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River and our responsibility

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23rd-Dec-2017       
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Ranjit Podder :
Bondhu Mohal (Friends Circle) who passed the SSC examinations in 1996 from Pogose School Dhaka organized a river cruise on last 15th December 2017 with around one thousand participants on board of the ship Ovijan-7. All the students are now established in their respective fields and all of them are shouldering a family consisted of wife, child(ren), and parents. Some of them are businessmen; some others work in different organizations including banks. The ship was bound for Mohonpur Island (char) somewhere in southern part of Munshigonj. There were the families of the students, friends, relatives, and business partners in the picnic. So far as I have been able to know about the education of the students, all of them had Master degree from different universities. What I want to say is that most of them were highly educated and responsible persons in the society; some are also engaged in socio-political activities; some are engaged in social services. They had good health, costly dresses, polished language, and had rich food with them. The ladies in the group had costly dresses and ornaments. Almost everyone was so established in the society that they have got the power to influence the people around them. I am not sure if they are aware of the power and responsibility they possess. I was invited by some of my old students and I could not discard their invitation and also did not want to miss the opportunity to spend some time with my old beloved students.
All the arrangements were gorgeous; we were greeted with a red rose at Sadar Ghat; were provided with breakfast in plastic box; water bottles, etc. in a bag. There were lunch and afternoon food; there was deck-set and a hired group of instrumentalists and singers who tried to amuse the participants. Sorry, those are not the topics focus on today; it is about the behaviours of the participants. The pleasant river cruise turned into pain when I saw the participants throwing the roses and papers on the deck and into the river. Later, after eating the breakfast, almost all the people threw the plastic boxes as well the bags into the river. My son Atanu was saying, "Father, what are the people doing? All of them are devoid of common senses? Why are they polluting the river?" I tried to stop some people, could not do it very well since I was an invitee not one of the organizers. Similar behviours are observable in Dhaka city; people in the AC private cars drop the used tissue paper in the streets; shopkeepers throw sweepings, packets, polythene bags, etc. in the streets in front of their shops. When I see shopkeepers littering in the streets, I try to stop them; sometimes I have to face unpleasant situation; they threaten me; use bad words. I try to make them understand that the roads are not their fathers' property; and they do not have right to make others' environment dirty. My experiences are bad regarding this; I have been humiliated many times by the shopkeepers, and by the passengers in the buses who very often litter through the windows.
When such an elite society pollutes the environment in such a way, it can be imagined what the edu-culturally and financially backward people can do. Are these people not getting proper education from their family? Cannot our educational institutions change the mind-set and outlook of the school-and-college going students? When and how will our educational institutions instill values in the learners?
What could have been done to keep the people on board of the ship away from throwing waste into the river? What can be done to keep the city neat and clean from the hands of the shopkeepers and others?  The organizers could write in the invitation cards what to do and what not to do on board and could announce through the amplifier not to throw waste in the river. In order to keep the city neat and clean, the City Corporation or the Department of Environment can ask the inhabitants and the shopkeepers to keep their front areas including the roads and streets neat and clean. If someone's front area is seen dirty, they can be fined because they do not have the right to make the roads and other city areas dirty which belong to millions of people; they do not have any right to pollute the environment which is shared by all. Teaches and media can play a vital role in making the people aware of the environment. The city Corporation can announce that if someone keeps the environment clean, they will be rewarded or be punished. Probably, the threat will work better in our culture. What are the uses of costly dresses and ornaments unless my surroundings are nasty or what is the difference between two-footed men and four-footed animals?
The nasty streets, roads, open spaces, schools, colleges, and universities indicates that our education does not teach about our life; it is far away from our life; our education is not to improve humanity and human lives. The education authority must find ways how to change the outlook of the school-going students who will feel the need to keep the environment clean; and will take into cognizance whether someone's activities are the cause of other' suffering. If we can relate education with life, environment and other areas will automatically become better.   

(The writer is Associate Professor at Govt. Teachers' Training College, Dhaka)

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