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A promise to ourselves

  • Published at 05:52 pm August 16th, 2018
What our roads could look like
What our roads could look like Photo: SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

We need to learn to act more responsibly 

The tragic and unheralded demise of the student protests for safer roads has created a permanent hollow in my heart, where every bit of optimism disappears in the abyss of despair, entrapping the inner self into a vicious cycle of melancholy. 

The expected politicization of the peaceful protests, the persecution of the students, and the incarceration of activists have left me silenced with one thought: Does it really matter to raise our concerns, to try and bring about positive changes in the system?

With vivid images in the head and a feeling of helplessness in the heart, I decided to discontinue any public or private deliberation on the issue of road safety. But in the last few days, I witnessed some small, yet positive changes among ordinary people and some notable initiatives by the law enforcement authorities which may cautiously be considered as rays of hope. 

However, these do not negate disturbing news such as Jabal-e-Noor -- the same bus service that took the lives of two innocent children which started the campaign -- still plying on the road and the abusive remarks of the bus drivers and assistants towards students.

Perplexed, I asked myself whether we should consider the peaceful protest as a failure and keep silence, or whether we should continue the process of change initiated by some of the bravest hearts and minds in the country. 

Recognizing the valour of their spirit and the overwhelming support from the general people, I strongly feel that all of us should thrive to make small yet impactful changes to continue their good work. I have personally decided to keep the issue alive by writing constructively and bringing various stakeholders together.

The purpose is to craft a more agreeable and actionable plan to achieve the nine points initially raised by the students, and go further to ensure that hostility among bus drivers, owners, and passengers ceases and becomes more civil. 

The nine-point demands, which strive to make roads safer, were prepared by the students and shared with the government. The government, understanding the seriousness of the matter, took certain immediate steps to appease the agitated students -- although many would require long-term commitment for proper implementation. 

The later violence and subsequent cessation might dwarf the success of the protest, but the wave of change that was brought about should be appreciated and celebrated. With more than 130,000 cases being filed and Tk4.5 crore being fined, Traffic Week 2018 has surely gained traction from the children and built on the momentum of the protests, and hopefully, will bring some order to the system.

Thus, it is important that we take stock of the progress we have made, categorize demands with a tentative timeline for implementation, and keep periodic evaluation of any progress. 

On a different note, it is equally important that we as citizens actively participate in this effort at personal, professional, and societal levels, and keep the momentum going. We, in our own way, need to become more vigilant about the problems that prevail in the road transport system. We need to act more responsibly, at least for the sake of continuing the campaign of our children who have shown that “nothing is small.”

We need to keep on trying until it is done. Otherwise, our silence and nonchalance will only exacerbate the already dire situation. And, we will keep on blaming others for everything that is wrong. 

Makshudul Alom Mokul Mondal is a researcher on socio-economic issues and international affairs.