The Financial Express


Policymakers must get their priority right

-FE file photo -FE file photo

The big story is that the queues behind the TCB (trading corporation of Bangladesh) trucks are getting longer with every passing day. Stories like this over a period of time no longer draw readers' attention. But stories within a story, some behind-the-scene stories or a few side stories give an insight into the despair, agony, misery and desperation of people remaining on the fringe of urban society. Incidentally, they are mostly uprooted from the country's wider rural settings.

Treated as the faceless multitudes, they are neither aware of their rights nor are they organised to make their demands heard. But each of these individuals has his biological needs, feelings of pain and joys like any other member of society. Counting them as the faceless multitudes is a deception---or even a crime --- on the part of people educated and privileged enough not to be affected by any level of market volatility.

Well placed people in society avoid eye contact with these hapless under class. A social polarisation is taking place silently. Mindless of the plight of the poor, those who can are making the most of the situation in a Shylockian style. How their outrageous profiteering drives are bleeding the helpless poor and lower middle class is none of their concern.

But if one is not particularly heartless and lends one's ear to the individual stories of some belonging to the multitudes, those should cause one's heart melt with empathy. Listen to the mother who accompanied her daughter to school and stood in a queue but before her turn came she had to leave to pick her little one from school. Then she came back to stand with her daughter and this time luck smiled on her. She got the TCB essentials she was looking for.

However, not all are lucky like her. One woman very advanced in age and can only move slowly had to return empty handed and she narrated how she has stood in the line for two consecutive days and still had to return without the TCB goods. Then there is a story of one person who had not enough money to purchase all the five items the TCB truck was selling. The truck would not sell any fewer items he could afford unless he takes all five. So the man also could not avail of the opportunity on offer. A condition like this has to be changed. Many like this man cannot manage the money required for all the items at a time. Another woman left disheartened after a full day's wait for TCB goods was heard to rue over her loss of earning from the day's labour as well. Then at a meeting of the Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, speakers claimed that on procurement of a TCB package, a card holder can save only Tk150. They commented that in the context of today's Bangladesh this amount is not much.

It is not much but for people who earn Tk300-500 a day, this is not negligible too. A family needs more things than the TCB supplies. Of course, at the lower level people cannot afford all the things they require. They forego many of their much needed requirements. Their target is to meet their bare minimum necessities in order to keep their body and soul together.

There is no dearth of essentials and consumer goods in the market. In fact, a whole range of costly luxury items ---most of those imported ---dazzle their eyes. There are customers who never think twice before taking delivery of their choicest articles, forbidden prices notwithstanding. The wretched with starving eyes, on the other hand, give a blank look at the basic essentials they need but have not the money to buy.

Well, the pandemic has exposed their raw sore and vulnerability even further. But they have trained their eyes and mind to adapt to this deprivation for long. Should such an economic order prevail in a country on its way to graduating to a developing nation? Time the policymakers gave a fresh look at the humanitarian disaster society is heading for. National development needs to be redefined with particular emphasis on providing for the poor and the wretched.


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