Jack Of All Trades
2020: A year of challenges
Published : Wednesday, 5 August, 2020 at 12:00 AM Count : 426
The raging deadly Covid-19 pandemic has turned the year 2020 more challenging for many the government of the world. But the challenges have become more worrying for the government of Bangladesh as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her ongoing fourth and the third consecutive term started to face problems one after another since the pandemic outbreak in the country in early March.
The Prime Minister has been facing the challenges not only from the coronavirus, but also from a section of the corrupt influential party activists, government officials and health service providers who thrived through illegal and unfair activities flagging deep connections with her ruling party.
The height of corruption is apparently pulling down the government to its knees as different media groups and television channels at home and abroad often publish series of reports and telecast footages on grafts at different levels of the administration and the government services sector.
Because of the outbreak of coronavirus, Sheikh Hasina had to take the challenges of cancelling the much cherished yearlong birth centenary programme on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On the back of the announcement of the cancellation of the birth centenary celebrations, she had to offer several stimulus packages worth over taka one trillion for different trade and industrial sectors to soften the inevitable pandemic fallout.
The extra burden on her government came when the banks were struggling to realise huge defaulting loans and the country started to face falling exports and remittance inflow while expatriates workers retrenchment abroad in the wake of the pandemic outbreak.
Next, PM Hasina had to take the challenge of protecting her millions of coastal people from Super Cyclone Amphan in May amid fears of casualties, destruction and also spread of coronavirus in cyclone shelters where social distancing is impossible.
Now the government is facing a bigger challenge of giving shelters and succours to more than half a million displaced and marooned people as one third of the country is reeling under flood water. Amid the forecast of a prolonged flood until end August, the government is mobilising relief materials for the flood-hit people.
Meanwhile, faking of Covid-19 test results by certain hospitals and healthcare services hit the media headlines after several countries including Italy, Japan and South Korea stopped entry of Bangladeshi travellers as most of them carrying Covid-19 negative certificates issued at home tested positive on arrival at the airports there.
Subsequently, the law enforcers sealed Regent Hospital and JKG Healthcare in Dhaka for issuing fake Covid-19 certificates and arrested several people including Mohammad Shahed and Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury owner and chairman of the hospitals respectively. Shahed is highly connected with the ruling party leaders, government officials and media personalities, being a talk show celebrity while Sabrina herself a senior official in the government health service. She is also deeply connected with the influential people and the ruling party.
Earlier appear the incidents of theft, embezzlement and misappropriation of relief goods and fund allocated for the poor section people hit hard by total lockdown in March and April. Accordingly, law enforcers had to act and arrest the alleged relief mismanagers at different spots of the country. But most of them were found to have link with the local units of the ruling party. Some of them reportedly have portfolios in grassroots party units of the ruling party or have links with leaders in different tiers of the party.
Faking Covid-19 test results and issuance of fake certificates have smeared the country as the den of corruption. Some media outlets abroad in their recent report even tried to malign the image of top brasses of the government and the ruling party.
Lastly, a media hype centring on a recent telephone call from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Bangladesh counterpart has started stirring the South Asian politics. The media speculations over the decaying relations between Bangladesh and India, has made the later probably suspicious over the role of the former. However, India reiterated that Bangladesh always took Kashmir disputes as the internal issue of India.
Covid-19 which so far killed 3,234 people and infected 24,020 others in the country till August 4 since March 8 last, came as an unassailable obstruction to a detailed programme drawn to begin a yearlong celebration to mark the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman beginning from March 17. The inaugural function was scheduled to be attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As the infection began to spread all the programmes were cancelled.
The cancellation was the biggest blow to the Awami League as Bangladesh, its allies and the United Nations along with its agency United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) were prepared to hold the celebrations in political, educational, cultural and sporting arenas. The celebrations if were held would have taken Bangladesh and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to a new height in the world. It would have discarded those from political scene in Bangladesh, who try to play down the glorious role of Bangabandhu. Moreover the celebrations would have helped Bangladesh to befriend many world's statesmen, politicians, educationists, media personalities, cultural and sport stars who were scheduled to take part in different events of the celebrations.
However, the government was acclaimed for executing as effective cyclone preparedness programme which evacuated
some 2.5 million people to some 15,000 shelters equipped with health care equipment and sanitizers when Amphan battered the coastal districts on May 25 last amid the pandemic. Due to nearly adequate preparedness the death toll remained within dozens unlike past major cyclones when death tolls were horrendous.
As the floods started to creep up in June and spread gradually some tens and thousands of affected people have been evacuated to government shelters and raised grounds including highways and Railway tracks. Government has launched massive relief operations as it did so after Amphan.
However, a portion of relief materials and funds are often misappropriated by section local community leaders including those having membership with the local units of the ruling party, according to law enforcers. Besides, misappropriation of relief goods these people are also allegedly involved in many anti social activities. Some of them are also allegedly involved in drug peddling, human trafficking and money laundering.
According to intelligent reports the coterie of these controversial and suspected people are allegedly connive with a section of local and central leaders of the ruling party. They become over active and move along with those leader of the central party when they visit their political constituencies. They also wield power and influence over the local people and extort them time to time in the name of the party.
In many areas people become helpless and silently tolerate their illegal activities and corruption of the coterie, which often allegedly retrieve project costs from the government agencies even without completing the projects properly. As a result most of the small bridges, culverts and roads built in the countryside get damaged in short span of time.
Some leaders and activists of local units of the ruling party in the countryside are also reportedly indulged in regular extortion from businesses and rich farmers. They generally extort the money to observe political programme, cultural functions and religious occasions, without heeding party directives not to collect any subscription from anyone to hold party programmes.
The situation have become so bad that, most well-off people have reportedly left village homes and fled to cities to get rid of local extortionists. Local media reports have been going awash with corrupt and criminal activities of a section people belonging to the ruling party.
However, the situation started to improve recently as the high command of the ruling party has asked police to take against corrupt people and criminals irrespective of party affiliation.
Accordingly police switched to action and until recently law enforcers arrested a significant number of corrupts and criminals, most of home have ruling party affiliation tag. With arrests of the culprit the confidence of the people in the government has started to restore.
Had the culprits not been arrested, people would have to continue to suffer and in the long run the public sentiment would have gone against the government and the ruling party which is scheduled to seek mandate for another term in 2024.
It is good luck for the government that there is no strong opposition parties, which would have launched movement against all these ongoing corruptions and criminalities and force the government for an early election.
The writer is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer.