Bangladesh Slideshow

14 August, 2011

Highway to Death

Bangladesh used to have very good road networks – compared to its level of development. That unfortunately, is a thing of the past. Oh the roads are still there on the map. Whether you can use them to go from one place to another is a different issue altogether.

Of the things that bother me about Bangladesh, lack of safety on roads is near the top of the list. Poor road conditions, old vehicles, inept drivers and reckless driving make our roads deathtraps - both city roads and highways. Not a day goes by that we don't hear of a road accident claiming multiple lives. And it gets worse in the monsoon season, when heavy rains aggravate the problem. Around 12,000 people die in road accidents every year and thrice that number are injured.

I am NOT exaggerating!


44 schoolboys were killed and 15 seriously injured just last month when the truck they were traveling in skidded off a highway and plunged into a six-feet deep canal in southeast Chittagong district.
The boys, aged 10 to 13, were from the Mirsarai sub-district of Chittagong and were returning to their villages after watching their school take part in a soccer tournament. The villagers were stunned into silence - too shocked to even mourn as the small white-shrouded bodies were lowered into graves. Will life ever be the same there?

In the same month, three separate road accidents in Bogra, Gazipur and Narayanganj left 24 people dead and 65 others injured. In Bogra, a bus collided head-on with a truck on Dhaka-Rangpur highway, leaving 17 people dead and 30 others injured.

In another accident, a head-on collision between a truck and a bus on the Dhaka-Tangail highway bypass road in Gazipur, left four people dead and 20 injured. Another head-on collision between a bus and a truck on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Narayanganj left three more dead and 15 injured.


And just yesterday, renowned film-naker Tareque Masud (of Muktir Gaan and Matir Moyna fame) lost his life when a bus turned a corner at high speed and rammed into their vehicle on the Dhaka-Aricha highway in Manikganj. The impact of the collision flattened and nearly tore the smaller vehicle in half.

Of the four others who died on the spot was media personality Mishuk Munier, the best thing to have happened to journalism in Bangladesh in recent years. Three others were critically injured in the crash including Tareque's wife Catherine, co-director and film editor.

Our political leaders dutifully express shock at the accidents, pray for the salvation of the departed souls and express sympathy for the bereaved families. Empty promises are made to punish the guilty (bus and truck drivers somehow always manage to escape and evade the law enforcement agencies). Enquiry committees are sometimes formed to investigate the accident. The public never hears the committee reports, and I doubt the government pays any heed to their recommendations - if indeed, any are made.

The government knows perfectly well what should be done. There must be improvement of the enforcement of traffic laws - including driving rules and vehicle condition. The training of drivers (especially for heavy duty vehicles) must be under rigorous inspection (it's laughably easy to get a license in Bangladesh - even if you can barely drive). Capital punishment for reckless drivers should be reintroduced (at least for the time being) for its deterrent value. And last but not the least, physical conditions of the roads must be optimum. This should be done. But will it get done? Corruption has so deeply penetrated this sector (as others) that it is hard for the people to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

According to one study, the annual fatality rate from road accidents in Bangladesh is 85.6 per 10,000 vehicles, making us one of the most road accident-prone countries of the world. However, apart from the human tragedies, the economic costs of such accidents are also quite high.

Many of the country’s highways are in a sorry state. And when I say sorry, I mean hiding-away-in-shame kind of sorry. Sloppy construction and lack of maintenance for years have led to this state. A part of the 120 km Dhaka-Mymensingh highway has deteriorated to such an extent that buses and trucks are overturning in the potholes (well, they are more like craters!). A two-hour journey takes eight or nine, sometimes more. Little wonder that transport owners have suspended services until the highway is repaired to a motorable condition. Transport owners have also suspended service to a part of the highway serving northern Bangladesh. I won't be surprised if transport owners in other areas of the country follow suit.

The message that is ringing out loud and clear to the government is that negligence to maintenance of infrastructure (and our infrastructure is already inadequate to begin with) must stop and repair work must take priority. Is the government paying heed? Doesn't seem like it.

Our government is so ‘concerned’ about the big things - rewriting the Constitution, debating what to call the indigenous people of the country, sewing up tight corruption cases against top opposition leaders, harassing the one 'wrongly awarded' the Nobel prize… They seem to think they can, and should be, forgiven for viewing road maintenance and safety for the people as a low priority! Winning the next election at any cost is their life’s objective. If corruption has to run rampant in the party (and in the bodies that will help the party achieve its goal) then so be it. But I wonder if they have considered that at this rate, there might not be anyone left to vote for them come election time? And those who are left alive, might just say no to a party who has failed so spectacularly to ensure safety on the roads?

9 comments:

syedalijets said...

i really likes this you have some great ideas

Tanvir said...

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Tanvir said...

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Tanvir said...

Introducing Sylhet Bazar
Just knocking at the door a new dynamic era selling and buying portal of Bangladesh http://www.sylhetbazar.com.com is launching today, 6th octobar 2011 . http://www.sylhetbazar.com is an online marketplace where anyone can sell or buy almost anything. The site has a strong and growing community which can increase it’s users who trade in a wide range of item categories including Electronics, Cameras, Phones, Computers, CDs, Mobiles, Fashion Accessories, Music, and Travel. Through a world-class technology infrastructure http://www.sylhetbazar.com enables & simplifies e-commerce for Bangladesh's ever expanding online community.We believe people will spend more time on http://www.sylhetbazar.com than any other Bangladeshi site, making it the most popular site of the country. http://www.sylhetbazar.com will encourage young generation to earn money from selling goods using the power of the Internet. http://www.sylhetbazar.com will be proud to help many people established successful online businesses who make a living out of it.

Shuvo said...

:)

john bravon said...

Road accidents can occur due to various reasons. They have become a common occurrence today. They mostly also result in loss of life.


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Two Steps From Home said...

This is really so horrible. When this will stop. Thank you for nice post.
Two Steps From Home

Trees Planet said...

Your ideas are really nice but no one to follow you we think "I am right and other false".
But one day we realize the truth. Thanks. Trees Planet

Farid Ahammad said...

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