25 July, 2024
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Sacrificial goat chronicles expose deep-rooted corruption in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh, a country familiar with the Bengal black goat, recently found itself abuzz with discussions about a sacrificial goat priced at a staggering BDT 1.5 million (US$12,820). This phenomenon is symbolic of the rapid ‘development’ claimed by the nation, where the sight of goats worth BDT 1.5 million and cows worth BDT 15 million (US$128,250) has become a reality. While the majority of citizens have become mere spectators, it is the corrupt officials, businesspeople, and politicians who are actively playing the game.

In a country where speaking out against powerful individuals is almost impossible, we observe these spectacles from grand stadiums. However, occasionally, we rise like comets when the risk is minimal. Recently, the editor of a widely circulated English newspaper admitted that he knew about the corruption of a former police chief but lacked the courage to publish it. Discussing the goat buyer involves little risk, making it a safer topic.

Social media has become inundated with discussions about the goat. Initially, this appears positive. Ideally, government agencies should identify the corrupt, loan defaulters, and money launderers. However, this responsibility has shifted to responsible journalists and netizens. Social media has become a platform where people learn about the ‘thieves and swindlers’ and can express their views and make fun of the deprived and disenfranchised.

In a country disillusioned with the law and justice system, people bring criminals to the people’s court. This alternative system, despite its harmful aspects, provides a necessary outlet. Without social media, many issues would remain hidden and unjustified.

The extravagant size, price, and ostentatious purchasing of sacrificial animals this Eid reveal where the country’s money is and who is busy exporting it. The institutional nature of corruption is enough to make the general public shudder. Many government employees have become reckless in their corruption. Public university libraries have turned into preparation grounds for government job aspirants, who see landing a government job as a promise of financial and social liberation, offering the opportunity to exercise unlimited power.

In the 21st century, what easier way is there to enslave others and become a master? Therefore, despite having top positions with university degrees, many rushes toward executive power jobs. Given the limited salary of teachers and the obligation to engage in higher education and research, who would want to get involved in such a reality?

Even those with multiple options in government jobs seek positions with more opportunities for illegal earnings or to become more powerful. Recently, someone changed their profession from a government cadre to a sub-registrar job, motivated by the corruption and illegal earnings in the land administration system.

It is unsurprising that the second wife’s first child of a revenue officer would hug a goat bought for BDT 1.5 million or that he would sacrifice cows worth BDT 3.8 million (US$ 32,478).

Some earnings are inevitable, given the opportunity to evade hundreds of millions in revenue. Considering the current cost of living in Bangladesh, even the highest-grade government jobs barely cover household expenses. Living a life of extravagant materialism is only possible with illegal earnings. Though we have yet to find the owners of the flats in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, or Dhanmondi, we know their prices. Countless people buy flats worth BDT 80-100 million (US$683,760~US$854,700). Rolls-Royces and Bentleys roam the streets of this country.

Corruption is a syndicated crime and cannot be carried out by an individual alone. When corruption occurs over time, it becomes institutionalized – a network forms to carry out this crime, involving individuals at different levels who enjoy other benefits. The position is only part of it; even lower-level employees can hit a six in corruption. We have seen drivers in the health department becoming owners of hundreds of millions through corruption!

Like the phrase “Size doesn’t matter”, in corruption, “rank doesn’t matter”. In this age of information technology, corruption at any level should not remain hidden. But it is kept secret through an unwritten agreement or rule!

However, while the corrupt individual may reap various benefits through corruption, the country and its people suffer immensely. When a revenue officer engages in corruption, the country loses revenue. When law enforcement is corrupt, people lose their safety. When government doctors neglect their duties, people lose their desired healthcare. When judges are corrupt, people lose their last resort. Corruption is, therefore, a severe threat to good governance.

There was a time when, at the end of a political government’s term, many corrupt individuals would flee during the interim government period, leaving behind their houses, cars, and bags of money. However, when the last military-backed interim government (during January 11, 2007 to December 2008) became entangled in corruption, much like the political governments, as they unjustly held onto power for an extended period, they couldn’t maintain their integrity.

Nearly every political government in Bangladesh has declared a crusade against corruption before and after taking power, but they eventually distance themselves from those promises for some unknown reason.

The people of this country have become accustomed to corruption over many years. The culture of impunity has elevated corruption to its peak.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman lamented that he had inherited a ‘mine of thieves’! Despite his many timeless speeches against corruption during his lifetime, he didn’t get enough time to eliminate it. Post-independence, the government still needs to take sufficient measures against corruption. Most governments have excessively indulged in corruption in the executive branch to prolong their power. Rather than suppressing the corrupt, they have been appeased more often.

Due to corruption, despite having large budget volumes, the state is deprived of its desired revenue, and the public still needs to receive its government services. On the other hand, people spend their days liking and commenting on social media, seeing the monstrous goats and cows of the corrupt. In the absence of visible strict penalties, corruption has become unstoppable. However, if the photos, information, and stories of corrupt individuals are responsibly spread in the media and social media, and if they are socially boycotted, it might have some effect, just like what happened with this ‘goat’ incident.

In conclusion, the saga of the BDT 1.5 million goat underscores the deep-rooted and institutionalized corruption within our society. While social media can bring specific issues to light and create public discourse, the ultimate solution is systematic and legal reforms. Only through stringent anti-corruption measures, transparent governance, and accountability can the nation hope to curb this pervasive issue and ensure that public resources are used for the benefit of all citizens rather than a corrupt few.

To address this crisis, the following steps could be instrumental:

  1. Strengthening anti-corruption institutions: Independent and empowered anti-corruption bodies must investigate and prosecute corruption cases without political interference.
  1. Legal reforms: Implementing stricter anti-corruption laws and ensuring swift and severe offender penalties can act as a deterrent.
  1. Transparency and accountability: Enhancing transparency in government transactions and ensuring accountability at all levels of administration can reduce opportunities for corruption.
  1. Public awareness: Educating the public about the adverse effects of corruption and encouraging them to report corrupt activities can create a culture of intolerance towards corruption.
  1. Whistleblower protection: Protecting those who expose corruption can encourage more people to come forward with information.
  1. Political will: A genuine commitment from the highest levels of government to combat corruption is crucial. This includes leading by example and not shielding corrupt individuals, regardless of their position.

By taking these steps, Bangladesh can move towards a more transparent, accountable, and corruption-free society where resources are used for the development and well-being of all its citizens. The Goat Saga is not just a story of extravagance; it is a mirror reflecting the deeper issues that need urgent and decisive action forthwith.

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