In times of pervasive woes and bad news, heartening scenes are also found in abundance. These spectacles can be likened to the glimpses of sun in a sky overcast with dark cloud. In the Covid-19-hit Bangladesh, inspiring views in different sectors of society have lately been found on the increase.
These views are dominated by pure youth energy. The country offers little opportunities to the young to demonstrate their inherent virtues. A distinctive one of these qualities is the irresistible urge to stand by those who suffer silently. These people become bewildered in the times of cataclysmic disasters. With the administrations engaged in coping with bigger national challenges, many voiceless people are seen being left out from state-organised bailout measures. It is hunger which affects them most.
Groups of young people engaged in distribution of prepared food and materials required for cooking meals have lately become a common sight. They represent large organisations.But the involvement of educated youths in relief operations in small numbers emerges as a unique feature.The youths are conducting their relief works in different parts of the country. The aspect that distinguishes them specially is their impassioned willingness to stand by the marginalised hungry people. Most of them are without regular income and depend on their parents for 'pocket money'. Many of them are from well-to-do families. In operating the relief operations, these groups take loans and spend their small savings.
Unlike the Dhaka-based young people operating on behalf of large NGOs and charities, the smaller groups target both the ultra-poor and lower middle-class people. Their focus on the latter has been prompted by two factors. The Chattogram-based charity called 'Pashey Thaki' looks for destitute people throughout the port city. As their initiative is humble and based on small funds, they cannot reach the people they long to. However, the nine members of 'Pashey Thaki' are trying to expand their relief distribution network.
In the meantime, a voluntary organisation comprising mainly youths, in Savar near Dhaka, target the low-income urban families. It's called 'Sahomormita Foundation'. The social segments it has focused on also include lower-middle class families. Many of them are passing their days without sufficient food. Thanks to their being moderately educated with fixed income-flow, though meagre, they are classified as lower middle-class. Due to this fact, these families cannot stand on queues behind relief distributing trucks. Moreover, they are far from being used to engaging in squabbles and jostling. The members of 'Sahomormita Foundation' locate these status-conscious but nearly starving families, and hand them the relief goods. The Savar-based organisation began their relief activities a fortnight ago. The platform has emerged as a unique one, as its operation is not confined to Savar only. It has a plan to fan out across the other parts of the country. Till April 15, its relief goods reached families living in Dhaka, Cumilla, Rajshahi, and Chattogram.
It fills people with optimism as they learn that many youths across the country have taken preparations to launch their humanitarian campaigns. Unlike many countries, the youths of Bangladesh can feel proud of many achievements. One of those is their being blessed with the legacy of standing by the victims of natural calamities. The memories of these activities have not faded away. In the last five decades, university and college-going students in Dhaka used to be seen invariably marching the city streets collecting money and relief materials from the general people.
Following every major cyclone and flood, Dhaka and other major cities would offer these common views. It's sad to note that the younger generations these days are least interested in relief operations. The corona pandemic is playing havoc with every vital sector of life. But it has also brought out the urge to feed the hungry that lay latent in the youths. In spite of the government authorities' continuous efforts to help out the hunger victims, the cooperation extended by the youths in their areas is adding to the strength of the relief distribution efforts. At the moment a number of youth organisations are fully prepared to begin their charity work. Lockdownnow in force at times prevents them from collecting relief goods from the wholesalers' points. Yet a lot of them are found carrying out their humanitarian operations, in extreme cases, with permission obtained from the authorities concerned.
Sylhet is now under a lockdown order. The youth force couldn't reach the people in need of help in the city. In this situation, a combine of the city's theatre groups titled Sylhet Sammilito Natya Parishad shouldered the responsibility to take succour to the hungry. Dressed in special protective gear and carrying relief boxes on their motorbikes, the theatre activists began reaching foods to the localities inhabited by the ultra-poor.
In the rural areas the scene is different. The culture of helping the poor households by forming volunteers' groups and putting in collective efforts hasn't yet taken root there. But lately the locally based college and school-going students are increasingly coming forward to extend a helping hand to farmers in the crop fields. This year many farmhands cannot be employed to the Boro paddy harvesting due to their illness from Covid-19. This grim development, never seen before, has not escaped the notice of a group of students at a village in Brahmanbaria. Last week youths fired by the spirit of helping the small landholders in need of harvesting their crop were seen in the paddy fields working along with the seasoned farm labourers.
The spectacle was heartening, besides providing a proof of the selflessness nurtured by the country's young generation. The scene of the Boro paddy harvesting in the Brahmanbaria village by town-based youths is extraordinary. It might remind many of the spectacles found in countries after a great revolution. It is pure patriotism that drives the youths of such countries to work shoulder-to-shoulder with farmers. In the 21st century Bangladesh, the act represents an all-out battle against an elusive enemy.
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