The Financial Express

Crowding in on risky spots: How to change?

| Updated: August 05, 2021 22:49:54

Crowding in on risky spots: How to change?

Confusion has been increasing once coronavirus restrictions were imposed and withdrawn for the Eid-holiday period, re-imposed then, and partially relaxed eventually for allowing selected industrial activities. We see trolls seeking definitions of shutdown, lockdown, hard lockdown, genuine lockdown and any other jargons of restrictive measures.

When the law enforcement personnel stopped people on the streets and roads at the height of rising cases of infections, overcurious onlookers still went out to see how the lockdown looked like. It turned out to be a true situation the moment they experienced detention in cases. Credibility requires a cost!

The influx of holidaymakers into Dhaka city amid restrictions, especially rush of the workers following the decision to reopen export industries, drew massive criticism about noncompliance with health protocols relating to social distancing and use of facemask.

Concerns have also been raised about public perception about official measures and the actual situation of the Covid-19. In fact, there is a gulf of difference between a care-free movement of crowd on the vulnerable spots and the struggle of thousands of patients and families in and outside hospitals, aside from more than 200 deaths a day.

Many of those who earlier 'braved' the Covid-19 situation, apparently considering them as somewhat free from risk of infection, now want to take a jab. Simultaneously, corona fear is least felt in sprawling villages.

Such contradictions are nothing new. The people in this part of the world are critical of the public behaviour on various occasions as if they themselves are not part of the population.

This time around, social media reactions expose tendency to target one of a few groups to blame more for the dangerous shuttle between rural and urban areas and gatherings on the way to and at workplaces.

The easiest way is to point finger at what some may call 'backdated behaviour of the commoners', which, according to them, has been a long-term development challenge for this country. As if this was only a Bangladesh-specific problem and national character does never change!

People sometimes make generalisation of a micro issue, such as recovery of valuables and restricted items during raids, while authorities often describe the broader realities like road accidents and banking scams as isolated incidents.

Such a culture of portraying a surreal reality has evolved not in a single day. Thus the tipping point of widespread recklessness during the pandemic has its own history. One group may blame the other for 'faulty' behaviours -- ranging from exodus to villages to demand for reopening the economy, from desperate attempts to earn a living to prescription for shutting down everything and from vaccine dilemma to indecision in taking moves to contain the virus. Certain chaos creating higher risks of infections may be a summation of multiple behaviour patterns of dozens of parties.

But, how far Bangladeshis are susceptible to behavioural matters of life is scantily evidenced. We don't have research findings either on how to improve public behaviour on sensitive socio-political issues.

Researchers have found that the diversity training programme offered by the majority of the Fortune 500 companies to their employees had "no effect" on their actual behaviour, according to an article titled 'You Can't Train People to Be Less Racist' published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently.

"Instead of trying to influence the attitudes and feelings of individuals, in the hope that they will influence the system within which they operate, we propose focusing on changing the system," noted author Roni Porat. A behavioural science teacher at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he emphasised change in the education system "in a socially fragmented country like Israel, where we frequently hear about new surveys that reveal the depths of hatred and prejudice that exist between the different communities".

Unlike the rogue state or any civil war-torn nation of West Asia, Bangladesh's is a homogeneous society. This country has attained progress where people made efforts like meeting disasters and capturing overseas jobs, or there is a happy marriage between policy support and people's initiatives as reflected in immunisation programmes, apparel exports and expansion of irrigation for growing foods.

However, the Bangladesh people are yet to find a sense of direction on how to get out of the Covid-19 crisis. Unless better education is accepted as the tool to not just change individual fickle-mindedness at any level but also ensure quality and fair competition for national wellbeing, the blame-game will continue.


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