Civilisation’s existential question!

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Asianbangla, Dhaka : It is heartening to see police checking documents of vehicles on the streets as part of their announced Traffic Week that began across the country on Sunday.”

It is inspiring that they are doing the job with sincerity. And it is more so because of the slogan that the police have used this time: “Traffic discipline is a symbol of a civilised nation [ ট্রাফিক শৃঙ্খলা একটি জাতির সভ্যতার প্রতীক]”.

All these are what the country needs today to check thousands of unnecessary and avoidable deaths on roads and numerous mutilations and injuries.

But may we ask a few simple questions: Why this traffic checking for one week only? Is it that vehicles would ply only for a week and civilisation will be restored for only one week? After that our roads will be void of traffic? And more importantly why can’t we continue this checking throughout the year? Why can’t our police force enforce the law round the year?

Moreover, when the traffic week began, all the public transports, a large number of which are run by unlicensed drivers and without fitness and documents, disappeared from the roads because of an undeclared strike by the owners and workers.

The behaviour of the transport owners and workers is something to scrutinise and think about.

Whenever any disciplining drive is launched, mainly after some sensational accidents, these people call wildcat strikes. There are even instances that they have called strikes against court verdicts too penalising errand drivers. And most strikingly, some of our ministers have backed these strikes to the detriment of civilisation that the police want to ensure from today.

When a court gave life term to the driver of the bus that killed filmmaker Tareque Masud and cinematographer Mishuk Munier on the Dhaka-Aricha highway in 2011, the transport workers called a strike.

In the midst of public outcry against the strike, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, who also happens to be a workers’ leader, defended the strike saying “if anyone is aggrieved, he or she has the right to call a strike. Hence the transport workers just followed the method.”

Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Kader, however, contradicted Shajahan and termed the strike “unacceptable”.

The government had to negotiate with the workers and promised to take “legal steps” to consider the court verdict against the driver to make them lift the strike.

When a Dhaka court sentenced a truck driver to death last year for killing a woman in Savar as a sequel to previous enmity, the transport workers again called a strike.

When the government last year tried to bring discipline to the city’s public transport, the bus owners enforced an undeclared strike and the decision was made at Shajahan’s residence in the presence of another minister, Moshiur Rahman Ranga, who also happens to be the president of transport owners’ association.

In the wake of public sufferings, Obaidul Quader expressed his helplessness.

“Those in the transport sector are no ordinary people. Many of them are very influential. The current situation in the transport sector can be described as nothing but anarchy,” a helpless Quader had said then.

So the anarchy continued and hence the current student protest to restore “civilisation”. So when the police put up the banner of “Traffic discipline is a symbol of a civilised nation” how far the job can be done is anybody’s guess.

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