That the Labaid Cardiac Hospital at Dhanmondi, according to a report, has been fined Tk 0.10 million for illegal occupation of footpath is, on the face of it, run-of-the-mill news. But looked from a broader perspective, it is not. The executive magistrate who slapped the fine has invoked two legal provisions---one from the Local Government Act-2009 and another from Consumers Rights Act-2009---to do so. In this case, the hospital not only obstructed people's movement on the footpath by its infringement with a power generator/s (whether one or more is not mentioned) but also caused risks to their lives.
In a country where mobile courts have to be deployed to bring in order wayward and criminal practices resorted to by small retail shops to restaurants preparing meals to reputed manufacturers of an array of consumer goods including drinking water and bakery items, usually the aberrations of big and influential players are overlooked. It is on this count, the slapping of fine on Labaid Cardiac Hospital has its special significance. Indifference to such an unlawful act by the hospital would have been a miscarriage of law and duty. On that count, the magistrate deserves kudos.
Of the many organisations, commercial ventures and utilities ---both public and private---the hospitals are there to serve the ailing humanity although the governing motive, in most cases, today is to make hefty profit. This, however, does not and should not make an exception to the safety rules. The power generation and distribution companies cannot be allowed to leave exposed electric wires dangerously dangling close to buildings ---residential or otherwise. Even utility bodies cannot leave dug out roads exposed without barricade or protection. But these have long been the practice here.
Illegal occupation of footpaths or spaces frequented by the public in myriad ways could not be controlled, let alone stopped. One of the reasons is, of course, mental block on the part of those working at the sites. The other one is the symptom of underdevelopment in which safety measures are not a plus point of all concerned. But all such issues get further exacerbated by what is known as illegal toll collection or extortion by different agencies including musclemen or gangs and even the law enforcement agencies. Even a betel leaf and cigarette vendor who has the smallest mobile contraption of a shop has to part with a portion of his earning. His or her occupation of the space on the footpath or street corner is illegal but without a mentor ---usually elements with nuisance values of the locality who may have political connections and influences ---even such small trade cannot be operated.
Here comes the role of responsible behaviour and practice by reputed private facilities and organisations including the city corporations. If a city corporation allowed its receptacles brimming with garbage, some of which even spilling on roads obstructing parts of a thoroughfare or a busy road, not-so-conscious citizens are supposed to take a cue from this to be careless in throwing waste anywhere and everywhere.
Hospitals in particular have the added responsibility of disposing of medical waste, part of which poses high risk to health and environment. Then there are medical colleges and hospitals with diagnostic and consultation facilities right on busy roads. They have no space in front or at the back for cars and ambulances to haul or drop patients. Such tasks are carried on the footpaths. It is a mess there in the afternoon and evening, the time for medical consultation.
Before expecting responsible behaviour from the common people, the better educated and placed segments as well as their organisations must set examples of imitable civic sense and discreet acts. Any laxity on their part to conform to the rules and stated social responsibility proves infectious, inviting a general decline in discipline and violation of rules. So, the campaign for cleaning the Augean stables should begin from the top, not from the bottom.