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The great divide

  • Published at 07:34 pm May 5th, 2017
The great divide
The division of Dhaka City Corporation in 2011 was perhaps at best a political game played to keep at least one part of the city under the ruling party’s hand. Bangladesh however has consistently implemented third world policies with first world dreams. The division of the city corporation into Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and South City Corporation (DSCC) is a perfect example of how the problems of centralisation is further exasperated into centralised areas within the city. Dhaka is now cut along class and ideological lines. Over the past two years since the new mayors have taken office, there has been a disproportionate growth of the two cities, especially in their focal areas of Gulshan and Dhanmondi. Almost all projects undertaken by Mayor Annisul Huq seems to have seen some form of fruition, starting from fixing the roads in his jurisdiction to introducing an exclusive bus route called the Dhaka Chaka and the name-tagged rickshaw service, although these projects are once again confined within the Gulshan, Banani and Baridhara areas, commonly known as the Diplomatic zone. Finding a successful project initiated and implemented by Sayeed Khokon however took more research than it should. Other than the eviction of hawkers in Gulistan and Motijheel which did not last for too long, with the mayor blaming the hawkers’ massive protest on “a conspiracy by a small group of extortionists,” there have not been any visible improvements in DSCC or much talk about any new projects. The mayors now have three more years left in their tenure to improve the city’s infrastructure and implement good governance policies. But the exponential growth of Dhaka North City is in stark contrast to Dhaka South City that has only seen improvement from the central government plans like the Mouchak-Malibagh flyovers. Even though most government offices are located in DSCC and a lot of government officials tend to live in Dhaka South, it has not seen any visible improvement in security while Dhaka North or at least the part that matters is cordoned off like a crime scene still. After the Holey Artisan attack on July 1 last year Dhaka North City installed CCTV cameras in the diplomatic zone, set up numerous check-posts, blocked off access to all buses except the Dhaka Chaka, all rickshaws were overhauled with name-tags and DNCC-approved drivers. To the mayor’s credit, all this is still being enforced. In Dhaka South however, even its crown jewel Dhanmondi saw a handful of lax security check posts at best and within weeks, things returned to business as usual. It appears that this divide runs deeper than economics and class. Sometimes the mayors are not even aware of each other’s plans, as evident in a recent incident where Mayor Khokon was found to be completely unaware and was caught off guard during a meeting on colour coded buses. When DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq was talking about plans being finalised during a meeting of the Dhaka transport authority, Khokon interrupted asking what this was all about, even though the plan is that these buses will run through his jurisdiction. The great divide between these two mayors is symptomatic of the great divide that has become Dhaka. Not only is there a huge income disparity in the city, the facilities offered to city dwellers are greatly unequal. This will only grow over time, Dhaka it seems is ready to grow up to be a city that is a visual representation of the inequity of the wealth it was built upon.
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