'Where there is a will, there is a way' is an opt-repeated adage. But, in Bangladesh conditions---both in political and social contexts---most people have lost faith in the saying. They argue that vested interests are so strong in all the places that it is almost impossible to change anything for the better.
There must have been, however, exceptions. But not many people might have noticed that. Or the people who could bring about the changes for the better under difficult circumstances, no matter how insignificant they were, are not high profile ones.
But one person, the incumbent mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Annisul Huq, has proved the adage to be true, at least, for now. He has won his initial battle against the vested interests, considered very strong and unruly, and freed three important city spots from unauthorised parking of buses and trucks.
Of the three spots, the most difficult was the Tejgaon truck terminal. Annisul has used both hard and soft approach to evict the unauthorised truck stand that was there since 1972. The stand had not only prevented transports of all types from using an important road but it had also illegally occupied three acres of Bangladesh Railway land.
A trio of ministers--- then Communications Minister Obaidul Quader, Shipping Minister and also executive president of Bangladesh Sarak Paribhahan Sramik Federation Shahjahan Khan and Railways Minister Mujibul Haque together had visited the truck stand in November 2012 and wanted its removal with a promise to build a truck stand either on BR land there or at Kamalapur in the city. That was it. The stand stood there as usual with the ministers remaining busy with their usual works.
The DNCC under the leadership of Annisul Huq issued a directive to end illegal occupation of the Tejgaon- Sonargaon Road by November 27, 2015. But there was no change in the situation on the ground. None seemed interested to comply with the directive.
On November 30 last Annisul Huq, accompanied by Mujibul Haque went to the spot as the DNCC people with support from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) started demolishing unauthorised structures on the road. But a large number of transport workers and outsiders resisted the demolition work and started pelting stones at the police. The DNCC mayor in the face of violent protest took refuge in the office of the truck workers' union. The railway minister, however, left the place hurriedly when trouble started. Later the mayor talked tough and at the same time promised to build a parking space for trucks. His hot and cold approach worked. The truck owners and workers left the place and the road was opened to traffic after a few days.
Almost simultaneously, the DNCC with the help of DMP made the road in front of the Mahakhali Bus Terminal off limit to parking. Traffic movement through this wide road had become very difficult since a large number of inter-district buses used to remain parked all the time. Soon after the dusk, buses in three rows occupied most part of the two lanes of the road from Tejgaon iundustrial area up to the Mahakhali crossing.
A similar situation used to prevail from Shaymali to Amin bazaar, Gabtoli Bus Terminal and Kallayanpur being the most affected points. The DNCC has been successful in freeing the road space in between Kallayanpur and Amin Bazaar. Fortunately, the bus owners and workers have not opposed his move since they were aware of the strong administrative backing Annisul enjoys.
The DNCC mayor also did not hide this fact. During the Tejgaon truck terminal eviction drive he told the newsmen that the Prime Minister herself wanted removal of all unauthorised structures.
The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has also demolished unauthorised structures at some places under its jurisdiction. But its actions have not been as decisive as that of DNCC.
City residents, the commuters in particular, are praising the 'good' works on the part of the incumbent mayors. On that count DNCC mayor Annisul Huq deserves especial appreciation. But he needs to keep in mind the fact that the public opinion is very much treacherous in nature. It has the propensity to turn sour in no time in an adverse situation.
For instance, the next rainy seasons is only months away. The performance of the mayors would be put to test for yet another time then. They should be ready to have brickbats from the city residents if severity of the water-logging in different parts of the city remains as that of previous season in the coming monsoon.
Not many residents are aware of the fact that it is the prime responsibility of the Dhaka WASA to keep the city free from water-logging. The city corporations do also have responsibility of keeping the surface drains clean. Clogged surface drains do contribute to water-logging in many parts of Dhaka city.
Moreover, main city streets and roads are in a better shape these days. They are regularly kept clean. But the situation is not the same as far as internal roads of different wards of the two city corporations. Most of these roads are in a deplorable condition. The city corporations do need to allocate sufficient funds for fixing these roads during this dry season.
Besides, the two majors are expected to demonstrate both courage and determination in the matters of demolishing the unauthorised structures built by local muscle-flexing political elements, including a few ward councilors, on roads, lanes and bye lanes belonging to city corporations. Compared to what has been done in the case of Tejgaon truck stand and unauthorised parking of buses at Mahakhali and Gabtali, the task should be considered easy and less troublesome.