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Engaged in traffic control, student volunteers ignored, abused
Student volunteers, fielded to help control city traffic, find themselves helpless as transport drivers, including those of government offices, and pedestrians pay hardly any heed to their polite requests to follow traffic rules.
Under a special month-long traffic awareness programme, student volunteers have been working with Dhaka Metropolitan Police in controlling traffic at major intersections.
Many road users are seen to argue with them and even hurl abusive words on the volunteers while even police members are seen to defy traffic rules in their front.
During the recent countrywide student protests against anarchy on roads, students controlled traffic successfully in the capital and other major cities and highways.
But the situation returned to the former state as the road users are not still ready to follow traffic rules in absence of strict implementation of laws and unplanned road design and traffic management system, rights activists have said.
They have also expressed their concern over student volunteers’ engagement in difficult, time-consuming and risky traffic control works.
On September 4, DMP commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia announced a programme (September 5 to September 30) to restore order in traffic, reduce accidents and free roads from congestion.
‘Civil society, Rover Scout and Girls’ Guide will be involved to encourage people to abide by law,’ he had said at a media briefing.
Under the programme 322 members of Rover Scout started to work with police in each shift in different intersections, especially on the road from Jahangir Gate to Zero point and Motijheel area.
Wednesday noon, a team of 30 scouts comprising Rover Scouts, volunteers from Bangladesh Red Crescent Society’s Youth and Volunteers Department and Bangladesh National Cadet Corps was assisting traffic on busy Shahbagh intersection.
They tried to stop unruly vehicles and persuade pedestrians to use use zebra crossings and footbridges but many were defying the rules in their presence.
Mariam Popy, a rover scout and student of Shaikh Burhanuddin Post Graduate College, alleged that many pedestrians and motorcyclists hurled abusive words on them when they were asked to follow traffic rules.
Kazi Mehedi, point rover in-charge at the intersection and an honours final year student of the same college, said that last Saturday he was standing just beside a footpath at this intersection as part of his duty.
A motorcyclist, he said, ran over his foot defying traffic signal.
Tuesday afternoon at Shapla Square in Motijheel, two traffic police members were seen to make an illegal U-turn in front of a scout.
Mosaddek Hossain and Mohammad Zumman Hossain, two youth volunteers of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, alleged the bus drivers frequently violated rules by dropping and taking passengers in the middle of road even in their presence.
Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust programme manager Maruf Hossain said that people in Bangladesh were used to breaking traffic rules since long.
Student protesters, he said, had already shown how to bring back order to roads but it was not possible for them to continue the fight.
About engaging students in traffic control, he said it was very risky and almost inhuman to engage them on busy roads amid reckless driving, long serving hours, harsh weather and insufficient facilities.
‘These students cannot be an alternative for a long time,’ he said, adding, ‘the authorities should engage ansar and community police members in this programme.’
Jahangirnagar University urban and regional planning professor Akter Mahmud said the volunteers’ lives were at grave risk as road users were not respectful to traffic rules.
DMP joint commissioner for traffic south Mofiz Uddin Ahmed said that decision as to if scouts would continue their participation in traffic control would be made this month.
The officer also admitted that it was risky for students to control traffic on roads and said they would consider the matter before making further decision.