Finally, having to walk every Sunday of the first month is not something to fret about anymore. In what appears to be righting the wrongs of the previous government, the first sitting of the new Cabinet lifted the Pedestrian Day rule with immediate effect last week.
The reasons being that it was giving problems to general public especially in times of emergency and drastically affected the business community. A decision was also arrived, where the day will continue to be observed only once a year – June 5 [coinciding with the World Environment Day].
Undoubtedly, the Pedestrian Day rule had its objectives and reasoning that were not only noble, but also with ideals that made it so adorable when it was first implemented on June 5 last year. But there were obvious reasons for its letdown as well.
For many, the rule came as something out of the blue. Many were taken aback; the rationale being that a government decision bearing impacts on the daily lives of the people must be consulted first with the people. It didn’t happen here so. It should have been understood then that a government decision cannot be imposed capriciously, failing which it will only invite flak and criticism. The same happened here too.
Office goers walked under scorching heat and sometimes drenched in rain, not just they wanted to. Parent were confronting a difficult time too- dropping and picking up kids to and from schools, school children skipping classes, and some driving outside the core areas on Tuesday, taking detour wherever they found one, driving more miles than usual, just to reach their workplaces. More so more, the imposition of the rule every Tuesday had gravely left the businessmen and transporters worried and panicking, with businesses plummeting and bringing vehicle movement and construction works at halt. This was not something people wanted.
Even if one intended aims of the rule was to cut down on the imports of fossil fuel, it didn’t translate so. Figures of fuel sales didn’t show a declining trend. It only failed to serve the intended purpose despite people having had to confront the drudgery of the rule. Reducing emission of green-house gas, another aim of the rule, sounded inspiring, but not at what cost it was coming for and despite Bhutan already being a net carbon sink or a carbon neutral country. Leaving aside the problems that people were confronting, to many, such an imposition appeared as an ambitious odyssey of the former ruling government for portrayal as a global pioneer in environment.
The decision disallowing maneuvering of vehicle and make people walk instead to offices and workplaces seemed noble at best, but undemocratic at least. All in all, it, therefore, also sends a subtle reminder that in a democratic process, it’s the people who call the shots.