Let us remain compassionate
Coronavirus scare has gripped the world with billions locked inside homes. But just staying inside does not end the predicament because the fallout of the virus will cripple millions of businesses, force companies to shut down, leaving countless people faced with financial travails.
In the Bangladesh context, the consequences of coronavirus may affect a large number of people who earn their earnings on a daily basis.
Just take a rickshaw-puller for instance -- a rickshaw-puller depends on a steady flow of passengers to make an earning and, while people are locked in their homes, very few are actually using the three-wheelers.
Those stepping outside are preferring to walk because of fear of handling used money while paying the rickshaw fare.
The same goes for a street-side hawker since buying and selling will involve the transaction of notes, people are wary about purchasing anything from them.
On the other hand, how about the young university student who earns by working as a private tutor? Even if parents allow a tutor to come to their home to give lessons there is no guarantee that the person will be paid his/her salary on time because the working guardians may not receive their wages on the stipulated dates.
We are looking at a cycle of suffering that affects almost all middle-class people. Yet, those who can afford to be compassionate and generous are coming forward with gestures which show that even in this mercenary age, the humane side of us has not been taken over completely by predatory instincts.
A law college in the city reportedly waived the monthly fee of students, saying in a notice that students should instead try to use that money to help those who are less privileged and cannot buy essentials.
The notice went viral and received widespread accolades. Reportedly, a landlady in the city also excused rent for her tenants in this time of crisis.
Meanwhile, Marks and Spencer, Bangladesh, with support from BUET, is manufacturing Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, for doctors. Reportedly, these will be distributed free of cost. As per the report, around 400,00 pieces will be ready within 10-12 days.
There are countless others who are showing compassion in these tough times, though the termination of 23 media personnel from a regular TV channel indicates that corporate sharks are still active with ruthless indifference.
In such times, large companies should pay their employees first because the salary of one person is linked to the livelihoods of several others.
Let’s also be a little considerate while buying hand sanitizers or hand wash -- there are others who also want to be safe. In a frenzy to buy hand sanitizers, many have wiped out full stocks of a shop, refusing to listen to the seller.
In Elephant Road, very few stores now have sanitizers and the storekeepers said that some even threatened them of dire consequences if they did not get the full stock. This sort of behaviour only degrades us into vicious beasts.
Since there is a dearth of sanitizers, the ward commissions can take up a ward-based drive to ensure that every house in that specific area has the required number of sanitizers and other hand washing materials.
Minimize acts that appear callous
We often get involved in acts that may appear insensitive and downright selfish. In this critical period, one should think twice before posting something on social media. The easiest question to ask oneself: If I post this, will it appear flippant or facetious?
A few days ago, some expatriates returning from overseas raised a pandemonium when they were told of quarantine and a video clip of a man shouting expletives in horrible English going viral.
Too many expatriates were allowed to go home without a proper quarantine period and as many people have told me, they are shopping in the markets, getting married, moving about freely.
A staffer of DMCH told me that in his village a person who came from Italy was staying with his wife, was later taken sick with the wife in critical condition.
Until the virus is contained, all of us need to be a little cautious about how we act.
Coronavirus has brought out the humane side in many and these acts should inspire others. There is a service in town which offers food for Tk1 and they have started to take the food to people who cannot go outside or have financial constraints. This is indeed laudable.
As a humane gesture, many can also help out the people working for them to buy essentials for their families. I’m sure, to give lentils, rice, and vegetables for a family of five for a day will cost less than two cups of coffee at an upmarket fast food outlet.
Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.