Unsafe roads: How many more deaths, rapes will wake the authorities up

The incident of robbery and rape in a bus was followed by another incident of rape in the public transport. The female victim is currently undergoing treatment at Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College Hospital in Gazipur.

According to Prothom Alo, a couple who came by bus from Naogaon got down at Bhogra bypass area of ​​Gazipur early on Saturday morning. From there, they travelled to Mauna in a Taqwa Paribahan minibus plying on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway.

There were already two staff in the bus and three more got on as it reached Chandana Chaurasta. When the other passengers got off the bus, the staff pushed the husband and the five staff raped his wife inside the moving bus. According to the police, the bus workers dropped the female passenger at Rajendrapur intersection. Before that, they snatched money and mobile phones from the husband and wife.

We must admit the law enforcement quickly nabbed the miscreants. But why the owner of the transport company will not be brought under the law? It is necessary to investigate whether the minibus had all the documents according to the law? Were the workers employed by the transport company or not? When a passenger boards a public transport, his safety is the responsibility of that transport. And here the defenders have played the role of the predator. How many more robberies and rapes will it take to shake the authorities?

A Prothom Alo report says the issue of passenger protection is only in the law, not in reality. Transport owners and workers do not obey the law, instead get away with any crime easily. There are highway police on the highways, but they are not proactive. Although it is prohibited in the rule for inter-district buses to pick up passengers except at specified stoppages, it is happening frequently. The Eagle Paribahan bus in which the robbery and rape took place stopped and picked up passengers arbitrarily.

Around 4166 people died on roads in seven months from January to July this year. Among them, maximum 739 people died in July. This information revealed by the private organisation Road Safety Foundation is alarming but understated. Let alone taking any effective measures to prevent accidents, there is no initiative to implement the Road Transport Act, enacted in 2018.

Where is the safety of passengers, especially female passengers? According to Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association, 134 incidents of rape and sexual harassment were committed in public transport in four years from 2016-19. Among these, 42 cases of gang rape and 91 cases of sexual harassment took place. The bus owners and employees do not follow the instructions given by the government for the safety of passengers in long-route transport. For instance, taking video footage of every passenger while boarding and leaving the bus, securing the driver's seat with a steel fence.

It is absolutely unwarranted that the passengers will be robbed and raped on public transport and this cannot be allowed to continue. When something happens, the government runs after it trying to catch criminals. No action is taken to prevent the crimes.

The employees of Taqwa Paribahan who have committed the heinous crimes like robbery and rape, should be awarded exemplary punishment. Along with this, the bus company and its owner should be brought under the law.