Dr Abdul Momen:
Month of February is our month of pride and resolve. In this month, we struggled valiantly and shed blood to protect and preserve our Mother Language, Bangla. In this month, we talk of promotion of Bangla everywhere.
Unfortunately, in everyday life, do we care much about promotion of Bangla language? For example, I was travelling by Emirates Air from Casablanca to Dhaka on 28th January, 2016.
From Dubai to Dhaka segment, most of the passengers were Bangla speaking. The Airline was making announcements again and again in English and Arabic and never ever in Bangla. When I asked them whether do they care for their passengers? They replied ‘we do care for our customers’. I asked them, although overwhelming majority of their passengers are Bangla-speaking in the flight and many even do not understand or cannot follow your English or Arabic instructions, how come they never made any announcements in Bangla. The Emirates General Manager Mr. Ricardo Graccio, an Italian, replied, as per their contract, they are not required to make announcements in Bangla language. I have nothing against English and Arabic language but since majority of the passengers are Bangla speaking, they should have the courtesy to make announcements in Bangla also. Will our lawmakers look into it?
When we boarded the flight, the airline proudly mentioned that they provide services in 17 different languages. They have crews of different nationalities. Unfortunately, Bangla being the 6th largest native speaking language, they did not care to make any announcements in Bangla more so when it was carrying mostly Bangla-speaking passengers.
When Bangladesh Aviation and Biman Ministry signs agreements with foreign carriers, is it not the responsibility of our Ministry to ask them to be more sensitive to the language of their customers? If they would have cared for Bangla language, they could include a provision in the agreement that if announcements and services are not rendered in Bangla language where overwhelming majority customers are Bangla-speaking, the carrier should pay a penalty of $100,000 for negligence in each time. There should be two punishments—- one monetary penalty of $100,000 and another non-monetary, they must employ one Bangla-speaking employee for each infraction.
In Saudi Arabia, irrespective of any air carrier, each carrier that enters Saudi Arabian space must make announcements in Arabic. Same is in USA. In addition, whenever any airline is awarded right to do business in their land, they are required to have ‘offset’ program in Saudi Arabia in the form of building hospitals, schools, industries, etc. Can I hope that our Aviation Ministry ever care for (1) Bangla language in giving permission to air carriers to enter Bangladesh air space or do business in Bangladesh, and (2) secondly, will they publish a list of air-carriers that have established ‘offset’ programs in Bangladesh?
(Writer: Former UN-Ambassador , renowned Professor, Economist & Diplomat)