Testing time for new transport act  

Shamsul Huq Zahid   | Published: October 07, 2018 22:08:12 | Updated: October 08, 2018 22:17:13

At least 5,280 people were killed in road accidents during the last 520 days across the country, according to statistics on road accidents maintained by a leading vernacular daily. The actual number of deaths could be higher as some deaths in road accidents always go unreported.

Based on the Bengali daily's statistics, about 11 lives, on an average, are lost in road accidents daily. The number of people injured in road accidents is usually several times more than the people killed in road accidents. Some of the road accident victims become incapacitated for life and, thus, become a burden on their families.

Many families are thrown into serious crisis, financial or otherwise, following untimely death of only bread earners in road accidents. The crisis is far more serious in the case of poor and low-income families.

People have reasons to be seriously aggrieved by the anarchic state of the country's road transport sector. However, instead of being violent while protesting against an almost unstoppable, and often deliberate, crime by the transport workers, they have sought tough legal provisions and their proper enforcement.

The government has always found logic behind people's strong resentment. But, under the influence of the transport owners' coterie which is otherwise very powerful, it looked the other way.

Then a sort of popular upsurge took place in the wake of the death of two college students in an accident on the Airport Road a couple of months back. The government came under intense pressure to deal with the issue. It had to pass a new transport act. The act contains a few penalties that transport workers consider too harsh.

The strong transport lobbies within and outside the government maintained a low profile following the street movement launched by the school and college students. But the rough and tough people in the transport sector have now decided to come out in the open and oppose the new transport act on the plea that some of its provisions are too harsh. They are now demanding amendment to those provisions. The transport owners and workers have found the present situation an appropriate one to show their strength again.

As a part of their plan, the Bangladesh goods transport owners and workers enforced yesterday (Sunday) a day-long strike in Dhaka division to press home a seven-point charter of demands. Most demands relate to the new transport act. They want either scrapping or softening of provisions of the act. However, private passenger buses almost disappeared from the Dhaka streets on the day for unexplained reasons.

The workers also have threatened to enforce countrywide full transport strike on October 12 next if their demands are not met within that time.

Though the latest programme of agitation relates to the goods transporters, in reality, it is being backed by all the transport owners and workers. It is not unlikely that general transport workers will soon announce programmes and take people hostage. Thus, it is quite apparent that transport owners and workers are not ready to accept any sort of control over their unruly behaviour.

The just-concluded programme undertaken by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) to discipline movement of both road transports and pedestrians is a case in point.

The traffic police and volunteers drawn from Bangladesh Scouts and Rover Scouts tried their best to restore discipline on the streets. Mobile courts were also in action. However, the programme lacked both coordination and serious efforts. Though some improvements could be noticed in one or two areas, the DMP could do little in disciplining the movement of buses. As the DMP's programme has ended, chaos has returned to city streets.

It will be worthwhile to mention here that motorbikes, the number of which has gone up manifold in just in one year's time, have lately emerged as an added headache. The bikers ply their vehicles the way they like endangering their own life as well as that of others. A report published in a Dhaka daily said seven out of 16 people killed in road accidents in Dhaka city during last two months were motor cyclists.

The sudden increase in the number of motor bikes in Dhaka city has been mainly due to proliferation of app-based ridesharing companies. Many unemployed and underemployed youths are now engaged in ridesharing. Even motorbike owners from districts adjacent to Dhaka are now engaged in the business. The relevant authorities should look into this newly-emerged problem and try to solve it.

There is no denying that lack of awareness among pedestrians is one of the major causes of road accidents. A good number of people meet tragic death while crossing the roads and highways carelessly. But the number of deaths is far greater in accidents because of rash driving by the operators of buses and trucks.

To be honest, the transport owners and workers should have no reason to be worried about the new transport act.  They would face trouble only if the law is enforced properly. The fact remains that laws aiming to benefit the people are aplenty in this country, but those are not enforced properly. It may also happen in the case of new transport act.  


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