THE moment of truth of the road transport and bridges minister came on Thursday when he, after a meeting with the road safety committee set up in February 2019, said that traffic congestion and accidents had become matters of national concern and that many reports on the issue produced in the past had still not been acted on. The minister also said that the formulation of a task force to implement 111 recommendations that the road safety committee made had been considered to bring in order on the road and contain traffic accidents. The minister met the committee, headed by a former minister who is also executive president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation and attended by a former state minister who is also executive president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association. But what remains worrying is that the minister said that they would try to adjust the Road Transport Act 2018 — made in September 2018 in the wake of protests, launched by school and college students which continued for nine consecutive days in July that year demanding road safety by putting an end to the chaos that the road transport administration has been mired in for decades — as much as possible keeping to the demands of the Road Transport Workers’ Federation.
In reply to a question regarding the demands of the federation to amend the law to reduce the stipulated punishment for offence of the transport workers, the minister sought to say that they would consider adjustment in the law as there was ‘no enmity among any quarters.’ The National Road Safety Council is to sit next on September 5 to discuss the issues in details and make decisions. While there has already been an inordinate delay as the road safety committee that the council set up in February came up with the 111 recommendations on March 27 but they are yet to be implemented, the minister seems to be forgetting that leniency in laws have hardly produced the results that the laws are meant to do and a poor enforcement of even the strictest of the laws hardly makes any positive changes. There has already been a year after the enactment of the law and the framing of rules by way of a task force yet to be set up could further prolong the implementation. The minister also said that awareness campaign, education of drivers and passengers, proper engineering skills in road infrastructure, establishment of bus stoppage and bus bays, proper lane dividers, level crossing management, the introduction of bus route franchise in the capital city and training of drivers were important in containing traffic accidents. But all of these issues have for long been in conversations, yet nothing has happened, letting chaos on the road to continue as ever.
Besides, all the recommendations, worked on laboriously, were nothing new and most of them have already been advised, separately and if not wholly, by one committee or the other in the past. What the government now needs to do is to implement the recommendations, frame the rules for the implementation of the road transport law and stringently enforce the law without letting any leniency to creep in.
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