2018 was a challenging year for Bangladesh
The entirety of 2018 has been much more than just hate, ignorance, and greed -- it has been a learning curve where we Bangladeshis have faced new challenges as a nation, as a society, and as individuals.
We will be carrying every part of 2018 with us just as we did with 2017 and the years before -- Bangladesh made room for more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar along with aid coming from Australia, US, Canada, and the EU.
Settling in, this large population in refugee camps has been a great challenge for Bangladesh; though the capital has not seen what Cox’s Bazar or the borders of Bangladesh faced. But as news travelled, “Rohingya” became a hot topic for everyone. But, to this day, I hear people using the identity of the Rohingya as a slur.
Yes, we have experienced a population surge due to this ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine state, and we should worry about the extremism that may come out of their suffering. But imagine being kicked out of your homeland; imagine running for your life knowing most doors are closed.
These people have suffered more than most of us -- raped, families killed, and stripped away from every bit of what you once called home.
As we welcome 2019, let us accept the changes that Bangladesh may face, and let us be a little compassionate towards these people, because it doesn’t matter whether the Rohingya were born in Bangladesh or that they don’t want to go back any more -- they are men, women, and children who will be a part of this world’s future and are still being deprived of their rights.
Quota reform sees no progress
Speaking of rights and opportunities, the quota system of Bangladesh had given priority to families of minorities and freedom fighters, and disabled ones, but, administrative officials took advantage of this quota system, selling seats for money, which is not only a crime, but also has had a negative impact on the rising workforce of this country.
It has deprived candidates of entering the public sector and universities.
Along with the humanitarian crisis, a great number of protests broke out in several parts of the nation. Their demands were simple -- to review and set up a new quota system. During the protests, hundreds were injured when civilians clashed with police officials.
In the end, nothing really came out of all the protests. Only empty promises. I wonder if the protests, even the most organized ones, have had any impact on our country.
Roads need better supervision
The students of schools and colleges, with their peaceful protests for road safety, had seen a couple of successful days, but how long can a 16-year-old maintain the traffic laws when most of the citizens don’t have proper knowledge of them?
Even when informed, they turn their heads the other way -- who cares if you think your life is not worth wasting three or four minutes more because you think you have such a busy schedule which restricts you from taking the foot-over bridge?
Just because bus owners don’t move about in their own buses doesn’t give them the right to make them with low-quality material, with little to no leg room for the passengers, hire people who are not old enough to drive buses, people who don’t have the slightest clue about the traffic laws of this country.
Drivers don’t care about the passengers, it’s just numbers to them, and passengers only care about convenience -- knowing that there are assigned bus stands all over Dhaka city, everyone, including government officials and police, stop the buses in the middle of a road, avoiding a five-minute walk to the station.
Nothing really changed after all the protests and demands for justice; what was hoped to be fruitful became just another agenda -- the era of fake news.
Women on the rise
But what isn’t fake: Bangladesh women’s sports is on the rise, and it is still rising.
Among many achievements, Bangladesh women cricketers made headlines in June 2018 for defeating six-time champions India in the final of the Asia Cup T20I 2018 in Kuala Lumpur.
This is the right time to bring them on the platform and have further developments in women’s sports to empower women -- this will bring opportunities for all girls to follow their dreams in sports whether it be volleyball, basketball, football, or cricket.
The year 2019 will have its ups and downs, but it is up to us to make sure our country moves to a better future. The 11th parliamentary elections are now over, the ruling party will surely try its best to bring development in Bangladesh.
In order for Bangladesh to go forward, we need to remove corruption from its roots, have safer roads and transport, more opportunities for women, and a proper education system that can shape the minds of the youths of this country to become better humans.
Tasneem Kibria Orpa is part of Dhaka Tribune’s Op-Ed and Editorial team.