RESIDENTS of the capital city suffer round the year, but the sufferings become the worst in Ramadan. As people try to get home before iftar, they hit the road in late afternoon. Cashing in on the situation, transport owners have started charging extra fare in violation of the government rates and operating in breach of rules to the disadvantage of people. A survey of the Passengers Welfare Association of Bangladesh says that 97 per cent of city buses run as ‘seating services’ in 3.00pm–6.30pm by closing their doors. As a result, passengers waiting to get into public transports at intermediate stops fall victim to this anarchy. They also allege that bus operators target the passengers who are in a hurry to reach home and force an increased fare on them. Autorickshaws and ridesharing services also force passengers to travel unmetered and charge them exorbitant fares. Transport authorities, meanwhile, took no action against transport owners for running buses with only profit-making interest.
Anarchy in the transport sector in Ramadan is not new. When it was expected that authorities would take preventive measures well before Ramadan, it is rather disappointing that they have taken neither preventive nor corrective steps to ensure safe and affordable journey for people. The situation is not only costly for passengers, travelling has become riskier as well. The study the association also says that around 68 per cent of passengers are forced to get in and off running buses. Traffic accidents in recent weeks speaks volume of the risk. Bus operators are reportedly doing the same in Chattogram. As there is no effective grievance mechanism for passengers, violations continued unabated. It has also found that some 93 per cent do not know where to complain about the malpractices while 90 per cent say that they think it is use making complaints. While the situation at hand talks about the specific problem in the transport sector in Ramadan, it is just an aggravated version of what takes place at regular time. Passengers and civic groups advocating passenger safety have talked about the exploitative ‘seating service’ for some time now. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority has conducted drives against ‘seating services’, but in most cases, drives were suspended abruptly under pressure from transport owners and workers. Similarly, the road transport and bridges ministry set up a committee to streamline bus fares and recommend new fares but failed to ensure any implementation.
The government, under the circumstances, must take action against the bus operators charging extra in violation of fares set by the government. The authorities concerned should also hold an emergency meeting with transport owners and autorickshaw owners’ association to find a long-term, sustainable solution to the crisis in the transport sector. As things stand, it appears that government is not interested in resolving the problem that plagues the sector.
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