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Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

So there we go again, Minister Syed Ashraful Islam adding to the collection of brilliant quotes about life and death in Bangladesh. Nearly immortalised for saying that Indian border killings are minor matters, he has said that road deaths are accidents and one can do little about it. Of course we can do little about it! When people are competent they don’t give excuses as this minister has done. The only problem is to decide whether to wail over the many deaths from road mishaps or wail over the fact that such a person claims to serve the people.

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Our ministers are mysterious beings from God and what they say is even more so. The BNP home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury has also been immortalised for saying (when a child was killed in crossfire of criminals) that God had taken back a soul and nothing could be done about it (Allar mal allah niyechey). Our Ashraf has now done better and said that nothing can be done about mishaps as they are accidents. One must congratulate him for that because anything can be passed off as an accident. From the share market crash to the arsenic pollution, are all accidents after all. I wonder if we need politicians or pirs to run our governments.

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2012-02-02-20-46-05-AshrafI suppose better familiarity with English language terms is also an issue because the word in question is road mishap and not road accidents. Neither MP Tarana Halim who raised the question nor Ashraf minister realised that what had got them in a verbal mess was misuse of a term to describe ‘mishaps.’ Many words travel well between languages and some don’t and the word ‘accident’ is one. But the Minister was not trying to make sense but give excuses and in this he was successful. But we are not impressed.

Since the Minister has made up his mind that he can’t do anything about it, we are providing some information for the general readers that show how dangerous his words are as far as doing or not doing something is concerned.

Road mishaps cost at least Tk. 5,000 crore yearly which is roughly 1-3 percent of the GDP. Most mishaps occur – 70% – in rural areas and over 80% of the victims are pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. About 70% of the victims are between 16-50 years says researcher Mohiuzzaman Quazi. Road mishaps claim an average of 4000 lives and injure another 5000 a year. Actual estimated road fatalities each year are between 10,000 to 12,000 which is at least 50 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and North America.

According to UNICEF, road mishaps are the 4th leading cause of permanent disability for children in Bangladesh and nearly 3500 children are killed in road accidents, the majority of whom are from poor families.

Road accidents affect the poor most and many families are driven into greater poverty by the loss of a breadwinner and the added burden of the disable members with 70% reporting severe loss of income after a mishap.

It’s not just the vehicles which cause mishaps but ignorance of the pedestrians as well. Perhaps the Minister is not aware that several agencies have now undertaken projects to improve the situation. Nobody is hiding behind the word ‘accident’ as Ashraf is.

It is a complex problem and serious one which certainly doesn’t merit the levity with which the Minister addressed the issue.

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The problems are at two levels. One is that of Ashraf as an individual and the other is the will and ability of the regime to address the problems. Asharf’s major portfolio is probably about causing embarrassment to his government. He has an excellent track record on the matter and his border killing statement where he dumbed down the impact on the event has drawn much flak. However he remains unfazed and there is little sign that he has learnt his lessons. Of course he is lucky because there is no notion of embarrassment in our politics.

Shamelessness has many advantages.

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Though one Ashraf doesn’t make an Awami League he does represent a trend, a party that seems to sail over public outcry. A major problem is that it seems to think that if the AL people believe something, rest of the country does too. A case in point is the corruption probe of the AL minister Abul Hossain whom the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has exonerated from all guilt. Now, does that make Abul Hossain look, appear or sound clean? What it has actually done is seriously reduced the credibility of the ACC which is now being seen as an AL stooge.

It’s possible that they are not so but the public perception is another matter and through this “Abul Hossain is clean” campaign, the often at bay agency has become a victim of lack of confidence. It would have been better for all if the ACC had remained silent.

Like Ashraful should have.

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It is obvious that the road mishap problems are quite beyond the capacity of the government to handle. It is not just the share market crisis that it can’t handle but a few major ones either. One issue that is troubling in all this is that most problems have a clear class bias. Mishaps are heavily loaded against the poor and the fancy class doesn’t suffer except in rare instances like Mishuk and Tareque Masud and a few others. Ignoring them will not make much of a difference to the ruling class and the rest vote for whoever stands in the election anyway. Sure, media will make a lot of noise but the issue will remain only till the next mishap and so on. It doesn’t affect the government’s position or status. It doesn’t matter what Ashraf says or the government can’t do but only what BNP does or thinks. And so the reality is standardised for the only reality that matters.

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The gladiators in ancient Rome would battle each other to death in order to provide entertainment for the crowd that would fill the stadiums. They would supposedly say, “Ave Ceaser Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant.” “Hail Emperor, those who are about to die young salute you. “

In a way we are always saluting those who take charge of our life and cause our deaths.

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Afsan Chowdhury is the Executive Editor of bdnews24.com.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

15 Responses to “Minister Ashraf and the opportunity to talk nonsense”

  1. Sagor

    Accidents really are accidents; they happen, all over the world, including in Bangladesh.

    And the government as an institution really does not have the luxury to prioritise a small incident like a cow smuggler getting killed on the border. Kindly compare the number of killings of this era to the previous one when hundreds of such smugglers got killed. Anyone crossing the border without proper documents and procedure has to be criminal.

    Ashraf only said these truths, and now the civic intellects like yourself want him to be punished for that?

    Let us not forget that this gentleman’s father was the first
    president of Bangladesh, and he himself is a freedom fighter. They are like pillars of Bangladesh. Let us not contradict just for contradiction’s sake.

    Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu.

    • Chowdhury, Rezzakul

      History never justifies the killings, torture, or unjust acitivities of today. Blind support is prohibited in democratic culture. Moreover, judging a person based on the birth is nothing but a feudalistic view. Leader’s voice should express the expectation and dream of the mass in the most progressive way. In the case of ‘individual Ashraf’, we do not get any thing of a true leader. Is it not true that sometimes he even contrdicts with his own party leaders too?

    • Ezajur Rahman

      The Indian government does not defend itself by saying every Bangladeshi killed by the BSF is a criminal. But the patriotic forces of Bangladesh can say it! India helped us in 1971, Ashraf fought in 1971 and Ashraf’s father was our first President in 1971. So they are pillars and cannot be mocked for anything?! In our country justice, health, wealth and education are not sacred. But everything from 1971 is sacred? Ridiculous. Please – we are desperate to forget people like Ashraf and his father. And it is the fault of blind supporters of political parties who do not have the ethical character to ever disagree with their party on anything. Our children are the pillars of Bangladesh – not men like Ashraf. Nobody wants Ashraf punished -but you won’t allow us to even mock him! I for one am sick and tired of people hiding behind 1971. Those who really fought and suffered in 1971 are dead and the few who survived real bullets do not belong to either AL or BNP. Anyone who does not demand the reform of AL and BNP does not know what Joy Bangla really means.

      • Ali

        You hit the bulls’s eye!
        No one can become even a politician without ‘some’ grey matter. After all one has to stand up on one’s OWN FEET.
        It is high time we looked at the future of Bangladesh and did some SWAT analysis.

    • abdur rohman

      His father was the first president of Bangladesh and he was a freedom fighter that gives him the license to be and ‘idot’. If they are the pillers of bangladesh, then it is a very weak piller that is the reason we are a very weak nation, unfortunatly.

  2. Ezajur Rahman

    Ashraf and his ilk were recently offended by mocking language. They are as thick as plankton. No mockery intended.

  3. Ezajur Rahman

    We need to grasp how our leaders think. Ashraf chooses to wear a shawl – he is therefore, by default, an honest intellectual. Road accidents happen everywhere. In other countries school children get killed by cars with drunk drivers in spite of precautions. In our country children get hit by speeding trucks and buses – and there are no precautions. What’s the dfference? An accident is an accident.

    Our leaders defy gravity in their attempts to scale the mountains of absurdity.

  4. robin

    These politicians do not have any vision to run a country.
    The megalomania and self-gratification that their father or husband has done something to achieve our independence made them as if they are the only owners of this country. Lack of responsibility and accountability made them reckless. Mass people do not feel sorry when they are beaten or killed by another unholy element. Expecting honey from dirty flies is not realistic.

  5. Golam Arshad

    Afsan: Minister Ashraf not only demonstrated his inept arrogance of irresponsibility, but violated the oath he took to serve. This is a case of morbidity in our current politics. Good job!

  6. Michael Holding

    Afsan Bhai:
    I don’t know whether this stupid fellow deserves the time, the effort and the stationery you spent on him. Let me quote him in some previous occasions,”We are not responsible for BCL activities”. “Accident is Accident. We are no way responsible for that”. “Border killings are not our concern”. Add the finance minister on top of it, “Government has nothing to do with the stock market”. Sahara Khatun says, “Law and order is in its best shape in the past 10 years.” Good lord,what are they smoking! Who runs the country and who is in charge and who will say “I assume the responsibility, good or bad”

    • Taslima

      Michael bhai,

      On the contrary, if people like Afsan Bhai do not expend their time, effort and stationary on these worthless and ridiculous individuals, then we will be susceptible only to the nonsense these individuals feed us. In a sense, people like Afsan Bhai are little sparks of sense in an otherwise blacked-out nation.

  7. Mohammad Zaman

    “As the expletive “RAJAKAR” is used to identify a group of lowly quislings, unless the ministers does not change their way, I surmise, a day will come when the word “MONTRI” will be used as a similar expletive.”

    This a quote from one of my favorite columnist Dr. Jaffor Iqbal (Ref: Column Somogro, Muhammad Jaffar Iqbal, Motri, page 131).

    Listening to Abul Hossain, Shajahan and this largely “Londoni” Montri, I think, that unfortunate day is almost upon us!!!!

  8. Matiur Rahman

    Politicians should think well before they make such nonsensical statements.They hurt many minds and have far-reaching negative political cosequences.Inaction to save precious human lives is no excuse.Thus, they make a place for themselves in a dark section of history.

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