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Roads of death

  • Published at 12:03 am September 14th, 2019
Road Accident
Photo: RAJIB DHAR

How many more lives will we lose to greed? 

Every morning, when I commute to my workplace, I have to travel through a road that is almost like a terrain on the moon surface. It’s clear to everybody that the builders of that road have not been honest to the payment that they received for their work. The vehicle that I commute on has to have a speed of 10 kilometres per hour. I don’t mind that. But if you need to stop for any traffic-related reason, the drivers behind my vehicle start honking like crazy monkeys.

This road isn’t alone. This crazy tendency to go as fast as possible has been going all over the country. We go into some kind of frenzy whenever we sit behind the wheel. We become intolerant and indisciplined, which causes thousands of traffic-related deaths across the country.

I have noticed that the time of religious festivals in Bangladesh are the peak seasons for deaths by road accidents. According to media reports, a total of 221 people were killed in road crashes across the country during the 12 days of Eid-ul-Fitr holidays. And this number went up to 224 during Eid-ul-Azha. These are sad examples when festivals turn into national tragedies. 

A press statement released by Shipping and Communication Reporters Forum recently claimed that road crashes killed at least 3,075 people across Bangladesh this year, between January 1 and August 31. A total of 2,807 road accidents had occurred. Among the dead, there were 384 women and 478 children. Some 5,697 others were also wounded during this period. The figures were collected from 22 national dailies, 10 regional newspapers, and eight online news portals and news agencies.

Among many reasons behind these deaths, engaging untrained drivers is one of the pivotal causes. Allow me to quote a few media reports.

On August 27, a bus belonging to Trust Service hit the pavement and run over a BIWTC official Krishna Roy in Dhaka’s Bangla Motor. The person who was driving the bus wasn’t the driver. The media reports said that was the first time he sat behind a steering wheel.

On September 6, musician Parvez Rob was run over by a bus driver of Victor Classic Poribohon in Uttara. Parvez was killed. Later, we came to know that the actual driver wasn’t driving the bus. On the same day, a pedestrian Farha Naz was killed by a bus of Cantonment Mini Service in Mohakhali. Eyewitnesses reportedly said that the vehicle was being driven by a 16-year-old boy. Another bus of the same service hit a rickshaw in Chairmanbari area; its driver was also a 15-year-old boy. Earlier on March 19, a bus belonging to Suprobhat Poribohon ran over a university student Abrar on a zebra-crossing in Nodda. The person who was driving the bus was, again, not the real driver of the bus.

While our roads are dangerous due to such drivers, they are also unsafe both geometrically and in terms of durability of the infrastructure. 

A newspaper report earlier this week said that Bangladesh spends more money per kilometre on its roads than what India, China, and various European countries spend. But the roads become dilapidated in no time. A few days of rain is good enough to destroy all the newly-built roads. The report claimed that a racket of engineers and contractors are responsible for this. They don’t apply adequate amount of materials required for building a new road. But they are getting paid exuberantly for an ill-done job. Ditch-like holes appear on the roads very soon and those contractors then get new work orders to repair them.

Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader has, however, recently said that the road-construction cost in our country is higher than that of India and China due to the difference in soil conditions. We may agree with that claim. But why are the conditions of the roads so poor?

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index has announced that Bangladesh has the second-worst roads in Asia. The roads are open to all, and we experience them on a daily basis. While we may agree that the soil condition is different than in other countries, we also know that the money that is spent to build the roads is not properly utilized -- going into the pockets of people involved in different of stages of the road construction.

Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that corruption is among the reasons for all these deaths that could be avoided if we were a bit less greedy.

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.