On the 12th of July, Mirsarai upazila had thousands throng its grounds for prayers. On the 13th of July, all the educational institutions in the country are mourning for the dead, and for the rest of our lives, Bangladeshis will remember the tragedy with shame and regret.
43 kids will never return home, never crowd the playing fields of Abu Torab Primary and High school, never cheer their team when they play their next matches or pick a fight on the field…ever again.
The news report looked unreal. I almost expected to see bruised children coming out of the ditch. Instead there were bodies being recovered one after the other while a few were being rushed to the nearest hospital at the fastest speed. None complained of slow recovery; none doubted the passion with which the villagers of Syed Ali village jumped to save the lives of these children; none had any observations on the government rescue units either.
For heaven’s sake, these were kids, either yours, or mine lying in the ditch, crushed under the deadly weight of the truck at 12:45 pm on the 12th of July 2011. There couldn’t have been any single soul who would not care for them. Except one… that got away. The helper of the truck, Mofiz did not die. He escaped through the windows perhaps with his cell phone still in his pocket and has not been caught yet. Sure, a three-member committee has been formed to investigate the accident; sure a compensatory package for the students has been declared by the Ministry; sure we have all sent mass condolences to the families announcing mass regret; sure a day of mourning has also been organised. But, how long does it really take for a nation to slap a few good practices down our backs?
ADB reports, 60 percent of the 1.18 million fatal road accidents happen in the Asia and the Pacific. A local English daily just quoted a BUET official stating that there are at least 10-15 accidents a day. The numbers of FIRs lodged with the police in 2010 indicate a number of 2827 accidents. World Bank estimates point to three times that official count and further states that 90 percent of the fatal accidents happen in developing countries like ours causing death mostly to the age range of 5-29.
Coincidentally, most of the kids who died yesterday were between 13-15 years of age.
Bangladesh became one of the 91 signatories on The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, in May 2011, which aims to avert an estimated 3 million fatalities and 120 million injuries in the region over the next decade. And is this how we celebrate our commitment?
Is there no way to stop reckless helpers, drivers on our roads? Need we shrink in fear every time a monstrous truck comes close to our cars with those big “Maayer Doa” (Mother’s Prayers) written on its back? In many neighbourhoods, the obscene racing noise sends chills down our spines, lest one of yours or mine has become a part of the madness. Thanks to Dhaka traffic, almost all the young drivers text or chat while driving. With their foot on the breaks, they happily multi-task, ready to accelerate when their turn arrives…
Truth be known, these killers are everywhere. They live amidst our families, within our own circle of conscience. One of my acquaintances just bragged about having passed her driving test with flying colours. I was shocked as I am well aware of her skills and weaknesses and being an efficient driver isn’t one of her strengths. I asked her about her secret. She answered, “It was easy; the examiner simply asked me to tick in the right boxes and I passed the written test.” And what about the practical challenge? She responded confidently, “Need I answer that too?” My last question to her was, “How much did it cost?” She said, “Only 10,000 Taka!”
Phew! With corrupt hands dirtying our system at every stage, Mirsarai will continue being just another tragedy in print, unable to alter either our conscience or reason.
Rubana Huq is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.