Road safety remains a far cry as the authorities have failed to meet the expectations of citizens, according to experts.
Road safety is in a cancerous state now, a problem on which the authorities must act immediately to free roads of anarchy and make them safer for citizens, they said at a seminar, titled 'Safe Roads: When? How?' on Saturday.
Moshiur Rahman Ranga MP, president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said that in Dhaka most bus owners prefer to appoint drivers on a daily basis as opposed to paying them monthly wages because it brings them more profit.
"We have, however, implemented monthly wages and bonus outside but failed to make the bus owners in Dhaka understand it," he said at the event, moderated by Shyamal Dutta, presidium member of the Editors' Guild and editor of the daily Bhorer Kagoj.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder said he feels sad that anarchy still grips the roads owing to a lack of enforcement of traffic rules.
"We can't say that the Road Transport Act 2018 has not been implemented yet. After enacting the law, we need it to be enforced and we need to obey. When most people are not conscious of adhering to the law then we can't do changes all by ourselves," he added.
Barrister Selim Altaf George MP, member of the Standing Committee on Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, said only blaming those concerned will not yield any result.
"Bureaucrats, influential people and politicians are benefiting from the anarchy on the roads. A movement to establish discipline on roads can prove to be an unpopular one. That is why they rather choose to remain silent," he added.
Humayun Rashid Khalifa, an urban transport expert, said that a 20-kilometre BRT project comprises several consultants, contractors, three project directors from Roads and Highways Department but a 520-kilometre Dhaka road rationalisation has no manpower to bring about changes in city transport.
"Then how can you establish discipline on Dhaka roads," he asked.
Usmal Ali, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, said transport workers are the ones who always get the blame.
"It's not entirely true that we didn't want to comply with the act. We just wanted a few amendments to the newly enacted law," he added.
The transport leader also claimed that those who are responsible for ensuring the implementation of the law do not comply with the rules themselves.
"For instance, we recommended several times that the illegal makeshift fish markets in the Jatrabari area be evicted and asked for a transport terminal in that three-kilometre RHD land but they didn't pay heed to our demands. The government does not pay a penny for the truck drivers, for the transport workers. They only blame transport workers for the road accidents," he said.
Mentioning the death of eminent film director Tareq Masud in a road accident in the Manikganj area, he said the death of driver Jomir Ali was what he termed "social crossfire" and although it was proven in BUET research that he was not at fault, he had to die in prison.
Saidur Rahman, executive director of the Road Safety Foundation, said till 28 October of this year 4,617 accidents have taken place, 5,484 people have died and another 8013 have been injured, according to the findings of his organisation.
"We talk about how we can bring back safer roads, but the fact is roads were never safe in the first place," he said, adding, "a vested group has become more powerful as they benefit more when more irregularities exist."
He claimed the vested group is more powerful than the government.
Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, claimed that the law itself is not equal to all.
"When fines have been increased in the new law, traffic sergeants refrain from fining any influential politicians or even journalists but they fine general people and drivers," he said.
Iqbal Habib, Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said that road safety is a significant matter for all, all the way from the prime minister to a cobbler in the street.
"To recover from this cancerous state, a real remedy is required. The problem has been identified in detail but the solution is not being implemented," he said. ***