Anis Ahmed

Eid journey: Lack of road safety and hassles spoil festivity


Kaushik Ahmed

MNA Feature Desk: After fasting and performing religious customs for a month, the end of holy Ramadan is going to bring us the most cherished festival of the Muslims –Eid-ul-Fitr. We, the Bangladeshi citizens, along with the Muslim Ummah around the globe will celebrate this festival with our friends and family. Not only the Muslims but also people from all religions celebrate this festival. 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 media get filled with the news of hundreds of accidents all around the country every year and yet we fail to provide our citizens a guarantee of safe journey during these precious festivals.

At least 339 people were killed and 1,265 injured in 277 road accidents during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays last year. Besides, at least 18 were killed, 55 others went missing and nine others injured in the accidents on waterways while 41 people were killed in train accidents during that holiday season making the total death toll from roads, railways and waterways was 405 in 335 accidents. At least 259 people were killed and 960 injured in 237 road accidents during the holidays of Eid-ul-Azha last year.

Moreover, 15 people were killed and seven others wounded in 19 incidents involving railways and four people were killed, 68 injured and eight remained missing in 14 accidents on waterways during those holidays. This has become the common scenario of Bangladesh during the Eid holidays and our festivals are becoming death traps on roads.

There are many reasons behind these accidents. Poor road condition is a major reason behind these accidents. Our inter-district roads are not adequate and well regulated. For ill management and carelessness 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. We have seen many reports during the last few years on how the old vehicles are being coloured to give a new look to deceive the passengers and authority. 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 behind these road accidents.

Authority is constantly making promises, from the beginning of Ramadan, to ease the journey during Eid season. But these efforts, every year, comes so late that nothing actually improves. Traffic police are not prepared for 2-3 weeks for extra pressure. So, this sudden rush and active role will not help us much which we have observed in previous years also. Our ministers and authority should be a little more ahead in implementing their ideas to ease our lives during Eid holidays.

Accidents on waterways journeys mostly occur due to taking passengers beyond limit as well as due to unfit vessels. Every year, the authority makes a lot of promises to avoid such incidents next year but nothing changes actually. A relative of former 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 waterways journey can be made very much pleasant.

Other than road accidents, there are several other hassles that the travelers have to face during the Eid vacations. Though we rush to our homes to share happiness, the path is full of thorns. The pain starts from purchasing tickets as there is no chance to have tickets to our destinations without any hassle. People 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. Newly, the Railway’s highly promising app crashed and those who dreamt of buying tickets from home had to run to the railway stations to save dream of celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr with family. Even then, tickets were not available as per requirements.

For few years, people mostly rush for the train tickets as they do not trust the conditions of the roads. But mostly they were denied of train tickets in usual procedure as 24 hours waiting in line cannot be usual procedure. 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 corruption as usual exists over this joyous occasion too.

A hefty part of the tickets were unlawfully attained 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 obtain the tickets immorally. The administration and law enforcers play a deaf role in this process as no actions are taken against such corruption as there is no one to care for the mass, many of whom are taxpayers.

Eid journey by bus is the least popular during last few years due to the unbearable traffic jam on the highways and also the poor conditions of roads. Few years back, it took six hours at most 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. With four or six lanes road, we are not able to utilize the capacity due to some bottlenecks where huge 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 waterways journey though considered safe by many also comes under huge risks as the vehicles load 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. 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 waterways vessels, it seems like there is no happy way for the Bangladeshi citizens to reach their near and dear ones for Eid along with extreme uncertainty at all phases of the journey. It is a festival but surrounded by so many hassles, uncertainties and most importantly, it comes with not guarantee of returning home alive.

As a citizen, we expect a safe and pleasant journey at least during our festivals. But our government till now could not ensure it. PM Sheikh Hasina has been playing a great role in ensuring progress of Bangladesh from different aspects with immense success. We hope she sets her goals to eliminate the risks and hassles of citizens during the Eid seasons which will definitely bring safety on roads, rivers and railroads. We believe, if a little more effort is placed, the journey during Eid will be a safe and pleasant experience for the people; and we really hope to experience that.

The writer is associate editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Kishore Bangla


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