New safety threats have emerged for passengers as a section of the city service bus owners started to cover their bus windows with plastic sheets or papers blocking both the inside and outside views in violation of laws and directives.
This new trend is gaining ground while incidents of sexual harassment and maltreatment of passengers inside buses are taking place frequently.
Some of the bus company owners said that they covered the windows to protect the passengers from sunlight and the glasses from destruction in cases of vandalism.
Road safety experts said that such covering of windows is a threat to the safety of passengers.
Saying that he was not aware of the matter, Khandaker Enayet Ullah, general secretary of Dhaka Road Transport Owners’ Association, asked, ‘What are the police and the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority doing about this?’
BRTA officials concerned and police said that they were yet to learn about the matter.
In recent months, many city-service buses and minibuses were seen running on different city routes with their windows covered with plastic sheet or paper of various colours.
For example, buses belonging to Bahan Paribahan, Victor Classic, Bikash Paribahan, Taranga Plus, Trans Silva Paribahan, Akash Paribahan, Rajanigandha, Sky Line, Moumita Paribahan, Monjil, and Dishari Paribahan are plying with such covered windows.
The covers completely block the views and the passengers cannot see outside the buses and people outside the buses cannot see what is happening inside the buses.
‘This is absurd! The windows of the buses must be transparent,’ said Tawhidul Islam, a bus passenger at Zero Point in the capital.
‘There is no justification for this modification and this is illegal,’ said Bangladesh Road Transport Authority chairman Kamal Ahsan on Thursday, adding that he was not aware of the development.
According to Section 40 (3) of the Road Transport Act, 2018, any kind of modification of a vehicle in contravention of the technical specification fixed by the authorities is illegal.
Earlier on May 4, 2016, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police in a set of directives also banned tinted glasses on vehicles but the vehicles with such built-in glasses.
A report published by Road Safety Foundation in November last year revealed that around 83 per cent of the women who regularly used public transports in the country were sexually harassed by transport workers on roads.
On January 10 this year, a female garment worker was killed after ‘being raped’ on a running bus in Dhamrai.
Incidents of sexual harassment inside buses have become a regular happening in the capital, which largely surface on the social media and sometimes reached the police stations.
Some bus workers said that covers were pasted on the windows following instructions from the bus owners.
Professor Md Mizanur Rahman, director of the Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said that this development was linked to undesirable incidents of misbehaviour with passengers.
‘We often saw in newspaper reports that when there were few or no other passengers inside buses the staff sexually harassed or assaulted female passengers,’ he said, adding, ‘In view of these incidents the bus windows should be transparent.’
He said that curtains could be used instead of permanent shades on the bus windows to avoid sunlight.
‘Permanent shades are a threat to the safety of passengers inside the buses, which should be immediately checked by law-enforcement agencies,’ Mizanur said.
He further said that during the fitness checking the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority should not renew fitness of such buses.
SM Salehuddin, a transport expert and a former executive director of the Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, said that if the windows were covered then nobody, including the police and the public outside, could see what was happening inside the buses like incidents of sexual harassment and mistreatment of passengers.
In other countries, the windows of public buses are big in sizes and transparent in order to make the journey enjoyable to the passengers, he said.
The expert also mentioned that it was also unhealthy to travel in a dark environment.
Chairman Syed Nazrul Islam of Bahan Paribahan, which runs its buses on the Mirpur–Taltola route, told New Age that they had earlier covered the windows with plastic sheets for protecting the glasses from breaking.
He admitted that such covering was illegal, adding that they would look into the matter.
Tariqul Mobin Shimul, managing director of Taranga Plus serving the Banasree–Mohammadpur route, said that they had earlier covered glasses for protecting the passengers from sunlight.
Last week they had asked their workers to remove all these covers, he added.
Md Torab Hossian, secretary of the owners’ association of Bikash Paribahan that serves the Signboard–Dhour route, said that he was not aware of the matter as there were several owners of the transport company.
Under the company, he owns some 20 buses that do not have plastic sheet on the windows, he added.
DRTOA general secretary Khandaker Enayet said that he would immediately instruct all the owners in a written notice not to cover the bus-window glasses.
‘First of all, there is no legal scope for fixing tinted glasses… or any cover on bus glasses, which could block the view,’ said Dhaka Metropolitan Police joint commissioner traffic (north) Abdur Razzak.
‘The main objective is that the view inside the buses has to be clear,’ he said.
He, too, said that he was not aware of the matter.
Basu Deb Banik, Dhaka Metropolitan Police joint commissioner traffic (south), said that though he was not aware of the matter, covering bus glasses was a clear modification.
Both the joint commissioners said that they would take action against the buses with covered windows.
BRTA chairman Kamal Ahsan also said that he would inform the officials concerned for taking this issue seriously.
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