PEOPLE in urban areas, especially in Dhaka, suffer as no public transports, privately or state-owned, serve the interest of passengers. They change routes, refuse to take passengers or increase fares at their will. CNG-run three wheelers are no different. A Passengers Welfare Association of Bangladesh survey says that about 98 per cent of the drivers do not follow the government fare chart while 80 per cent refuse to drive riders to destinations and 62 per cent run without meters. The survey shows that auto-rickshaw drivers used to ask for mandatory tips ranging from Tk 20 to Tk 100 while running on meters. In cases of contract journey, they charge 50-700 per cent extra fares, which is more expensive than car ridesharing services. The drivers try to justify over-charging by blaming the traffic congestions and that they pay extortion money to vested interests. The association, however, blamed the authorities for not being able to discipline the sector.
Citizens’ group advocating passenger rights claim that vested interests, including CNG Auto-Rickshaw Owners’ Association, law enforcers and others, hinders any attempt at disciplining the service of CNG-run three wheelers. Time and again, all the authorities concerned seem to have bowed down to their demands. Given that these vehicles run on the road way beyond the economic life, their claim proves to be true. In 15 years, the lifespan of auto-rickshaws has been extended by fulfilling six conditions, which include testing hydraulic pressure of high pressure CNG cylinder at any government-approved workshop and checking other parts of the vehicle’s fuel system. However, the conditions are reported to have been met only on paper. These run-down, accident-prone vehicles do not only overcharge passengers but they are themselves environmentally hazardous. Drawing from research, experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology showed how emissions from an old vehicle have negative environmental impact and cause serious noise pollution in the city. All things considered, the government should strictly regulate the operation of CNG-run three-wheelers and ensure that the drivers do not overcharge passengers.
Successive governments have so far been failure when it comes to streamlining the transport sector. It is not just the case of CNG-run three-wheelers, irregularities and violation of laws are evident in all carriers. ‘Seating services’ buses running in breach of government regulations exemplifies that neither the government nor the transport owners are there to ensure passenger welfare. When living expenses in Dhaka is soaring and ordinary people barely make their ends meet, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure safe and affordable public transports for all.
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