Covid and corruption: A very symptomatic infection

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One wonders how a corruption meter similar to the infection meter, recovery and death rate counting would be like. After all, the rate of infection would be horribly less compared to the rate of corruption infection in Bangladesh. Almost as soon as Covid-19 hit Bangladesh, so did related corruption. Accusations were made that the first batch of returnees many carrying infection passed through the airport check points by greasing palms.

The same happened when they were held in quarantine. The result was no restrictions on movement and soon the first few newly infected were noted. Over time that has become social and Bangladesh is in the throes of an epidemic it hopes it can control but can't be sure. Now natural factors may have to play role in dipping the epidemic.  It needn't have been.

Covid 19- a great corruption opportunity

It's true that Bangladesh was unprepared but so were almost everyone. However, in Bangladesh, unlike some places, no one immediately jumped at the chance to make money out of this "misery of the century". It seems while the administration and the health authorities were wrong footed, the corrupt ones were not.

In fact the rapid response of the corrupt ones are something that deserves special attention. It's not being sarcastic when we say that their ability to respond, adjust and take advantage of the situation of the corruption industry is worth a lesson for the state machineries as a whole.

It's not just the GOB elements are corrupt but the private sector is marching together holding hands.  The involvement of the private sector has been as extensive and creative as never before. The difference is that the public sector stole from itself mostly and cheated the people out of their rightful share particularly relating to relief, often stolen by local politicians.

However, the private sector stole directly from the people by defrauding them through a variety of means including false certificates, both negative and positive, false treatment, ghost bills and just about everything else. In other words the gates of hell were opened, to let profit in no matter what the cost or implications were. Why this was possible should not be a matter of surprise because they had been practicing their craft since the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. They have had many years of practice and 2020 has given them a chance to show off their skills.

The case of the Regent and other hospitals

The recent case of Regent Hospital of Uttara deserves special mention as the hospital has been shut down due on charges of forgery, misappropriation of public money, fraud and a variety of other crimes. Regent hospital was under contract to test suspected corona virus patients for free under an agreement with the GOB.  But Regent charged patients 3500 per test and thus defrauded the public.

As if that was not enough, they never even tested the samples and just prepared the test reports. Now, if this was a case of simple sale of goods where it's expected that the vendor will do number 2 matters it would be one thing. This was about a life threatening disease and false results term doesn't apply as no tests were done at all. Hence no one knows how many people have been affected and suffered in every way. They may have also contributed t the spreading of the disease significantly.

What also does is put a number of if not all private hospitals in the "doubtful" sector. We know that United Hospital incidence where a fire broke out in the ICU section due to negligence, other hospitals have either been involved in excess billing or poor service or both. People are desperate and have no place to go so they run to the places as the government services can no longer serve so many. In face of this huge demand, what these hospitals served were huge bills for poor services and as we see criminal activities.

Corruption connection

A social service NGO called JKG services was recently raided and its leaders are in jail now awaiting trial. But of course nobody believes nothing will happen to them as their crime was no different from what Regent hospital did. Just as nothing will happen to any corrupt person, no matter how big their crime, the system of protection is inbuilt in the system itself. Of course all corrupt are connected to the powerful and the owner of Regent was actually a ruling party member representing the party at various levels and space including media.

Sum up?

The summing up remark is that the Bangladesh state as it exists today is corruption immune and therefore the protection accorded to them is high. Both the private and the public sector are corrupt and though individual cases are sometimes intercepted, the system seems stronger than ever before.

Corruption is a crime when it's an aberration but when the system itself is corrupt, its normal. it's also not a new normal but one whose legacy goes back decades.

  • Corruption
  • Symptomatic Infection
  • Covid-19
  • Coronavirus

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