Foot over bridges built for pedestrians or vendors?

Published : 27 Sep 2020 10:52 PM | Updated : 28 Sep 2020 04:48 PM

Most of the foot over bridges built in the busiest areas of the capital for pedestrians to cross the road safely and without any hindrance, seem to have become hangouts for vendors, beggars and drug addicts. 

It is noticed that many pedestrians usually obstruct smooth movement of other pedestrians as drug addicts and beggars are found occupying most of the spaces on top of trading by the vendors.

Such illegal activities take place under the very nose of the law enforcing agencies who seem to care least about public conveniences. Many have also questioned whether such illegal activities are part of the government’s plan to allow vending business in the ‘smart city’.

During visits to capital's Paltan, Shahbagh, Farmgate, Banglamator, Rayerbagh, Shanir Akhra areas on Sunday, this correspondent found vendors occupying most of the spaces on the foot over bridges where passing pedestrians are often found blocking the ways as they stop to buy petty items from the vendors.

It is alleged that vendors pay certain amount of illegal toll to ‘representatives of local influential people and police on duty’ to let them carry out their illegal business. The vendors are found to sell various items from mobile phone accessories, leather belts, sun glasses, wallets, weighing instruments, water pots, various types of bags, vests, shirts, socks, tooth brushes, table cloths, to lady’s fancy items like earrings, bangles, artificial necklaces. 

Tanvir Ahmed, who avoided using the foot over bridge in Motijheel square, said, “It is difficult to cross the foot over bridge due to crowds on the bridge. 

Moreover, many people are found crossing the busy streets instead of using the foot-over steel bridges as most of them are wearing out, some of which are found to be dangerously exposed.”

Another pedestrian – Masum Hossain, who has been generous in using the foot-over bridge said, “I can see why most of the people in this busy commercial hub avoid using the bridge. There are visible evidence of the steel floor wearing out and may cause accident any time. Many of the side railings are also missing which may also lead to human casualties.”

He further said, “Drug addicts are seen taking drugs in public, beggars are sitting on the stairs right under the nose of the police. On many occasions police force pedestrians to use such foot-over bridges despite complaining about the poor conditions of the bridges.”

A fellow pedestrian Ariful Islam said, “We could not walk properly on the foot over bridge as vendors are found occupying the platforms of the bridges. There seems to be no one to monitor such crime yet the city corporation authorities keep pledging that they would keep the city free of street vendors and criminals.”

Tasnia Akter with her daughter from Shahbag Hospital expressed similar grievances. She said, “It seems that the foot-over bridges were constructed for the vendors, beggars and drug addicts. Conscious people who are aware about such illegal occupation on the bridges tend to avoid using the foot-over bridges. It is quite sad that the actual purpose of constructing the bridges are not served.”

Rabi Ghosh, a pedestrian in Farmgate said, “It’s an irony that the foot-over bridges are cleared and kept off limits for such vendors, beggars and drug addicts when the Prime Minister or foreign dignitaries pass under these foot-over bridges. So, do I understand that the authorities concern wishes to show such VIP persons that the bridges are in ‘proper use’?”

Traditionally when police or city corporation concerned officials are asked about such alleged crimes, they commonly defend themselves by saying, ‘we would soon evict’ those who illegally occupy foot-over bridges. In reality the dishonest officials concerned would continue to rule and create chaos until high ups intervene.

Asked about this, Sub-Inspector (SI) Azadur Rahman of Paltan Police Station said, "The foot over bridge has been provided for walking. No shops will be allowed here. They (hawkers) will be evicted quickly.”

Dhaka South City Corporation (DNCC) public relations officer Abu Naser said, "An operation will be launched soon to evict illegal shops on footpaths and shops on foot over bridges.”