Friday, February 18, 2005

BANGLADESH: And now, BRAC and Grameen...

+ It now remains for the authorities to move quickly to contain the fallout from the explosions in Naogaon and Sirajganj. One need hardly mention here that the failure of the government, whether anyone likes it or not, to deal with crime through nabbing the culprits and bringing them to justice has dented the national image to a very significant extent. It will simply not do for the government or its apologists to try looking for scapegoats as a way of explaining away the growing malaise of crime in the land. The reality is that ours is today a society made increasingly vulnerable through the audacity of criminal elements in hurling bombs at politicians, cultural functions and now the offices of some of the pioneering NGO and development-related bodies. +

And now, BRAC and Grameen...

The bomb attacks on the offices of BRAC in Naogoan and those of Grameen Bank in Sirajganj add a terrible new dimension to the incidents of recurrent bomb and grenade attacks, big or small, in the country. While our preoccupation with politics or the violent nature of it has been patent till now, these attacks on BRAC and Grameen Bank bring before us a whole new manifestation of the criminality around us.

Our worries are therefore of a rather indefinable sort. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that when it is now organisations geared to public welfare coming under attack from bomb makers and bomb throwers, we are quite certain that the peddlers of violence have now decided on a multi-dimensional assault on all good things in the country. The bomb attacks on the BRAC and Grameen Bank offices are a cause of particular worry because of the negative effect the attacks will have on the future operations of these organisations. One of the few positive moves made in Bangladesh over the decades has been the effort, made in their own ways, by these two organisations to contribute to national economic uplift. Together they have initiated development schemes which have surely been beneficial to people in the rural areas, to the extent that their contributions have been noted and celebrated in the world outside our frontiers.

It now remains for the authorities to move quickly to contain the fallout from the explosions in Naogaon and Sirajganj. One need hardly mention here that the failure of the government, whether anyone likes it or not, to deal with crime through nabbing the culprits and bringing them to justice has dented the national image to a very significant extent. It will simply not do for the government or its apologists to try looking for scapegoats as a way of explaining away the growing malaise of crime in the land. The reality is that ours is today a society made increasingly vulnerable through the audacity of criminal elements in hurling bombs at politicians, cultural functions and now the offices of some of the pioneering NGO and development-related bodies.

Unless such crime is checked, through a clear demonstration of firmness and sense of purpose on the part of the authorities, there will be little guarantee of the country’s being able to return to a semblance of order any time soon. And where the attacks on BRAC, a global NGO, and Grameen Bank, known worldwide for its pro-poor uplift programmes, are concerned, a failure to move quickly and sharply in apprehending the elements responsible for the blasts will spell bigger danger in that it may well leave other such bodies open to the possibility of murderous attacks. It has been clear for quite sometime that certain elements, mostly belonging to the ultra-rightwing club, have never felt comfortable with the work of NGOs in rural Bangladesh. Ideas such as those relating to an empowerment of women through creating an enabling environment for them in self-employment and the like have aroused the ire of men with medieval minds. It is time such men were made answerable to the law.

There is a whole requirement of security for development organisations as they carry on with their work in the rural regions. An inability to prevent a recurrence of the Naogaon and Sirajganj incidents can only raise the panic level among NGO workers. That could well call a halt to the good work they have been doing over the years.