ALMOST every other week, if not every other day, newspapers report deadly road and rail accidents. It has been barely over a month since 65 people died in a horrific collision between two passenger trains near Rohri. Now, yesterday’s deadly road accident is in the headlines. At least 30 lives were cut short, and over 40 people were badly injured when a passenger bus collided with a truck on the Indus Highway near Dera Ghazi Khan. The bus was en route to Rajanpur from Sialkot, most likely transporting blue-collar workers and their families home for the Eidul Azha break. In May, 13 passengers perished when a bus overturned near Rohri in Sindh. Similarly, in April, 12 passengers died and 20 more were injured when two vehicles collided on the Mehran National Highway near Kot Diji in Sindh.
Where yesterday’s accident is concerned, although Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has promised to launch an inquiry and catch those responsible, it is not likely that the deaths will lead to any change in the way officialdom views such accidents. So many ‘inquiries’ of other road accidents are lying forgotten. With such a high ratio of totally preventable road crashes, one wonders what it will take for the authorities to awaken from their stupor and take steps to regulate the transport business, including interprovincial travel, and crack down on owners of rundown, dangerous vehicles and inexperienced and careless drivers. Such circumstances are no less than a recipe for disaster. Mere expressions of sympathy by those in authority are not enough to assuage the grief of the victims’ families. One hopes that in this case, and in other instances, the government goes beyond superficial measures and the usual platitudes to actually improve travel safety in the country. The reason why its current lackadaisical approach is not witnessed in any country that values its citizens is that the authorities follow up on investigations and heads roll once responsibility for a tragedy has been fixed.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021