In a world of lazy officials and incompetent authorities
Last week, I wrote about the man who spat at me when I walked by him on his left hand side, and he said that it was my fault to get spat on because I passed him on his left hand side, the Devil’s side.
My mind still churns over in anger when I think of this, and I can only hope that future generations are not taught this sort of nonsense by their parents, grandparents, and teachers!
However, my anger this week is directed at officials who could, with a little effort, make the public’s life better. One such case is that on the evening of March 15, a significant traffic jam was caused by vehicles that were making sure that all the street lights on Kemal Ataturk Avenue were working.
The lights were being fixed in time for the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu. The lights were being fixed so that everything would “look good for March 17th.” They were not being fixed for the benefit of the road users.
Another example about the incompetence of officialdom is that at the Gulshan-2 traffic light crossing there is a 100th birth anniversary poster tied up on a lamp post which blocks the view of the traffic lights so that road users -- drivers and pedestrians -- cannot easily see when the red light is on.
On three consecutive days I have asked the traffic police to remove the poster but they said that they can only report it. I do not believe that traffic police cannot take immediate action to save lives. I have to admit that I lost my temper when said that I should send a written complaint!
I told one of the traffic police that everyone is concerned about the coronavirus which can hit us unexpectedly but by removing the offending poster there is a chance that accidents can be prevented. When senior police officers are there, the traffic police are quite attentive, but when they are not there, one often finds three policemen chatting together, busy with their smartphones instead of teaching the pedestrians and motorbike riders the “rules of the road.”
And related to coronavirus and the request by government authorities to avoid or cancel big gatherings, I was astonished to see that the authorities allowed a fireworks display to go ahead on the Banani field.
The local political leaders would have become far more popular if, with money spent on fireworks, they had given some food to the poor children who were peering through the iron railings which surround the field.
I am never quite sure where to direct my anger, the Dhaka North City Corporation or the Banani Society. Residents, including me, have pointed out that the authorities, by their lack of action, have allowed the pathway on the Banani side of the lake, from Road 22, Block-K to Kemal Ataturk Avenue, to be taken over so that pedestrians have to walk on the top of the lakeside bank and the paved pathway is blocked by a large rickshaw park, a shop on wheels and building materials.
When I am with my Bangladeshi friends, and with great sadness give them my observations and complaints, I get the same answer: “Why can you not understand, Julian bhai, this is Bangladesh, it won’t change.”
My angry reaction is to say: “Go into the cantonment or the Defense Officers Housing Colonies and see that things are cleaner, greener, and more orderly. Why can you not embrace change, teach change, and demand change? You have elected ward commissioners recently -- even I voted for the first time. Force them to do some positive work for their local residents and businesses. Force them to lead the changes.”
Julian Francis has been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971, and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh citizenship.