Aarong, rights officer and powerful social media
June 4th, 2019 at 7:11 pm
Aarong, rights officer and powerful social media

By Nazrul Islam;

Dhaka – People’s power has been proved once again.

A civil servant, who had fined and shutdown one of the outlets of the Aarong for cheating consumers, has been reinstated to his position hours after he was transferred for his courage to protect the consumers rights. It all happened because of the social media, where people from across the board raised their voices against injustice. It was injustice, indeed.

However, instant justice was made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by overturning the removal order of this dedicated and honest officer.

The officer, Manjur Mohammad Shahriar, working as deputy director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection department, was removed hours after he fined and shut down Aarong’s Uttara branch. Who does not know that Aarong, an enterprise of Bangladesh Rural Advance Committee (BRAC) being headed by globally acclaimed personality Sir Fazle Hossain Abed, is an influential entity in Bangladesh.

The NGO has long been doing the business of different products under the cover of its social, economic and political influence in the South Asian country where consumers have hardly any chance to make their resentments known to relevant authorities, in case they are cheated. The allegation of deception by Aarong, an outlet of readymade garments, handicrafts and other household stuffs made by village women and artisans, is nothing new, but a lack of opportunity and an atmosphere of impunity put them on hold in filing any complaints against any misdeeds.

Manjur Mohammad Shahriar, deputy director at the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection

Aarong is known to have special relations with government ministries which ensures shopping there by all government guests or visitors.

The government, which has been slowly moving to correct social wrongs, launched vigorous drives against food adulteration and the unabashed deceptions by businesses with the consumers ahead of the Eid-al-Fitr. The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection has been given the mandate to look into the consumers’ well-being under a law passed by parliament in 2009.

In this case, Manjur Mohammad Shahriar put his authority into force under the law as he found the Uttara outlet of Aarong, like many other businesses entities, was involved in serious malpractices only to make profit.

Aarong was fined for overpricing its products, and the outlet was shut. But hours after the news spread across the internet, the transfer order of the officer, Shahriar was issued the same night. The Public Administration Ministry, under the order of the President of the republic, hastily issued the order to transfer him to Khulna for “Public interest.” It is, however, not clear whether the President is aware of the transfer order or for what was the “public interest” for which he was transferred barely two days ahead of the Eid-al-Fitr, the largest festival of Muslims.

It is presumed that Aarong top-notches might have used its social muscles in the bureaucracy to get the officer transferred immediately, as if the businesses entity is so powerful that they can do and undo anything just like in Hindi movies. The outlet reopened.

Aarong logo

It is utterly a shame for Aarong, BRAC and its founder Sir Fazle Hossain Abed, who is champion of advocating transparency, integrity and other moral values. The entity should have sought apology in public for its wrongdoings. Instead, its owners flexed their muscles to punish the officer who took action, a rightful action, against a serious malpractice.

Consumers in Dhaka and elsewhere immediately started to vent their anger in social media over Aarong’s reported deceptive activities and the transfer of the officer. Many of them alleged that BRAC’s enterprise had been doing it for a long time, but there was nobody to correct it.

The news of Sharier’s transfer went viral and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is now on an official visit to Finland, noticed the surprise move by the Public Administration Ministry ordering Shahriar’s removal and ordering him to report to the Khulna zone of Roads and Highways Department as the estate and law officer by Jun 13.

Biplob Barua, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, in a Facebook post confirmed that Prime Minister Hasina noticed it, and the transfer order has been scrapped by an appropriate authority.

“Transfer in the public jobs is part of a normal process. The drives conducted by Mr. Manjur Mohammad Shahriar against adulteration and overpricing of products ahead of the Eid were appreciated,” he wrote in the social media post.

It is presumed that the profiteering by the Aarong and its influence might have taken an upper-hand unless the Prime Minister noticed and took appropriate measures to overturn the order. The Prime Minister, who always upholds peoples’ spirit, deserves a big thanks for being realistic and not bow down to the so-called influences of the conglomerates.

It is a signal for the other businesses too in the age of information and communication technology, internet and social media.   

Bangladeshi journalist
Nazrul Islam is a journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The writer can be reached by e-mail ; [email protected]