How many will have to die before something as fundamental as the safety of travelling is ensured? What will it take for the administration to emerge from its cocoon and take a serious interest in the safety of the citizens? The latest casualty of our unsafe roads is a first-year student who, on March 19, was crushed under the wheels of a bus racing with another, near the capital's Bashundhara Residential Area. Slogans used in protests that have sprouted since, include doom-laden predictions such as “Wait for your turn” and “Who is next?”—which at once manifest the public unease over our anarchic traffic situation and the general frustration that no one is really safe on the roads.
Students, according to latest news, gathered to protest the incident in different parts of the city. If not judiciously handled, it can spark off a widespread protest like last year's nationwide movement for road safety. So far, however, there have been little signs of hope. The new Road Transport Act 2018 which was passed into law after the last movement was criticised for not being a reflection of the demands made by the students and the public and, evidently, has had little impact. Reckless driving and unfit vehicles, among other causes, continue to wreak havoc on our roads. For the record, even after the student movement midway through the year, the numbers of road crashes and fatalities had rather increased in 2018 compared to those of the previous year.
What we fail to understand is how a country that aspires to attain the middle-income country status can possibly expect to do so without rectifying its archaic traffic management system and reining in its unruly transport sector. The fact is, the visible progress achieved in road infrastructure development didn't translate into improved safety for the pedestrians/passengers because of the transport owners and drivers who, for some mysterious reasons, continue to receive protection and complicit silence from the administration. The government must not allow this to continue any longer. Instead of pursuing band-aid solutions that respond only to emergencies, it must redevelop the entire transport sector as part of a comprehensive strategic transport plan for Dhaka.