Vehemently criticising several provisions of the proposed road transport act, a minister, noted activists and transport leaders yesterday said the objective of the law was not clear.
They also said the law cannot achieve its goal with no mention of road safety, operations of the highways and being absurd on many counts.
The discussants also criticised “disproportionately voluminous punishment for even petty offences” mentioned in the proposed law.
Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik-Sramik Oikya Parishad organised the discussion titled “Things to do to check road accidents and Road Transport Act-2017” at Thai Chi Restaurant and Café while Brac and Safe Roads and Transport Alliance jointly organised another discussion on the proposed law and citizen's expectations at the Brac Centre Inn yesterday.
“The proposed law even lacks a preamble,” said noted economist and researcher Hossain Zillur while moderating the discussion at the Brac Centre Inn.
A modern law to bring in discipline on roads was needed but the draft law showcased bureaucratic mindset, he said.
“It provides disproportionately voluminous punishment for even petty offences but then it treats all kinds of offences under this law bailable and compoundable making the entire proposition a farce,” he said.
“The new law has no mention of safety … ,” said Ilias Kanchan, who has been fighting for safe roads as chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai movement since 1993.
The proposed law has no written goal, said Faruk Talukder Sohel, chairman of Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association. “This is an aimless law … ,” he said at another discussion.
Criticising the provision for punishments for failing to stop at red lights, updating fitness certificates, and overloading, he termed the law discriminatory.
“Is it acceptable that one will face two years imprisonment for red light violation when there is no signal light based traffic system in Dhaka?” he said castigating the provision for three years imprisonment and Tk 3 lakh fine for just one kilogram of overload.
All provisions which are not realistic should be omitted from the law, he said.
He said the day this law comes into effect, several lakh professional drivers would be disqualified due to an additional requirement of Public Service Vehicles licence.
The proposed law mentions qualified professional drivers. “What is the government's contribution in making qualified drivers? Driving licence can be purchased at various BRTA training centres,” said Mokhlesur Rahman, organising secretary to Bangladesh Road Transport Sramik Federation.
The law is vague and weak and does not reflect people's aspirations, said Manjuly Kazi, widow of media specialist Mishuk Munier, who died in a road crash.
Secretary General Mozammel Haque Chowdhury of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity and lawyer Sara Hossian also spoke.
At another discussion, Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, who heads the Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation, said several clauses in the draft law were inconsistent, which was not acceptable to the transport owners and workers as well as the people.
Citing an example, he said the draft law mentions that only departmental actions would be taken against an engineer if an accident happened due to faulty road, “which is discriminatory”.
“Overall, this act is not a good act. We want a law which is acceptable to all, transport owners, workers and the people and which will be realistic,” he said.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said the road transport ministry did not consider any of their recommendations made prior to making of the draft.
Golam Kuddus, president of Sammilito Sangskritik Jote, said, “Those undemocratic and unrealistic clauses of the law should be scrapped. We want a law which is passenger friendly and which can be implemented easily.”
He suggested fixing the working hours of drivers, workers; displaying the fare rates inside buses; and reviewing educational qualification of drivers prior to renewing licences of existing drivers.
Razekuzzaman Raton, general secretary of Samajtantrik Sramik Front, said the purpose of the law must be defined whether it has been enacted to punish someone, to bring discipline in this sector, or to create awareness.
“Otherwise tendency to violate laws will grow,” he said, adding, “Simultaneously, corruption will increase among government officials who deal with this sector.”
Architect Ahsan Habib said many accidents happen in the country due to poorly designed and built roads and highways but the draft law says nothing about it. “The law is a farce,” he said.
Journalist Naimul Islam Khan, former secretary Abu Alam Md Shahid Khan, Communist Party leader Ruhin Hossain Prince, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers' Federation Osman Ali also spoke.