Will they direct the nation tomorrow?
In a remarkable display of acute civic sense, students took it upon themselves to direct the traffic on Dhaka’s roads on Thursday.
The demonstration was part of the fifth day of protests demanding change, change in road laws, change in perception and implementation of rules, and change in how people are held accountable for running over others.
At the Science Lab intersection, Dhanmondi Road 31, Dhanmondi Road 27 - all three on Mirpur Road, and the Star Kabab intersection on Sat Masjid Road, students were found taking up the responsibility to route and reroute traffic with due diligence. Similar actions were reported from all over Dhaka, and in many other parts of the country.
Unlike everyday traffic, vehicles were split into lanes. Rickshaws and bikes operated the left lane, and four-wheeled motor vehicles and trucks took the right lane.
The students wore their school uniform, many fashioned the Bangladeshi flag as a bandana or wrapped it around as a cape. With deft gestures and confidence that belied that age, they displayed an assuaging sense of responsibility in executing the road traffic - perhaps Dhaka’s biggest woe.
Hundreds, if not thousands, gathered at the Science Lab intersection as part of the protest. But not one ambulance or a truck carrying medical supplies, or anyone rushing in an emergency found themselves impeded. One uniformed student would ride shotgun, while several others would run ahead and clear the road.
The student volunteers stopped vehicles to check for licence and registration. A student patrolling Green Road cheerfully reported that only by 2pm in the afternoon they had found 40 cars without any paperwork and reported them to the police - who were watching the show with magnanimous curiosity - who cooperated with the students.
The protest swept across Bangladesh on its fifth day on Thursday, demanding justice for the killings of two students on Airport Road this past Sunday by a reckless driver. Reckless driving is a norm for most buses and trucks in many parts of Bangladesh, not just Dhaka. And road accidents have claimed an alarming number of lives this past Eid. The ongoing campaign is attempting to change and implement road safety regulations and ensure accountability.