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Chop the tree

  • Published at 04:22 pm September 7th, 2018
Our transportation sector still has way too many problems
File photo of public trasports on Dhaka street Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Are we bothered by the loss of life?

The sudden decision to ban the human haulers from the streets of Dhaka has certainly come as a surprise. This measure is going to leave a huge number of people without an income. 

Whenever a tree falls in our way, we try to chop the tree without even thinking of what would happen to the people who depend on it. 

We all agree that the haulers were creating a specific problem; they were an impediment for us to ensure easy traffic flow on our roads. However, what were we thinking when they were introduced in the first place? Whose decision was it to allow them? 

Now that lakhs of people started earning their living from it, we suddenly realize that they are a nuisance, and we have to ban them overnight.

The people whose lives depend on these human haulers aren’t rich. 

These are the people who flock to the cities when they can’t find a living in their own villages or rush to the cities when there’s a river erosion.

We certainly don’t do anything about those circumstances. We expect our cities would somehow accommodate them, and we think that a possible disaster could be avoided.

Chop the tree when it is needed, eh?

A similar attitude was reflected when, once upon a time, we wanted to ban rickshaws from Dhaka city. Now who are these rickshaw-pullers? They are the poor who didn’t find a minimum opportunity for a living in their village surroundings. Earning a living by pulling rickshaws was the easiest option for them, and for a long time, they had been dependent on their rickshaws. 

By the time we decide to ban rickshaws or human haulers, they had already become an essential part of our national economy. Millions of people start depending on these rickshaws and haulers. 

Now, what have we invented to replace them with? What would those groups of people do in order to earn their living? Social scientists say that joblessness gives rise to crimes. 

Aren’t we creating a smooth road for a group of people to resort to crimes?

Maybe we are. We’d also chop the tree when it starts to bother us. 

When the anti-drug drives started a few months ago, it looked like (at least we hoped) the sources of drug trade would be sealed, and the cartel would be curtailed. Drug peddlers have been periodically losing their lives in gunfights. 

However, that hasn’t stopped the flow of drugs into the country. It has been reported that only the pawns are losing their lives in their encounters with law enforcers. 

Recently, a police official commented that no amount of mind-shaping would work in order to prevent the illegal drug trade -- only the fear of losing their lives. This type of thinking is very interesting when we wash our own responsibility from our hands to find an excuse for our failure.

Preventing illegal drug trade and spread of drugs in society is a natural responsibility of the law enforcers. Somehow, they couldn’t prevent it in the first place. We, as citizens, couldn’t also create pressure on our law enforcers to prevent the onslaught of drugs. 

It was also our responsibility to stop those people from becoming peddlers of drugs. We had miserably failed in shouldering our responsibility. Now, we have to go for a chop-the-tree measure.

We had taken a similar approach when we wanted to reduce the number of deaths in traffic accidents. But by then, when we wanted to cleanse it, the entire transport sector had already been contaminated with abnormal practices, leading to thousands of deaths in the name of public services.

It looks like we think that lives are quite cheap here. We have plenty, and the loss of a mere thousand won’t make a difference to that number. But we forget that the people who have been losing their lives have been doing so for reasons that we had failed to address at the beginning. It’s a collective failure for which our heads should lower in shame.

We’re miserably ignoring and neglecting some basic responsibilities. In doing so for a long time, we’re forgetting that lives are precious, we’re forgetting to rejoice in life, we’re forgetting to help our own people to lead their lives nicely, we’re forgetting to prevent them from entering into an abyss. 

What kind of civilization have we created? 

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]