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People’s confidence in the government depends on how responsible and accountable it proves to be. The people’s responsible behavior is also important to tackling unwarranted situations. This relationship between the government and the people has once again come to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic. The people and the government must advance with caution in overcoming the Covid crisis.

These observations about relations between the government and people were made by speakers on Monday at the launch of a book on living through the pandemic. The book, ‘The Underside of Living Though the Pandemic,’ was launched jointly by Dhaka University’s Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), United National Development Programme (UNDP), Japan’s Seisa University and the Texas A&M University. The book, edited by Imtiaz Ahmed, has been published by CGS and Pathok Samabesh.

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Speaking as chief guest at the virtual book launch, state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam said, there have been many predictions about the coronavirus pandemic ever since its outbreak. Perhaps these would have remained unknown had the virus not spread. These predictions have revealed certain harsh truths too. He said, “Even today we don’t know where this will end, or if it will end at all.”

Panel discussant, Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow and professor of political science Raunaq Jahan, said that if we look at China and Vietnam, we will note that their health regime has been quite effective and the public were enforced to follow the guidelines. Then again, in the US and many countries of the West, the people of the free society were not bothered about the health guidelines. There was no lockdown in Sweden, Norway and other Nordic countries. But the people had confidence in their governments and so adhered to the hygiene guidelines on their own accord. They proved to be responsible. Overall, it can be said that alongside public confidence in the government, the public themselves must be responsible too. If not, efforts to control the situation will not succeed.

Speaking as special guest on the occasion, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo said that in Bangladesh too, the rate of unemployment has gone up due to the impact of coronavirus. The number of poor people has risen too, particularly in the urban areas. Bangladesh’s initiatives taken to control the situation are laudable, she said, pointing to the stimulus packages, incentives for the small entrepreneurs and promoting digital payments. She said it is good to be flexible regarding social safety net initiatives in consideration of alleviating poverty.

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Stating that tackling the post-coronavirus situation would not be easy, Mia Seppo cautioned that overcoming the impact would be quite precarious. Covid had significantly widened the gap between the rich and the poor and that is why careful attention must be paid to reducing the number of poor and several other issues. The health workers and other frontline fighters in the pandemic must be given due recognition. Migrant workers must also be given due recognition.

The book launch was moderated by the CGS director and professor of international relations at Dhaka University, Imtiaz Ahmed. He said that 19 writers from 10 countries in four continents had contributed to the book. The book was an example of international cooperation. Yet such cooperation was absent in vaccine diplomacy required to tackle the pandemic.

Also speaking as panel discussants at the event were distinguished professor of global health and international development at Japan’s Seisa University, Sumona Barua, and assistant professor of sociology at Texas A&M University, Jared DeMello.

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