The other side of transport restrictions left unconsidered

Published: 00:00, Apr 03,2021


THE fresh directives on the transport sector, in view of the recent surge in COVID-19 infection with 6,469 cases reported in 24 hours until Thursday morning, appear to be doing more harm than good. The directives, set in force on March 30 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 infection, require public transports to run to half the passenger capacity for a 60 per cent increase in fare. The government in the new directives has also ordered all public and private offices and businesses, except emergency services, to run on 50 per cent of human resources, but the directive is reported not to have been adhered to. This, in turn, has come to cause a great deal of suffering to thousands of city dwellers because the number of people availing transport services daily has remained almost the same. In such a situation, transport owners keep flouting the directive to run to half the passenger capacity while charging an increased fare, with some allegedly even charging a 100 per cent increase on the usual fare. Public transports are also reported not to be maintaining health protocols. The situation appears to be similar with river transports as they carry the usual number of passengers and charge higher fare.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, meanwhile, on March 31 banned ridesharing motorcycle services for at least a fortnight. In recent years, a large portion of the daily trips in Dhaka has been managed by such services because many city people depend on them for daily commutes. When the unavailability of buses and increased fare have already put a strain on people, the ban on ridesharing motorcycle services will only lead to more chaos. The ban will also push a great number of people whose sole source of income is motorcycle ridesharing into further economic hardship amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The government appears to have made the decision to impose a blanket ban without considering any sort of incentive or alternative means for the survival of such service providers. The service providers have also alleged that while the law enforcement agencies file cases against them for violating the ban, the law enforcers hardly take action against public transports that flout the government directives. The allegation, if true, will amount to nothing but harassment in trying times. The situation in the transport sector, after the imposition of fresh restrictions, appears to be worse than what it was when public transports were allowed to run with restrictions between May 31 and August 31, 2020 because health protocols are widely flouted by public transports.

The government should have thought of all such impact on people before it imposed the fresh restrictions on the transport sector. The government must, therefore, consider all possible aspects before taking steps to stop the spread of the COVID-19 infection. The government should now also find out ways to minimise people’s sufferings and act accordingly.

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