Repair roads right away
PM directs communications ministry, assures it of quick fund; Dhaka-Mymensingh bus strike ends
M Abul Kalam Azad and Hasan Jahid Tusher Expressing annoyance over poor conditions of highways, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday directed the communications ministry to immediately repair all dilapidated highways so that home-bound people do not face any trouble during Eid travel. "Start repair work in full swing with the money you got. Necessary additional money will be given gradually," a source quoted her as saying to communications ministry officials during a meeting in her office on the conditions of the country's roads and highways. The meeting sources said Hasina asked the finance ministry to release the fund allocated for repair and maintenance of highways without much delay, and told the communications minister to make sure that the fund is used properly. The meeting was convened against the backdrop of transport strikes on various routes including Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail highways protesting the sorry state of the roads. Public transport owners however withdrew their strikes last night after Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain at a meeting assured them of repairing the highways on an urgent basis. Our Mymensingh correspondent reported that buses started operating on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway around 8:30pm yesterday. Negligence of the communications ministry is widely blamed for the situation that has caused a lot of disappointment among a cross-section of people.
At the prime minister's meeting, Hasina also directed Bangladesh Railway officials to improve train services to give comfort to passengers during Eid travel. She told the railway officials to reserve one compartment in each passenger train for carrying commodity goods including vegetables, so supply chain to Dhaka markets remains smooth. Roads and Highway Department (RHD), and Bangladesh Railway gave separate presentations on the overall conditions of roads and highways, and the rail services across the country. The RHD presentation showed why and how the highways turned dilapidated. RHD officials told Hasina that repair work on some roads and highways were already done, but due to heavy rain they got damaged again. The PM asked them to repair those again properly. The officials blamed the last BNP-Jamaat alliance government and the immediate past caretaker government for the poor road conditions. Hasina asked the communications ministry to submit a report on its expenditure for construction, development, maintenance, renovation and repair of roads and highways since 2001, so it can be assessed what were done during the tenure of BNP-Jamaat alliance government and the caretaker government, and during the first half of the present government. After the meeting, PM's Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters that the prime minister asked the communications ministry to deploy Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) buses on all highways of the country for convenience of the home-bound people during the Eid vacation. The ministry officials informed the prime minister that around 300 BRTC buses are running on various roads. PM's advisers HT Imam and Dr Mashiur Rahman, Principal Secretary MA Karim, PMO Secretary Mollah Waheeduzzaman, Finance Secretary Dr Mohammad Tareq, and Communications Secretary Md Mozammel Haque Khan were present at the meeting, among others. Meanwhile, Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain said Dhaka-Mymensingh highway will be made ready for transports in seven days. While visiting the highway yesterday afternoon, the minister's motorcade faced difficulty due to large potholes and water-logging at different portions, reported our Gazipur correspondent. Officer-in-charge of Maona Chourasta Highway Police Station said frequent traffic congestions happen on that highway as vehicles get stuck in the potholes.
Contacted by The Daily Star last night Abul Hossain said, "We are going to hold a follow-up meeting at the ministry tomorrow to discuss how to expedite the repair work." He said some parts of Dhaka-Mymensingh highway are still under water. "We are planning to repair the places by removing the water," he said. About improving rail services, he said a new train, Rangpur Express, will be introduced on August 21 to transport more passengers ahead of the Eid. Besides, he said, four engines were added to the railway which will ease engine crisis and improve rail services on different routes.
Leaves, holidays cancelled for road repair
Star Online Report Leaves and holidays of the employees of Roads and Highways Department (RHD), the BRTC and the BRTA have been cancelled until further notice to expedite road repair works. The communications ministry issued the order Wednesday in the wake of growing public sufferings due to sorry state of the country's roads, especially the Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail highways. It ordered the executive engineers, officers and field workers of the RHD, Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to stay at construction sites where emergency and maintenance works are being carried out.
The ministry suspended an engineer of the RHD, withdrew another and transferred a third one for negligence in their duties to oversee the accessibility of roads and highways under their jurisdiction. Fazle Rabbi, an executive engineer of Gazipur, was suspended and replaced by Sheikh Md Shafiqul Alam, an executive engineer of road design and standard department, a section of the RHD. Mofizul Islam, additional chief engineer of Rangpur Zone, has been attached to the RHD headquarters after his withdrawal. Mofizul was replaced by Md Shariful Islam, additional chief engineer of RHD headquarters. Arifur Rahman, superintendent engineer of Dhaka Zone, was transferred to Comilla Circle while superintendent engineer of Comilla Circle has replaced Arifur. Communications Minister Abul Hossain told The Daily Star that they took the steps against the engineers as they failed to repair and maintain different roads and highways in their respective jurisdictions. The conditions of the roads and highways would be better if they had worked properly, the minister added. The minister also expressed his hope saying that all the country’s roads and highways would be repaired before Eid-ul-Fitr if congenial weather prevails. The ministry also engaged several joint and deputy-secretaries to monitor the repair and maintenance work of the shabby roads and highways. Public transport owners earlier suspended operation of their vehicles on the two highways for several days due to the battered condition of the roads. The owners however withdrew their strikes Tuesday night after Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain at a meeting assured them of repairing the highways on an urgent basis.
