We have all become accustomed to the news of road accidents and the deaths which result from it. Unfortunately, given the frequency of these incidents we barely get shaken up by them anymore. Value for human life seems to be vanishing from our society as is apparent from the growing political and civic unrest in the country. This holds all the more true when the lives lost belong to ordinary people; disempowered persons who have little say and no voice to make heard. It is these people who use public transport most often and are resultantly driven to death due to the reckless driving we see on the part of bus or wagon drivers, almost everywhere in the country.
This is precisely what happened a few kilometres outside Sheikhupura, as a passenger bus headed for the city overturned, spewing its passengers onto the road. At least a dozen are reported dead and over 40 injured. Men, women and children are among the victims. There are varying accounts of what actually happened: some reports say the assistant conductor had been handed over the wheel of the vehicle and he lost control of it; others say the tie rod broke. But consensus amongst survivors seems to be that the bus was being driven far too fast and was overloaded, carrying some 100 passengers — a number that far exceeded the maximum capacity. Of course, the motive behind this illegality, and consequently the tragedy, was greater profit.
We need to take concrete steps to regulate public transport. This is not the first accident of its kind, nor will it be the last. Our elders tell us that a long time ago, in the early decades of the country’s history, the government ran well-maintained buses with trained drivers. Those times are long gone but we must find a way to improve the situation and make road travel safer for all so that we can put an end to the ghastly death toll we hear about on the news. To do this, traffic rules and regulations along with vehicle fitness regulations must be followed in a stringent fashion. We need to protect those who use public transport and guarantee their safety by training drivers who hold the lives of passengers in their hands.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.
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