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     Volume 11 |Issue 50| December 21, 2012 |


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Costly Criticism, Profitable Dignity


Presumably the prime minister's office sent an SMS to many people on the occasion of this year's 16th December.

It read: Mahan Bijoy Dibase Amar Suvechcha and Ovinondon. Desh o jonogoner kollane Apnader Obyahoto Sohojogita Kamona Korchi. Joy Bangla! Joy Bongobondhu! Sheikh Hasina.

(Translated: My good wishes and congratulations on Victory Day. Hoping for your continued support for the welfare of the country and the people.)

Barring a few spelling errors, it is a good message in line with the government's spirit of digitalisation, but this too got the stick from the sceptics. We love to be sardonic.

Let us assume there was no such message. Living room orators would then suggest that the PM was not even trying to get close to the people, when all it takes is an SMS, which even she need not have to send. Now that she has done it, some people find it amusing, others are more critical.

Recipients however could not send a return 'Thank You' because the sender PMinfo did not bear a number. I tried.

According to one invitee at a dinner recently, our garment sector was being taken over by the Indians. Before dinner was served he went as far as saying that as much as 20 percent of the business was now in the hands of our neighbours. The Tazreen and such incidents were also a ploy to hand over trade to our closest foreigners, according to him. After dinner, he left quietly. It could have been a case of the empty belly rumbling, but making sweeping remarks in favour of our belief is one of our trademarks. We are the world's greatest involuntary rumour-mongers.

Let us assume that indeed we were losing our business to the Indians. I would have imagined our media would have picked up the story and front-paged it. Our commerce and industry chambers would have issued panic statements. They would have mounted pressure on the government to save the industry. We see none of that and yet some are trying to spread the word.

Incidentally our around 4,500 clothing manufacturing factories are responsible for 80 percent of our export, and last year they earned $ 19 billion. That is according to the CNN, which also does not mention India in their story on Tazreen. The Indians would be obviously interested to see theirs do better rather than taking over enterprises in an alien country.

So, is our man anti-Indian? Hard to tell, because while lamenting about the supposed Indian takeover, he side-glanced towards the TV set and was delighted to see an Indian serial going on. Said he: “This is the only programme I watch on television, my favourite.” It is Indian, I am shouting silently! They are taking us over culturally! Who cares!

In terms of India and digitalisation, we are miles ahead. Considering our economy and rate of literacy, we are well advance of many of the developed countries.

A citizen was informed via SMS that his passport was ready for delivery and that he should collect it from the given office and address. Another was informed, again by SMS, that his driving licence was ready for collection. Our bills are paid digitally. Our banking is computerised. Our academic admission system from application to screening to admission card to results are largely administered through mobile service providers.

We have to be critical despite being contradictory. This is our national passion. That is why the incumbent almost always fail in our elections and the opposition thrives.

About India, we have to accept that it is another country. It has its priotities, and one of them is not Bangladesh. Being many times larger in area and population, its behaviour towards its neighbour will be as bullish as history ordains. There will be polite diplomatic statements, but there will be simultaneous misbehaviour at local levels.

The recent long visit to India by Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia exemplifies the acceptance that it must be taken on board for us to go ahead. There has been no greater critic of India than the BNP, but they have awakened to the realisation that friendly relations, even if ostensibly so, are necessary if Bangladesh, and for that matter BNP, are to move ahead. While some of their leaders tried to shun Khaleda's friendliness as not moving away from their anti-India vote-winning strategy (not that it works every time), the fact is the deshnetri has offered the olive branch, for which the party policy makers also deserve kudos.

In today's world, especially in politics, there is no room for sustained animosity. At all levels (international, national, community, family, and individual) we must learn to co-exist with dignity.


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