Experts have opposed a proposal of some government high officials to make separate lanes on both roadsides in the capital for uninterrupted movement of VIPs, ambulances and fire service vehicles.
They said the proposal sent by the Cabinet Division to the Road Transport and Highways Division (RTHD) is ‘suicidal’ and goes against the public interest.
If such lanes are made, traffic jams in the capital will turn the worse, and public sufferings will mount, experts said while talking to the daily sun.
They opined that no further lane is required for movement of ambulances, fire service vehicles and law enforcers as they already have emergency access to any road in any situation under the existing law and system.
Many think that a section of people within the administration included ambulance and fire service in the proposal to strengthen the ground for making separate lanes.
They also said the roads in the capital are too small to take the load of growing number of vehicles and commuters. Such roads cannot be expanded due to existence of residential houses, apartments, offices and shopping malls on both sides.
If separate lanes are created splitting the existing narrow roads, it will shrink space for vehicular and commuter movement aggravating the situation further.
They opined that creation of separate lanes for VIPs is violation of the constitution which ensured that everybody is equal in the eyes of law.
Quoting article 19 (1) of the constitution, they said, “The State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens.” This Article is enumerated in fundamental state policy chapter of the constitution that can never be amended or changed.
Talking to the daily sun, Manzill Murshid, senior lawyer of the Supreme Court and president of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, said some officials have taken move to create separate lanes apparently for drawing attention of the government and proving their efficiency ahead of the next general elections.
“During the Awami League regime in 1996, we saw some arbitrary decisions taken by a section of officials.
Finally, the government did not approve the decisions. Similarly, the proposal for separate lanes is likely to be rejected by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” he opined.
If separate lanes for VIPs are created, such act will be a violation of the constitution, he said.
No separate lane is needed for fire service, ambulance and police as they can make emergency movement under the existing law and system, he said, adding that a section of government officials have included ambulance and fire service in the proposal to justify the need for separate lane.
Architect Mobasher Hossain termed the idea of creating separate lanes ‘suicidal’ and said it would aggravate traffic jam and public sufferings. “Flyovers have been constructed on a portion of city roads although 6-8 percent people are beneficiary of such giant structures. Another portion of road is being used for metro-rail project. If two lanes are created on both sides of the road, what will be left for the movement of common people?”
Referring to some previous incidents of violation of traffic rules by the vehicles of some government high officials and VIPs, he said the government high-ups have now opted to create separate lanes to legalise and justify their misdeeds.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said if separate lanes are earmarked for VIPs, such act on the part of the authorities concerned will be illogical, unconstitutional, abuse of power and against the interest of public.
“I think traffic jam and public sufferings will be intensified if separate lanes are created splitting the narrow roads in Dhaka city,” he said.
Earlier, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told journalists that the Cabinet Division sent a proposal to the Road Transport and Highways Division under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges for examination.
Vehicles of VIPs in Dhaka are often found to be running in the wrong direction while ambulances and vehicles of fire service stuck on roads due to traffic jams causing death of patients on the way to hospitals, he added.
He was addressing the journalists after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the secretariat on Monday.
In the proposal, the cabinet division cited examples of separate lanes for VIPs, ambulance, fire services and law enforcers. A highly placed source at RTHD under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges told the daily sun that all the high officials are against the proposal. The high-ups of the RTHD discussed the issue and decided to turn down the proposal which is against the interest of common people and spirit of the constitution.
It is known that the proposal is now pending with Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) for scrutiny.
Meanwhile, National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), a non-governmental organisation, has urged the government to withdraw the proposal to make separate lane for very important persons (VIPs), ambulance, fire service and law enforcers in the capital.
NCPSRR president Haji Mohamad Shahid Mia and general secretary Ashis Kumar Dey made the demand in a joint statement on Tuesday.
They also termed cabinet division’s proposal for separate lane ‘quite illogical, unethical and unacceptable’.
They said due to unplanned urbanisation and industrialisation and lack of proper management of authorities concerned, the capital’s gridlock is becoming intolerable day by day.
If separate lane is made for a certain group of people, both class discrimination and public sufferings will be increased many times which is not expected from the state, the statement said.
The organisation thinks that the circular waterway around Dhaka should be made effective and people friendly and steps should be taken to reduce personal and small cars and encourage import of big buses to ease traffic congestion and to reduce dependency on roads in the capital, it said.