Saturday, April 27, 2013

Basket Case

It's been a couple of weeks. I'm sorry this is a heavy post, there have been some heavy things going on in Dhaka. Just a reminder, for those who might ask, I'm out in the countryside, on a secure campus, with private, armed security guards.

No doubt you've heard about the building collapse in Dhaka (actually, in Savar, which is Northwest of Dhaka). Currently the death toll is above 300, which isn't surprising when you considering it was a nine story building with thousands of workers jammed in there. Since then, garment workers all over the country have been rioting. I can't say that I blame them. Workers at these factories were told that, if they didn't return to work after the building had been condemned, they would lose their jobs. Many have been quick to jump onto the bandwagon of giant corporations being responsible for this, but that misses the point that consumers demand the highest quality at the lowest prices. When we (consumers) are unwilling to pay a reasonable amount of money to ensure that our products are made by companies and workers who are being paid a fair wage and are treated reasonably, then we will continue to create these situations.

Let's talk for a minute about the political situation in Bangladesh because it has taken a decidedly more violent turn, unfortunately. Again, I live out in the middle of nowhere, but when you hear stories every day about another riot, policemen being beaten to within an inch of lives, and buses being torched around the country, you still worry. The deal is, Bangladesh is supposed to be having an election. Usually they set up a caretaker government to oversee the elections, but the Awami League (the party currently in charge) amended the constitution to get rid of that. The opposing Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and their 18-party coalition (which includes the Jamaat party, whose leadership is currently being tried at the "International" Criminal Tribunal, for crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War) are mad that there is no set day/time for the election, so they've started enforcing hartals. A hartal is a nationwide strike, which is allowed under the Bangladesh constitution. Basically the whole country shuts down. There have been so many strikes recently that investors (particularly garment manufacturers) are being scared away from Bangladesh. According to this news story, the country is losing taka 200 crore* a day for being closed. This increased instability is really nothing new, Bangladesh is well know for being a "basket case", but they have been making a lot of progress. I think it's growing pains, there is so much potential, and people are just now starting to realize it. I've also heard from some people that Bangladesh now is like India 10-15 years ago (depending on where you were at in India), so there's hope.

I really don't want to delve into the Boston bombings, except to say I'm horrified by the news coverage. I'd also like to mention that the wearing of the hijab does not automatically mean a woman has been brainwashed or evil. Living in a Muslim country, the hijab is a symbol of the promises that a believer has made with God. Generally (I'm not going to say always, because there are some cases where it's forced) it's a woman's choice to make these promises and wear the hijab.

And that is the end of my heavy news update for today. Sorry

*A crore is a unit of measurement in South Asia which means 10 million. They also have lakh, which means 100,000. Apparently, a cow to sacrifice for Eid-Ul-Azha is 1 lakh.

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