Public transport goes haywire
Transport operators at their whim continue to charge extra fares from passengers on all routes in the capital, apparently due to lack of government control over the sector.
Successive governments have failed to formulate a comprehensive policy for mass transport, facing opposition from powerful rackets with direct or indirect interests in transport business.
Frequent changes in decisions and lack of coordination among ministries and departments concerned have left the city's transport system in disarray for years.
Besides, inference by influential people, especially politicians, and extortions kept on obstructing development of the sector.
The latest spell of anarchy in this sector sparked by a hike in CNG price without consultation with the communications ministry has shown the government's negligence in improving public transport.
“We can't solve the problem overnight, but we are trying to bring more buses [on city roads] to alleviate public sufferings,” Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain told The Daily Star.
Transport owners told a meeting at the communications ministry on Monday that the government has not formulated any policy for resolving the long-standing crisis in transport sector.
“You [the government] always ignored this sector, compelling 42 companies to wind up their business in the last five years,” alleged Moshiur Rahman Ranga, one of the owners.
Contacted, a number of transport sector leaders said no unified policy for mass transport could be formulated as those supposed to do so are directly or indirectly involved in it.
“Whenever a party comes to power, their men take control of the transport sector to make money through extortions and toll collection,” said a communications ministry official, requesting anonymity.
Several agreements have been signed between the government and the transport owners, but none of those was implemented.
In 2005, the then BNP government decided not to allow small transports like minibus and human hauler in the capital, but the present government cancelled the decision in 2009.
Also, a decision to form a body of the transport owners to discipline the sector is yet to be implemented.
Against the backdrop of chaos over transport fares, the government on Monday increased bus fare by around 30 percent and CNG fare by seven percent to be effective from May 19.
Leaders of transport owners' association on Monday agreed with the government that they would not charge increased fares until tomorrow when the new rates would come into force.
The communication minister even threatened to cancel the route permit of the busses that would charge extra money from the passengers. But visiting different city spots, no ministry supervision to implement the decision has been found.
Talking to The Daily Star, a number of passengers from different city routes said they have to pay hiked up fares even after the government decision.
A bus passenger said he has to pay Tk 28 instead of Tk 20 from Uttara house-building to Kakrail.
“We have no alternative but to pay hiked fares amid severe scarcity of transports in the city,” said a passenger who regular travel from Mirpur to Motijheel.
The operators are realising extra money by putting the amount on the tickets.
Asked about violating the government decision, President of Association of Bus Companies Khandaker Rafiqul Islam Kajol said, “We, from a meeting yesterday, asked all not to charge extra fare, but some operators might have not followed the instruction.”
He said no decision will be implemented in transport sector until the government pay special attention to the sector.
Although the present Awami League government is importing buses to minimise the city's increasing transport woes, the private companies are withdrawing themselves from the business to make the problem more complicated.
Four separate committees formed by the communications ministry to identify problems in the transport sector and to suggest possible solutions are not at all functional.
Khandaker Enayet Hossain, secretary general of Dhaka Sarak and Paribahan Owners' Association, however, claimed that the transport business is in the dire strait due to continued losses in the business.
A ruling party influential, Enayet said increased prices of motor parts and traffic congestion in the city drastically cut their profit over the last few years. “The owners are scared of bringing new buses,” he said, suggesting the government review transport fares every year.