Festival or nightmare!
For many in the city of Dhaka, celebration of Eid ul Azha this year was seriously marred by two incidents. One was the unprecedented rush and delay in the movement of traffic from Dhaka to other parts of the country. There was not only acute crisis of transport facilities but also serious disruption of time schedules of bus, train and motor launches.
Passengers bound for their homes to celebrate Eid with their dear and near ones were found stranded at the bus and railway stations and launch terminals for hour after hour waiting for their desired transport. The situation turned worse in case of railway communication. The railway authorities not only failed to introduce extra services keeping in view the expected rush of passengers but were also unable to maintain the schedule of the meager services they provided. Most of the trains ran six to twelve hours late, some even more than that.
The other was the missing of cattle from the city markets. For almost the whole day and early part of the night just before the day of Eid ul Azha there were almost no cows in the cattle markets of the city. It was an incident never seen or heard before, not at least in the last sixty years that I could more or less recall.
For many people in the city it was a nightmare. They moved frantically from one market to another for a cow throughout the day until midnight before they could snatch one without caring for the price from the cattle trucks showing up in limited numbers. Many had to wait till the Eid day or the following day to buy a cow. Many had to go without any.
Different types of explanations have been given for the unprecedented incident. One is that hundreds of trucks carrying cattle from the border districts of the country were stranded on the highways due to traffic congestion created mainly because of poor or no traffic management.
The other, more widespread than the previous one, was the manipulation of the cattle market by dishonest traders. Rumours were spread from some quarters three or four days before Eid that every day hundreds and thousands of cows from India were pouring in from across the border without any check. This discouraged the genuine cattle importers from importing cows in large numbers in fear of incurring loss.
Whatever may be the reason, the government owes an explanation to the public as to what were actually the reasons for the debacle and who were responsible for it. They will be well advised to carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the incidents and take necessary measures so that the people do not have go through the same ordeals next time.
The last Eid ul Fitr also did not go well for the general public, especially for the people living in Dhaka. Many people could not go home and celebrate it with their kith and kin mainly because of poor road communication. The roads and highways were in such poor condition that the bus owners were compelled to suspend bus services during that crucial period.
The people were so aggrieved by the happenings that they demanded immediate removal of the communication minister for corruption and gross negligence of his ministry in maintaining the roads and highways of the country. The prime minister did not pay heed to their demand.
Soon after, the World Bank came out with the shocking news of suspending the funding of the Padma Bridge project alleging corruption or irregularities in the communication sector. As expected, the other donors, except Islamic Bank, followed suit. It was expected that this time the prime minister would seriously think of making some changes in the communication ministry but to no effect.
It was, however, expected by the people that the prime minister would remember the ordeals that the people had to go through during the last Eid ul Fitr and take some effective steps so that the commuters did not have to go through the same sufferings this time. But that was not to be the case. This time the situation was even worse.
What is shocking and disheartening is that the concerned authorities in the government seem to be least bothered, much less ashamed, at their inability to provide the general public with the minimum facilities so that they could celebrate these festivals with due fervour and comfort.
Otherwise, when most of the trains and buses of almost every sector were running abnormally late and hundreds of passengers were seen sitting on the platforms of Kamalapur railway stations and bus terminals of the city waiting for the arrival of their bus/trains hour after hour, how could the communication minister, instead of sympathising with the public for their sufferings, think it proper to appear before the television cameras to say that everything was running almost normal except that there was "a little bit of disruption of train service" because of the Narsingdi incident?