Not only the government of Bangladesh but also the health care officials are urging us to stay at home till 31 March 2020. Even religious scholars are encouraging us to pray at home. No time for public celebration now!
I disagree with some critics who continue to say that Bangladesh government was not prepared for the corona onslaught. Since the news of coronavirus started spreading, I found this government vigilant about mitigating the transmission of coronavirus. Even before the state ordered the shutdown of educational institutions; many schools, colleges, madrassas and universities had already closed their gates for students, staffs, administrators and teachers.Whenever anything ominous happens to our country, we have a tendency to lay our blame on the Sheikh Hasina government. We have a habit of playing a victim’s role. Bangladeshis do not find faults in their own decisions. Our mind is negative. We always look to find what our government does for us but not what we do for our government. We are not helping anyone by doing that. Many citizens tend to overlook the matter that coronavirus is dangerous. In fact, coronavirus can kill many people at one go. If we do not stay inside, we can get infected. Probably, many people even do not know that they have the bug of Covid-19 in their body. Unless we are afflicted, Bangladeshis have a habit of not taking many things seriously. If I get infected, my family members may face troubles too. Others will also get infected. If the number of victims inflates all over the country, it will be a huge pressure on the state to resume normal services. If we continue to show our nonchalant attitude towards coronavirus, it is going to stay long. Fighting it out will get tougher and more laborious.
The world is not all doom and gloom when we live inside the four walls. I have forgotten the last time I stayed this long time at home. I am ready to stay indoors till 31 March. This well-earned break is really recharging my worn-out batteries. Although teachers are not as celebrated as artistes and religious scholars in our country, we also have a special place among our students. Every decision we make is scrutinised. We are bound to maintain our dignity both on and off the work-station. For example, imagine this situation: I am walking on the street. One of my female cousins going out to jog alone has seen me and stopped by. She and I are having a polite conversation in a public place. One student has seen me. She or he can start spreading the rumour that I am having an extra-marital affair. Jokes apart, some people in my position do not even bother about it. They are very good at separating between private and public. But I care about my public image. Meaningless to say, due to the outbreak of coronavirus, I am being able to avoid public glare. Now, I have plenty of time to read, write, watch and enjoy my parenting and husbanding time. I lived in such bubbles that I had forgotten to find pleasures in the simple things of life. Leading this cocooned life has been a blessing for many. Because of this stress-free life, we are now enjoying our life that we could ever imagine before.
Bangladesh is not poverty stricken. Yes, there is a gulf between rich and poor people. The former can easily afford to buy groceries for the next one year but the latter find it hard to even stockpile necessary items for the next day. Worryingly, consumers have started thinking that we would be running out of grains. There have been reports that people are panicking. They are stockpiling as many resources as they can. It has become a global trend. When I was a kid, I asked my father, “Why don’t we stockpile our basic food items? If we do that, we will not have to worry about the price-hike of daily commodities.” My father replied, “It is illegal. Your grandfather used to dislike it. If you buy most foods, there will be a shortage for others in future. Overall, the country will suffer. Once the country suffers, you, I and all of your family members will bear its pangs and pains”. At that time, I did not understand the depth of his words. Now, at these crucial hours, I have started understanding what he had really meant. In all the countries of the world, people are panic-buying. As a result, stocks are running out. Which is why, some consumers have plenty of food items and others do not have anything to go by. Some people bought so many hand-sanitizers that others do not even have one of those products to buy. In some poor countries, citizens have no soap to use now! Totally unhygienic!
Think about doctors. They are doing a great job in treating so many patients. If we have a shortage of protection kits for them, they will suffer a lot. Many of the doctors are treating patients without thinking of their own safety in mind. Unless their safety is ensured, how we can ensure others’ clean lives!
Let us not buy anything more than what we need. We should avoid this illegal trend of buying the stocks out. Our normal tendency is to behave selfishly and ignore other peoples’ needs and wants. Some people may think, “If I buy more than what I need, if I stockpile my resources, then I do not have to think about my staple-foods in the distant future. Our country has got enough foods. My buying-spree will not cause any trouble to the country. Therefore, I am not bothered about piling-up food-items.” If people start to think collectively in this way, we will have a severe problem in the near future. We have plenty of food-resources. That does not mean that we will empty all of them. Greed is sinful. Isn’t it?
Our bazaars should have a minimum standard of restrictions. Some global supermarkets are now forcing consumers to limit-buying. For instance, in super-markets, every person/family is not allowed to purchase more than one hand-sanitizer. Similarly, we should discourage our consumers from limitless buying. We should not create artificial price-hikes. Some illegal traders and manufacturers are doing that. Although the Bangladesh Awami League government is trying their best to reduce irregularities, it is our decision to choose whether we want a short-term gain or long-term protection in future. If there is any food shortage not only in Bangladesh but all over the world, we will reach a crisis-point.True, coronavirus has increased sales in our supermarkets. I am not saying that business people should not gain profits. But they should not lose their ethics at this grim stage of life. What I would urge them is --- Please, spread the awareness of coronavirus. Don’t encourage them to buy as many as they want. Ensure that people have enough grocery items in future.
My citizens, think about the long-term future. Almighty looks after us. We just need to remain honest and show our resolve. Let us have those virtues. I would like to stay positive. I strongly believe that we will overcome this tough phase.
Grocery items will be there waiting for us. We do not have to jump on them. There are here and will be there as long as we live. Please don’t stockpile them in humongous proportions. Rats and insects will devour them. Plague will take place. Let us not welcome Hamilton's pied-piper.
The writer is a lecturer, department of English, Chittagong Independent University