With the new moon coming up over the western horizon, the curtain falls on the fasting month of Ramadan. It sets the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the biggest festivals for Muslims in motion. The celebration will take place this weekend. The occasion is awash with religious rituals and social traditions, involving not just the family members but the entire community.
Conventionally, people put on new clothes, have a rich breakfast of sweetened foodstuffs, attend prayers in congregations in the open air, embrace each other, visit friends and relatives, exchange pleasantries in person, arrange a family get together and have an elaborate lunch with a wide range of delicious dishes on this days. Like last year, Eid is going to look and feel very different this time around. The differences in terms of celebrations will not be a breath of fresh air, but a dose of the sobering reality of Covitime Eid.Generally, on the eve of the Eid holidays, denizens of Dhaka get away in droves for their ancestral homes with a view to spend the vacations with near and dear ones. The massive exodus of home goers leaves the capital to be a shadow of its ghost self. Ticket seekers are seen thronging bus or launch terminals and railway stations, waiting in unending long queues to get hold of the ones to their destinations. Endless tailbacks on roads and highways and the suffering of holidaymakers from it hit the headlines of news media. Citizens rush to the markets or shopping malls unfettered, which remains bursting at the seams till midnight, intending to grab their desired items. Sellers are rushed off their feet to appease buyers with whatever at their disposal. These have been an inextricable part of Eid celebrations for the past many years, which is reasonably expected to witness a breach with tradition this time.
Amidst a governmental ban on inter-district public transport services, which is to be enforced till May 16, it will be a festival with a marked shift in practice for most of the people. The great mass departure from cities and towns, particularly the capital and its adjacent industrial belts, is unlikely to happen this time. The government has been mindful enough not to permit any extra vacation along with the regulated three-day Eid holidays. No doubt, its action has given out a clear signal to the citizen in no uncertain terms that the government has no alternative but taken these complementary measures in order to steer clear of the Eid rush.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently urged the Muslim community to stay put and celebrate the upcoming Eid-ul Fitr at their present location to contain the infections rate in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 outbreaks. The PM at a virtual programme of several infrastructure inaugurations on May 6 said people would meet their loved ones once normalcy returns.
To justify her decision the premier said no one knows who is carrying the virus during journeys. Expressing her grave concern as an infected person travelling from one place to another might get many others infected and thus put others at risk, she claimed her government’s move behind the restriction on public transport was to check the movement of the people. In order to contain the spread of the fatal illness throughout the country, she made a clarion call to the citizenry to abide by health protection rules and shun travelling from one place to another unless there is urgency.
While the government measure of suspension on inter-district bus, launch and train services are praiseworthy, giving bus operators the green light to run services within cities and towns may prove counterproductive. Besides, critics say the decision to reopen shopping malls just days ahead of Eid was made before critical benchmarks indicating the spread of the disease reaches acceptable levels. Nevertheless, the government intended to do a crucial balancing act between life and livelihood.
Moreover, the government's instruction to avoid large gatherings and keep entertainment facilities shut and the suggestion of religious authorities of doing away with communal prayers in the open air amid lockdown during Eid both are well thought out and scientific.The government has done its part, and now citizens should act responsibly when it comes to celebrating the Eid. To be fair, for those who are used to enjoying the festival freely such muted celebrations are indeed painful. But the current situation demands that we protect our loved ones by staying away. While we cannot meet them in person, we can easily talk to and exchange greetings with them using a host of online and social media. In fact, we have to take the rough with the smooth for the greater good and celebrate the upcoming Eid festival with simplicity to prevent a spike in new coronavirus cases.
Notably, the country has seen gradual declines both in mortality and new cases for the past week. The gaining streak can be retained with citizens behaving sensibly and following the SOPs strictly. Furthermore, refraining from unnecessary travels and flocking to markets and the places of worship would go a long way towards turning the tide for us.
Overall, apart from the government, the onus squarely lies on the citizen as far as a religious, social or public issue is concerned. So, citizens must make sacrifices by bringing behavioural changes in them and complying with government measures and restrictions in order to prevent the ongoing health crisis from going from bad to worse during Eid. We should not forget that without sacrificing, nothing can achieve. After all, who does not know the saying--you cannot have their cake and eat it.
The writer is an associate engineer, Thakral Information Systems Pvt. Ltd. He can be reached at: