Commuters left in lurch as chaos rules road

Shahin Akhter | Published: 00:05, Apr 17,2017 | Updated: 00:10, Apr 17,2017

 
 
BRTA

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority officials, led by executive magistrates, check documents of vehicles and drivers on Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh premises in Dhaka during a drive on Sunday. — Sanaul Haque

The drive against buses charging extra and doing other irregularities brought only miseries to the commuters in the capital on Sunday amid a shortage of transport and an utter confusion over the rate of fares.
The transport owners had announced earlier that they would not allow in the city any special services which charged higher in the name of so-called ‘seating service’ and ‘gate locked’ from Sunday.
Thousands of passengers remained stranded at different city bus stops as fewer buses and minibuses plied the streets, apparently in their bid to dodge the drive.
The commuters who had the chance to get on any of the buses had to haggle with the conductors over the fares which in most cases were charged beyond the government-fixed rate.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority and the police on Sunday started the drive.
‘The drive will continue until order is restored to the road transport sector,’ vowed road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader during a visit to a mobile court operating at Satrasta on Sunday morning.
At some places the transport owners allegedly intervened as BRTA’s executive magistrates were taking punitive measures against the errant buses and minibuses and urged them to commute
the punishment.
A BRTA executive magistrate alleged that the transport owners were requesting them to fine the drives instead of sending them to jail.
Another magistrate said in the name of assisting the mobile court, the owners actually tried to ‘save’ the workers who violated traffic rules.
He described the situation as ‘totally disturbing.’
In recent years, many drives were announced against different irregularities conducted by city buses and minibuses but the situation did not change.
On Saturday at a meeting, BRTA decided to conduct mobile courts to implement some decisions made by the leaders of Dhaka Road Transport Owners’ Association on April 4.
They decided not to operate any special services and remove additional seats, rooftop carriers and side angles from buses from April 15 and sought legal help from BRTA to implement the decisions.
BRTA officials said the ‘seating’ or ‘gate locked’ services were totally illegal while it was mandatory for all Dhaka city service buses to follow the government-fixed fare charts.
Since Sunday morning BRTA’s five executive magistrates conducted mobile courts at Tejgaon, Agargaon, Asad Gate, Ramna, Jatrabari and Airport where five vigilance teams, formed by DRTOA, were also present to assist the drive.
As a smaller number of buses and minibuses were on roads, commuters were seen waiting to get any transports while the female passengers were the worst sufferers.
Passengers alleged that though the buses did not operate in the name of so-called ‘seating’ service on the day, they charged extra as usual.
BRTA’s executive magistrates also said that they fined staff of some buses for charging extra up to Tk 12 on different routes.
Executive magistrate Sujit Hawlader said after he started a mobile court at Jatrabari, many transports took other routes from Saidabad to avoid the court.
‘We requested our drivers to run the buses but many of them did not listen to us,’ claimed Bikalpa Paribahan Association chairman Mahbubur Rahman.
Bihanga Paribahan managing director Nasir Uddin said more than 150 buses runs under the company while about 90 buses ran on Sunday.
Obaidul Quader during his visit vowed that no one would be spared in the drive while they would work until passengers’ sufferings came to an end.
The magistrates filed a total of 122 cases, fined the errant drivers Tk 2.90 lakh, jailed four drivers and seized documents of three buses for offences including violation of government-fixed fare charts, not hanging fare charts, not removing angles and rooftop carriers and not having driving licences.
BRTA director (enforcement) Nazmul Ahsan Majumder said the drives would continue throughout the week.
Meanwhile, the district administrations and law enforcement agencies along with the BRTA on the same day started countrywide drives to enforce another government decision of removing extra and dangerous features of trucks and covered vans.
Since 2016, the authorities fixed six deadlines for implementing the decision while the latest deadline expired on April 15. 

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