Troubles within

Men with multiple identities in govt stand in the way of getting transport sector in order

A solution to the chaos in the transport sector seems impossible as the people involved are all powerful.

They are ministers of the government, owners of transport companies and vehicles, and leaders of transport owners and workers organisations. They always protect their own interest rather than the people’s interest.

They often violate existing laws and government directives. They even dare to disregard court verdicts and keep people hostage by enforcing strikes.

And now these people are standing against the government when it is about to enact a new law “Road Transport Act-2017”.

They have announced protest programmes to press for their demand for withdrawing some clauses of the law which the cabinet had approved.

“With the government’s protection, they [transport owners and workers] have gradually become powerful. They think they are all in all and that’s why they are not respectful of the court’s verdict, and disobey government directives,” said Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association.

The ongoing suffering of city dwellers is the manifestation of the power of these people.

As the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and the transport owners announced that no public transport would operate in Dhaka in the name of “special service” or “seating service” from Sunday, many owners took their buses off the streets to create a crisis.

Mozammel claimed that around 40 percent buses and minibuses were not on the city streets in the last two days, even though the owners were not allowed to do that as per the Motor Vehicle Ordinance-1983 and the conditions stipulate for getting route permits for buses.

“It means they are violating the law,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Just two months ago, people were made to suffer as transport workers went on a nationwide “work abstention” for two days, February 28 and March 1, protesting verdicts of courts.

The decision of the “work abstention” was made on the night of February 27 at a meeting reportedly held in Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan’s home and was attended, among others, by State Minister for Rural Development and Co-operatives Mashiur Rahman Ranga.

Shajahan is the executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation while Ranga is the president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association.

On April 6 and 7, the federation held extended meeting where they discussed the draft law and decided that they would submit a recommendation to the authorities concerned about bringing several changes to it.

Abdur Rahim Box Dudu, senior vice-president of the workers’ federation, told this newspaper that the meeting, attended by Shajahan Khan, decided that they would form human chains across the country on April 23 demanding the cancellation of             some “black clauses” in the proposed law.

According to the draft law, a person has to pass at least class-VIII or class-V to be eligible for professional driver’s licence or helper’s licence respectively. It also has provisions for harsher punishments for traffic rules violations.

Asked about the tendency to disobey laws, Rahim said the civil society and the media always blame the drivers but they never talk about how the drivers drive buses amid various difficulties.

“No driver wilfully kills an ant, let alone a human being,” he said.

Yet, his federation had gone for a nationwide “work abstention” on February 28 and March 1 after a truck driver was convicted of wilfully killing a woman in Savar.

Trucker Mir Hossen Miru killed Khodeza Begum by running his truck over her on June 20, 2003, at Jhauchar in Savar.

Khodeza’s fault was that she and her husband Nuru Gazi tried to prevent Miru from using their private road to transport soil from the Dhaleshwari river bank.

According to the case documents, Miru and his helper Imtiaj Ali ignored the objections of Nuru for five to six days.

Around 11:30am on June 20, 2003, when the duo reached near their house, Nuru and Khodeza stopped them and again asked Miru not to use their private road.

At one point of the exchange, Miru drove his truck over Khodeza leaving her spot dead and Nuru survived narrowly by jumping away. Locals handed Miru over to police.

Firoz Talukder, the investigation officer of the case on February 9, 2004, pressed murder charges against Miru and Imtiaj under section 302 of the Penal Code.

In his testimony before the court, Firoz said he brought murder charge against the accused as he found evidence that accused killed the victim intentionally.

On February 27, a Dhaka court found Miru guilty of “pre-planned killing” and sentenced him to death.

The court in its verdict said, “Accused [Miru] killed Khodeza Begum intentionally by running truck over her as he was asked not to drive over the said road. Undoubtedly, it’s a pathetic murder and Khodeza Begum was killed for a trifle matter.”

Yet, a group of road transport workers’ leaders dubbed the murder an accident.

They led their workers, some of whom were already enforcing a strike in 10 districts of Khulna division over another verdict in a road crash case, to go for an “indefinite work abstention” nationwide with no prior notice.

The workers took to the streets, brought road transport to a grinding halt, clashed with police, hurt businesses and held people hostage for two days.

The transport workers in the 10 districts of Khulna division had been on work abstention to protest the sentencing of another driver involved in the road crash that killed filmmaker Tareque Masud, media personality Ashfaque Munier Mishuk and three others on August 13, 2011.

In the verdict of the case, Manikganj Additional District and Sessions Judge’s Court on February 22 held bus driver Jamir Hossain, 50, guilty of “reckless driving and negligence” that led to the deaths of the five.

The court gave life imprisonment to Jamir under section 304 of the Penal Code (charge of culpable homicide).

The court said Jamir committed several offences, driving without a valid licence, driving a bus unfit for the road, driving a bus with a tampered speed governor, and colliding with the microbus carrying the victims on the oncoming lane of the highway.

Citing the investigation, the court said Jamir’s driving licence expired three years before the accident and fitness certificate of the bus had also expired.

He had been driving the bus illegally using a fake fitness certificate renewal slip, the court said.

Citing testimony of a BRTA official, the court said speed governor seal, which caps the buses top speed, was tampered with and for this reason Jamir was able to drive at higher speeds.

The court said Jamir had been driving since the night before the accident and failed to take rest.

Jyotirmoy Barua, a Supreme Court lawyer, said the verdict was delivered under section 304 of the Penal Code which deals with the crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought.

In this particular case, the driver might have had no intention to kill the people but he was aware of the fact that his licence and fitness certificate of the bus had expired, the speed governor was tampered with and he knew his actions could cause death, said Jyotirmoy.

He said if the convict was aggrieved with the verdict then he could have appealed to the Supreme Court. “But, going on a strike to protest the verdict cannot be a solution,” he said.

Rahim, senior vice-president of the worker’s federation, on February 26 said they had been deprived of justice “because the driver was not tried under proper legal provisions” and vowed to continue the strike until they get assurance from the government of a “just trial”.

Asked why they went for a strike instead of going to the court with their arguments, he said, “We will go to the High Court and will place our arguments … a driver has the right to go on strike.”

Asked about being all powerful in the transport sector and holding people hostage, Khandakar Enayetullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, refuted the allegations and said, “We are always misunderstood. Wholesale allegations have always been raised against us without any justification.”

Mashiur Rahman Ranga, state minister for Rural Development and Co-operatives Division, said, “Fines are imposed [on owners] in case of any irregularities. Being the minister, I have never influenced this matter. No question of abuse of my power can be raised here.”

Minister Shajahan could be reached last night.

Source: The Daily Star

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