IT IS a personal and painful moment for me as I write these words for the young lads killed by heavy-duty vehicles which caused me more pain than I could handle. I have lost my parents, senior relatives and young friends to war and cancer, mentors to chronic ailments but none to the jaws of death masked as angry wheels of a monster bus.
The High Court has ordered the authorities concerned to pay Tk 4.61 crore as compensation to the family of filmmaker Tareque Masud killed in a road accident in August 2011. Tareque Masud and former ATN News chief executive officer Mishuk Munier along with three others died when a bus collided with the microbus they were in on the Dhaka–Aricha Highway at Joka in Manikganj on August 13, 2011.
The court has ordered that driver Jamir Uddin has to give Tk 30 lakh, the company, which insured the bus, has to give Tk 80,000 and owners of the vehicle have to give the rest of the money in three months after receiving the full judgement of the High Court. The HC bench of Justice Zinat Ara and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo passed the order after hearing the case filed by the family of Tareque.
The court, trade unions and people
ONCE again, the court has proved that when others fail to deliver, the judiciary with all its limitations and flaws is the last resort for many helpless victims. The case of Tareque and Mishuk and others is particularly sensitive because the transport workers have already observed a general strike in protest at the court verdict when they were found guilty.
There was, thus, a great deal of political pressure since the workers are led by the mighty minister of shipping Shajahan Khan. As the government party needs the transport workers to exert and maintain control on the street, ghats, terminals and the massive sector itself, they are practically beyond any scrutiny of law, not to mention public opinion. So, the decision to award compensation to the victim’s family is an act of judicial courage for which we feel very grateful.
For many people, transport workers remain above the law because of the government’s indulgence of its demands and the power of its clout. But the transport workers are only part of the sector and many others play roles in this.
The three sets of people who have been ordered by the court to pay compensation show a profile. It includes the driver, the insurance company and the bus owner. It is a multiple partnership that runs and benefits the transport sector and includes all the powerful people in society plus the usual political patronage, no matter which party is in power. Hence impunity is given. In such an environment, the behaviour of the transport workers and the patrons behind the curtain are only to be expected.
The power of black money
ONE of the reasons the influence and the clout are all pervasive is because the stakeholders in this sector are many and, thus, it is a major recipient of black money investment. It is an ‘anonymous sector’ where black money disappears like light vanishes in a black hole. Thus nobody dares to raise a finger against it. It is immune because the investors and stakeholders are immune. The workers are powerful but the trade union leaders are even more powerful and the owners and shadow investors are the most powerful of them all.
Tareque, Mishuk and the three others who were killed created a national movement and their iconic status could not be entirely ignored. Public opinion for once did exert some pressure, perhaps that is the reason the case did not entirely disappear. Thankfully, some action has been taken, some measures recommended that will make everyone feel that in one case, justice was served.
However, justice does not apply to all other victims of the sector. That could only happen if the sector was rationally managed. That is not the case because the transport sector is one of the most corrupt possible which, in turn, means many guaranteed layers of protection as well. Justice cannot penetrate these layers and this case is an exception and not the rule.
Many ignored victims
ONE wishes that the thousands of victims whose lives are either extinguished or who along with their families continue to suffer because of the after-effects of accidents, including disability, found justice. But that is not what is going to happen. Ordinary people cannot expect to be compensated because fighting the court case as they suffer is often beyond them. They should not expect justice when the biggies of this sector are some of the biggies of the country as well. That is an unpleasant fact, which we all know and accept.
But for the moment, the pain in the heart is a bit less because of the decision to award compensation and the earlier verdict that initiated the process that found the people responsible guilty. Maybe, it will trigger a few more cases like this, most probably not. But today, it is time to be thankful for what we have got as a decision from the court.
RIP, Tarque, Mishuk and all other victims!
Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and researcher.
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