- Published on Saturday, 21 March 2015 17:59
Since being voted back to power in January 2014, the country continued its march of progress in almost all sectors of economic and human development under the Awami League government.
However, rather than approaching the people peacefully and partnering in the country’s development as a responsible political party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) along with its 20-Party Alliance (notably Jamaat E Islami Bangladesh) has once again unleashed their signature tactics of terror in the name of political agitation. The victims of these terrorist acts have been primarily the ordinary people of Bangladesh, who have nothing to do with politics.
Since January 4th 2014, BNP-Jamaat have been employing their signature tactics of terror which have been used since February of 2013: Attacking passenger buses and setting people alight with petrol bombs and Molotov cocktails; attacking the police; torching trucks and other vehicles containing necessary provisions like food; sabotaging rail networks resulting in the uprooting of trains, killing and hurting passengers. Apart from the obvious human costs, country is suffering immense losses in economic and academic terms as well.
Human Costs of Violence
Since the current spate of blockades and strikes called by BNP-Jamaat started from 4th January 2015, till 21st March, 94 people have been killed. Of them: 68 have been killed directly by BNP-Jamaat arson attacks through petrol bombs or fire. More than 1762 people have been injured, including with severe burn injuries and physical mental, 813 vehicles (including passenger buses, trucks, mini-vans, private cars etc) have been torched and 659 vehicles have been vandalized. Seventeen (17) incidents of railway sabotage took place, resulting in derailment of trains, subsequently killing and injuring passengers. Waterways are also been terrorized as 8 launches have been put on fire.
One only needs to visit the Burn Unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) to see the sheer barbarity of these attacks. Stretched beyond capacity, the hospital is struggling to cope with the daily influx of patients brought in with medium to third degree burn injuries, directly caused by petrol bombs or arson by other means courtesy of BNP-Jamaat activists. From December 28th onwards, more than hundred burn victims have been brought in this unit for treatment for incidents of violence directly resulting from BNP-Jamaat blockade. At this moment, hundreds of people are receiving healthcare (including four women and one child), of which some are actually fighting for their dear lives. Around the country, 505 people have faced arson attack by the BNP-Jamaat terrorists.
Economic Costs of Blockades and Strikes
According to the top trade body of the capital, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI), in each day of the blockade, the economy is bleeding around US$ 770 million. Bangladesh’s top earning garment sector is losing around US$ 51 million per day, with more than US$ 800 million losses so far. Losses suffered so far by BNP-Jamaat blockades and/or strikes by other leading sectors include: US$ 32.8 million by the poultry sector; more than US$ 1 billion by shopkeepers; around US$ 513 million by the agriculture sector; around US$ 360 million by the tourism sector; around US$ 360 million by the transport sector etc. Around 2.6 million small traders are facing the brunt of the economic inactivity with around US$ 77 million in daily losses.
Apart from the economic losses suffered as a result of lost profits by each sector, there is immense human costs as well, as hundreds of thousands of day labourers, who are paid on a daily basis, are losing on daily earnings in each such sector. For instance, the commercial road transport sector’s around 200,000 vehicles are grounded as a result of strikes and blockades. This makes the 2 million people employed in this sector redundant during inactivity.
Other than these, a lot of losses are being incurred by some sectors that cannot be easily quantified; rather their short-term and long-term affects can be outlined. For instance, most of the over 40 million primary and high school students are feeling helpless at the beginning of their new academic year, as since the start of the year, BNP-Jamaat’s disruptive activities have prevented them from attending classes. Even those schools that are open are witnessing low students turnout as fearing violence on the streets, guardians do not send their children to schools. Teachers of different schools say they would be in trouble to complete the syllabus if the blockade prolongs.The political unrest is taking a heavy toll also on the English medium school students.The O-level and A-level students are taking a huge risk to take their January session exams amid the blockade. Higher education students are also equally dampening. Many are missing classes and tutorials.Also in panic and confusion are some one million SSC candidates whose exams begin on February 2.