Our celebrations today will be uncharacteristically muted, without the huge congregation of people in colourful attire thronging to Ramna Batamul to listen to the songs that usher in the first day of Baishakh. There will be none of the bustle at traditional fairs.
Because this year Pahela Baishakh has arrived amid a national disaster. The novel virus COVID-19 has spread across the world as well as in Bangladesh.
So far 46 people have died of coronavirus in the country while 1012 have tested positive. Confirmed cases and deaths are increasing every day. There is apprehension of the situation worsening further.
But while the present coronavirus crisis may have brought to a halt our physical presence in all these gatherings, it cannot obliterate the spirit behind these celebrations. Pahela Baishakh’s universal appeal unites all the citizens of Bangladesh and beyond, across class, race and religion. It is a recognition of our acceptance of each other, a celebration of our diversity and religious harmony, all part of our heritage.
Lockdown is being imposed to contain spread of the highly contagious virus. Activities have come to a halt for over two weeks. A huge number of low-income people have fallen in financial crisis while marginal people are suffering from food crisis. Though this is no time for celebration, Pahela Baishakh always offers us new aspirations, dreams and resolution. On this day of the Bangla New Year 1427, we uphold the dreams and hopes and extend our greetings to all.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not limited to our health alone, it has impact on all spheres of our national life. Government initiative is not enough to address the situation. The whole society as well as private sectors must join in. The poor people are the worst victims of the economic deadlock. We should extend our help to them during this Pahela Baishakh. Our celebration is therefore of the human spirit that will survive all odds and manifest itself in the most trying of circumstances.
There is no alternative to social distancing. Let us stay home during this Pahela Baishakh. Let us welcome the New Year with the hope that people across the globe be rid of the pandemic soon. Let us start a New Year with new hope and resolution.