DRIVES against unfit buses that have been initiated for about 20 years or so have hardly served the purpose of keeping the roads free of rickety and old buses that are prone to accidents. This is unfortunate that such a government effort, geared towards passenger safety, did fail and failed miserably, even after court directives for the government to keep unfit vehicles off the road, mostly because of the absence of alternative transport services, integrated planning and coordination among government agencies that carry out such drives. The High Court on August 3, 2015 asked the road transport ministry and the police to take steps in this direction. Yet nothing tangible has so far happened. Against this backdrop, Dhaka’s south mayor has again announced that the city authorities would be running drives against unfit vehicles from March 1, in all likelihood, to fail again. Episodic drives against unfit vehicles on the road are highly unlikely to improve the situation as when such drives are on, rickety vehicles, on their own, keep off the road or continue to run on the road in exchange for money, given to a horde of people, as has often been reported, including the traffic and law enforcement personnel.
The drives fail, and have failed, mostly because there is no other mode of transport for passengers. The bus, which is the only mode of mass transit in Dhaka, accounts, after the rickshaw, for most of the total of about 20.5 million trips taking place in the metropolitan area on an average working day, according to information, referring to a 2011 study, given on the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority web site. Given the huge number of bus trips, driven by a huge demand, any drive to keep unfit vehicles off the road will certainly fail if there are no other modes of transport. With no new buses coming on to the road, it is extremely difficult to free the road of rickety vehicles. In addition, as experts said, about 60 per cent of the buses now on the road are older than 20 years. As city authorities are supposed to look after the interest of passengers, they can conduct such drives but as this also entails legal and enforcement issues, the Road Transport Authority, aided by the traffic personnel of the police, should also come to make such drives meaningful. On top of all, the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority, the umbrella agency doing the coordination, should also join in and take the leading role in government efforts to keep the road free of risky, rickety vehicles.
While the authorities should daily, rather than episodically, run drives against unfit vehicles as part of traffic law enforcement, it should also try to add more, new, or newer, public transports to the aid of passengers. Such efforts could be meaningful mostly when route franchise — transport owners running their vehicles under a few transport companies on specific routes — would be introduced. The authorities might consider that as well.
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