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A movement that should be a lesson for the government

  • Published at 06:22 pm August 1st, 2018
A movement too big to ignore?
A movement too big to ignore? / SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

Too often, reckless drivers get away

In cricket parlance it’s called “dancing down the wicket” but with literature taking a backseat, commentators describe it as a “shimmy.”

Whichever way it’s referred to; the idea is to ridicule all the guiles a bowler can think of.

Perhaps shaming is one way of a return to a modicum of normalcy in pedestrian movement, ridiculing the growing jay-walking we are afflicted with.

Kolkata police began by firing anyone crossing the road when an underground walkway or underpass was near. The sole underpass along Karwan Bazar is not known of by many and, overpass or no, people delight in dodging hedges and traffic to take the short-cut risking, not just their lives but also of young children eager to return home from school.

It applies across the broad spectrum of public life from unemployed street gazers to the busy, hurried executives.

They march forth with a wave of the hands making it mandatory for private vehicles to stop or slowdown. The exception is that no one takes chances with buses and trucks -- mowing people down is a regular pastime with them. 

The latest tragedy of two young students being killed and a third being grievously hurt by two competing buses has led to a movement that should be a lesson for the government.

Votes of the drivers’ union matter but lives matter more. Too often, too randomly these drivers have gotten away scot free. Statistics show that more than 21,000 lives have been lost in a year due to reckless driving. No one has been convicted. For once, even commuters are gritting their teeth and supporting the movement.

There were many who criticized Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader when he had a motorcyclist do squats while holding his ears. “Uncivilized” they shouted from the rooftops and, for all we know, mumbled as the rickshaw carrying them trundled down the wrong side of the road.

Once I asked a rickshaw-puller why he was on the wrong side of the road. He was quick to retort: “It’s because that’s what most of my passengers ask me to do.” It was pointless suggesting to him that he avoid such a practice for fear of yet another retort in the vein of “what about all those VIPs?” Touché.

So why not do what Mr Quader had done? Let policemen force VIPs to do squats while clutching their ears in public. The idea is to implement the laws so why not shame it?

Motorcycles are now like ants slithering across roads and pavements, weaving in and out of lanes at will. 

They just thread towards the top of the traffic queue, and they have the uncanny ability to read traffic directions before speeding ahead in between one lane closing and another opening. 

The police have tried the rope-a-dope tactic to prevent this. The rope has since disappeared, leaving the cop a dope. Apparently that’s a safety hazard.

Of particular danger is driving on the wrong side by motorcyclists on Hatirjheel, where road lights are less prominent, as well as being home to vehicles which shouldn’t be plying the road in the first place. Parking facilities appear to have been overlooked, causing motorcycles and cars to be parked on the bridges, severely testing whatever load they were to have carried to begin with.

Planning inadequacies lead to vehicles remaining stationary on the Rangs Bridge, not to mention other major bridges. Unfortunately, the “handshaking” treatise between transport drivers and police come in the way of intervention. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.