To err is human. According to Collins and Merriam-Webster this well-known phrase means it is natural for human beings to make mistakes. There is nothing called perfect and nobody likes a perfect person.
A search for the origin of the phrase takes us back poet Alexander Pope, who in his 1711 treatise An Essay on Criticism to the US Institutes of Medicine's report on patient safety used it: To Err is Human.
While we work we do make mistakes. As a journalist we make mistake in sometimes in gathering the information and on other occasions reporting the events accurately. Mistakes are also made in writing grammatically correct sentence, misquoting the news sources and so on. If and when the errors are detected we do right those as soon as possible. In games like cricket batters make mistakes in choosing the wrong ball to hit and get out. The bowlers sometimes mismanage the line and length to get punished by batters. Well, these are all normal and natural. Making a mistake means using it as an experience and provides an opportunity to learn a lesson from it. However, an error can be fatal and lead to disaster and deaths if it is made by a pilot on a plane or a doctor performing a critical surgery. When a mistake is committed by an airplane pilot that person rarely gets a chance to avoid repeating it. But we journalists do get a second chance or even a third chance. Doctors do get it, government policy makers and administrators do get it. Unfortunately, not in all cases the repeat of a mistake is avoided.
Consider the mistake the government made in naming Rois Uddin, a former civil servant, for the 2020 Swadhinata Purushakar or Independence Award, the highest civilian state award of the country for his "outstanding" contribution to literature. His name was withdrawn only after the decision sparked such a strong controversy that it went viral on the social media. No one having a knowledge about the country's literary world knew who Mr. Rois was and what was his contribution to literature. It was good that the selectors of the man admitted their blunder, backtracked and quickly dropped Rois from that year's list of the recipients of the prestigious national award. At that time an assurance was given from the relevant authorities that such mistake won't be repeated. This assurance proved futile after this year's list of the Independence Award once again found the name of another controversial person for the literature prize. This time it was a posthumous selection of someone called Amir Hamza, the late father of a serving bureaucrat who allegedly could hoodwink first one of his senior colleagues (the commerce secretary) in recommending his application for the award. Amir Hamza, who? That had been the collective outcry from the literary world of Bangladesh and beyond. The senior minister of the Cabinet, who has been at the head of the bureaucrat-led committee that finally recommends the names to the prime minister tried to pass on the mistake on the committee's collective decision. Perhaps aware of the bitter experience that he had in the 2020 incident he did not waste any time in assuring a change following to the controversy. In this regard he, at least, kept his word, though he had most likely been instructed by the prime minister to do so.
On last Wednesday, the senior minister AKM Mozammel Haque of the liberation affairs ministry, in answering a reporter's question, said that the committee was misled in picking Amir Hamza. This has opened a Pandor's box bringing forth several unpalatable issues the minister has to answer. In dealing with a subject as important as the State's highest award why would the committee, headed by the senior minister, let itself to be misled by a group of bureaucrats, who have little literary credentials other than just being in the now-powerful administrative service? Is it just an overnight? If it's a glaring instance of incompetence what else then is? Isn't hiding the information that Mr. Amir Hamza, before his death was an accused in the case of murdering a farmer and a minor girl and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1978, a punishable offence? Were the people involved in the case of Mr. Rois taken to task in 2020? It's clear that there has been a pattern of such offenses committed by individuals who don't mind in abusing their power and political connection in embarrassing the prime minister. Mere warnings or talk of taking action against the offenders won't work.
Because of the repeated "mistakes" the Independence Award for Literature could not be given for two years. Even if we intend to rise above the blaming game a couple of points must be mentioned here for immediate action by the government. The practice of inviting application for the would-be awardees must be go along with the overhauling of the bureaucrats-dominated committee. For each category of the award there has to be separate committees comprising personalities who are involved in the subject. No individual application should be allowed. Also, as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggested the scope of the award be expanded for outstanding people at the grassroots who prefer not to be in the limelight. She made the remarks at the function to mark the distribution of this year's award to the winners on Thursday. A last-minute inclusion of the Power Division for the award for its remarkable contribution to reaching electricity to every house of the country has also been a bright move by the prime minister.
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