RESIDENTS of Dhaka have come up with complaints of public transports generally not being safe and decent. Most of the buses operating on city routes are in ramshackle states, with missing window panes, side-view mirrors, indicator lights, etc. They also lack basic facilities such as comfortable seats and fans inside, which are minimum requirements of standard bus services. Such issues inconvenience passengers, especially women, children and elderly people, on a regular basis; and the missing side-view mirrors and indicator lights here and there more often than not cause accidents. About 4,000 buses are reported to be running on the roads in the city inhabited by an estimated 17 million people. An inadequate number of public transports also cause the buses to be crammed beyond capacity, which compel people to use alternative transports that cost more and greatly contribute to traffic congestion. The responsibility for such an out-of-control transport situation falls both on the government and private stakeholders.
The present disarray in the transport system will continue unless the government and private stakeholders have coordination between them to the benefits of all. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority appears to be negligent in its duty to ensure that no unfit vehicles run on the road. The agency, along with city authorities, ran episodic drives in the past against rickety and unfit vehicles with no apparent success. Such episodic measures will not provide for any lasting solution if the authorities fail to strictly enforce relevant regulations. Rampant extortion is another reason for the existing crisis as bus owners complain that a large portion of their earning goes into the pockets of some syndicates, often backed ruling party activists, and they are left with no fund to upgrade vehicles. This, consequently, leads to demands for increased fares by transport owners, who refuse to stick to set fares and, thus, make the situation more difficult for passengers. Issues of extortion, corruption and legal complexities also deter fresh investments. The government needs to contain the situation by framing policies to protect transport owners and worker’s interest so that investments are made to ease the crisis. The implementation of a franchise-based bus service, which has for long been in conversation and is believed to greatly improve the situation, could be an immediate option for the government to try. It is high time that the government stopped dithering about the issue and immediately put in place the arrangement.
The government must, therefore, be stringent in oversight and enforcement of regulations to provide safe public transport services for people. The government must also shore up issues such as extortion and corruption to protect stakeholders and encourage new investments in the sector.
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