Md. Rabbi, a 22 years old youth, who was an assistant to a cycle-van driver, was killed when a bus hit his van at about 6 am on Sunday (January 8) morning in the Mohammadpur area of the city. Without doubt, an honest, hardworking citizen of the country, as he was at work so early in the morning with his employer, the driver of the van, Ohid Mia, he was an important income earner for his family. So, his untimely death is not only a huge personal loss for his bereaved parents and other family members, the family will also be deprived of the contribution he had been making to his family's income through his earning. How will the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the government's road transport regulatory agency, console the victim's family members in Narsingdi? Is his father, Joynal Mia, aware of the Road Transport Act (RTA)-2018 and its recently-formulated rules published through a gazette notification on December 27, 2022? It is important because, the Trustee Board formed to settle matters relating to compensation for road accident victims is headed by the BRTA chairman. So, the big question is how is the victim's family going to get the compensation of Tk. 500,000 according as provided in the RTA-2018's rules?
Has the victim's father, Joynal Mia, any knowledge of the complicated procedure of applying in a prescribed form to the BRTA chairman informing the latter of his son's killing by a rogue bus and of the circumstances of the accident? Once, according to the rule, an application for compensation is submitted to the BRTA chairman within 30 days of the accident, he (BRTA chairman) will form a probe committee within 10 days of the receiving the (compensation) application. The committee so constituted will then conduct investigation to assess the damages claim made and submit a report to the Trustee Board, or Board for short, within 30 days. The Board will then give approval to the application and arrange for paying the compensation to the victim's family within 30 days of submitting the probe committee report.
Obviously, a simple villager, Joynal Mia, may, for all practical purposes, be at a loss unless someone privy to the process comes forward to take him through the bureaucratic labyrinth. But can't BRTA make the procedure simpler and easily accessible to lay people including less educated, even unlettered, villagers including women? Otherwise, the compensation-seeking relatives of the road accident victims' family may have to take the help of a third party to complete the process. And in that case, the risk of corrupt elements entering the process can not be ruled out. Then comes the issue of holding the driver of rogue bus and its assistants to justice. And as no money can compensate for lost life, the driver of the killer bus has to be brought to justice. Given the power of the transport mafia, how far the existing law and the police will be able to punish the driver and thereby establish justice? The RTA-2018 and its rules should also be able to adequately address this aspect of road accident involving Rabbi's death or any other road accident for that matter.
According to the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh (PWAB), in the past 8 years, last year (2022) saw the highest number of fatalities in road accidents at 9,951 deaths and 12,356 injuries. Published on January 2, 2023, the report further says that compared to the previous year (2021), the number of deaths on the roads increased by 27.43 per cent, while the number of accidents rose by 18.89 per cent. This is alarming. In this context, punishing errant drivers and compensating the families of road accident victims is definitely a necessary move. But more important is drawing the government's urgent attention to reducing the number of accidents. And the answer lies in improving the management of highway traffic.