Untying the Knots: Democracy Decries 01 Noting No More By: Khandker Habib Ahmed (All rights are reserved by the author.) Mr. Knot has not been fee...
Untying the Knots: Democracy Decries 01
Noting No More
By: Khandker Habib Ahmed
(All rights are reserved by the author.)
Mr. Knot has not been feeling well since last Friday. He felt a type of mild pain on the left of his chest. The pain was not so severe though. He has, nevertheless, visited two doctors by this time. Mr. Knot completed two tests already for his brain, the MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) and the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan under the guidance of a famous neurologist in the Bronx, New York. MRA is a type of MRI scan that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. He also performed other two tests, Doppler Test and the Balance Test, under the same physician. Therefore, Mr. Knot could not take the condition his health insouciantly. He was very serious about it. He has also observed that when he reclines on a couch to watch the news channels or works in the internet for a long time, he suddenly experiences a black out and falls asleep unnoticed. Oh my God! What is this? If he gets hurt or dies by falling, how he will get to his readers to tell his untold stories which he so nicely conserved for long in his heart and mind? Since this morning, however, he has been feeling well and vowed to write something for his readers. While reflecting as such, Mr. Knot looked over his computer screen and saw that Imrul, his early childhood buddy, has sent an instant message for him.
Imrul: Knot, can you come to our apartment?
Mr. Knot: Why?
Imrul: Let’s watch the game of cricket all together on a big screen. Star Sports, an Indian
channel, will telecast it live from the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium at Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh. It’s a match between Bangladesh and Pakistan, every time exciting. I wish Tamin made a century today.
Mr. Knot: Oh, is it! I have a big screen too. You could come here instead!
Imrul: Hey, look. The gathering will be far better here. Here are five or six adults coming in
addition to your family and mine. Brother Zakir and his wife with their two children would join us. Also, my maternal cousin and her spouse have come from Bangladesh as new immigrants to the United States. Temporarily, they are living with us. They would also join us. Better, you come with your wife and children, my friend!
Mr. Knot: OK, my friend. We have five children. Will it be of any problem?
Imrul: No, no, it’s not a problem at all. You all come and join us. We’ll celebrate the day
watching the game live ….
Mr. Knot: OK. We are coming…..
While they were talking, something came up in Mr. Knot’s mind. He thought it was a good opportunity to talk about democracy in the context of Bangladesh before a get-together of seven or eight adults. Mr. Knot also thought that they would be there for watching the game. Would it be a good time for talking about democracy there? Eventually, Mr. Knot made up his mind to go ahead with his plan to talk even during the commercial or tea/coffee breaks. He looked very happy and assured thinking that he will have a chance to talk to people. Recently, Mr. Knot has developed a habit of talking so much to people that he accepted the invitation right away from his friend viewing it as an opportunity to talk. Imrul’s house is located near the Park Chester Subway Station, a distance of about 15 minutes on foot. He arrived at the place on time and felt pleasured anticipating that the day would be fine.
Imrul’s living room is spacious. It can accommodate at least 15 people for a nice gathering. His wife, Simi Nahreen (Simi), already arranged the room in a befitting manner adding a beautiful look to it. Tea, coffee, samucha (a South Asian snack), singara (also a South Asian snack) and many other delicious breakfast items started to pour on the table there. Everybody has shown up. Imrul introduced himself first by saying, ‘I am Imrul, an employee of the New York City government. The name of my agency is the City Commission on Human Rights. This is my wife, Simi Nahreen (Simi). She is very active in our Bengali community and works as a Community Organizer for the New York City Department of Education.’ Then, Imrul introduced his maternal cousin, Gulshan Ara, and her husband, Kazi Habib, to the guests. Although Gulshan has been a lawyer all along his life, she was also actively involved with the partisan politics bringing her recognition more as a politician than a lawyer. Because of her influence and contribution to the party, she was nominated for the position of the State Minister for Home Affairs during the tenure of Awami League Government formed in 2009. However, her husband, Kazi Habib, is a very simple man, a journalist by profession, who talks less than he thinks during any usual conversation. Mr. Knot likes Kazi because he, like Mr. Knot, is an advocate of ‘democracy as a political instrument’ and its practice in politics. Kazi usually is seen very active in many talk-shows arranged by the TV channels of Bangladesh talking in favor of meticulous practice of democracy in politics and the society as a whole. After this, Imrul introduced Mr. Zakir, a wealthy realtor in the neighborhood who married a fair-looking woman of Italian descent. She is also a business partner of Mr. Zakir. The couple is blessed with two sons now college bound. Then, Imrul pointed his finger to Mr. Knot and said, ‘Knot, you now introduce yourself to the ladies and gentlemen, our honored guests.’ It seems that Imrul is tired of talking.
