Lets have a riddle today. Name two places where you meet a special breed of human beings very often when you yourself visit those places. Hints...this special breed is made in Bangladesh only....the places where you meet them are open to all...whatever privileges you receive, they receive the same, there is not much distinguishing. Any guesses? Well...hell with the annoying scroll down answers to quizzes, let me tell you that that special breed of human beings are the manpower we export from Bangladesh and those special places are mosques and airports.
Now the confession time. I realize whenever I go to pray in a mosque (once in a blue moon) that I really don't bother who the other person sitting around me really is, what he does, his background etc. I just mind my own business with God almighty, keep on thinking about earthly things, quickly finish prayer and disappear. But who knows I still pray shoulder to shoulder standing in a row with many of the thousands and lakhs laborers, who happen to be my own countrymen. My superb career, my dad's wealth, my astonishing apartment and car is equated in the same line with those labor-selling Bangladeshis who are in no way as privileged as I am.
Similarly when I enter ZIA, my 'irritometer' rises when I see a 'herd' of brown colored middle-aged/young men standing in queue, all wearing same colored t-shirts, caps etc. trying to check in the flight for perhaps their maiden voyage to dreamlands. I have noticed this in ZIA and also in NSCBIA in Kolkata, how these 'khet laborers' are treated, they are yelled at to form a queue, not to make noise, not to loiter around, not to get lost etc. I have seen it in so many times in 'desher bari' that the cows or goats of the same herd are marked on their backs, so that the cowboy can distinguish his own from that of others. I don't see much difference how the human herd is handled at ZIA either. To add to my decaying prestige, I realize that I will have to travel for 3-4 hours with these people! Disgusting innit? They snore, can't speak in English with air hostesses, sometimes wear lungis in flight, talk and laugh loudly, such a nuisance. I wish I could somehow rub of my Bangladeshi identity, these people are such a disgrace to my eliteness.
In my office desk, AC room, when I read the pink papered Financial Express that Bangladesh's remittance is crossing the USD 4 billion mark, I feel proud that my country is becoming the economic powerhouse of the region. I read and write thick articles in newspapers, give interviews and formulate strategies on how to bake a bigger remittance cake. However, I keep my conscience shut when I know that these hard-earned remittance is sent by those very 'khet gadha gorur dol' with whom I traveled in that flight to Dubai, or with whom I must have said my prayers wearing the Aarong panjabi at Gausul Azam Mosque. Anyways, who cares as long as nobody knows about it.
I am no strategists, no policymaker. Out of sheer emotion I feel that there is a need to streamline our greatest source of competitive advantage--manpower. Since we have it in abundance, we value it cheaply, we treat them cheaply, lest 'taara mathay chore boshe'. But when you see clean shining roads of Kuala Lumpur and dazzling malls of Dubai, do you realize how many Bangladeshi hands are behind this? We go and see with awe the wonders of foreign land partially composed by our very own countrymen, who sold their labor to build 'their' countries, so that we can boast of a growing economy. But it goes without saying how mishandled these laborer are by their agencies. Quacks and crooks allure innocent dreams with high cost. I believe there is a need to train these people even before they venture into foreign territories. Train them with the destination country's language, etiquette, basic English. Can we somehow instill the sense of respect in them? I know you would say that its a long process and will take time. But when shall we start?
Strategic migration could be an issue to think about. We can identify the developed countries where there is a shortage of semi-skilled, skilled manpower. Countries other than the favorite destinations such as US, UK, Australia, Middle East, Malaysia. Say Russia, Finland, Norway etc. can be alternate destinations where we can strategically 'push in' our manpower. We can train them, send them there so that they fit the best there and relieve our small land from the burden of over population. I think this would be a win-win for all, the laborers will settle there and keep on being the cash cow of Bangladesh and we, the posh and elite could travel in peace and style and keep on committing small sins.