There has always been a huge need for discipline on city roads. Dhaka is certainly among those rare number of cities in the world where an absolutely carefree attitude to behaviour on the roads, both by pedestrians and motorists, is in fashion. Surprisingly, those whose responsibility it is to enforce the rules on the road, and we refer to the traffic policemen on duty, seem to be indifferent to the whole idea. Of course, in fits and starts the police get to work on the issue, particularly when a police week or something similar happens to come up.
The problem of how we use our roads is a critical one. Pedestrians are simply not bothered about rules. The presence of overhead foot bridges to facilitate pedestrian movement is ignored and people cheerfully indulge in jaywalking, often in full view of traffic sergeants and constables. Such conditions are fraught with risks, but does the pedestrian care? As if that were not enough, there are the drivers, of all kinds of vehicles, who appear to have decided that violating traffic rules is fine in a country where powerful and influential people often skirt around the law to achieve their nefarious aims.
Vehicles come to a stop on zebra crossings, forcing people to cross over to the other side in slithering, snake-like manner. At the same time, the arrogance-laden impunity with which drivers change lanes in order to overtake one another on the road is behaviour which shows no signs of abating. Add to that the brazen manner in which motor-cyclists happily go by without their helmets on and often have their two-wheelers climb on to pavements in order to beat the bad traffic on the road.
Indeed, there are reasons to think that as a society, insofar as road traffic is concerned, we are reverting to old times when traffic was controlled manually by the police. Over the last few years, that old mechanism has reappeared, even though the traffic lights are seemingly at work. The results have been bad. Sergeants and constables keep vehicles on a road stranded for inordinately long periods of time in order for vehicles on the other side to move in smooth manner. Instances of such activity, or non-activity, are to be spotted on Bijoy Sharani and the road leading from Khamarbarhi to Farmgate.
Finally, can we expect the police department to have its traffic personnel stay away from the temptation of stopping vehicles at whim and checking their papers when such papers are in proper order?
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