Every year around this time, I find myself sounding more and more like a parrot repeating the same phrase, “where did the time go?” over and over again. Here we are being propelled towards the New Year and I feel as if I have barely had time to experience the year gone by. Maybe it's an age related symptom where the older you get the faster time seems to go. Right now everything feels as if it is taking place at a frenzied pace as everyone gears up for ushering in 2014. It's a time for both reminiscing and a time for looking to the future.
For Bangladesh 2013 has not been one of its best years with both political and economic unrest besieging the nation. The Rana Plaza disaster where an eight storied building collapsed leaving over eleven hundred people dead and more than two thousand people injured seemed to have set the tone for the rest of the year. The tragedy was one that caught the world's attention with the haunting and often poignant pictures of the dead and injured flooding our television screens and newspapers.
It was also the response of the government that left people incredulous and outraged. The Prime Minister's initial attempts at denying that the owner of Rana Plaza was a member of the Jubo League and subsequently having to retract her statement did not do much for the credibility of the ruling party. To add to that the utterly callous remark by the Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith was received by the public with derision and disgust where he stated that, “The present difficulties … well, I don't think it is really serious — it's an accident.” I am sure he wishes that he could take back those words considering the Rana Plaza disaster is said to be the most catastrophic garment accident in history. The combination of this debacle, the dissatisfaction of the garments factory workers and global concern for better working conditions and pay for the workers have left the garments industry in turmoil and in a highly vulnerable position. This is disastrous for the country as this sector constitutes almost 80% of our exports and employs almost four million people, most of them women.
If this was not enough the nation has been beleaguered by constant strikes (hartals) over the past few months bringing the country to a standstill and gradually crippling the nation financially. Not to say draining the people of morale and instilling fear at the state of lawlessness. The upcoming elections have turned into a farce and I would say a source of embarrassment as the rest of the world looks on while The Awami League openly manipulate the situation to ensure the elections go their way. The opposition party in the meantime carry on with the pointless 'oborodh's and strikes which are harming the country and have had no real impact on the government's position.
I asked the driver of a family friend whether he supports any of the political parties and he nodded vigorously saying that he was a BNP supporter. I was interested in finding out his reason for supporting the BNP and asked him why and his answer took me aback. He said that he liked the symbol of the sheaf of wheat more than he liked the Awami League's election symbol, the boat. I also asked a cook in someone's household the same question and he claimed to be a staunch Awami Leaguer. When I asked him the same question as to why he was, he smiled and shrugged saying he just was and had been for a long time. In hindsight both their simple answers made perfect sense and put things in perspective for me. Politics in our country has very little to do with party manifestos or what position a particular political party takes on health, education, domestic and foreign policies etc. We live in a time of street politics and armchair politics and are caught in the middle of two feuding parties with personal agendas and grievances that should have no place in the political arena.
If we are hoping for a better year for our country maybe 2014 will bring with it a new independent political party, one that actually has the nation's interests at heart and values its people. Or maybe we can hope that the current political parties will put aside their personal differences and work together for the welfare of the nation. I know its wishful thinking but as I said the New Year is a time for reflection and also a time where we can hope for better things to come. So I hope for a year of political calm, economic growth, happiness and prosperity for my country. With that I wish you all a very happy 2014!