Is it really necessary for all government-issued vehicles to have flag-stands?
Right after I passed the bar exam, I used a sticker that placed the word “Advocate” on the front and back of my car. However, in May 2016, we were informed by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) that criminals were apparently using stickers that mentioned certain professions in order to avoid police search.
The then Commissioner warned against the display of such “unauthorized labels,” and said at a press briefing that the “vehicles have extra stickers that say police, journalist, or lawyer … why is that? We will all abide by traffic rules. There is no need for these stickers.”
The police directive
It looks as though that the directive is actually being followed, and I have personally had to remove the label from my own vehicle, I honestly thought that such a regulation on the part of the police was ridiculous, since no stickers in reality should actually prevent law enforcement from stopping vehicles and/or conducting searches, provided they feel the need to, to ensure safety of the citizens.
Although the directive might have stopped lawyers and journalists from boasting, has it really had any effect on vehicles of various ministries or departments of the government? Even if we deem that government vehicles no longer use stickers, to my knowledge, almost all of their cars and SUVs have flag-stands, and I cannot possibly think of a better "label."
It is worth mentioning that the DMP has mentioned that labels authorized by organizations would be allowed.
It was encouraging to learn from a particular national daily that the cabinet is going to formulate a guideline, and once approved, the government officials would be required to take prior permission before using flag-stands, stickers, monograms, and special types of sirens on their cars. But the authenticity of the news is questionable.
Regardless, quick action in this regard has actually become a crying need, given that criminals of significant stature have been reported to have illegally used flag-stands on their cars while commuting.
These cases are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irregularities regarding the misuse of labels in Bangladesh.
What the law says
Regulations are clear on the use of flags: To be used by citizens solely on special occasions such as Independence or Victory Day -- in accordance to rule 4(I) of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Flag Rules, 1972. On all other days, rule 6 (III) to (V) mentions that only the president and the prime minister, alongside the following persons would be able to use the national flag on their motor vehicles: The speaker of parliament, the chief justice, cabinet ministers, the chief whip, the deputy speaker of parliament, the leader of the opposition, and heads of diplomatic/consular missions of Bangladesh in foreign countries.
Also, regarding motor vehicles, the law lastly states that the ministers of state and persons accorded the status of a minister of state, deputy ministers, and those accorded with such status, only while on tour outside Dhaka, would be entitled to the privilege.
A symbol of warning
Considering the fact that only a handful of officials actually possess the authority to use the national flag while on the move, is it really necessary for most, if not all government issued vehicles, to include flag-stands?
For example, the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges has five departments, including the BRTC, BRTA, and the Roads and Highways Department.
There is absolutely no point in every vehicle -- apart from the one used by the minister -- to have attached flag-stands, not even the ones used by the highest administrative official (secretary).
The likelihood of the minister ending up in a situation where he would urgently need to get in a subordinate’s vehicle and the national flag would need to be flown is rather low.
Why is there the need to make all government vehicles look VIP? The only reason is perhaps for us to be cautious of the movement of such royalty on the roads.
There have been enough written on the misuse of traffic rules by government vehicles in this newspaper.
But I personally believe that, provided such vehicles would not have the unnecessarily attached flag-stands, the civil servants and their chauffeurs would not have the audacity to misbehave with ordinary citizens on the roads and would adhere to the rules and regulations like the rest of us.
It is of importance that unnecessary flag-stands from all government vehicles are removed at once.
The constant misuse makes citizens feel unequal, and we certainly do not intend to bear with such unfairness as tax-payers.
Saquib Rahman is a senior lecturer in law, and the faculty advisor of the Ethics & Diversity Club of North South University.