Drive on hold as govt stoops to bus owners

People wait for buses at Shahbag crossing in Dhaka on Wednesday amid a shortage of transport triggered by ongoing drive against the ‘seating’ bus services. — Ali Hossain Mintu

The government on Wednesday once again bowed down to the transport owners by suspending for 15 days the ongoing drive in the capital against buses running under the tag ‘seating service’.
By the time, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority will also decide if the so-called ‘seating service’ could be brought under a legal framework.
‘Considering public interest, we are postponing the drive against seating service for the next 15 days. After 15 days, we will resume the drive,’ said BRTA chairman Md Moshiar Rahman at a review meeting held at BRTA head office.
The chairman backtracked from his own position as on Monday he warned that they would cancel route permit of the buses which would remain off the street during the drive.
Replying a question, he said, ‘We did not bow down to anyone. We are preparing lists of the bus companies which did not run buses during the drive.’
The decision to relax the drive was taken at the meeting when commuters continued to suffer amid charging of extra fare and an ‘artificial crisis’ of transport for the fourth consecutive day of the drive.
On Sunday, during inaugurating the drive, road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader had vowed to continue the drive until order was restored to the road transport sector.
He had also warned that none, if found guilty, would be spared during the drive.
Softening his stance on Tuesday, the minister said it was impossible to compel the transport owners to operate their buses as they were not ‘ordinary’ people and many of them were very influential.
He also directed BRTA and transport owners to go for a ‘realistic solution’ by considering public interests.
Since the 2001-2006 term of BNP government, when Nazmul Huda served as communication minister, to the incumbent Awami League-led government, repeated drives were announced against buses older than 20 years but the situation did not change.
Currently, the BRTA is also conducting a countrywide drive to remove extra and dangerous features of trucks and covered vans while the authorities fixed six deadlines for implementing the decision.
At the meeting BRTA chairman said their drive against irregularities like removing dangerous features from passenger and goods-carrying vehicles and driving licence would continue as usual.
‘We want to bring seating services under a system,’ he continued.
On Wednesday, BRTA also decided to hold a seminar every 15 days with the participation of transport owners, journalists and prominent citizens to discuss crisis in the transport sector.
Daily Amader Orthoneeti editor Nayeemul Islam Khan at the meeting said a ‘seating’ service, with a different colour and separate fare chart, appeared to be necessary under a legal framework.
Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association secretary general Khandaker Enayet Ullah said that a decision to bring the seating service under a legal framework was made the meeting, provided that people were in favour of such service.
He claimed that in past four days about 20 per cent buses were off the streets during the drive.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police members and Nirapad Sarak Chai chairman Ilias Kanchan were also present at the meeting.
On Wednesday, people were seen scrambling to get on the few buses that ran on the road. At Shahbagh, Farmgate and Mirpur, crowds were seen waiting for transport.
School-going children, women and elderly people were the worst sufferers.
On Wednesday at a programme, minister Obaidul Quader said that within this May Dhaka North City Corporation would put 400 new buses on roads in the capital.
Rights activists have alleged that the owners created an ‘artificial crisis’ by not running their buses during the ongoing drive.
On Wednesday BRTA’s four executive magistrates conducted mobile courts at Tejgaon, Manik Mia Avenure, Khilgaon and Gazipur and filed 80 cases and fined the errant drivers Tk 2.45 lakh, jailed one
driver and seized documents of a bus for different offences.

Source: New Age

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