Last Wednesday was a significant day for Bangladesh. The seventh span of the much dreamt about Padma bridge was set up on that day, a feat highly focused in the media. There was another common, unexciting, and old item on the news menu too. Seven people including six of a family were crushed under a truck at Lakshmipur.
Good stories are hardly there and old things do not attract us. This way sheer facts get lost in the abyss of news every day. Road accidents in Bangladesh are such an item. The day you are reading this piece, 20 people are dying on the roads as per the statistics.
The estimated annual loss caused by road accidents is around Tk 400 billion while the majority of the victims were children, youth and members of the working force. Also, 63,000 people survived, but sustained injuries in those accidents.
The estimated cost for Padma bridge has increased in several phases and soared over Tk 300 billion. The price we pay in just a year on the roads by the way of road mishaps, is more than the cost of a Padma bridge.
There is more. The losses account for 2 to 3 per cent loss of the annual GDP too. The financial loss can be calculated from even more angles. What about the human story?
The secretary general of Jatri Kalyan Samity, Mozammel Haque, earlier told the media that the number of deaths is more than that in the war-torn Afghanistan or Iraq.
Deaths on roads include every sort of life story here. Are you going to marry or are among the bridesmaids on a microbus on the way to a wedding? Are you going home to spend your Eid holidays? Are you returning from tuition in the city and hanging precariously perched on the edge of a 'human hauler'? Are you sleeping on the dusty floor of a brick kiln?
Are you a mother holding your child tight to your breast while crossing the road? Are you a student waiting for the bus at the bus stop? Are you an elderly person forced to take the main road as there is no space in the footpath? Are you crossing a one way lane keeping your eye only on the 'right side'?
Beware, because all such people have died on the roads in Bangladesh.
The families were compensated in some cases too. Take Tareque Masud. Did the 46 million taka compensate for his death or compensate our film industry? Neither did it compensate any mother like that of infant Akifa.
For years, Dhaka has 54 identified risky intersections for pedestrians. About 2 million vehicles are running across the country and there are only 41 fitness inspectors. Prothom Alo reports say the country needs at least 900,000 more professional drivers. A driver must not drive more than eight hours a day and not more than five hours at a stretch as per the motor vehicles ordinance.
There are hundreds of reports and statistics of the anarchy on roads here. They are there for years and increasing every day, but the loss is forever, be it the death of a driver, a pedestrian or a passenger.
These are perhaps easily forgettable. But the flyovers are never forgotten to be opened in a hurry no matter if only two of the ramps are completed in place of four. Also, similar structures are opened in extravagant show, but, ironically said to have only contributed to intensify the traffic gridlock.
Are these problems new? It is true things cannot be solved 'overnight', but this is also true any honest attempt would be visible either, if there were any.
Such a large scale disaster has never, apparently, spoiled a good night's sleep of any of our concerned politicians. The unceasing deaths not could restrain their reckless 'mouth' either. After all, they are protected by that impregnable wall called impunity.