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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Emerging PPP in the streets of Dhaka

I really don't know why the other day I decided to wait for a Volvo bus to go from Bishwa Road to Kakoli. It has been long enough that I had stopped travelling by bus in Dhaka city, not because I have become richer and I need to maintain certain status quo, its just that I have stopped travelling around due to epic traffic jams and also because I have expanded physically in all directions to be able to fit into the 'murir tin' mini buses or literary naughty 'Duronto' vehicles which keep on clogging the streets of Dhaka. Gone are those days or even 3 years back, there were some AC buses which used to bring me from Farmgate to Bishwa Road, even the yellow cabs used to ply around with their ACs working, now it has all become fairy tales, or reality tales of living in Dhaka. However, getting back to my wait for the Volvo bus...many buses came and many buses left, my Volvo took ages to arrive. Wonder why was I handed the 8tk. ticket and why I was standing in the sun for 25 minutes to travel this distance. I also could not venture into other moving objects due to reasons described above. However, as something or the other keep on happening and does not elude my observing eyes, an emergence of PPP, yes a public-private partnership, seemed to be appearing in front of my eyes. I have noticed this phenomenon off and on before but that day, it was happening pretty frequently, so there is a good enough reason to blog about it.

While I was desperately looking towards the road expecting to see the double decker appearing, many private cars stopped nearby as the chauffeur very politely and with a smile extended his neck towards the window asking if I needed a lift towards Mohakhali. I was all ready to thwart off any possible mugging attempt under their new avatar and I was even more unprepared to see somebody smiling at me to offer a service. Although I nodded my head in the negative, I saw many fellow city dwellers and bus-awaitees getting into the private cars after a quick negotiation with the chauffeur. I gained confidence and since my Volvo bus never arrived till then, I decided to jump into the next private car cum cab that would come my way. After a while, came one Toyota Allion with a smiling and interested looking driver shaheb. For 10 tk. each he packed the car with many uradhura people like me and dropped us at Kakoli.I didn't forget to warn him that any possible attempt of 'thek deya' (mugging) will be vehemently foiled, so he better not think about it, he gave a red grin while chewing his betel leaf and cracked jokes on himself. We enjoyed a quick journey in the air conditioned Japanese car, while listening to Radio Foorti 88.0 FM. I felt free from the dust and noise of the 'otherwise chaotic' Dhaka streets. While in the car cum cab, the city looked better, and I felt pity for the not-so-fortunate people....thought what I can do for them, all while sitting in the comfy comfy Allion backseat. While getting off, we paid the 'fare' to the driver shaheb and he said 'thank you' with a smile, I didn't bother to I am not used to getting such service while using public transport in Dhaka.

Next story, my brother's friend got a drop at his university in Banani only to find out after going upstairs that the class had been cancelled. When he came downstairs to look for his car, he couldn't find it. The driver was also not following 'kaachey thakun' principle, implying that he was not carrying any mobile phone and he also disappeared. My brother's friend was puzzled and had no option but to wait in the premises for the next hour. The driver finally appeared with an embarassed face and upon interrogation, revealed that he was doing some part time ferrying of passengers from Banani to Gulshan-2 and Gulshan-1, as he thought his 'bhaiya' was attending the hour long class. He also admitted that he had been doing it for the last two months, which according to him 'helps him pass his time, does good to city dwellers in Dhaka and also gives him some additional ja khushi hoye dey arki'.

So I guess by now you can pretty well imagine that a unique partnership between public and private sector is emerging to tackle the poor transport service in Dhaka city. Although I scored very high in statistics while being in Notre Dame College, I am no statistician, I can't remember well figures and numbers, and there is that quote that says "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". So I leave the numbers for our think-tanks, gurus and liars, as a simple consumer and commuter, I believe that since the public transport system in this city has gone completely bollocks, such emergence of private sector taxi service is very natural. Think-tanks will keep on arguing about the ideal area of a city, proportion of required roads, number of cars, blah blah blah, but all these number crunching seminars and symposiums have done little to make the traffic move even an inch these days. People keep writing letters in national dailies giving ideas about tackling the traffic problem, but who is there to listen and who is there to implement? Many suggest to move Kamlapur Railway Station out of Dhaka, others suggest to make use of what we naturally possess...our water bodies and to introduce efficient water routes and water vessels to connect different corners of Dhaka, some even suggest to start planning for alternate capital city for Bangladesh somewhere near Gazipur with a 10 year plan to start designing a city from the scratch...somewhat like Putrajaya in Malaysia...but who cares and why bother huh? As long as I can move, go to my office, shoshur-bari, bachchar school, Nandon, Agora, Westin and Radisson, I am happy, bakita jader korar ora korbe...I am going for holiday in Dubai next week, then to London and then to the States, I can be least bothered of this blog post shit.

