In an attempt to appease the agitating transport workers, the government has assured gradual and relaxed implementation of the Road Transport Act 2018, jeopardising the law’s proper enforcement.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Sunday, the day when the act came into effect, said that the government would not fully implement the act too quickly.
After four days of strikes by truckers that almost crippled businesses, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan early yesterday told transport workers that penalties mentioned in several sections of the law would not be enforced until June next year.
He said this at a meeting with transport sector leaders, prompting an end of the strike early yesterday.
As per the decisions made during the meeting, drivers of heavy vehicles would not be penalised even if they had licences to drive only light or medium vehicles. However, the drivers have to get proper licences by next June.
Besides, illegal parking and unauthorised modification of vehicles would not be penalised until June.
Moreover, the home ministry would send a proposal to the road transport and bridges ministry, suggesting changes to the act, said Rustam Ali Khan and Tajul Islam, convener and member secretary of Bangladesh Truck, Covered-van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council, which enforced the strikes.
Rustam, also the executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said they have asked for changes made to nine sections of the law and the minister promised them of meeting their demand.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, which is holding a two-day meeting in the capital, said it would place a proposal to the government regarding the act.
Executive President of the federation Shajahan Khan, also an Awami League lawmaker, said transport workers in several districts had stopped plying vehicles voluntarily because they were scared of penalties.
The federation in a press statement asked workers to stay calm and start operation of vehicles.
Amid widespread student agitation for safe road, parliament passed the act in September last year to bring discipline on roads. But its implementation remained halted for more than a year as transport leaders allegedly lobbied against it.
PEOPLE BEAR THE BRUNT
People suffered in different parts of the country for the fourth consecutive day yesterday as transport workers continued wildcat strikes in different districts demanding amendments to the Road Transport Act-2018.
Very few buses left the inter-district bus terminal in the capital’s Mohakhali yesterday. However, operation of buses within the city and at Gabtoli and Saydabad inter-district terminals were quite normal.
Goods transportation to and from Chattogram port resumed after truckers and lorry drivers called off their strikes following the meeting with home minister.
But there was little activity at the country’s largest land port in Benapole.
Transport workers in nine districts enforced an undeclared strike on Monday, a day after road transport and bridges minister announced that the new act had come into effect. Transport workers in more than two dozen districts joined the undeclared strike later.
Besides, Bangladesh Truck, Covered-van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council observed work abstention on Wednesday to press home their demands, including changes to the act.
Many passengers were seen waiting for buses at Mohakhali terminal yesterday afternoon.
“Vehicles have been vandalised. At some places, the drivers were not allowed to drive. That’s why we decided not to leave the terminal,” Mizanur Rahman, an employee of Ena Paribahan, told The Daily Star at Mohakhali terminal.
Abdus Sattar reached the terminal around 11:00am to go to Tangail. But he returned home after waiting four hours there.
“A few buses that left the terminal charged three to four times more than the normal fare. So, I gave up,” he said.
Abul Kalam, president of bus owner’s association at Mohakhali terminal, said many buses left the terminal in the evening.
Mosharraf Hossain, general manager of Hanif Paribahan, said the number of buses leaving Gabtoli terminal increased as the day progressed.
Operation of buses at Saydabad terminal was normal, said Abul Kalam, president of bus owner’s association at the terminal.
In Khulna, people suffered as long-haul buses to at least 18 destinations didn’t leave the city for the fourth day.
Sajib Mia, his younger brother, and three-year-old daughter Sumaiya started waiting for a bus at Sonadanga terminal in the morning.
“We need to go to Dhaka immediately… But there is no bus. I may lose my job if I don’t reach Dhaka today,” the garment factory employee said in the afternoon.
Like them, many other passengers remained stranded at bus terminals.
Although there was no demonstration on the road in Tangail, no buses left the town.
The Dhaka-Tangail highway remained almost empty until afternoon. Only a few trucks and three wheelers plied the highway.
Monnaf Ali, 65, came to Tangail from Nagarpur upazila, hoping to go to Gazipur by bus. “Now I am looking for an alternative,” he said.
In Rajshahi, although some buses operated in short distances, long-haul buses remained off the roads.
Entajul Haque, a lawyer, who wanted to go to Bogura said he had to board a bus to Natore which dropped him off halfway. He had to change several buses and CNG-run three-wheelers to reach Bogura.
“The one-and-a-half-hour journey to Bogura took more than four hours,” he said over phone.
In Dinajpur, a few buses operated in the morning but stopped around 11:00am.
In Nilphamari’s Saidpur, transport workers intercepted two double-decker buses of BRTC.
In Naogaon, transport workers didn’t allow buses from Rajshahi to enter the town. No buses left the town either.
People also suffered in Jashore, Magura, and Sherpur.