A cosmetic exercise at the cost of road crash victims
The government has finally formed a trustee board to settle compensation claims over road accidents. While this is good news, one must wonder why it took so much time to form this board—three long years after the enactment of the Road Transport Act, 2018 (RTA), and around a year after the board's chairman and member secretary were appointed. Even worse, the formation of the board is now appearing to be a case of putting the horse before the cart: while the process of seeking compensation can now be started, the applications will not be processed until the RTA rules (which are yet to be formulated) determine the amounts and procedures to collect contributions for a government fund to pay for the compensation.
In this sense, the newly-formed board is purely cosmetic. Since the passing of the RTA, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has missed four submission deadlines for a draft of the rules, submitted an incomplete draft in 2019, and is now in the process of going back and forth with the law ministry with the "completed" rules. The latest update is that they are still working on the queries that have been sent to them, and it will take "some more time." We must ask: How much more time can be afforded to road accident victims who have been disabled for life, or have become insolvent while trying to pay for their hospital bills?
It is also frustrating to find that the board that has been formed does not include a single representative from organisations campaigning for road safety and victims' compensation, even though it includes representatives of transport owners and workers. Given that the delays in making the RTA functional have been a result of pressure from transport associations—and that the rules will determine how much these associations will contribute to the compensation fund—it was imperative to include board members who can keep such vested interests in check.
According to a police report in September, a total of 3,095 people were killed in 3,259 road crashes in the first seven months of this year alone. While deaths and injuries from road accidents continue to soar, justice for road accident victims faces one obstacle after another. This sluggish progress in providing compensation is an affront to their sufferings. The government must do everything in its power to ensure that there are no more delays in fully implementing the Road Transport Act as soon as possible.