Dhaka, Bangladesh
Traffic reverting to mad old modes

Traffic reverting to mad old modes

News Desk Dhaka is reverting to its old habit, reeling out of a stunning disciplining spell in the streets. Those known ramshackle buses are sneaking into the mega-city thoroughfares gradually, perceivably with the seal of approval on long-expired or freshly-issued documents. People fear the old traffic chaos could return now that a sort of 'teen revolt' for safe road peters out and some of the campaigners face reprisals. "I saw one bus with raw paint still rolling down its body," said one observer about how old buses are changing looks with painted body to hoodwink those who see. Many others just return with their wrinkled faces and bodies to make some fast bucks out of a nagging transport crisis in this overpopulated capital city following the nightmare of students taking over traffic control following a latest road tragedy. The vacuum should have been and ought to be filled with fit ones from the old fleets and new buses under the long-stalled 'bus-route franchise' scheme under the donor-aided STP or strategic transport plan taken up by Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA). All quarters, including government leaders, have hailed the eye-opener student movement for safe road and smart transport system suiting Bangladesh's upgrading status on development front. So, experts and analysts feel, with due deference to the goodwill of the schoolchildren, the transport system should see a sea change on a priority basis. And that is seen as more important than making law with harsher punishments. A bdnews24.com report adds: Dhaka traffic has relapsed into old chaos with students' popular campaign for safer roads fizzling out. Bus drivers race each other for passengers. People get in and out of vehicles in non-designated areas. Pedestrians jaywalk. Vehicles without valid documents are back in service. Rickshaws and motorbikes are seen driving on wrong lanes. These are the common scenes that define Dhaka traffic-once again. Nothing much has changed even though the police observed a Traffic Week in the context of the campaign by students. The campaign for safe roads came after Diya Khanam and Abdul Karim Rajib, students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College, died in a bus accident on Airport Road on Jul 29. The students continued the movement with a nine-point demand and occupied the streets for more than a week to stop vehicles and check driving licences. It was evident that influential and not-so-influential people defied the traffic law. Members of Bangladesh Scouts were present in different intersections to assist the traffic police on Thursday, but scenes of chaos abounded. A large number of passengers were seen waiting for buses at Karwan Bazar on Thursday afternoon when the bdnews24.com reporter visited the area. The number of buses on the roads was insufficient. Transport workers were letting passengers in and out of their buses in the middle of Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, one of the busiest roads in Dhaka. Two buses operated by Trust Transport and United Paribahan were seen racing each other on the road to Mirpur. Scout members were struggling to control the flow of jaywalkers in parts of the city. A group of students in Notre Dame College uniform were jaywalking near the SAARC Fountain at around 2pm. "The underpass is located so far. And jaywalking is an old habit," said Ratul, a private company employee. "People don't want to follow traffic rules. We are helpless," said Traffic Sergeant Rafiqul Islam who was on duty. There is a lack of bus stoppages and also people tend to jump onto moving buses, said Rafiqul when asked why the buses allow passengers to get in and out in the middle of the road. At least 80 cases have been filed against traffic law offenders, the police official said. Passengers were seen crowding Farmgate, a busy area for public transports. "Nothing has changed. You'll see vehicles without necessary papers back on the road," said Sakib Afzal, a Mirpur-bound passenger who failed to catch a bus after a series of attempts in an hour. Four police sergeants were busy checking driving licences and other documents at Farmgate. They fined or pressed cases against offenders. A team of Dhaka Metropolitan Police led by DMP Executive Magistrate Md Imrul Hasan were seen controlling the traffic in Motijheel. Scout members assisted the the police team by persuading pedestrians to use a footbridge. The scouts were taking jaywalkers to the executive magistrate. One of the jaywalkers, Mohammed Nabin, told the magistrate that he always jaywalked. He was fined Tk 10 and released by the magistrate. Another jaywalker was released after signing an undertaking that he would always use pedestrian bridges. At least 150 jaywalkers were caught in Motijheel as of Thursday afternoon, said Hasan. "Not all of them were fined but warned and released," he said adding some vehicles were fined Tk 20,000 each for defying the traffic law. The traffic situation remained the same in other parts of the city as well: Paltan, Mohakhali, Mirpur and Banani Chairmanbari. Jaywalking, lane hopping and traffic signal breaches are among the common offences. Around 200 cases were filed on such offences at Mirpur 10, said Traffic Sergeant Jhoton Shikder.

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