THE government’s failure to fully implement the Road Transport Act 2018, even two years after its enactment, is unacceptable. The government appears to have made much too concession to demands of transport owners and workers which has delayed a full implementation of the law, leaving the road regime still in chaos. The government has not also been able to work out the rules that are required for the full implementation of the law. Road Transport Act was enacted in October 2018 replacing the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 after a countrywide road safety protest, prompted by the death of two college students in a road accident in July that year. The government took 13 more months, apparently because of protests by transport owners and workers, to begin enforcing the law in November 2019. Another round of protest by transport owners and workers made the enforcement partial, with no penalty for vehicles for the violations of several important sections of the law until June 2020. A slack enforcement of the law has thus left most of the demands that students put forth during the road safety movement unmet.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation on August 19, 2020, placed 34 recommendations seeking some sections of the law involving offences of overloading and vehicle modification to be made bailable. It also sought reduction in fines for offences related to accidents. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority is reported to have drafted the Road Transport Rules 2019 in May 2019, which was submitted to the Road Transport and Highways Division and sent back to the Road Transport Authority with some observations. While all this appears to be delaying the full implementation of the law, road safety has reportedly been in jeopardy. Police statistics say that the number of fatalities increased by 57.03 per cent, injuries by 129.73 per cent and accidents by 58.94 per cent in 2019 compared with the figures of 2018. The figures, which are not exhaustive, show that at least 4,138 people died and 4,411 became injured in 4,147 accidents in 2019 while 2,635 died and 1,920 became injured in 2,609 accidents in 2018. Fatalities, injuries and accidents further increased in 2020, with about 15 people having died in road accidents daily in August.
The government must, under the circumstances, work out the rules and regulations for a proper and full implementation of the road transport law and must stringently enforce it to put the road transport sector in order. The recommendations of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, if logical, must also be looked into but the process must not delay the enforcement of the law.
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