Pandemic, Hefazat mayhem and the economy

Published : 28 Apr 2021 10:03 PM | Updated : 29 Apr 2021 10:03 PM

Bangladesh has been witnessing a sudden spike in Covid cases since early March. Both the death and  infection rate have been increasing substantially every day. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from the very beginning tried to make our people aware about Covid-19 pandemic and about the emergence of second wave.  There were some concerns among the people at the beginning of the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic. The government also took right steps and managed the situation very successfully although such a pandemic was new in Bangladesh. Consequently, the result was wonderful. 

The number of deaths and the infected persons were low. The implementation of stimulus package to continue economic activities has contributed to positive economic growth. We see that the economy had started gaining momentum overcoming the fallout of global Covid-19 pandemic. Even the GDP growth was 5.2 percent during fiscal year 2019-20 when some developed countries saw negative growth. 

It is time to uproot the enemies of independence.

All the pro-liberation forces must come forward 

to resist their nefarious activities

Observing the government’s actions and the economic trend the global lending organization IMF has forecasted that Bangladesh’s GDP growth might be above 5 percent in the FY 2020-2021 and in the next year it would be above 7.5 percent. At a time when international organization’s prediction is spurring hopes the Covid-19 pandemic situation has been turning from bad to worse. The coronavirus, mostly African variant has been infecting more than on an average 5000 people every day during last five days and the number of deaths went above 100. The virus is spreading so speedily and infecting the number of persons so alarmingly that it has become impossible for the government to tackle the situation. The government had to enforce lockdown again.

The question is how to combat the Covid-19 pandemic as well as sustain the economy this time. Is it a solution to shut down shopping malls, shops, run office with skeleton staff, wear mask and maintain social distance? How would the day labourers and workers of informal sectors survive if the lockdown continued for long? If the normal workforce is closed nearly 9 lakhs people would get out of employment. To feed them the government would require some 9-10 lakhs metric tons of rice. Last time we had a reserve of 19 lakhs metric tons of rice and the government could offer to distribute 11 lakhs metric tons to save life of the workforce in the country. In such a situation there is a good news that boro crop harvesting has started and there is an expectation of producing 2.10 crores tons. The farmers are contributing a lot at the cost of their sweat to produce paddy. But they need price support from the government to continue to do so. The government’s decision to procure one million tonnes of boiled rice at Taka 36 per kg and non-boiled (atap) rice at Taka 35 per kg and 600,000 tonnes of paddy at Taka is good if it ensure the price without interference of the middlemen. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is eager to save the farmers. She has instructed the workers of Awami League and its front organizations to join hands with the farmers to cut paddy. There is no doubt that government is very serious about all issues including continuation of development activities despite all odds.  We have also seen that the implementation works of the mega projects are going on full-swing. All projects are advancing speedily. 

In such a situation the government administration should have to be tough and take stringent measures against those who are out to destabilise the situation. We have seen few days back BNP, Jamaat and Hefazat in a planned way have been committing mayhem in Brahamanbaria, Narayangonj, Sylhet and other places of the country to aggravate the situation. These forces have made secrete unholy alliance to oust this government. Although Hefazat is in the forefront BNP-Jamaat activists were actively involved in the mayhem. The video footages televised showed that all the anti-liberation fundamentalist elements, BNP and Jamaat men were with them. They even destroyed the portrait of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 

Though late the government has identified the criminals who were involved in the mayhem and the leaders who ordered to do so. Police arrested around 12 top leaders of Hefazat for their involvement in 2013 violence. Besides, some 400 people, mostly supporters of Hefazat were arrested from different parts of the country for their involvement in the violence between March 26 and 28 this year.

The Hefazat leaders were ambitious to go to state power. In his statement during interrogation in police remand on the first day of his arrest Mamunul Huq said he was forming a support group by criticizing Prime Minister and ruling party men through proactive statements. He actually wanted to be in power to achieve political post through these support groups. Mamanul had a kind of purpose to seize power by relying on Hefazat. In a confessional statement before chief judicial magistrate Muhammad Ilius Hamid, Central Assistant Finance Secretary said Hefazat’s recent violence was aimed at toppling the government. 

When the government is sincerely trying to feed the people affected by the pandemic shock and restore economy the notorious enemies of independence want to reverse the country’s development. They had earlier repeatedly tried to kill Sheikh Hasina. She narrowly escaped. But they are not sitting idle. It is time to uproot these enemies of independence. All the pro-liberation forces including political and cultural should come forward unitedly to resist their nefarious activities. They also should join hands with the government to tackle the covid-19 pandemic.    

Dr S A Malek is former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist