THE government appears to have bowed down to transport owners by suspending for a fortnight the drive, which ran for four days, against city transport operators fleecing passengers in the name of offering ‘seating service.’ Transport owners are reported to have created an artificial crisis of public transport by keeping most of their vehicles off the road, causing immense sufferings to passengers. In addition to having plans now to see if the ‘seating service’ could be brought under a legal framework, the road transport and bridges minister, who on April 16 vowed to continue with the drive until order could be restored to the road transport sector, on Tuesday, however, said that it was impossible to force transport owners to run their buses as the owners were not ‘ordinary’ people and were ‘very influential’ and directed the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to aim for a ‘realistic solution.’ The BRTA chairman, who on April 17 said that any operator not running their vehicles would have their route permits cancelled, on Tuesday sought to explain that they had postponed the drive in public interest and would resume the drive after a fortnight, which looks like sugar-coating its weakness.
The government wilting under the pressure of private transport operators is worrying in that it did the same when transport operators went on a wildcat strike towards the end of February, creating chaos and causing immeasurable sufferings to passengers, which appears to have been a case of temporary muscle flexing by two ministers, the shipping minister Shanahan Khan and the minister of state for local government, rural development and cooperatives Mashiur Rahman Ranga, who are top leaders of transport workers and owners’ associations. What yet remains further worrying is that the National Board of Revenue, as New Age reported on Thursday, offered budgetary incentives asking road transport sector leaders to restore discipline to the sector. The proposition sounds atrocious as transport operation is a business as any other business is. There are rules of the trade that transport operators need to comply with, there are oversight mechanism that they need to act within and there are responsibilities that they need to discharge. While they have come up with threats every time the government has tried to restore discipline to the road transport sector, not just in the capital city but across the city, they have in most cases flexed their muscle, political or otherwise, not to let the government do its job. They have also put obstacles to the operation of the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation services for their gains in their efforts to fight out a monopoly, stamping down public interest.
There is, therefore, no reason, under the circumstances, for the government to afford ‘all types of incentives’ from the National Board of Revenue in exchange for discipline in the road transport sector which transport operators should normally do keeping to the rule of the trade. The government has already wilted enough under the pressure of transport operators. It is high time that the government stood up to them and if it so does, ordinary citizens will throw their weight behind the government.
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