Anarchy all round on roads   

Anarchy all round on roads    

The death of at least 10 to 12 people in road accidents each day has become a routine affair. Such death does no more stir up any sad feeling among a wider section of people except for the near and dear ones of the victims.

However, the situation usually turns out to be different in the event of death of high-profile individual/s in road accidents. The media pays special attention to such accidents and this triggers a few statements and actions on the part of the men in power. But after some initial hullabaloo, things subside and all concerned forget everything.

The loss of right arm of a college student, Rajib Hossain, in a road accident near the city's Kawran Bazaar some days back caught all the attention. It was how he lost his arm and the picture published on the front page of a leading Bengali daily showing the severed hand caught between two buses came as a rude shock to most people. Following that incident, the people, almost as a matter of their habit, started talking about the anarchic state prevailing in the transport sector, knowing full well that their response to the tragic accident would not leave any impact on the situation on the ground.

Two types of problems --one is systemic and another attitudinal -- are largely responsible for the ongoing anarchic state of the country's transport sector. The first one relates to planning and management of the transport sector by the relevant public and private agencies, including companies owning road transports. And the second one, in the context of Bangladesh, carries greater importance since attitudinal problems on the part of transport owners and workers and on-duty traffic police personnel is the root cause of accidents on roads and highways. However, inefficiency and indifference visible in the transport sector management have been contributing to the rise in attitudinal problems.

The very attitude of the transport workers and owners towards safety and security of the passengers and pedestrians, if not hostile, is marked by neglect and carelessness. Life does not mean anything to them. They defy laws and rules to take lives of innocent people or maim them physically on the roads and highways. No matter what the relevant laws say about punishing such crimes, the owners and workers of road transports do enjoy almost total immunity.

Volumes have been said and written and human chains and other programmes organised protesting the anarchy in the transport sector, but the situation has remained unchanged. Rather the drivers or buses and trucks have become even more defiant. They drive recklessly and drop and pick passengers wherever they like. Worn-out and unfit buses ply the streets of Dhaka city though the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) issued directives on a number of times not to press such transports into service. The BRTA, apparently, being aware of the strength, political or otherwise, of the bus owners decided not to make any move against the dilapidated and unfit buses.

Once, the left political parties used to exercise influence over the transport workers.  But as the road transport sector started becoming bigger and bigger, the parties in power targeted it as their power-base with a view to resisting their opponents from using it in the name of political movements. The owners of buses and trucks, in exchange for favours, have been aligning themselves with the parties in power. Transport workers have become stooges of the bus owners and their ruling party mentors.

Most people tend to believe that political backing has made the transport workers defiant in all matters. Drivers of buses and trucks do know nothing will happen to them even if they kill and main people and cause damage to property on account of rash driving.

Overall, the transport sector is in total anarchy to which both the transport owners and workers are most active parties. The BRTA is supposed to deal with the problems. But it has kept its responsibilities confined to publishing notifications in newspapers and making arrangement for mobile courts from time to time to take care of the errant bus drivers and owners of public transports.

The BRTA itself through many imprudent decisions added to the transport problems of Dhaka city. It has allowed the introduction of a large number of bus routes under political consideration in the recent years. Giving permission to many of those routes could be avoided. The BRTA allowed scores of small passenger vehicles, popularly known as Leguna, across the city, making the situation even more complex. Most of these vehicles are operated by teenage boys having no valid licences and get involved in accident frequently. 

The truth is that the transport sector has become a safe haven for all those who enjoy breaking rules and causing harm to innocent passengers and pedestrians. The traffic police are seen very active in checking documents of private cars and motor cycles. They are not enthusiastic about carrying out the same job for passenger buses and trucks.  It is an open secret that a large percentage of vehicle drivers do not have valid licences.

The question is: Will the situation continue like this? It is necessary for someone having adequate political as well as administrative authority to intervene and streamline the state of affairs prevailing in the country's transport sector.

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