Mainuddin Ahmed Durjoy took part in this year's SSC exam, and he had been waiting for his result. But on Monday night, his wait has ended for good when he was run over by a bus at the Rampura area of the city- one of many instances of students losing their lives under the wheel of reckless vehicles in the country.
Mainuddin's death triggered a widespread protest, like one that took place in 2018- popular as students' movement for safe road, and it continued around the capital, and it also started to spread all over the country in the last couple of days.
Four days before Mainuddin's death, another student was killed by a garbage truck on Thursday (Nov 25) in the Gulistan area of the capital.
The deaths occurred at a time when the students were demonstrating demanding half fares on public buses. The recent hike in bus fares, which is upto 27% for diesel-powered vehicles, made it tough for the students to commute to schools and colleges.
After a few days of the demonstration at some important points of the capital, the government only approved half fares for the state-run BRTC buses, but the demand was to ensure the half-fares for all public buses. Since it was not met, the students were demonstrating around the city and announced they won't leave the street until their demands are met properly with a gazette notification.
But right after the death of Mainuddin, at least eight buses were set afire in Rampura by a group of agitated students along with the locals. And surprisingly, it worked for them, though partially, as the leaders of the bus owners announced half-fares for students in the Dhaka Metro area. But the demand was to ensure half-fares all over the country, so the student did not leave the street, they rather issued a 96-hour ultimatum on December 5.
On Tuesday, the Dhaka Road Transport Owner Association announced that they will take 50% fares from the students who have a uniform of their respective schools or colleges or who carry an ID card.
It seems that the students are not willing to leave the street with only an assurance of the half-fares or the demand of safe road. They also came up with an 11-point demand charter on Tuesday.
The protesting students are also demanding to ensure that the trucks, garbage trucks, and other types of heavy vehicles would operate only at night- between 12am and 5am, and all the drivers should be tested for dope on a regular basis with the proper counselling to make safe driving a must-have thing.
Nadimur Rahman Jewel and Sohagi Samia students of the Dhaka Imperial College and Khilgaon Model College announced the demand charter on behalf of the protesting students.
They also demand to ensure compensation for the families of those who have lost their lives in road accidents, ensuring safety for women in public transports, providing compensation and rehabilitation for the passengers and transport workers who have been living a miserable life after getting injured in road accidents, and they want the assurance of half-fare for students around the country in a gazette notification.
The government is yet to say anything about the demands of the students. Obaidul Quader, the Minister of Road Transport and Bridges, on Wednesday said that he doubts the Rampura incident is planned mayhem. He also said that an inquiry is needed to see if the Rampura incident was a move by the Jamat and BNP workers.
"Was it just an accident or it was planned?" Quader told while addressing the media on Wednesday at his government resident. "Neither fire brigade nor police or army can reach a spot as quickly as the buses were set ablaze (in Rampura). How did the young students reach there late in the night quickly?"
Those questions are likely to remain unanswered, blowin' in the wind as the bard may have said. Meanwhile, even if you don't see much disruption in the streets today, don't jump the gun to conclude the hordes of young girls and boys in school uniforms we got so used to seeing on the streets in these last couple of weeks have called it off.
In fact, towards the end of their demonstration in Rampura yesterday, the agitating students, displaying admirable maturity, announced that in light of the HSC examinations starting today, they would only form a human chain along the road at 12:00pm. Clear and precise instructions were issued on how this would be done without obstructing vehicular movement on the street.
"We will not leave the road until all of our demands are fulfilled. We want road safety for everyone," Shohagi Samia, one of the leading voices in the movement, reiterated yesterday, while declaring the limited programme for today.
Stay tuned in the days ahead.
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