On July 29, 2018, a bus ploughed through a number of school students awaiting transports on the footpath on Airport road and killed two on the spot. This stirred the student community and formed a spontaneous mass movement demanding road safety. Nafiul Alam Shupto, in this scenario, talks about the existing road laws and the political reality of road transport system..
Imagine you are standing on a walkway in Dhaka and texting your friend and suddenly a public bus ploughed you along with other pedestrians. Isn’t that terrifying? Why do we have to live with this type of imagination? It is mournful when a person’s darkest fear becomes a part of their daily life. Not only in Dhaka, but all over in Bangladesh, the insanity of the public transport workers is making our life melancholic on a noticeable way.
How come our lives on roads of the capital have become so vulnerable? The reasons are the reckless driving of the public transport drivers and their insane behaviour. It has become regular news that road accidents are taking place in the capital city and people are losing their lives. There are thousands of movements, press conferences & mass media coverage against the reckless bus driving but still no one is listening to the pleas of the people. Why does this kind of attitude occur? It feels like the road transport owners-workers hold a robust position in the society as well as in the administration and the government.
Sec 279 of the penal code, 1860 stated that whoever drives any vehicle, or rides, on any public way in a manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine which may subject to the minimum of Tk 1,000, and extend to Tk 5,000 or with both.
Again Section 304A says that ‘Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide shall be punished with imprisonment either description for a term, which may extend to five years or with fine, or with both’.
At the same time, section 304B provides that, ‘Whoever causes the death of any person by rash or negligent driving of any vehicle or riding on any public way not amounting to culpable homicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both’.
On the other hand, section 143 of The Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983 states that ‘Whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which actually is at the time or which might reasonably be expected to be in the place, shall be punishable on a first conviction for the offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Tk 500, and his driving license shall be suspended for a specified period, and for a subsequent offence if committed within three years of the commission of a previous similar offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand Taka, or with both, and his driving license shall be suspended for a period not exceeding one month’.
I am referring to previous laws just to show why the murderers always escape the law. Because of the ineffectiveness of the law, the murderers every time, get away with the enemies from the punishment. It is the high time we amended the law and make the law harder so that the punishment becomes severe.
Thousands of road accidents take place all over Bangladesh on a regular basis, still the law enforcement agencies as well as the law makers show little to no effort to minimise the casualties. I believe their carelessness is the main reason behind this reckless behaviour of the transport workers. If we look thoroughly, many leaders and owners of the transport sector holds seats in the parliament even in the cabinet. Not only the top chiefs of the transportation system, but also their associates have connections to the ruling party politics. From root level to national level, in everywhere, there are people who are involved in politics as well as have stakes in transportation business. Transport sector is one of the most common areas where the politicians and even their family members make investments. These groups of people maintain a strong syndicate so that they can easily show their muscle power and exploit the system irrespective of the betterment of the public.
If we have a look at the transport workers union they are stronger than any other existing workers’ union of Bangladesh and this leads to a high number of workers becoming even harsher. There are thousands of leaders as well as the followers in the transport sectors. If passengers get into trouble with the transport workers, there are goons stationed at different strategic points, employed by the bus companies, to fend off the situation.
Talking about the muscle power just because to make people realise that, the accidents which are taking place because of the reckless driving all over the country, the victims do not really get justice often. Due to holding powerful position in the society the owners always try to make a settlement outside of the court in case of an accident and casualty. Sometimes the settlement is done forcefully. The law enforcement agencies also take part in the settlement and grab a good amount.
Recently the incident that shook the country, where two school students were killed due to reckless driving and according to the media reports, the owners wanted to pay Tk 20000 to the families of the victim. The mere amount screams for a revision of the complete process.
Talking about Article 32 of the constitution of People Republic of Bangladesh which stated, ‘The protection of right to life and personal liberty’- here the government is failing to protect our lives in every possible way. Our rights have been violated but still no one is paying attention from the government’s side .The whole population has become helpless because of these transport monsters.
In this scenario, we all have become hostage of the system. The careless attitude of the transport sector is actually talking away untimely lives, lives of our beloved ones. It is the high time to stand against this cruelty.
I hope that the endeavour of the students who are protesting on the roads bring a better change in the transport system for the betterment of the whole country.
Nafiul Alam Shupto is a student of North South University.
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