JUST how anarchic the transport sector has become is graphically illustrated by the following instances: In the first place, after having severed Rajib's hand, the beastly bus broke the spine of a housewife near New Market; and grievously wounded a girl's leg as if on a serial damaging spree. Secondly, last Tuesday morning, a collision between a bus and a lorry on Dhaka-Khulna highway, severed a transport worker's hand from his body!
The last variation in the art of destructive swipe came through the discourtesy of a bus driver, if you like! The traffic inspector trying to stop him from taking the opposite passage invited the wrath of the driver; he swerved one side of the bus on to his “tormentor”—the traffic officer's left foot was seriously injured.
The growing anarchy in the transport sector is ascribed to a certain vested interest allegedly linked to collusion among transport owners, transport workers and ruling party elements. This circle is said to be intent on not giving any quarter to the agenda for change and reform. An expert wondered aloud over the justification of multiple brand names in the sector which makes it unwieldy for governance. By contrast, most other cities in the world, are doing with fewer companies that are not only manageable but can also function as harmonious public service organisations.
All these concerns will have to be addressed with an open mind to come to grips with them in order to upgrade and modernise transport infrastructure in step with the digital age. The billions that are projected to go into the multimodal transport system will be well-spent if we treat it as part of a broader spectrum governance issue.
In this context, targeted research, law reform and implementation of the right policy mix are indispensable for the uplift of the transport sector from a predilection to dull and even counterproductive status quo.
There is no confusion about how Rajib Hossain lost his hand and sustained a head injury—caught between two speeding vehicles—eventually dying in heart- breaking circumstances. His death has shocked the nation as it exacted a palpable social cost. Not only has the life of an enterprising man with a deep sense of responsibility towards his family been cut short, the tragedy has also doubly orphaned a pre-existing orphan family.
Two pressing priorities crop up in the wake of Rajib's death. And, these will have to be simultaneously addressed if we are to do justice to an invaluable loss: One, the compensation package that was under consideration of different quarters to rehabilitate Rajib on his discharge from hospital should be passed on to the members of his family. A High Court directive requiring an allocation of TK 1 crore for the treatment and rehabilitation of Rajib had been issued when he was under the care of the DMCH.
Nevertheless, the foremost public interest is centred on an unwavering pursuit of the case leading to punishment of the culprit(s) and payment of compensation to the victim's family.
On the very day of Rajib's death, the accused drivers of the two vehicles entered a plea for bail which was promptly rejected by the court. Now the citizens await an expeditious completion of the legal process as they feel such road accidents are nothing but murders. An impunity culture that has seeped through the transport sector must be rectified through a deterrent strategy spearheaded by exemplary punishment meted out to the guilty.
Obviously, the traffic police personnel on duty, especially in the accident-vulnerable areas, can't escape responsibility for preventing reckless driving and break-neck races indulged in by mostly untrained drivers oblivious to the ramshackle condition of their vehicles. Of course, the police logistics need to be revamped along with an increase in their patrolling capacity.
To begin with, speed limits in the city will have to be freshly stipulated and enforced on pain of severe penalisation of the offenders.
To end on a piece of advice from the Greek poet, Epicharmus (530 BCE—440 BCE), which holds just as good today as when it was pronounced: “A wise man must be wise before, not after, the event.”
Shah Husain Imam is adjunct faculty at East West University, a commentator on current affairs and former Associate Editor, The Daily Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org