The most shocking headline I saw on Friday was "11 people returned dead after holiday trip." They are teachers and students of various schools and colleges in Chittagong. They went to have a picnic at KhaiyachhraJharna by collecting subscriptions from a local coaching center. On Friday (July 29) around 2:15 pm, the microbus carrying them was hit by a train in Mirsarai'sBartakia railway station area. Five more people were injured in this incident. Four of them were teachers. The rest are students. Among them, six are SSC candidates and the remaining four are class XI students. What tragic event? But no one will go for a walk?
This is not the case. Travel is also necessary for a healthy and beautiful life. But where the end of such an accident? Are we going to be insecure day by day? Can't we keep our lives safe? 11 assets blown in a second. They had an unlimited future ahead of them. Today's students are tomorrow's resources.
It is not the end here, every day the country's elite, distinguished and ordinary citizens are pouring on the roads under different titles. There are men and women, children and old people of different ages. Even though there is a lot of writing and a lot of viewing, it is not missing daily reports on tragic road accidents, readers are not avoiding reading news of tragic deaths. Even if the investigation committee is done, it is not being properly addressed. It's not like there haven't been more accidents at the railway crossing before this incident. On Thursday (July 21) around 9:00 pm, a mixer machine and a worker-carrying bus collided with the Gopalganj-bound Tungipara Express leaving Rajshahi at Kashiani in Gopalganj. Five workers in the boat were killed. A few others were injured. An inquiry committee has also been formed into the incident.
There have been inquiry committees in the past but the question remains as to why accidents are increasing. I want to know why the railway remains unprotected. According to railway sources, there are a total of 2,856 railway crossings across the country. Of these, 1,361 are not approved. Again, out of 1,495 valid crossings, 632 crossings do not have gatemen. It is known that 1000 people have died in railway accidents across the country in the last four years. More than 1500 people were injured and crippled. 89 percent of all rail accident fatalities are caused by unsafe level crossings. About 84 percent of railway level crossings (legal-illegal) are unprotected. And common people's lives are often lost in these crossings. But making these crossings safe is not a priority of the authorities.
524 people were killed in road accidents last June. 204 of them were killed in motorcycle accidents. The Road Safety Foundation has informed this information in a report based on information from 9 national dailies, 7 online news portals and electronic media. In the previous month (May 2022), 641 people died in road accidents. According to the report, there were 467 accidents on the country's roads in June. 524 people were killed and 821 people were injured in these accidents. Among the dead, 68 women and 73 children. 204 people died in 197 motorcycle accidents, which is 38.93 percent of the total deaths. 107 pedestrians were killed in the accident which is 20.41 percent of the total fatalities. 86 people or 16.41 percent of vehicle drivers and assistants were killed. During this time, 9 people were killed, 16 people were injured and 3 people were missing in 8 boating accidents. 16 killed and 4 injured in 18 railway accidents. Among the vehicles involved in accidents- Truck-Coveredvan-Pickup 26.22, Passenger Bus 9.83%, Motorcycle 26.73%, Three-Wheeler (Easybike-CNG-Autorickshaw-Autovan-Laguna-Human Hauler) 18.78%, Locally Manufactured Vehicles-(Nasimon-Bhavati-TomTom-Mahindra-Chander Cars) 6.43%.
Division wise statistics of accidents say that Dhaka division has the highest number of accidents and fatalities with 117. 139 people were killed in these accidents. 14 people were killed in the least 13 accidents in Sylhet division. Dhaka district as a single district has seen the highest number of accidents and fatalities. An average of 17.46 people were killed in road accidents last June. An average of 21 people were killed every day in May. Accidents are increasing at an abnormal rate. Despite the corona epidemic, according to the government, road accident deaths in the country have increased by almost 30 percent in the last one year. However, there were restrictions on the movement of public transport for a total of 85 days in the country in several stages last year to control the spread of Corona.
However, according to the police, compared to 2020, road accident deaths in the country increased by more than 1,000 in 2021. So this accident is becoming a regular occurrence. According to a report published by the World Bank in February last year, 67 percent of those who lost their lives in road accidents in Bangladesh were economically active (aged 15-64). And according to the Road Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET), the financial amount of road accidents and its effects in the country is about Tk 40 thousand crores annually. So the accident is tragic as well as hurting the economy.
I am looking at the causes, types, places and solutions of road accidents, but the question is why it is not being implemented, maybe like me. In order to make unsafe roads safe, we need to make roads safe as well as railways. Along with this, pedestrians should also be made aware of safety and safe movement. And this total responsibility should be taken by the government. According to information related to railways, development projects worth 1 lakh 63 thousand crore rupees have been taken up in the railways in the past period.
However, no large amount of project implementation is seen to prevent accidents at railway level crossings. Even investing less than 1 percent of the massive investment in railways so far and the ongoing allocation makes railways safer. But the railway officials are not paying attention to these projects. That's why one accident is repeated without stopping another accident. The authorities settled the liability by hanging a small warning notice at the unguarded level crossing. But never once think it is a death trap named crossing. Whenever an accident occurs the person responsible is suspended. An investigation committee was formed under cover. But no action is taken as per the recommendations of inquiry committee report.
According to railway sources, there are 2 thousand 955 kilometers of railways in the whole country. Somewhere the road has passed over this railway line. This junction of rail and road is called a level crossing. Railway authorities classify them as legal-illegal, guarded (manned), unguarded (unmanned). Guarded crossings have iron barriers. The watchman received the signal of the approaching train and lowered the barriers to control the movement of other vehicles. As a result, if the guard does not make a mistake, there is no chance of a collision between the train and the vehicle. Guarded and barred railway crossings therefore have very few accidents. Unguarded Crossings Deaths at unguarded level crossings are on the rise. 90 percent of accidents are caused by over speeding and careless attitude of the driver.
Moreover, accidents are increasing due to the increase in the number of motorcycles and the movement of small vehicles in recent times. Although the government has announced the ban on the movement of small illegal vehicles on highways and important roads, it has not been implemented. Apart from this, registration of motorcycles has been given without any discrimination in the last decade. However, the government did not monitor the issue of ensuring helmets, speed control and driver's license on motorcycles. Liability for catastrophic accidents varies from case to case.
However, the government's responsibility in tragic events is the same. Because the government has to work with railways, roads and pedestrians. Government should take proper decision to prevent accidents. I don't know why the government is not taking a strict stance to make the roads safe. Monitoring needs to be strengthened especially to control the movement of vehicles on roads. Strict measures should be taken to issue driver's licenses. Because giving a license to an incompetent driver means handing him a death machine. There is no compromise on providing required car fitness certificate. The government has to take responsibility to make the pedestrians obey and aware of the traffic laws to be safe on the unsafe roads, to make the unsafe aspects of the roads and railways safe. But there will be no repeat of the tragic accident. The road will be safe.
Gopal Odikari is a Journalist and columnist.