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Of hijras and app-based motorbikers

Shamsul Huq Zahid | Published: June 30, 2019 21:27:31 | Updated: July 01, 2019 21:56:43


-bdnews24.com file photos

Dhaka is among the worst liveable cities on earth. It has a plethora of problems, including a few unmanageable ones. Its traffic woes have attracted the global attention. Equally bad is its air quality.

Burdened with an ever-bulging population, Dhaka has given rise to enough of headache for the agencies responsible for managing its affairs. But it is hard to say that the agencies are truly serious about addressing the civic problems that the city have been encountering day in, day out.

Already beset with old and chronic problems, the city dwellers these days are experiencing a few more of the kind while they are on city streets or at homes. Notable among those are a bunch of extorting hermaphrodites, popularly known as hijras, and swarms of unruly app-based ride-sharing motor cyclists. The problems are becoming bigger and bigger with none trying to address those.

People are always found to be curious about the transgender population the actual size of which is not known to many. But, lately, anguish has replaced curiosity, particularly among the Dhaka residents, because of the harassment many of them face at the hands of a section of hermaphrodites. The latter are found operating in small groups at important city road cross-sections and residential areas. They demand money from people travelling by rickshaws and cars. Anyone refusing them to pay does face abusive and filthy languages. Often, they make obscene and highly objectionable physical gestures in public.

In many residential areas, they are found prowling their victims, particularly the families having newborns. They enter homes of such families and demand handsome 'bakshis' (tips). Once refused, they come out in their true colour and harass the families concerned.

The hermaphrodites are also found collecting money from small roadside shops and markets. The shop owners do not mind paying a small amount of money (usually Tk 10) to them. But, such generosity has made them a bit unruly. They have developed a feeling that extorting money from normal people is a matter of their right.

None is apparently there to make them understand that they are wrong in their approach and they should not resort to unlawful act of extorting people. Rather, the law enforcers prefer to be onlookers when hermaphrodites harass people using abusive languages or making objectionable gestures.

There is no denying that these human beings have the right to survive. Since none provides them with jobs, they do resort to the act of extortion. However, that should not be the case. It remains the responsibility of the state to look after the welfare of this hapless class of people. The government should devise ways for rehabilitating the transgender population and, at the same, time stop them from harassing commuters and residents.  

The other problem relates to app-based ride sharing by motorbikes. Many have started describing it as a public nuisance and a threat to road safety.

When the app-based ridesharing service was first introduced in Dhaka, commuters welcomed it. For the service is fast and cheap. Though people are still using the service, they find their operators to be defiant and unruly. In the absence of any sort of control, the city roads remains occupied with swarms of so-called app-based motorbikes. Motorbikers from different parts of the country have entered the city and got registered with app-based service providers.

Many saw the ridesharing service as an alternative source of earning for hundreds of unemployed youths. But the fact remains that many employed individuals have joined the ridesharing service to earn extra amount.

Now the service has become rather unmanageable. Yet the relevant authorities have decided not to act on the issue. The motorbikers engaged in ridesharing usually give a damn to traffic rules, behave like gangsters and do very often put the lives of passengers and also of their own at risk. Statistics covering reported and unreported motorcycle accidents in Dhaka would confirm that fact.

The traffic problem in Dhaka is one of the world's worst. The ridesharing service has only compounded it further. For instance, because of poor traffic management, the road intersections in particular remain vulnerable to traffic congestion. These days the traffic situation has aggravated further as the app-based motor bikers have chosen the major road intersections to be their parking spots. The on-duty traffic policemen, for reasons best known to them, in most cases, avoid actions against the errant ridesharing operators.

Moreover, one dangerous development is noticeable lately. Some motorbikes are involved in ridesharing business without being registered with any app-based company. Naturally, no tracking record is available in the case of such operators. This puts at risk the safety and security of passengers availing such services.

Overall, the government does need to look into the problem of so-called ridesharing. It should exercise control over the companies involved in it and streamline the operations of vehicles under them. The relevant authorities should not allow further deterioration of the traffic situation in Dhaka and highhandedness of app-based motorbikers.

zahidmar10@gmail.com

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