Bitter Truth: Cleaning up the rot in politics

Bitter Truth: Cleaning up the rot in politics

There was a time when in every walk of life there were men and women who rose to dizzying heights of professional excellence, yet led austere lives. Politics was a blessed vocation. Till 1970, some of the best minds were drawn to politics. They had no goal except fighting for freedom and economic emancipation of the people and reaped no reward except imprisonment.

In every part of Bangladesh, one could point to a freedom fighter, a trade union leader, a communist, or even a social worker who lived frugally and died penniless. Many of them belonged to political parties and were regarded as political icons, and their portraits adorned many homes.

Consider the sea-change that has taken place in the political landscape in just 40 years. Politics is no longer considered a service, but has become an industry. We not only have full-time politicians, we also have full time student leaders who are married. They don’t hold full or part-time jobs or own businesses or practice professions. They enjoy commissions from business magnates and corrupt persons.

Being full-time in politics breeds an attitude towards money, power, the law and fellow humans. A full-timer with no known source of income devises ways and means to make others feel obliged to give him money. There are hundreds who live off money provided by far-sighted and clever businessmen.

It is because of the politicians’ attitude of bending the law to suit their own convenience that the country now bleeds. In consequence, callousness, indifference and connivance — or rather defiance of law — have become a Bangladeshi trademark. Even those elected to the Parliament are engaged in debates over issues that are so trivial and have hardly any relevance to the problems the country is facing.

Analysing the dismal trend, one would see that the present unhealthy situation is the handiwork of these self-serving politicians who, in their greed for money and perpetuation of power, have put the whole country on hold.

Sure enough, we don’t have rule of law. We have rule by law. There are laws but the administration and keepers of the state are above the law. Among the full-time politicians there may be some exceptions, but they are rare. But no democratic society, as we understand it, can do without political parties and politicians.

Corruption is now a buzzword in the country and has sent shockwaves across the world, causing a sharp dip in donor assistance. Politicians must now understand that rhetoric can neither feed the people nor keep the nation marching towards prosperity and stability.

Power and glory ultimately come from the economic muscle, and that is the greatest challenge a sensible government must try to meet. Unless we can imbibe the age-old credo that honesty, hard work and commitment bring rewards, the whole society is doomed to destruction. True, in a society that increasingly covets money over glory, a politician’s job has lost its luster.

The situation prevailing in the country prompts conscious citizens to suggest some guidelines worth being discussed and adopted in the Parliament.

No one should be allowed more than two terms or 10 years as MP, minister, or prime minister. That practice, if enforced by legislation, will help groom a new breed of politicians;

Yearly public disclosure of assets and liabilities of ministers, MPs and party functionaries, including assets and liabilities of spouses, children and grand-children;

Prosecution for not filing income tax returns, followed by electoral disqualification.

Unless we can resurrect politics as well as curtail this greed for power, money and influence, our country will be heading towards a catastrophic situation. Already ominous signals are there on the horizon.

Sir Winston Churchill vehemently opposed granting independence to India. He said to the House of Commons in 1946: “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, and freebooters. Not a bottle of water or a loaf of bread will escape taxation, only air will be free and the blood of the hungry millions will be on the head of Atlee (the then prime minister of Britain). They will fight among themselves and India will be lost in political squabbles.”

Forty years after gaining a free Bangladesh, we should reckon how much we have proved ourselves an exception to Churchill’s derogatory comments. Today, the thought looms large in people’s minds as to whether power has been handed over to people unfit to govern the country by men of straw lacking in vision and pragmatism.

The country, from independence till now, has suffered from leadership crisis that ultimately led to a political culture of hatred, greed, sycophancy, animosity, and lust for power and influence. The two groups — politicians and people — are from the same country, but they could well be from different planets. The political scenario as well as ugly manifestation of ideology and aspiration, in total conflict with the spirit of the liberation war, symbolise the gulf between the people and politicians of different hues.

Our leaders failed to target the priorities to be taken up in the face of all challenges. These priorities are educational opportunities for all, containing population explosion, healthcare for all, and creating employment opportunities by setting up industrial bases (mini and macro) and info-tech centres.

The country is now virtually in the doldrums. As the mud flies thick and fast, all manner of subterfuge is in evidence. People have lost faith in politics and government. Unhappily, party spokesmen, including ministers, talk glibly about the achievements made by each of them during their tenure in power when people are struggling for survival, going without food, medicine, clean drinking water and even proper roads in the countryside. They list achievements that would not be considered achievements by anyone with minimum discernment.

For me, the most poignant image on our Independence Day was the sight of barefoot and half-clad children selling the national flag and flowers at road intersections. They work from dawn till late hours at night even on our national holiday, nay a day of national jubilation, just to survive. The political parties must explain why more than 40 Independence Days on, this is still the face of the Bangladeshi child.

People elect the members of the Parliament to speak about their (people’s) sufferings, their need for work and their survival. But the politicians seem to be oblivious to the pledges they made to the people before election. Going by the parliamentarian’s propensity, or rather habit, to skip Parliament sessions, one would presume it was a task of scant significance, stripped of the gravity usually associated in running a country.

On the boycotting of Parliament, citizens feel that it is criminal for the MPs to shirk their constitutional responsibility and obligation towards the people for any reason — inter-party conflict or pre-occupation with business — whatsoever. The people’s representatives should value the enormous amount of money spent on running Parliament, other than the fact that the MPs have pledged to speak about people’s need in the Parliament.

Md. Asadullah Khan | The writer is former teacher of Physics and Controller of Examination, BUET. E-mail :

Link reqeusted by Badiuzzaman Khan | original source

Place your ads here!

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment