Nothing short of blackmail
THE persistent refusal by transport operators to commission new wide-bodied buses on different routes in the capital Dhaka until and unless the government meets their demand for revocation of the ban on new minibuses is tantamount to blackmail, to say the least. The government imposed the ban in 2009 as it rightly felt that such vehicles are inadequate and inefficient insofar as the public transport needs of Dhaka, which has a population of 15 million with a 3 per cent growth rate, is concerned. According to a report published in New Age on Thursday, although the government has agreed to allow operation of air-conditioned minibuses transporters the operators have refused to budge.
The impasse, needless to say, has resulted in an acute shortage of public buses, forcing people, especially those seeking to reach their destinations on time, to opt for costlier options such as taxicabs and compressed natural gas-run auto-rickshaws, which again are not easily available.
According to ‘Dhaka Bus Network and Regulatory Reforms’, a report released by the government in April, more than 21 million trips take place in Dhaka city, while at least 11,100 buses are needed to provide city dwellers, 30 per cent of whom live on $1.50 a day or less, adequate transport service at affordable charges. However, as the Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Samiti secretary general told New Age, only 3,000 out of the 7,000 buses registered with the government authorities concerned currently ply in the city. Moreover, the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, supposed to protect ordinary passengers from the tyranny of private operators, also has only 150 of its 974 buses in operation. Allegations have it that a nexus between some corrupt BRTC officials and private bus operators may have played a role behind the limited operation of BRTC buses in the city.
The government needs to realise that the existing city public transport system is hardly suitable for a mega-city like Dhaka and that it immediately needs to introduce a vibrant public transport system with emphasis on adequate wide-bodied buses in the city. To this end, it must not give in to the irrational demands raised by the private transport operators. After all, the interest of the few must not prevail over the interest of the many.
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