Speakers at a virtual dialogue on Sunday said it would not be possible to tackle the existing coronavirus situation with only the government’s initiatives as the public engagement is crucially needed here, which remains missing in the policy of the State.
“If all want to face this adverse situation bureaucratically, it’ll not work. Social engagement and initiatives will be required here alongside the government’s initiatives. Otherwise, I think Bangladesh would be affected so immensely,” said Bangladesh Workers Party MP Fazle Hossain Badsha (Rajshahi-2).
Citizen’s Platform for SDGs and the Hunger Project jointly arranged the dialogue titled “’Initiative for local people engagement in tackling Corona” through an online platform.
Badsha said the administration was entrusted with the responsibility (to deal Covid-19 pandemic). “The concept of public engagement is not there in the decisions of the State (Government),” he added.
“I think that it is not possible to reduce the Covid-19 infection (rate) without public engagement and their organised power…. A trained volunteer group is needed today to serve the people in this crisis,” said the lawmaker.
Convenor of the Citizen’s Platform Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said now there is no alternative to a public engagement initiative in combating the pandemic.
“But the biggest obstacle here is the absence of necessary framework and guidelines on the part of the government for such a public engagement initiative. This absence is also undermining the effectiveness of various government stimulus delivery and awareness-raising about vaccination and health protocols,” he said.
He questioned whether there is any ‘mental barrier’ among political leaders to engage the country’s non-government development initiatives or whether the political leaders consider them (non-government organisations) as their competitors not thinking them as partners.
Noting that it is the administration not political leaders who play the greater role in tackling the pandemic now at the local level, he also questioned if the administration also feels any sort of discomfort or mental barrier to engage private initiatives.
To fight the pandemic in a coordinated way, it is urgently needed to have a national guideline over public engagement shunning the narrow attitude towards private ventures, said Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya.
Noted economist Prof Rehman Sobhan stressed the need for collective action in coordination of the government and private initiatives to fight the pandemic. “Civil Societies are not competitors rather they are partners (of the government),” he said.
Country Director of the Hunger Project Dr Badiul Alam Majumdar in his keynote presentation said the Corona Resilient Village (CRV) initiative is essential to check coronavirus transmission in the grassroots.
He said now the coronavirus has already spread throughout the country due to community transmission. It’ll take a long time to bring all the people under the vaccination coverage. Besides, there is still uncertainty even about the effectiveness of vaccines.
“So, this coronavirus problem will not go away so easily. We’ll have to lead life coping up with it…This is why we took the CRV initiative last year,” said Dr Majumdar explaining that the CRV initiative is based on volunteer work and run by the community leadership.
Noted personality Prof Rounaq Jahan said people are much aware but don’t practice the health protocols. “So, it is essential now to reduce the gap between awareness and practice,” she said.
Mentioning that the government frequently changes its Covid decisions, Prof Jahan said, “The government will have to stick to its policy (not changing it frequently), if it wants to enforce more successfully and reduce the awareness-practice gap.”
Swapan Kumar Das, Chairman of Fakirhat Upazila in Bagerhat, said the coordination between the public representatives and the administration in the fight against coronavirus was not seen in many places.
“But the lack of coordination is not seen here in my place (upazila), though the public representatives don’t have so much responsibility here as they are just assisting the administration,” he said.
Awami League MP (Meherpur-2) Mohammad Shahiduzzaman and public health expert Dr Lelin Choudhury, among others, address the dialogue presided over by Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury.