Because Bangladesh’s public institutions are rickety at best, frustrated citizens often feel as if they have no choice but to resort to vigilantism. That’s certainly been the case in regards to the country’s abysmal road safety situation, as the police seldom exhibit any interest punishing drivers who mow down pedestrians or rickshaw pullers. The result of that negligence is a fatality rate that is nothing short of astronomical: 60 deaths per every 10,000 vehicles, compared to about 1.5 deaths per 10,000 vehicles in the United States. Now the residents of Dhaka, Chittagong, and other major population centers are demanding an end to the carnage, and they’re not shy about using force to make their feelings known:
Traffic movement on Dhaka-Sylhet and Dhaka-Chittagong highways remained halted for an hour following a death of a Jagannath University student in a road accident in Narayanganj on Sunday.
Tayeb Nur Chowdhury Bappi, 25, a fourth year student of Marketing Department of Jagannath University, died on the spot when a speedy bus hit his rickshaw near Kanchpur Bridge on his way to local bus stand at about 6:30am, Shahriar Hossain, officer-in-charge of Kanchpur Highway Police Outpost, said.
Locals nabbed the bus but the driver managed to flee the scene.
Following the incident agitated locals put blockades on the highways for half an hour.
Later on the day, hundreds of students of the university thronged the Kanchpur Bridge area and blocked the two highways from 11:30am to 12:00noon disrupting the traffic movements.
The students removed the barricades after police assured them of punishment to the killer after arresting him.
An account of another recent case of post-accident vigilantism can be found here. Bangladeshis obviously want the drivers of vehicles involved in fatal accidents to suffer the consequences of their actions, but things aren’t always so simple. Not every fatal accident is the result of malfeasance, of course, which means that the Bangladeshi police need to investigate the particulars of each crash before deciding whether or not to arrest anyone. That could be a tall order, given the limited resources available to the nation’s cops.
A better solution may be a compensation system—basically making these accidents civil matters, so that drivers must pay the families of the deceased, but don’t face jail time. No, it’s not a perfect answer, but it’s certainly a great deal better than letting rioters dictate how the police respond.