Chaos on roads over new law

Truck, covered van workers, owners start strike today

Staff Correspondent | Published: 13:24, Nov 19,2019 | Updated: 00:29, Nov 20,2019


Truck and covered van workers bring out a procession at Tejgaon in Dhaka on Tuesday demanding amendment to the Road Transport Act. — New Age photo

Goods carrying vehicle owners and workers are set to go on a countrywide strike for indefinite period as the government began operating mobile courts under the Road Transport Act 2018 when bus workers are on strike in 24 districts.

On the day, bus workers in Mymensingh, Barishal, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Shariatpur, Gazipur, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Pirojpur, Madaripur, Faridpur and Jhalkathi started strike for indefinite period after workers in 10 districts in Khulna division and in Naogaon began strike on Monday.

Thousands of passengers including admission seekers of different universities and colleges and Primary Education Completion examinees suffered all day due to shortage of transports.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority also on the day met senior leaders of transport workers and owner but there was no result as the leaders claimed they did not call any strike.

Senior leaders of the goods-carrying vehicle owners and workers met home minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his Monipuripara house Tuesday evening, said a release of the ministry.

The meeting, however, ended with no fruitful decision about withdrawal of the strike.

The release said that the meeting decided that the leaders from across the country would meet the home minister in Dhaka.

After the meeting Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council member secretary Md Tajul Islam told New Age that their strike would start from 6:00am today as per their earlier decision.

Workers of goods carrying vehicles from a procession showed soles of their sandals to a BRTA mobile court in the capital.  

Loading and unloading activities at Benapole Land Port remained stopped for second day for the strike affecting businesses.

Till Tuesday, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police could not update its logistic capacity for filing cases under the new law.

Movement of vehicles was less than normal on the capital’s roads apparently due to mobile court operations.

The much-talked-about law came into effect on November 1 more than 13 months after it was passed in the Jatiya Sangsad in September 2018 but road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader twice deferred enforcement of the law for making people aware about it.

Leaders of Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council on Tuesday at a press conference at Tejgaon truck stand in Dhaka announced work abstention across the country from today for an indefinite period.

They asked the government to suspending implementation of the new law and amend it as per their nine-point demands. Their first demand is defining all road accident cases against drivers as bailable and no owners could be arrested or harassed in road accidents cases.

Md Rustom Ali khan, convener of the unity council and executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ association, said the number of drivers is almost half of the motor vehicles running on roads and the crisis of drivers would be intensified if cases remain non-bailable.

Around 23 lakh driving licences were issued against around 41 lakh motor vehicles till July 2019, said Bangladesh Road Transport Authority officials.

The council demanded issuing driving licence in short time with easy conditions and the licences should be issued for the type of vehicles the applicants drive at the time of application.

As per the previous Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983, the professional drivers with light vehicle driving licences and minimum three-year experience were eligible for medium vehicle driving licences and the professional drivers with medium vehicle driving licences and minimum three-year experience could apply for heavy driving licences.

BRTA director (engineering) Lokman Hossain Mollah told New Age nothing is mentioned on issuance of driving licence in the new law and they are following previous law in this regard right now.

The council demanded allowing all modified goods carrying vehicles to run on roads. Rustom Ali said they were running the modified vehicles for the past 10 to 15 years and questioned why the government is suddenly banning these.

The workers and owners want a reality-based law with reasonable fines comparing with their income.

‘If a driver has to pay Tk 25,000 for not having driving licence, he has to pay two months’ salary for that,’ said Rustom.

New Age correspondent in Jashore reported admission seekers to Jashore University of Science and Technology faced huge trouble to reach the campus as transport strike continued for the third consecutive day on Tuesday. The admission tests would be held on November 21 and 22.

Transport workers started strike on all inter-district routes, i.e. from Jashore to Khulna, Satkhira, Magura, Benapole, Narail and Chowgachha.

