At least 35 lives perished when a small passenger launch -- MV Sabit Al Hasan -- capsized in the river Shitalakkhya in Narayanganj on Sunday last. The ill-fated vessel met the accident when a large cargo vessel had rammed into it from behind near an under-construction bridge over the river in broad daylight.
The cargo vessel fled the spot as the people from nearby started rescuing a few passengers who could come out of the sinking launch. Most passengers got trapped in the hull and died.
None could locate the culprit vessel for nearly a couple of days, and the Department of Shipping preferred to be tight-lipped on its whereabouts.
But a cargo vessel has a big structure, and it is difficult to hide it even if one tries so. The identity of the cargo vessel could be known, finally. But several police stations, according to a newspaper report, declined to register cases against it when the owner of MV Sabit Al Hasan approached them. However, after about three days, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) filed a case with a police station.
According to the report, the cargo vessel in question belongs to a ruling party lawmaker from a Bagerhat District constituency. The vessel that, reportedly, got registration last month was operating without a valid survey certificate. The Department of Shipping declined to give such a certificate since the vessel failed to appoint qualified marine personnel to operate it.
The last Sunday's incident reminds the people of almost an identical horrendous incident that had taken place in the river Buriganga on June 29 last year. At least 34 people died when a huge passenger launch forced down a small passenger launch into the river in a matter of seconds. Millions of people had watched the incident on TV as someone caught it live on his android phone.
The government had formed a few committees to probe into the Buriganga incident. The passenger launch getting capsized in the Shitalakkhya on Sunday was no exception. This has been more of a ritual in Bangladesh. The government forms committees soon after launch or train accident. The committees, naturally, submit reports, but those are hardly made public. The media also do not take an interest in digging out the reports.
The victims of launch and train accidents are, in a way, lucky. At least committees are formed in their cases.
Think about hundreds of people dying every month in road accidents. Last month, over 500 people fell victim to road accidents. Unofficial estimates put the number of people killed in road accidents annually at around 6,000.
It is none but the families concerned have to bear with the irreparable loss they suffer because of the untimely death of their beloved ones in accidents. Many families lose their only earning members. Their sufferings know no bounds as they do not receive any compensation. In the case of train accidents, the government, on occasions, pays small compensation to the affected families.
But there should be a well-organised system to locate the vehicles/vessels/ persons responsible for accidents involving all types of passenger transports and make them pay compensation to the victims or families of victims. Such a measure might help reduce the number of road, train and launch accidents.