Electoral irregularities in, and grievances created out of, the recent 11th parliamentary elections shall not be repeated, noted academic Syed Manzoorul Islam says of the young people's expectations in the country.
In an OpEd piece published in Prothom Alo on Tuesday, the former Dhaka University professor insisted that the government should allow the youth to engage themselves in 'repairing of the state', a slogan taken from last year's student movement for safe roads.
Referring to youngsters' resentment over the allegedly tainted election, he noted, “Failing to cast their votes, many youth raised questions on the social media -- why were they not allowed to exercise their voting rights? Was the election fair?”
The author went on to say: “The people’s frustrated voice over the election reverberated on newspaper pages, at tea stall hangouts and other discussions.”
He acknowledged that the electoral field was not even for the opposition parties from the very beginning. “Who will take the liability?" he asked, dwelling on the ruling grand alliance's allegation that the Jatiya Oikya Front failed to mobilise the people.
Advocating youth's active participation in the state activities, he, however, expressed his views that strengthening democracy along with development is possible only through youth engagement.
Syed Manzoorul Islam is also of the opinion that mending the country's flawed democracy should be the first and foremost duty of the government.
In the article, the academic called for repairing different organs of the state.
“Is our administration effective and pro-people? Can justice be delivered with equity on our court premises? Do the poor get justice? Do the rich and powerful get punishment? Does our education enlighten our society? Is our healthcare sector itself healthy? Is the influence of the people who looted banks, amassed huge resources by means of corruption or drug trafficking are waning or rather growing bigger?”
The professor added, “The poor have hardly had any access to healthcare as good treatment requires huge sums of money. The young generation wants change in this system. They cherish their freedom of expression, right to think freely.”
Manzoorul Islam still pins his hopes on the relatively younger ministers and state ministers who are inducted into the current cabinet for addressing the resentment of the country’s youth and repairing of democracy.
“There are many young ministers in the cabinet. Repairing democracy would be easier should those young ministers win the heart of the youth,” he said.
And, he cautioned, "Failing to correct our democracy will only frustrate our youth and they would be aggrieved."
Manzoorul Islam further said the country’s youth want good governance, access to services, transparency and accountability in running the state.
He said the Digital Security Act should be repealed as ‘freedom of expression is a prerequisite for transparency.’
Manzoorul urged the government to practice tolerance and take criticism easily. “The ruling party must practice tolerance in their act and deeds as democracy means tolerance,” he said.
The author penned, "Mending democracy is a cooperative job. The young generation is ready to cooperate. The people will join in if the government and state take the initiative."
* This piece, originally published as an article in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in story format by Galib Ashraf