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Initiatives to discipline capital’s public transport underway amid new student protests

The students have taken to the streets halting buses to press for their demand of half fare. The public transport owners are refusing to cut the fare half for students.

The standoff has plunged the city’s public transportation into further chaos causing huge sufferings to the commuters.

The government on November 3 raised the prices of diesel and kerosene by Tk 15 per litre Shortly after this the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) increased the fares for intra-city and inter-district buses by 26.5% and 27% respectively following an indefinite strike by transport owners on November 7.

However, complaints have been in plenty that the transport workers are charging the passengers beyond this fixed rate.

Moreover, passenger who protested this anarchy suffered harassment by transport workers, even a rape threat to a female student.

On November 20, a 2nd year student of Badrunnesa College wanted to pay half bus fare and an assistant of a driver of a bus of ‘Thikana Paribahan’ threatened to rape her.

Such a situation has occurred as there is a lack of coordination in the monitoring system.

Besides, the transport workers are picking up or dropping off passengers at any place of their choice instead of designated bus stop.

Passengers are spending a lot of money and time due to the chaotic movement of public transport in the capital.

The buses are slowing down in the middle of the road to drop or pick passengers. At the same time, the competition is going on to overtake another bus.

Reasons behind transport chaos

On Uttara-Kuril-Badda-Malibagh-Gulistan routes run buses of transport companies, including Rayda, Alif, Iqbal, Unique, Victor, Akash. Mirpur-Farmgate-Gulistan Road has several modes of transport including Mirpur Paribahan.

These transport companies are also seen on almost all 291 routes from Gabtali to Jatrabari, from Mohammadpur to Rampura, from Airport Road to Mohakhali-Moghbazar-Mouchak.

Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, Secretary General of Bangladesh Jatrik Kallayan Samity (Passengers Welfare Association) told UNB that there is an extreme chaos in public transport service in the capital.

Passengers are constantly being harassed and 87 per cent of the buses and minibuses running in the capital are involved in such anarchy. “In fact, there is no effective system in this regard, and so there is no discipline.”

He further said that it is the responsibility of traffic police, BRTA, city corporations and bus owners’ organisations to maintain the order in public transport.

According to BRTA, the number of registered vehicles in the country is 31 lakh at present.

According to the Bangladesh Bus Owners’ Association, about 30,000 buses of 2,500 companies operate in the capital. More than one lakh buses ply across the country except the capital.

However, out of 70 lakh drivers across the country, only 16 lakh have BRTA licenses.

Khandaker Enayet Ullah, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, told UNB that transport workers are the “main culprits” in causing the chaos. “We are to raise awareness among the public transport workers in various ways. It will take more time.”

He further added that two other issues were also responsible for the disruption in the bus service system of the capital, one being that the work on rationalisation of bus routes in the capital has not been completed yet. The other is the lack of skilled drivers.

Steps to discipline public transport services

Khandaker Enayet Ullah said that there are allegations that the bus fare is even more than the instruction. Nine such teams, consisting of owners, workers and magistrate, are working on different routes to prevent such anarchy.

The bus that runs on CNG will be written on its body and diesel-run must also be written, he added.

Besides, most of the drivers in the capital are not skilled. A one-time training was arranged for them by BRTA on behalf of Bangladesh Bus Owners Association. Such initiatives will be taken to re-launch it.

Route Rationalisation

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Selim Reza told UNB that if the bus route rationalisation work is not completed, discipline in public transport can’t be enforced.

He further said that bus route rationalization work is in its final stage. A decision on this will come soon.

Anisul Haque, late mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, took this ‘Bus Route Rationalisation (BRR)’ initiative in early 2016. The plan is aimed at bringing discipline in Dhaka’s public transport sector and reducing traffic jams.

At that time, the plan was to launch 3,000 new buses of six colours under six companies within a year and half.

However, the initiative halted after the death of Anisul Haque.

Later, the DSCC mayor was made the head of the committee on Bus Route Rationalization with the DNCC mayor as the co-convener.

DNCC CEO Selim Reza said the bus route is operated by a few companies through route rationalization. Busses will run under these companies. There are currently many routes. The number of routes will also be reduced.

On October 5, Dhaka South City Corporation’s (DSCC) Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh announced the launching of ‘Dhaka Nagar Paribahan’ which will run on a 21km route — from Ghatarchar in Keraniganj to Kanchpur from December 1.

Taposh, however, made it clear that no old buses will be allowed to operate on the pilot route. The buses purchased after January 1 in 2019 that are plying now on this route will be included in the new service. “New buses will be added on the route.”

In all, 120 new buses will operate on this route. “Everyone, including the transport owners, has already agreed to this proposal,” said Taposh.

Steps to improve traffic system

Regarding traffic in Dhaka, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told UNB that the traffic police should not be blamed for the chaos in public transport. Every day the traffic police are filing a lot of cases. “I think bus owners and workers should be more aware of this.”

He further said, “If you look at the number of cases are filed every day and every month you will understand how much we are active there.”

“The goal of our overall activities and consideration is to bring the traffic system of the capital under one discipline,” the minister added.

He said, “As the number of people in Dhaka city is increasing, the number of public transport is also rising.”

Even then the traffic police are much more active than before. There are plans to modernize the traffic system too, Asaduzzaman added.

According to BRTA sources, the bus route is being redesigned. It will have 42 routes instead of 291 routes. Apart from this, the number of buses will be reduced to 9,027 from 30,000 buses under 22 companies as there are 2,500 companies now.

BRTA Director (Enforcement) Md Sarwar Alam told UNB that 10-11 mobile courts are being operated every day to ensure the newly-fixed bus fare. The mobile court will stay until the bus service is disciplined.

“We have taken several steps to discipline the bus services,” he said. Earlier, about 300 complaints were received every day. Now it has come down to 70-80, he added.

Source: United News of Bangladesh