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Bangladesh: Tragic Deaths Puts the Spotlight on Road Safety

Bangladesh's 3,492 kilometers of national highways and 4,268 kilometers of regional highways have become a death trap for many travelers for a variety of reasons. Statistics show that every year nearly 4,000 people die in around 20,000 road crashes across the country.

The nation was shocked to learn about the death of two of its favourite sons, award-winning film director Tareque Masud and internationally renowned cameraman/television journalist Ashfaque Munier Mishuk. They died in a tragic road accident on 13 August, 2011, while returning to capital Dhaka from Manikganj on the Dhaka-Aricha highway when an oncoming passenger bus collided head-on with their minibus and tore it apart killing five instantly, and injuring several people. Tareque's United States-born wife Catherine Masud was also injured seriously in the accident.

Netizens have been mourning the death of the two ever since. Sahidul Alam breaks the news [The post contains some pictures of the wreckage and people mourning]:

Tareque Masud, one of the finest film makers this nation has produced; Mishuk Munier, a talented cameraperson and a media professional who had both the dreams and the ability to change the way reporting was done, died a brutal death as they were returning to Dhaka having chosen the location for their next film.

Tareque Masud's first full-length feature film Matir Moina (The Clay Bird) won the International Critic's Award at the Cannes film Festival in 2002. It was one of the first Bangladeshi films to widely circulated around the world.

Ashfaque (Mishuk) Munier, the CEO of ATN News, stated his career as a teacher of Journalism at Dhaka University and previously worked for international media such as BBC World, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the Real News. He was also an eminent cinematographer and worked in many of Tareque Masud's films.

Shahnaz at Dhaka Dweller portrays the sorry state of Bangladeshi highways:

Of the things that bother me about Bangladesh, lack of safety on roads is near the top of the list. Poor road conditions, old vehicles, inept drivers and reckless driving make our roads deathtraps – both city roads and highways. Not a day goes by that we don't hear of a road accident claiming multiple lives. And it gets worse in the monsoon season, when heavy rains aggravate the problem.

She goes on:

Our political leaders dutifully express shock at the accidents, pray for the salvation of the departed souls and express sympathy for the bereaved families. Empty promises are made to punish the guilty (bus and truck drivers somehow always manage to escape and evade the law enforcement agencies). Enquiry committees are sometimes formed to investigate the accident. The public never hears the committee reports, and I doubt the government pays any heed to their recommendations – if indeed, any are made.

Asif Anwar thinks that roadside trees blocking the visibility of the vehicles in curvy roads may be a cause of the increasing number of accidents in Bangladesh.

However, a recent article in the Daily Star reveals that breaking rules is the rule of the highways. And the perpetrators do not stop because of the clemency – a driver can only be punished up to 5 years in jail for killing someone on the road.

Faruk Wasif shows his anger [bn] over the lack of road safety in the country and the negligence of the authorities:

সড়কগুলো অপঘাতের জন্য সদাপ্রস্তুত। যানবাহন দুর্ঘটনামুখী, চালকেরা কেয়ারলেস। দেখার কেউ নাই, ব্যবস্থা নাই, শাস্তি নাই। [..] মানুষ মরছে, কিন্তু কোনো জবাবদিহি নাই। জাতি নামক গাভী দোহনে ব্যস্ত শাসকেরা। কিছুতেই তাদের কিছু এসে যায় না।

The highways are inviting accidents. The vehicles are accident-prone, the drivers are careless. There is nobody to bother, no measures to prevent, no justice. [..] People are dying, but there is no accountability. The rulers are busy milking the nation. They don't bother at all.

He hits the nail in the coffin:

এই পোড়ার দেশে কিছুই তাই দাঁড়ায় না। কম মানুষই যাত্রা শেষ করতে পারে। তার আগেই মৃত্যু এসে নিয়ে যায়। বিকাশের ধারা অজস্র যতিতে ছারখার। নৈরাজ্য, অপঘাত, আত্মঘাত আর অবসাদে শেষ হয়ে যাচ্ছি আমরা। আমাদের আত্মবিশ্বাস বারবার তলানিতে চলে যায়। আশার সমাধিতে আমরা অপেক্ষা করি।

Nothing stands in this wretched country. Few people can end their journey before death engulfs them. The path of development is hindered by a lot of stops. We are being doomed by frustration, anarchy, accidents, suicidal thoughts and tiredness. Our self belief is going down. We wait at the burial of hope.

Cartoonist and blogger Sujan Chowdhury has only one question – “How many more?”:

How many more? Image by Cartoonist and blogger Sujan Chowdhury.

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