By Nazrul Islam
Dhaka – Many students in Dhaka left their schools in the morning Wednesday to join the protest that erupted after the tragic death of yet another pupil in a road crash in the city known for its rowdiness in terms of traffic management.
They in their thousands chorused ‘we want justice’ as they took to the streets halting vehicular movements at different intersections to protest the death of Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury, the student of Bangladesh University of Professional.
They demand for safety, safety for all, barely seven months after Bangladesh witnessed more than a week-long protest for improved road safety. That series of agitation was prompted by the death of two school children. They were too crashed by a bus when they were simply waiting at the bus stop.
Abrar’s death was on the pedestrians’ crossing that reflects how dangerously people are living in a capital city in lawlessness. And the transport workers and the owners always give a shit to everyone. They seemed to be irresistible, powered by something or somebody else.
The protesters, many of whom wielded placards, blocked intersections at various places in the city causing severe tailback on the streets. Office-going people were seen walking long way expressing solidarity with the demands that the boys in blue pants and white shirts were asking for.
“Carry on boys, we are with you,” a man in his early 60s commented while passing Rampura Bridge, where a group of school boys were requesting a driver of double-decker bus of state-own Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation not to venture into. The driver followed the instruction and u-turned.
They sat down on the streets waving scorching sun and chanted slogans asking the authorities to bring the killers to justice.
“Won’t let my brother’s blood to go in vain,” reads one of the placards. One placard says Dhaka is a “magical city”. Others were inscribed with letters that called everyone to obey the law.
Obeying law is the most important to restore discipline on the streets, where everyone wants to go fast and eventually none can do that. Such indiscipline happens at the very nose of the law enforcement agencies as if they turn always a blind eye.
The students took to the streets a day after a passenger bus of Suprovat Paribahab company ran over Abrar, 20, at Nadda on Pragati Sarani on Tuesday. The city mayor himself abashedly said the driver had no license to run the bus.
Atiqul Islam, mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation, went there to listen to the students’ demand assured legal action against the diver, and the owner of the bus company.
The protesters demands include ensuring safety and discipline on roads, proper application of traffic rules, arrest and capital punishment of the driver, scrapping of license of the bus company and removal of unfit vehicles from the streets among many others.
The mayor on Tuesday said the demands are logical, according to a video posted by the city corporation on the social media site Facebook. The mayor has to take the main responsibility to restore discipline. And the protesters having bitter experience in 2018,they don’t want to return home empty handed. They want Dhaka’s roads are safe and are not being ruled by the thugs and killers.
“We don’t want to return home until the demands are met. We are not pleased only on assurances,” Fahad Hossain, one protester, said.
He said the students’ demands raised last year for road safety was forgotten by the leaders and indiscipline returned with full vigor. These must be stopped.
In 2018, hundreds of thousands of students demanded enhanced road safety after the airport road’s accident. The protests lasted for more than a week from July 29 to August 8.
Lax implementation of law, poor road infrastructure, reckless driving and lack of awareness by the road users put Bangladesh among countries with the highest road fatality rate.
More than 7,000 people killed and over 15,000 others injured in road crashes in 2018, according to a report by civic group Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Organisation.
The yearly death toll in Bangladesh’s road crash is much higher than that of any conflict nowadays in any part of the world. And those are killed in road crashes are economically active people. Those who are wounded lost their potency for work. The authorities must rise above any controversy and take steps to ensure people’s safety first. We are living in a digital age.