Mridul Chowdhury

They are just too powerful – but are they? (In memory of all those we lost in road accidents)

August 17, 2011
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I grew up in this country accepting road accidents to be a fact of life — something you read about, something you hear of, something that sometimes comes close to home but never quite hits it. You just learn to live with it and hope for the best.

I also grew up knowing that it is a problem too hard to solve because I am too powerless and ‘they’ are too powerful.

The bus drivers who drive these vehicles are just too powerful. You warn them, you sweet-talk with them, sometimes even scold them if you dare, but they have the wheels and all I have is my big mouth and my weak heart. So I stop talking.

The contractors who make the roads and culverts are just too powerful. They decide the ratio of constituents of the road, how much cement to mix with sand and water for the culvert, how long before it will need fixing so that they can be called in again. You see their workers, you call them names when angry, but never get to know who employ them. Their power comes from their ability to be invisible. So I stop looking.

The bus owners who hire the drivers are just too powerful. They control the transportation networks, control livelihoods, control votes, they know the right people. Accidents kill, drivers sometimes get caught, get jailed for a few years (if the media decides to follow it up), but the bus owners who employed the drivers are left unscathed since there is no law that can make them accountable. They know the people who decide who is to blame for what. So I stop demanding justice.

The bureaucrats who approve the highway design and give the licenses to the drivers are just too powerful. They decide who can drive and who not, who can pay for a license and who not, and who cannot drive but still can pay or get politicians to vouch for their ‘driving skills’ (or rather manoeuvring skills). They decide which plots should be touched when making highways, which will have two lanes and which will not. Political parties come and go but they stay. So I stop waiting for change.

The politicians who make the laws are just too powerful. They pick the winners and the losers. They make the rules of the game with enough scope for exceptions for those who know how to play. They decide the punishment rules, the accountability structures — all the while keeping in mind which players are on their side, and who they can afford to punish in case there is too much demand from the public. They fuel the system and legitimise it every five years. So I stop voting.

I think to myself, why pick a battle that you know you will lose. I was taught early to choose my battles. So I stop fighting.

So I kept on hoping that road accidents would be something I would read about, hear of, and that sometimes would swoosh me by but would never quite hit home. But when Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier died, it finally hit home. As I saw the picture of the wrecked microbus, it finally hit home. It really finally hit home. And I felt ashamed. It took the lives of two of the greatest talents of this generation to finally hit it home – two of the most committed patriots, two of our heroes, two of our very few role models.

And I am finally asking the question that I should have asked a long time ago — are ‘they’ really that powerful? If you add them up, they would probably add up to 1500 key people. And we are a nation of 150 million people who are shutting our mouths and closing our eyes thinking they are just too powerful.

Are you ashamed? I am.

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Mridul Chowdhury is a co-founder of Jagoree and member of Drishtipat Writers’ Collective.

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11 Responses to “ They are just too powerful – but are they? (In memory of all those we lost in road accidents)

  1. Zia on August 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Yes. I am ashamed of myself. Really we will not find such country anywhere in the world. What a joke? After collapse of all roads, how does one grin? The minister concerned is still talking all nonsense. Pitty on us.

  2. Sadia on August 19, 2011 at 1:04 am

    I am speechless, I am ashamed of myself. This is very true that we have accepted this life of sufferers and have made it a habit of being suffered. We have chosen to endure the pain rather than to voice for justice unless it comes on our own shoulder. But yes, ‘Justice’, does it exist at all? Justice is now in the hand of those 1500 key people.

  3. Mustafa Zaman on August 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I am also ashamed of myself…

  4. Prima Chowdhury on August 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Dear Mridul,
    I just read your moving article. You are so right — we have all just become too gullible, too blind, too used to being pushed around by the ‘bullies’ that have been ruling our country. We have just accepted our roles in this society as hapless beings who will never really know the role of justice, who will never really feel the blanket of security or be untouched by the corruptive practices of EVERYONE around us!

    How long will this colossal joke continue? How long will we all remain silent sufferers while the so-called ‘privileged class’ gets away with every despicable act possible? I am talking about every ‘big shot’ in this country who has indulged in this luxury.

    You are so right — how many are there –1500 to 2000 people-maximum! We are letting the ruthless “goons” of any and every political dimension, in every era, kill us softly and slowly and painfully.

    As you have said, “They” don’t care about road safety, “they” don’t care about talent, role models, icons – O no – not while “they” are the ones ruling us — and we are the ones feeding “their” ego with more votes, powerful designations and accolades, out of sheer fear of what they would do to us — if we dare to speak out…

    Enough is enough – DO SOMETHING Mridul – make this ‘your’ battle -”our” battle. If I can help in your quest in any capacity – just ask. United we stand, divided we fall. It’s as simple as that.

    Prima

  5. russel on August 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I am afraid to say “shameless”. I ask all “are they actually too powerful”? Apparently they are. I agree with the writer. And so I stopped scolding.

  6. Anisul Kabir Jasir on August 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Mridul: Very good write-up. Keep up the good work.

  7. sujaul on August 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I am indeed ashamed of myself, Mridul. Time is ripe for politics to change, and to become the change we want.

    Or else we can keep on being ashamed of ourselves and making our exit plans forever.

  8. Tahera Jabeen on August 18, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I had the chance to read the article earlier on a friend’s wall in Facebook. It is indeed an excellent write-up. Like the author of this article, I am also ashamed of myself. I am equally angry and frustrated. I believe writing will not make any difference. We are a forgetful nation; too soon we will forget this episode and become busy with our lives.

    We are fortunate, privileged class who are sharing our frustration, anger, opinion in the internet/print and electronic media. But we are a very few; the majority in this country is devoid of this kind of privileges. To create mass awareness, a social movement at the grassroots level is essential. It is high time to create a common platform, irrespective of any political ideology, to raise people’s voice about any social cause.

    But I wonder whether it will ever be possible due to increased polarisation of our intellectuals as well as the civil society!

    Regards,

    Tahera

  9. Hasan Ahmed on August 18, 2011 at 5:10 am

    I for one will pray that however change comes about due to this hopeful “awakening”, it comes about in an understanding manner.

    No more blood…enough blood has been shed in many forms!

    Let us unite, understand and move ahead! Peace!

  10. Tasnim on August 18, 2011 at 12:32 am

    For the last 40 years, people have grown up in a society where everything around them was wrong. For survival they have looked away and adapted to that as normal.

    Before ’71, the mindset of people was different. The nation’s interest was considered the foremost. We have many examples where our people have brought down the establishment for the betterment of the nation. But on a sour note, a bright example of the nationalistic feeling gone missing was when a BIG change was promised during the pro-army caretaker govt. We all saw light at the end of the tunnel and thought maybe NOW some major changes to better the future of this country will take place but it was just the other way round! For people like them ‘National Interest’ was never the priority.

    To me it seems that we have six categories of people in the society:
    1) People like us who want to do good. Scream our lungs out about all the wrongdoings but can’t make any headway.

    2) The greedy and corrupt politicians/govt officials with their half illiterate chamchas who are getting way doing anything and everything.

    3) The ‘new’ nobyo rich with no values.

    4) The middle-class who’s struggling to make ends meet.

    5) The poor people who are surviving only because they are breathing.

    6) The ‘projonmo’ who are feverishly nationalistic with very high values but are in minority and struggling hard to fight the system. Maybe someday they will be able to save our country. Someday, somehow they must!

  11. Tasnim on August 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    A very well-written article. I was expressing similar sentiment to my friends who are much older than you.

    You are our nation builders …projonmo…you have to fight this because people with nationalistic values are rare to find.

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