Rajib Hossain: dismembered hand, dead dream

YOUNG LIVES MATTER

In conventional terms, Rajib Hossain was no brilliant young ‘change makers.’ He was an ordinary young man raised in relative’s house met with an every day accident in the city, but his tragedy got extra-ordinary attention in the media and it exposed how indifferent is the government towards the lives of struggling young people in Bangladesh, writes Nahid Riyasad.

coverA SEVERED hand sandwiched between two buses, screaming a story of horror — a shattered dream, death of a life long struggle. An unnerving photo that clings to our deepest psyche to haunt us down in our sleeps.

April 3. It was midday in Dhaka. Rajib Hossain, a third year degree student of Government Titumir College, was travelling by a double-decker to his graphics class. He was, in fact, standing on the pedestal of the entrance and his right hand was holding a handle outside of the bus, not a very uncommon scenario to a regular Dhaka commuter. When he came near to Karwan Bazar roundabout, suddenly, out of the blue, another speeding bus tried to overtake Rajib’s bus and bashed it hard from the side. This took seconds to happen. After the collision, people gained their consciousness with a high pitched scream. It was sound of Rajib’s excruciating pain. Fellow commuter discovered Rajib bleeding, with right hand missing from the elbow. This missing hand from his elbow was seen in the photograph still stuck between the buses — this hand stands for all the ordinary young struggling people of Bangladesh.

He was rushed to Samorita Hospital Ltd. They refused to treat him as no family members were present. When relatives arrived, doctors found that the dismembered hand was still missing. People went to the accident spot, recovered the hand and returned. The procedural delay made it medically impossible to reattach the accidentally amputated hand. The severed tissue was dead by then. One may wonder, why with all the advertisement of advancement in public health, the trauma management seems still non-existent. Had there been an expert medical team on the spot, the chance of reattachment of Rajib’s hand would have been higher. If not reattachment, he may have better chance of recovery.

A portrait of Rajib Hossain.Rajib’s family transferred him to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital as they were unable to bear the cost of treatment at the private hospital. The medical bill at Samorita Hospital stood at Tk 1.5lakh but the family cannot afford it. So, they paid around Tk 50,000 and signed a bond to pay the rest of the money later. At DMCH (Dhaka Medical College Hospital), physicians had to amputate his right arm from the shoulder. His condition became critical, major body parts were becoming weak, as he had suffered severe injuries in his skull and after a week surviving with life support, Rajib gave up at DMCH on midnight of April 16. So did his dreams.

We would have never heard of Rajib’s dream. Ordinary students and their ordinary dreams only get extra-ordinary attention when they meet such fate. Rajib was an orphan. His two younger brothers, Mehedi Hassan and Abdullah, spent most of their lives in orphanages. Rajib was about the age of ten, the eldest among three brothers when suddenly, their mother died from brain hemorrhage. Life possibilities became grimmer when their father, unable to comprehend the loss, lost his mental balance, disconnected with his family and died a few years later.

His parents were from economically struggling background. Relative were not better off either. The brothers, suddenly, had no one to rely on. Maternal aunt and uncle offered their hand with compassion and care, but could not provide much economically. Rajib’s younger brothers — Mehedy and Abdullah— still live in an orphanage.  The little help Rajib could gather from the relatives, especially from uncle and aunt, he invested that in studies. Simultaneously, with his degree course, he had also registered himself in an honours course at his home district, Patuakhali.

Rajib was really hard working and full determination. All his emotional and physical labour was invested in a really ordinary dream — he dreamt of taking care of his brothers. Mehedi and Abdullah are in their early teens and studying in madrasha. They are waiting outside the intensive care unit as their brother struggle for life inside. They had nothing but blank stares to offer. They said, ‘Bhaia always told us that he will get a job soon as he soon will complete his degree programme. He talked about our future. How we can get a home of ourselves after he gets a job. This was our dream. Now that dream is dying’.

In the stories that Rajib’s friends and his relatives told, his determination and hard working life rose to prominence. He became friend with a youth of his area in Jatrabari and learnt basic computer skills. He became very good at it and secured a part-time job at a local computer station. Besides, he was offering home tuitions to two schools children to earn some cash. With the money he earned, he tried to maintain his study, basic needs as well as providing for his brothers whenever he could. To sharpen up his skills, Rajib had admitted himself in a graphics designing course and he was doing really well there, too.

