When some glimmers of hope peek through the gloomy public transport scene, you like to latch on to it thinking how worse it could get before getting better after all!
Only recently, the commuters' imagination was fired by a simple innovative, if somewhat bold, idea of a city mayor. Buses of different colours will be introduced on separate zones or clusters of routes. When such colourful public transports hit the street, their routes being identifiable by colour, the jostle around buses is likely to clear out. Actually, this can be a mess-clearing, user-friendly option. Such a move by pro-active companies hand-in-hand with a mass transit system is however some distance away.
Earlier, an executive decision appeared in the media reflecting a long overdue concern over humiliation and indignity that women, especially working women and girl students, endure during their daily commutation. Apparently, instructions were to be issued to bus owners or operators that seats reserved for women would not be allowed to be occupied by men. Anybody violating the rule would be fined, Many felt assured that at long last, the authorities were moving to redress a persistent grievance of women, leading the way for a wider respect for gender rights including affirmative action on their entitlements to civic amenities.
All these hopes have been dashed since Sunday, the first day of drive by The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority(BRTA) against "Seating Service and Gate Lock Service" that public transporters have been operating on purely commercial considerations. Public transports suffered a stumbling block as the bus owners" allegedly created trouble for the BRTA officials.
On Monday too there have been disrupted public transports with altercation between bus conductors and passengers over exorbitant fares charged in a chaotic situation. As the mobile courts operated to enforce stoppage of so- called seating and gate lock services, transport owners kept their buses off the street. This created a big transport crisis and caused immense hardship for commuters.
The BRTA official complained of bus owners and their associates 'helping the drivers with information so that they could circumvent the routes under watch of the mobile courts'. On Sunday the mobile courts wound up their drive by 2p.m even though they were supposed to run till 5p.m.
The attempted doing away with seating service has put mobility of working women and girl students in a shambles. They now have to avail themselves of local buses with no guarantee for seating at all. They considered it a scary prospect. How could the city's so called passenger owners association be so insensitive to working women's and students' daily need for mobility?
A strange combination of deceit, exploitation and tyranny is at work to short change and cause great suffering to the commuting public. The spate of fresh incidents goes to highlight the crude profiteering mentality. Buses and minibuses having seating service do not allow passengers to ride them as standing passengers. The passengers of seating service are charged fares higher than fixed by the BRTA.
The problem with this service is reported to be that those who purchase tickets for certain routes will have to pay in full, regardless of where they got off the bus.
Passengers getting on a vehicle with a ridiculous gate lock service cannot get off at any stoppage between starting point and destination. Even if it has empty seats it would not take in any passenger en route causing waste of space.
These services have been operated for years in Dhaka. Although BRTA regulations do not allow such arbitrary services, how could they be run to fatten the operators' purses. Somebody must demand social commitment from the transport operators on pain of punitive action.
The public want the system to be streamlined, upholding the interest of the general commuters, especially women passengers who should have reserved seats along with exclusive buses for them.