News Analysis: Barely ever on anyone’s mind
It seems the government can't stick to its decisions when it comes to tackling the pandemic.
Just four days ago, officials announced that the government would not reopen the export-oriented production units until the end of the lockdown on August 5, because of fear of a further surge in new cases of Covid-19 and deaths.
But in a span of 72 hours, the government backtracked on the decision and exempted the export-oriented factories from the so-called lockdown. Issuing a circular on Friday night, it allowed the reopening of the factories from this morning without mentioning how hundreds of thousands of garment factory workers will be able to join work in Dhaka amid ban on transport if they are in their hometowns.
And the result was inevitable: hundreds of workers, who had been in their village homes, thronged the bus and ferry terminals in hordes and scrambled back to Dhaka on a day's notice.
Neither the factory owners nor the government made an effort to assist the thousands of workers, who are mostly women, to travel to their workplaces.
The wage earners had to walk miles along the highways and board goods-laden trucks, pickups, cars, auto-rickshaws and whatever vehicle they could find to reach the industrial hubs in Dhaka, Gazipur, and Narayanganj and save their jobs.
Not surprisingly, they had to pay two or three times the usual fare to the motorists who gave them a ride. Besides, the cross-country travelling en masse caused significant health risks for the workers and the people in general.
Complying with the health safety guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus was a far cry onboard the ferries where finding the room to stand one's feet was a challenge.
This begs a few questions: does the government care about the people who toil day and night to keep the wheel of economy running?
Why didn't the authorities think about how the workers would travel in absence of public transport? Couldn't the workers be given at least a few days' notice to get back to work?
What made the government high-ups change their decision?
After the daylong sufferings, the authorities last evening decided to ease the restrictions on public transport from 12:00am today.
Hours before the cabinet division's circular on Friday, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) disclosed that it recommends extending the current countrywide lockdown.
Even the health experts and the government's National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 were of the view that the restrictions should be in place for a couple of more days to break the chain of transmission.
But the government seemed to have paid no heed to its experts.
In fact, more than a dozen committees were formed by the government to tackle the spread of coronavirus since the first cases were detected in the country in March last year. But most of the committees' recommendations were ignored when it came to enforcing lockdown, especially the timing of it and the way it should be executed. For the last one and a half years, the people saw incoherence and lack of coordination among the government bodies.
Such an incoherence not only left the workers in untold sufferings but also heightened the risk of further spread of the deadly virus. We cannot afford to be so careless about those who are one of the main pillars of the country's economy.