After two-and-a-half months of inception, the special taskforce, formed to restrain accidents and bring discipline on the roads, is expected to hold its first meeting tomorrow.
The meeting will be held amid a steep rise of over 15 percent in the numbers of both accidents and casualties on roads in 2019 than 2018.
At least 3,060 people were killed and 3,292 more injured in a total of 3,009 road accidents between January and September this year, according to a police report.
Police records also mentioned that 2,035 people were killed and 1,920 others injured in 2,609 road accidents in 2018. The numbers mentioned in the police reports, however, are significantly lower than other reports published by different road-safety organisations.
To achieve the Target 3.6 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the government would have to curb then numbers of crashes and casualties on roads to halves of the statistics mentioned in the police report by 2020.
Talking to The Daily Star, a member of the taskforce said the maiden meeting would not have any specific agenda but there was a high chance that the stakeholders of the taskforce would discuss their plan of action.
The taskforce, headed by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, was formed at the 27th meeting of National Road Safety Council (NRSC) on September 5 this year. The government issued gazette of the 33-member taskforce on October 15.
The taskforce was primarily assigned to work on a 111-point recommendation, placed by former shipping minister Shahjahan Khan-led committee, to curb the number of accidents and bring discipline on the roads.
Among others, 11 secretaries of different ministries and division, inspector general of police, commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police and five transport leaders were made members of the taskforce.
The list of the taskforce members also include transport expert Prof Shamsul Haque, noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud and Nirapad Sarak Chai Chairman Ilias Kanchan.
CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR THE AUTHORITIES
The government, along with its subordinate authorities, is facing a huge protest while implementing the Road Transport Act-2018 which is expected to play a significant role in bringing discipline on roads.
Besides, experts and road-safety campaigners said the numbers of accidents and casualties on roads were on the rise as a comprehensive plan of action to address the serious problem was absent.
They said most of the steps taken by the authorities were related to enforcement of law without developing necessary infrastructure and manpower.
However, road safety cannot be ensured only by enforcing law, they added.
According to Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Buet at least 3,488 people were killed and 5,863 others injured in 3,131 road crashes until October 18 this year.
Some 4,076 people were killed in 3,513 road crashes last year, said an ARI report which was prepared based on different media reports.
According to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passengers’ welfare organisation, the numbers were much higher in real.
Prof Shamsul Haque, former director of Buet’s ARI, said institutions involved in controlling the transport sector lack infrastructural capacity and manpower which is a major obstacle to achieving SDG.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) does not have sufficient manpower and infrastructure to check fitness of the huge number of vehicles plying on roads and provide licences to drivers.
In the capital, no terminal for intra-city buses exists. Besides, adequate number of truck terminals is also missing. All these are elements for sustainable development for the transport sector, he said.
“With the given situation, I do not think it would be possible to achieve SDG’s target,” Prof Shamsul said.
Maruf Hossain, programme manager of Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, an organisation working in road transport sector, also echoed Prof Shamsul’s statement.
Maruf, who also worked with the government’s policy makers for preparing a plan of action for “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020” in 2013-2014, suggested that the authorities should focus on pedestrians equally.
More than half of the road accident victims are pedestrians. By curbing the number of pedestrians’ death authorities could achieve the SDG’s target.