As transport owners began operating buses at full capacity yesterday, many passengers alleged they were being overcharged by some private operators.
Bus operators were directed to reinstate the pre-pandemic fares and ensure health safety guideline as they restored services in full swing, a large number of bus commuters were seen without masks
Some buses were also seen carrying passengers beyond their seating capacity, exposing many passengers to the deadly virus, in case of an asymptomatic carrier — a clear violation of the government directives.
Following demands of the road transport owners, the government on August 29 decided to allow the transport owners to carry passengers at full capacity from yesterday on the condition of reinstating the pre-pandemic fares.
The authority also set several conditions that included — no transport would be allowed to carry passengers beyond its seating capacity, all passengers, drivers, bus staffers have to wear masks; the transport companies must have hand sanitisers and other hand washing essentials, buses have to be disinfected before and after each trip.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has deployed its 11 executive magistrates to conduct mobile courts in Dhaka and Chattogram to take punitive action against those who violate the conditions.
One executive magistrate who conducted a mobile court in Dhaka said he found some 40 incidents where traffic rules and health safety guidelines were violated yesterday and he filed six to seven cases of overcharging.
“Most of the bus operators had no hand sanitisers. Since it was the first day [of operation after the temporary shutdown], I didn’t fine them but warned of taking punitive action from next week if they failed to take necessary health safety measures,” he told this correspondent wishing not to be named.
In many cases, conductors were forced by passengers to carry more than the bus’s capacity. “I have seen two such incidents today [yesterday]. When we tried to stop them, they [passengers] asked how will they commute amidst the scarcity of public transport…,” he added.
In Chattogram, many bus operators were seen boarding more passengers than their capacity, risking passengers’ healths, reported our correspondent from the port city.
Many passengers were seen standing on different public vehicles in Chawkbazar, Muradpur, Bahaddarhat, Sholoshahar Gate No 2, Oxygen and Karnaphuli Shaha Amanat Bridge areas. Almost two-third of the passengers were seen without facemasks.
Contacted, Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said the situation was good today.
About the violation of guidelines, he said, “Most of the vehicles reinstated the previous fare. Those that did not, will do so in a day or two.”
He said they had already sent letters to the operators to follow the guidelines set by the government and said they were monitoring the situation alongside the BRTA.
Meanwhile, Road Transport and Bridges Ministers Obaidul Quader yesterday again urged transport operators to follow the guidelines for public interest.
He asked law enforcers and district administrations to remain vigilant and take action against violators.
He also asked the BRTA and the owners’ association to take steps so that all bus operators show their fare charts.
The minister said this while talking to the officials of Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority through video conference.
Public transport services, including that of buses and minibuses, resumed on June 1 after more than two months of suspension.
Following demands made by transport leaders, the government hiked bus fares by 60 percent from June 1 on some conditions, including carrying 50 percent passengers against their capacity.