Transport workers in nine districts yesterday enforced a strike, defying Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader’s call for them to refrain from such programmes centring the Road Transport Act-2018.
The transport workers in Khulna, Satkhira, Jhenidah, Narail, Kushtia, Meherpur, Jashore, Rajshahi, and Bhuapur upazila of Tangail went for the strike, demanding changes in several sections of the act.
Although central leaders of transport owners and workers associations said they did not instruct their units to go for the strike, many workers observed work abstention.
The RTA was finally effective Sunday more than 13 months after parliament passed it aiming to bring discipline in the transport sector. On paper, the new law came into effect on November 1, but it was enforced Sunday.
Transport workers went for the strike in Jashore on Sunday, hours after Quader said the law would come into effect on the day. They enforced a similar programme in Bogura and Kushtia on Friday and Saturday.
Asked whether the government was facing any pressure not to enforce the law, Quader yesterday said, “We have to enforce the law ignoring the pressure we face, because the act was passed by parliament.”
At a press conference on contemporary issues at his secretariat office, Quader, also Awami League general secretary, urged transport owners and workers to refrain from calling the strike centring the new transport law for the sake of road safety and their own interest.
He added that the authorities concerned had been given necessary directives so that no one does excess while enforcing the new law.
However, many inter-district bus services remained suspended in the nine districts following the strike, causing sufferings of people.
When Quader’s attention was drawn to the new development at the press conference, he said he was aware of it.
“Our secretary [of the ministry] has already talked to them [transport leaders] and I also talked to them. Let’s see what happens,” he said.
In Kushtia, transport workers called an indefinite strike, halting inter-district bus services, except Dhaka.
The decision was made at a meeting on Thursday, our correspondent reports, quoting Mahbubul Haq, president of Kushtia District Motor Workers Union.
The routes where no bus is plying are Kushtia-Rajbari, Kushtia-Khulna, Kushtia-Meherpur, Kushtia-Chuadanga, and Kushtia-Pabna.
Seventy percent bus drivers and helpers do not have required documents, said Mahbubul.
SM Tanvir Arafath, superintendent of Kushtia police, said the law enforcers were ready to take steps as per the government directives to enforce the new transport act.
In Khulna, road communications with other districts were suspended as the transport workers kept their vehicles off the roads, reports our correspondent there.
Transport leaders demanded amendments to some sections of the law. All offences under the law should be made “bailable”, they said.
The workers will continue the strike until the amendments are made, said Khulna Motor Workers Union President Nurul Islam Baby.
In Rajshahi, bus service inside the district and with Naogaon was halted.
Jahangir Alam, president of Transport Workers Union in Rajshahi, said some workers were observing the transport strike, but no official decision was made in this regard.
Our district correspondents reported similar situation in Satkhira, Jhenidah, Narail, Meherpur, Jashore, and Bhuapur upazila of Tangail.
Rabiul Hossain Rabi, president of Khulna divisional regional committee of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, said they did not make any decision about the strike.
“Our central committee will decide the next course of action regarding the law in its meetings on November 21 and 22,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said transport owners wanted to operate vehicles, but many workers did not want to do so.
“We want to assist the government in enforcing the law, but requested the authorities to enforce it gradually and they accepted our request,” he claimed.