Rescue mission underway at river Buriganga on 29 June 2020.
Rescue mission underway at river Buriganga on 29 June 2020.Suvra Kanti Das

It seems there is nothing more trivial than the life of people in Bangladesh. Road, waterways—all the ways of communication have become highly unsafe for the people. Despite there being fewer passengers and less transport due to coronavirus, there were 325 deaths on the roads between 25 March and 25 May. The 26 June launch accident in Buriganga clearly showed that the waterways too are not safe.

Launch accidents generally take place due to overloading during storms or inclement weather. Due to this, restrictions are imposed on plying vessels in such weather, but there were no natural calamities in Buriganga on the day. The launch, MV Morning Bird, had left Munshiganj on 8:15am and reached Shyampur near Sadarghat at around 9:15am. According to witnesses, Chandpur-bound launch Mayur-2 crashed into it while taking a turn. Morning Bird sank within seconds. According to the rescued passengers, there were 50-60 passengers onboard in the capsized launch. So far, 34 bodies have been recovered.

Whether any other bodies were inside can only be said only after Morning Bird is salvaged from the water. There were obstacles in the salvage mission too. Till Tuesday morning, the BIWTA salvage vessel could not reach the spot because of the Postogola bridge. The vessel also made a crack in the bridge. However, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has formed a three-member committee when the shipping ministry has formed a seven-member one to probe the launch accident. Though a case has been filed against Mayur-2 owner and three have also been detained, the helmsman is still at large.

Stern action must be taken against the wrong-doers so that so many people do not die in such accidents in future. No one should be spared due to legal loopholes or power.

The probe committee is now entitled to investigate the cause of the accident while it is the duty of the government to take legal action against the responsible ones. Shipping minister Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said it seemed like a murder after watching the video footage. This is not a responsible comment from a minister before the probe is finished. Many witnesses said the accident took place as the helmsman of Mayur-2 was unskilled and rash. This must also be probed whether there were any technical issues with the launch.

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In the past, the people were kept in the dark on the whereabouts of the probes including the recommendations made. The influential launch owners have obstructed probes as well as implementation of the recommendations. We expect this will not be repeated. Order cannot be restored to the waterways unless the reason of the accident is unearthed and the culprits are punished.

The vessel owners do not follow the conditions imposed by the Inland Water Transport Authority Ordinance. They consider themselves above the law. According to concerned quarters, there are regular accidents on the waterways, but these make no news. The authorities too do not pay heed unless the accident is large-scale.

The government has announced Tk 150,000 in compensation for each of the families of the deceased. It should also take the responsibility to treat the critically injured.

Stern action must be taken against the wrong-doers so that so many people do not die in such accidents in future. No one should be spared due to legal loopholes or power.

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