Tuesday, 25 January, 2022
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Students’ Protest for Road Safety and Half Bus-fare

Sheikh Nahid Neazy

Students’ Protest for Road Safety and Half Bus-fare
Sheikh Nahid Neazy

Cronyism and corruption go hand in hand in transport sector that is a sheer anarchy!

This time a second-year student of Notre Dame College, Nayeem Hasan, was killed in a road accident on Wednesday, 24 November. A proxy driver was behind the steering wheel when a Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) garbage truck hit the student in Gulistan. Such horrendous news we heard! Consequently, students from different educational institutions, including Notre Dame College, took to the streets in Dhaka city demanding road safety and justice for the death of a fellow student in the accident. However, their protest was on for the second day and seems would continue!

We should not be oblivious of Abrar Ahmed, a first-year honours student of International Relations at Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP), who was killed as a ‘Suprovat Paribahan’ bus ran him over in front of Dhaka city’s Bashundhara Gate on 19 March 2019 at around 7:15 am. This was also very shocking and agitating. However, the killing of Abrar sparked a firestorm of students’ protest which blocked the capital’s Pragati Sarani for 10 hours. The entire area reverberated with the slogan “We want justice”.

We still remember the deadly road accident that occurred on 29 July 2018 in front of Kurmitola General Hospital on the Dhaka airport road. Afterwards, students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment School & College protested against the killing of their two fellows – Dia Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib – and the endless anarchy of public transport system in Bangladesh. Later their agitation, without harming anyone, spread fast across the country and made the students take to the streets. Enraged by the deaths of their friends, initially thousands of students – particularly school and college students – took to the streets of different areas in Dhaka city and made a nine-point demand including the exemplary punishment of the killer-driver of Jabal-e-Noor bus. They also demanded the resignation of the then shipping minister and sought proper justice immediately. Later the university students also joined them supporting their demand. Wearing school/college uniform the students, both boys and girls, descended on the streets to stand by their fellows and voice their concern furiously blocking the thoroughfares of the city. Two deaths in the deadliest road accident - which made the then minister laugh - triggered the anger of the youth and left the citizens shocked and speechless. Truly speaking, our children at this tender age showed the country people their potential, unity and courage to stand collectively for a noble cause demanding public safety and security on the roads throughout the country. However, their protest ended up in violence and conspiracy!

Angered and shocked by the death of Notre Dame College student Nayeem, hundreds of students from various educational institutions took to the streets and blocked the road in front of Shapla Chattar, Motijheel, Farmgate and other thoroughfares of the city halting the traffic movement for hours on Thursday. They made a demonstration urging the government to listen to them and demanded safety, security and better transport services. Students expressed their solidarity taking position in front of their respective institutions. They left the streets giving a 48-hour ultimatum and said that their movement would continue until their demands are met.

Once again the students’ protest – spontaneous and meaningful – gave a very clear message to the policy makers that the youths do not have confidence in the rotten corrupt system. Their protest is the culmination of the incessant chaos prevailing in transport sector. And the wicked corrupt political nexus - between some of the government authorities and the transport owners - is the root cause of the never-ending anarchy in this sector.

In 2018, the students’ road safety movement – dubbed as “we want justice” – made a big blow to the government organizations like BRTA and the ministry concerned because a sorry picture of systematic flaws and rampant corruption had been revealed. This is very unfortunate that despite some significant development works done over the years, the government could not bring about any substantial changes in the public transport sector which has long been crippled by the unscrupulous corrupt syndicate. In fact, Dhaka city has been ruinously choked by the uncontrolled traffic congestion and poor transport system. And, unfortunately, the road safety law has not been implemented yet.

What is alarming is that today’s youth – the millennium generation – seems to have lost their faith in the corrupt state machinery. Since they have unlimited access to internet, they now easily get to know the rest of the world and the better transport system. They seem to be indifferent to Bangladeshi politics because they experience its dirty practices and bleak outcomes. They are pissed off, frustrated and helpless because they do not get modern urban facilities in the cities. Their pent-up frustration or anger over the negligence of the government authorities concerned regarding the chaotic transport system or traffic management has made them furious over the years. And the consequence is what we have been experiencing now.

The placards – “We want justice”; “We want safe road”; “Stop harassment” – they were found holding say it all that they want justice and they demand safety on the roads. Their demand is very democratic, timely and justified. They feel that their voices go unheard and they are deprived of their right to natural death. Today’s protest has once again made the government perceive that the youth’s voice has become stronger and their unity has also become stronger. Ultimately they have given a clear message to the government that enough is enough. Indeed, the whole transport system requires a major overhaul without any procrastination and excuse.

Now it is high time the government seriously listened to the millennium generation, met the popular demands raised by the protesting students and ensured road safety across the country by strictly implementing the transport law (Transport & Public Safety Act 2018) immediately. The government should believe in the youth’s potential, capability and intelligence. I reckon the government has already understood how to handle the situation without applying any coercive force on the protesting students. Discussing with all the stakeholders, the government should find a sustainable solution to the problem and resolve it by modernizing the city transport system as soon as possible. We believe the millennium generation – the harbingers of change – can make a positive change that will help bring about a cultural/social revolution! 

 

The writer is an associate professor & chair, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh. He can be reached at: [email protected]