Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bandhu minis disappear to escape drive

Bandhu minis disappear to escape drive

Filling transport vacuum felt urgent

Md Manzurul Alam Some unfit buses went off the roads, so did unauthorised minis like Bandhu Paribahan passenger transports amid a crackdown. A sudden void is created in the transport system for the populous capital city of Bangladesh for want of replacements for the rundown runaways. Such a mismatch came out during a latest investigation into Dhaka's transport situation following information about commuters' plight for inadequacy of public transport in recent days. However, zillions of smaller vehicles-rickshaws, innumerable motorbikes and even pushcarts-seized the chance and filled the vacuum. And, thus, traffic accentuated while city-dwellers were suffering for thinner mass-transport traffic. Hundreds of commuters are seen waiting at different route- intersections for buses as owners and workers of Bandhu Paribahan minibuses have stopped their transport services on Gulistan-Natunbazar route via Malibagh for about a fortnight in the wake of a special traffic drive by Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP). For lack of public transports, passengers were seen stranded on the roads or resorted to other vehicles which were charging abnormally high fares. Daily travelers lament that there is now no direct bus service whatsoever on the Gulistan-Natunbazar route passing through Malibagh rail-gate, Mouchak and Malibagh crossing. Feroza Begum, 60, who had been waiting at Rampura bus stoppage with two minor grandchildren for over one hour, said: "I have to go to Gulistan but don't know how to." Abdur Rahman, a service-holder who was waiting at Abul Hotel bus stoppage, said, "I go to my Paltan office regularly by Bandhu Paribahan minibus, but I am now facing problem for lack of the service." However, filling the vacuum left by the sudden disappearance of ramshackle buses and minibuses from the city streets to avoid getting caught in the crackdown countless rickshaws are capturing main roads. A rickshaw ride is five times costlier minimum than a bus trip. Though many old buses are plying roads despite the crackdown sans arrangement of new buses under a long- stalled route- franchise system, the number of public transports is too inadequate to take a huge load of passengers. During a visit to Malibagh-Mouchak area, it was seen that zillions of rickshaws captured the roads, creating huge traffic jam in the area. Besides, these manually-driven slow-moving vehicles are too expensive for commoners to afford, and those cannot be taken for long-haul journeys. "They are now rather creating rickshaw jam. Rickshaws cannot be substitute for mass transport in a mega- city as Dhaka," experts say by common voice. Talking to The News Today, workers of Bandhu Paribahan minis said they are not running buses due to restrictions from traffic department. When asked, DMP Joint Commissioner (Traffic North) Probir Kumar Roy said, "We did not stop service of any particular bus company. But, we are not allowing the vehicles that have no fitness certificate, route permit and driving licence." About the public sufferings, he said, "We have nothing to do if any one stops their service, fearing to show legal documents." The metropolitan police, against the backdrop of countrywide student protests demanding road safety, on August 5 began a special 'traffic week' to bring order back in the city-traffic system. Students, mostly teenagers, in droves took to the streets in the capital to demand road safety after two students were killed and 12 others injured by a speeding bus at Kurmitola in the capital on July 29. The student demonstrations spread across the country and continued for nine days. People appreciated the move, and expected that the situation would improve further in the future. Riding on the unique campaign, DMP later launched a weeklong special traffic drive, and later extended it to one month to bring discipline in the sector. The special traffic programme was conducted on September 5-30, to bring discipline in city's traffic system, reduce accidents and make roads free of congestion, punish those who would breach traffic rules and encourage people to abide by the law. Decisions were made to stop human haulers from plying the main streets, city-service buses from stopping beyond the designated stops, to make bus-drivers display their mobile-phone numbers and photographs and keep the doors of running buses closed, sources said. At a live roundtable on the latest traffic conundrum, state minister for LGRD Mashiur Rahman Ranga, also the chief of the transport owners' association, said a number of unfit buses were scrapped during the special traffic month. Other participants wondered if Dhaka's smart traffic plan lay interred with the late mayor Annisul Haque. The minister and city-corporation officials said Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Syed Khokon has been vested with the responsibility of implementing the city-traffic plan, based on company buses under route-franchise system. When asked, DMP joint commissioner (Traffic South) Mofiz Uddin Ahmed said, "About 7,000 buses of 250 companies are plying Dhaka's streets. There is also an acute crisis of driving licences as the country needs 50 lakh licences but we have only 18 lakh." The police official has the good news that Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BTRC) plans to launch a fleet of 600 buses, including 300 double-deckers, next month (November) to help reduce overcrowding on buses and on roads.

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