IT IS back at square one again. It has been a month since school and college students had taken to the streets for nine consecutive days since July 29 seeking justice for the death of two of their fellows in a traffic accident and demanding road safety by putting an end to the chaos that the road transport administration has been mired in for decades. The road safety protests shook all, prompting ranking government leaders, in both civil and police administrations, to agree that the demand for road safety that the students had stood for was ‘just’ and ‘justified.’ While the students were checking licences and fitness certificates of vehicles, mostly privately owned or the ones owned by government agencies — as public transports which have so far mostly been run, without fitness certificates, by drivers having forged licences or not having licences at all opted out of the roads for the duration of the protests to save faces — cases came up where drivers of cars carrying ranking government officials and vehicles carrying law enforcers had no valid papers. The students left the streets in response to a call that the government would end the corruption and irregularities in the road transport sector.
The cabinet in principle approved the Road Transport Bill 2018 for its passage into a law and the police held a road safety week beginning August 5. None of the students demands that the government has agreed to has so far unfortunately been implemented. The major of them, a ban on unfit vehicles, has largely been ignored as is evident in traffic accidents that killed at least 51 people across the country during Eid-time holidays of August 21–25. A glaring example of this failure was the accident that took place in Natore on August 25, killing 13 people, as a bus collided with a modified utility vehicle. Witness account says that the driver was underaged and the Highway Police says that none of the bus and the utility vehicle had fitness certificates. While the demands that the students put forth have so far remained ignored, the government has only recently limited the speed for vehicles on the highway to 80 kilometres an hour. But then again, the government relaxed driver licensing rules, allowing holders of lightweight vehicle licence to drive medium-weight vehicles and holders of medium-weight vehicles to drive heavyweight vehicles, which experts think would aggravate the situation.
All sorts of irregularities coming back to rule the road transport administration suggest that the government has yet to take the task of disciplining the road transport sector as a priority agenda. No new law could improve on the current deplorable road transport administration unless the government has the required political will to do so. The existing laws, which might prove inadequate, could have stopped the strings of death from traffic accidents and disciplined the road transport sector if they had been stringently enforced, without looking into the interest of transport owners.
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