It is normal to find more than one political party in a democratic country. And each party is supposed to set first its aims and objectives to fulfil the expectations of the people.
Then it starts implemention of its plan of action to attain its objectives. Being the aim of forming a political party is to do welfare of the country and its people, it is normal to be engaged in various political activities like processions, meetings and rallies. Political parties organise different programmes in the protest of any injustice, oppression or deprivation. Apart from such activities, they also organise programmes to celebrate national or international events.
In a democratic society, whatever ideologies a political party owns, all policies of that party must be framed in the light of country’s constitution as well as economy and culture. That means, political parties should not have any policy that contradicts these vital pillars. All activities of the party should be organised for protecting the interests of the country and the people. And as a democratic country, Bangladesh also deserves that. But what do we actually see? How much the political parties of Bangladesh follow that? Do they consider at all the advantages and disadvantages of the country and the people while organising any political event?
On special occasions or in protest of any kind of government decision, there might be events like procession, festivity, gathering, strike, etc. In a democratic country, like every citizen, every political party or organisation has some rights and obligations. But one should keep in mind the rights of others while applying one’s own rights. Above all, no destructive activities could be done in the name of procession, rally or strike so that the country and the people are physically, emotionally or financially affected.
Who will decide what one should do or not? Everyone, here, in Bangladesh, walks on his own way for own interest. Very often, the political parties give their programmes in the name of opposing the government ignoring peoples’ interest and suffering. Even in the name of strike, party men used to set fire on public and private institutions or vehicles having people inside. It is not understood how they do such inhuman activities, if their politics is for the welfare of the country and the people. Do they really think about the welfare and well-being of their people?
Most of the political activities are organised in the capital city, Dhaka. They have reasons for this. Government offices like Bangladesh Secretariat, central offices of all political parties, foreign missions, offices of non-government organisations, business establishments, factories and industries, educational institutions and residential accommodations for millions of people, all are situated in Dhaka and its suburbs. In addition, there are neighbouring cities. From there, party men and supporters rush to Dhaka by bus, track or train to participate in these political activities. Sometimes, hired people also participate for monetary benefits.
Although Dhaka has a considerable amount of roads, but those are not enough for the vehicles running in Dhaka. As a result, there is more or less, traffic congestion all the times except holidays. However, the present government is very conscious and sincere to improve the road communication system. New roads and flyovers are being constructed, existing roads are being widened. To minimise traffic congestion, new projects have been taken including the construction of the Metro Rail project. All of these are being done with our limited resources considering the inconveniences of the people due to traffic congestion. Hope, these initiatives would somehow reduce the existing traffic congestion.
When a political party organises rally, meeting or gathering, the traffic jam in Dhaka intensifies manifold. Ten minutes’ path of other time cannot be crossed in an hour. Sometimes the entire road is occupied by the people taking part in procession or rally. Even roads are closed for vehicular traffic without any prior announcement. This actually affects the whole traffic system of Dhaka. Commuters have no way, but to stay on the road for hours. That is a miserable situation, only the victims understand.
It is generally seen that these political cultures are practised at the heart of Dhaka city. And thousands of people either on foot or by bus and truck participate in the rally. It becomes very difficult for the police to control the moving crowd. As a result, the unfortunates travelling those areas like the Secretariat, the Supreme Court, Suhrawardy Uddyan, Gulistan, Paltan and the surrounding areas at that time suffer a lot. Vehicles try to enter the nearby streets and lanes in the hope of salvation. For obvious reason, this makes the entire area traffic congested. The wastage of work hours and fuel affects the overall economy of the country. Therefore, sufferings of the people could not only be reduced by developing road communication, unless necessary measures are taken to streamline political rallies, meetings or processions in Dhaka city.
The following measures may be taken to reduce people’s sufferings caused by political gatherings: (1) Government may select certain places for political meetings, rallies or processions outside Dhaka city. These may be located - open area near the Turag River (Ijtema maidan), or in a stadium/open field at Uttara, Fatulla or Mirpur. (2) No political party should be allowed to organise any rally, meeting or gathering in any place in Dhaka, especially in the busy area. (3) Political parties must take necessary approval from concerned authorities for holding any meeting, rally or manifestation. The government must inform the people in advance about those programmes. (4) The government as well as the political parties should be encouraged to organise programmes during weekends (Friday and Saturday). (5) If any programme is organised in an auditorium in the city, then the number of participants/guests should be limited. The number will be such that it will not create any traffic congestion. In case of unlimited number of participants, permission could be given to organise political programme at a particular place outside the city. (6) While organising any national programme, such as Eid, Independence Day, Ekushey February, Bangla New Year, Victory Day, etc in the city, the government should inform the people well ahead so that they can avoid those areas. (7) Above all, all political, social, cultural and religious organisations of the country as well as the people have to come forward with sincere mindset to support the government in reducing all these sufferings.
As a democratic country, we will continue our democratic activities; but, at the same time, we must be careful so that those activities do not cause any sufferings to others. Our awareness and government’s steps are crucial in this regard. Undoubtedly, our collective efforts would be able to produce a significant outcome of this crisis.
The writer is a former ambassador and secretary