The government has already prepared a fresh law to bring discipline on the highways in the country and check road accidents.
The proposed law has already been scrutinised by the parliamentary standing committee on Road Transport and Bridges Ministry.
The ‘Highways Bill, 2021’ was placed in the Parliament in its last session on September 4 aiming to adopt better transport regulations and to formulate a full-fledged law replacing a century-old and inadequate one.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader had placed the bill in the House. It was sent to the parliamentary standing committee for further scrutiny. The committee was given four-week time to submit its report.
The parliamentary watchdog has already recommended finalising the ‘Highways Bill, 2021’ by making necessary amendments and additions. The committee will place its report along with the recommendations in the upcoming session of the parliament.
The upcoming 15th session of the 11th Parliament is set to begin on November 14.
Md Ekabbar Hossain, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on Road Transport and Bridges Ministry, said that they made the recommendations on the proposed law at their meeting held on September 26. “We will place our report in the upcoming session and we hope that the Highways Bill, 2021 will be passed in the session,” he said.
An official of the Road Transport and Bridges ministry said that they designed the fresh law, replacing the Highways Act of 1925, aiming to end indiscipline and illegal occupation on highways and to prevent the road accidents on the highway.
The Cabinet on June 28 this year approved the draft of the ‘Highway Act, 2021’ with the provision of a maximum of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of Tk 500,000 for violation of the law. The existing law has a provision of a simple imprisonment for six months and a maximum fine of Tk 10,000.
Sources said that the move to enact the fresh law was taken to regulate the country’s highways, construction, development and maintenance activities on the highway and safe movement of vehicles.
According to the proposed law, small vehicles’ movement will be controlled on the highways across the country, while the highways can’t be used to dry crops or for any other purposes. The proposed law also imposes fine for piling up goods on the roads and driving on the wrong side. It also proposes bringing the Highway Police under the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry, which is currently under the Home Ministry.
After enactment of the law, government and non-government utility service providers have to take prior approval and pay charge to install lines beside the highways; and the authorities concerned have to shift their establishments at their own cost if necessary for maintenance of highways.
Road safety experts said that enactment of a fresh law is necessary to bring back discipline on the highway and prevent fatal road accidents. They said that the control of repeated accidents on the highways has become tough due to the lack of institutional capacity and enforcement of laws and regulations by the authorities concerned. A fresh law will play a vital role in this regard.
The removal of highway side infrastructures and kitchen markets, keeping separate lane for small vehicles or removal of such vehicles, removal of unfit vehicles, keeping the connection points between highways and link roads, and maintaining speed limit in the accident-prone areas are necessary. ‘It is a positive aspect that the proposed law covers the points,’ said Saifuddin Ahmed, executive director of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust.