Families of road accident victims demand justice | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:53 AM, February 12, 2020

Families of road accident victims demand justice

Official figures show sharp rise in casualties

Carrying a small bag, Ahsan Ullah Tutul yesterday attended a press conference organised to seek justice for his son and numerous others killed in road accidents.

At the end of the programme, he opened the bag and took out more than a dozen certificates -- all belonged to his son Adnan Tasin.

One was for Tasin's outstanding results in SSC exams while another for securing the second spot in mathematical Olympiad. He also got one for 100 percent school attendance. 

"There are some 100 such certificates and medals at our home. My son earned all of them, but he's gone. What will I do with these now?" Tutul asked, his voice cracking.  

Tasin, a student of the capital's St Joseph Higher Secondary School, died when he was only 17. A speeding bus hit him on Airport Road in the capital's Sheora area on February 11 last year while he was going to the other side of the street using a zebra crossing.

Despite being ill, Tutul, a former merchandiser in his mid-40s, did all he could do in the last one year to ensure justice for his son. He wrote to the prime minister and over a dozen ministers. He talked to police and Dhaka North City Corporation mayor on several occasions.

"I didn't even get sympathy, let alone justice," he said.

Like Tutul, family members of four other road crash victims shared similar experiences at the press conference, organised by Sarake Santan-Swajanhara Avhibhabak Forum, in association with Nirapad Sarak Andolan, at the city's Crime Reporters Association of Bangladesh.

They did not get justice for their loved ones killed. Neither did they get any compensation from the authorities concerned, they said.

Speaking at the programme, road safety campaigners said victims in road accident-related cases in the country hardly get justice. Legal procedures end only in a handful of cases and that too after massive protests.

A culture of impunity for the culprits is the main reason why road accidents are increasing, they said. 

In January alone, at least 547 people, including 146 students, were killed and 1,141 others injured in 531 road accidents across the country, according to a report of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a platform working for passengers' welfare.

The Samity, which came up with the numbers based on newspaper reports, said at least 7,855 people were killed and 13,330 others injured in 5,516 road accidents last year. Around 900 of the victims who died were students.

The previous year, road accidents had claimed 7,221 lives and left 15,466 others injured, said the platform.

According to police data, 4,138 people were killed in 4,147 road accidents last year. The previous year, 2,609 road crashes had claimed 2,635 lives. The data was prepared based on cases filed with different police station across the country.

Experts and road safety campaigners said unfit vehicles, faulty construction of roads, traffic mismanagement, pedestrians' callousness and poor enforcement of road rules were mainly to blame for the accidents.

Talking to The Daily Star after yesterday's programme, Tutul said one of his family members filed a general diary with Khilgaon Police Station on the day his son Tasin died. He claimed they wanted to file a case, but police told him they would do that themselves.

"A few days after the death of my son, I called the investigation officer of the case to know about the case's progress. He told me they could not arrest the bus driver. Besides, the vehicle was handed to its owner," he said.

In the last one year, Tutul, with help from different organisations, organised seven human chains and press conferences seeking justice for his son. 

He said he wrote to the prime minister, the inspector general of police and the commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police. He also met the mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation thrice, he said.

"I suffered a paralysis in 2017 but now I am recovering. With my poor health, I knocked almost all the doors but have failed to do anything for my son," he said.

Contacted, Ripon Kumar, the newly-appointed investigation officer, said police had filed a case in connection with the accident.

Last month, they submitted the charge sheet to the court against the bus driver, he said, adding that the accused was, however, on the run.

But Tutul said he was in the dark about the development. "I talked to the officer some 10 to 12 days ago, but he did not tell me anything like this. Rather, he asked me why we did not file a case ourselves."

'JUSTIC WE WANT'

Abir Ahmed, an SSC examinee, was killed on January 27 this year when a Wasa water tanker ran him over near Wari High School in the capital. He had gone to the school that day to attend a farewell programme.

At yesterday's press conference, his elder sister Liza Akhter said although a case was filed and the driver arrested, they feared they would not get justice.

"Many are approaching us on behalf of the accused and telling us that running the case won't bring us anything good. They are discouraging us from continuing the legal battle," Liza said.

"We want justice. Our only demand is the highest punishment for the driver," she said, adding that reckless driving by the accused took her brother's life.

Nazim Uddin, elder brother of Saiful Islam, who was killed in a road crash in Sheora in October 2017, said they also filed a case with Cantonment Police Station.

The driver of the bus, which ran over and killed Saiful, was arrested only to be released later, Nazim said, adding that the vehicle was also returned to its owner.

"I am so frustrated right now that I've stopped communicating with police for any update on the case," he said.

'EYES GETTING SHUT'

The deaths of two students in a road crash on the capital's Airport Road in July 2018 triggered an unprecedented nationwide road safety movement.

In the face of the protests, different government bodies, police, and transport leaders made a raft of lofty promises. Lawmakers passed the Road Transport Act-2018, the Prime Minister's Office issued a 17-point directive, and police observed "traffic weeks" to bring discipline on road.

But it hardly changed anything. Violation of traffic rules and road accidents are still rampant. People are being killed on roads every day, said road safety campaigners.

Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Jatri Kalyan Samity, said the student movement was an "eye-opener" for the government. "But it seems the eyes are gradually getting shut. Anarchy has returned to the road."  

He said road crashes continued to claim lives as the authorities failed to hand justice to the victims.

He also criticised the government for its failure to implement Road Transport Act, 2018 properly.

Enzamul Haque, joint convener of Nirapad Sarak Andolon, formed after the road safety movement, said those responsible for the deaths of the two students on Airport Road were brought to book.

"The culture of impunity would end if all the perpetrators were treated the same way," he said.

Jyotirmoy Barua, a Supreme Court lawyer working on human rights issue, said families of many road accident victims did not file cases thinking that would bring little results.

"They know the legal fight would be time consuming … also in most cases, the accused belong to powerful [transport] associations," he told The Daily Star  

Families of victims getting justice is very rare, said Jyotirmoy, also a vice chairman of Road Safety Foundation, adding that the government must act promptly to prevent further loss of lives on roads.

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