Bus fare cut turns out to be farce
The reduced passenger fares announced by the government on May 3 have not been implemented amid slack monitoring by the road transport and bridges ministry.
The fares, hiked once, would never be reduced in a country like Bangladesh, passengers say.
“We, the common people, always suffer,” said Kawser Mahbud before boarding a Jhenaidah-bound bus.
Many other passengers there alleged that they paid what they had been charged before the government reduced fuel prices in April.
Bus owners in the capital's Gabtoli and Mohakhali bus terminals yesterday were seen charging passengers in the range of Tk 24 to Tk 117, which is higher than the rates set on the government's new fare chart of different routes.
Kamrul Hasan, a private university student, said he had bought a ticket to travel from Gabtoli to Jhenaidah for Tk 450 whereas he was supposed to pay Tk 357 according to the new fare chart.
“The fare has not been reduced as I have been paying the same amount for the distance for more than the last six months,” he said.
Another passenger, Nadim Mahmud bought a ticket for Gabtoli to Faridpur route of Golden Lines Paribahan for Tk 300 but the government-set fare is Tk 183.
The staff of Shyamoli Paribahan and Hanif Paribahan at Kalyanpur bus counters were seen charging each passenger Tk 350, while SR Paribahan Tk 380 for travel from Dhaka to Bogra. But the latest fare set by the government is Tk 298.
At Mohakhali bus counter, Rajib Paribahan was charging passengers Tk 300 each to travel on Dhaka-Jamalpur route, while Ena Paribahan Tk 470 on Dhaka-Sylhet route.
But the government fixed fares are Tk 246 for the distance between Gabtoli and Jamalpur and Tk 358 between Gabtoli and Sylhet.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) responsible for implementing the new fares says that it was not solely responsible.
“It is not possible for us to remain standby round the clock at each bus terminals to check overcharging. So, we need their (passengers and owners) cooperation,” said Bijoy Bhushan Paul, director (enforcement) of BRTA.
Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique said they were trying to implement the reduced fares.
Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association (BBTOA) Chairman Faruk Talukder Sohel said the association had instructed all bus companies to follow the new fare chart.
In the past, whenever the government increased fuel prices, bus operators were desperate to hike fares and pressurised the government to implement the hiked fares within the shortest possible time.
But the scenario is different this time. One month after the fuel price cuts, passengers are still paying the previous fares.
The government cut fuel prices on April 24. More than a week later, the ministry announced reduction of fares by 3 paisa per kilometer of inter-district buses, and said the new fares were to be implemented from May 15.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader the following day said the new rate, according to which one is to pay Tk 1.42 instead of Tk 1.45 for travelling one kilometer, would be implemented from May 20.