Slow-moving vehicles are risky and banned by law
Isn't it a mystery that although the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, the High Court and the Road Transport Act 2018 have all banned slow-moving three-wheelers from plying on the highways, you still see thousands of them riding around especially in the districts, upazilas and rural areas? Actually, when you come to think of it, it isn't such a mystery. These risky, unfit contraptions driven by untrained drivers who are poor and need to survive have an unofficial clearance from influential quarters. To ensure that the ban is honoured, it is necessary to find out those kingpins who make a quick buck from this illegal business.
According to a report in this paper, the drivers who usually are untrained and have no license operate these unfit vehicles by bribing local syndicates consisting of political leaders, policemen and administration officials.
It is sad that even the Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader has, on several occasions, admitted that the government could not enforce the ban because of the opposition from politicians including public representatives who are behind it. The general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation has been quoted in the report saying that some of these vehicles operate under ministers' names, some under MPs' names, and others under the local mayors' names. Another transport leader informed that owners of these vehicles have to pay Tk 2,000 to Tk 3,000 just to get listed with the "transport organisations" usually run by political leaders. Thus it seems that even the ministry and the government as a whole have no power to stop these unscrupulous public officials (who are all paid from taxpayers' money) from breaking the law and making money out of a business that has led to countless deaths and disabilities.
On Wednesday, one such vehicle flipped into a roadside ditch in Shibganj upazilla in Chapainawabganj, killing nine people and injuring several others. Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passenger welfare body, estimates that 15 percent of the total road crashes (around 5,516) last year involved these vehicles and illegal easy bikes. Most of these vehicles are motorised by single-cylinder diesel engines meant for power tillers or water pumps. Their brakes are faulty. It does not take much imagination to realise how risky they are when plying highways where trucks and buses speed by, some of them recklessly overtaking another vehicle.
It does not take a committee to find out how to solve this problem. Everyone concerned knows what to do—hold those public officials involved in this illegal business accountable, take action against them and find alternative livelihood opportunities for the drivers. These officials are on the government's payroll and answerable for their actions. Unless such corrupt practices are rooted out from the system, laws and High Court directives will not have any effect. And these slow-moving vehicles will continue to kill people.