A poignant manifestation of indifference and ineptitude
REGULATION and monitoring of private-sector transport operators — from inter-district buses down to compressed natural gas-run auto-rickshaws — have not quite been the forte of the government and the relevant agencies, e.g. the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority and the traffic department of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. As such, it seems to have become the norm that the operators would wilfully flout the fare charts fixed by the government. In recent times, especially after the increase in the prices of fuel oil and compressed natural gas, which prompted two rounds of upward revision of transport fare, the situation seems to have gone out of control, with buses and auto-rickshaws charging the passengers at their whims and wishes, and people belonging to the fixed- and low-income sections of society bearing the brunt.
According to a report front-paged in New Age on Monday, quoting regular users of public transports, hardly any bus operating in the capital Dhaka ‘charges the fares fixed by the government’ while the CNG-run auto-rickshaws ‘sometimes charge four or five times the meter fare.’ The reason, as most passengers quoted in the report complain, seems to be sustained inability, and even unwillingness, of the authorities to enforce compliance with the fares fixed by the government. Infuriatingly still, while the relevant government agencies, e.g. the road transport authorities and the metropolitan police, are well aware of the deviant and devious practices by the transport operators, they have the clichéd excuses ready, along with the sadly familiar blame game, for their collective failures.
For example, the BRTA enforcement director harped on the manpower and logistics constraint note, saying ‘we have one executive magistrate and five district administration magistrates are helping us to operate mobile courts.’ He was prompt to add that the DMP ‘actually has a major role to play in enforcing the government-fixed fares.’ Another BRTA official echoed, ‘If the DMP wants, it can implement the government-fixed fares in three days.’ On the other hand, a top DMP official claimed that ‘we are conducting regular drives and the number of cases being filed every day for violation of rules like ignoring the government-fixed fares has increased by 500 to 600 in recent times’ but admitted that ‘the situation has not improved much.’
The authorities concerned seem to know what the problem is and even what measures need to be taken. The question is why they are not taking the measures — efficiently and effectively. The answer seems to lie in their deep-rooted indifference to the misery of the people at large. Be that as it may, it is simply unacceptable that the imprudence of the government and ineptitude of its agencies should leave the people at large vulnerable to the tyranny of the transport operators. Hence, the incumbents need to make the agencies concerned pull up their socks and ensure that the government-fixed fares are complied with.
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