Much to the frustration of family members of victims and justice seekers, reckless drivers are rarely punished even if they cause loss of life.
“Killer drivers are on the road unchallenged. But we are yet to get justice,” said Shahjahan Kabir at a rally at Central Shaheed Minar yesterday.
He added, “I am a poor farmer. My only son was crushed to death by a recklessly driven bus. I went to different ministries and offices in the last three years, seeking justice and compensation. I have got nothing.”
His son Saiful Islam Rana, 26, was a nurse at Dhaka Community Medical College and Hospital in Moghbazar. He was killed on August 3, 2018, after a speeding bus hit his motorcycle from behind near his workplace.
He died at a time when there were widespread student-led demonstrations across the country for safe roads. The grieving family members and friends of the victims attended the rally yesterday as students have been demonstrating again for weeks demanding safer roads.
A group of students under the banner Nirapad Sarak Andolon held the rally. Many of the speakers expressed their helplessness and burst into tears.
Shajahan said the bus which killed his son was still plying the Dhaka-Satkhira highway. “I want justice for my son and anyone who had died on the road because of reckless driving.”
Saiful’s mother and sister were also present at the program.
“We beg the prime minister to see that we get justice for my brother,” said Saiful’s sister Jannatul Juthi.
In July 2018, the widespread demonstration for road safety was triggered by the deaths of two college students, Abdul Karim Rajib and Dia Khanam Mim, in a crash in the capital.
The current demonstrations began on November 18 after bus fares were raised following a hike in diesel prices. The protests began in reaction to the hiked bus fares. But the demonstrations soon gained momentum after two students got killed in the capital by recklessly driven vehicles.
State University student Inzamul Haque Ramim, a road safety campaigner, said his father, who was a policeman, died in 2017 being run over by a bus. “We have yet to get justice.”
Ramim said, “We, the students, have been on the roads since 2018, with a nine-point demand. Our demands have not been met.”
Jagannath University student Shahidul Islam Apon said, “We live in a country where parents fear that their children would return home dead because of road crashes. Many dreams have been shattered on the roads. We know that the transport company owners instruct drivers to drive hastily to be able to make more money. Many novice drivers are getting licenses before they are fully trained. That’s why the number of deaths on roads is increasing.”
Mohidul Islam Daud, another road safety campaigner, said, “Even in the 50 years of independence, there is no discipline on the roads. A student of Noakhali Science and Technology University was killed three days ago. The young ones who would run the country in the future are being killed on roads.”
The protestors demanded realization of the nine-point demand that include compensation for those killed and injured in road crashes and half-fare for students on all modes of public transport across the country ensured through a government order.
If their demands are not met by December 14, they would begin a hunger strike from December 15, in front of the Secretariat in the capital and in front of the deputy commissioners’ offices in the districts.