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     Volume 11 |Issue 34| August 31, 2012 |


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Bravo, Obaidul Quader!

Shah Husain Imam

If there was a Person of the Eid Award, it should have, without an iota of doubt, gone to Obaidul Quader, the minister for communications and railways.

Having taken charge of his ministry in December, he has already made a positive impression on the public mind because of his hard-driving work style. It is no small achievement when you consider that the sector was left disheveled by Abul Hossain and Suranjit Sengupta.

Obaidul Kader – fighting a lonely battle?
Photo: Star File

The pointer is towards the moon crater marked highways, thanks to Abul, and the late night rail scam that Suranjit has been cleared of but not without collateral damage to the railway administration. Obaidul Quader has had also to contend with the occasional trade unionist roar from the shipping minister!

Initially though, he got flak for his dramatic on-spot checks for bus fares on selected traffic intersections, sending some important areas of the city into traffic tailspins as the iftar time drew close. Undeterred, he would soon settle down and energetically go about proving himself worthy of his charge.

The high watermark of his performance was touched close to the Eid festival. Judging by the way he threw himself into the job of supervising time schedules, seating arrangements and provisions for transports, he has set a precedent for how festival-time public mobility should be planned for, organised and steered. The magnitude of transporting huge numbers of people to and fro prior to and in the wake of Eid-ul-Fitr can be dauntingly nightmarish. It took the likes of Obaidul Quader to deliver on the Herculean task. One must say he has done it admirably well, given the infrastructure constraints.

His repeated physical presence at the Kamalapur railway station and bus and coach terminals to enquire about problems facing the passengers and instantly ordering solutions won him the hearts of thousands of passengers embarking on home-bound journeys before Eid. The example he set by personally attending to passengers' complaints quite naturally egged the railway and coach operators on to get their act together and give their very best.

He faced hostile situations, at times, but didn't lose his cool. So jam-packed and stressful it was along the trains at the ready to leave, a passenger or two gesticulated unpleasantly towards the minister, yet he gave them a patient hearing as befitting a man in public service. An overwhelming majority couldn't have failed to appreciate the gesture of an ever persuasive and ever apologetic minister all the time saying, 'We can't meet all the expectations of the people, but we are trying. There is no lack of sincerity on our part.'

For once all this did not sound empty rhetoric to the public, for Obaidul Quader meant business the hard way for his officials and he was at his courteous best and most considerate to passengers anxious for secure and safe journeys home and back to places of work.

It came to light that long before Eid the minister had started road-repairs under his personal supervision. He cancelled the leaves of top Roads and Highway officials and engaged them in highway repair activity. On inspection, he dismissed employees on charges of dereliction of duty and issued show cause notices and transfer orders.

In the Railways, as well as R&H Directorate, even high officials of the rank of chief and divisional engineers were not spared. If one were to take a tally of 'wickets' falling to the fiery bowling of Obaidul Quader, if you will, it would be a record-breaking performance, perhaps the first on such a scale performed in a vital infrastructure sector. One only wishes this is not a one-off but would be sustained all the year round with perhaps a varying intensity.

Obaidul Quader has made chair-sitting officials go to the field and work there, with him leading the way. This we think is Obaidul's Eid gift to the nation. The message that rings out to all ministries is to stop being too sensitive to status and comforts of an office and start fulfilling obligations with due deference to taxpayers' expectations.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.


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