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    Volume 8 Issue 91 | October 23, 2009 |

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Digital Rooster

Aasha Mehreen Amin

The CRA has decided, after several feverish, noisy meetings, to go on an indefinite strike. Not that it will really have much effect as the CRA is not exactly the most powerful organisation and one that has too many factions all over the country to start anything revolutionary. In case you don't know, the CRA is the Confused Roosters Association. Roosters of this city have just had enough. Their previous job of announcing daybreak with their characteristic, ancient call that we are all so familiar with, so much so that we even have ring tones that give out that sound at odd hours of the day confusing all and sundry, is no longer feasible.

Coming back to the issue at hand, the roosters that is, they are justifiably distressed. When the Daylight Saving Time was announced in June to push the day an hour earlier, it was bad enough that they had to set their alarm clocks for an hour before sunrise. Now, with the new timings set by the government to apparently ease the traffic fiasco, these poor birds will be forever sleep-deprived, not to mention cranky, just like those poor kids who now have to wake up at 6 am or 5am (depending on where they stay and how difficult they are) which actually means 5am or 4am in pre DST days. No wonder the roosters are distressed, after all, who has ever heard of calling 'Cockka Doodle Doo' when everything is pitch-black? Imagine the dreary winter days when it doesn't brighten before eight, when shivering roosters will call out shrilly and little (and big) children will have to bundle up to go to school in what will look like the middle of the night!

According to the new rules, while government primary schools will start at 9:30am and close at 8:15 pm, high schools, colleges, English-medium schools and madrasas will start between 7 am and 8:30 am and end between 1 pm and 2:30pm. Government and semi-government organisations will have their usual 9 to 5 schedule but banks and other private organisations have to start at 10 am to 6 pm. We don't know whether all this will really help to solve the gridlock problems as everything seems a little confusing. For instance for all those people taking public transport, will such transport be available at these times? Some people say that the usual peak time jams will now be on at all times of the day as a result of this as vehicles will be running practically all the time. One guesses that time will only tell whether the new timings will ease the traffic or cause more inconvenience and stress to the city dwellers (and roosters) than they already experience.

The eternal gridlock situation is indeed quite frightening and it is understandable why the government is trying all sorts of strategies to help solve it. According to a Roads and Highways survey, traffic jams halt traffic for seven and a half hours a day, the estimated economic loss is TK 10,000 crore a year which accounts for one third of the country's annual development expenditure. A police report has made many suggestions, most of which will take some time to make into reality: construction of underground and over ground railways, elevated expressways, efficient public transport, expansion of road networks. The police report has also suggested franchising of bus routes to introduce a modern public transport system; at present around 150 companies compete with each other, blocking roads with their back to back lines and illegal stopping to get extra passengers, contributing largely to the jams that have made our lives unbearable.

Reliable, sufficient public transport (including safe school buses), in fact could be the most important step to save us from the Gridlock Monster as it will allow many people to leave their private cars at home to commute. We will of course wait for the monorails and underground tubes, the speedy expressways and shiny over bridges. But before that happens it seems we will have to wake up at unearthly hours and drag our sleepy children out of bed. The CRA members are not amused. They are proposing early retirement and the use of digital roosters in their place.


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