Most of the potentially vital roads and highways of Bangladesh have long been in such a dilapidated condition that they have virtually become death-traps for the people using them in some way or the other. More than 65 per cent district headquarters approach roads, nearly 80 per cent roads approaching the headquarters of the police stations are too pitiable to describe in a satisfactory format of language.Alongside this horrible inter-district and district-police station road scenarios, the highways of the country, barring a few exceptions, are more or less riddled with pitfalls and potholes throughout the entire road mileage.
When the health and the hygiene of the highways happen to be the matters of serious concerns, the surface condition of the district as well as the thana roads is well-understood by all. In most cases, 65 per cent of the inner layers of these roads are peeping out with broad smile. The carpet top layers of district and thana roads have been either stripped off or smashed badly in approximately 85 per cent inter-district roads of Bangladesh. Right now, Baropur to Kushtia portion of Natore-Kushtia inter-district road is perhaps the worst ever one in the country. Though I have singled out a specific example, the ground realities on all other roads are either the same or 1 per cent to 10 per cent better than the mentioned one.
When roads are in bad shape, the road safety indicator proportionately gives a harrowingly disturbing reading. Bangladesh has already been placed prominently in the list of the most accident-prone countries across the globe. Disappointingly poor maintenance of the roads unquestionably contributes hugely to road accidents which take away a heavy toll of lives every year. In 2017, 2258 people were killed and some 5127 people were injured in road accidents which is far too higher than the figure in 2016. Upon investigation, it has been found that if the roads were properly maintained as per the expected schedule and quality, the fatalities caused by those accidents could be minimized to a considerable extent.
Death is an unavoidable reality. However, death caused by road accidents is really a hapless and unexpected one. Ever since our independence, at least 3,000 new roads have been laid out connecting the district to the police stations and the district headquarters or the district hubs to the divisions as well as to the capital of the country. The most conspicuous feature of these roads noticeable to all is that they have never been maintained as per the requirement ensuring the needed quality of the construction and repair works. It is not beyond anybody’s guess that repair works though taken routinely, quality of these works is not ensured through strict monitoring process.
Like everywhere, road communication, construction and maintenance all are in jeopardy so far as the mechanism of management is concerned. However, unlike other sectors road safety overrides all other considerations pertaining to other sectors especially because of this sector’s direct involvement with life and deaths. It is a sheer misfortune for the nation that though thousands of innocent people are being killed on the roads over the years, quite a little has been done that seriously considering the gravity and the magnitude of the problem. Rather, it appears that with the increasing number of new roads, the number of road accidents has increased that proportionately.
Construction of global standard quality roads must be included in the list of our national priorities. Even more importantly, the matter of road maintenance will have to be given the topmost priority in the agenda of infrastructural development. Maintenance proceedings constitute the inseparable part of the road management since only proper maintenance can ensure all time drive worthy roads. And proper maintenance is hardly possible without professional commitment and dedication.
There is an unhealthy nexus between road construction and repair contractors and a number of concerned government officials which is why the quality of both the construction and repair works is not being ensured time and again. When a road is badly damaged just six months after its construction, everyone will question the dedication and sincerity of the monitoring and supervising authority. Though the alarm bell rang long before, scenarios of anomalies and irregularities still go unabated.
To rein in the culture of go-as-you-like, above anything else a solid political goodwill is a must. The culture of accountability has to be institutionalized in all offices irrespective of affiliations. It is time we went for drastic actions against those proved to be guilty of receiving kickbacks from the people’s fund meant for the development of the country. Once the political leadership or the people in power can deal out deserved punishment to the defaulters without fear and favour, it is expected that things will obviously take the course for the better.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Bogra Cantonment Public School & College.