Masum Billah, bdnews24.com
Published: 2017-02-17 02:38:26 BdST
The sixth anniversary celebrations of blog.bdnews24.com, the pioneer blog for citizen journalists in Bangladesh, brought the mayor face-to-face with them in a rare interaction on Thursday.
"The city can't go on in the way it is going on now," Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon said.
The daylong programme at Dhanmondi's Daffodil International University was titled 'Citizen Journalists Come to Face the Mayor'.
Along with the citizen journalists, students of the university's journalism department pinned the mayor down with questions during the event.
Fielding a question on traffic jam and air pollution, Sayeed Khokon blamed errant bus drivers. He said buses are occupying all three lanes of Dhaka streets, stopping the other vehicles, even ambulances carrying ailing patients, from passing.
"But I will never spare the wrongdoers, however powerful they are. Thugs have no party. They change party when power shifts," Khokon, a leader of the ruling Awami League, said.
When a blogger drew his attention to high auto-rickshaw fare and hassles to get transports, Khokon said the solution to the auto-rickshaw problem was beyond the 'very limited' power and purview of the city corporation.
"We will discuss the problem with BRTA and may solve it to some extent with their workforce," he added.
The mayor emphasised change in the people's mindset along with stringent law enforcement.
"These problems won't go away in a day. But we want to get down to work," he said.
He had an identical answer to a question on high house rents. "But if you file a complaint with the house rent regulatory authorities, I can recommend action," he added.
Asked about the city corporation's steps to hear the citizens' problems, Mayor Khokon said the city corporation has been organising ward-level meetings between the people and their representatives in the local government.
A citizen journalist wanted to know about the measures on raising garbage management awareness.
The mayor said the city corporation is using a host of methods, including TV advertisements.
He urged all to drop the garbage at dustbins and after 7pm. "It becomes difficult for the city corporation workers to carry away the garbage if those are not dropped at a specific place and at a specific time," he said.
In his words, every citizen will have to think and act like a mayor.
"Otherwise it will be difficult to end the problems of 10 million people. You can do this thing (help change the people's mindset) through your writings," he told the citizen journalists.
A student of the university asked him about what the city corporation is doing to stop child labour in carrying garbage.
"It is restricted by law. We will take steps to stop the children from doing this work," Khokon said.
Facing another student's query on single people's' struggle to rent house, the mayor said, "It's right that it has become difficult for the bachelors to rent house after the terror attack on Holey Artisan. All the bachelors and students have come under watch.
"But now it's the duty of the student institutions to arrange their housing," he said.
On being asked about rehabilitating the recently evicted hawkers in Gulistan and Motijheel areas, the city authority chief said: "If they fail to get any other job, we will send them abroad through government's credit facility if necessary, or recruit them in development work; but we will not allow them to grab the footpaths and streets."
Speaking about the deterrents against air pollution, the mayor claimed Dhaka's air is 'far less' polluted than those of Mexico City or New Delhi.
"But the problem is very much evident here because of the development works and keeping construction materials here and there," he claimed.
Khokon said even though the task to prevent air pollution was 'actually' of the Department of Environment, the city corporation regularly sprays water on the streets to control dusts.
The city corporation is setting up public toilets with modern facilities like those for breastfeeding mothers and physically challenged persons. "We are taking Tk 5-10 for the services to maintain the toilets," he added.
Chief Information Commissioner Golam Rahman told the event it is impossible for the mayor and the government alone to solve the civic issues without sensitising the people about those.
He advised the citizens to take help of the Right to Information Act to know about the facilities available for them.
Speaking about citizen journalism, he said, "It is an extension of journalism. There had been limited options to send letters and columns to newspapers earlier. But now the expansion of technology has made it very easy to circulate write-ups to millions of people."
arts.bdnews24.com Editor poet Mohammad Nurul Huda hailed the citizen journalism initiative.
"The citizen journalists do not bring up only urban issues; they are aware of news from Teknaf to Tentulia. Those may not always get covered by the mainstream media," he said.
"And citizen journalists can also do this from abroad. That's why we are calling it citizen journalism, not civil journalism," he added.
blog.bdnews24.com Editor Ireen Sultana and the university's journalism department student Rashedul Islam Ratul moderated the programme.
Vice-Chancellor Yousuf Mahbubul Islam and journalism department Chairman Selim Ahmed also delivered speech at the programme.