Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that the term VIP referred to individuals who were treated with special importance compared with ordinary people because of their position.
Nothing unique to Bangladesh, a VIP is commonly perceived in many parts of the world to be a person of great influence or prestige, he says.
Iftekharuzzaman argued that VIPs were high-level public representatives or public officials who enjoyed some special privileges due to the entrusted power and responsibility exercised in public interest.
In an ideal world a VIP enjoyed the privileges for the high-level services she or he delivered in public interest, he said and added that a VIP is expected to command dignity, respect and credibility in the eyes of the public for the importance and the manner in which the entrusted power was exercised.
He added that the privileges granted to a VIP were supposed to be earned and deserved, not usurped and abused.
All privileges enjoyed by VIPs entail costs for people at large in many different ways, some of which were quantifiable while others were immeasurable, he said.
‘Unfortunately, however, abuse of power by a section of the VIPs in many different ways in the name of privileges and entitlements to the extent of adversely affecting basic rights of common people had demonised the concept of VIP in Bangladesh,’ Iftekharuzzaman observed.
He said as a result of such abuse, the scope for common people’s access to constitutionally and legally guaranteed rights and services was often restricted. Free movement by road and other means of public transport were affected, as were public safety, security and even right to life.
He mentioned that the tragic death of Titas Ghosh on July 25, 2019 when the Ferry Cumilla, on which an ambulance carrying the young school student, waited for three hours for a joint secretary to arrive, symbolises how the common people could be deprived of even the right to life due to indiscriminate abuse of the status of the VIP.
‘It also shows a blatant lack of accountability and abuse of perceived privileges associated with VIP-hood,’ he said.
The executive director of TIB also added that among factors that exacerbate already unbearable traffic congestion of Dhaka city was the so-called VIP movement.
‘There have been reports of students’ failure to reach public examination centre in time due to restriction imposed on public transport to provide priority to the VIPs, the cost of which will never be recovered for the rest of victim’s life,’ he argued.
He added that vehicles with critically ill patients often failed to timely reach hospital needing health care and argued that examples of flights being delayed for VIP passengers were a rather commonplace story.
‘There can be hardly any reason to question the justifications for special privileges including security arrangements of VVIPs like the head of the state or the head of the government who, as the High Court has also observed on July 31, are in a totally different category,’ he said.
Iftekharuzzaman also observed that unrestricted expansion of the scope and methods of enjoying undue privileges by a section of senior officials and political leaders had created a drastically overblown perception of the VIP and the associated privileges undermining the public.
People wrere often forced to associate the term VIP with high-handedness and lordliness, devoid of civility causing indiscriminate hazards in public life including threats to safety and security, he said.
He further added that time was more than ripe now for the relevant authorities to review and specifically define the concept and coverage of the term VIP, the cost of whose privileges were covered by public money and resources.
The contours and categories of privileges and entitlements of the VIPs should also be clearly delineated by adopting a policy on privileges and responsibilities of VIPs, he pointed out.
He said that since in the end it was a burden for the public, the people’s opinion and feedback should be solicited and duly incorporated in the process of development of such a policy.
It should also guarantee ways and means of ensuring accountability in case of violations, he pointed out.
‘There must be specific provisions for effective compensation for any loss of life as in the case of Titas Ghosh and other damages caused to the members of the public,’ he concludes.
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