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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My tank is full of thoughts only...and yours?

Once upon a time I was returning to Dhaka from Comilla….well…lets not give it a flare of an ancient fairytale…actually I think it was back in 1996 only when me and my friend just entered Dhaka while returning from Comilla, were passing by Banga Bhaban and were shocked to see a tank pass by our 'baby' taxi. Still not realizing what was going on, we went home amused only to discover that the pitch of the VIP road been badly distorted…thanks to the tanks that rolled out to the city streets…it was that coup attempt by Nasim Bhai….if you remember. That was not my first brushing aside a tank, infact the part of Dhaka city where I used to reside, had many tanks put up around especially at the entrances. So much so for tanks…and their distortion of otherwise allright city streets of Dhaka.

During my undergraduate days, we used to return to the dorm through the much famous Delhi School of Economics…or D’School as it is fondly called. Many a times we used to hang around in their campus…just to get the feel of the environment where Nobel laureates like Dr. Amartya Sen spent his valuable research and teaching days. The environment also used to make me especially feel proud because of the fact that most of the previous and then professors in the D’School were actually Indian Bengalis. It used to make me wonder how intelligent Bengalis actually have been, are perhaps… that they are even the majority in the elite faculty panel in the most prestigious school of economics in India. However I also used to wonder that if Bengalis are so good in economics then why West Bengal is one of the impoverished states of India, in comparison to states like Punjab or Kerala….I used to think it to myself and never used to discuss much with my non-Bengali Indian friends, lest some harsh truths got revealed. But I realized that we are good thinkers, sometimes we get awards and get featured in various lists for our thinking prowess. However we are not much of a doer, that is for others to implement.

So with my limited experience and exposure, I think I can think….and can think only. I still don’t have a tank…or know someone who has a few tanks…not the Gazi Water Tanks mind it….who can label me as a ‘think-tank’. Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has become one of the largest ‘think-tanks’ of the world. Bangladesh is not only the land of mosques, the land of too many people, too many NGOs, it has also become a land of ‘think-tanks’ with 34 of them. The report said the boom in think tanks came mainly due to the information revolution, the end of government monopoly on information, the current complexity and technical nature of policy problems which has made decision making more difficult, expansion in the size of governments, globalisation, and the growth of state and non-state actors. The report also mentioned, there is however a declining trend in establishing new think tanks worldwide, the reasons for which are political and regulatory environment hostile to think tanks and NGOs, a change in funding priorities for think tanks by public and private donors, underdeveloped institutional capacities which decrease the survival rate, and increased competition from advocacy organisations and for-profit consulting firms and electronic media.

I really can’t think anymore…I feel I have been thinking too much about things…and nothing getting done infact. And as I think…the prices of the essentials keep soaring, the city becomes unlivable and we keep on arguing about leadership. Time passes by, while we keep on featuring in various ‘lists’ of the world…corruption list, poverty list, population list, this list, that list….etc. So what do you do? Do you think and do you have a tank too? Then lets become a ‘think-tank’ and ‘distort various pitches’ with our intellectual (only) crush-wheels.

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