Nobody is born married. Marriage is obviously a serious concern depending upon inextricably related some other compelling and interdependent factors like adult age, education, employment, fulfilment of some essential family commitments etc.
Finding a rented residential address has long been one of the biggest ever hassles-packed tasks for the unmarried people who are otherwise called bachelor in the cities and the urban areas upon starting a new job or pursuing a course of tertiary education. The issue of acute unavailability of bachelors’ housing facilities for either male or female is increasingly becoming more and more acute with the passing of each single day since they are yet to be received with an unprejudiced hearty welcome.
Once the government or any other appointing authority provides jobs to bachelor or unmarried ones, it, though not mandatory, automatically becomes a moral responsibility on the part of the concerned authority to take a part in ensuring accommodation arrangements for the bachelor employees they choose. When the appointing authority is the government itself, it is reasonably expected that with its supreme power in national policy-making it can address any burning issue of genuine interest concerning a sizeable section of the country’s citizenry more forcefully and promptly than any other private organisations or bodies. Unfortunately, the government of Bangladesh can hardly cater to the housing needs of its own employees let alone the others.
In the existing facilities, 10% to 15% bachelor government employees happen to log into the housing coverage of the government which obviously falls far short of the practical 100% requirement. The situation in the private sector is disappointingly worse since private sector jobs in many cases hardly either fulfil or even obey partially the terms and conditions of the avowed benefit packages declared towards the employees. Absence of the powerful supervisory institutions is painfully adding salt to soring injury.
When it comes to the question of unmarried employees’ residential facilities, endless stories unfold themselves as for their sufferings and hassles. In fact, the residential facilities as we see on the ground explicitly prioritise the needs of the married employees and their families. Though some government departments do have separate blocks for the bachelor employees, the facilities are negligibly poor and what is more disappointing is the fact that many of them are occupied by the families over the years violating the provisions of the concerned law. This sort of gross irregularity is quite a common phenomenon both in the public and the private sectors.
According to a survey, more than 80% employees enter the first jobs as bachelors and 90% of them have to undergo the inhuman ordeal in finding the minimum decent living space with the least living facilities. At the entry level, 90% of the unmarried employees have to take shelter in the messes most of which are evidently notorious for their subhuman conditions. Passing just a night in many of these messes is more than a nightmare for a gentleman.
Unmarried employees’ real odyssey begins when they practically take initiative to hire a flat or apartment in the residential areas leaving their concentration camp-like messes. As soon as they knock the To-Let apartments, the first question they have to hear from the owners’ end is nothing but the one concerning their marital status. They make relentless searches through the To-Let apartments from morning till dust and even night but to their utter ill luck, the unpalatable question regarding their marital status drags on. Those are really ones who after months of searching somehow manage apartments. I am generally talking about the entire ground reality in Bangladesh but especially focusing the severity of this problem in the mega cities like Dhaka, Chittagong, etc. To hire apartments, many legally unmarried males and females disguise themselves as married couples.
Why don’t the apartment owners respond to the urges and the appeals of the unmarried employees? The answer is not far to seek. It is basically a prejudiced outlook tagged by unfounded fear and unreasonable suspicion and that our apartment owners are constantly being haunted by this prejudice against the unmarried people including the employees. Since we can hardly change the attitude of the people overnight, we have to opt for a comparatively viable and secure option best suited here. Considering all the facets of this long drawn-out burning problem, I would like to suggest some recommendations that I think would help solve this crucial problem in a pragmatic way.
First, instead of going for a piecemeal solution to this problem, we have to take a holistic approach right from the grassroots. To make it clear, we have to treat the problem not as a problem of the government or a particular department or the problem of the private sector only. Second, we have to formulate a well-thought-out and broad-based national policy that can appropriately address the whole gamut of the problem with all its possible manifestations. Let us outline the policy in a few words.
The proposed policy must necessarily incorporate the rigid statutory provisions to construct separate residential quarters or block for the unmarried employees. The appointing authority has to mandatorily construct bachelors’ block and the size and extent of which will depend on the concerned appointing body’s total fund figure. What I actually mean here is that the appointing authorities must make investment in promoting the residential facilities for the bachelor employees. Though initially it may seem to be a pressure for investing a huge sum of money for constructing bachelors’ quarters, the pressure will soon be eased as soon as the money will start returning from the employees’ salaries.
If we can reserve quotas for the freedom fighters and their progenies, the underprivileged tribal people and the people with autism in all government services, why not we will do a little bit for a quite a wider section of people with genuine merits and potentialities. Our positive thinking will definitely be our motivating incentive in embarking upon such a welfare-oriented project.
Thirdly, in the proposed policy the government has to make it a mandatory pre- condition for all real estate developers to reserve 10% of their buildings as bachelors’ quarters. Finally, the ball is obviously in the government’s court to kick off.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Bogra Cantonment Public School & College. E- mail:shasanbogra1&gmail.com