The Cabinet Division is truly conscious of something called self-esteem. That there are VIPs who need special favours in this people’s republic is something we very conveniently had forgotten, hadn’t we?
Yes, we did wage a war for liberty. We did send our boys from our villages and towns -- and they were part of the poor and middle classes -- to the war.
They came back with the laurels which speak of victory. Our leaders informed us that ours was to be a country where the masses would matter, where elitism would be no more.
That was very long ago.
Those men of wisdom who made us dream of freedom and then led us to liberation are all dead.
The boys who turned into guerrillas and sent the enemy packing have grown old, and many of them have died.
A very large number of those who live, watch in despair and unceasing poverty the many ways in which the old dreams have been driven from our courtyards, thanks to the pernicious growth of bourgeois capitalism.
Yes, that is not the way things should have happened. Didn’t Bangabandhu have our bureaucrats go red in the face when he asked them to step out of their spick-and-span trousers and get into shorts, the better to lend a hand to our peasants in the fields and our workers in the factories and so earn their bread and butter?
Didn’t Tajuddin Ahmad enlighten us on the healthy politics known as socialism, a way of life he promised would underpin our collective destiny?
All that was long, long ago.
The Cabinet Division will not remember those times. Life for us and with it the world around us has changed.
We have had two military dictators making a mess of our lives and our idealism. We have had politicians supplanted by superannuated civilian bureaucrats and retired military officers in parliament.
The idea is outlandish. It is puerile. It is outrageous. It is obscene
Time was when we could stand on the pavements in long queues to see our ministers and our presidents go by.
They waved at us and we waved back at them. It was the age of transparency, in that very real sense of the meaning. But, as the men in and around the Cabinet Division will tell you in no uncertain terms, times have changed, perhaps perspectives too have changed.
In a land where robber barons have the upper hand, and where education has ceased to be, where politics is as good as dead, it is time for our VIPs to rise and lead themselves out of the morass, through lanes specially earmarked for them on our clogged streets. Whoever said apartheid was dead, class consciousness was memory?
It is perfectly in order for ambulance and fire service units to be accorded road facilities which will make their work easier.
But VIPs? In a poverty-stricken country (despite all those GDP figures regularly dished out), where there are yet people who lead lives along the edge, on the very margins of society, where have these VIPs emerged from?
Yes, of course, they live in ivory towers of their own, unwilling to connect with the very masses whose taxes give them the pomposity they so crave.
But don’t you spot something of the parasitic here? Think of the hundreds of secretaries, full and additional and joint and deputy, and you know who all those VIPs are.
Think of all those diplomats we send abroad, most of whom are uniquely unqualified to speak for the country in the councils of the world.
Think of our ministers and our parliamentarians we do not see as they go by, for their expensive vehicles are conveniently draped in tinted glass.
We are the huddled masses who wait long hours on the road for the traffic chaos to lift. We wait and watch in fearful silence many of our VIPs bravely taking to the wrong side of the road because they have onerous responsibilities to carry out for the country. They break the law and the law enforcers dare not take them to task.
In a land where connections matter, a VIP can make or break you. Why take risks?
Now those VIPs have, in the infinity of their wisdom, asked the Roads and Highways Division to mark off lanes along our roads for their vehicles to go through. Yes, the idea is outlandish. It is puerile. It is outrageous. It is obscene.
On top of everything, it is a joke. God knows how much we are in need of humour in our lives and, lo and behold! The Cabinet Division comes forth with a crude version of it.
Haven’t you noticed that the Cabinet Division has not spoken of streamlining the roads to make things easier for citizens?
Doesn’t it worry you that it has had little time to dwell on the rising prices of food?
Don’t you see how it stays away from informing the nation on what the government means to do about all these scandals in education and in the banking sector?
VIPs? In this People’s Republic of Bangladesh, to give life to which three million of our compatriots lost their lives? Give us a break, will you?
Syed Badrul Ahsan is a journalist.