Kamala Parvin was returning to Faridpur’s Boalmari after treatment of her ailing mother in Dhaka on 24 June. Kamala and six other members of her family died in a road accident at Maligram area on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Highway (Dhaka-Bhanga expressway).
The ambulance carrying the family hit the guardrail of the highway and caught fire. Kamala, her two sons, a daughter, mother, sister and nephew all died on the spot. The driver of the ambulance also succumbed to injuries later.
Kamala’s husband Md Alamgir in an application sought compensation over the death of his wife and children. A separate application was made seeking reparation for others. The government has decided to compensate this family.
The government in Road Transport Act of 2018 included provision of compensation for the victims of road accidents. The compensation is finally being provided to the victims. A fund has already been created to this end. Sources said prime minister Sheikh Hasina would roll out the initiative by handing over compensation to victims on 22 October.
Family of a deceased person will receive Tk 500,000 in compensation and victims of injuries will receive a highest compensation of Tk 300,000. Persons with knowledge of the development said the government’s initiative is a good one but there are some concerns.
Firstly, there is a likelihood of fund crunch. The authorities might need an estimated Tk 4 billion annually for compensation but no more than Tk 1.5 million is likely. The concerned authorities sought Tk 1 billion in this year’s budget but the government did not provide the money. Secondly, applying and following up might be an arduous task for underprivileged people. Thirdly, it is not sure whether there is enough manpower and efficiency to review hundreds of applications.
Professor Shamsul Haque, director of Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BEUET), told that the compensation is provided throughout the world through insurance. What has been done in Bangladesh is completely new. So, the most important things are creating public awareness, ensuring the transparency of funds and increasing efficiency of people who review the process. If these cannot be done, only the transport sector people and influential people would reap the benefit of the system.
The government made the Road Transport Act (RTA) in 2018 in the face of students’ movement demanding safe roads. The RTA rules come into effect four years after the law is enacted.
According to the RTA, the family of a deceased person will receive Tk 500,000 in compensation. Victims who lose a limb or suffer other forms of life-changing injuries will receive a compensation of Tk 300,000 while victims likely to recover will receive a compensation of Tk 100,000.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) sources said the authorities published a gazette containing the new rules regarding compensation on 27 December. Since then, a total of 310 claims had been submitted till 17 September. Of the applications, reviews of 63 incidents have been completed. In primary investigation, families of 38 deceased and 25 injured persons were found eligible for compensation.
BRTA sources said the applications which were submitted till 31 August would receive compensation on 22 October. The remaining applicants would be given compensation later. A total of 179 applications were submitted till August. The sources of the road transport ministry and BRTA said all the victims are not applying for compensation yet. There are no such government initiatives to create public awareness.
How much money needed
The fund is not adequate for providing compensation to the families of all victims of road accidents. The source where the money is supposed to come from yet to contribute. Even the government did not allocate money as of yet. That’s why this important initiative is being rolled out without a proper plan.
BRTA said a total of 4638 people died and 4648 injured in road accidents last year. Providing compensation to families of this number of deceased would require Tk 2.32 billion and providing highest compensation to the families would cost Tk 1.39 billion. With this will add the management of trust’s cost. In total over Tk 4 billion would be needed for this initiative.
Meanwhile, the number of road accident victims is more than double according to private organisation’s data. According to the Road Safety Foundation, the number of deceased was 7713 and injured over 12000 last year. If this data is taken into consideration, the amount needed for compensation would reach Tk 8 billion.
Source of money for the fund
The way the government is collecting the fund will fetch around Tk 1.5 billion a year.
The RTA has specified the sources of funds for the compensation. The sources are government allocation, fees collected from vehicle owners, fines realised by RTA, allocation from owners associations and transport workers associations and funds collected from any other legal source.
BRTA sources said so far money is coming from only the transport owners. A total of Tk 964.3 million has been received from this source in the fund till 17 September.
The road transport ministry sought Tk 1 billion for this fund to the finance ministry during the budget but the application was snubbed.
Executive magistrates of mobile courts and police collect fines as per RTA. The trustee board set for fund collection on 20 March sent a letter to the road transport ministry seeking the money realized by fines but are yet to receive any money.
BRTA’s magistrates in the 2021-22 fiscal year realised a fine of Tk 39.4 million by conducting mobile courts. BRTA does not have the data of fines collected in police cases and drives by district administration magistrates.
Transport owner associations collect a fixed amount of fees from every bus-truck daily. Transport workers associations also collect fees. Representatives of both owners and workers associations are there in the board of trustees but no they are yet to contribute to the fund.
As per rules, the motorcycle owners are to give Tk 1000 at a time; bus, truck, covered van and prime mover owners Tk 1500 every year; minibus, mini truck and pick up van owners Tk 750 to the compensation fund.
Car, Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and microbus contribute Tk 500 in the fund and three-wheelers Tk 300. There is a provision of a monthly fine of Tk 50 for failing to pay the money to the fund.
Nur Mohammad Majumder, BRTA chairman and also the head of trustee board, told Prothom Alo that the fund would gradually increase. The authorities have sought allocation to the government and effort is on to collect money realized from fines.
“The initiative will get more publicity after the prime minister inaugurates it. Then everyone will be enthusiastic to apply for compensation,” he added.
How to apply
There is a 12-member board of trustees to settle compensation claims of road accident victims. The BRTA chairman is the designated chairman of the board while officials of various ministries and transport owners and workers are its members. Besides, an eminent person will also be appointed as the board member.
The trustee board can invest a portion of its fund in profitable sectors and exercises the power to appoint manpower. A proposal for a manpower structure of 34 people has been sent to the ministry, which is yet to be approved.
The Road Transport Act states a victim will appeal to the chairman of the board of trustees through the specified form within a maximum of 30 days after the accident happened to receive compensation. The chairman will form an investigation committee within 10 days since filling the application and this committee will assess the damage and will report within 30 days. The board then will give the victim monetary compensation through an account payee cheque within 30 days of filing the committee’s report. That means it is possible to compensate the road accident victims within two months.
There is a 14-member committee to investigate the compensation for road accidents and recommend accordingly. In case of a road accident happening outside Dhaka, the respective upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) will lead the committee, an assistant director of BRTA will be the member secretary while police and representatives from transport owners and workers will be the committee members.
If a victim deems the fixed compensation is not adequate, he/she may appeal. Besides, the board of trustees can give a victim money in advance to meet medical and other costs after hearing the news of the accident or receiving an application.
Who is responsible will not be looked for
The question is, if a driver falls victim to a road accident because of reckless driving, will he/she receive compensation; will the diver having no license, as well as divers and their assistants of the vehicle without fitness clearance receive compensation, and the amount of the injured persons will be fixed under what consideration?
Nirapad Sarak Chai founding chairman Ilias Kanchan told iabilities will not be assessed in case of compensation and victims will receive a one-time monetary privilege.
Some fear that road accident may rise, if compensation is provided for an accident caused by reckless driving, vehicles without fitness clearance and driving without a license, as well as if liabilities is not assessed.