DHAKA: A Bangladeshi court yesterday sentenced three transport workers to life for a road crash last year that killed two students and triggered major anti-government protests. Hundreds of thousands of students across the country took to the streets after the two teenagers were hit by an out-of-control bus that had been illegally racing through the streets of Dhaka in July 2018.
The three workers, including two drivers, were found guilty of culpable homicide, prosecutor Tapash Kumar Paul told reporters. “We are happy with the verdict,” he told AFP. The rallies, which began over anger at road safety but soon morphed into opposition to the government, lasted more than a week and paralyzed the capital’s traffic.
As the demonstrations spread across the country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched a heavy crackdown and more than 150 people were left injured after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Pro-government groups allied with the government also attacked demonstrators, as well as journalists. Traffic accidents have spiked in Bangladesh with at least 7,500 people – over 20 a day – dying on the road in 2018, according to the Passengers Welfare Association, a private watchdog.
Following the protests, the government passed a tough traffic law in the country of 168 million, drawing a backlash from the strong and well-organized transport workers’ unions. Reckless driving and unfit vehicles – even in major cities – are common sights in Bangladesh, but the unions have frequently stopped authorities from taking action against drivers or vehicle owners. Drivers are often half-trained or ignorant of traffic rules as driving licenses can easily be acquired with bribes. – AFP