No killer driver punished yet

Laments Ilias Kanchan after 2-decade campaign against road menace

Tawfique Ali

Film star Ilias Kanchan and the wife he lost in a road accident in 1993. He has been a dedicated road-safety activist since then. He initiated a campaign called Nirapad Sarak Chai. Photo Courtesy: Ilias Kanchan

A nearly two-decade long campaign for road safety could not make any difference in bringing down the number of road crashes across the country, said Ilias Kanchan, popular film star and the initiator of the campaign.

“I have not seen a single guilty driver getting punished,” said Kanchan, who lost his wife in a road accident.

The tragic death of his wife in 1993 led him to launch a countrywide campaign “Nirapad Sarak Chai” (we demand safe roads) to create awareness about road accidents and their impacts on victims' families.

Kanchan said the 18-year campaign has achieved “virtually nothing.”

He alleged that Bangladesh Road Transport Authority issued one lakh driving licences without maintaining the standard of driving test under pressure from transport owners and workers' associations in 2003 and 2007.

It happened because of transport leaders' influence on the government, he said.

Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation sent a list to the BRTA for issuing 24,300 driving licences in the same way after the present government took office. Those have not been issued yet.

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, also the president of the federation, pursued issuance of 10,000 licences in 2009.

He said licences for driving heavy vehicles are issued through a brief test without any written examination in line with an agreement between the government and the federation.

A person needs to have six years of driving experience to obtain a licence for driving heavy vehicles, he said.

More than one lakh transport workers drive heavy vehicles without any licence, said the minister.

According to the BRTA, a total of 9.5 lakh driving licences have been issued while the number of registered motor vehicles is more than 15 lakh.

Kanchan said the number of road accidents remains high for lack of skill of drivers, failure to enforce traffic rules, corruption and government's inaction.

Nirapad Sarak Chai requested the United Nations to issue a declaration of an international road safety day 12 years ago, but successive governments in Bangladesh have been indifferent to the cause, said Kanchan.