Nevertheless...I must mention that I am also amused to see many middle class families having as many as 3 cars in the same family, one for abbu, one for boro bhaiya and one for myself....if they can afford it, why won't they buy it, are there any rules to stop them? So they are also making good use of their cars, if its not serving the family, serve the nation profitably. Look at the misery of female commuters, help them and give them a hitch in your AC car, not a bad intention huh? So as heavy-brain-duty gurus keep on suggesting in seminars that private sector should join hands with public sectors to implement important development initiatives, the very chauffeurs of those gurus and ministers might be implementing what their shahebs must be preaching inside the auditorium. As an ordinary young commuter, who does not own a car yet and who cannot fit into buses and human haulers, such emergence of private car cum cabs is a welcome change. Although I am stuck in traffic jams anyways, be it in a private car or be it in a yellow/black cab, but atleast there is AC, music and a chauffeur who shows respect and smile...does not give me a feeling as if I am being hostage in this nearly unlivable city. Baki to shob dhorei nisi je kaj korbe na, so lets be happy as I ride jani na kon boro lok er dami gari from Bishwa Road to Kakoli.


আলাবালার বাপ said...

আমি কিছু পরামর্শ দিতেছি। আপনেরা যোগাযোগ মন্ত্রনালয়ে পাঠায় দিয়েন।

১. ঢাকার রাস্তা থাইকা সব বে-লাইসেন্স গাড়ি, বাস, মুড়ির টিন, ছিলা নাইরকেল গাছ (সিএনজি) ঝাটায়া বিদায় করতে হইব।

২. চায়না যেমনে এক শিশু নীতি গ্রহন করছে, আমাগোও এক গাড়ি নীতি গ্রহণ করতে হইবে।

৩. একবার আমার ড্রাইভার আমার অবর্তমানে আমার গাড়ির তেল বেঁচতে গিয়া ধরা খাইছিল আমার কাছে। ওরে আমি বানাইছিলাম। এই সমস্ত ড্রাইভারগুলানরে আমার সহ্য হয় না।

৪. সবাই একখান কইরা সাইকেল কিনলে কিন্তু আর কোন ঝামেলা হয় না। আমার শংকর থাইকা উওরা অফিস যাইতে গাড়িতে যতক্ষন লাগে এর চেয়ে সাইকেলে গেলে আরো কম সময় লাগে।

৫. আপনে ভলভোতে উঠতে গেলেন কেন? শালারা এক নাম্বারের চামার। এইটুক রাস্তা আট টাকা খরচ কইরা যাওনের মানে হয় নাকি?

পোস্টাটা জব্বর হইছে। ৫ তারা।

Anonymous said...

i faced this situation 3/4 times. so one day i was waiting nearby notredame college to get some taxi to gulshan - 1.
one guy came up to me and asked me whether i like to take a ride by a private car.
i was very angry because it seems to me very unethical, though i was standing under sun around 30 minutes.

i would rather prefer to go on foot or take rickshaw to the far distance. but i can't force myself to this unethical stuff.

i guess you guys should discourage these kind of stuffs.
anyway thanks for sharing,

M. Anis Motiwala said...

I liked your blog post, I rated it 5 but my question - that kept haunting me while i read - ETHICS??

Perhaps you took it for grated that your readers were getting the fine print message and would not take the whole chauffer-dishonsety-incentivization in its literal sense but I am sure most would. So, still, I gave you 5 perhaps because you pointed at a phenomenon PPP which is alone worth more than 5 but gave a wrong example. Good luck.

M. Anis Motiwala

Anonymous said...

আমি এই সার্ভিস টা বেজায় উপভোগ করি। কাকলি থেকে কাকরাইল মাত্র ১০ টাকায়, on Toyota Premio, খারাপ না। or নতুন বাজার থেকে কাকলি ১০ টাকায়!!!

Anonymous said...

That's not unfair to the drivers as well, just a demand of the present time.