Any fatal road accident is tragic. But in Bangladesh, fatal road mishaps are so common that the use of the qualifier, 'tragic', is reserved for special cases, for example, where the casualty figure is high or the circumstances of the accident demand special attention. But to be tragic, the death toll should not be the sole criteria. For the death of every single person in an accident is a great loss to the family the victim belongs to. And the loss cannot be measured by any material yardstick either. Consider at this point the trauma the mother, Manu Rani Sheel, and the wives, children, the surviving siblings and other relatives of the five (all of them brothers) who were mowed down by a pick-up truck fleeing the law for breaking traffic rule, are now in. But what the reckless pick-up driver and his assistant did by their mindless act has changed the world forever for the family bearing the loss in the Hasinapara village of Dulahazra union of Chakoria. The bereaved old woman, Manu Rani, who lost her husband ten days before the 'road carnage' perpetrated by the said killer truck on February 9, is now left with four children out of a total of nine. Of the surviving four, the critically injured one, another son, now under treatment at a Chattogram hospital, is still not out of danger. Shell-shocked Manu Rani has even forgotten to grieve the loss of her husband and five sons as she is praying for God's mercy to save the life of her sixth, critically injured hospitalised son. How do you describe in words the misfortune that has befallen Manu Rani and her family? No punishment, however harsh, administered to the errant truck driver, can compensate for the loss the family has suffered. Manu Rani's sorrow is undoubtedly poignant, but not unique in that the country's roads and waterways are witness to no end of such tragic accidents day in and day out. And one cannot compare the poignancy of one with that of the other. Even so, it is the recentness of Chakoria tragedy, the magnitude of the loss and because it is still so fresh in public memory that has made it so important meriting this discussion. It should be discussed again and again at every forum concerned with road safety, security and sanctity of human life and, of course, the law supposed to establish order on the roads. The traffic police who chased the offending pick-up truck driver should have been able to foresee what these criminals at the wheel of the vehicles with or without licence or fitness, or carrying illicit cargoes are capable of doing. They not only do not respect law, they have also no respect for life. They are just fugitives without conscience escaping the law. And they reign supreme on the roads of Bangladesh. And as it takes two to tango, their devil-may-care attitude is to a large extent attributable to the law-enforcers' rather relaxed attitude towards these law-breakers. The upshot of it is that the frequency and the number of such fatal road mishaps are only increasing, rather than decreasing. It goes without saying that one more accident added to the existing number may mean one more family joining the heartbroken ones like Manu Rani's.
The last year's record of fatalities from road accidents have shown a 30 per cent rise over that of the year before. This report comes from the record of road accidents kept with the police. Two other reports published by two private organisations, namely, Road Safety Foundation and Nirapad Sarak Chai ([we] want safe road), who based their reports on media reports, came up with figures varying slightly from the police's. Their conclusions are more or less similar- drivers are mostly to blame for the road tragedies. But who is going to discipline the transport drivers, educate and train them to respect the law and life? Then what about a corruption-free road traffic system where law-enforcers would uphold law under any circumstances?