Despite some measures taken by the authorities to ensure road safety following the recent student movement, the number of road accidents and causalities has increased during the Eid rush this year compared to last year's figures, according to a passenger welfare platform.
At least 259 people were killed and 960 injured in 237 road accidents in 13 days (August 16-28) when the transport sector saw a huge rush of passengers during the Eid-ul-Azha festival, Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity said yesterday.
Besides, 15 people were killed and seven others wounded in 19 incidents involving railways and four people were killed, 68 injured and eight remained missing in 14 accidents on waterways.
During the same period last year, at least 254 people were killed and 696 injured in 214 road accidents while 43 lost lives under the wheels of trains and 25 people died in 15 accidents on waterways.
Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of the Samity, yesterday unveiled a report at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity. The organisation prepared the report based on the reports of “largely circulated and credible” national and regional dailies and news portals, he said.
After Eid-ul-Fitr, the Samity had published a report on road accidents that said the numbers of accidents and deaths during the Eid rush saw a sharp rise this year compared to last year's figures, Mozammel added.
At least 339 people were killed and 1,265 injured in 277 road accidents in 13 days (June 11 to 23) during the Eid journeys this year. However, the government rejected the report claiming it was “not correct”.
Mozammel said the report sparked a lot of discussion and later, the students' agitation demanding road safety gave a jolt, prompting the government to take numerous steps in this regard.
That is why the number of road accidents during the Eid-ul-Azha rush has decreased compared to the figures of crashes during the rush of this year's Eid-ul-Fitr, he said.
Following the death of two college students in a road crash in the capital's Kurmitola area on July 29, students took to the streets across the country demanding safe roads.
At the press conference, Mozammel yesterday said 274 people were killed and 848 injured in 205 accidents during the rush of Eid-ul-Azha last year. The Jatri Kalyan Samity's press release also mentioned the same.
Actually, the figures are related to last year's Eid-ul-Fitr. Mozammel later said it was a mistake and they corrected the error in their social media pages.
REASONS BEHIND ACCIDENTS
Mozammel said plying of unfit vehicles and carrying people in goods-laden vehicles, operating vehicles by unskilled and under-aged drivers, movement of three-wheelers on highways ignoring ban, reckless driving and poor condition of roads are the main reasons behind the accidents.
Speaking at the press conference, Hossain Zillur Rahman, a former adviser to a caretaker government, said children, who demonstrated for road safety, unveiled the harsh reality, although it was nothing new as organisations like Jatri Kalyan Samity on many occasions had painted a poor picture of the country's transport sector.
Accidents take place in every country, but deaths due to recklessness of drivers and helpers or race between vehicles are very painful and most of the accidents took place in the country due to some reasons which can be avoided, said Hossain Zillur, also the convener of Safe Road and Transport Alliance.
“The main problem is lack of accountability. More measures are needed to be taken, but the main necessity is to be serious about accountability…. You can take hundreds of steps, but if you can't establish accountability, such deaths [on roads] would continue.”
Holding conflict of interest responsible for lack of accountability, he said those who were determining policies were also representing the transport owners and workers.
“He or they are the representatives of [transports] owners and workers in the cabinet. So when a huge pressure for establishing accountability will be created, they will definitely place their points,” he said.
Mentionable, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan is the executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation while State Minister for Rural Development and Cooperatives Mashiur Rahman Ranga is the president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association.
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua, also the vice-chairman of Road Safety Foundation, said although the government formed committees after major accidents, it never made the probe reports public.
“Actually, they formed committees so that nobody can talk about it. If that's not the case, then why people can't know what action has been taken [following the probe]?”
About the proposed Road Transport Bill-2018, he said there were several loopholes in the draft to give benefit to the transport owners.
Ayubur Rahman, former chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority and Abdul Haque, former director of FBCCI, also spoke at the briefing.
The Jatri Kalyan Samity recommended setting up a separate cell at the road transport ministry to deal with the accidents, establishing training centres at national level by the government, auditing road safety regularly, constructing a separate lane for speedy vehicles and implementing the ban on three-wheelers and slow-moving vehicles on national highways to reduce the number of accidents.