The much-talked-about Road Transport Act 2018 is yet to be fully implemented almost three years after its enactment as the transport workers and owners are getting some facilities.
After the government has accepted the demands of the transport workers, the professional drivers are now driving any vehicle with their existing licences while after eight extensions till June 30 this year they will have to obtain appropriate licences from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.
The motor vehicle owners also got the facility of waiver from paying fines for renewing papers of their vehicles till June this year.
The rules for the law are also yet to be framed.
Moreover, this year, the authorities have taken the initiative to amend the law after proposals came from transport owners and workers for amending 39 sections to reduce punishments.
Road transport experts and rights activists said that the law should be implemented without granting any special facilities to anyone.
Otherwise, the disorder and chaos in the road transport sector would not diminish as was expected after the enactment of the law.
The overall road safety remained almost the same while frequent fatal accidents continued even during the coronavirus crisis.
Earlier on September 19, 2018, the Jatiya Sangsad passed the Road Transport Bill replacing the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 in the wake of a countrywide student protest after two college students were killed by a reckless bus in Dhaka on July 29 of the year.
Transport workers enforced strikes in different districts against the enactment of the law following which road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on February 17, 2019, formed a three-member committee.
The committee comprising home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, law minister Anisul Huq and railway minister Nurul Islam Sujan was asked to submit recommendations with respect to the amendments to the law demanded by the transport leaders.
The new law came into effect on November 1, 2019, more than 13 months after it was passed.
Immediately after that, Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Goods Transport Owners and Workers Unity Council called a countrywide strike which they withdrew on November 21, 2019, after a meeting with home minister Asaduzzaman Khan.
The minister told reporters that the drivers could drive any vehicle with their existing licences till June 30, 2020, and within this time they would have to obtain appropriate licences from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.
He also said that the transport sector leaders also discussed the issue of running modified vehicles, which would be solved within June 30 the following year.
At that time the owners demanded waiver of all fines for renewing papers of vehicles while the authorities gave them the facility till December 2020.
The deadline was extended till June this year, said a circular issued by the BRTA on December 31, 2020.
Earlier on August 28, 2018, the BRTA in a circular said that the public transport drivers with legal professional driving licences for light vehicles and a minimum of one year experience would be allowed to apply for driving licences for medium vehicles and with driving licences for medium vehicles and a minimum of one year experience would be eligible for getting driving licences for heavy vehicles.
Till June this year, the deadline was extended eight times.
Meanwhile, since 1994, 2019 has been the deadliest year on all accounts — in terms of the number of road accidents, death counts and injured victims after the enactment of the new law.
The number of fatalities increased by 57.03 per cent, injuries increased by 129.73 per cent and accidents increased by 58.94 per cent in 2019 compared with that in 2018, as per the statistics of the Bangladesh Police.
Meanwhile on April 13 this year, a draft proposal for 39 changes, including reducing punishments for offences relating to accidents in the transport law, was uploaded on the website of the Road Transport and Highways Division under the road transport and bridges ministry for taking the opinions from the people in next one month.
The timeline was extended till May 25 and according to the division they received feedback from 60 individuals and different organisations.
A senior RTHD official told New Age on Thursday that they had also requested different ministries to give their opinions and currently they were compiling the opinions they received.
An inter-ministerial meeting on the opinions would soon take place, he said, adding that they were also considering the proposed amendments to the law.
Supreme Court lawyer and Road Safety Foundation vice-president Jyotirmoy Barua said that the new law did not bring any basic change nor did it have an impact on the overall situation on the roads.
Perhaps for strict implementation of the law, the reformation was necessary, he added.
Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh secretary general Mozammel Haque Chowdhury said that on September 19, 2018, the government also enacted the Digital Security Act along with the road law and the government did not show any restraint in implementing the DSA.
‘We witnessed that the government was extending some facilities to the transport owners and workers,’ he said.
Mozammel said that as a result, the rights of the public were violated and the disorder and chaos on road could not be removed.
‘If the law is implemented without giving anyone special facility then discipline on roads would be established,’ he added.
The BRTA chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told New Age on Friday that the law took effect from November 1, 2019.
‘But there are some demands made by transport owners and workers,’ he said and added that the three-member committee also worked on these issues.
He said that initiatives were taken to frame the rules as soon as possible.
He further said that there were no directives for extending the deadline for the renewal and upgrading of driving licences while transport owners sent a request to the road ministry for extending the deadline for updating vehicle documents without fines.
In the first three months of this year, 1,426 people were killed and 1,302 were injured in 1,448 road accidents across the country while 3,918 fatal victims and 3,826 injured victims in 4,198 accidents in 2020, according to the Bangladesh Police.
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