Being one of the most overcrowded megacities in the world, Dhaka city has always been bedeviled by various social vices. Snatching, mugging or robbing, a rather regular feature, is one of the commonplaces in the city. It is a practice as old as the hills that very few city dwellers have not been ever encountered within their lives. In fact, this crime happens as regular as the clockwork but oftentimes loses sight of authorities or public attention until it comes in media after an irreparable damage such as injury or death. So, this piece aims to look at a couple of such heat-wrenching incidents happened in the city in recent times and a few recommendations to work it out.
On June 14th, just a day before Eid, when the entire world was eagerly waiting for watching the spectacular opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, a robbing happened to a German lady, Swinde, on a street in Dhanmondi area. Having been lost valuables, including laptop, camera, credit card and two hard drives that contained numerous photos she captured during her five-month stay in Bangladesh, she, in her utter disappoint, shared the incident on Instagram: “Monsoon clouds are building up in the sky and soon there will be a powerful downpour. Today it rained heavily on myself. Not from the sky but from an incident which happened this morning when I took a Rickshaw home.”She added in despair,“How shall I come back home now and tell my friends and family how nice Bangladesh is and how friendly the people and how easy to travel? This robbery will place a dark cloud over my entire experience here in Bangladesh. I'm deeply hurt, emotionally heartbroken and will have to think about my mostly positive attitude towards everyone.”
Being in bits, she wrote on, “And I don't mind the materialistic things but my pictures and my work within those 5 months. I visited a floating hospital operating along the Char Islands. Bringing help to the poorest of the poor. I spend many exhausting days at a shipyard, documenting insanely weak working circumstances. I did this all with a good intention in my mind. Now the only thing I can tell is to watch out and to be careful for your own self. It rained heavily on myself today. Tears running from my eyes. I will fly home in a few hours.”
Another tragic incident occurred in November last year, which claimed one of my closest and brightest friends, Farhad Alam’s life. That afternoon, a young energetic physician by profession at National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Farhad was heading for his residence at Mohammadpur by a rickshaw after performing duty at the hospital, when a man, out of the blue, fiercely pulled his bag strap fastened around his shoulders. He immediately fell down, which caused brainstem injury that led him to go into deep coma. Critically injured Farhad subsequently lost battle for his life after an agonizing four weeks stay at the National Neuro Science Hospital in the city. As a childhood friend, I can only say he was a man on a mission, and was in his prime. He died with his boots on. We, the friends and well-wishers who know him are still struggling to come to terms with his untimely departure. While the death knocked us sideways, his family took it particularly hard.
These two accounts are just the tip of the iceberg, and pointers not only to how this kind of incidents could be damaging to the reputation of a country or casting a shadow over a good exeperinece but also how it sometimes cuts short life of a person of tremendous potential and ravage their family. Not surprisingly, in most cases, including the two the perpetrators remain untraced and that go away with it. There is no denying that it is often hard to bring the criminals to justice in such cases as the muggers hardly leave any evidence of the incident and that the law enforcers usually do not have a leg to stand on. It is the responsibility of the law enforcers to bring the culprits to book by any means.
So, how they can do that? Well, given the overcrowded and congested nature of the city it is quite difficult for the law enforcement agencies to have eyes in the back of their heads. Therefore, first and foremost, it requires taking advantage of technology to bring all the roads and alleys of the city under round-the-clock surveillance of CC camera. These cameras can be monitored locally or centrally to keep responsible authority’s finger on the pulse. Although the Dhaka city corporations got such a project off the ground a few years ago, it did not all go according to plan as many of the cameras were reported to remain out of order due to lack of proper monitoring, maintenance and oversight. Thus, the city authorities should go back to the drawing board and make sure the project is on track.
Often the police force of our country is exploited as a one-size-fits-all approach to oversee any number of tasks related to crime or law enforcement and that they are always chasing their tails. Hence, a separate unit consisting of young, dynamic, and well-trained personnel of law enforcers could probably be formed so that they can get their act together only to combat or deal with the crimes related to snatching, mugging, robbing or burglary. Moreover, we know the problems of crime and unemployment are closely intertwined, meaning the more the unemployment or poverty, the more the chances of criminal activities taking place. Therefore, solution to these social menace largely lies in sorting out the underlying problems of unemployment or poverty.In all fairness, with the best will in the world, it may not be possible to entirely root out snatching incidents unless the citizens themselves come forward to getting it round by taking all precautionary measures. After all, who does not know self-help is the best help.
The writer is an Associate Engineer at Thakral Information Systems Pvt. Ltd