Ball is now in govt's court

Clean-up of transport irregularities requires some time
Student Protest for Safe Roads
Students take part in a road clean-up. Photo: Palash Khan

Road-wise, Bangladesh remained a student republic for the last seven days. It's about time it went back to what it is: a people's republic. 

It should be enough of lessons for the policymakers and authorities since the death of two students on a Dhaka road on July 29. Our sons, daughters, nephews and nieces exposed the ills of transport sector and showed the way to fix the errors as well. 

Dhaka roads are taken over by juveniles, not for demonstration though. They taught their elders in all spheres of society a single lesson: if there is a will, there is a way.

Soaking in rain, drying up in the sun and defying enforced closure of schools, our children came out on the streets for the seventh consecutive day yesterday. With all the politeness and patience in the world, boys and girls in school uniforms managed the traffic movement, barred drivers without licences or underage drivers and obstructed vehicles on the wrong lane or illegal U-turn. 

They are not out for jobs. They are just out on the streets for reminding elders to do their jobs right and ensure a safer road for all. They made their points loud and clear. And, their elders who compromise on or patronise this chaos should find no places to hide their red faces seeing the tiny courageous faces over the week.

People are smiling still although they suffered on the roads. Patients were stuck in roads but not complaining. People missed flights yet they smiled. Daily-earners felt the pinch in their pockets but hoped something good would happen. Ministers had to get down from their cars on the wrong side of the road with forced smile on their faces. The deputy inspector general of police embraced the boys after his driver was found without licence. They all walked along with office-goers to go by the traffic rules.      

So, what's next?

The demands students made are too right yet the method to correct those is wrong. So, this vigilante exercise, no matter how popular it is, has to come to an end. This must not go on any further. If this continues, a good job, like many popular movements of the past, would go out of hands at some point of time. 

The longer a popular uprising continues, it gets deviated and diluted in the end with the addition of elements of politics and agenda of opportunists. We've seen how the Shahbagh movement for maximum punishment to war criminals and the agitations for quota system reform in government job were derailed and tainted.  

The little ones certainly have realised by now what a monster with many heads they're up against. Sooner or later they will put these non-violent children against the government and brand them as enemies of the state.  

We must protect these precious teenagers. We are very proud of our children for what they did already. Looking at the determined faces, we realise Bangladesh has the biggest hope in these children. And we must not let them fail.

We believe Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would see reflections of children of her families in the faces of the children on the streets. Children's cause would be her cause as well.  

So, children should go back home now and do what they are supposed to do: study. Let the government take care of the monster in the transport sector.

The monster has not grown up in a few years and can't be slayed too overnight. The list of beneficiaries from road irregularities is long. The government should be given time to do the clean-up.

And the clean-up should start with the prime minister asking Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader why he failed to keep the sector in order.   

The ball is now in the government's court.