Rover scouts excel in traffic control
Kazi Mehedi, point rover in-charge at the city’s Shahbagh intersection and an undergraduate final year student of Sheikh Borhanuddin College, said that last week he was standing just beside a footpath at this intersection as part of his duty. A motorcyclist, he said, ran over his foot defying traffic signal.
Mariam Popy, a rover scout and student of the same college, alleged that many pedestrians and motorcyclists hurled abusive words on them when they were asked to follow traffic rules.
Student volunteers, fielded to help control city traffic, find themselves helpless as transport drivers, including those of government offices, and pedestrians pay hardly any heed to their polite requests to follow traffic rules.
Braving the blazing sun, extreme heat, heavy rain and stifling pollution, they can be found showing jaywalkers the zebra crossings and foot over-bridges, and some are even seen stopping rogue motor bikers who mount their motorcycles on the footpaths or ride without helmets.
They teach common people different types of rules, including crossing roads at zebra crossings, following traffic commands and using foot over-bridges and underpasses. However, Rover Scouts have no direct authority over pedestrians.
During the last traffic week, some 1,800 Rover Scout members were active on the roads countrywide. Later, when the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) sought their opinions on better road safety, the scouts presented 48 recommendations.
Rokibul Islam, a student of Tejgaon University, complained that pedestrians use headphones and talk on their mobile phones while crossing roads.
They observed that many people were reluctant to use foot over-bridges and footpaths. Rokibul said, “Many people have physical problems. Many over-bridges are full of garbage or are dens of drug addicts. That is why people don’t feel comfortable walking on over-bridges. And the sidewalks are occupied by the hawkers.”
Under a special month-long traffic awareness programme, student volunteers have been working with Dhaka Metropolitan Police in controlling traffic at major intersections. Many road users are seen to argue with them and even hurl abusive words on the volunteers while even police members are seen to defy traffic rules in their front.
During the recent countrywide student protests against anarchy on roads, students controlled traffic successfully in the capital and other major cities and highways. But the situation returned to the former state as the road users are not still ready to follow traffic rules in absence of strict implementation of laws and unplanned road design and traffic management system, rights activists have said.
They have also expressed their concern over student volunteers’ engagement in difficult, time-consuming and risky traffic control works.
Md. Moshiur Rahman, deputy director (public relations and marketing) of Bangladesh Scouts, told Dhaka Courier that the ethics of the Rovers lie in helping each other.
“Thirty members at each point are working at 12 points in the capital. Abdullahpur, House Building, Kakoli, Mohakhali, Bijoy Saroni, Karwan Bazar, Shabagh, Shikkha Bhaban, Paltan, Bijoy Nagar, Fakirapul and Motijheel areas are their work points. More than 310 members are working with the DMP Traffic Division,” said the deputy director.
Asked about their struggles while working with the Traffic Division, such as facing heavy rains, heat and pollution on the streets, he said: “Our monitoring teams are always ready to care for them. We solve their problems immediately.”
On September 4, DMP commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia announced a programme (September 5 to September 30) to restore order in traffic, reduce accidents and free roads from congestion. ‘Civil society, Rover Scout and Girls’ Guide will be involved to encourage people to abide by law,’ he had said at a media briefing.
Under the programme 322 members of Rover Scout started to work with police in each shift in different intersections, especially on the road from Jahangir Gate to Zero point and Motijheel area.
Mosaddek Hossain and Mohammad Zumman Hossain, two youth volunteers of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, alleged the bus drivers frequently violated rules by dropping and taking passengers in the middle of road even in their presence.
Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust programme manager Maruf Hossain said that people in Bangladesh were used to breaking traffic rules since long. About engaging students in traffic control, he said it was very risky and almost inhuman to engage them on busy roads amid reckless driving, long serving hours, harsh weather and insufficient facilities.
‘These students cannot be an alternative for a long time,’ he said, adding, ‘the authorities should engage Ansar and community police members in this programme.’
Jahangirnagar University urban and regional planning professor Akter Mahmud said the volunteers’ lives were at grave risk as road users were not respectful to traffic rules.
DMP joint commissioner for traffic south Mofiz Uddin Ahmed said that decision as to if scouts would continue their participation in traffic control would be made this month.
The officer also admitted that it was risky for students to control traffic on roads and said they would consider the matter before making further decision.