The smiling Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain has become a symbol of government’s inefficiency and indifference to public sufferings on the roads.
“He can only smile. And his smile brings deaths to thousands of people,” said Nazimuddin Nazim a member of Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association. Addressing a condolence meeting for filmmaker Tareq Masud and ATN newsman Ashfaq Munier at National press club last Monday, he ridiculed the communications minister and blamed his ‘irresponsibility’ for deaths in road accidents.
The communications minister has been under fire from within and outside of the government over the deplorable road conditions that caused many tragic accidents on the highways lately.
Ruling alliance MP Rashed Khan Menon has asked the minister in parliament to quit. Awami League MPs Tofail Ahmed, Suranjit Sengupta and Tarana Halim, Mujibur Rahman Chunnu of Jatiya Party and independent MP Fazlul Azim also censured him. Suranjit blamed the cabinet for the deplorable conditions of the roads and urged upon it to quickly sort out the mess.
Meanwhile, demanding improved roads, the transport owners have stopped running buses on the Dhaka-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Tangail and 11 other routes touching Gazipur. Kushtia Transport Owners-Workers Oikya Parishad also enforced a transport strike last Monday demanding road repair before Eid. General Secretary of district bus-minibus owners’ group Abul Fazal Selim said that they were compelled to go on strike at 20 different routes of north-south and western zone as the administration did not take any step to repair Kushtia-Ishwardi road before Eid.”
Almost 1,500 kilometres of the country’s 21,040 kilometres highways are in bad shape, says Communication Minister Abul Hossain.
The High Court on Aug 17 asked the government to submit a report on the total allocation and expenditure for the development and repair of the roads and transport sector in the past five years.
Last Saturday the Communication Minister said he was ‘sorry’ for the situation but refused to resign as demanded by many. “The communication ministry is working fine. Consequences will be grave for those who tried to push me,” an undaunted Abul Hossain told the media at Rangpur on the following day.
The other cabinet minister who came into focus on road safety issue is Shahjahan Khan, a former Ganobahini leader now concurrently holding the position of Executive President of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation and the portfolio of Shipping Minister in Shekh Hasina’s cabinet.
Shipping minister Shahjahan Khan’s name came into public discussion after he had proposed to issue more driving licenses without following rules. Admitting that his organization had proposed to issue driving licenses to 24,630 drivers exempting them from written tests as most of them cannot read or write, Shahjahan Khan confessed at a press conference.
Reacting to such a preposterous move to issue driving licenses to illiterates, ruling Awami League MP Tarana Halim raised her voice and threatened to go on hunger strike. Tarana Halim says she will fast unto death if ‘unskilled’ drivers get licenses as proposed by shipping minister and transport workers leader Shajahan Khan. Tarana, whose nephew Saif Ahmed had been killed in a road accident in 2009, demanded that the licenses issued to the ‘unskilled’ drivers be cancelled.
The chief of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mizanur Rahman last Monday urged the prime minister to sack the ‘incompetent and ‘unsuccessful’ ministers from cabinet. “Please remove the inept ministers and it will be the best gift for the country’s people from the government ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr,” he said at a discussion in Dhaka.