Tales of Transportation

6 Aug

A lot of my time in Bangladesh has been spent in the back of a speeding vehicle; dodging immense trucks, disintegrating rickshaws, and the occasional child.

I am told that before the British ‘Raj’ introduced the railway here, the original transportation was water-based. The introduction of highways and automobiles since then has obviously brought about huge advantages, but the flip-side is the number of accidents that occur in Bangladesh: in the last year, 10,000 people have died on the road and an even bigger number of people have been left disabled as a result.

The casualties are due in part to many drivers being illiterate, with a staggering 62% of them unable to take the written part of the driving test and thus resorting to using fake licenses.
But some cultural practices also lead to reckless driving, such as the severe consequences of crashing into someone in Bangladesh. Accident-causing drivers not only have to face the law, they are also chased by their fellow citizens who transform into big crowds of mobs in such a way that the offending vehicles are attacked (with bricks, stones, sticks or whatever is on hand) and the passengers dragged outside and beaten. No surprise then that there are so many hit and run incidents here, with victims left for dead on the side of the road.

The person explaining this to me, a doctor, recounts the time his driver collided with a motorbike, a teenage boy flying straight into the windscreen and bouncing off into the motor-way.  As the petrified driver tried to speed away as quickly as possible, a bus in front noticed his attempt to escape and blocked the bridge he was driving towards – the only get-away from the large group that had already started to run after the car.

Fortunately for the doctor, the angry people who caught up with them had no weapons and, as they pounded on the sides of the doors with their bare hands, he managed to diplomatically convince the crowd through the window that the boy should be taken to emergency nearby. After a payout to the victim’s family as well as to the police whilst the mob waited outside the hospital to ensure justice was done, he was collected by his friends and family unscathed.

Proud of his story, the doctor smiles at his luck of having escaped a potentially fatal beating. And as if to respond to the look of shock of my face (not least at the thought of a health worker speeding away from a seriously injured person!), he assures me that the driver has since been sacked.

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