HC orders probe into early road damage
Transport strike continues on Dhaka-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Tangail highways
The High Court has directed the government to immediately form a committee to find out why the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway has become so damaged so soon. The order comes as bus service providers took their vehicles off the Dhaka-Tangail and DhakaMymensingh highways indefinitely protesting the dilapidated condition of the roads. The court order was issued as Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh filed a writ in this connection following The Daily Star report "Impossible ride stop" on August 12. According to the HC directives, the committee would be comprised of professors of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet). The court also asked the government to submit an investigation report in six weeks. In addition to the miserable road conditions, the strike has put passengers into serious trouble ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. However, buses to the northern districts from Gabtoli in Dhaka and Tangail are operating. Bus services from Mohakhali in Dhaka to 12 districts have been disrupted due to the ongoing strike which entered its fourth day yesterday. Bus owners' association and workers union of Tangail jointly suspended the bus service to Dhaka on Saturday. Transport workers in Mymensingh called their strike on Thursday. Meanwhile, the district administration of Tangail yesterday held a meeting with the association and union leaders and requested them to resume bus services on local routes. "Now we will operate bus services on local routes in Tangail," said Mir Lutfor Rahman, general secretary of Tangail District Transport Workers Union. Bus services to the northern districts from Mohakhali and Mymensingh through Tangail have been suspended due to the horrible road conditions, he said. "Almost the entire Dhaka-Tangail highway is damaged and the situation is even worse in the Ashulia-Baipail stretch, in Konabari of Gazipur and Elenga in Tangail," said Lutfor. Inter-district buses run from Mohakhali to Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Gazipur, Tangail, Sirajganj, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Bogra, Naogaon and other routs, he added. Of the 23 routs, vehicles to and from 16 northern districts use the Dhaka-Tangail highway. "We demand immediate repair of the damaged road," he said, adding, "The road not only damages vehicles but also cause frequent accidents." The associations in Tangail went on strike saying vehicular movement has become impossible on the 90-kilometre Elenga-Baipail road.
The Dhaka-bound passengers from Mymensingh are facing great trouble due to the strike, reports our Mymensingh correspondent. The rush of passengers at Mymensingh Railway Station continued for the fourth day yesterday. The railway authorities are trying to tackle the situation with only four additional compartments added to trains. Mymensingh District Citizens' Movement, a body of civil society, formed a human chain at Shaheed Firoj Jahangir Square in the town demanding immediate repair of the highway.
Minister's resignation demanded
Staff Correspondent Speakers at a mourning rally yesterday demanded resignation of Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain for the dilapidated condition of roads and highways of the country, resulting in frequent road accidents. Some 27 environmental, rights organisations and citizens' movement organisations organised the rally in front of Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka University in memory of filmmaker Tareque Masud and chief executive officer of ATN News Ashfaque Munier Mishuk. Tareque, Ashfaque and three others died on August 13 in a fatal road crash on Dhaka-Aricha highway in Manikganj. Save The Environment Movement Chairman Abu Naser Khan claimed that the communications minister kept the people hostage by destroying the country's communication sector. “We demand his (communication minister's) immediate resignation,” he said. “A case should be filed against the minister in the people's court for the mismanagement in the communication sector,” said Ibnul Syed Rana, chairman of Nirapad Development Foundation. Prof Shamsul Wares of Asia Pacific University said the country has a scarcity of talented people and such road accidents are taking away these valuable lives. Politicians are busy in the betterment of their own lives and not thinking about the people. Their negligence is creating resentment among the people, which may explode anytime. “Our political system is responsible for the deaths of the two talented people,” he said.
The other demands include immediate repair of damaged roads and highways, improving the country's rail and river transportation system to reduce dependency on road transport, punishing fake driving licence holders and bringing accountability in Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). Meanwhile, speakers at a seminar yesterday placed a 12-point recommendation including amendment to the motor vehicles ordinance to prevent road accidents. Online news agency ptbnews.com organised the seminar on road safety at the city's Mukti Bhaban, says a press release. The recommendations include strict enforcement of law in providing driving licences, providing training to drivers, increasing the number of highway police and punishing owners of vehicles liable for road accidents. Communist Party of Bangladesh President Manzurul Ahsan Khan and former additional inspector general of police Abdur Rahim Khan spoke at the seminar.