Mr. Knot started to acquaint himself like this: “I am Knot. Essentially, I am an embodiment of a tough and complex knot and my scope of wandering is the entire world. Although I was born in Bangladesh, the entire world is my place of thinking, especially when it comes to an issue widely touching the total human society. Predominantly, I engage myself in profound thoughts about many difficult and complex issues related to Bangladesh itself and connecting them to many bilateral, regional and global ones. That is why I am given the name Mr. Knot. I strongly believe that all of you would have some ‘foods for thought’ from my words for your own issues as well. All these are done for the sole purpose of academic interest or exchange of ideas. I try to say something whenever and whoever I meet either in person, over the phone or on a video or audio call on Face Book or other social media. As already mentioned, I am particularly stirred by some issues or problems of Bangladesh. I have to think about these problems because I was born and raised there. That’s why I like to talk about the practice of democracy there and its benefit for the society during the commercial breaks of today’s game. I would recommend that you all share your thoughts and opinions on it from your repertoire of knowledge, skills or experiences.”
The Bangladesh-Pakistan match has already started. Bangladesh lost in the toss and Pakistan chose to field first. Accordingly, Bangladesh team is now with the bats in the fight. Tamin and Mahmudu are the openers. Unfortunately, Tamin is sent back to the pavilion with an unexpected zero playing only two balls. Excitement at the gallery plunged, so in the living room of Imrul. However, the next batsman, Chakib Hussain, came with a big hit over the boundary which brought back the lost heat in the gallery as well as in the living room. Added to that, the freshly fried singara and samucha made by Imrul’s wife brought a comfort of double six (over the boundary) shots to all of us. When the enthusiasm was on the loose a bit, Mr. Knot asked Kazi, ‘When did you come here from Bangladesh?’
Kazi: About three days ago….
Mr. Knot: OK, Kazi. I know that you talk about democracy, write on human rights issues and
you raise your voice to defend the practice of democracy in our society and elsewhere. I also see you very active in the talk-shows arranged by many TV channels of Bangladesh which I see from New York.
(Other guests are listening to our conversation while watching the game on the big screen television)
Kazi: Oh! Don’t say it Mr. Knot. Bangladesh is not a place for these democratic concepts and
ideas. There are very few people who understand or practice it. Those who understand do not want to follow it or cannot do anything because of many obstructions inherent in the system. Many people say, democracy is not a right prescription for Bangladesh; they only need a bludgeon to beat and quell them.
Mr. Knot: Oh! Kazi, don’t say it, I do not like it. What you are saying Mr.? Will we not practice
civility? Will we not practice democracy? Will we not practice law and rights of people?
(Seeing us in argument, Gulshan, Kazi’s wife, poked in being a little annoyed)
Gulshan: Hello, Mr. Knot, I do not think these are needed. I was the State Minister, everything
ran through by my order. I did not care about what rules are there. I made the rules with
the help of my fellow public servants. What I said, that was the law…understand?
