Students, different rights organisations and road safety campaigners yesterday expressed strong condemnation over the recent transport workers' strike, which resulted in the death of an infant, among other things.
They also demanded justice and urged the authorities concerned to take immediate measures to end the sufferings of people.
On Sunday, the first day of the transport strike called over protesting the recently passed Road Transport Act, a seven-day-old baby died in an ambulance in Moulvibazar's Chandgram area after protesters stopped the vehicle for around an hour and a half.
The transport workers, on the same day, also smeared used engine oil on the faces of some drivers and passengers, including students of Narayanganj Government Women's College.
In a press statement, Ilias Kanchan, chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai, a movement for road safety, termed the death of the baby “inhumane”.
“Who will take responsibility for the death? It cannot be expressed in words how inhumane the incident was,” he said in the statement.
“Did we lose our humane character?” asked Kanchan, who is now in the UK, from where he issued the statement after seeing some media reports on the incident.
Expressing deep concern and indignation over smearing used engine oil on drivers and passengers and the protesters' other actions, he said, “Workers have the right to go on strike or work stoppage. However, a person also has the right to obey or defy it.”
The eminent road safety campaigner urged the government to take necessary steps to overcome the current situation.
Meanwhile, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) in a press statement condemned the death of the infant and the action of smearing used engine oil on peoples' faces.
The rights body strongly protested the “abusive, inhuman and heart-breaking” activities of the workers in the name of a movement. It also urged law enforcers to take steps to stop the harassment of people and bring back discipline on roads.
Elsewhere in Narayanganj, several students from different schools and colleges in the district yesterday morning formed a human chain demanding punishment for those who smeared used engine oil on students and also for those who halted the ambulance in Moulvibazar.
They also threatened to go for tougher movement if their demands were not met soon.
Speaking at the event, Shahriar Shuvro, a student of Government Tolaram College, said, “They [the transport workers] have spread anarchy throughout the country in the name of a strike. We demand an explanation for this.
“Why did they throw used engine oil on our sisters? Why did they break windows of the buses? We want to know who will take the responsibility for the death of the baby?
“Are we hostages to the transport sector? We won't be hostages. They want a licence to kill people. We will not give them this licence. They must be arrested immediately, brought to justice and punished.”
Additionally, around 50 students of Dhaka University symbolically smeared used engine oil on their faces and formed a human chain on the campus protesting public sufferings “in the name of transport strike”.
They also placed a three-point demand, which includes ensuring free movement of students, stopping the harassment of people in the name of the protest and allowing ambulances to ply amid the strike.
Nahid Islam, a student of the sociology department, said the shipping minister, also a top leader of the workers' federation, had extended his support to the Road Transport Act-2018 when it was passed in parliament. “Then why did he call the strike?” he asked.
Besides, Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passengers' platform, urged transport workers to withdraw their strike considering the people's suffering.