The student movement for road safety shows no sign of ebbing. Now the question is, how long it can maintain the momentum. That a number of ministers including the home minister have admitted that the students' demands are reasonable and they unconditionally accept those has not been enough to satisfy the protesters. The request for leaving the streets and returning to their study table has fallen on deaf ears. But school and college students cannot continue regulating traffic in the capital indefinitely. Even if their energy is endless, the reality is that they cannot neglect classes and studies to be on the street for a long time.
In the face of their protest, the owner and operators of the bus that killed two students on the Airport Road have been arrested. But at the time the students are trying to enforce discipline on roads, two more students along with others were crushed under the wheels on Friday. A truck driver deliberately ran the vehicle over a bakery employee because the latter protested the vehicle's pressing too much for space to the left on the roadside. This incident took place in Chattogram and equally rash driving by a bus driver accounted for the life of man in his prime -a motorcyclist-in the capital. In this case, the motorcyclist was dragged almost 50 metres because the bus driver abandoned the bus on the slope of a flyover in order to flee the spot. He could not manage to flee, though. Saturday also witnessed road killing of four including a student.
On the one hand, transport workers have been observing an undeclared transport strike and on the other, the few vehicles that run on the roads continue to kill people. So, the students on the street cannot be blamed for their lack of confidence in the assurances given by the ministers. They are seeking a remedy to a cancerous ill, change a rotten system under which public and private transports should not run in a civilised society.
Even if the owner, driver, conductor and helper of the bus involved in the killing of the two students and injuring nine others are convicted, will it make a difference in the traffic situation either in the capital or elsewhere in the country? It will not. When drivers working for ministers, members of parliament, intelligence branch, the police and even television channel either have no licence or the vehicles they drive have no valid documents, how can one expect to terminate the cancerous growth?
Charity begins at home. But the people in power or those having access to high positions deem it a privilege to break laws. It was nice to see that a minister whose jeep moved on the wrong side of the road was forced to go back and another minister was compelled to abandon one car for another because the first car's driver had no licence.
The question here is, why should teenage school or college boys and girls have to reproach the grown-ups including lawmakers and ministers so that they learn a lesson? It is a shame. The agitating students have proved that the traffic police have either been reduced to a lame duck or they are happy to have the chaos and anarchy reign supreme because it serves them well.
However, if there is enough political will, this road anarchy can be addressed. Late mayor Annisul Huq showed how the system can be changed. Had he been alive, more things would have changed for the better. His plan for replacing the ramshackle buses without fitness and with scratches all over their bodies and pressing into service about 10,000 new buses in two phases could have brought about a perceptible change. Also he envisioned bringing the operation of city buses under a handful of companies.
The need, therefore, is to think how the rotten system can be changed. The corrupt edifice has to be knocked down now or never. Without pulling down the malfunctioning system fraught with irregularities, malpractices and lawlessness, this is not possible. The new generation is seeking to do this. Political leadership should go the extra length to make it happen for the young generation.
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