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Old August 5, 2004, 02:11 PM
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Habibul_bashar Habibul_bashar is offline
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Default God will save Bangladesh from the floods

God will save Bangladesh from the floods, may we hope, as He has done many a time by His infinite kindness. The government’s well-televised effort will be only a minuscule part of God’s invisible hand. This part of the fact is already proven.
In any case, given the magnitude of the floods, now and in the past, a resourceless Bangladesh government can do little but pray for the water to recede and the sun to shine. A little more sensible behaviour, however, could have spared the nation the brazen comments of some major and minor ministers. But then some are incorrigible. But their comedy turns out to be a tragedy for us because they act at the expense of the suffering people.
When a great deluge submerged two-thirds of the country in 1998 the government of Sheikh Hasina was slow in starting rescue and relief work, for which we had criticised it. This year, the government of Khaleda Zia appeared to be trying at the beginning to wish away the flood. This government seemed to have kept itself ignorant of the fact that in neighbouring India huge areas in Bihar had been under water for over a month and that Nepal was experiencing heavy rainfall. These waters had no other way but to flow through Bangladesh. We saw it all happening because of foreign television broadcasts, which we receive in our drawing rooms or even bedrooms each day, many times over. So, only the government can say why it deluded itself into believing that the floods were going to be localised and short-lived. It has not been so, unfortunately. And now we have not only hundreds of thousands of people at relief centres, which had to be opened, but we also have many millions standing in water or barely afloat, anxiously waiting for a morsel of food.
The suffering that is taking place now is not a new experience in Bangladesh. Thousands of reams of paper have been used up to print what should be done in such a situation, what can be done and what should not be done in such situations. Heroes and heroines have been made out of the poor sufferers who used their own ingenuity to survive. Had those books and manuals been dusted regularly and any one of those had been read by anyone important in the government two months ago, many of the marooned could be helped much better than is being done. Incidentally, a well-informed journalist told us yesterday that after attending a discussion on the floods he came away with the distinct feeling that even now there is no centralised authority in the government for dealing with the situation arising out of the present floods.
Meanwhile, hungry and emaciated flood victims have complained not only about inadequacy of relief but also of corruption. Political partisanship is also hampering relief operations even though Bangladesh Television is trying to show that ministers, donning hunting safari suits and waterproof boots, are making nearly Herculean efforts to distribute relief. But the cat is let out of the bag when the same ministers are seen smiling on comfortable, motorised boats as if they are on a pleasure cruise.
Now, glum-faced experts have forecast that another wave of flood is coming. This should make the people of Bangladesh, especially those who have the means and are still living on dry land, to get ready to help flood victims.
During and after the 1998 floods we learnt from many flood-affected persons that they had survived with the help given by relatives and neighbours. Money borrowed from families of Bangladeshi wage earners abroad played a big role both in their survival as well as in the recovery activities after the floods. Thus we have to give as much importance, perhaps more, to help from private citizens although individual efforts will inevitably look like a drop in the ocean. But then drops put together create the sea. We will welcome such efforts.
Just now the government is needed most in carrying out rescue operations, bringing helpless persons to relief centres and reaching relief to remote areas. The government has made a mess of asking for help from abroad. But now what it ought to do is to make an appeal to the people of the country to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters.
We hope that the flood will not last till the middle or end of September. In that case rehabilitation and recovery work can be carried out, following earlier examples. There will, however, be new problems this year because of large-scale erosion and land going waste under sand carried by floodwaters.
The unseen but bigger problem will be an increase in poverty. During and after the floods many people will become poor again and many others will join the ranks of the poor.
May God help us in our struggle to reach better days.
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