BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has been saying for some time that there is a silent famine in the country. It was not clear what he was thinking when he saw the famine or the manga without seeing the rising commodity prices. The government is also acknowledging that the price situation in the country is not normal. But now the rise in commodity prices is increasing at an unusual pace not only in Bangladesh but in the whole world – it is not unknown to anyone. The economy, international trade and transactions have suffered a major setback due to the two-year crisis. From the very beginning, the World Bank, IMF and ADB have been talking about various types of socio-economic and political crises including global inflation, rising commodity prices, economic crisis, food crisis. However, during the Corona period, Bangladesh did not face any major economic crisis. Our GDP and growth has been better than many countries and is still good. That is why the people of Bangladesh did not fall into the upward trend of daily necessities including food or medicine in the last two years. Bangladesh has been able to demonstrate its ability to vaccinate all people for free more than many other countries. If the economy were in a state of disarray, the government would not be able to provide free immunizations, corona treatment, food and other necessities. But ‘all this was pretty much normal. However, after the corona outbreak subsided, almost everyone in the country, big, medium and small, involved in business, seemed to be in a race to make up for the loss of two years. They were constantly raising the prices of food and other necessities. In the meantime, even CNG-powered vehicles have been seen raising fares on the pretext of raising oil prices. Many of our corporate entities have now become so monopolistic in the business of the country that it has become difficult for the government to control them. It has been alleged that they have an invisible involvement with the rice business in the country. That is why food prices could not be controlled. The government was forced to give some products to the common man through TCB. In the meantime, after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the blockade, arms trade and economic crisis in the world economy suddenly became apparent. It has started to fall in all countries as a blow to the head. Even in such a situation, no one is claiming that there is no daily necessities in our country’s market. However, the way in which the prices of some import-dependent products are skyrocketing has led to the tendency of our importers and small traders to stockpile and make huge profits. Thus, our market has fallen into an unethical maneuver to make up for the two years ‘loss’ from January to February. It also falls on the reality of war and declining production. A number of commodities, especially edible oils, including flour, are operating abnormally in the international market. Its effect is also felt here. As a result, the prices of some of the essential commodities in the market became very difficult for the marginalized people. For some time now, the news of abnormal fluctuations in commodity prices has been in the headlines in the country’s media. That’s when the BNP and several political parties became vocal about rising commodity prices. The Left Democratic Front observed a strike. The BNP supported the strike. But ‘that strike could not leave Shahbag or the National Press Club leaving the traffic jam in Dhaka. At that time Mr. Mirza Fakhrul was claiming that there was a silent famine in the country. He and his party leaders and activists were spreading rumors in the media that the people of the country were not well. There is no doubt that low-income people are struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising commodity prices. That is why the government has made arrangements for one crore people to buy some goods at affordable prices. However, for the upper middle class and upper class people, the rise in prices has not had much effect. The lower middle class has eaten some Himshim. However, the middle class in Bangladesh has now developed quite extensively not only in the cities but also in the villages. We do not know if there was any news that lower class people went into a state of starvation due to various types of physical labor, government incentives etc. But such a silent famine in the country can only play a role in spreading panic somewhere. At no time in the country have all the people been able to shop equally. The market price was not tolerable for everyone. Not even during the BNP rule. Now the prices of essential commodities are not going to be maintained due to extremes and global conditions. It is not tolerable at all for the lower class people. However, nothing happened to prove that the lower castes were in the grip of a silent famine. If anyone provokes or cries out for famine, famine, then it is nothing but a deviation from the truth.
In such a world and domestic situation, fasting is going on in the country now, Eid is going to be held next week. In the meantime, the Bengali New Year has passed, almost everyone has been shopping since the beginning of Ramadan, the traders are compensating for the ‘loss’ of two years, various syndicates are running in the market. Even then, shopping in the market has not stopped. Most of the shopping on this Eid is clothes, various cosmetics, ornaments, shoes, sandals, various kinds of gift items for children and teenagers. Is there any shortage in buying any of these in the market? Lehenga and other Indian aristocratic garments are being sold at high prices, and delicious Iftar food is also being sold as before. How is this shopping going on when there is silent famine in the country? It is heard that this time 5 crore people will go home for Eid. Countless people are fighting hard to get train tickets. I see 700 buyers fighting for one ticket in the media. Buses, launches, steamers have already started transporting passengers to Eid. One and a quarter crore people from Dhaka city can go to Eid in the village. In such a situation, tickets have to be bought at a much higher price than the normal price. How are the people of Bangladesh who are claiming to be suffering from silent famine going to the village with this extra rent? Not only this, with the help of fire you can do welding at home. That too they have to spend. A few days ago, the cries of consumer goods and commodities were heard for the benefit of the media, but now it is not heard about the purchase of Eid clothes and commodities or the extra rent, the cost of Eid? Where is the contrast then? Is there any answer to this or is everyone busy with shopping now? Is there any need to know or understand if the prices of these products have gone up? How many thousands of crores of rupees will be traded on the occasion of Eid will be known in a few days. A new concept called Eid Economics has been popularized in recent years. Eid economy has not stopped this year either. On the contrary, it is said that due to two years of corona, people could not travel or move freely, nor could Eid. This time, to make up for the ‘deficit’, everyone is shopping for colorful clothes, cosmetics, shoes, sandals, favorite items and getting ready for Eid. Does this overall atmosphere describe or carry a reflection of the silent famine? Some political leader may still be trying to convey that people are not good in the country. Maybe their love for the people of the country is a little too much, that’s why they want to launch a movement in the field after Eid to stop the rise in commodity prices to keep people well, claiming that people are not good.
If the people of the country respond to it, then the movement will gather, but there is no need to call people as needy or suffering from famine. Probably the marginalized people will not accept it either. Famine has not come or is not prevailing in our country now, silently or loudly. That is the truth.
Mamtajuddin Patwari: Professor (retired), historian and columnist.
Source: Bhorer Kagoj by www.bhorerkagoj.com.
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