NO AMOUNT of public sufferings seem to have made a mark on indifferent authorities of public transport. Unofficial records suggest that about 7,221 died in road accidents in 2018. The action of the ruling political party, in its three consecutive terms, remains limited to forming committees and making recommendations. When it comes to implementing policy decisions, the government seems to have bowed down to the pressure of transport workers and owners. It is, therefore, no surprise that aggrieved students of Bangladesh University of Professionals who lost a fellow in a road accident on Wednesday refused to take empty words of assurance from the authorities seriously. In August 2018, similar promises were made during road safety movement launched after two college students had died in road accident in Dhaka. The most recent death of the BUP student proves that the government makes promises to quell protests and not to streamline the road transport sector.
On July 28, 2018, two students of Shaheed Ramij Uddin Cantonment College died as a bus ploughed through a crowd waiting for transport on the Airport Road in Dhaka, sparking off protests. Students took to the streets demanding improvement in the road transport sector. The BUP student who died died on Wednesday participated in the 2018 road safety campaign only to meet a tragic end. After the 2018 movement, the government enacted the Road Transport Act 2018 and held two traffic weeks and a traffic safety month. In June 2018, the prime minister issued a set of directives in this regard. Since 2011, a number of high-powered government committees were set up that made recommendations for improvement in the road transport sector, but no effective change could take place. Three issues were particularly dealt with in the recommendations — drivers’ training, strict licensing, contract for monthly salary for drivers. Instead of the salary system, the owners maintained a daily income system that encouraged an unhealthy competition and speeding among vehicles. Undue political influence on the transport sector was another problem as was evidenced when a political figure with direct monetary interest in the transport sector was selected to head the road safety committee. The government, therefore, remained inactive with full knowledge of the problems.
It is time that the government stopped making empty promises to quell protests and acknowledged that it is constitutionally obliged to protect the citizens’ right to life. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that no buses plying the road and drivers are without the required certification. It must also implement the recommendations made by the committees that it sets up.
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