Loading and unloading at Benapole land port remained stopped since Monday due to transport strike, said Benapole Transport Owners Association general secretary Azim Uddin Gazi.

New Age correspondent in Satkhira reported bus workers enforced strike in the district for second consecutive day on Tuesday on long and inter district routes.

The correspondent in Magura reported transport strike continued for second consecutive day on Tuesday at the district.

New Age correspondent in Khulna reported about 10,000 transport workers enforced strike for second consecutive day on 18 routes from Khulna city, including to Kushtia, Jashore, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Narail, Gopalganj, Barishal, Dhaka and Chattogram for an indefinite period since morning.

Khulna Divisional Motor Sramik Union general secretary Zakir Hossian Biplob said after a meeting with Khulna deputy commissioner Helal Hossain some of them were agreed to ply buses from today till the

central committee meeting of the workers’ federation in Dhaka on November 21 and 22.

New Age correspondent in Barishal reported workers and owners of bus and trucks started to enforce an indefinite period strike from the day on different routes of six districts from Barishal.

Agitated road transport workers also obstructed movement of three-wheelers crossing central bus terminal at Nathullabad.

New Age correspondent in Shariatpur reported bus drivers started to enforce a strike in the district on the day. Passengers of all six upazilas in the district suffered immensely whole day due to absence of buses.

New Age correspondent in Mymensingh reported transport workers stopped running buses on all long route buses from Tuesday morning.

United News of Bangladesh reported that bus workers put blockade at Mawna intersection on Dhaka-Mymenisngh highway for two hours from around 8:00am but continued an indefinite strike.

Thousands of schoolgoing children, office goers and Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University admission seekers were the worst sufferers during two hours blockade in the morning.

Seven mobile courts led by executive magistrates of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority were on operation in Dhaka on Tuesday to enforce the new law.

They filed 79 cases, realised Tk 1,19,200 in fine and seized papers of three vehicles at Manik Mia Avenue, New Market, Ekuria, Tejgaon, Dhaka airport, Rampura and Darus Salam.

The mobile court led by executive magistrate MM Samirul Islam faced wrath of transport workers as they were passing by in a procession on Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Avenue at Tejgaon and showed soles of their shoes to the mobile court chanting slogan – fake (bhua)! Fake (bhua)!

MM Samirul Islam said they were realising minimum fines now for making people aware about the law.

The number of city-service buses, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, cars and motorcycles were few on the capital roads till the mobile courts were active.

On the day, BRTA called a meeting with senior transport leaders at its head office in the capital in presence of senior police officials to discuss the prevailing situation.

‘We did not call the strike and we will not take any action,’ said Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation general secretary Osman Ali.

Blaming BRTA for the current situation, Osman said the workers would not follow the law if provisions of non-bailable cases, filing of cases under section 302 and other high penalties continue.

‘We will organise a two-day central committee meeting from Thursday where decision would be taken,’ he added.

‘We are not enforcing the law to punish anyone but to re-establish the order on roads,’ BRTA chairman Md Kamrul Ahsan said and added that it was not possible to amend the law as it was being enforced recently.

The goods carrying transport owners and workers’ unity council also demanded for parking facilities at all metropolitan, city corporation, district towns, highways and business spots, an end to harassment by police in the name of checking documents, integrated system to control overloading, no infrastructures besides the highways, service lanes for slow moving vehicles.  

On October 31, Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation executive president Shajahan Khan at a press conference on the new law demanded making all road accident cases as bailable, not filing cases under section 302 without probe, immediate implementation of the 111-recommendations on road safety, accepting some proposals of the federation for amending some sections of the law and check weight of vehicles at loading point.

Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association also at a press conference on November 2 also demanded not to file any case under section 302 of the penal code for casualties in accidents instead of section 304 (kha) and identification of the main responsible people behind accidents.

They also expressed solidarity with the demand of the workers’ federation to make all sections of the law bailable.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email