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Jack Of All Trades

An analysis on lockdown and lax enforcement

Published : Wednesday, 28 July, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 589

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

Population density, religion-induced festivals, soft execution of laws by enforcers and the damn-care attitude of a section of people are responsible for the half-hearted implementation of the restrictions or the so-called lockdown, imposed time to time by the government to stop the spread of deadly Covid-infections across the country, since March 2020. Due to the lax implementation of the restrictions the country is now paying the high tolls every day.

On Monday, July 26 last, the death tolls in the country hit a new record of 247 with record 15,192 new cases of infections in 24 hours till 8 am. With the latest figure the total number of Covid-19 deaths was 19,521 with the death rate at 1.65 per cent. According to the medical experts the situation is going out of control and the healthcare system is in the verge of collapse with the deterioration of situation.

However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the figures released by the governments, comprise only one third of the victims who die in government hospitals. If we take the WHO version, than the actual death toll in Bangladesh now stands at nearly 60,000 so far.

According to observers no spell of lockdown remained strict throughout the session. Rather it slackened gradually from the first few hours of the start of the lockdown due to the reasons mentioned in onset of this article. For the administration it was not possible to keep all the people in their homes with only directives without force. But the administration and the law enforcers never found too harsh to keep the people in homes, on the grounds of human rights.

The 148,560 sqkm Bangladesh with the population of 166,303,498, is the 11 the densely populated country out of the world's 232 countries, having different land areas varying from 1 sqkm (Vatican City) to 9,984,670 sqkm (Canada). The population density in Bangladesh is 1,265 per sqkm, but the city of Dhaka is the one of the most densely populated metropolis in the world, with a density of 23,234 people per sqkm within a total area of 300 square kilometres. Bangladesh has 11 major cities and some 30 district towns, which accommodate some 37 per cent of the total population of the country.

It is quite difficult for the administration and the law enforcers to keep such a large population confined in their homes hours after hours and days after days. When asked by law enforces about the reason of coming out of home during lockdown, they put thousands of humanitarian grounds that compel them to come out of homes. However, many people are regularly detained, fined and jailed for day of two by mobile courts for breaking the lockdown rules. Thousands of transport operators are also fined for taking to the streets and highways.

Besides, the majority Muslims observed two Eid-ul-Fitr after Ramadan fasting and two Eid-ul-Azha feast of sacrifice, during which millions of people needed movement to visit their ancestral homes in the last 17 months since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. The people give much importance to celebrate religious festivals with their family members, for which they can take any challenges including the risk of contracting deadly virus. The movement of people was also noticed amid lockdown during the festival times of other minority communities of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

The administration and the law enforcers were never seen to stop the people's movement forcibly during the festival. Moreover local people helped the homebound people to avail transports and other facilities to reach their destinations, when all public transports were out of service at certain lockdown period.

Law enforcers also do not stop rickshaw pullers, day labourers or petty hawkers from running their trade, although it is supposed that during the lockdown there will be no movement of unauthorized persons on the streets. In alleys many small shops and vendors run their business, but law enforcers are not always harsh on them.

However, most governmental actions launched time to time for the welfare of the people or to stop spread of pandemic infections are often criticized by vested groups including opposition political parties, civic and welfare societies, rights groups, think-tanks, non government organizations, trade unions and the individuals. Like many other countries, criticism goes unabated in Bangladesh despite the government takes various measures to protect the people from the deadly Covid-19 pandemic that has been taking huge tolls globally. Till Monday, last 4,179,757 people died among 195,132,035 infected people across the world since Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, China in December, 2019, according to Worldometer.

However, the criticisms raised against the government are not always irrelevant and in most cases these are based on logic and reasons. To solve the problems emerging from political, socio-economic, and health issues in a country, the government often takes different plans and measures. In some cases theses plans and measurers often help solve the problems slowly. However, in some cases these governmental measures fail to ease the problems and complicate the situation on various reasons. Like some successes there may be a number of failures, but these failures do not bear the testimony that the government has not been eager to solve the problems.

Recently many think-tanks, experts and learned individuals criticized the government when it lifted the restrictions almost completely from July 15 to July 22, last to facilitate the people to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha. During religious festival of the Muslims who constitutes nearly 90 per cent of Bangladesh population, millions people leave their workplaces in Dhaka, Chattogram, Narayanganj, Gazipur and other industrial cities for their village homes, to celebrate the festivals with their near and dear ones.

In the last Eid-ul-Fitr festival in May this year, thousands of people travelled to their villages from the big cities despite restrictions on the movement of public transports. It was impossible for the law enforcers to stop such exodus without harsh measures, which if applied would have created multiple problems. However, the people had to take inhuman hardship to reach their village homes, with huge toils and great expenses incurred on several unauthorised vehicles for short trips amid the journeys to home. These helpless people were again forced to return to their workplaces with similar hardship, which created adverse reactions against the administrations.

In the just concluded Eid-ul-Azha, despite the raging deadly pandemic government perhaps did not want to see that the habitual home goers suffer again in travelling to their village home. However, they have been asked to return to their spots of employment before 6 am on July 23, from when another spell of 14 days of strict lockdown was scheduled to start.

Each and every government irrespective of political ideology of the ruling party, always takes plans and policies to bring benefits for the people and the country. Because every government believes that its existence and popularity depend on its successes in mitigating people's sufferings. In course of implementing any plan or decision of the government, the administration often face obstacles from different vested groups including traders, industrialists, worker unions,  political and religious groups. The administration often has to compromise with the powerful vested groups in implementing its policies and programmes, by changing announced action schedules and directives time to time.

In this strict restrictions that began at 6 am on July 23, unlike the recent past, all industries including the export oriented readymade garment factories are closed, despite huge lobbying by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and relevant other trade bodies.

The writer is business editor,
The Daily Observer

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