The state-run Bangladesh Railway (BR) has heaved a sigh of relief as the risks of accidents have come down between the Kamalapur railway station and river port city of Narayanganj with the demolition of illegal slums along the rail tracks.
Ignoring the risk of fatal accidents and railway laws, a large number of families of mainly day labourers and small traders set up their homes as well as businesses very close to the tracks.This is not the first time that the BR has undertaken such a drive to save lives, but failed to stop the return of the encroachers soon after.
The BR authorities conduct such drives at regular intervals to cope with this long-standing menace. At one point, fences were erected on the both sides of the tracks in densely populated areas, but that too vanished over the years.
According to BR police, most risky spots are in capital Dhaka’s Gopibagh Bazar, Karwan Bazar, Malibagh, Moghbazar, Tejgaon, Nakhalpara, Khilkhet, Jurain, Gendaria and Mohakhali areas.
The Railways Act, 1890 restricts movement of people within 10 feet of rail tracks, but nobody goes by the law.
Railway Secretary Mofazzel Hossain told the daily sun on Monday that all illegal encroachers had been evicted from both sides of the railway tracks stretching from Kamalapur to Narayanganj as railway development work is going on there.
Development work for Kamalapur to Mawa new railroad is going on.The railway secretary pointed out that the existing two lines between Kamalapur and Tongi-Joydebpur would be extended to four soon.
“For the development work, we will go for massive eviction drives against encroachers on both sides of the railway tracks from Kamalapur to Tongi and Tongi to Joydebpur soon,” the rail secretary said.
On September 11, 2014, at least four people were killed when a train ploughed through a crowded makeshift fish market close to the rail track near Karwan Bazar crossing.
Soon after the accident, the railways authorities started a similar eviction drive from Narayanganj to Tongi and between Jaydevpur and Mymensingh. The drive continued for about a month within the capital city.
According to BR sources, some 4000 make-shift homes and bazaars were demolished from Kamalapur to Narayanganj railway station recently, but the structures were back soon, leaving them helpless.
The daily sun correspondent, during a tour on Monday, found that major parts the Gopibagh Bazar had been removed by the BR authorities as it violated laws and posed a major risk.
Bappi, a blacksmith, told the daily sun that he had been working out of a shop very close to the track near the Gopibagh railway crossing for the past 10 years.
But recently, railway authorities demolished his tin-shed shop.
“Many small traders like me were evicted from both the sides of the railway tracks near Gopibagh Bazaar,” he added.
But the BR action was causing movement on the roads where these make-shift slums were moved, “Abul Kalam, a resident, told the Daily Sun.
Meanwhile, such markets were seen still operating close to the tracks in some areas, including the Kawran Bazaar.
Aslam, a roadside trader in Jurain area, told this correspondent that: “Sometimes railway authorities knock down our shops, but in fact it is just a whitewash.” “Local political leaders collect bribes from us to move back and in exchange permit us to run business again on the same place.”
During a visit to the capital’s rail gate in Malibagh area on Monday, traders were found sitting on the railway tracks with daily necessities risking their lives.
The traders were also seen hurriedly leaving the tracks whenever a train approached and then regrouped following the departure of the trains.
Talking to many buyers, it came to be known that items are cheap on railway lines, and so they come to shop here.
Secretary Hossain added that “We are conducting eviction drive beside railway track on this road at regular intervals.”“Besides Dhaka, we have to supervise a long railway area,” he added.
Earlier, the repeated attempts taken by Bangladesh Railway (BR) have proved to be futile as they fail to re-acquire 4,391.39 acres of its lands,which are occupied.
Of those 922.34 acres of its lands remain occupied by different government, semi-government and autonomous organizations, while 3378.22 acres by private organizations and 90.83 acres by religious and educational institutions.