Serendipity once again?

A new year waits on the other side of tonight. The year 2020 is going through the last minute dress rehearsal to appear with the usual glitz and glam when the clocks will strike 12 midnight. After the unpredictable 2019, it is hoped that the year 2020 will be a year of calm and peace. Or will it be the same again, serendipitous like 2019?

Many good things happened around the world just as many bad things that came in tandem in the outgoing year. At home we have witnessed good and bad tidings coming in succeeding waves to stir the national subconscious. A new government came with all the sweet promises of “keeping up the good show,” taking many new and young faces in the new cabinet. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made many old faces go into hibernation as they could not live upto her expectations. But no sooner the new government was seated comfortably, a devastating fire at Chowk Bazaar area stole sleep from the eyes of everyone. The fire blazed for days and claimed over 70 lives in the wake. The fire originated at a chemical godown housed in a two-storied building in a congested locality. The ineptness of the highly corrupt local administration and political persons was identified as the main cause behind chemical godowns being located in a residential area. Everyone will remember the blaze and the horror of devastation for many years to come. The irony is, within six months the chemical traders have started to store inflammable chemicals in the same area though a large plot has been earmarked for them at Keraniganj.

In the month of March, nation’s psyche was badly scarred on hearing the report of molestation and murder of a young girl by the principal of the madrasa she went to study. The moral degradation of the religion teachers and audacity of their goons united the countrymen in demanding quick trial and punishment of the killers. In speedy trial, they were served death sentence.  

Before we could settle down to look around, came the dengue outbreak which left us extremely worried as the number of deaths started to mount every day. The DGHS was caught unprepared by the aedis mosquitoes in the metropolis. A massive awareness campaign was launched immediately by the publicity wing of DGHS in a bid to make the public aware of the disease and importance of destroying mosquito breeding places.

Another fire at a highrise building in Banani took a few more lives and exposed how influential people of the country flouted laws regarding following building and fire codes. Exemplary punishment would instill sense into the owners of many such faulty buildings in the urban areas.

But road and train accidents kept hogging the headlines throughout the year. Thousands of people lost their lives on the roads in most tragic accidents in 2019.  Even after many meetings with the bus and truck drivers and workers situation did not improve on the roads. A crusader against reckless driving and road accidents Ilias Kanchan led the movement. But he was humiliated by a section of drivers and helpers on the road.

Dhaka University and some other public universities remained the hotbeds of student politics and violence. Internecine feuds continued to disrupt normal academic activities. The worst possible violence took place inside a BUET male dormitory this year. A student was beaten to death for posting his personal opinion on the social media. It was a brutal case of beating to death. All the perpetrators have been arrested and put behind bars. A highly perturbed nation is waiting for their trial and punishment.

A lot of activities are going on in the completion of the seven mega-projects around the country. It is hoped that once completed these projects will contribute to the economy. Metro rail will make commuting easy on the roads and a bridge like the Padma Bridge will connect the metropolis with many other districts. It will bring immense benefits for the people of the country.  

In the outside world, Greta Thunberg the little Swedish girl has snatched the limelight from the world leaders by calling them useless in facing the challenges of global warming. She said, "The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say - we will never forgive you." - UN Climate Summit, New York, 23 September 2019. Hail Greta. She is one heck of a girl who has sailed across the Atlantic to reach the UN and point fingers at the mighty leaders of the developed nations for the sorry state of the planet Earth.

In the Saudi Arabia, a number of reforms have made the people happy there. Women there can now drive cars and shop without taking a male companion. They can now even go to a stadium to watch games played by male players. But the most encouraging reform that has come towards the fag end of the year is that 18 years has been fixed as the minimum age for marriage for girls there. Thanks are due to the progressive activists who remained steadfast despite repression by the authority.  

To end this piece I must mention the state of things with Donald Trump as of today. While the Democrats strongly wish to see Donald Trump is shown the door through impeachment but the US laws say different stories. For example, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise believes the “impeachment charade” is exposing Democrats’ weakness. On “Fox News Sunday, “ The Louisiana Republican was direct: “The Senate will have a fair trial, and you'll see an acquittal. Everybody knows it's going to end in acquittal.”

That means Donald Trump might survive the impeachment process and serve for the second term. We have to wait and see. Let us welcome the year 2020. 

Shahnoor Wahid is Advisory Editor of Bangladesh Post