Roads show govt failure to deliver
AL-led alliance's election pledges for better road network mostly unfulfilled
Shakhawat Liton and Rashidul Hasan Battered roads and highways in most parts of the country indicate the Awami League-led coalition government could not deliver on its electoral pledges of building a strong road network although half of its tenure has already passed. In the run-up to the ninth parliamentary elections in December 2008, AL promised to undertake appropriate policy and projects for the road sector. "An extensive road network in each district will connect villages, unions, upazilas and the district headquarters," said the AL election manifesto titled "A Charter for Change". Other components of the AL-led grand alliance -- Jatiya Party, Workers Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal -- also said in their manifestoes they would work for building better road network if voted to power. "Flyovers and new roads will be built in the capital and all other densely populated cities to reduce traffic jam. Besides, a separate road network parallel to inter-district highways will be constructed only for movement of rickshaw, van, bus and other vehicles," promised Jatiya Party.
In line with their electoral pledges, the grand alliance candidates gave voters assurances of new roads and repairing old ones in their constituencies to ensure safe movement. People also seemed to have confidence in the pledges and extended their wholehearted support to the AL-led alliance, ensuring its landslide victory in the election. However, the communications ministry's poor performance in the last two and a half years made a mockery of the ruling alliance's electoral pledges as they remained only on papers, observed a good number of MPs of the ruling alliance while talking to The Daily Star. "The Awami League in its election manifesto promised to build a countrywide strong road network. But the pledge remains unfulfilled, frustrating people," said Abdul Mannan, AL MP of Bogra- 1. Lawmaker Abdul Matin Khasru from Comilla-5 said the government should right now come forward with a multidimensional and comprehensive approach to address the problems. "We came to power by making so many good promises to the people. As MPs of the grand alliance, we cannot keep our eyes closed to their problems," added Matin Khasru. Anisul Islam Mahmud, Jatiya Party MP of Chittagong-4, said the grand alliance in the run-up to the parliamentary polls promised to develop roads, infrastructures and control price hike of essentials. "But the way everything is moving is not satisfactory," he commented. Majibar Rahman, Jatiya Party MP of Lalmonirhat-2, said, "All electoral pledges turned into a farce. People are getting frustrated. I don't see any ray of hope." Rashed Khan Menon, Workers Party MP of Dhaka-8, said the government could not keep its electoral pledges to revamp the communications sector, control price of essentials, and maintain law and order. "As a result, people's confidence in the government has eroded. The government must cement this right now; otherwise it will be too late and people will turn their faces from the government," Menon observed. Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain however doesn't see his ministry's failure is much; he rather blames shortage of fund for the sorry state of roads and highways. On the other hand, Finance Minister AMA Muhith does not recognise any fund crisis and puts the blame on lack of proper planning by the communications ministry. Talking to The Daily Star, the ruling alliance MPs also expressed their frustration and resentment over the poor performance of the communications ministry that completely failed to work in line with the electoral pledges on road communications.
Last week, The Daily Star randomly talked to 50 MPs from 44 districts over the phone to know the condition of roads and highways in their areas. Almost all MPs belonging to the AL and its alliance components Jatiya Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Workers Party portrayed horrible pictures. A number of MPs said they cannot properly launch campaigns in their areas to strengthen public relations and publicise the government's success thanks to the dilapidated roads. "The condition of the highway running through Pabna seems a little better than those of other districts as fewer vehicles use it. But the roads connecting upazilas with the district headquarters are now in a sorry state," said Golam Khandaker Faruk Prince, AL MP of Pabna-5. Omor Faruk Chowdhury, AL MP of Rajshahi-1, said last week he travelled Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi divisions and witnessed the sorry state of roads and highways. "The worse condition of roads and highways shows how we have failed to deliver due to inefficiency of the communications ministry," said Chowdhury, also a member of the parliamentary standing committee on communications ministry. Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, Jatiya Party MP of Thakurgaon-3, said condition of some small roads constructed by the Local Government Engineering Department in his constituency is still better than the roads and highways belonging to the communications ministry. He said vehicles with heavier loads are now forced to use the apparently better roads, which were not built for such vehicles. "Putting overload on those roads will eventually destroy those as well," he added. Some MPs however said condition of the village roads constructed by the LGED of the LGRD ministry is not good due to lack of proper maintenance and repair. Anwarul Ashraf Khan, AL MP of Narsingdi-2, has added woes. He fears the opposition will start demonstrating against him for the terrible road conditions. He said a BNP central leader, who contests the parliamentary election from his constituency, has recently visited the area and announced that they would form a human chain to protest delay in repairing the roads.