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A travesty of governance

  • Published at 12:01 am August 1st, 2019
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Photo: SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

Is our infrastructure doomed to crumble under its own weight?

That it takes directives of the court to address common issues is a travesty in terms of good governance.

What is worse is that it will take a formal complaint sometime in the future for the honourable court to take further action.

The two recent directives -- one related to the masterplan to solve the capital’s continued and irritating traffic jams and the other a four-day timeline to register some 479,000 vehicles without valid papers -- come as no shock.

Even children took to the streets in demanding fitness tests and driving licenses for transport owners and drivers, prompting the government to undertake a short-lived clampdown.

But, in more aspects than one, the situation is back to where it was with buses spewing out black carbon emission in all of their ramshackle existence.

The traffic signals imported at great expense from Malaysia are mere adornment and the traffic police are powerless to stop the menace named motorcycles that contravene even manual traffic directions.

What the masterplan will comprise hasn’t been explained by the honourable court.

The plans to remove rickshaws from the circular bus service routes are being flouted at will. There just aren’t enough traffic police duly empowered to haul them in.

There’s also no scientific method of finning rickshaws barring graft and confiscating them to the police stations.

Here, again, there isn’t enough transport available for police to haul the offending vehicles away.

And so, they are focusing on private cars to be hauled away by wreckers on grounds as flimsy as a parking offenses. Government vehicles proudly bearing stickers pronouncing the same are, of course, exempt.

Masterplans will have to be a combination of a limited life cycle of vehicles, controlled numbers hitting the streets, odd and even numbered transport on roads, and a gradual taxation system that propels commuters towards public transport rather than CNGs and rickshaws.

The vanishing bus stops must be reintroduced, and a call must be taken in what types of mechanized transport should be allowed on the main thoroughfares.

The Hatirjheel project used to be a delight to pass through, but not anymore, now that covered vans, and even trucks, use it as night-time passage, that too along the wrong way.

It is preposterous to imagine nearly 500,000 vehicles using the roads without proper papers.

This too after a massive drive whereby hundreds of vehicles were taken to task, and crores realized in fines following the student protests. The subsequent law is stuck in parliament thanks to the powerful lobby of the transporters over the death sentence clause.

Jaywalking, in spite of the several and not inconsiderable foot over bridges are just as responsible. Perhaps the individual fines for such misdemeanours and baton whacks on the posterior aren’t a bad idea after all.

That’s how Lee Kwan Yew restored discipline in Singapore, along with the awareness that began in schools and community briefings. In the meantime, the courts are helpless except issuing directives that no one deems necessary to follow. 

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