If you think rulers are now using the pandemic to grab more power then you won’t be wholly wrong. Around the world, the pandemic is being used by the ruling elite as a chance to grab more and more power
If you think rulers are now using the pandemic to grab more power then you won’t be wholly wrong. Around the world, the pandemic is being used by the ruling elite as a chance to grab more and more power. The way the pandemic is being presented and sold to the people is all that matters and, strangely people are also buying it. The present-day rulers are no different from our colonial rulers, who used to suppress citizens whenever a disaster would strike to further expand their rule. The present-day rulers are using the pandemic in the same manner and using it as a tool to usurp more power and are becoming more autocratic – with no checks and balance.
Though, this deadly enemy is the main topic of discussion in parliaments across South Asia, the budgetary allocation for the health sector remains poor – and no one is talking about it. Where one's own life is in question, then there is less opportunity to think, much less ask questions that impacts your life. Ordinary people only want to know more about the pandemic and how it impacts their daily life. They want to know how many died and how many have been infected by COVID-19. And they want to know which area is under lockdown as they need to buy necessary items.
The Bangladesh example
In Bangladesh, the media is also broadcasting news, the news that the government wants it to show. The media industry is not able to understand, some times, that it is being used by the government for its own publicity. And that they are the main medium to sell the pandemic news that shows the government in a good light. Traditional media is not doing any follow-up news about how many people have been detained under the controversial Digital Security Act, which has been termed repressive and anti-people, amid the pandemic. Even the media did not conduct any investigative story about how many people lost their lives due to extrajudicial killings or how many people lost their jobs due to COVID and related lockdown? No media asked or showed the number of farmers that were not able to sell their commodities due to the transport crisis? The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in the wake of the COVID-19 catastrophe. But there is no one to ask. The consequence of the pandemic is everywhere. The virus is not only taking away people's lives but also taking away the assurance that they would be able to live a life of dignity. It is causing deep damage to humans and to humanity. We are only able to see the statistics of how many dead and how many have been infected.
When the state goes through a national crisis, other problems become minor. The same thing has happened in the case of Bangladesh. The ruling government has been in power since 2008. There is no political activity because of the COVID-19 crisis. The so-called opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has almost been suppressed. The government has increased surveillance everywhere in the name of coronavirus - from airports to people's personal lives – all are now under surveillance. At this time, the only voice that can be heard is the voice of the government and the voice of the bureaucrats. In this pandemic, the government seems to have become stronger and more powerful.
We no longer can hear any rebellious music, songs, or even poems. There is no criticism in the media. Political parties and its workers are quiet, with no meetings and rallies. Universities and schools are closed. The fear of death has made people more passive and submissive and they readily go along with the tough measures they think will help them survive these difficult times. So is the government able to fulfill the demands of the people? Or the rulers are just strengthening themselves by using this pandemic as an excuse to exercise power beyond constitutional limitations? Only time will tell.
(The writer is a journalist and South Asian geopolitical analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)