During the first couple of days after the accident, Rajib could not understand that his hand has been amputated. He talked about discomfort and pain in his amputated hand. Once he came to know about the truth about his hand, he felt he is dead. He refused food offered, refused to recognise himself as Rajib. ‘Don’t call me by that name, Rajib is no more’, he said to Jahanara Begum, his aunt. His aunt did not have words of comfort, she did not know how to console a young, energetic boy in moments of such tragedy, ‘I am not his mother but I did everything in my control to offer him help, but now? How am I to take his stares filled with agony and anguish?

Zahidul Islam, brother of Rajib’s mother also shared his grief. ‘Rajib has been very close to me since his childhood as he is only a little older  than me,’ Zahidul set the tone of their relationship. ‘Hardworking is one thing, if you combine that with his dream, you are a formidable young man. That is exactly who Rajib was. He dreamt of completing his studies, getting a job and giving his brother the love and home they never had,’ he said while trying to hide his tears.

But, Rajib’s dream was not a unique one, neither was his story. Every day, so many dreams and struggling lives are crushed in Bangladesh. It will not be an overstatement to name the roads and highways of Bangladesh as death trap. During the period of 2009-2016, according to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority statistics, at least 19,588 people lost their lives and 13,020 more sustained injuries in 20,461 accidents across the country and this is the government report, original numbers are way higher, say experts. The numbers are just numbers, however, behind those numbers, there are and were dreaming, struggling lives and stories. Road accidents have snatched dreams of thousands, robbed livelihood from thousands of families. Rajib is one of the latest victims.

A day after the accident, on April 4, the High Court has issued a rule asking the concerned authorities to explain why directives should not be given to provide Tk 1 crore as compensation to Rajib Hossain. Farid Ahmed Bhuiyan, the chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC), a party involved in the accident said, ‘We have sent our spokesperson to the family with some emergency cash to cover the medical bills’ but tried to cover-up BRTC’s involvement by saying, ‘driver of the other bus, in the police remand, admitted that his vehicle’s break had failed during the incident’. Even though his answers about the court ruling was not well defined, ‘We are making preparations to answer the High Court as soon as possible’, however, he did not sound determined to do so. Bhuiyan, nonetheless, sheds light on this serious issue, ‘getting compensation is not the issue here. The government should take initiatives to prevent these unwanted situations’.

Ilias Kanchan, lifetime member of Nirapad Sharak Chai, a road safety social awareness civil society body, is not so hopeful about the plausibility of Rajib Hossain compensation. Kanchan, expressed his deeply doubtful stand on the question of compensation amount. ‘This kinds of compensation can be extracted from the perpetrator of accident should there are precedences. If one is established, other cases can follow that footstep. It is unfortunate for us, we do not see many perpetrators of road-accidents are paying the compensation money to the victims,’ he said. He told a story from three decades ago when a journalist was killed in a road accident. The court ruled the perpetrators three times to pay the compensation, but the party procrastinated and decreased the amount through appeal after appeal. Now, the journalist’s wife is dead, so their children are running the case with little hope to gain something from it. After this story, Kanchan asked, ‘Now you tell me, do you see any chances of Rajib getting his compensation?’ No answer but a sigh was given as response.

As Rajib was fighting for his life in the intensive care unit of DMCH, news reports, opinion pieces were written demanding compensation and punishment of the negligent drivers and bus operators. The minister of health and family welfare offered him a job, if recovered. But, can the government wash its hands passing the blame to Swajan Paribahan’s broken break or offering a job when over 55,000 vehicles, including 3,740 belonging to different ministries and government agencies, have not had their fitness certificates renewed for more than a decade in breach of rules? It is the criminal negligence of the authorities involved that allowed the situation to remain so in which accidents such as this could happen time and again. Ten days after Rajib’s accident, a young woman meeting the same fate proves this point. On April 11, the right leg of a woman was crushed after she was caught between a road divider and a bus in Dhaka’s Farmgate area. Faint noise that the medical equipments attach to Rajib’s injured body was making, is a reminder to a loud reality of negligence and sheer indifference of the state.

Rajib is safe now, in his death. But, are we?

 

Nahid Riyasad is a member of New Age Youth team.         

 

 

 

 

 

 

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