Saving children from accidents
According to Police records many children get killed in road accidents. The question arises whether drivers of vehicles or children are negligent. When I was working for the Ministry of Education, I had to go to Galle on official duty. The driver assigned to me was an untrained person who had obtained a driving licence after paying Rs 5,000 as a bribe. As can be expected, he was clueless about driving.
An unemployed father had a daughter - Sathsarani - who was barely nine months old. However, he did not show any affection to the daughter for some unknown reason. After some time he started a dried fish business, but his parents were not interested in it.
His parents soon found that he was a ganja addict. As a result, he had not given any money to his family in spite of the advice given by his wife, teachers and friends.
Sathsarani's grandparents had been sending money to feed the child. Meanwhile the husband started having regular fights with his wife. Sometimes he used to assault her mercilessly.
One day the infant's body was found in a remote place. The nine-month-old child had been beaten to death. The incident took place in 2014 and no one was arrested over the killing.
In another instance, a 14-year-old girl had been raped by a group of influential men in the Kalutara District. The Police arrested the suspects and they were produced in court and bailed out. At the trial the accused were ordered to pay a meagre sum of money to the victim.
I have heard of many other girls and small children being raped and killed by sex maniacs. Some victims do not even complain to the Police against their rapists. The parents of the rape victims too are scared to make complaints to the Police as the suspects are usually powerful men with high political connections.
Use of drugs
The use of drugs is definitely a major reason for rape and related crimes. Another reason is that the perpetrators of such crimes are well-known people engaged in social service. Some of them are dayakas of temples. They also make regular donations to the poor. What is more, they are on good terms with the Police.
In order to save their daughters from rapists, some parents give them in marriage to old or divorced men. This is a pathetic situation as far as the poor people are concerned.
Sometimes protests are held against rape and murder of women and children. However, most of the protesters do not know what they are protesting against. Such protests are sometimes funded by certain social service organizations and NGOs.
Some years ago I saw some people protesting against the assassination of Congo's Patrice Lumumba. One of the trade unionists who were taking part in the protest asked me, "Elmo, is this the Patrick who was hale and hearty?" He had mistaken Patrice Lumumba for a local Patrick.
Protest against injustice
Probably he was drunk and I saw some currency notes jutting out from his pocket. This is the type of people who protest against injustice, killings and rape.
Today people protest against anything and everything. Public protests are spreading like wildfire. The question is how many people are protesting against genuine grievances. It looks like there are professional protesters who will take to the streets. They do not mind shouting slogans against the government so long as they are paid by the organizers.
Today many grandfathers are brought before courts for raping their own granddaughters.
There was a case reported from Anuradhapura in which a father had been raping his two daughters for two years. The judge sentenced the father to 125 years of imprisonment. However, in most other rape cases the culprits get away with lesser punishment.
In this country there are many organized groups to protect the rights of women and animals. They use the media to get publicity for their protests. Most of the protesters are not scared of the Police as they know that they would either be tear-gassed or driven away with water cannons. The Police also know how to handle the protesters.
In the past Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, Pieter Keuneman, Dr. S.A. Wickremasinghe Philip Gunawardena and Robert Gunawardena also led protest marches. However, they protested for worthy causes and settled their disputes through negotiations.
Today travelling in buses is not safe because of unruly drivers and conductors. Even school bus drivers are not a disciplined lot. My father who was a government servant took us to Kataragama, Nuware Eliya and Galle in long distance buses.
Those days bus travel was quite safe because the drivers and conductors did not consume liquor or smoke ganja. Today private buses are mostly owned by are politicians. The drivers and conductors have their own unions. As a result, they have become a law unto themselves.Some of the unions are controlled by political henchmen.
When the bus services were nationalized, the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) provided an excellent service under people such as Anil Munasinghe. During his time, there was discipline among bus drivers and conductors.
With more private buses on the roads the accident rate has increased. Every day we hear of road accidents, death of pedestrians and injuries caused to children. Sometimes pedestrians are run over when they use the zebra crossings. Jay-walkers are also responsible for road accidents.
Most private buses are driven by reckless drivers. Accidents occur when they try to overtake other vehicles to pick more passengers. This is a serious problem for those who travel by bus.
In Britain, Italy and Japan both drivers and pedestrians are a disciplined lot. Therefore, road accidents are minimal in those countries.
Some of the school buses and vans are not safe for girls. Very often conductors take undue advantage of young girls. Sometimes the drivers are seen talking over their mobile phones or smoking. They ignore the rule that both their hands should be on the steering wheel.
Most of these malpractices can be minimized by applying the law strictly and punishing the offenders. The errant drivers should be given harsh punishments without imposing small fines for their offences.
The State-owned buses render a great service. They are operated by disciplined drivers and conductors. However, the number of State-owned buses are few and far between. As a result, people are compelled to use private buses for transport.
Today parents spend lavishly for their children's education, food and clothes. At the same time they should also pay more attention to the safety of their children. What can the government do when the parents neglect their children? When both parents are employed most children remain unattended at home or in tuition classes. This is a serious issue all the parents should think about.
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