April 16, 2018.
A group of robbers entered Kapona village of Bishombopur thana in Sunamganj district. Realizing that robbers have entered the village, a villager dialed 999 for emergency help. One team of police immediately notified the local police stations. They, in turn, made their move and arrested 11 robbers of an inter-district group from that village. Although three fled, most were captured by the police.
On April 17, 2018, police officials arrested an alleged rapist in Kulaura upazilla in Moulvibazaar district after receiving a call. Another report has been published on an online news portal that the police have arrested another alleged rapist after receiving a call from the victim’s brother.
Don’t you feel encouraged and hopeful, when you hear these in the news amid the stress-mired social environment of ours? I do.
These are just a few of the cases reported in the media when our police force arrived at the crime spot after they received distress calls on 999. I’ve also heard that not only could they prevent many vicious crimes, but also, they could stop various kinds of illegal practices across the country. I’ve also heard people calling 999 to seek for help from the police in order to stop night-time real estate construction in the neighbourhoods.
This 24-hour service is being monitored and managed by our police force.
The 999 number is completely toll free, and we do not need to pay a fee to use it. Any Bangladeshi can call 999 when he or she witnesses a crime, fears for his or her life, is hurt or injured, is in danger, when a fire breaks out, or when someone is in urgent need of an ambulance or medical service.
To my mind, it’s indeed a great step towards serving the people across the country.
There has been another development recently in serving the people through the help of call centres.
A new helpline, 333, has been inaugurated in order to provide citizens with information on procedures of receiving public services. Anyone can dial the helpline 333 from anywhere, and receive information about government offices, officers, tourist attractions, the 64 districts, and get different social problems redressed.
The objective of this is to reach out to rural citizens via government services.
There are confirmed reports that many underage girls across Bangladesh could prevent their parents from getting them married off forcefully. We have been trying to prevent child marriage for a long time, but the information of such weddings about to take place wasn’t available to local or national authorities. The 333 service has brought people closer to the government in solving various social menaces.
Helplines such as 999 and 333 could truly connect officials as well as politicians with people who they are meant to serve
It’s noticeable that helplines such as 999 and 333 could truly connect officials as well as politicians with people who they are meant to serve. These initiatives could also inspire the service providers to do more and realize that that they have an obligation to serve the people.
I wholeheartedly thank the government, especially our ICT adviser, for initiating these services and at the same time, I urge him to introduce some more such services in agricultural development and in disaster-time responses.
Bangladesh is, indeed, a surprise to the global community in terms of agricultural output. The farmers of this small land have shown the world what they can do with their hard work and willpower.
There have also been various kinds of agricultural innovations over the years in this country. Now, it is time to impart the agro-professionals’ wisdom -- knowledge gathered over the years -- to our farmers.
Some of the work is already being done by the government offices as well as by some NGOs. It’s possible to weave all the work together that is being done for the farmers through a single approach, where they can avail any kind of farming or weather-related information.
I believe this will provide another boost to our agriculture.
At the same time, I urge the government to bring all disaster-time responders under one umbrella by using digital means. Bangladesh has come a long way in terms of saving lives during cyclones and storms in the coastal areas.
However, not much has been done in other forms of disasters which still plague our lives across the country.
Digitizing the entire system -- from preparedness to responding to disasters -- could make a great difference in saving more lives across the country. Digitizing agricultural services and disaster responses would change our society further.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.