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So that we may continue to live in this city

  • Published at 12:07 pm August 2nd, 2018
Will their concerns be heard? MEHEDI HASAN

The time has come to push for change in Dhaka one more time 

One of the fasted growing cities in the world, Dhaka, has long been notoriously branded as one of the worst cities to live in. Accommodating more than 30,000 people per square kilometer, Dhaka is around 75% more populated than Hong Kong. 

The heart of the country promises economic opportunities for many, and thus attracts more to explore their luck in this already overpopulated city every day.

Whether the city can make everyone’s dreams of economic independence come true or not, it has surely threatened everyone’s aspiration for a safe livelihood. 

The recent tragic accident which has resulted in the deaths of two students, and a dozen others injured, has been just another reminder of how unfit this city is to keep its people safe. 

I was personally shocked and heartbroken when these innocent students of my first school, Shaheed Ramiz Uddin High School and College, had to pay the price of our long silences over the problematic transport sector. 

The time has come that we start taking action, if not for others, at least for ourselves and our family members, because you will never know who will be next in line. 

The back-to-back murders on the road (yes, these are murders -- plain and simple), one in Narayanganj and the other one in the Radisson area, are only two accidents that got our attention, out of many. 

More than 7,000 lives were lost in almost 5,000 recorded accidents throughout Bangladesh in 2017, which left at least 16,000 people temporarily or permanently injured.

In most of the cases, the perpetrators were not brought to justice, and the victims were deprived of the same without any compensation (which, of course, will never be possible with money). 

If one wonders why there’s such a lack of justice, there are many reasons. Firstly, the 2017 Road Transport Act has been one of the most lenient set of regulations, which reflect significant influence exercised by the transport sector’s lobbying groups. Unfortunately, the act does not specify any punishment for death caused by the recklessness of the drivers. 

Secondly, the backlogged nature and slow process of justice often discourages victims from pursuing it, and protects perpetrators from potential penalties. Thirdly, in many cases, victims are threatened by the culprits, and forcefully barred from seeking justice. 

With very little protection and safety, will victims and witnesses undertake this daunting task when they have already suffered deep losses? 

It is immensely encouraging to see how the students are uniting to seek long-forgotten justice. While they have brought the entire city to a halt by taking possession of the roads, I wonder if they were left with any other option to raise their concerns to the decision-makers. 

My only concern is whether the authorities will be prudent enough to take the necessary steps and make the legal and institutional changes that are needed for a sustainable long-term solution. Otherwise, this protest may die out as time passes, but will surely come back stronger when such road tragedies occur in the future. 

While many of us still hope to see the demands of our students being met and roads made safe, many of us have already lost every ounce of hope. 

I have seen many on social media sharing their frustrations and offering the alternative solution of migrating to other countries. Whether you choose to live in this city or leave for a better one remains a personal choice for sure, but maybe the time has come for all of us to push for change one last time.

Makshudul Alom Mokul Mondal is a researcher and co-founder of Youth Opportunities.

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