There is ‘serious lack’ in the government machineryby Shahidul Islam Chowdhury
‘...of proper education, knowledge and sense of respect for people,’ philanthropist Jaoshodhan Pramanick says. ‘Every work, I believe, has relations with these three things—education, knowledge and respect to the people,’ Pramanik, 53, said in an interview with New Age on Tuesday.
You say you are involved in social work. How did you start?
I was involved in farming and business in the past. I worked in plantation at burial sites in Natore district. In 2001, I had taken a small initiative to sensitise common people to protect wild birds. I contacted people in the local civil administration, including members of the police and Ansar VDP. I wrote to many government offices regarding different problems.
I believe, having confidence in people helps a lot. For example, in Natore, a huge number of birds were caught and killed every year. Several hundred thousand birds were sent from the area to other districts, especially capital Dhaka, for commercial purposes. Now this unethical trade has been stopped. The local administration provided huge support to make this initiative a success.
How do you identify problems?
On a daily basis, when I walk or move along the road or when I have to deal with people in public offices.
You said you write to different government offices to resolve problems. I think many people do that. Do you think that the government offices take actions about all the issues raised by common people?
It is true that many people write to the government offices. But they hardly receive a solution to the issues they raise. What I do, in addition to writing, is that I persist, day after day, the authorities concerned to make the changes.
Don’t you require money to run the campaign?
No! Not at all! I work in a different way. I simply sensitise the people who are concerned about the problems, and the rest is done by public money provided by the government, no matter which party is running it. I only felt the necessity for money for my own mobility from one place to another.
Do you have an organized office? Where is it?
I do not believe in the concept of Non-Governmental Organizations. I do not have an organization. I work with help from other generous people, who provide me shelter in the city and allow me to use their workplace to prepare papers. I go to an office concerned, draw attention of the officers concerned to Article 7 (1) of the national Constitution, which reads, ‘All powers in the Republic belong to the people, and their exercise on behalf of the people shall be effected only under, and by the authority of, this Constitution’. There is hardly any government officer who can deny it.
Why are you against the concept of ‘NGO’s?
Most of the NGO’s do not work. Many NGO’s plunder money that they receive from public and donors’ funds in the name of completing some project. I am against the idea of doing social work after registering as an NGO, and maintaining a bank account in order to receive funds. I do not have a bank account.
From where do you get the funds which you need in order to accomplish a task that you initiate?
It is quite simple. I sensitise government offices to use public funds for people’s causes through a governmental procedure. It is also important to remember that we, the people, at times, need to pursue the government office personnel so that they get the work done instead of ignoring them, which they often try to do.
Many NGO’s work to, as they say, ‘protect environment and wildlife’? How do you see their activities?
The highest level of plundering money was called ‘hori-loot’ in the (undivided) India. I prefer to use the term here to address the usage of public funds by ‘partisan and name-only NGOs’ in the name of protecting the environment and wildlife.
How do you see collaboration between the government offices and the NGO’s?
Yes, there are examples of collaboration between the government offices and the NGOs. The government, for example, has appointed someone who happens to be nothing but an NGO-person, as governor of the Central Bank.
Do you see any outcome of efforts taken by persons like you?
One major outcome of my efforts that I see is the awareness that has been generated among the people. They are getting more conscious about protecting the environment and wildlife.
Can awareness of this issue be enough to make people participate in activities to protect the environment and the wildlife?
Certainly. For example, there were only a few doves in Dhaka several years ago. Today you would see many doves in different parts of the city.
What troubles do you face in dealing with the issues, especially with the government machinery?
I found The Ministry of Environment and Forest to be very slow in taking steps, although I believe that many problems can be resolved with small initiatives by a department concerned. However, inter-ministerial coordination is also required in many cases. My task is to draw attention of the government to a certain problem and push the authorities concerned to resolve it.
Another difficulty is that offices, public or private, engage in controversial issues which eventually aggravate a problem and creates conflict. Let’s talk about pollution of the Buriganga River. Successive governments have taken initiatives in the name of protection of the river as well as its prevention from pollution. The same governments have allowed industries in general, tanneries in particular, to use chemical colours. I think the government should ask the industries to use, if possible, vegetable dye. It can encourage other sectors to use vegetable dye if necessary, and avoid using chemical colours.
Industries require huge colours. From where would they get such a huge supply of different colours?
In 2005, I took an initiative to plant trees to use vegetable dye. Although I am against taking up so-called ‘projects’, I believe that the government should start a project, with adequate and appropriate coordination among different departments, to ensure supply and use of vegetable dye. It would be a small but important initiative to protect the environment.
You were talking about stopping poaching of wild birds and animals. What steps does the government need to take in order to stop poaching?
It should effectively ban air-gun. It should remove air-guns and, if necessary, other guns while providing a token compensation for the owners. The government should also increase price of bullets. It should further require that the gun owners maintain proper accounts of bullets.
How effectively are the laws enacted to protect the environment and wild animals?
Are there any [laws] at all? Why does the government not implement them then? The laws, if there really are any, are all phony. There is hardly any expert in the government to prepare a law in simple, communicative and understandable language.
Can you give example of resolving, with your initiative, a small problem in Dhaka city?
I drew attention to the Dhaka Power Distribution Company to properly insulate joints of power connections along several roads in the old part of Dhaka to protect monkeys. The top DPDC officials conveyed formal instructions without much delay. I am happy with the move so far. However, I would continue to remain vigilant if the instructions were not followed properly.
What problems are you dealing with now?
There are hardly any gaps kept between trunks of trees standing on the footpaths in Dhaka city area. Neither the contractors who constructed footpaths nor the engineers who were supposed to supervise the task were considerate about the trees. Many trees died, I believe as a commoner, due to pressure generated from the concrete and lack of water. I am currently trying to pursue Dhaka City Corporations authorities so that they create space for tree trunks. They have started. But I need to continue to pursue them so that they finish the task.
How do you see roles of people who claim themselves either intellectual or professionals, in resolving problems that bother the general people?
Most of the intellectuals do one work several times. They break a system to reconstruct it, and then break it once again for new construction. It is a cycle.
What, according to you, is the government machinery lacking?
There is a serious lack of proper education, knowledge and sense of respect. Every work, I believe, has relations with these three factors.
What do you mean by ‘respect’ for the government machinery?
Look at the politicians. Do they really know how to respect the common people? Look carefully at how they talk with the people and how they behave. Most of the officers lack knowledge, which one cannot buy in a 7-up or Pepsi bottle.
What makes you say that?
The upper and mid-level management of the garment factories are now run by Indians, thanks to lack of qualified workers here.
How do you relate between the two – absence of qualified person for apparel factories and presence of foreign workers here?
The government machinery has severely failed to develop a quality education system for the people.
Up to what level have you completed formal education?
I have completed upto my HSC exams from NS College in Natore.
Who is there in your family?
My wife, a daughter and three sons. The daughter and sons are students in different classes.
How do they manage living costs without you?
They manage, somehow.
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