Working Towards a Change is not for the Government
While we are nowadays somewhat all concerned about fire in our buildings (no thanks to BSEC and Bashundhara), we have completely put some other formations (that can catch fire intentionally or otherwise) out of our minds, and that is perhaps because there has not been any major fire in our riverine transport.
A fortnight ago while crossing over from Paturia to Daulatdia by a ferry, I delightfully noticed that the British Ideas Will Terminate Amenity (BIWTA) vessel had a 'Fire Box' installed on the upper floor at the entry to the restaurant. Impressed, my colleague and I ventured to see what was inside, and ashcharya as we were, there was only a pair of chappals inside the red box. There was not a single item that is prescribed for a fire box. Why should there be? There has not been a fire on a ferry ever perhaps, and so the foolish apathy.
Whereas it may be quite appropriate to spank on the bottom the guy who started a fire with the leather footwear, a fire may find it insulting and hilarious if the slippers were used instead of the abounding water all around. With goods of all nature being transported on motorised vehicles day in and day out by ferries at different points across the country, water may become unsuitable if petrol, diesel, and gas came into play.
There was a water hosepipe, whose age may be worthy of celebration, but the old rope was tied to the railing. Has anybody tested the hosepipe for leaks in the last ten years?
There were several lifebuoys on the top deck but surely they shall be in short supply in case of any emergency. Freeing them from the place and the manner in which they are secured will be time consuming and crucial when they shall be actually needed.
One of the possible emergencies is the accidental falling into the water of a person (a child is most vulnerable) through the open steel door at car deck level.
People, including women and children, are allowed and have been seen walking on to the ferry even after it has started moving out. Is that dangerous? Not for people who have tried it and succeeded in making the journey. Unfortunately, the few who did not cannot respond to that query.
Then there is the mad rush by cars, microbuses, and buses to catch a ferry. An accident is imminent. Accidents are not reported. Accidents are taken for granted. Only fatalities make the headlines.
Besides the fear of missing a ferry, another major reason for this dash for the ghaat is the absence of any indication for the vehicles on which ferry is available and which ones they should board.
It would be a simple case of management and perhaps manpower for the BIWTA to give each vehicle paying for the ferry ticket a number of the ghaat wherefrom they should board the next available ferry at that particular ghaat. That vehicle would not be allowed on a ferry from any other ghaat. Simple!
Again, there should be a supervisor (there are, as you can see them moving about with pen, paper, importance, etc.) at every ghaat stopping and guiding the vehicles at the entry so that vehicles arriving can offload smoothly, and once the ferry is clear the outgoing vehicles can get on board.
The scenery in reality is voy-a-voy-o to say the least. Buses mostly jam the inclined and muddy approach road. Large trucks and buses getting off a ferry find it difficult to ply through the narrow approach road, made narrower by other vehicles. They slow down, often stop for adjustments, and thereby delay everyone. The supervisor/s seems to have no authority to control the movement of the vehicles that cause the unnecessary jam.
Last Saturday while returning to Dhaka via Daultadia a Green Line bus (Dhaka Metro Ba 14-0678) had made its way along the approach road and parked the Volvo in such a position that trucks were unable to pass it without stopping, going backwards, trying again, going backwards and all this had created a jam, stalling other vehicles and passengers on the ferry. An ambulance was waiting to board the ferry and go to Dhaka with a patient. A patla supervisor tried to talk to the Green Line driver and staff to move the bus slightly to ease the passage of the trucks and buses from the ferry. But the Green Line driver would not budge an inch on the excuse that his vehicle's rear-view mirror would be smashed. In a rather offensive tone the driver and staff of Green Line made that clear.
The BIWTA staff were helpless and at the mercy of the bus driver. If at all such a situation arises, should it not be in the reverse?
May I request the BIWTA management that since what has been created (narrated partly above) does not require money to be resolved, would they please encourage their staff to provide the desired service! And, please can every staff wear a uniform. That exudes pride in one's work and enhances a sense of responsibility. What has been suggested, e.g. assigning ghaat number to each paying vehicle, would not cost money, unless you are counting the cost of rubber stamp and ball-point pens.
So please, without further ado, let the concerned management show the government that BIWTA is indeed working towards a change for the better. Please, you will get lots of soab.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009