Privately-owned auto-rickshaws run commerciallyShahin Akhter
Around 200 privately-owned auto-rickshaws are operating commercially on the streets of Dhaka even though they have no licence to take paying passengers.
New Age has discovered that the illegal operation of these vehicles has been facilitated by an unknown news agency which, in return for a monthly fee, provides ‘papers’ to the owners or drivers of these three-wheelers, which the agency says allows them to operate commercially.
Both the police and the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority say that the ‘papers’ have no validity.
BRTA director (engineering) Mohammad Saiful
Hoque told New Age that there were in total about 13,000 CNG-run auto-rickshaws painted in green which were operating commercially in the city.
‘In addition, we have given registration to 223 grey-painted privately-owned auto-rickshaws,’ he said. ‘This registration clearly cites that these privately-owned auto-rickshaws cannot be run commercially.’
Another senior BRTA official said these auto-rickshaws were able to run commercially as the law enforcement agencies were not enforcing the law properly.
‘Tell me from where do they get the courage to run such auto-rickshaws...,’ he asked.
The official also said that apart from some of the 223 BRTA-registered privately- owned auto-rickshaws, there were many auto-rickshaws painted in grey which were entering the capital from districts like Manikganj, Narsingdi and Narayanganj and operating commercially.
Some drivers of privately-owned auto-rickshaws told New Age that they were able to run their vehicles commercially as they had the approval of a news agency named National News Collection Foundation.
One woman, who owned an auto-rickshaw, told New Age that she had recently contacted this foundation and that an official had told her that in exchange for an initial payment of Tk 4,000, and a monthly payment of Tk 3,000, it
could provide documents which would allow her to use the vehicle commercially.
‘The agency official told me that they would handle everything if the police took my vehicle,’ she said.
New Age has obtained from a driver copies of documents which the National News Collection Foundation had given him. These comprised a photocopy of two applications, an agency request letter and a leaflet which contained comments of some politicians and newsmen.
One of the applications, submitted to the police headquarters on March 27 this year, said that it had sought approval to run the foundation’s auto-rickshaws commercially due to development work relating to a newspaper museum. The application has been attested by the assistant inspector general (equipment and transport) Mohammad Shafiqul Islam.
Shafiqul Islam told New Age last week that he was aware of the application.
‘Yes an application came to my office and I sent it to our law department to evaluate its legal aspects,’ he said. ‘But we still have not given this news agency any kind of permission to run privately owned auto-rickshaws commercially with their sticker.’
Islam said that he would contact the Dhaka Metropolitan Police to take further action over the matter.
Mohammad Masum Billah, president of the National News Collection Foundation, told New Age that it had started the business to support their initiative to establish a national news museum.
‘We are planning to establish a museum for the first time which will contain information and documents relating to our news media,’ he said.
He said that in order to raise the money they had given legal documents to about 200 privately-owned auto-rickshaws in exchange for a monthly payment.
When it was put to him that there was no legal basis to the documents that the foundation was giving, he said, ‘I do not understand. We got permission from the police and the BRTA to continue this business. I am sorry if there was any mistake.
‘I am urging the prime minister to help us establish the museum,’ he added.
Another ‘document’ provided by the news agency to the auto-rickshaw owners and drivers, is simply a leaflet about the country’s ‘first national news fair’ which it said was the first step to form the National News Museum. It contained comments from a number of leading politicians and personalities, including information and cultural affairs minister Abul Kalam Azad, communications minister Obaidul Quader, Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique, and Bangladesh Press Council chairman Justice BK Das.
Arefin Siddique said he had given comments to the news agency in good faith.
‘I did not want to see their legal documents,’ he said, adding he did not know that they were using his comments for auto-rickshaw business.
BK Das said he did not give any such document. ‘I do not know anything about this news agency.’
BRTA director (engineering) Mohammad Saiful Hoque told New Age, ‘BRTA is not linked to such illegal business.’
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Date:Tuesday, 15th May, 2012