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             Volume 11 |Issue 05| February 03, 2012 |


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Mini or Maxi Emergency?

Shah Husain Imam

Life in Dhaka is so laid with mines that you thank your stars every time you come having been back home in one piece and are able to see the rest of the family in as well, that too unscratched. Every day is a reunion, that is the feeling you get when you have had to negotiate many booby-traps to and from your workplace.

You feel blissfully relieved having made it after a day on the street and in the office it may not have been that straightforward though, if you had an errand or a meeting outside the workplace thrown in. The loss of office and home hours exact a huge opportunity cost in productivity and creativity terms. Still, there you are at the end of the day 'freshened' up with a wash and savouring life's miracle in a cup of coffee or tea.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

But your sense of achievement can evaporate at a moment's notice through an unforeseen occurrence sending you completely off-balance. Just picture a scenario in which your car tyre punctured at GPO entry gate with your spouse inside the vehicle. While putting the spare on, the driver struggled to loosen a screw on the wheel that had been so tightened that it just wouldn't budge. You received a call from your spouse telling you that the driver had rushed to a workshop to fetch the right appliance with a mechanic to unscrew the bolt. The husband with his hackles up looked for an office transport which was not to be available. For, one of the two vehicles was in a workshop and the other laid off after overnight duty. You desperately hailed at any passing empty taxi or three-wheeler. None would stop; you made a circuitous climb-down through the far side of the over-pass at Farmgate to land on a narrow strip hemmed in on all sides by different kinds of transports. You sneaked into a three-wheeler at a cutthroat fare to take you to GPO. But when you called the spouse to say help was on the way, you were told the tyre was just being changed by the hired mechanic after all

Another worry took over at the risk of being on the street without a spare tyre. Often people would pass by vehicles stranded on the middle of the road – for any reason whatsoever – as the driver and passengers looked vacantly on before siding on the street through a helpful push.

All of this is in the normal range of difficulties one may encounter. But in the abnormal category fall such incidents as when your car hit a vehicle or got hit by another. Even if it were a brush with a minor scar on both transports your reasoning is bound to be drowned in the shouting non-argument ranting by the other side. Meanwhile, traffic tailback would have developed aggravating the usual bumper-to-bumper gridlock, that is getting morbidly depressive by the day. But you had only yourself to blame.

Your spouse had one day got down near New Market and as she barely lunged into the gateway a man came chasing and yelling, 'Come, see what your driver had done to a young man while parking your car’. She turned back to find a minor scratch on the foot of the lad and a band of people jostling on to the rear seat of the car and demanding immediate compensation. Your spouse ordered them out of the car saying only one could accompany the wounded to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital she offered to take them to. At the hospital, he was given first aid and the lady dropped him off with his associate back at the New Market parking lot. The narrative is nerve-racking and just one of the many that either spouse of a couple or their children must have experienced in their daily grind through Dhaka city.

The moral of the story is the police helpline number must be made to work round the clock for whatever it takes. Just having a few control room numbers without a guaranteed response or help is unacceptable. Secondly, getting a private taxi or a vehicle from government emergency pool on call must be a matter of right for every citizen in distress.

It is a baffling psychological contradiction in us that we are impatiently and impetuously bashing things around whilst silently enduring pain and hardship caused by governance and service delivery related deficiencies. Let's stop being at the top of the happiness index through lack of drive or due to our attitude of fatalistic resignation.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

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