Two consistent features of the Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader's public statements in recent years have been his admission of failure and his pledge to bring discipline in the transport sector, neither of which, unfortunately, has brought us any closer to the promised safety on our roads. On Tuesday, the minister once again owned up to his failure, when his attention was drawn to the sharp rise in road fatalities. He acknowledged the incongruity between the much-touted road infrastructure developments and the appalling safety records—“denial would not yield anything,” he said. While we appreciate the candour of the minister, we must say that such statements sound a little hollow at this point given that precious little has been achieved over the last few years in terms of reducing the number of road crashes that have taken so many lives and maimed so many people.
In this connection, one may recall that at least 7,221 people were killed and 15,466 injured in 5,514 road crashes last year, according to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity. These accidents were mostly caused by reckless driving and operation of unfit vehicles—problems that can be addressed by taking simple precautions and conducting regular checks by those responsible. In fact, as experts say, most of the problems in our road transport sector are results of an administrative failure; in other words, these persist year after year because those who are in charge of the sector are not doing their job properly. The minister has mentioned a number of initiatives that are in the pipeline. As well as these, we hope there will be measures to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the administration, which are needed more than anything at this point.