Dengue, tailbacks and train delays

Sohrab Hassan | Update:

Six-year-old Musnan, was under treatment at Dhaka paediatric hospital. Not being able to get up and play, she idly drew cartoons on her legs, sitting under the mosquito net to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes again. Prothom Alo File PhotoAs a resident of Maghbazar, I am naturally alarmed to learn that the incidence of dengue is highest in this area of the capital city. There will be all sorts of research on the matter, but in the meantime we can only appeal to the residents of Dhaka as a whole, to ensure that their homes, garages, gardens, shops, schools and community centres are all clean and clear.

No water should accumulate anywhere. On Eid day particular attention must be paid to keep the city clean. Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has said that if the people slaughter their cows in certain specified areas, their meat will be delivered to their homes if necessary.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has issued guidelines as to what is to be done during the Eid holidays. That is a good initiative. Previously they would issue guidelines about how to secure your homes during the holidays. Now it’s about Aedes mosquitoes. Robbers and thieves are of least concern.

According to Prothom Alo, around 5000 dengue patients are admitted to different hospitals in Dhaka city. Many haven’t been able to find space in any hospital and so are being treated at home. A physician from Rangpur yesterday said that not only have all holidays of the hospital been cancelled, but the holidays of the medical college teachers have been called off too.

The physician said that there is no actual treatment for dengue. The source of dengue has to be eliminated in order to be rid of the disease. The mayor of Kolkata City Corporation said the same.

Anyone contacting dengue but undergo immediate treatment. The patient must take complete rest and be given saline.

Rather than giving the city people all sorts of false hope, the city corporations would do better if they speedily procured the appropriate insecticide and eliminated the Aedes mosquitoes.

People wait for trains Kamalapur Railway Station. Hasan Rzaa took this photo on 10 AugustIt has been reported that while the incidence of dengue has fallen in Dhaka, it has spread in other districts. Many people will be going to their villages during Eid and returning after the holidays. They will be travelling by bus, trains and launches. The cleanliness and hygiene of these vehicles and vessels must be ensured to prevent the spread of dengue.

This Eid is faced with all sorts of calamities -- natural and manmade. Floods are a natural calamity, but dengue is manmade. Had we been cautious in advance, it would not have been so difficult to tackle.

Road accidents are another manmade calamity. Two views have emerged about transport before Eid, particularly road transport.

Leaders of Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association on Saturday told a press briefing that homebound passengers during Eid had to wait inordinately to reach their destinations. The risk of accidents increased with animals being carried in trucks without fitness permits and passengers being transported in buses also unfit for commute.

Train tickets were being sold on the black market. Passengers were travelling on the roofs of trains and the train schedules were in shambles.

The launches on the rivers were overloaded with passengers and charging exorbitant fares. The passengers were having to wait for up to 8 or 9 hours at the ferry terminals.

According to the passengers’ welfare association, 10.5 million passengers will be travelling from Dhaka to other districts this Eid. Another 35 million will be travelling from one district to another. Over the 12 days during the Eid season, 45.5 million passengers will commute within the country.

Train journeys have become a nightmare. Train schedules are in a mess. The railway authorities say that there will be 12 to 16 hour delays. Railways officials feel that it is not likely for things to improve along the southern and northern routes.

In the meantime, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader has rejected claims of problems in commute. He says that the vehicles may be moving slowly, but there are no jams. He said that slow moving and fast moving vehicles moved down the same road, impeding the traffic speed. The movement was also slowed by vehicles not normally used on the highways as well as accidents. But if a three-hour journey takes up to seven hours, that is hardly just a matter of slow movement.

Vehicles move slowly on Dhaka-Aricha route on 10 August. Photo: Abdul MominTrain journeys are an ordeal too. According to Prothom Alo, the schedules of trains on the western route have broken down and there are likely to be 12 to 16 hour delays. Kamlapur railway station’s platform is crowded with passengers, sitting and standing in wait for their trains.

Every day 73 inter district trains leave Kamlapur railway for their respective destinations. Till Friday evening, 28 trains left Dhaka late.

On Saturday, passengers for Barisal, Bhola, Hatia, Manpura, Chandpur, Barguna, Pirojpur and other southern districts thronged the Sadarghat launch terminal. The passengers, waiting for hours, said the number of vessels had been increased, but the schedules were not being maintained.

The road transport minister may have been defensive in his comments, but the railway minister and shipping minister remain silent. When a train accident occurred recently at Kulaura, the railway minister said that the bridge had collapsed because hordes of passengers had boarded the train as the road route was closed.

We have this propensity to play the blame game. The minister naturally doesn’t fix the railway tracks himself or drive the train. But he must hold accountable those who do, rather than try to defend them.

Meanwhile, here is wishing everyone Eid Mubarak in advance!

* Sohrab Hassan is joint editor of Prothom Alo and a poet. He can be contacted at <>. The op-ed published in the print edition of Prothom Alo has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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