Mr. Knot: So far, I know, law is enacted by the legislative or by the court (case law). Whatever
it is, how did you make even the rules? Ministers do not make rules, they follow it or
apply it to solve problems. Also, there is a process of rule-making even in the
Gulshan: Oh! You don’t know….that’s ‘noting’….
Mr. Knot: What is noting?
Gulshan: I think you forgot everything about Bangladesh. ‘Noting’ is a system of decision
making used especially in government offices in a country like Bangladesh. The files move through seven stages up in a hierarchical order and so in the down. In each stage, every public servant jots down their thoughts analyzing the issue or subject matter even if there are some clear rules in place. This process takes a lot of valuable working hours at the expense of public exchequer. When I was the State Minister, I saw that my subordinate officers used many sheets of paper for noting to put forward their arguments as they wanted to. I signed on their proposals, most of the time, with very little dissents. That was the noting and it is still in place there. That’s the rule. In effect, I made the rule and no one else. I solved the problem of people in this way.
Mr. Knot: I understand. You solved the problem of the people in this way. However, I see that
this is a very costly process of taking decisions. Is it an unbiased and equitable system
of decision making in the public offices? Everyone is equal before the law and
everyone has equal rights as citizen. Can you ensure a ‘level playing field’ for all?
Arguments can be placed from either side and sometime you can heed to one argument,
the other time the other. For example, you decide to send an officer for a foreign
training at a certain time. Because of some other reason, you forbid the other officer at
another time even if the rule is there which you do not care. Is it fair? Can you ensure
justice? I understand that bureaucracy has a job of making policies. But that has to be
done on a rational, fair and neutral basis to apply in real situations. Is it not democracy?
Is it not our job to ensure equal rights on equal footing? We do not need ‘noting’ for
Gulshan: I now understand what you are saying, Mr. Knot. I did not understand this when I was
State Minister. So, tell me what I need to do?
Mr. Knot: Please use the meritorious officers of the Ministry to scrutinize all the pertinent rules
to update keeping in mind the rights of the people. Promote them to compensate for their extraordinary services. Discard obsolete rules or parts of them. Seek opinion from the people through uploading these updated rules in the Ministry website, public hearing or some other ways like meetings, seminars etc. While updating, compare similar rules from other countries, especially from developed countries. Even if the process takes time, do some solid and robust work for the greater benefit of the people. Everything or everyone will go by these rules, no exceptions. It will make your work easy and smooth and, most importantly, you would be able to deliver services to the people much faster than they are now. Also, taxpayers would have to expend less because the same officers could deliver more accurate and effective services to the people. You could ensure a level playing field as well. Is it not a real democratic system, Gulshan?
Gulshan: OK, Mr. Knot. I got it. I will advise my fellow party members accordingly.
Meanwhile, Mahmudu has hit two consecutive sixes and the excitement of the gallery has already stretched to Imrul’s living room. (To be continued)
Tags: Instant message, practice of democracy, rights of people, practice of law and rights, noting not needed, level-playing field, public hearing and single rule.
[Disclaimer: A Few Words for the Esteemed Readers: The character(s)in this writing is (are) fictitious. They have no real existence. In addition, the main character, Mr. Knot, is merely an embodiment of a tough and complex knot whose scope of wandering is the entire world. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that whatever stem from the dialogues of these characters or their analytical breakdowns are true for the most part and merit an active reflection of the esteemed readers considering the real situation. Again, either in the dialogues of the characters or in the events, at least an issue, petite or hefty, has been explained with its proper description, scope and in-depth analysis along with a signal for likely solution, in possible cases, to it. If any reader has a dissension, other opinion, comment, question or suggestion, he or she may please inform the writer by an e-mail message or on Face Book or Skype. My Skype ID is: Khandker.ahmed898. The e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Because the characters are fictitious, whatever the description or analysis thereto, there is no reason of contempt for any person or party. Therefore, I request the valued readers to count all explanations or explorations made here as merely an academic pursuit or from a research perspective. Thank you. Khandker Habib Ahmed, April 10, 2016, Bronx, New York]