THE accident in which a truck carrying iron rods and 13 people headed off the road into a ditch upside down at Palashbari in Gaibandha on Thursday morning, leaving all the 13 dead is too costly an instance of a lax enforcement of the restrictions on travel between districts that came with the general holiday, which began on March 26 and is now stretched until May 30, ordered as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19. The truck left Dhaka and picked up the passengers in Gazipur on its way to the north. The driver and his assistant, who went into hiding after the accident that took place on the Dhaka–Rangpur Highway, bundled the passengers on to the truck, with the iron rods already wrapped around with tarpaulin, with another piece of tarpaulin so that the breach of the legal provision that trucks cannot carry passengers, which was made explicit when the restrictions were imposed on travel in March, could not be easily detected. The police came to know of the death of the passengers, aged seven to 60 years, when they visited the place and tried to salvage the truck, which is said to have skidded off as it was raining under the influence of super cyclone Amphan.
The accident appears to have happened, even if indirectly, because of the restrictions that the authorities imposed that the truck driver and his assistant violated hoping to earn some additional money. Although the accident could have anyhow happened, with restrictions or no restrictions having been put in place, it speaks of the failure to enforce the restrictions on part of the authorities. The truck carried the passengers all the way from Gazipur to Rangpur, apparently without having been checked. At least seven people are also reported to have died and 16 others to have been wounded in three road accidents on Tuesday as people continued to travel in trucks and pick-up vans laden with goods in breach of the restrictions. Reports in the past week showed that while many people travelled from one to another district on long-distance routes in microbuses or privately owned cars giving the excuse of emergency or somehow ‘managing’ the law enforcers who are meant to check against such movement of people, people travelling in trucks and pick-up vans has continued despite the presence of the law enforcers to check such events. When the authorities order some restrictions, which could be potentially violated by people at all levels, the authorities should also think about ways and means to check against all ways and means that people could use to violate the restrictions.
All that has happened does not only jeopardise efforts of the authorities to head off the risk of COVID-19 transmission that the general holiday, restrictions on the movement of vehicles and the ban on travel from one district to another have so far aimed at but also proves fatal as people continue to die in road accidents despite no public transports officially running on the road. The government must attend to all such issues at the earliest and in earnest.
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