MNA Feature Desk: Millions of people are all set to leave the busy city Dhaka for their roots to enjoy the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr. Not only from Dhaka but also from other districts people will rush to their homes to celebrate the largest festival of the Muslims with their near and dear ones. Throughout the year, many of us wait for this auspicious occasion to unite with our relatives. This is the greatest joy of our hectic lives. But every year, some of us do not come back to their regular lives as they have to sacrifice their lives on the busy roads to their destination. Our newspapers and television channels get filled with the news of hundreds of accidents all around the country. And yet we failed to provide our citizens a guarantee of safe journey during festivals like this.
Though Bangladeshi citizens rush to their homes to share their happiness, it goes through a lot of trouble. The pain begins from purchasing the tickets. It is almost impossible to have the tickets to our destinations without any hassle. Most of these travellers have to wait for hours in line to collect the tickets.
This year also we have seen people waiting for over 24 hours in line at Kamalapur Rail Station to buy the train tickets. Most of them did not get the tickets as per their requirements. There were hundreds of incidents where the tickets were sold out even before substantial numbers of travellers get a chance. It was astonishing how those tickets were sold out. Many complained but no one was there to listen and nobody actually cared for the people in pain.
This year it was evident that, people mostly rushed for the train tickets as they did not trust the conditions of the roads. But mostly they were denied of train tickets in usual procedure, if we can call over 24 hours wait in line a usual procedure, as those were declared sold out for most of the prominent venues. People opting for air conditioned coach were mostly denied. The disappearance of those tickets was amazing even after arranging special coaches during the Eid time but it is a harsh reality of our country. Corruption has its spread over this joyous occasion too.
A large portion of the tickets were illegally taken by the people related to the railway administration as they will sell those afterwards in black market at extremely high prices. The VIPs and elites also use their powers to purchase the tickets unethically. The administration and law enforcers play a deaf role in this process as no actions are taken against such corruption. As a result, the general people have to such even after waiting for hours with high hopes. Indeed there is no one to care for the mass, many of whom are taxpayers.
The bus stations were comparatively empty this year. Thanks to the situation of the roads throughout the year and the experiences of previous years that people completely lost faith on the highways. Even before 4 years, it took around six hours to reach Chattogram by road but now you never know if you will be able to reach before the Eid prayers. It might take even fifteen hours to reach Chattogram from Dhaka. Similar is the condition on all routes. It took only two hours to reach Tangail even 5 years ago but now it is an endless wait on the road. The journey through Maowa or Aricha Ghat is similarly painful.
The heavy traffic on the highways and frequent road accidents has created huge mistrust on the journey by road to all citizens. Though we hear and even see, new roads are being built or roads are being wider but several unplanned efforts are not allowing us to get any benefits from that. Though the roads are being made four or six lanes, some bottlenecks still exists where several traffic jams are created. This is a simple example of ill planning and it will make the people suffer this year too as many have to travel by roads due to lack of any other options.
The riverine journey though considered safe by many also comes under huge risks as the vehicles loads huge numbers of passengers exceeding the safe limit. Moreover, the fitness of these vessels is also under serious question. With turbulent weather the situation this year can be very extreme. But it is for sure that there will be no proper cautionary actions this year also. If an accident occurs on the rivers hundreds of lives are lost instantly and the administration should be very careful about such accidents. Overloading of passengers risking human lives cannot be allowed. But the conditions of roads will make it difficult to avoid such incidents in addition to the careless attitude of the authority.
Looking at the conditions of journey through roads, trains or riverine vessels, it seems like there is no happy way for the Bangladeshi citizens while making a journey to the near and dear ones. The pain starts at the very beginning and does not end till the very last. And extreme uncertainty exists at all phases of the journey to celebrate our greatest festival.
During the Eid-ul-Fitr of 2017, at least 311 people were killed and 862 were injured during the 12 days of the Eid journey. The majority of them were in road crashes accounting for around 274 deaths according to a report by Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity. In 2016, during the same period, 200 people were killed and 764 got injured in 127 accidents on roads, rivers and railroads. This toll is rising every year since 2013 as earlier it decreased for a while. We are not sure if this increasing trend will continue this year also. But it is very hard to see someone losing a family member or a friend while they were on a voyage of celebrations.
There are many reasons behind these accidents and despite knowing all these our authority stays quiet and numb. Poor road condition is a major reason behind these accidents. Our inter-district roads are not proper and adequate. They are not smooth and not well regulated. For ill management and careless attitude of the highway traffic police, huge traffic jams generate and whenever the drivers get a chance to take speed, they drives recklessly and accidents occur. Unfit vehicles on the roads are also a major reason behind these accidents.
Many vehicles are not well maintained and are overused. But with a small bribing they always receive the fitness certificate. As a result, the vehicles get into accidents frequently. Untrained drivers, failure to control over speeding, frequent overtaking and plying of relatively slow vehicles alongside the speedy vehicles are also among the major reasons of road accidents.
We are finding our Minister of Road Transport and Bridges Obaidul Quader very active on settling the poor road condition issues from the beginning of Ramadan. He is constantly delivering promises intending to ease the journey of the people during Eid. But it is very amazing that this effort every year comes so late that nothing much can be improved. Roads are not built or drivers are not trained or traffic police are not made efficient within a month. So, this sudden rush and active role will not help us much which we have observed in previous years also. Being the second most influential leader of the ruling party after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the minister must be a very busy man but he should a little more ahead in implementing his ideas to ease our lives.
Accidents on riverine journeys mostly occur due to taking passengers beyond limit and unfit vessels. Every year, the authority makes a lot of promises to avoid such incidents next year but nothing changes actually. A relative of the shipping minister Shahjahan Khan was even killed in such an accident few years back but no significant measures were taken. Unforgivable negligence is visible years after years and foolish rush of the passengers adds fuel to that fire. If the authority takes some timely measures, the riverine journey can be made very much pleasant.
As a Bangladeshi citizen, we expect to go through a safe and pleasant journey at least during our festivals. But our government till now could not ensure that. PM Sheikh Hasina has been playing a great role to take Bangladesh forward. We expect her to lead her team to be a bit more concerned about ensuring safety on roads, rivers and rail roads. If a little bit more uncorrupted effort is placed, we are sure that the journey during Eid will be a safe and pleasant experience for all Bangladeshis.
The writer is Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Kishore Bangla