WATCH: Does a cop have enough power to control Dhaka streets?
Does a policeman enjoy enough power to control traffic system in Dhaka?
The answer is: No! According to a number of policemen, interviewed by The Daily Star, they rather feel that they have very little power to ensure law and order. Instead, law breakers often enjoy more power than the cops, they alleged.
In a city of nearly 2 crore people and over 9 lakh vehicles, the traffic police not only feel unempowered but also are extremely over-worked, under-paid and exposed to hazardous situations.
Just consider these facts: according to a latest government survey only 4,000 policemen are deployed for traffic management.
Constables have to endure scorching heat or rain everyday trying to carry out their responsibility of maintaining traffic order on the streets, which becomes a nightmare when people are comfortable violating traffic signals, ignoring speed limits, jaywalking and parking here and there.
“We don’t even have any proper toilet facilities while on duty,” said a traffic inspector in Dhaka, requesting anonymity.
Traffic policemen have eight-hour working shifts only in the paper, he said. “In reality, we have to work for upto 14 hours sometimes.”
An average traffic constable has a basic pay of Tk 4,500 while a sub-inspector has a basic salary of Tk 8,000.
“We often get phone calls from powerful people when we take action against a traffic rule violator,” Khademul Islam, a traffic inspector at Sonargaon, told The Daily Star.
Rasel Ahmed, a traffic sergeant at Farmgate, said influential people tend to break traffic rules and most of the times they misbehave with traffic police after violating the laws.
“We have to take risks while carrying out our duties,” said Md Shahjahan, a traffic inspector at Dhaka’s Farmgate police box. “Nowhere else do the police control traffic standing in the middle of the road (just to make a bus obey the stop signal),” he also said, adding “Often, we become victims to accidents.”
Traffic management has to comply with multiple authorities – the city corporations, roads and highways department and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (Rajuk), which also makes the job a difficult one.
“Some authorities do not even bother to inform us after deciding to dig a road for sewerage or other reasons,” said Traffic Sergeant Rasel Ahmed. “That is a problem for traffic management.”
However, they still hope for a better outcome of traffic management in Dhaka. They say only a change of mentality, and not punishment, can ensure smooth traffic.