Arriving at the Colonial
was already nine thirty and as Rima's car approached the
rail crossing at Maghbazar, the shaft was once again down
with twinkling red lights. Rima thought to herself, "I
will be late today as well, it happened twice this week
once more and I will have one day's salary slashed."
in and day out, Dhaka-dwellers have been losing precious
time and money at these gates where railroads run across
the heart of the city. These trains running through the
city intensify the frustration of traffic jams. We hurl
abusive words at those who don't do anything about the traffic
in the city. Then again, life goes on. It's one of those
things one has to bear while living in Dhaka. Why? Why should
we settle for discomfort when the authorities can do some
thing about it?
counted at least 15 level crossings in Dhaka and apparantly
there are more. Traffic compels you to do start hours before
the scheduled time if you want to reach your destination
on time. And if one has to wait some extra time in front
of a railway crossing then it becomes a kind of torture.
A lot of accidents take place near the rail or rail lines
where many people live in the shanties.
everywhere in Dhaka, these crossings are remnants of the
colonial rule. There is no doubt that at the time, these
crossings were the carriers of civilisation because railroads
were an integral part of business and movement. However
as time passed, almost every civilised city in the world
has taken its railroads underground because they realised,
well in time, that the necessity of trains would change.
This realisation influenced the need to find alternative
ways to keep railroads in the city.
Kolkata's Metro Rail makes a significant contribution to
the city's mass transit system ferrying at least three lakh
passengers a day on its 16.45-km-stretch with 17 stations
about one km apart. The idea of Kolkata Metro, running between
Tollygunj and Dum Dum, was formulated in 1949 and introduced
Railway also has a strong network across the country with
its 2786 routes in kilometres. It required sustained efforts
for over a century to build this network. Back in 1862,
the first section of 53.11 kilometres of board gauge rail
line was opened for traffic between Darsana and Jagati in
the Kushtia district. In 1885, the next railway connection
opened between Dhaka and Narayanganj, a distance of 14.98
these rail lines were extended and new sections constructed
to cover more areas. In 1891, the construction of then Assam-Bengal
Railway was taken up with British government assistance
and later on, taken over by the Assam-Bengal Railway Company.
Railway Companies formed in England took up the construction
and operation of these sections in the middle and late 19th
century. Their primary objective was to operate these sections
for purely commercial purposes. However, when various sections
were linked up, the British government of India found them
important from strategic, political and economic standpoints.
Therefore, they came in the picture with statutory control
and regulations for operation and management of the railway.
the population of Bangladesh has increased, the land has
not expanded and therefore railways remain the most common
mode of transport, running through residential areas and
having rail crossing in densely populated areas. These lines
should have been moved long ago to different places where
there is less traffic, such as the outskirts of the city.
Who is going to do that? We are thinking of introducing
magnetic trains in Dhaka but this simple matter, which needs
immediate attention doesn't seem to bother anyone. The rail
crossings in Dhaka make people lose a lot of time -- no
one knows how many hours are lost per day. These crossings
have become one of the nuisances of the city that one has
to bear while commuting.
pretty amazing that an independent country can carry the
symbol of colonial ruling so distinctly. More than half
a century later, we are still using these rail lines, but
we are not aware of the fact that the British had created
the rail stations and routes to suit their own purposes.
We should have adjusted them to suit our own needs, but
it has not been thought of. Measures to make the life of
the city dwellers may take time, but it is needless to say
that moving the rail lines from city centres requires proper
and immediate attention.
story in a daily reported that recently one of our honourable
ministers was 30 minutes late for a meeting and as a result
he had raised the point of creating a bypass road from ZIA
and Kamlapur and it was identified as one of the high priority
projects. This definitely gives us a ray of hope that may
be there is still time for this city to become a habitable
place for its dwellers.
Kabir teaches English at the Tairunnessa Memorial Medical