• Thursday, Jan 27, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

OP-ED: Bangladesh needs a lockdown on lockdowns

  • Published at 04:25 am August 24th, 2021
Photo: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU
Photo: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Is there any evidence that lockdowns have worked in the country?


If there is one thing that can be ascertained after the lockdown is that in Bangladesh, lockdowns actually don’t work. 

People do not respect the government decision to lockdown because they realized early in the game that they could not be held accountable; more so if they come out in droves. Short of orders to kill on sight, a lockdown cannot be enforced in this country. 

Too many people simply have too much to do in order to simply survive. Social distancing is a luxury in a densely populated nation, even more so in the most densely populated city in the world. It’s not so much that people don’t want to social distance, but the harsh reality is that many cannot afford to do so if they also want food on their table.

The government is at a loss here because it cannot realistically ensure food on every table -- especially so because most people are ready to take more than their share when the authorities do manage to arrange food handouts or financial assistance. 

This is evident whether the government hands over cash incentives to the large industry of the super-rich or food rations to the ultra-poor. Millions of takas in cash incentives have gone to industry owners buying land instead of using the money to bolster their business or pay their employees. Millions of takas in food rations have been usurped by multiple members of the same family rather than allowing those rations to serve a wider net. 

As culturally refined and socially conscious the Bangladeshi psyche may be parroted to be, history has shown that it has never been above taking advantage of neighbours and the needy. 

I have always maintained that what keeps a person honest in this country is the fear of getting caught rather than character. Take away accountability and immediately you get people opting to take advantage.

The media is rife with news of the millions upon millions of takas accounted for as daily losses in each sector, however, it is most certain that the tax receipts accounted for each sector would indicate that the figures shouldn’t be a tenth of what is being quoted. 

Paradoxically, it would appear that active industrial and service sectors earn far less when things are normal, than it loses when things are at a lockdown. The government should instead use these claimed loss figures to calculate what these sectors are accountable for as taxes.

The lockdowns have been ineffective also due to the government’s multi-faceted decision makers who have been inconsistent with their directives. Clearly there is no one individual speaking on behalf of the authorities but a bouquet of speakers expressing varied opinions, if only to remain relevant in the public arena. 

A lockdown by definition must be inclusive, and cannot leave some sectors out of the purview because of lobbying. After all, when the RMG sector was allowed to open operations in the midst of the strict lockdown, why was it that neither the government nor the factory owners gave a second thought on how hundreds of thousands of factory workers would be able to make the journey back to their workstations safely? 

That many senior government officials are RMG factory owners themselves demands that this decision as well as this oversight receive greater public scrutiny. 

Another glaring example would be the decision to allow half the number of buses to operate but remove all occupancy restrictions, rather than allow all the buses to operate at half capacity. 

The math makes sense as far as the number of people being moved, but not when the cost of operations doubles. 

One would not be wrong to suggest that the decision places more empathy for the rich bus owners than the safety of the poor passengers -- and by that same extension the safety of the general population. While there may be no play of politics in a lockdown, there definitely is inherent politics at play among those who are allowed to get away with abusing it.

The authorities wish to be seen directing for the sake of the people. However, it is apparent that little thought has been placed on execution. 

The bottom line is that unless the government decides that a “strict” lockdown means an absolute lockdown, the best we can hope for is that they strictly impose a lockdown on suggestions of any more lockdowns. 

Not only do they not work because they cannot be enforced, they actually make a mockery of the authorities’ hold on the situation. The public have eyes, even if the authorities choose not to see. 

Talat Kamal is a PR & Communications Consultant with more than 25 years of experience in corporate and media communications. He can be reached at [email protected]

200
Facebook 200
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail