The news that the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has launched a drive against undesirable dalals (middlemen) who have taken their unsolicited services beyond limit in and on hospitals and their premises along with some public offices is most welcome. On the very first day alone as many as 497 such intermediaries were arrested. In coordination with the district administration, the extensive drive was conducted simultaneously by 15 battalions of the RAB under the aegis of mobile courts. During the drive Tk 0.90 million was realised from 248 of these illegal service providers and another 249 were awarded prison sentences of different terms. How long the drive will continue is not known nor is it clear if the majority of the middlemen have been fined or punished. If it is just one-off drive and not monitored on a sustained basis, the middlemen will stage a comeback to resume their ubiquitous but aggressive services. Like other parasites and criminals of society such as muggers and human traffickers, these people also develop an aversion to any other honest livelihoods unless they are highly motivated in correction centres. Jail terms may turn them into hardened criminals and the fines they are made to pay prove no deterrent to their nefarious trade.
They are a creation of the social system which can hardly penalise the so-called 'gentleman criminals'. In society where money heist or laundering or loan default of enormous quantities committed by highly educated and privileged individuals and groups goes unaccounted for, the rise of petty criminals is unsurprising. When such petty crimes are looked at from other side of the lens, they hardly look grave. But this is no excuse for committing such offences. However, this is to delve deep into the popular psychology that tends to trivialise light crimes and get inured to crimes in general. That brokers or intermediaries are unlikely to consider their services a crime needs hardly any elaboration.
Brokers, intermediaries or middlemen or whatever nomenclature they are called by, they carry a derogatory legacy. But in transactions of some businesses and industries, their role is formally recognised. Then there are unsolicited services offered in public offices or their premises to people not familiar with the many formalities for a commission. Undeniably, in some cases the facilitating act proves quite handy. But such services should not have any existence in the first place. The staff of the concerned office were recruited to serve the people whether they were well versed with the procedures and dispensation of service or not. Unfortunately, in areas of important and urgent public services, the role of intermediaries has crossed all limits.
This can happen when the office staff do not do their duties well and efficiently or some of the members in collusion with the outside elements indirectly help develop the illegal system. It is the speed money, of which they are the beneficiaries, that acts as a great motivation. Clearly, they are a product of a distorted system. Hospitals serving ailing humanity, offices and organisations such as the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), passport offices and other authorities issuing licences should do so following the prescribed rules but the emergence of outside middlemen is simply by their default. On recognition of the lapses of this fundamental duty, corrective measures ought to be taken.