Govt must act decisively on ‘road accidents’
The death of renowned cultural personalities Tareque Masud and Ashfaq Munier, along with the deaths of 44 children in Mirsarai, Chittagong, in road accidents last year, created a major stir among people in the country and formed strong public opinion in favour of pressing the government to take steps to reduce the number of fatal accidents. However, not only did the government fail to take any meaningful steps to reduce road accidents, which claim around 4,000 lives every year, instead, the people outraged by such loss of lives in avoidable accidents came under attack from the top brass of the government. The present LGRD and cooperatives minister infamously described accidents as ‘mere accidents’ while the shipping minister, also a labour leader, advocated awarding licenses without proper education, and aggressively continued to defend motor vehicle drivers against all kinds of legal proceedings (until of course he recently narrowly escaped a potentially fatal accident himself). So, it is almost with a sense of resignation that we greet the news of the death of two journalists, including senior correspondent of The Independent, Bibhas Chandra Saha, also formerly with New Age, alongside a staggering 15 other people across the country, only on Friday. It would seem that the ordinary people of the country, as well as conscious sections of society, have tried just about everything – from lawful protests to unlawful emotionally-charged post-accident reaction and violence – to impress upon the authorities the feeling of outrage that people feel every time a life is lost in such a meaningless manner. However, the authorities appear almost ‘dedicated’ to not do anything to address the problem.
Road accidents in Bangladesh cannot simply be termed ‘accidents’. Road accidents in Bangladesh happen because of a poor license and fitness regime, because of the ineptitude of drivers, because of faulty vehicles, because of poor regulation, maintenance and lax traffic regime, because of faulty road construction and traffic regulation, because of widespread corruption in the communications industry. All this is extremely well-known, fairly well-documented and there even exists a consensus on how it can be addressed. And yet road casualty numbers pile on with each passing day, from almost every strata of society. In fact, going by only the number of journalists killed in road mishaps over the last year, one could be forgiven to almost suspect a deliberate design in all of this.
It now remains to be seen how long the government will continue to ignore the worries and heartaches of the people of the country for the sake of protecting vested quarters, and sometimes, just because of ineptitude. Following the death of Bibhas the prime minister has apparently asked ‘appropriate authorities to adopt measures to avert such accidents.’ One hopes that the instruction does not remain a mere reaction but steps are taken to translate it into reality, very soon. The government must act decisively on the issue before any more priceless lives are lost.
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