The frequency of launch accidents, for understandable reasons, is much lower compared to road accidents. But when a launch carrying hundreds of people sinks or capsizes, the chance of loss of lives may be many times the casualties of a road accident. The Monday's disastrous launch accident occurring after quite an interval may not go down as one accounting for a very large number of lives in the saga of launch tragedies in the country. But it will be marked for its bizarreness. How can one launch run over another in broad daylight under a clear blue sky? This has never happened in the history of launch disasters here. Eyewitnesses or survivors of the sunken launch also claim that they could not believe it unless they were witness to the critical moment when the larger vessel hit the hapless smaller one sideway and then ran over the latter as it was sinking.
By Tuesday afternoon 34 bodies were recovered. Different sources state that the ill-fated launch came from Munshiganj carrying no fewer than 100 passengers. It met with the accident near Shyambazar terminal. Had the larger launch slowed and not sped away, more people could swim ashore like others who did. Then what is the explanation that neither of the two drivers called 'masters' here failing to see each other when visibility was at its best? Upon seeing the images from close circuit cameras, the minister concerned has termed it an outright murder. Not only are the two drivers to blame, there appears to be a systemic failure as well. After all, an assistant to the 'masters' called 'sareng' is supposed to be present nearby to help the chief. Reportedly, there should also be helpers on the deck to bring into the master's notice any barrier or harmful object that may have escaped the latter's eyes. Again, when a launch approaches a terminal or another from the opposite direction or even run side by side, they must blow whistle which is of high decibels. Neither of the two drivers blew his.
Such lapses on the part of regular and experienced launch drivers are unimaginable. It is because of this some have quite reasonably advanced the argument that the drivers were either drug addicts or drunk at the time of accident. What exactly happened is likely to be known when the probe committee submits its report. But about one thing there is no doubt that the system does hardly work. True, the vessels were not overloaded. But what if launch owners have employed unqualified masters and dispensed with their assistants!
The pandemic may have forced transport - road or waterway - owners to opt for drastic cost-cutting. But this has nothing to do with the monumental callousness writ large on the incident. There is no option for the authorities to entertain laxity in monitoring and vigilance. One might not be surprised if the two factors have conspired to cause the launch accident. So, adherence to rules and regulations under the system is key to ensuring safety against accidents. Let this be not lost on anybody whatsoever.