Social Disorder and Economic Burden: Don’t make it worse | Daily News

Social Disorder and Economic Burden: Don’t make it worse

Public transport is hampered by fuel shortage. Picture by Sulochana Gamage
Public transport is hampered by fuel shortage. Picture by Sulochana Gamage

It is no secret that Sri Lanka is facing the toughest era ever in its history. There are severe shortages of electricity, fuel, gas, drugs and other commodities. Consumers are facing an extremely tough time due to skyrocketing prices of essential items such as rice, dhal, milk powder etc. You buy a kilogramme of rice for one price this evening and when you go to the same shop the next morning to buy another kilogramme of rice, the price is 50 or 60 rupees more than it was last evening. This is the ground situation of the country no matter whether price control is there or not.

But the most pathetic situation is none of those. Sri Lanka is not the only country in the world that faced a crisis like this. There were many countries in the world which underwent the same crisis during the past and recovered. We can learn from their experiences. But no one is interested in finding out ways and means of facing the current crisis successfully easing the burdens of the people. Instead of easing the various burdens, the majority of the people and officials in the country try their best to worsen the burdens. This is the most pathetic situation Sri Lanka faces today.

Fuel shortage and travelling

It is very interesting to see who tries their best and how to make the current burdens worse. Let us examine one by one. At least whoever reads this column will try to reduce the burdens by simply making minor changes to existing things and processes without spending even a cent. First of all we have to talk about the fuel shortage and travelling because it has a direct impact on people’s employment. The Government took a very good decision on Friday night to allow public servants to Work from Home and temporarily attach them to their closest state offices.

But the Government’s decision has not solved all the problems of the employees, especially the problems of semi-Government and private sector employees. People cannot report to work but it seems employers are trying to get rid of people using various dirty tactics. One tactic is reducing the number of working days but cutting leave for Public/Mercantile holidays. The best example is the recent Poson Poya day. They cut leave even without informing the employees to report to work on Public/Mercantile holidays. People who work every Tuesday stayed home but had their leave cut by the managements. Last year this same dirty trick used by some HR Departments and reduced the number of leave according to the time duration employees worked from home. They do it verbally to avoid legal issues. The Government should investigate the employers who make people’s lives harder by ill-treating them at this tough time.

People have to wait in kilometre long fuel queues 24 X 7 to obtain fuel not to travel to office but to travel to the station or bus halt to catch a bus or a train. It is impossible for sick or feeble employees to travel by train by now during peak office hours due to huge crowds. They can be crushed or pushed to death by fellow train passengers without any kindness. Seats are given only for the pregnant mothers and clergy. Therefore, the sick and feeble passengers have to undergo untold hardships.

Let us start with the ongoing power cuts. Why do the relevant authorities instruct the relevant officials / staff islandwide to implement the power cuts exactly according to the time table issued by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB)? What happens now is the CEB employee/employees responsible to switch off and switch on power do it only when they remember to do so and not according to the time table. For example, sometimes the areas covered by the letter ‘E’ experienced very funny power cuts. They cut power one hour before the scheduled time and then after realizing that the time is wrong they switch on power after 45 minutes. Then they again implement the scheduled power cut at the given time on the time table. People who plan their daily activities face severe difficulties due to this negligence.

Why on earth do those CEB employees not be a little bit mindful, read the given time table and cut the power and switch on the power at the given time? It does not cost them anything by following the rules. At least, they should think about their own families, relations and friends who live in this country with various hardships. Here, in Sri Lanka no one will perform their duties properly if there are no severe punishments as a deterrent. This is the reality. The bitter truth.

The other thing is the stupid and selfish behaviour of various politicians and officials. Whenever they see a mike and a camera they feel like grabbing public attention no matter what they say and what happened to the people and the country as a result of their statements. Almost all types of queues and shortages of commodities started as a result of various statements issued by various Ministers and officials belonging to various State Ministries and other institutions. This started four months ago and still they are talking to the media like kindergarten children without any responsibility. All what so-called ‘journalists’ want is hot audio/video clips that can be sold for radio and television channels for high prices. To do this, they ask all types of questions that can be severely harmful for the country and the people.

Only a handful of intelligent and patriotic politicians and officials who actually care for the people and the country avoid or refrain from answering deadly questions. Often those heroic politicians and officials who do not answer become helpless in front of the media when they are being questioned by ‘journalist wolves’ who try to find blood and flesh to sell for high prices. The uneducated and selfish people do not see those politicians and officials as heroes and they see stupid and ignorant politicians, officials and especially trade union beasts as heroes.

It is more interesting to see what the ordinary people are doing at this moment. All houses with steady income are ‘self –sufficient’ by all types of fuel by now. We see long queues because of the people who are collecting more and more fuel and the people who do not have adequate money and income to buy large amounts of fuel. Only those two groups of people are in fuel queues at this moment. This is why we see many three-wheels and motor bicycles in queues.

Illegal mini fuel storages

There are lakhs of ‘illegal mini fuel storages’ islandwide. People can buy mixed or unmixed fuel from those fuel shortages and travelling illegal mini storages after paying triple or more. Fuel queues will never end here in Sri Lanka if the relevant authorities do not introduce a controlled system to issue fuel to the people as soon as possible. The situation is the same with gas and therefore there is no need to describe it.

It is extremely disgusting to see how the Sri Lankan people are getting ready to face a possible famine. Instead of cultivating whatever plant that can be eaten by using whatever spaces and resources available, they went into supermarkets and shops and bought large stocks of rice creating an artificial rice shortage. This encouraged the large scale rice manufacturers to increase rice prices according their whims and fancies forgetting about fair trading practices and norms! We cannot expect anything more from such a population.

They did not stop there. People and the middle men started to hoard paddy. The price of a kilogram of paddy increased up to Rs. 200. The people who have paddy stopped selling paddy after seeing the crazy stocking up process of the people and middle men. The members of a minor political party with just three percent (3%) of representation encourage farmers not to cultivate. This is the real ground situation of Sri Lanka at the moment.

Recently, one scholar said the price of a loaf of bread will go up to Rs. 1,500 by December. Why on earth can he say that it can be Rs.500? Here, there is something we need to discuss very seriously. He is a scholar. Maybe he knows exactly and predicted the real price. But, at the same time he is a Sri Lankan citizen with a social responsibility. The traders are eagerly waiting to sell a loaf of bread for Rs.1,500 as soon as possible. It is the bitter truth of this country. Then why does someone encourage it? Anyone can discourage it using his/her educational qualifications, popularity etc. But, only those who genuinely love their people and the country will do that. But unfortunately it is very hard to find such people here in Sri Lanka by now. Most of them have vanished into thin air by now. That is why some public figures apologized for an offence they never committed. 

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