Road safety, transport and traffic issues, rule of law and police, demographic concerns, some post-budget thoughts, new perspective in women's freedom and empowerment, political weather-taking form the contents of this issue of Forum.
Making the roads and highways safe is as much a human security issue as it is an economic and developmental concern. Accidents cause loss to families, let alone to the nation's future. Given our high fatality and injury rates, potential years of life lost are closing in on gaps with deaths from lethal diseases. The most vulnerable age group is 21 to 35 making up the potential economic force. What could be a demographic dividend through a high concentration of youth in the population is thus significantly drained away through premature deaths.
A plethora of recommended models for coping with increased public mobility and movement of goods and services coupled with in-built safety provisions have been oft-discussed, some even planned for. What could, however, be done on the short-term to ease the situation has been invariably sidestepped by a penchant for the long-term mega projects. In the process, short-term options have been overtaken and even become more complicated with the passage of time. This has affected routine maintenance of whatever we have had.
Particularly crippling has been the lawlessness in the transport sector -- thanks to its being held ransom by trade unions and corrupt elements. The shootout at the R&H headquarters triggered by a turf war to monopolise tender business by ruling party coteries as attested to by a probe committee instituted by the communication ministry is a case in point.
On the specific problem of traffic gridlock, some structural measures will have to be taken. 'Multi-single level elevated expressways and mass transport system with underground terminal facilities at strategic locations' sounds like a good idea. We particularly endorse the suggestion of multi-storied filling stations coupled with high-rise parking lots. Pedestrian traffic cannot be left to its own devices.
The need for police reform is being hammered away at the civil society level with the government paying lip service to the agenda, at best. One could argue inasmuch as a truly reformed police will not admit of being politically used, no government seems to be keen on changing the status quo. Even some of the provisions of the Colonial Act of 1861 for supervision and enforcement of discipline by the higher ups in the police stand discarded by the appalling intrusion of political connections coming in the way of accountability of subordinates to their superiors. A people-friendly police culture has to replace the mindset of alienation from the people to a point of ruthless abuse of power.
The budget for 2012-2013 with some minor modifications has come into effect. "Indeed, achieving the targets set out in the budget will hinge critically on the government's ability to undertake the second generation reforms targeted towards good governance, raising efficacy of the institutions and qualitative improvement in the public service delivery system (Mustafizur Rahman)."
In a political overview, a cabinet minister warns against precipitating Islamic fundamentalism by default.
Begum Sufia Kamal's Journey Towards Freedom as portrayed by Mofidul Hoque, coinciding with her birth anniversary, is relevant to concerns for gender equality and secular values.
The Everest climbing of Nishat and Wasfia resonates forcefully with the women's struggle for empowerment.