Cronyism and corruption go hand in hand in transport sector that is a complete anarchy!
This time a university student named Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury, first-year honours student of International Relations at Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP), was killed as a ‘Suprovat Paribahan’ bus ran him over in front of Dhaka city’s Bashundhara Gate on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 around 7:15 am. Mourning his death I am writing on the same issue just after 7 months. This is very shocking and agitating. However, the killing of Abrar sparked a firestorm of students’ protest which blocked the capital’s Pragati Sarani for 10 hours. The entire area reverberated with the slogan “We want justice” until the students left the road around 6:00 pm. The protesting university students who were demonstrating on Tuesday called for boycotting classes in all the educational institutions across the country on Wednesday to press home their eight-point demand, including maximum punishment of the bus driver responsible for the death of one of their fellows in the road accident. However, students called off their sit-in-demonstration till 28 March, and they are eagerly awaiting the government’s response or steps.
Last year Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment School & College students protested against the killing of their two fellows – Dia Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib – and the endless anarchy of public transport system in Bangladesh. Following the road accident occurred on 29 July 2018 in front of Kurmitola General Hospital on the Dhaka airport road, students went on rampage and blocked the road for a few hours. Later their agitation, without harming anyone, spread fast throughout the country and made the students take to the streets. Enraged by the deaths of their friends, initially thousands of students -- particularly school and college students -- took to the streets of different areas in Dhaka city and made a nine-point demand including the exemplary punishment of the killer-driver of Jabal-e-Noor bus. They also demanded the resignation of the then shipping minister and sought proper justice immediately. Later the university students also joined them supporting their demand. Wearing school/college uniform the students, both boys and girls, descended on the streets to stand by their fellows and voice their concern furiously blocking the thoroughfares of the city. Two deaths in the deadliest road accident - which made the then minister laugh - triggered the anger of the youth and left the citizens shocked and speechless. Truly speaking, our children at this tender age showed the country people their potential, unity and courage to stand collectively for a noble cause demanding public safety and security on the roads across the country. However, their protest ended up in violence and conspiracy!
Angered by the accident of BUP student Abrar, students from North South University, Independent University of Bangladesh, American International University of Bangladesh and others took to the street and blocked the road in front of Jamuna Future Park, halting the traffic movement from Kuril Bishwaroad to Bhatara on Tuesday. They announced a fresh program urging the students of all educational institutions to boycott their classes on Wednesday and express their solidarity taking position in front of their respective institutions. They said their movement was the continuation of last year’s road safety movement and it would continue until their demands were met.
Once again the students’ protest – spontaneous and meaningful in nature – gave a very clear message to the lawmakers/policy makers that the youths do not have confidence in the rotten system. Their protest is the culmination of the incessant chaos prevailing in transport sector. And the wicked political nexus - between some of the government (BRTA) authorities and the transport owners & workers’ associations - is the root cause of the anarchy in transport sector.
Last year it had been a big blow to the government organizations like BRTA and the ministry concerned because a bleak picture of systematic flaws and rampant corruption had been revealed. Despite some significant development works done over the years, the government could not bring about any substantial changes in the public transport sector which has long been crippled by the corrupt syndicate. Particularly Dhaka city has been ruinously choked by the uncontrolled traffic and mismanagement of transport.
What is very alarming is that today’s youth – the millennium generation – seems to have lost their faith in the flawed establishment. Since they have access to internet, they can easily get to know the rest of the world. They seem to be indifferent to Bangladeshi politics because they experience its dirty practice. They are pissed off and helpless because they do not get people-friendly urban facilities in their everyday lives. Their pent-up frustration or anger over the negligence of the government authorities concerned regarding the chaotic transport management has made them furious, and now the consequence has been severe and uncontrollable.
The placards – “Wait for your turn”; “Who is next?”; “Are we not safe on the zebra crossing?” -they were found carrying say it all that they want justice and they demand safety on the roads. Their demand is very democratic, worthwhile and justified. They have felt that their voices are going unheard and they are getting deprived of their right to natural death. Today’s protest has once again made the government (even all the political leaders) understand that the youth’s voice has become stronger and their unity has also become stronger. Ultimately they have given a revolutionary message to all of us that enough - wrongs of the system – has been done in this sector. Now the whole transport system needs a major overhaul without any procrastination.
The protesting youths who are thought to be alienated from the realities of life and mostly busy with social media have risen this year to protest against the lawlessness of transport sector. Practically they want a better society, a better system, a better democracy and a peaceful country. They are ready to die for the country; they are ready to work for the country; they are ready to face any challenges to get rid of anti-people political culture; and they are ready to brand Bangladesh positively by uprooting corruption. They believe in action, pro-people politicians and positive changes. They want to move forward, think out of the box and throw off the shackles of colonial bureaucracy and say “NO” to the politics of hatred. They also want to free the country from rampant corruption which is the major stumbling block to the improvement of public transport system in Bangladesh.
Now it is high time the government sincerely listened to the students (millennium generation), met the popular demands raised by them and permanently ensured road safety across the country by strictly implementing the “Road Transport Act” (better to be renamed as Road Transport & Public Safety Act). The government should believe in the youth’s capability and intelligence. I reckon the government has already understood how to tackle the situation without applying any coercive force on the protesting students. Discussing with all stakeholders the government should also ensure congenial academic environment in all educational institutions, nurture their talents from the very beginning and try to establish good governance in all sectors. I believe this generation – the harbingers of change – can make the nation proud because last year they made a history which was termed a “social revolution!” Now question is – can the government afford to turn a blind eye to this perennial problem again?
Writer: Sheikh Nahid Neazy, associate professor & chair, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.