1,789 people were killed in 1,849 road accidents across the country from January to August this year
Although the High Court issued 22 specific directives to ensure road safety across Bangladesh nearly five years ago, the government's initiatives are not practically visible in checking unwanted deaths on roads, experts have said.
They expressed their concern about the growing number of deaths due to unstoppable road accidents and blamed the lack of firm determination on the part of the government to reduce such accidents and loss of lives.
According to the Accident Research Institute (ARI), 1,789 people were killed in 1,849 road accidents across the country from January to August this year.
ARI, however, did not collect data in June owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), which depends on police records only for such data, said 276 people lost their lives in 317 accidents across the country in June.
According to ARI, 4,147 road accidents claimed 4,138 lives in 2019, while 3,910 people were killed in 3,563 accidents in 2018.
Among the High Court directives issued on December 7, 2015, some of the major points were -- removing unauthorized structures from highways, identification and construction of necessary level crossings, flyovers, railway overpasses/underpasses, maintaining a "database" regarding road accidents with detailed descriptions of every particular accident, inclusion of important traffic rules in school curricula and taking appropriate steps to broadcast traffic rules on electronic media and also to publish them in print media to create awareness amongst citizens.
Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, said: "Following the High Court directives many petrol pumps put up signboards with the message, 'no fitness, no fuel', but we are observing a different reality where unfit vehicles are collecting fuel.
"Still more than 90% of structures have not been removed from highways. At least 250 accident black spots have been found across the country though the number was 144 earlier."
Mozammel said: "As we know, more than 1,000,000 unfit vehicles are running all over the country, but the BRTA last year informed the High Court that 458,369 unfit vehicles were plying across the country.
The secretary general of the passengers' welfare organization cast doubts on the accuracy of the accident database maintained by the BRTA.
According to the road transport authority, around 1,600 accidents take place in a year in the country, he said, but the real situation is utterly different from the statistics.
Advocate Manzill Murshid, president of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), told Dhaka Tribune that the ministry (Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges) concerned was sincere about implementing all the directives but many local lawmakers were creating obstacles to a removal of bazaars and other establishments from roads and highways.
"The local administration [deputy commissioner] also does not show much interest in removing unauthorized structures from highways."
Mohammad Abdur Razzak, deputy director (law and enforcement) of BRTA, said: "We are working to implement the High Court directives and to date seven progress reports have been sent to the ministry."
The deputy director, however, admitted that he was not aware of the specific progress of the directives.
When asked about the implementation of directives, Deputy Secretary Mohammad Ashraful Alam Khan, who has been assigned to the BRTA, suggested contacting the BRTA chairman for information on the issue.
BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder could not be reached over mobile phone despite repeated attempts.
'It was possible to implement half of the HC directives immediately'
Syed Abul Maksud, a member of the National Road Safety Council, told Dhaka Tribune that he believed it was possible to implement half of the High Court directives immediately.
Mentioning that the council submitted a report to the prime minister with recommendations last year, he said: "Although I signed the report as a member of the council, I do not consider the recommendations much important."
He said: "Most of the directives have not been implemented. How is it possible if the same individual becomes the leader of workers and owners of vehicles?"
Besides, a maximum number of members of the council were from the ruling party, which was another cause for the failure to implement the HC directives, he opined.
Syed Abul Maksud said many committees had been formed on road safety issues and government officials finished their responsibilities only by limiting themselves to a formation of committees.