A lone warrior in the fight against coronavirus

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership at this moment of crisis has been exemplary 

South Korea had its national election even after the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, while Bangladesh, though insignificant, held a by-election to one of the parliamentary seats in Dhaka. The parliament went into session for a day on April 18 — the briefest in the history of the country, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The commitment to fulfil constitutional obligations of the two countries, even in the time of a global pandemic, is commendable.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s brief address to the parliament contained all the necessary directives.

All human beings are a combination of good and bad qualities. That goes for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina too, but I am deeply grateful to the Almighty that we have her as the prime minister during this time of crisis.

Her best trait is that she is full of courage — which goes up by many folds during crises.

Leading a country during a crisis is nothing like running the administration through spending government revenue in regular times. PM Hasina is well capable of running the country at all times.

She’s aging with time, but is not averse to hard work.

One of her other qualities is her submission to the Almighty. Whoever believes in Allah and leaves their fate to the Almighty is not left empty handed.

I do not know how successful she will be in the fight against coronavirus, as conspirators have not stopped from spreading rumours and running propaganda.

However, it is clear that she has been fighting this war alone. In all of the videoconferences, I noted the ministers and government officials came up with remarks to praise the leadership, but it was only the PM herself who was coming up with well-thought-out opinions and decisions like a leader.

She has not lost hope. The health ministry is not carrying out its responsibilities properly. Rampant corruption within the ministry has been reported in previous times. 

The health care infrastructure of the country is horrible. All the ministers and secretaries seem incompetent, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is taking care of all the little details.

She is giving instructions as well as solutions. Like an expert head of a household, she is taking into account the food ration at home, and what is available at the farms.

She is instructing when to harvest the crops. She is providing farmers in haor areas with equipment to harvest their crops.

It can be said that she is fighting the battle alone with courage as her only companion.

However, coronavirus is not only a problem for Bangladesh, it is a global issue.

The prime minister’s council of ministers for this term is rather weak — this is what everyone says. And the people are apprehensive over the decisions the cabinet might take now.

Suggestions like increasing supply in the money market by printing currency notes have been floated recently, which is nothing but chopping off the head to treat a headache.

There is no supply crunch in the money market, so printing new currency notes is totally unnecessary.

Narendra Modi’s demonetization significantly hindered the development of India, according to eminent economists like Amartya Sen, Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram.

I would request the prime minister to consult with economists before taking any move regarding the economy, as even the smallest decision could leave a major impact.

Germany and Japan destroyed their economies during the Second World War as they flooded their money markets by issuing currency notes. People had to carry loads of cash just to get a haircut.

Measures like this will cause rice prices to shoot up to Tk200 per kilogram! Hence, I would sincerely urge the prime minister not to lose her cool in this time of crisis.

The coronairus pandemic has engulfed the world, and nobody knows when it will end. Some say it will last for four years. Humankind has survived plagues in the past, and I am hopeful that it will survive the coronavirus pandemic as well.

But human civilization will go through drastic changes if the pandemic does continue for four years. We hope that a vaccine can be developed in the meantime.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already rolled out a host of stimulus packages worth almost Tk100,000 crore to cushion the impact of coronavirus. The economy may not come to a standstill, if this three-year packageis properly implemented.

We should prioritize agriculture and start thinking about how workers in this sector can continue to work. Exports and imports remain halted, as borders are closed. 

If this lockdown continues, we may eventually see a shortage of daily essentials.

There have been reports of aid thefts. Even if such cases are few, they should be dealt with strictly in an effort to stop the menace.

Misappropriation of aid materials is not a good sign, and it will create anarchy in the country. Aid efforts should be properly overseen so that they can reach those in need.

The country may see a famine more horrible than the Great Bengal Famine of 1770 if the current situation is not handled with patience. Almost half of the population of the then-Bengal region died during that famine. Official records state that three million people died during the 1943 Bengal famine during the Second World War.

I appeal to the citizens of Bangladesh to save the country from mayhem and urge the government to fulfil their duties responsibly in this time of crisis. I would also request Obaidul Quader and Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir to refrain from making unnecessary remarks during this turbulent time and create controversies.

To the prime minister, I would say it may not be appropriate that only the government and the ruling party handle everything. It’s about time to launch a united effort with all the parties who have representation in parliament.

The nation would greatly benefit if the prime minister pays attention to this issue.

Bakhtiar Uddin Chowdhury is a political analyst and columnist.