Road Transport Act 2018: Efforts for its weakening intensify
A government initiative to amend the Road Transport Act-2018 has picked up pace after a brief hiatus, even before the authorities started fully implementing the law.
An inter-ministerial meeting has been called today to discuss the opinions of different ministries, associations and citizens on a draft prepared for the amendment.
Giving in to the pressure from transport associations, the government is poised to make sweeping changes in the act, reducing different fines and sentences for traffic violation in 14 sections of the law. Individuals found guilty of overloading and illegally modifying vehicles will be able to secure bail once the amendment takes effect.
As per the draft, at least 29 of the 126 sections of the act will be amended.
With the secretary of the Road Transport and Highway Division in the chair, representatives of 23 ministries, divisions and government agencies, including cabinet division, have been asked to join today's online meeting, sources said.
On April 13 this year, the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry uploaded the draft for amendment on its official website, seeking public opinion. The draft was also sent to 15 or 16 ministries seeking their feedback.
Yousub Ali Mollah, additional secretary (estate), said some seven to eight ministries, workers' and other associations, and individual citizens have given their opinions on the draft.
The recommendations will be discussed and decisions will be made in the meeting, he told The Daily Star, adding that the draft can be changed if needed.
The finalised draft will then be sent to different committees before it is placed in the cabinet for approval, he said.
The process to amend the law was delayed a little because of the pandemic.
In September 2018, the Jatiya Sangsad passed the Road Transport Act following widespread student demonstrations for road safety. But the government did not put the law in effect until November 2019.
Soon after the act was passed, transport workers went on strike demanding changes to the law.
Against this backdrop, a committee of the ministers of law, home, and railways was formed on February 17, 2019, to see how the act could be implemented.
When the government took an initiative to enforce the law in November 2019, transport associations called strikes again demanding changes to several sections of the law.
The government then decided not to put several sections of the act into effect.
The three-minister committee held several meetings with the transport leaders and recommended several changes to the law, one of the ministers told The Daily Star last year.
The law, if amended as per the draft, will lose its jurisdiction to hold a driver responsible for causing injuries by reckless and negligent driving. The jurisdiction will only be applicable when someone dies in an accident.
The educational qualifications required to obtain a driving licence will also be changed. Drivers, who will operate registered three-wheelers, will get licences if they have a class-five certificate, instead of class eight, says the draft.
Educational qualifications to obtain licences for driving other vehicles will remain unchanged.
However, these qualifications won't be required if a licensed conductor or supervisor can gather skills as a driver by working for at least 10 years in vehicles and can pass the driving competency tests, according to the draft.
WHAT DO THE WORKERS ASSOCIATIONS SAY?
Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation is not content with the draft and sought some changes.
Osman Ali, general secretary of the federation, said they sought changes in 34 sections of the act and said if their demands are not met, they will start demonstrating.
"We have seen the draft and found that our demands were not met in many instances. We have conveyed the message," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
The draft is not final and they will follow the outcome of today's meeting, he added.
Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association said except one or two, most of the issues the workers association raised have been covered.
"It may not be possible to get 100 percent of what we demanded," he said.