Bangladesh: A habitat of a strange people-3

A synopsis of what Bangladesh got from her leaders

 
Many Bangladeshis who take up menial jobs in distant lands in order to support their families back home often become victims of their employers. Even after being subjected continually to brutal treatments, especially by their Middle Eastern employers, who are infamous for their intolerance and violation of all human rights, most Bangladeshi expatriates cling to their jobs, as quitting them and returning to Bangladesh are recipes, which can destroy their and their families’ well-being for good.

Female workers from Bangladesh fare worst with their employers in the Middle East than their male counterparts. They are not only used as domestic slaves, many of them also become victims of their male masters’ sexual lusts. Yet, many Bangladeshi women are not afraid to brave such hazards, for, being physically and sexually exploited by their Middle Eastern masters is preferable to them to dying of hunger in the beloved country of their birth.

What I have stated above is not a secret; even the Middle Eastern Medias do not hesitate in pointing out the behavior of some of their own people. Here is a report that appeared in the Arab News of July 24, 2004 for readers to read:

“What a human rights organization said about the abusive treatment of laborers in Saudi Arabia deserves contemplation and appreciation, regardless of the fact that some news media limited themselves to mentioning only Saudi Arabia though the situation and problem are similar in other countries in the region.

Even though the report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch released on July 15 may be unacceptable to some here in the Kingdom, especially among influential classes, we all must take notice and take a stand.

The trade in foreign servants and laborers has reached a stage almost equivalent to slavery. The slave trade originates in many cases in expatriate worker’s home countries where unscrupulous individuals collect huge amounts of money from poor job seekers in exchange for a job and work visa.

In the Kingdom, similar “slave trade” companies collect such large sums of money from the imported laborer that nothing is left for him. These poor people have come to Saudi Arabia in search of the means to provide the daily bread for their families back home. But they are often left struggling for survival and remain at the mercy of their employer.

The stories are horrific and embarrassing, detailing the transformation of those who came as laborers into beggars on the streets, jobless and with no means for a living. Some are fortunate enough to collect a hundred dollars a month, a pathetic amount for most of us, but to the desperately poor, food for their loved ones.”

Readers need to be reminded that the above report does not speak of sexual abuse of the female slaves, and of the employment of young children for use in camel races.

A reader who reads newspapers must know that the Arabs are very fond of camel racing, on which they stake huge amount of money. In order to ensure win for their camels, they tie up young children to the camels’ backs; when the children scream in fear, camels run faster, thus increasing the chances of their win.

Though many innocent children help the camels win, but in so doing, many of them end up losing their own lives. To the God-fearing Arabs, the loss of lives by the innocent young children is not a big deal; what matters most to them is the big win they bring to them at the cost of their own lives!

Though some of the Arab governments are reported to have taken steps to ban the use of young children as “baits” in camel races of their countries, yet this practice is thought to be rampant in some of the remote areas of the Middle East. When God would condescend to spare the lives of the helpless children is something that only He knows; only thing that I can say at this stage of our human history is this: despite trying His best to turn His “selected people, into humans, He has failed to achieve His desired goal. He would need to send another Prophet to them, and only, perhaps, then, all of His selected people would know how they should respect the lives of those children, men and women, who come to them not in search of death, but bread.

If God is reluctant to do the above, in that case, He should send bread ‘from heaven’ for the hungry millions, as He had done in the time of Jesus Christ (cf. Quran; 5:115 to 118). Is He willing to do either of the two in order to prove that He is really kind and caring for the people He claims He is the creator of?

The inhuman sufferings the Bangladeshi expatriates endure in foreign lands do not end with their return to their motherland. Even though most knowledgeable Bangladeshis would acknowledge that they are the number one source of their country’s foreign exchange earnings, yet these people are not only treated as dirt by the country’s airport officials, they are also mistreated, harassed and cheated by others at every step they take on stepping upon their country’s sacred soil.

Bangladesh’s leaders are no different than their so-called ‘public servants.’ To them, lives of the poor people have no importance or value.

In the early part of 1990, the coastal belt of Chittagong was hit hard by a devastating cyclone and tidal surge. Thousands of people lost their lives. Others who had survived their God’s wrath found themselves in a different world, with their homes, personal belongings and cattle-head washed into the Bay of Bengal.

I owned a Container Yard at the Katghor area of the city. Cyclone and the tidal surge had turned it into a wreck. Strong cyclonic wind and high waves of the water surge carried to, and deposited a few containers at locations that were almost two miles away from my container yard.

Greatly perturbed by the destructions caused by God’s anger, my wife and I were on our way to the Container Yard. The Patenga Diversion Road was almost deserted. All of a sudden, we saw a motorcade proceeding to the city from the Katghor direction. In one of the vehicles was riding Begum Khaleda Zia. We were able to see her face, when her vehicle, with its windows rolled down, passed by our stationary car.

As the convoy of cars was moving, a man, only with a torn lungi on his body, decided to cross the road. No sooner had he reached its centre, the front car of the convoy knocked him down. While the badly injured man was twisting and squirming with pain by the side of the road, all the vehicles in the motorcade passed by him without even stopping for a while to find out what had happened to that ill-fated man.  

Before we could make a U-turn to attend to the injured man, another car (unrelated to the motorcade) stopped at the spot where the injured man was lying; its riders lifted him onto its backseat and sped away.  

Whether or not the man survived, or what had happened to his dead body is not known to me. Perhaps, oblivion was his fate: It erased out his existence without letting the world ever know how he had become a victim of a group of people he must have taken, in his lifetime, to be his protector and savior!

My wife and I spent almost a week in extreme anguish. In the middle of the nights, the incident came back to our mind, and replayed itself again and again. How painful it was, only a sufferer can say. For those who are used to such happenings in their lives, it was a trifling matter that requires neither a recollection nor a narration anytime in their lives. After all, to them, the lives of such a people, as the one killed by Begum Khaleda’s motorcade, are insignificant. Why should they bother about them, especially, when they fall victim to a VIP’s motorcade?

Bangladeshi people’s attitude towards their nations’ life-sustainers reminds me of a statement that a very good and respected friend of mine had once made during one of our philosophical discussions. He held the view that a nation that does not know how to value its own wealth, it does not deserve to have or be given any wealth. Give a gold mine to an ignorant nation, and it would end up destroying it in a short time. An example might be appropriate here.

The only natural resource that Bangladesh is known, as of now, to have is the Gas. See how the people of the country have been squandering this rare wealth of theirs with no concern for future:

City homes to which gas is being supplied through pipelines do not have meters to record its consumption by the homeowners. Taking advantage of this lacking, most housewives do not turn off the burners of their cookers, as doing this would mean ‘wasting’ a number of matchsticks each day. To them, a few matchsticks are more valuable than the gas, which they keep on burning even when they are not using them for any useful purposes.

Do a callous and irresponsible people, as the Bangladeshis are, deserve a gold mine?

To the nation of us, the Bengalees, our wage-earners are like a goldmine. It is their hard toil and sacrifices that had been keeping the wheels of the country’s economic engine moving. Without them, the country would have gone down the drain a long time ago. Yet, most of the Bangladeshi kormo-kartas treat them like dirt!

How ungrateful a nation could be to stoop so low as to enable it to forget the good deeds of some of its own people? Do the people of Bangladesh deserve to be respected by others, when they do not know how to respect those who are sustaining their and their nation’s life?

August 20, 2004

Mohammad Asghar writes from USA. 

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