Monday, August 4, 2014

Bangla ferry goes down (again)

So....about 100-150 dead in Munshiganj district (30 km south of Dhaka) off Mawa Ferry Ghat on the Padma river. 
This is two months since the last disaster. One year after disaster struck at (near) the same spot. Three quick thoughts that we deem to be fit for sharing.
1) In Bangladesh, waterways are basically roadways. Thus one can rationalize the ferry deaths as just the same as horrific road accident deaths in other countries (including India). But the sinking reports always look very similar: boat was overcrowded, river was rough..etc.

Bangla should be heavily investing in "water traffic control"- sensor networks, for example, which provide early warning to boats to pull over if travel conditions are poor. Sensor networks have been used extensively on Indian railways (for landslide monitoring for example in the Western Ghats- Konkan Railway) and we can point to the many advantages of such installations (low cost, reliable).

As far as overcrowding goes this must be regulated. All it requires (we imagine) are surprise inspections by traffic inspectors and immediate impounding of the vehicle (and fixed jail terms) if there is evidence of overcrowding.
2) Where is the outrage? Every few months go by and one more ferry sinks, are human beings counted so cheaply? Bangla politics is really screwed up because of the bitter, battling Begums  but surely some disasters should lead  to a national unity moment? There would be some one, one would imagine, in a nation brimming with 160 million proud people (and millions in diaspora), who would put their hands up and say "never again."

3) We often wonder what is the motivation for (religious minded) terrorists to kill us? As it is in South Asia countless people die enough un-planned deaths through acts of God, is there really any room for additional planned deaths delivered by HIS agents?

Such a state of affairs should evoke deep compassion (and self-reflection). Focus (if you must) on why God chooses to punish us with these terrible thunder-bolts.  

But it seems people would rather prefer violence as the path to un-settle "settled facts." The numerous partitions stand testimony to our resolve to solve problems to which there are no permanent solutions excepting mass genocide or ethnic cleansing.

We really should learn to say "never again"....if we were smart enough that is...or if our leadership had any foresight. Too bad, WE are not smart enough, and THEY are as blind, willfully so.
A ferry with about 200 passengers aboard capsized on Monday in the river Padma southwest of Dhaka and rescue teams took about half of them to safety, the chief of the district administration said.

Mohammad Saiful Hasan Badal, Deputy Commissioner of Munshiganj district, said about 100 passengers had been rescued from the vessel, identified as the MV Pinak-6. No deaths had yet been reported.

Teams from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, fire brigade and the army were engaged in the rescue operation about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of Dhaka.

"Most of the passengers were coming back to the city from home after celebrating Eid-al Fitr," Saiful told Reuters, referring to the festival marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

A similar capsize occurred in May, when 54 bodies were recovered from a vessel that went down with around 200 people on board. Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has an appalling record of ferry accidents, with casualties sometimes running into the hundreds.

Overcrowding is a common factor in many of the accidents and each time the government vows to toughen regulations.

In March 2012, a ferry sank near the same spot, killing at least 145 people.




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