Disciplining public transport sector

Dhaka,  Thu,  25 May 2017
Published : 11 Mar 2017, 21:24:16
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Disciplining public transport sector

Shihab Sarkar
With a view to bringing order into Dhaka's unwieldy traffic chaos, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has for some time been running mobile courts in the capital. Given the daunting nature of the task, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) joined forces on March 05 by setting up other such courts. The courts have brought a major segment of the metropolitan area under their jurisdiction, and are trying desperately to identify and bring the errant vehicle drivers to book. The DSCC mobile courts have been set up in collaboration with the Dhaka district administration and BRTA. The courts are scheduled to function for a 20-day period. As could be expected, the drive of the mobile courts has created some ripples of alarm in the public transport sector, especially among the operators of minibuses and buses. 

Operation of mobile courts aimed at seizing law-flouting vehicles and punishing the drivers is a common view in this city of anarchic traffic. The effectiveness of these law enforcement steps is brought into question by many. Every time a mobile court winds up its function, the chaos invariably returns to its earlier state. Prior to the current phase of the mobile courts, Dhaka district administration separately enforced this legal measure. On every occasion, the courts are led by an executive magistrate. Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) lends full support to them. In view of the legal and logistic strength of the courts, the erring vehicles are in no way supposed to evade the reach of law. But they are dodging legal steps with careless abandon. Needless to say, this calls for overhauling the relevant Act by inserting more stringent punishments for the law violators.

Perhaps few cities in the developing world equal Dhaka in the recklessness of their traffic operation and management.  On some counts, like polluting the air with exhaust fumes, Dhaka might fare a little better. But the notoriety it has earned for blatantly violating the nation's Motor Vehicles Act laws dwarfs the other cities.  To put it caustically, hardly any traffic law could successfully be enforced in the Dhaka metropolitan area lately. The extent of offences and the acts of rule-flouting besetting the city's public transport sector is mindboggling. It starts from the very poor condition of the buses and minibuses. Vast numbers of these vehicles are worn-out, lacking the minimum provision for the commuters' comfort. Seat-space is terribly narrow, the cushions gone and broken metal parts sticking out precariously. Theses buses add greatly to the wretched look of Dhaka's public transports. Most of the buses ply the city roads without fitness certificate and route permit. Drivers at the steering wheel without having a professional driving licence are booked almost daily in the capital.  Necessary papers like those relating to insurance and income tax are generally unheard-of in the community of bus drivers.

Law enforcers' drives to cleanse the public transport sector of its perennial ills normally turn out to be futile exercises. Following a week- or fortnight-long drive every time, the traffic scenario remains disciplined for a certain period. All the necessary papers are then found in order; the drivers appear to be mindful of the imperative of respecting traffic rules, etc. But this pleasant look proves treacherous in a few days' time. Things begin to unravel. Thus the hide-and-seek between the drivers' formidably strong syndicate and the legal institutions goes on unabated. Nothing could be more detrimental to a city's dream to emerge as a modern urban centre in the future.

With around 90 per cent of the buses and minibuses on the road violating traffic rules, mobile courts alone cannot make them respectful of laws. This is a tall order. Only a fully radical solution can help this city get rid of this scourge.



shihabskr@ymail.com

 
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