The People’s Manifesto | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 01, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:09 AM, February 01, 2020

The People’s Manifesto

As citizens of Dhaka North and Dhaka South go to the polls today to elect their mayors for the next five years, all eyes are on how judiciously they exercise their franchise. Apart from their political leanings, one thing that is likely to impact their decision is what they make of the pledges by the mayoral hopefuls, which will potentially direct their action if or when they get elected. After the release of manifestos by the four frontrunners in DNCC and DSCC, backed respectively by the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP, we asked our readers to make their own manifesto, highlighting how they envision this city and what changes they look forward to seeing in it. Many have sent their comments. Below is a compilation of some of the comments.

The perfect manifesto for Dhaka: Population control!

To me, this old, historic city is dying. The only thing that is developing in Dhaka is its population. The ideal manifesto for this city—and the only way to make it liveable again—involves decentralisation. If decentralisation is complex to implement in the short term, at least stop new activities like the development of new industries, educational institutions and public amenities that would draw people from other districts. If we can limit the number of people in this city, we can at least work towards creating some semblance of peace here.

- Obydur Rahman Shazol

Four steps to a liveable and lovable Dhaka

I have a four-point demand for the Dhaka I want to see:

First, minimise its traffic problem as soon as possible because it is getting out of hand. Strict steps should be taken against those who violate the traffic rules.

Second, take pragmatic steps to prevent waterlogging caused by rain and other reasons. It has to be solved on a priority basis as it is a common problem for the people of Dhaka.

Third, put in place a proper waste management system. It is past time that the authorities do something about Dhaka’s burgeoning and poorly managed waste, which causes both nuisance for the residents and environmental concerns. Bad odour is everywhere!

Fourth, the feedback of the common people needs to be heard and worked upon for a better Dhaka. Can there be a system to institutionalise this process?

- Shakil Mahamud

Need for a mass education programme

I think Dhaka needs, first and foremost, a major initiative to educate its residents about how to behave and live in a city in order to make it liveable, decent and smart. Citizens have to conform to an acceptable and respectable standard of behaviour that matches with the higher level of economic growth.

The City Corporations should come up with a major education programme to teach people about the fundamental social skills and norms: not to spit, stare at women, talk loudly in public places, or blow horn unnecessarily, to respect employees, traffic rules for the traffic police, how to use a public toilet and keep it clean, among various other issues. These public educating programmes should be the first entry point for making Dhaka liveable. Look at the footpaths: their condition was better during Mayor Annisul’s time, but they’re all in terrible condition now, even in Banani-Gulshan area.

- Chanchal Khan

Solve traffic problem

Tackle the traffic congestion in the city, please! Dhaka is a mega city and has many problems, but I think if congestion on the roads can be alleviated, we will see a positive change in all aspects of our lives. Experts say we do not have enough road coverage. Some say there are too many cars on the streets. Both may be the case, but we should do the things we can in the short term to address the ever-increasing traffic problem that we have to endure every day.

There can be a three-pronged approach to deal with this:

First, reclaim the roads. Most of the roads in Dhaka are not utilised to their full capacity. In many cases, only the first one or two lanes are used for ongoing traffic. The left lanes are predominantly occupied by street hawkers, illegally parked vehicles, etc. If the majority of the city roads can be utilised to their full extent, we may see an immediate increase in their capacity for vehicular movement and that should help ease the congestion right away.

Second, get rid of the unfit vehicles. There are thousands of vehicles in Dhaka that are not fit to be on the roads. They contribute to the congestion not only by their sheer number, but also by breaking down in the middle of the roads in busy traffic. And these unfit vehicles also contribute to the increasing environmental pollution.

Third, bar the unauthorised drivers. We should not allow illegal and unauthorised drivers to operate vehicles on our roads. There are apparently close to a million illegal drivers in the country and a good chunk of them are likely plying the roads in Dhaka. They contribute to the road accidents and create havoc by not complying with the traffic regulations. Removing these drivers from the roads will certainly help ease the congestion.

Granted, taking up these challenges would not be easy. However, we should do all we can, be it commissioning special task forces, utilising the elite law enforcement force or asking for help from other agencies to tackle these issues soon if we want to restore any sense of sanity for our city dwellers when it comes to dealing with the traffic stress.

- Sajedul Hoq

Make Dhaka friendly for working mothers

Dhaka is home to millions of mothers who wish to live in a family-friendly city. Today, young mothers are more likely to be in the workforce—putting in more hours outside their homes. Women now make up almost half of the labour force globally. But in Bangladesh, women’s participation in the labour market is not satisfactory. The question is, why is women’s number in the workforce decreasing despite their advancements in various fields? One former Minister of State for Women and Children Affairs in Bangladesh said that many educated and capable women are unable to stay employed because they don’t know where their children can stay safely when they are at work.

Since having a baby, I have been looking at my city through a new lens. Before parenthood, I could move through the city relatively freely on my own schedule. Now, like other working mothers in Dhaka, I have to juggle between work and family on a daily basis.

As a working mother in Dhaka city, ensuring quality time for my children has become one of the most challenging jobs. A few days ago, there was an event at my five-year-old son’s school and he just wanted his mother to pick him up from there. Sadly, I couldn’t reach on time and had asked someone else to pick up instead.  I started from the High Court, 30 minutes before his school ends, but still couldn’t make it due to traffic. My disappointed son thinks his mother should buy a helicopter to reach his school from work on time. 

After I come back from work, it is almost bed time for my kids; I want to take them out for a walk, but it’s never been possible.

So my answer to what will make Dhaka a better place to live in is: make it a more mother and kid friendly city.

- Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed

A foreigner’s take on a city of limitless potential

I see Dhaka as a city of limitless potential. As gargantuan towers are erected seemingly daily, it’s abundantly clear that Dhaka is an economically valuable city, filled with business people hailing from all walks of life. But for the city to flourish, there’s much that needs to be done.

Firstly, one of the most prominent things foreigners notice when coming to Dhaka is the immense poverty. There are desperate people in need of help, people that could contribute to the expansion and betterment of Dhaka, yet they are largely ignored and left to suffer. The city needs to work out a solution.

Secondly, one thing that I have experienced first-hand is how difficult it can be for a woman. I am British and Southeast Asian, so I’m always cautious to dress decently, and ensure my legs and arms are covered, but on numerous occasions, I have been sexually harassed by men who think that they’re entitled to touch me inappropriately and question me about incredibly personal matters. I have even had some outright proposition for sex, because in their eyes, I’m a foreign woman on her own, and therefore a prostitute that is undeserving of autonomy and respect. This needs to change.

Thirdly, the immense traffic and awful road conditions need to be addressed. Though the long boulevards of Gulshan are maintained with care, the roads leading out of this area are riddled with massive potholes. In addition to this, the insane driving is a huge hazard. Cars zigzag between lanes with abandon, and the buses suddenly swerve without warning. These buses were the source of much controversy when a number of university students were mercilessly mowed down.

More needs to be done to enforce the rules of the road, and stricter punishments must be implemented to deter drivers from running people over sans consequence. In addition to this, alleged “VIPs” should not be allowed to close the roads for their sake. This entitled mindset highlights the vast divide between the rich and the poor, and the former should not be allowed special privileges that are an inconvenience to the latter just because they perceive themselves to be more important.

- Dizzi

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