Very often, the top notches of major local government entities come out roaring in the matters of taking actions against the people encroaching on roads, pavements and canals or operating battery-run rickshaws. Unfortunately, in most cases, their roars soon turn into whimpers that also gradually fade away.
Take the case of clearing the footpaths in the busy Gulistan-Baitul Mukarram-Purana Paltan area. Soon after his election, the incumbent mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) promised to make these areas hawker-free so that pedestrians can move freely. The opposite has happened. The pedestrians are now required to pass through the middle of the roads as makeshift shops have encroached on a part of the roads after occupying all the pavements. Even road medians have not been spared.
The situation in some areas of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is no better. A visit to roads leading to Mirpur-10 roundabout, Kalshi Road, most feeder roads in Mirpur would reveal how encroachers are enjoying a field day. Shopkeepers along the Kalshi Road have made most of the pavements on both sides most difficult to use as they keep their goods on those. An identical situation has been prevailing in many parts of both city corporations, but authorities there have never felt the necessity of keeping the pavements and roads clear so that pedestrians could walk on those unhindered.
Some weeks back, two city corporations made a public declaration that they would remove illegal battery-run rickshaws from the city. These vehicles being technically faulty and unstable, are considered an unsafe mode of transport. Both the city corporations had plunged into action to remove battery-run rickshaws in line with their announcement. But they made a retreat after a couple of days without explaining. It is alleged that thousands of battery-run rickshaws fetch a very handsome amount of money every month to a section of unscrupulous people, including some in uniform. Each of these illegal vehicles is required to pay Tk1000 or more a month to be on the road.
Why blame the city corporations alone? See what the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has done recently with the grey-coloured auto-rickshaws that got private licences for plying on roads. Those auto-rickshaws were being used for commercial purposes in violation of their licensing status. The BRTA plunged into action against the illegal use of these private auto-rickshaws. For fear of being caught by the police, these rickshaws went off the road. But their owners, who are familiar with this type of action, knew the drive would be short-lived. They were right. The private auto-rickshaws are again back on the road and, as usual, carrying passengers like their green-coloured counterparts. None has come out to explain the cause of their return.
This is how things have been happening in Bangladesh for decades. Actions are taken officially with big roars, only to prove those superfluous later.
People naturally smell a rat behind all those. They suspect underhand dealings, in most cases. That they are right or wrong has never been proved. But the consecutive failures have been undermining the images of the relevant agencies, government or autonomous. The public confidence in the ability and effectiveness of these entities gets eroded. And this hurts the image of the overall administration. Is anyone in the government aware of this?