The movement by students for safer roads had moved the authorities into action and the Bangladesh Road Transport Act-2018 was enacted last August but it has not been implemented as yet. People are still being killed and maimed on our roads but from what has been revealed by the media, the Act is facing a lot of resistance from transport leaders who are adamant about changing some provisions in the law. One of the sticking points is making all offences under the law “bail-able”. The fact that the authorities have failed to issue gazette notification merely shows how much power these transport associations wield over government decision-making. That is all too evident by the two-day strike enforced by transport workers at the end of October, 2018 where even people in ambulances weren’t allowed to get to hospitals and an infant had died as a consequence.
When will the Act be implemented? We are informed that the committee comprising law, home and railway ministers held its first meeting with transport leaders on July 14, and that several more stakeholders’ meetings are scheduled later this year. It appears the authorities are bending over backwards to accommodate the interests of transport associations and their unfit drivers and vehicles. But what about the road safety activist groups and the general public who are at the receiving end of reckless driving—do their voices not count? Safety of the roads and the passengers must not be sacrificed on the altar of the owners’ and drivers’ parochial interests.
However, in the interests of public safety, can the government actually afford to cave in to some of the more preposterous demands like relaxing rules about minimum educational qualification (Grade 8) and the introduction of a 12-point system—a failure to uphold which could lead to the cancellation of driver’s license?
The whole point of the Act was to ensure punishment for breaking traffic laws and making the roads safe for people to travel on. The proposed Act is already diluted at inception, and if the authorities succumb to further pressure, then the law won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on and it will be another victory for big business over citizens’ demands for safer roads.