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Dhaka student protest: City paralyzed as strike continues for 7th consecutive day

The protest brought the capital city to a standstill, blocking major intersections compelling the bus operators to suspend their services citing “security reasons” and exposing commuters in Dhaka to extreme difficulties.

PTI 04 Aug 2018, 02:31 PM Bangladesh

Thousands of angry school students continued their protest for the seventh consecutive day demanding a crackdown on reckless driving and justice for the two teenage students killed by a speeding bus last week.

The protest brought the capital city to a standstill, blocking major intersections compelling the bus operators to suspend their services citing “security reasons” and exposing commuters in Dhaka to extreme difficulties.

The protests demanding safer roads largely cut off Dhaka, the city of 18 million, from the rest of Bangladesh as bus owners said they stayed off the road fearing vandalism.

Two teenage students -- a boy and a girl - were killed when two buses racing to collect passengers, a common occurrence in the city, struck them and wounding several others. One of the bus drivers fled the scene, although both were later arrested.

More than 4,200 pedestrians were killed in road accidents in Bangladesh in 2017, a 25 percent increase from 2016, according to private research group the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads, and Railways.\R

“Bus services will resume once the situation returns to normal,” said Bangladesh Bus Owners Association President Enayet Ullah Khan. The protest also affected Dhaka’s supply chain particularly in the kitchen market, spiraling prices.

Ever since the protest erupted, the school students have been seen on Dhaka's streets checking whether cars and buses had valid licenses and were in a roadworthy condition.

So far they stopped flag cars carrying senior cabinet ministers, Supreme Court judges alongside police and military vehicles to verify their drivers’ valid papers and uploaded the pictures of the scenes on the social media when they were found to have lacked the licenses.

They also made making lanes for a different mode of transports and keeping paths open for emergency vehicles in a demonstration of how the traffic could be disciplined.

One minister had to abandon his vehicle in the street after protesters found that the driver’s paperwork was not in order.

The students became outrageous further as a minister who has links to transport unions - called the protests “hypocrisy” asking why the high school students had not reacted the same when 33 people died in a bus crash in India recently. However, he apologized later.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government urged an end to the protests announcing a series of steps to discipline the transport sector as the demonstration visibly appeared politically alarming ahead of general elections due at the end of the current year.

Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, meanwhile, said “all demands will be fulfilled and a law will be proposed in the next session of parliament” but “we fear the movement may turn violent as there is a conspiracy to make the government inoperative”.

“We’ll take stern action against those conspiring to exploit this by inciting the minors,” Kamal said.

Kamal’s comments came while over a dozen students today were injured as ruling party student activists and police launched an attack on the student protesters.

Several other senior ministers feared main opposition outside parliament BNP of now-imprisoned ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia and its crucial ally fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami were meddling to the demonstrations as the student's outrage continued.

Ruling Awami League’s general secretary and road transport minister Obaidul Quader urged the students not to step into any “instigation trap” saying after an abortive demonstration for quota reforms for government jobs in recent months “they are now depending on school students”.

“They (opposition) want to instigate their movement . . . We seek cooperation from the heads and governing bodies of education institutions, and the guardians to bring back the students to their homes and educational institutions,” he told newsmen after a joint meeting of the party’s Dhaka city units last night.

Dhaka’s police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia, however, “thanked the students for their initiative to maintain and regulating traffic rules” and urged them to go back to their studies.

“Police across Bangladesh will observe a traffic week throughout the country from tomorrow,” he said in a media briefing.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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