Road safety: Students to hold more protests Sunday

Students are set to continue demonstrations to press home their 11-point demand for road safety and half bus fares.

On Sunday, the protesters will arrange a symbolic funeral procession at Shahbagh at 12 noon, as well as various human chains across the country.

Peaceful human chains will be organized in localities at times that are convenient for students, according to State University student Inzamul Haque.

The protesters announced the new programs during a human chain at the Rampura Bridge at around 11am on Saturday. The protesters stayed in the area for about an hour and showed red cards to those who violated traffic rules and government officials involved in road management.

The students said they would wage a tougher movement if their demands were not met by December 10.

Sohagi Samia, a student of Khilgaon Model College, said that the red cards had been shown in protest against different kinds of corruption, looting and mismanagement in the transport sector. 

She said the government should take action against those operating unfit vehicles and without driving licences. 

“There should be strict punishment for traffic police if they take bribes on the road from drivers,” she added.

The protesters also called for a unified public transport system to stop unhealthy competition among drivers, and to ensure that only properly vetted drivers could drive heavy vehicles.

Furthermore, they demanded that working hours for drivers be limited to no more than eight hours a day.

The students also denounced Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader's recent claims that political parties had incited the safe roads movement by students.

“The government wants to shame the logical movement for safe roads,” one protester said.

Meanwhile, students blocked a lane of the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway in Tongi in the demand for a 50% discount on bus fares, momentarily disrupting traffic movement to Mymensingh.

Referring to the bus owners’ decision to only charge students in Dhaka city half fares, protesting students of Safiuddin Sarker Academy and College said half fares must be arranged for all students of the country.

Students studying at educational institutions outside Dhaka should not be treated differently, they said.

The demonstrators blocked the highway at 10:30am and left the place half an hour later, after being assured by senior police officials that the government would soon resolve the issue.

Passenger Welfare Association backs students

On Saturday, the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association at a press conference in the capital urged the government to allow students half fare on all modes of transport.   

The organisation’s Secretary General Mozammel Haque Chowdhury said: “Although the government announced half fares for students on BRTC buses across the country and the bus owners also agreed the same in the Dhaka Metropolitan area, the decision has not been implemented fully in reality.” 

Some students were still facing harassment and were being denied entry on buses when they wanted to pay half fares, he added.

He also said the government should not be held hostage by the current leadership of bus owners and workers. “Bus owners should be made to bring about positive changes.”

After a long standoff with the government, bus owners on November 30 finally agreed to cut fares by half for students travelling on buses, but only in Dhaka city.

Following the announcement, students categorically rejected the discriminatory decision and staged a demonstration outside the BRTA office the same day.

They said they would continue their protests until the government issued a gazette meeting their nine-point demand, including halving fares for students on all public transports across the country.

On November 3, the government raised the prices of diesel and kerosene by Tk15 per litre, prompting transport owners to enforce an indefinite strike in the country on November 7 demanding a hike in bus fares.

Amid the woes of the public caused by the strike, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) raised the fares of city service and long-haul buses by more than 25%.

Following the fare hike, students started demonstrating on the streets of Dhaka demanding half fares on public transports.

The student protests gained traction with the added demand for road safety following the death of a Notre Dame College student under the wheels of a garbage truck on November 24.

Since then, demonstrators have been blockading different streets and intersections of the city to press home their demands.

On November 29, another student who took the SSC exams this year was run over and killed by a bus in Dhaka’s Rampura. Two more students were killed in road accidents in Dhaka while the protests continued. 

The incident in Rampura prompted an agitated mob to torch at least eight buses in the area, and further stoked concerns over reckless driving and safety on roads.

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