Plight of rural communication

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 26 Nov 2016, 21:12:43

Plight of rural communication

Shihab Sarkar
Notwithstanding Dhaka's perennial traffic gridlocks and the difficulties facing the commuters, the city has no dearth of transports. Ranging from the ubiquitous rickshaws, auto-rickshaws to buses, its residents enjoy multiple choices while moving in the city. The upper middle and affluent classes travel on private cars or taxis. Travelling in the metropolitan cities and on the outskirts has long ceased to be a problem. But this was a challenging task of sorts three to four decades ago. The problem was not confined to the capital. Due to the dearth of adequate numbers of transports, regular and comfortable travel on automobiles remained elusive to the residents of all cities. The scenario has changed later. 

Compare the urban spectacle with the one showing people in a remote village cross a river or canal by walking precariously across a bamboo bridge, locally called sanko. Maybe, there is a half-done concrete bridge nearby. Bridges like this remain standing in rural Bangladesh for years, and even decades. Some of them are found collapsed midway through due to aging or the onrush of flood waters; some are found erected without approach roads. The damaged, worn-out or incomplete bridges lie in their weird state for indefinite periods. The authorities hardly bother about these structures. Rural people walking over shaky wooden and bamboo bridges, mostly financed with their paltry funds, or pushing their bicycles or motorbikes are a common spectacle in the country.

When the urban residents enjoy the benefits of varied types of transports, the vast rural area of the country lacks even the proper roads. Dirt-roads, locally called metho poths, have been in use since the ancient times. They are anachronistic to the present age. Even pedalled rickshaws cannot negotiate these roads, leave alone auto-rickshaws or cars. Few villages in Bangladesh have concrete roads connecting to the areas' headquarters or trade centres. Moreover, many rural regions have had to be accustomed to living without rivers or canals. But they do not have the adequate breadth of road networks to meet the day-to-day communication needs.

The poor infrastructure of rural communication causes untold sufferings to women, children and the old people. The newspaper photographs of these people crossing ramshackle improvised bridges, under great risks, are common. Moreover, the few concrete bridges that remain in place for a longer time are generally found in dilapidated conditions. People are compelled to use these bridges. Many of them do not have railings, with some having gaping holes. Given this scenario, the country appears to remain stuck in the medieval times of omnipresent bamboo bridges.  The concrete bridges in the far-away rural areas are especially meant for pedestrians. But manually operated and improvised machine-run vehicles also use them. It demands extra caution on the part of the vehicle operators leading to enormous mental pressure.

The 1971 Liberation War witnessed the near-collapse of the communication infrastructure in country's vast rural areas. Village people looked to the reconstruction of roads and bridges as part of the successive governments' post-war rehabilitation programmes. But few significant rebuilding projects in communication sector have been executed in the countryside. Four long decades have gone by after the 1970s. The rural public roads and bridges are still in a shambles. Only in the recent years, like in the 1980s, the country's overall communication sector has undergone a semblance of rejuvenation.

To the disillusionment of millions of villagers, most of these road and bridge constructions and overhaul works remained confined to the cities or the highways linking one city with another. As found in the other government projects, the far-flung villages have been kept outside the development radius. The areas located around the highways could reap some communication benefits by default. With the era of spectacular 4-lane highways, flyovers, etc. getting national priorities, the rural Bangladesh remains consigned to the age of 'sankos' and 'metho poths'. This is ludicrous.     
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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