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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 210
March 19, 2011

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Toughen traffic law

Shakhawat Shamim

According to a private survey, everyday on an average 11 persons succumb to death in Bangladesh on the face of different types of violence. Recently, Bangladesh Roads and Transport Authority (BRTA) has published a report and it reveals that in Bangladesh every year 2958 persons die through road accident and among them 324 person die in Dhaka. So, on average everyday at least 8 persons die by road accident. So it appears that road accidents place first by claming human casualties. We are rather accustomed with the phenomenon and have learnt to treat it a scripture of the forehead. People affected, attack the public transport or make blockage on the highway, bring out procession, then in the evening go for the burial of the dead body.

If we can not come out from this 'what is lotted, can not be blotted' notiton we would never be able to reduce road accidents. Yes, road accident is a common phenomenon all over the world. But statistics says the total number of our daily accident is equal to the total number of yearly accident in some developed countries. To prevent the road accident first we need to change our 'fate theory' from the people's sense.

The first and prime reason of road accident is the miserable condition of the roads and highways. The number of vehicles have been increasing everyday but the shape of road has remain unchanged even it becomes more narrow by continuous damage. More than 95 percent of our total roads are still double lane and most of the road accidents occur by head-on-coalition. When vehicles' run ups and down on the single track, it's easy to predict that it boosts the rate of accident. Let's take an easy example: in the Dhaka-Chittagong highway from Dhaka city to Comilla-Daudkandi there exists four lane highways. Almost everyday at least one accident takes place in these busy highway. If we look cautiously, we can see that all most all the accidents occur in the double lane track not between the four-lane tracks. Just ensuring a single job, we can reduce more than 70 percent road accidents, if we can convert the entire double lane highway to the four lane highways. So far many round table meeting, seminar, symposium, rally and many more initiatives have been taken but the first and foremost solution remains neglected. We want to get rapid relief from pain, but never want to cure the disease!

According to BRTA total number of road accident in 2009 was 5637! Matter to be worried is that, after the huge number of accident, not a single investigation have taken place to find out the reason of accident. Usually we hear as the reason of the accident is 'loss of control'. This reason is not solely responsible for an accident. To prevent the future accident we need to know the reason behind losing control. Whether it had proper fitness certificate? Which part of machine became inactive? If so, then why? Whether the driver had valid license? Was there any defect in the road design? Whether the driver was in competition with other vehicles? Was there any time limit or other purpose to reach the destination in a hurry? How long the driver was driving? These all relevant questions have remained unresolved over the years. To avoid the same nature of accident in future, we need to find out all the answers of these questions. How can we find out the disease without pathological test? Still we are depending on the quack!

In the last year Secretary Razia Begum and the Chairman of BSCIC Siddukur Rahman died by a fatal road accident. After that, investigation committees were formed and the committee submitted their report that the design of road was defective. Many months have passed after that report but we don't know whether that defective road got repaired or not. At least, if after the submission of that report, we would want the accountability of the authority or contractor then we could say that is a good sign for future!

There are some specified areas where frequently road accident takes place. Three kilometer at Mirersorai in the Dhaka-Chittagong highway is an accident prone area. Nine accidents have taken place within four months there and similar is the case with the west bank of Jamuna Bridge. When frequently accidents take place in the same place, it proves that very road is accident friendly. This simple understanding never comes in the sense of the concerned authority!

It's not the duty of the passenger to check the vehicle's fitness. Thousands of traffic police have been appointed to control the traffic but unfortunately most of them are corrupt. Any sort of fabricated documents pass the validation simply by spending the 50/100 taka. Then the death-box carries the passenger to an unknown death-hole! We have no alternative to ensure the proper and transparent execution of traffic law.

According to a private survey report, most of the cases, the owners compel the drivers to drive the vehicles continuously for three days without proper rest. Same survey report provides, more than 70 percent drivers have not any educational qualification. To understand and obey the traffic law it's necessary for the drivers to have at least minimum educational qualification. The government can propose SSC or class VIII pass requirement for driving license. Moreover in the countryside area many professional drivers haven't attained the age of majority. An age limit can be fixed for having a professional driving license.

Another reason for road accident in the highway is uncontrollable auto-rickshaw, baby taxi, three wheeler taxi and tempo. Most of the times, these small vehicles become the victims of accident. One more thing is to be considered: avoiding the establishment of school-college beside the highway.

No sufficient foot over bridge has been established in the busy Dhaka city. At the same time lack of awareness is also a vital factor. Even many accidents occur where foot over bridge is available. The government may impose instant fine when people use road instead of foot over bridge. Very recently, government has imposed mandatory provision for using seat belt and helmet in the city area. Same provision is required to impose all over the country.

In majority of the accidents drivers contribute solely. But the matter of grief is that the existing provisions of penal law are very weak. We need a strong updated and complete law immediately. The scope of getting bail needs to be reduced and penalization should be much more rigorous. The state is obligated to improve the infrastructure. The root cause of driver's negligence also needs to be sorted out. Hence, beside the driver, we need to ensure the accountability of other who are directly or indirectly involved. Moreover, we need to make certain the quality of driving institutes. A sole road negligence law may be enacted touching all the facets of road accidents.

An accident occurs in few seconds' carelessness. An accident is cry for whole life. We only can estimate how many people die in road accident in a year but never count how many people are injured in a year. This list is colossal and more painful.

It's not possible to remain home for the fear of accident. For the life and livelihood we need to go from one to place other. If the state can't prevent the road accident how it will be able to ensure the right to life of the citizens?

The writer is Lecturer, Department of Law, BGC Trust University, Chittagong.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

21 March 2011 - On this day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people peacefully demonstrating against apartheid "pass laws" in the township of Sharpeville, South Africa. The notorious passbooks were a repressive tool to control the movements of black South Africans. The United Nations General Assembly subsequently declared 21 March to be the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called on the international community not only to commemorate that tragedy, but also to work together to combat racism and discrimination wherever they exist.

Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world. Racism and intolerance can take various forms - from denying individuals the basic principles of equality to fuelling ethnic hatred that may lead to genocide - all of which can destroy lives and fracture communities.

Since the Sharpeville massacre, substantial progress has been made in the struggle against racism. The apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has been established. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification. Yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.

Source: United Nations



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