Published : Tuesday, 14 May, 2019 at 12:00 AM
We are observing the holy month of Ramadan right now–a very important month of the year to every Muslim all around the world. Bangladesh, being a Muslim majority country, every year observes this month with utmost dignity and citizens engage themselves in religious activities with Siyam and special prayers like Salaat-it-Tarabeeh. A holy environment sustains all around the country which provides a sense of peace into our lives.
But unlike other Muslim majority countries of the world, Ramadan every year comes with some hassles into the lives of citizens of Bangladesh and this year the hassles reached such a height that lives of all Bangladeshi citizens and especially that of urban dwellers have almost become a torture and it is becoming very hard to keep calm to hold the sanctity of Ramadan.
Along with globally renowned traffic jams of Dhaka city, the citizens are getting victims of the new iftar culture, which is causing a lot of traffic jam especially during the time of iftar. Different government organizations arrange huge iftar parties with thousands of guests spending millions of citizen’s tax money putting that same citizens stuck in traffic. There are thousands of political organizations, almost every district has samity (co-operative) office in Dhaka and thousands of professional organizations exist today and they all arrange their own iftar parties. Corporate iftar parties and family iftar parties have also become a trend.
Thousands of people move from one part of Dhaka to another for these iftar parties. Many of them, especially the ones of the government organizations, are so large in arrangement that traffic movement in the adjacent area is halted. We, the citizens, are the sufferers as we cannot reach home on time to take iftar with our family. This iftar culture has nothing to do with Islam or Ramadan customs. But during the last few years, it has bloomed. This iftar culture also hampers office works and promotes extortion or forceful collection of money in the name of these iftar parties. To a great extent, these iftar parties are behind the torturous experience during Ramadan.
Along with the tremendous traffic pressure from iftar parties, the works of metro Rail project is causing huge traffic for the residents. Many of the major roads are dug in between and the roads have become half. Almost all major roads are experiencing the works of this project simultaneously. It is already very hard to accommodate the huge traffic of Dhaka city with all roads in full active mode.
Now with half the roads gone, it has become impossible to control traffic jams especially with our completely improper traffic management system. It takes hours stuck in traffic to travel from one place to another. It is causing a huge physical and mental trauma for the Dhaka dwellers. Added with extreme natural heat and dusts from this ill-planned construction, it is very hard for the citizens to not become mad.
Office time has been curtailed from 9am to 3:30pm. It is now only six and half hours of office. But to reach office on time, we have to spend hours on roads and same is when we return home after office. For example, to reach Motijheel from Mirpur, it now takes more than three hours and vice versa. So, to catch office on time, one has to start at 6 in the morning. It is a journey as long as a journey from Dhaka to Cumilla. And throughout the journey, dusts and heat make the journey extremely complicated. This type of traffic was never experienced in the history of Bangladesh.
It is a matter of frustration that all roads to home are completely blocked with vehicles, while movement of vehicle cannot be made for hours after performing official duties all the day by performing fast. Moreover, with spread of ride sharing business in Bangladesh especially Dhaka and huge unemployment of our country, so many motorbike riders have evolved with low experience of driving and they do such rush driving that it seems there is not traffic laws for them and in reality, the traffic police are also very careless to control them. Motorbike is also becoming a curse in Dhaka dwellers’ lives with so many bike accidents reported everyday and unruly behaviours of the bike riders.
Moreover, though our traffic officials show no intention or expertise to control the traffic, they have serious interest to file cases against vehicles and drivers as to the general people it seems like they have gone wild during Ramadan. Even before two minutes of iftar, we have seen traffic sergeants filing cases against vehicles which were not creating any trouble and just there to buy last minute iftar. These acts of traffic officials are only for personal benefits not for people’s welfare. This is a serious source of corruption during Ramadan.
As we already said, the traffic situation today is majorly caused by Metro Rail works and the pace of this work is very slow. If not finished soon, the hassle of residents of Dhaka from Metro Rail construction is going to prevail for many Ramadans. We hope the government puts full focus on quick completion of this work so that we can hope for better Ramadan in the upcoming years.
Every year when the Ramadan approaches, we hear commitments from the government that the prices of commodity products especially food products are not going to increase but that do not happen. This year also, with the new promising cabinet in action, such promises came and went in vein. Almost all products are being sold in increased prices. Vegetables, meat, fish, other supplementary products–price of everything has gone up and this increased price is creating extreme pressure on the citizens as the income of no household has increased considering the holy month of Ramadan.
In all Muslim majority countries, price of commodity products remain the same or even come down considering the month of Ramadan. We are the only country with fierce exception. Our businessmen especially the middlemen enrich themselves during Ramadan by unholy. We would be happy if the farmers would have gained from this increased price but their situation remains same and few corrupt businessmen makes the money by taking benefits of the customs of Ramadan.
It is very funny that, though the government officials claimed to keep the prices of commodities unchanged during Ramadan, but they set the higher prices of beef and mutton by declaration prior to Ramadan–a clear depiction of their inability to control commodity product prices. We must acknowledge that our government or relevant bodies have no control over the market despite huge supply of products which also raises question over their association with these corrupt businessmen.
We cannot think that, Ramadan has made them realize their duties or suddenly the organizations are doing something very wrong. The objectives of these inspections are to harass these organizations to collect undue benefits. It is unfortunate that being a Muslim majority country, Ramadan drives higher corruption in Bangladesh. Such inspections have become great harassment for the office workers with tight schedules of Ramadan. It is like we are not getting any peaceful environment to get engaged in religious activities in this most precious religious month for the Muslims.
Harassment from the law enforcers has also increased during Ramadan as many such reports and posts were found in the social media during the first week of this holy month. They are even trying to plant drugs on the innocent people to collect money from them illegally. This is complete brutality and this holy month of Ramadan has failed to create any sympathy to spare the innocent citizens.
Ramadan is a holy month which teaches us to control ourselves, to kill our inner demons and to nourish good characters. But all the above mentioned issues are making it very tough to maintain a peaceful and easygoing life in Bangladesh during Ramadan. We do not find peace at home, office or on roads. The government must deliver onto its promises to control the market while should have a clear traffic management plan.
Few years back, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared that she would not eat ‘Ilish’ on Pahela Boisakh to save ‘Ilish’ from extinction. We hope she will make a similar declaration to stop the iftar culture which will save a lot of money and will save the citizens from horrific traffic jam. Without Prime Minister’s direct direction, this ill culture cannot be stopped.
Moreover, the government officials and law enforcers should be monitored. Most importantly, all harassments should be stopped and punished if we really want to protect the sanctity of Ramadan. We hope all relevant stakeholders show commitment towards people’s welfare so that all Bangladeshi citizens can devote themselves to please Almighty Allah during this precious month peacefully.
The writer is chief editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), editor at Kishore Bangla and vice-chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)