Ride-sharing services are unlikely to resume anytime soon, as the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has taken a hard line on the vehicles that had been providing the popular service without having been enlisted with the BRTA.
According to the BRTA officials, although there are some 1.23 lakh vehicles registered with 12 ride-sharing companies, only 1,300 of them are enlisted with the BRTA.
Enlistment with the BRTA is a must for both the companies and the vehicles in order to operate the service.
Two major ride-sharing companies -- Uber and Pathao -- recently wrote to the BRTA, requesting it to allow them to resume operations like other public transport.
The BRTA, in a reply on Thursday, asked them to inform it the number of owners and riders of enlisted vehicles (with vehicle registration number and driving licence number) who were interested to resume operation given the current situation and how they would ensure health safety guidelines, especially for motorcycle users.
It's also a hint that the BRTA would not allow any unlisted vehicles.
Although bus and other public transport hit the streets on June 1, operations of ride-sharing services are still suspended.
"We will make the final decision after getting their response," said Lokman Hossain Mollah, director (engineering) of BRTA and also the signee of the letter.
"As per the guideline [Ride Sharing Service Guideline-2017], there is no scope to allow any unlisted vehicles under rider sharing services," he told The Daily Star on Friday.
UBER HAS 126 ENLISTED VEHICLES, PATHAO 118
According to the BRTA letter, only 126 vehicles (15 cars and 111 motorcycles) under Uber have the enlistment certificate while 118 (two cars and 116 motorcycles) under Pathao have it.
But according to the latest BRTA documents, a total of 20,637 vehicles operate under Uber and 20,000 under Pathao.
As per the Ride-Sharing Service Guideline-2017, each vehicle has to be enlisted with the BRTA after paying a certain amount of money.
When the BRTA started enlisting ride-sharing companies in July last year, it made the enlistment of at least 100 vehicles mandatory for the companies to have the certificates.
Lokman said they had been asking the companies for the last 11 months to enlist their vehicles with the BRTA, but they did not pay any heed.
Another BRTA official said they had sent a letter to all the registered companies in December, asking them to discard the unlisted vehicles from their apps but they did not comply. BRTA's acting chairman Yousub Ali Mollah said, "How can we permit a vehicle to operate under a ride-sharing company as long as it is not enlisted with us."
"We want them to enlist their vehicles and then provide ride-sharing services," he said.
WHAT THE COMPANIES SAY?
Contacted, Sayeda Nabila Mahabub, director (marketing and public relations) at Pathao, said thousands of drivers are being denied access to earnings opportunities due to continued suspension of ride-sharing services.
"For the three months since our enlistment in December, we have written to BRTA thrice, highlighting certain technical limitations in the BRTA enlistment portal and process, and have accordingly recommended a 1-year timeline to ensure enlistment of all drivers," she said.
"Unfortunately, we have not seen sufficient progress from BRTA in this regard," she said.
She also said their company was committed to the health and safety issues of their users and they have already taken several initiatives on that score.
"We have already outlined these measures to BRTA. We are disappointed to have not received their valued feedback on these measures," he said.
A BRTA official, wishing not to be named, however, said, "Our portal has no problem and they [companies] never raised any specific objection about our portal."
An Uber spokesperson said, "We have been raising awareness amongst Uber's driver community to encourage them to apply for the enlistment certificate, as mandated by the BRTA. But the initial process was slow due to technical issues… These matters were brought to the attention of authorities."
"We believe that once we're allowed to resume operations, and as drivers begin to earn a livelihood, they will be better positioned to pay the requisite fees to authorities and complete all enlistment certificate formalities."