Even after a few deaths from stone thrown at running trains, the peril shows no sign of coming to an end. It is hard to believe that any adult person in his (her too!) right senses can do this. Most likely, many think, youngsters with barely any sense of propriety and of the fatality their stones cause are responsible for this practice. But after the Bangladesh Railway's awareness campaign and distribution of leaflets in areas where such things happen quite often, the message should have been clear. That such a stone took away the life of a newly married bride midway on the couple's journey from Sylhet to Dhaka in 2013 should have made the stone throwers repentant. In 2018, a ticket checker was grievously injured at Fultala, Khulna. He succumbed to it at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical College during treatment. Another man lost one of his eyes as it was hit by a stone while he was travelling by train in 2014.
The latest such incident involves throwing of stones at Panchgarh Express and Rupsha Express just before dawn. In one such incident, a man was seriously injured and in another the window glass was smashed. The train had to make emergency halt at Natore for admission of the injured to hospital. According to a report, more than 50 people received injuries in the past one year. This shows how the danger lurks and one fatal hit can do away with any unsuspecting traveller's life on a train.
If it is fun to youngsters, it is death to passengers. Now let's assume that the urchins are too young to realize the gravity of their vile act but what is the explanation of the role their guardians play. This is the age of information and it would be naïve to argue that the parents of the youngsters and elders of the localities do not know about the injuries and deaths caused by stones thrown at speeding trains. The BR has identified 20 risky spots along rail tracks all across the country. Most likely it has carried out awareness campaign at those hotspots. So, there is no scope on the part of people there for denial of not knowing about the casualties.
Then what conclusion one has to draw? That the elders cannot impress upon their wards or the young ones are too unruly to be tamed! Or, the elders also could not care less. There is a suggestion that stone throwing mostly takes place along the railway tracks where slums are located. This is an indication that the poor and neglected live in those areas. Can it be that the deprived from every opportunity and facility feel they can exact revenge in this way? They know how powerless they are and their seething rage gets expressed in a convoluted manner. Such a mental deviation cannot be totally ruled out.
Or else, no one can throw stones at a train in full speed unless one is a heartless brute. That the incidence does not cease makes a statement that there is an ulterior motive behind it. It is not for fun but maybe, for deriving a sadistic pleasure. The psychological compulsion may even be akin to an addiction. Cornered and their back to the wall they lose many of the finer human qualities and are likely to behave most unpredictably. But there is one question that needs to be answered in the latest two incidents of stone throwing. How come that youngsters get so early at a time when wintry chill is sweeping northern areas like Panchgarh. It is reported that stones were thrown long before dawn. Unless children have a particular mindset, they are not supposed to come out of their shelters and target a running train. Can it be they are not mere youngsters but adult enough to acquire a criminal bend of mind and engage in the vile act?
In no civilised society such acts can happen. The BR has carried out some awareness campaign. It should exhaust all means of such a campaign. But at the same time take punitive actions. The current law for punishing such offences is insufficient. A fine of only Tk 50 for throwing stones at a running train is ludicrous. Now there is a need for stringent punishment. The BR police should be deployed in areas most risky so that they can catch the offenders red-handed and mete out the punishment they deserve. This is how the offence can be brought to an end.
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