12 dead, 15 killed, 10 die, 11 more dead, 9 succumb, 14 plunge to death, 7 die in tragic crash … doctor, journalist, lawyer … vendor, pedestrian, footpath dweller … mother and child, 5 of a family, 10 of a bridal party … school student, college teacher, university student …
With scores of incidents across the country not reported, even newspapers are running out of options to make the repetitive news readable. It is difficult because the cause of the fatality and larger scale injury is one accidents on the road; unabated, unpunished, unbearable to the kith and kin of the victims.
You hear of criminals being handed down the death penalty and life sentences for murder. Is this not murder? Driving the minibus over DU student Happy who was crossing the road violating a red light… dragging to death another DU girl Champa for yards at Palashi … knocking over a rickshaw almost in jest … racing on the highway where mad ego rules, and safety takes the backseat? Involuntary manslaughter in the least! Where is the law? Where is the justice for the common citizen?
Drivers drive away after hitting someone or something lightly because they fear they shall have to pay cash through their nose. And so they drive away as recklessly as possible because they are not afraid to kill, as then their entire community as well as the bludgeoning law enforcers will be on their side. Their vehicle shall at worse be seized, they shall go missing! Who drove the bus? How did the truck get here? Who was at the wheel when the minibus stopped? No one knows. Friends of the law enforcers are usually invisible.
Has there been one single incident when a traffic sergeant has mercilessly clubbed a bus driver for rash driving or for killing someone? But then some are protestors while some are murderers who go scot-free.
Has there been one single incident when police have fired one single rubber bullet at a killer truck driver? But then some are friends and sympathisers of the dead while some have armed friends and sympathisers.
Has there been one single incident when a police raid has been conducted to apprehend a minibus driver whose vehicle ploughed through a crowd of bystanders? But then some are people while some are not.
So many times it has been reported in the media that licensing of drivers is not transparent, that bus helpers take over the wheel to relieve the actual drivers, who knows if even that driver is licensed or not. But we have come to accept such news as fillers.
Possibly in the '80s a lady student was killed on the road between DU library and Rokeya Hall, prompting authorities to erect perhaps one of the earliest, if not the first, speed breakers in the city. To this day passing vehicles feel the bump but most do not know why.
Some years back, a female medical student was killed at the crossing of DMCH, DU law faculty and DU gymnasium. Initially flowers, then a raised mini roundabout and now nothing mark the place of the tragic occurrence. Has it been possible for her parents to cover the heartbreak with a layer of bitumen?
A commemorative plaque was built at Palashi Bazaar to denote the place where DU student Champa was slaughtered by a bus driver in 2001. Today it lies in neglect. Even the DCC trash collector wonders what this mass of bricks topped by a slab of decaying stone is doing in the middle of his business.
Unless and until we can hand out punitive measures to thoughtless and irresponsible drivers bus, truck, minibus, private cars, taxis, CNGs, the whole lot -- there is the fearful possibility of more accidents, more deaths, many more injuries.
The incongruity in the entire matter is that a solution is feasible.
Alongside the successful traffic lights and road layout, a vigorous media and ground level campaign is now in order to motivate, repeat motivate, all drivers (educated and not) to be considerate of human life, to encourage pedestrians to use over-bridge, footpath and zebra crossing, to explain to rickshaw-pullers the need to be more road-smart..
The encouraging factor is that most drivers have demonstrated their willingness to co-operate IF the law enforcers are tough, as is the case now at traffic lights. Unfortunately, police have also been seen stopping traffic flow manually when the lights are green and waving on traffic through red lights.
Senseless killing on the road within the city and on highways cannot be allowed to go on. Just spare a thought for the parents, children and the near ones of the victims.
Rampage by fellow students and roadblocks by people neighbouring a highway is not desirable either, and shall not be necessary. All we need is for the right people to feel that action NOW is deserved to save the next life. Please, for your sake, too.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005