THE move that the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority has taken in giving owners of city service buses seven days to remove sheets of plastic and paper, often with advertisement, that they have covered window glass with is welcome. Public bus workers are reported to have covered window glasses, as asked by their owners, with plastic and paper sheets, giving rise to a threat to the safety of passengers, especially girls and women, as covered glasses block the view, stopping passengers from seeing what happens outside and stopping traffic and police personnel from seeing what happens inside. Such a situation is feared to potentially make an ideal situation for either workers or others on the bus, especially at night, to sexually harass women inside moving vehicles. A report published by the Road Safety Foundation in November 2019, as New Age reported that time and on Wednesday, shows that about 83 per cent of the women who regularly use public transports are sexually harassed by transport workers on the road. The Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association in February 2018 reported that at least 21 women had been raped or gang-raped in public transports in 13 months till then.
Transport workers covering window glasses blocking the view stand in breach of two sections of the Road Transport Act 2018, in which Section 40(3) lays out that any kind of modification of a vehicle in contravention of the technical specification set by the authorities is illegal and Section 49(10) lays out that no advertisement can be on display or broadcast on any motor vehicles without the approval of relevant authorities. This also largely constitutes a breach of a ban that the city police ordered on May 4, 2016 in a set of directives on the use of tinted glasses in vehicles unless the vehicles have tinted glass built-in. When the issue came up in public conversation, as New Age reported in the third week of January, the Road Transport Authority officials conducted an investigation, which finds some air-conditioned buses to have put advertisements on such display on the bodies. While bus owners have signed an affidavit to remove the advertisements and stickers, the road transport officials say that they would run mobile courts beginning on February 26 against buses displaying advertisements and stickers pasted on bus. They say that any bus found to be violating the road law would face legal action and financial penalty.
But the big question that remains is whether the Road Transport Authority could be stringent enough to adequately attend to the issue of the display of advertisements on buses that block view and make passengers, especially women, travelling in buses vulnerable to misbehaviour and harassment. The agency has had the record of failures almost all along in the past in disciplining the road transport sector. It is expected that the agency would not have one more feather of failure in its cap.
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