A few months back, Jatri Kalyan Samity found that at least 339 people were killed during Eid journeys between June 11 and 23. Soon after, we witnessed a massive student movement aimed at bringing reforms on the roads, sparked off by the deaths of two students. The authorities pledged reforms, and some action was taken. But Jatri Kalyan Samity in its latest survey has found that at least 259 people were killed and 960 injured in 237 road accidents between August 16 and 28, during the Eid-ul-Azha holidays. The reasons for these deaths, both during holidays and throughout the year, are not unknown to us. Yet, why still the huge toll?
What is more worrying is that the report found that the number is actually on the rise: in the same period last year, 254 people were killed and 696 injured. Most of the 8,000 public buses plying Dhaka are unfit, yet they continue to do so. Even existing provisions in our laws, such as speed limits, remain largely unimplemented. And the issue of conflict of interest when it comes to representing the public and representation of transport operators remains unaddressed. And drivers continue to do whatever they please—the death of a 13-month-old infant when a bus hit her and her mother on August 30 is a brutal reminder.
Solutions exist. The students showed that change is possible, and even the unruly traffic of Dhaka can be made to follow the laws. We have institutes and experts who have suggestions, from implementing the late DNCC mayor's plan of bringing buses under five-six franchises, to establishing training centres, auditing road safety, and implementing bans on three-wheelers and slow-moving vehicles on national highways. The government took a big first step when it acknowledged the grievances and demands of the protesting students last month. Now it must translate that into a holistic plan to reform road transport in the country and bring safety to our roads.