of "Non Traditional Security Threats" to be improved. State of Emergency in health sector to continue and withdrawn in sector wise based on the effects of macro level will be planned.
Withdrawal Period (01 November to 31 December 2020): In this period stock taking of each macro and micro plans of all ministries will be investigated. Based on this assessment, gradual withdrawal of emergency will take place.
a. National emergency will be lifted gradually.
b. National Unity Government will be dissolved and party in power will reconstitute the ministries.
c. Armed forces will return to their primary task.
d. NRB's to continue their engagement.
e. A reviewed macro security policy encompassing "Traditional and Non Traditional Security "will be placed before next parliament session.
As per the remarks of honourable PM we are at war. Therefore, all of our activities, policies, resources mobilization and change of mind have to be like war. We are fighting a "Non Traditional Security Threat" where people has to be trusted, used and integrated. We have indomitable energy and determination to face this danger. Uniting the people and using their integrated strength, experience and capability by government will give success against combatting CORVID 19, a "Non Traditional Security Threat" for Bangladesh and the world.
The writer is a retired Brigadier general