Death by development?
It is baffling that even a government project is not exempt from the perilous nature of construction practices in Bangladesh. A pedestrian was killed and five others injured in Dhaka's Pallabi area on Monday morning after bricks fell on them from the Metro Rail construction site. The deceased, Mahbubur Rahman Talukder, a 49-year-old worker at a jewellery shop in Mirpur-10, died on the spot.
How could this even happen? How is it that a government megaproject, costing thousands of crores of taka, does not have enough safety measures in place so as not to cause the death of a passer-by? Are there no safety officers overseeing such large-scale projects? And—as of the time of writing this editorial—why hasn't there been an official apology or any word of compensation from the authorities? Who will answer for Mahbubur's untimely death?
Deaths caused by construction work are not rare in Bangladesh. In 2021 alone, at least 154 workers died in the construction sector, according to a survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS). The actual figure, one has to assume, is much higher. Particularly in Dhaka, where there is at least one construction project going on in almost every block, there is a serious need for safe construction practices. But for Mahbubur's death to be caused by a megaproject like the Metro Rail is truly concerning. The Metro Rail construction spans across many areas, most of them extremely busy and populous ones. People often have to walk under the under-construction project, whether while crossing the road or due to there not being a proper footpath in the area. As if the sky-high number of road crashes wasn't enough, are citizens now supposed to constantly look left, right, front, back, and up when they are walking on the streets? Is death truly at every corner of a city under development?
We hope this death caused by the construction of Metro Rail will be an exception—but one death is still too many. What does it say about our vision of development when a person can die any day as they are walking by an under-construction site, with the authorities responsible often getting away with workers' and citizens' injuries and deaths without so much as a slap on the wrist? Mahbubur's family, including his 10-year-old daughter, deserve an apology and compensation from the government, and we urge that this takes place as soon as possible. Most importantly, the government must investigate the incident urgently and ensure the safety of all involved at and around public and private construction sites. Such avoidable deaths and injuries cannot be excusable.