Although the number of new infections and deaths from Covid-19 are still on the rise, authorities concerned have undertaken moves to normalise operations of public transport.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has already written to the road transport and bridges ministry to take necessary steps regarding transport owners’ proposal to operate buses at full capacity at previous fares.
The ministry will now forward the proposal to the cabinet division. As per a circular of the division issued on August 3, public transport would continue to operate on a limited scale till August 31, so an approval from the division would be required for normal operations of public transport to resume, officials said.
The move came as bus owners last week wrote to the ministry and BRTA to allow them to operate their vehicles at full capacity at the previous fares, claiming that the coronavirus situation is getting back to normal gradually.
However, 34 people have died from Covid-19, and 1,973 people have tested positive in 24 hours till 8:30am yesterday, and health experts said allowing full-scale movement of public transport would definitely increase the transmission of novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity yesterday demanded that the government withdraw the 60 percent bus fare hike immediately to stop unrest over fares and harassment of passengers.
Public transport services, including buses and minibuses, resumed on June 1 after more than two months. The government had suspended the services on March 26 to contain the spread of the virus.
Following demands by transport leaders, the government hiked bus fares by 60 percent from June 1 on the condition that buses would carry passengers at half capacity and follow other health safety guidelines.
But complaints on the breach of the aforementioned conditions kept pouring in.
Between July 22 and August 12, BRTA mobile courts filed 787 cases against more than 100 bus operators, mainly for violating health safety guidelines and charging passengers extra fares, said BRTA officials.
In this situation, Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association (BRTOA) on August wrote to the road transport and bridges ministry that all other modes of transport were carrying passengers at full capacity as the coronavirus situation was gradually returning to normal.
So, they wanted buses to be allowed to operate at full capacity and, if allowed, bus operators would start charging passengers previous fares, reads the letter signed by BRTOA Secretary General Khandaker Enayet Ullah.
Leaders of transport owners and workers made the same demands when BRTA on Wednesday sat in a meeting with the transport sector stakeholders to discuss enforcement of health safety rules in public transport services.
It was decided during the meeting to send a letter to the ministry to take necessary measures, including informing the cabinet division, about the proposal of the transport leaders.
It was also decided to continue operation of bus services at 50 percent capacity and following health safety guidelines until further notice.
“We have sent the letter to the ministry on Thursday and now the ministry will take necessary measures in this regard,” BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told The Daily Star yesterday.
Jatri Kalyan Samity in a press statement said despite the government’s conditions, transport operators are carrying extra passengers much like in pre-coronavirus days.
As a result, common people already facing economic hardship due to the pandemic are enduring further hardships and in many cases, transport workers and passengers have been engaging in altercations over the hiked fares, it added.
The organisation also said when the government hikes bus fares, fares of other transport like human haulers and auto-rickshaws also doubles, causing further woe for passengers.