THE recent demonstrations of school children following the death of two students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College, who were killed by a bus of Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan, almost collapsed the road communication management for about a week. The demonstration does not involve the lone question of bringing the perpetrators under judicial process, but it involves a greater context — demanding all sort of government actions for ensuring safety and security of passengers who travel by bus or other transports and passers-by who walk down the road. They called it safe road movement.
Posts and video clips on the social media as well as print and electronic media reports show that during the last two to three days of the demonstration, tens of thousands of teenaged students of public and private schools, colleges, and universities took to the streets to set right the diseased road transport system of the Dhaka city. Students assembled on the highways and started performing the duty of traffic personnel, checking whether the vehicles have requisite papers and are moving in right direction.
They were fearlessly inspecting each and every vehicle, irrespective of its owner’s social status. Even the law enforcement officials and high-ups in society were not spared. Some of them felt embarrassed when asked to produce valid papers, as they did not have any. So far, the demonstration has put forward a number of lessons for the authorities in administration. If the lessons are not properly assimilated, it will be unfortunate for the nation.
This movement did not get the air on its sail all on a sudden. The issue of the road safety along with proposed reforms in the sector was being voiced by people from every corner of the country because public transports have been taking away a lot of lives every day. As the unruly and high-handed behaviour of the bus and truck drivers crossed the limit, civil society actors, the media, and social safety organisations have been expressing concern about the sector pointing their fingers to the unfit or half-fit vehicles driven rashly by unlicensed people who are sometimes found to be the assistants to vehicle drivers. But these law-breakers could not be brought under a rigorous system of control because of some pressure groups that off and on go on strike, paralysing the transport system. These groups are in some cases led by highly influential people.
The demand for formulating a stringent law for the sector was one among many suggestions. In fact, the enactment of a law was initiated by the Road Transport and Highways Division. As reported by various daily newspapers, the Road Transport Act 2017 was approved in principle by the cabinet on March 27, 2017. It was afterwards sent to the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division, but unfortunately it remained pending there for long one year or more. Should it take such a long time to send back the proposal after scrutinising the technicalities of the legal side?
Circumstances reveal that whatever reform the government would do, there was a genuine ground for doing something to curve down the desperate attitude of the bus and truck drivers and it was to be done in time without any procrastination. Turning a deaf ear to the demand coming from sensitive classes of the population in the hope that things will get healed by time is not appreciable at all. In the mean time, two students were killed and the demonstration came under the banner of an unconventional platform.
There again is a lesson here for all of us that without the presence of any formal group, demonstrations may come all on sudden if any issue is of a greater magnitude and is morally sound and if it involves the interest of ordinary people. Did any one ever think of seeing the 9th or 10th graders in schools taking charge of road transport management?
Did any one imagine that these teens have the mettle to enter into arguments with ministers and high officials. But they did. Where from came the capability? The capability came from the feeling of oneness as student community and purity of thoughts. Now, we expect that the authorities concerned would immediately put things aright as per the rightful demands of the students and the students will be honourably sent back to their respective schools and colleges.
Gazi Mizanur Rahman is a former civil servant and a research coordinator at PPRC.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Opinion