Ilias Kamal Risat
The men and women who are being caught by the police and then fined by the mobile courts for their jaywalking on the city thoroughfares have alleged that the actions are biased and observed that such a one-sided drive would not help improve traffic management.
They complained that the footpaths and the foot-over-bridges are illegally occupied by vendors and the traffic is not properly maintained.
Pedestrians complained that they cannot use footpaths due to rampant and dangerous driving by bikers who flout a government ban in the very nose of the law enforcers.
The week-long drive by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) against only the jaywalkers on its second day on Wednesday drew flak from the city road users as the key violators including those who have failed to maintain traffic were not touched.
While visiting some of the points where the mobile courts were functioning, this correspondent learnt about more complaints that traffic rules are often violated even while traffic police personnel are present. Traffic lights are not maintained properly.
Against this backdrop, the raid on jaywalkers has turned more a harassment than a benefit.
On Wednesday, mobile courts in the city fined 179 pedestrians till filing of this report at 6pm. Metropolitan Executive Magistrate Sarwar Alam and Abdul Kuddus conducted two mobile courts to catch the pedestrians who cross the roads randomly.
Many users said that they were not aware of the campaign that was conducted for three days from November the drive began on November 25.
Some others said that illegal establishments on roads, shrinking footpaths and faulty traffic signalling systems have hardly left any space for users to walk.
Tania (22), a housewife bit a policewoman on Wednesday, while she was being caught on Karwan Bazar road for jaywalking. She (Tania) was jailed for a month by Executive Magistrate, Sarwar Alam, under the Section 353 of the Penal Code for her misconduct.
Bishwajit Mallick, a private university teacher, said, "We are really confused why DMP is conducting a people-friendly drive in an unfriendly way. They could campaign for some more days."
Tamanna Tasneem, a public university student, said, "We all know it's a good step but the authorities should first focus on implementing proper signal system, evict or relocate the mobile shops from the footpaths and compel the transport to avoid stopping randomly on roads."
Novera Ahmed, a journalist said, "Authorities should make the foot over bridges fit for commuting. Then this drive should start. Most of the over-bridges in Dhaka city are unfit. Many of them have been constructed at inappropriate spots."
A study of the Work for Better Bangladesh (WBB), conducted in 2011, shows about 44 per cent of Dhaka's roads do not even have footpaths. About 82 per cent of the existing footpaths are in a sorry state. A total of 31 per cent of the pedestrians using these footpaths say they feel easy while walking down the footpaths because those are narrow and mostly occupied by vendors.
In the national integrated multimodal transport policy of 2013, government clearly prioritises the pedestrians.
The policy suggested many dos which include: provision of wide footpaths and pedestrian-friendly roads, clearing of footpaths, ensuring maintenance and cleaning, slopes on footpaths for the people with special needs, protection for pedestrians to safely cross the streets and giving priority to pedestrians in the traffic signal points.
While talking to The Daily Observer, S M Sohel Mahmud, Assistant Professor of Accident Research Institute (ARI) of BUET, said, "It is true that maximum of the capital's accident took place while crossing the roads. In that sense, DMP initiative is praiseworthy but the problem arises when the question comes about the walking spaces for the pedestrians."
"According to a survey by JICA under STP (Strategic Transport Plan), 37 per cent of the people of capital move in the road. It is clearly visible that, footpath arrangements of the city are quite deplorable. There is no sound way to walk in the footpath."
"Even the construction of the foot over bridges is flawed in Dhaka. A proper foot over bridge must be constructed in six or eight lane roads. People feel no need to ride foot over bridge for a very short distance."
About the recent drive by DMP, he also said that, "Authorities should take a sustainable approach so that people will be blessed, not victims of any project. After the drive, authorities must conduct an evaluation report so that loopholes can be pointed out"
DMP sources said that they conducted the drive in four points--Farmgate, Karwan Bazar, Banglamotor and Ruposhi Bangla Hotel areas --in the city from 10.00 am and fined the pedestrians who avoided underpass or foot over bridge to cross the road.
Earlier on Tuesday the two mobile courts realised around Tk 24,000 on Tuesday and none were sent to jail.
Before launching the special court drive on Tuesday, the DMP conducted a three-day awareness campaign through the media, banners and announcement through loud speaker against jaywalking.
According to traffic rules, one can be sentenced to maximum six months' imprisonment or fined Tk 200 for not using footbridges or crossing the streets sporadically.