ESPECIALLY every time gas prices are increased and generally round-the-year, transports, particularly CNG-run auto-rickshaws, in Dhaka charge passengers higher than what the government sets in fare charts to ease the sufferings of people and to head off any trouble centring on the fare. In effect, road transports in the capital city hardly adhere to the fare charts. This time, after the February 23 increase in prices of compressed natural gas by Tk 3, from Tk 35 to Tk 38, a cubic metre, which became effective in March, public transports keep charging passengers at their whims. Buses charge up to Tk 20 more and auto-rickshaws much more. Soon after the fare charts, for buses and auto-rickshaws, had been last revised on September 10, 2015, buses started charging more and auto-rickshaws refused to go by the meter and, even if they did, they would charge up to Tk 20–Tk 50 on the metered fare. The additional amount that they charged started going up and they often refuse to go by the meter, declining to take trips that they consider short-distance and charging even triple the actual fare. The situation become concerning, belying the reasons for the government to set fares.
All this highlights failures of the government agencies responsible for disciplining the road transport sector. This also shows that the process that sets the fares may be flawed as none of the drivers or the owners of transports are willing to go by the what the government sets and the process that enforces the fare chart are not stringent and effective enough. For the fare chart to be effective, meetings making fare decisions must have representation from the drivers and the authorities must come down heavily on the profiteering motive of the owners. If the owners continue to charge the drivers higher, the drivers will follow in the footstep of owners to shore up the additional money they need to pay the owners. Almost all passengers that New Age spoke to are of the opinion that the enforcement of the fare chart is not strict enough, making room for transport owners and workers to charge passengers at their whims. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, meanwhile, sought to be complacent saying that they had not received only a few passenger complaints regarding drivers, of public transports, charging additional amount on fair in January-February. The case could be that the complaint mechanism may not be friendly and easy. There may not also be enough of publicity, and awareness campaign by the authorities concerned, of the complaint mechanism.
All this leaves the government with a lot to do. It must, under the circumstances, set the fare chart after consulting with all the stakeholders. It must enforce the fare chart strictly and in earnest. Relevant agencies must also make complaint mechanism easy and must publicise, and run awareness campaigns, so that passengers come forward to lodge complaints in ironing out the issues for the better.
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