At least 54 students were killed in crashes on roads across the country last month, according to a road safety campaign.
They are among the 413 people killed in 379 crashes that left 532 others injured last month. Among the dead, were 58 children not counted as students, said the Road Safety Foundation in a report yesterday.
The information was released amid continued student demonstrations for road safety.
Asked about the authority’s failure to ensure road safety, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday seemed to underplay the crisis, saying 17 people get killed in crashes every hour in India. He also said a political party was behind the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, at least five people, including a private university student and an HSC examinee, were killed yesterday in clashes in Dhaka, Chattogram, and Tangail. No arrest was reported in connection with the incidents.
However, police in Rampura arrested a man named Swapan Reza, 25, around 5:00 pm yesterday on charges of vandalizing buses in Rampura on November 29 after a school student was crushed to death by a bus of Anabil Paribahan. The bus had neither a route permit nor an updated tax token.
Angry locals vandalized at least 12 buses in the area after the tragedy. Several of the buses didn’t have proper documents to be on the road.
Yesterday’s arrestee Swapan is a chauffeur by profession, said Rafiqul Islam, officer-in-charge of Rampura Police Station.
“We have found his involvement while investigating the vandalism cases,” he said, adding that whether or not he has political affiliations will be disclosed later.
In Hatirjheel, police detained a teenager to interrogate him over vandalizing the buses, said Sub-inspector Shahjahan of Hatirjheel Police Station.
On November 30, police arrested Shahid Bepari, 22, a street vendor, in the same case.
14 DIE ON ROADS EVERY DAY
The Road Safety Foundation came up with the numbers by keeping track of news reports. On average, 14 people got killed on the roads every day last month.
The actual number of victims could be much higher because many incidents go unreported and the media reports often do not account for individuals who die of injuries after the crashes.
Of the 413 who died last month, 184 died in 158 crashes involving motorcycles. At least 96 were pedestrians and 53 were drivers and their helpers.
Around 41 percent of the crashes happened on national highways, 34.56 percent on regional highways, and the rest on other roads.
The foundation attributed the deaths and injuries to risky vehicles, speeding, reckless and unskilled drivers, slow-moving vehicles on highways, reckless motorcycle riders, and inadequate traffic management.
The organization also made 10 recommendations for reducing crashes that include initiatives for creating skilled drivers and fixing work hours for drivers.
WHAT QUADER SAYS
At an awareness-raising program of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) on Manik Mia Avenue, Quader said the government was working to ensure road safety.
But the country is witnessing the second major movement for road safety, and according to a government report, the number of road crashes is increasing.
When asked why they were failing to ensure road safety, Quader, also the general secretary of ruling Awami League, did not give a direct reply.
“I want to compare [Bangladesh] with other countries. According to an NDTV report, 17 people get killed every hour in India [due to road crashes],” he said.
He added that fatalities in crashes have increased because of small vehicles and motorcycles.
“I think the number of accidents has decreased, but the rate of casualties in road accidents has increased due to the operation of easy bikes and other small vehicles along with heavy vehicles,” he said.
However, a police report says 2,635 people were killed in 2,629 road crashes in 2018 while 3,502 were killed in 3,701 crashes in just the first eight months of this year.
About the student demonstrations, he alleged that the movement was fanned by the instigation of a political party.
A leader of Dhaka city unit of a political party is leading the movement in disguise of a student, he said, adding that there is footage of the movement and action would be taken as per the law.
Meanwhile, students who were protesting at the capital’s Rampura to realize an 11-point demand, yesterday showed red cards to irregularities and corruption on the roads.
“We are showing red cards in protest of corruption and irregularities in the same way referees show red cards to errant players in football matches,” said Khilgaon Model College student Shohagi Samia.
She announced that students will form a human chain today on the footpath near Rampura Bridge.
About Quader’s comments, the protesters said the government wanted to malign the legitimate movement.
Another group of students said they would hold a symbolic funeral procession in Shahbagh and form human chains in other parts of the country to realize their nine-point demand for safe roads.
The protesters will wage a stronger movement if their demands are not met by December 10, State University student Inzamul Haque Ramim said on Rampura Bridge yesterday.
The students have been demonstrating road safety following the death of Notre Dame College student Nayeem Hasan on November 24. The death of another student, Mainuddin Islam, five days later at Rampura intensified the protests.