Sadly familiar enforcement failure
THAT unregistered vehicles such as battery-run ‘easy bikes’ and shallow engine-run human haulers, locally called ‘nasimon’ or ‘karimon’, continue to ply the highways, in defiance of a November 22, 2010 directive from the home ministry, tends to prove yet again that effective enforcement of directives, be it by the court of law or its own, rules and regulations is not the strongest suite for the government or its agencies. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Thursday, although deputy commissioners of different districts and the deputy inspector general of the highway police claimed that they were trying to make roads and highways in district town off-limits to such unregistered vehicles, their efforts seem to be bedevilled by obvious lack of coordination and, of course, blame game.
There seems to be a general consensus among the government’s policymakers and experts that the battery-run ‘easy bikes’ and the shallow engine-run ‘nasimon or karimon’ plying the highways increases the chances of road traffic accidents and fatalities. According to the director of the Accident Research Institute at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, as quoted in the New Age report, such vehicles are not fit to ply on the highways in the first place. A more pertinent question, as formulated by him, is: ‘Do these vehicles have fitness certificates and drivers [of these vehicles] driving licences?’ The answer seems to be ‘no’. The obvious question then is why then these vehicles are allowed to ply even on roads in district towns, let alone highways.
The deputy commissioners of some districts are quoted in the report as saying that they have taken steps such as institution of mobile courts to stop the unregistered vehicles from plying highways but insist that the highway police have a role to play. One of the deputy commissioners claimed that they had ‘sent letter to them [the highway police]’ seeking help. The highway police seem to be hamstrung by the age-old personnel and logistic constraints. The deputy inspectors general of the highway police claims that they do not have control centres in every district so as to ensure monitoring of the movement of these vehicles. Then, of course, there is the question of limited availability of motorised road transport for passengers and goods in rural areas, which seems to have prompted people to resort to such dangerous innovations in the first place.
Overall, while the ban on battery-run and shallow engine-run human haulers was imperative, the government and its policymakers had apparently not thought of a comprehensive strategy to enforce the ban, which, however, hardly springs any surprise. After all, safety on the roads and highways or, for that matter, railways or river routes, does not seem to have a prominent place in the current government’s priority list. Of course, the incumbents have experimented with certain steps, mostly cosmetic, in this regard. However, in most cases, they have not followed up on these measures. The incumbents need to realise that they need to come up with a comprehensive strategy to ensure safety on the roads and highways.
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