The pathetic incident a few weeks ago in Narayaganj should be an eye-opener for all, especially government officials and journalists. Irresponsible behaviour of some people caused an undue humiliation to a 65-year-old man socially. The man, who owned two tin-shed rooms on the roof of a four-storey building, called 333 to get some food relief.
To his utter surprise, he was penalised for seeking aid as the officials thought he was the owner of the four-storey building and financially sound.
Instead of finding out whether he was the owner of the building, the NarayanganjSadarUpazilaNirbahi Officer (UNO) ordered him to provide food aid to 100 needy people as a penalty. Local journalists also jumped on the bandwagon and filed stories based on the UNO's briefing. They did not bother to verify the story independently. The central desks of the news outlets also didn't feel the necessity of cross-checking the incident.
Humiliated and afraid of facing imprisonment, the man borrowed money from others and arranged 100 bags of food as directed by the UNO. The UNO and other officials and the local union Parishad (UP)member also distributed the foods. Fortunately, when the newsmen went there for follow-up story and talked to the man and other people, they found that the man was a victim of injustice.
The UP member misled the UNO by informing her that the man was not eligible for food assistance. The UP member earlier also threatened the aged man for seeking aid by calling 333. Following the news reports, the district administration in Narayanganj had formed a probe committee and found that the UNO had committed a blunder. The administration also ordered the UNO to reimburse the fund to the victim.
The whole incident reflects the extent of irresponsibility and callousness among a section of government officials and journalists. If a UNO and her team couldn't find out the eligibility of an aid seeker even after visiting the spot, how will they deal with any critical case? Some may also question how many times she previously delivered the wrong verdict, causing undue suffering to ordinary people.
Humiliating the ordinary citizens has become a practice on the part of a section of field-level government officials. Last year, an assistant commissioner (Land) and executive magistrate in Manirampur, Jashore.compelled a few elderly men to hold their ears in public as punishment for not wearing masks. She also took photos of the incident and posted on her Facebook page. Following outrage in the media, the UNO of Manirampur, however, personally apologised to the elderly men. In the current incident, the UNO of Narayanganj is, however, yet to seek an apology.
The role of UP member is also very objectionable. It is he who exercised his power and played a critical role in humiliating the elderly man. The member thought that he was the sole authority to allocate any food aid and took the matter personally.
Finally, the journalists could have behaved with due responsibility and checked the facts before despatching any report. Had they done the job of fact-checking properly and taken some efforts, they could have unveiled the real story on the very first day. Thus, they could have played a vital role in minimising the elderly man's humiliation and rather forced the local administration to take corrective measures immediately.