The issue of proposed rules under the Road Transport Act 2018 has come under renewed focus and scrutiny of late. The Financial Express among others mentioned last Friday that no case under the above-mentioned Act has been instituted till the middle of November last. This does not bode well for the people on all sides, the passengers in the first place and then the Road Transport Authorities unquestionably. That an Act cannot work without the rules that are piggy-backed to it is well known to all people. Delay in making the Rule somewhat frustrates the whole purpose of the Act. More so, if it is for road safety, it puts more lives at risk. Rights groups have also voiced their concern at the delay.
The Road Transport and Bridges (RTB) Minister Mr Obaidul Quader has however assured people that the rules were in the final phase of being put into effect, thereby making road-journey safer. While this is an encouraging piece of information and the minister deserves appreciation for this, it also points to age-old story of lethargy and sluggishness of the bureaucracy that works under political leadership. As reports say, fifteen meetings on the issue were held earlier this year, and yet very little progress has been made. One does not need to do a research to find the effects of lax laws for the road transport sector. A glance at daily newspapers would show how many innocent lives are lost or maimed every day for below-standard public transport vehicles, reckless drivers and novices put on the steering wheel deputising for the experienced ones. One estimate puts the number of casualties per vehicle in Bangladesh at well-above the world average. Passenger Welfare Association, a body that airs road safety grievances, has raised the question of accountability. It remains to be seen how seriously their concerns are taken into account and heeded to. The three main aspects of the rules relate to definitions, issuance of licences for drivers and registration. It goes without saying that if these three areas are adhered to strictly to the word, after the rules see light of day much of the malaise will come down. That more delay on the finalisation and implementation of the proposed rules makes loss of life more likely and condemnable is understood by everybody. A serious vested group is always there who will try to frustrate government efforts in this regard. This should be thwarted with a strong hand that works both impartially and with resolve.
Apart from the implementation of the laws, road safety is also related to road quality. The four-lane up gradation of the country's vital Dhaka-Chittagong road-link has brought down the number of accidents and resultant deaths on that front. This could be a lesson for the policy-makers and the implementers for replication throughout all major arterial roads in the country. The RTB Minister is a man of action. A lot of infrastructure- development has happened under his aegis. He could well look into this side of the paradigm. However, only good four-lane roads will not solve all problems. The man at the steering wheel must have a sea-change in attitude and efficiency. For this the aforementioned Act and the related rules must be put into effect immediately. If the rules have been delaying the process then that must be remedied. `Do it quickly' should be the catch-word now. Among other things, it will save more lives once the whole paraphernalia of the Act and the rules are implemented. And if life is not given proper importance by a society, it fails a fundamental civic test.