Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader has only informed us of what we have known for a long time. That a very vast majority of public transport vehicles on the road are simply not fit to be there is a reality we as citizens have loudly proclaimed over the years. The curious part of the story is that no one in authority has actually taken the bold step of taking the owners of such dilapidated vehicles to task. Of course, we have at regular intervals heard a succession of ministers and other politicians berate the owners on the issue. And, yes, a number of seminars and conferences have been organised throughout the country on the subject. The upshot of it all is that hardly anything has happened in consequence. The same old unfit vehicles are out there on the roads and no one seems to be in a position to do anything about it.
Now that Minister Quader has brought up the issue again, we believe it is his responsibility to take a fresh look at conditions and go forward decisively in taking action against such vehicles. Unless that is done, the feeling will persist among citizens that a very well-organised group of vehicle owners is actually more powerful than the government, to a point where it can ignore with impunity instructions from the authorities about the need to take the condemned vehicles off the streets. If action is not taken, citizens will remain in a hostage-like situation while the owners of the bad vehicles will continue to dominate the road. A key idea about governance is that it is always based on firmness of purpose and a clear definition of goals. That idea appears to have gone missing where the road transport sector is concerned. Minister Quader, who has certainly been an energetic presence in the communications arena since his entry into the cabinet, can even now go for action against these organised vehicle owners who have been taking the nation for a ride. And the nation, let it be noted, has for its part been having a very rough ride on the roads.
The minister has also pointed to the sheer callousness with which vehicles carrying or belonging to influential people often violate traffic regulations by being on the wrong side of the road. Newspapers have in recent times carried, more than once, pictures of such vehicles trying to evade traffic congestion by simply moving over to the other side of the road, thereby not only brazenly defying regulations but also turning into a definite menace for oncoming vehicles. Here too strict action is necessary. Traffic constables and sergeants must without fear of being reprimanded by men in authority do their job of taking those vehicles and their owners and drivers severely to task.
Discipline must begin at the top. If it does not, there will hardly be any point blaming citizens for all the transgressions we experience almost every day.