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Road accidents: ‘Transport sector should be strictly monitored, commuters be more aware’

  • Published at 01:22 am May 26th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:25 am May 26th, 2018
From left, Md Hanif, Md Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, Syed Ishtiaque Reza, Munni Saha and Harun-ur-Rashid Bangla Tribune
From left, Md Hanif, Md Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, Syed Ishtiaque Reza, Munni Saha and Harun-ur-Rashid Bangla Tribune

The country’s transport sector is in complete disarray as its being controlled and subject to extortion by different quarters. Bus owners and unskilled drivers do not follow the rules and the authorities concerned do not take proper initiative. While these play a major role in causing road accidents, commuters also need to be more aware and play their part to curb the number of such incidents, said participants of the Bangla Tribune’s latest Boithoki held at its Dhaka offices on May 24. Moderated by journalist Munni Saha, the roundtable was telecast live on ATN News and Bangla Tribune’s Facebook page and website

‘Bus owners need to be held accountable’

Speaking at the Boithoki, the Bangla Tribune’s Head of News Harun-ur-Rashid said: “Those who drive buses in Dhaka city are not salaried employees. They lease the buses from the owners under a contract and pay their assistants from their earnings. That’s why they are always in a hurry to earn more money in a short time, which results in competition on the road with other drivers and accidents.”

“Also, those who drive long-route buses are paid based on the number of trips they make daily. That’s why they too are always in a hurry to make more trips. Many of these drivers even take drugs to stay awake and make extra trips during the night. And driving under the influence of intoxicants leads to road accidents. This is how the owners push the drivers into the chaotic world of profit,” he said.

Harun said: “Bus owners are spreading more chaos by allowing illiterate, underage, and unskilled people to drive. That’s why the owners should be brought to book.”

Saying that only 1.6 million out of seven million drivers across the country had driving licenses from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), he stated that vehicle drivers should be held personally responsible and punished for road accidents if they drive without proper training.

‘Extortion keeps drivers under pressure’

Md Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samiti, said public transport workers were subject to extortion by a number of quarters daily. “The bus drivers are always under pressure to make ends meet. Earn the money, pay the assistants, and pay the extortionists. When he ends up with next to nothing, he becomes desperate to try and earn some more by skirting the laws. If these extortionists are not stopped, such chaotic situations will linger.”

“The drivers’ desperation leads to competition and other violations of the law. Nobody is looking into that,” he said, adding that the flyovers in the city also had no speed limit.

He said everyone, including transport workers and commuters, need to be more alert to reduce the number of road accidents. “No one is aware enough. The government must come forward in this regard too.”

‘Extortion, corruption must end’

Addressing the roundtable, Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik League Joint General Secretary, Md Hanif, said whatever extra fare transport workers charge commuters goes to the extortionists. “No matter which party they belong to – ruling party or the opposition, all extortionist are the same at the end of the day.”

“I can tell you the names of labour leaders who have earned millions of taka illegally. But why are the government and the Home Minister silent about this? Why is this kind of corruption not stopped?” he asked, adding that there was no unity between workers and owners.

“BRTA always says that no driver should drive more than five hours at a stretch. But no one follows that rule. Why will road accidents not happen if a driver drives for 24 hours straight? If the drivers are paid a monthly salary in line with the Labour Act then these accidents would not happen, because then they would not have to make more trips for more money.”

Hanif said they had urged the government again and again to put an end to the extortion, harassment, and corruption, but to no avail. “Why doesn’t the Anti-Corruption Commission investigate corruption in this sector? The government also does not take any initiative to provide basic training to bus drivers before they receive their licences from the BRTA.”

‘Owners against transport sector’s digitalization’

Acording to Syed Ishtiaque Reza, editor-in-chief of both Gazi TV and online news platform sarabangla.net, road accidents will not decrease unless the unhealthy competition caused by extortion  stops.

“A recent survey said the number of road accidents in Bangladesh is higher than in western countries and even neighbouring India. Another report said our GDP would increase by 3% if the number of accidents goes down. The public transport system is controlled by the government in most countries around the world. But that is not the case in our country.”

He said bus owners were also against digitalizing the transport sector as it would diminish their chances to earn extra cash through extortion and other illegal means.

“If everything else can be digitalized, why not the transport sector too? It’s important to find ways to put an end to this chaotic situation. But bus owners still want to deal in cash as it helps them take in and pay out huge amounts of money without much accountability.”