NOTHING of the promises to make city roads safe and free them of congestion has become reality. The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority at a meeting in June set up a special committee led by Dhaka’s south mayor to remove illegal vehicles off the roads and reclaim footpaths. The road transport and bridges minister at the meeting said that Dhaka would be free of traffic congestion by August. The two months have passed but the committee sat only once. Meanwhile, systematic irregularities in city transport sector continue to risk lives of people, who also lose productive hours to traffic congestion. The authorities concerned tried to justify their inaction saying that the outbreak of dengue had forced them to deprioritise traffic safety issues. It appears that city authorities are making excuses in defence of their inaction as the city authorities have separate units to work on issues of public health, waste management and traffic management. Urban planners and passenger rights activists found their inaction reprehensible given that the city authorities so far have failed to contain the dengue epidemic.
This is not the first time that a committee was set up to improve transport sector that has failed to achieve its goal. Since 2011, a number of high-powered committees were set up and they all made recommendations for an improved public transport sector, but all directives remain largely unimplemented. In February, a 15-member committee was set up to give recommendations to prevent road accidents and discipline the sector with a member of parliament, also the executive president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, as the head. The selection of controversial figure with direct monetary interest in the sector to lead the committee sparked a debate that time. Activists advocating passenger welfare suggested that the formation of committees one after another to make recommendations are nothing but a bureaucratic ploy to maintain the status quo. They suggest that the problems in the sector and the solutions have already been outlined in many reports; only they need to be enforced strictly. Bureaucratic issues have been used as an excuse for decades to justify the systemic irregularities and corruption in the transport sector.
The city authorities are obliged to ensure road safety. The management of dengue outbreak cannot compromise road and traffic safety management. It is in no way acceptable to perform one responsibility at the expense of the other. In what follows, the city authorities must immediately ensure that its emergency activities do not impact the operation of routine responsibility. Passenger rights activists and citizens at large must also continue to protest against this political tendency to use bureaucracy to maintain the state of the affair in the transport sector and protect the profit-seeking motives of certain quarters.
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