Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims all around the world, started on April 14 in Bangladesh. This is a time when Muslims engage in self-purification through fasting from dawn to dusk and praying for forgiveness from the Almighty. This year, Ramadan has come at a time when daily infection and death rates caused by Covid-19 are experiencing an unprecedented surge. The spirit of Ramadan encourages us to introspect and show restraint, which in our present circumstances will be best observed through ensuring the health safety of others by staying at home.
According to the instructions laid out by the Ministry of Religious Affairs on April 12, a total of 20 people—including the khatibs, imams, muezzins, hafez and khadims—will be able to perform Tarabi and five daily prayers at a time in a mosque this year. Also, there will be no iftar mahfil and sehri arrangements at the mosques. These instructions have been given to prevent the spread of the virus. Concerned authorities have to ensure that these guidelines are followed properly by the religious community, by conducting regular awareness-building campaigns and also monitoring the activities of the religious institutions.
It is unfortunate that prices of daily essentials, like always, have also skyrocketed before the start of this year's Ramadan. Media reports show that 5-litre bottled soybean oil was being sold for Tk 630 to Tk 650, which was Tk 80-100 more than the usual rate. Similarly, prices of onion, chicken, beef and vegetables have also increased. Although traders have provided various reasons for these price hikes, the fact that the same thing happens every year before and during this particular month only lends credence to the opinion of market experts who have highlighted price manipulation by unscrupulous businessmen as the prime factor behind the spiralling costs of essential food items.
The government has to monitor the market strictly and respective authorities have to punish those who are responsible for the unusual price hikes. Also, adequate supply of groceries has to be ensured so that panic buying by the consumers does not create any shortage of supplies. Effective and affordable transportation systems for the traders of daily essentials during the ongoing lockdown have to be made available too, so that the supply chain does not get disrupted and goods reach the hands of the customers as usual. May the spirit of Ramdan touch everyone.