IT IS unfortunate, and concerning, that rickety buses, mostly more than 20 years old, continue to run on the roads in the capital city while the Dhaka South City Corporation along with relevant agencies has been running drives against old, unfit vehicles and unlicensed driving since March 5. Forty-three bus drivers have so far been jailed for unlicensed driving, 48 buses and converted utility vehicles seized for running without valid documents and fitness certificates, cases filed over 602 buses for various irregularities, including driver’s failure to show valid documents, and about Tk 1.28 million realised in penalty from bus owners for various irregularities but, as New Age reported on Thursday, not a single bus more than 20 years old could be seized and dumped. Yet, as the report said quoting passengers, many rundown, rickety and old buses continue to run on the road, sometimes taking other routes not under the watch of the ongoing mobile court operation and sometimes avoiding main roads, while many have stayed off the road to avoid the drive. Dhaka’s south mayor in the middle of February said that not a single bus more than 20 years old would be allowed on the road.
But unfortunately this has not happened. The ongoing drive against old, rickety and illegally modified buses in its current form is highly unlikely to bring about any changes in the chaotic road traffic situation. This has only created a feel-good scenario, as the New Age report quoted passengers as saying that traffic congestion has reduced a bit, as owners have taken many unfit buses off the roads. The situation will only last for a brief period and is likely to get back at square one after the drives end on March 23. Worrying still is the fact, as New Age reported soon after the drive had begun, that many of the buses have been sent for repairs and paint job so that they could get back on the road again, after the drives, and keep dodging law enforcement. New Age quoted an executive magistrate as saying that faulty vehicles are usually withdrawn as soon as mobile courts begin. In such a situation, the government and relevant agencies need to think about a more effective mechanism to stop old vehicles from running on the road and drivers without licences from running vehicles.
Episodic and trumpeted drives may afford a brief respite but everything will fall through in the end. The government, under the circumstances, needs to routinely run drives against old, unfit buses and other transport malaise that can put life in jeopardy. The government must do it — in view of 20,776 death in 21,816 accidents in nine years till November 2016 — to ensure passenger safety and to better maintain road network.
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