The government has decided to increase the number of CNG-run auto-rickshaws in Dhaka and Chittagong, without adopting any strict or effective measure to ensure hassle-free travel for passengers.
Although the four-stroke three-wheelers are a major cause of traffic congestion in Dhaka city, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader recently announced plans to add 5,000 more in the capital, and 4,000 in the port city for travel convenience of residents.
On March 13, the minister said the government would soon start operating mobile courts and a vehicle investigation centre to stop drivers from overcharging passengers.
The CNG-run vehicles, however, have not readjusted fare meters to comply with government-fixed rates. Most drivers in the capital run without meters or charge extra fare from passengers, despite warnings from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).
Meanwhile, several commuters said most auto-rickshaw drivers now charge a minimum fare of Tk100 for any distance, and they often refuse to make short trips.
The drivers, however, defend their position saying owners charge them a high rental price – Tk 800 to 1,000 per day. They also claim that extortion and harassment by traffic police cost them a lot.
“Police, in most cases, intercept us on the road and demand Tk1,000 as extortion for plying without meters. If we refuse to pay the illegal money, they file a case,” a driver told the Dhaka Tribune.
According to an updated fare chart issued by BRTA in 2011, the charge for the first 2km is Tk25, Tk7 for each subsequent kilometer and Tk1.25 per minute for stoppage. And drivers are supposed to pay vehicle owners Tk600 per day as rent.
There are about 13,000 commercially-run “green” auto-rickshaws, and 3,000 private ones, usually painted grey, operating in the capital.
A BRTA official said most of the auto-rickshaw permits ended in January.
“After getting the communications ministry’s permission, we will start issuing new licenses,” Sheikh Mohammad Mahbub-e-Rabbani, BRTA deputy director (engineering), told the Dhaka Tribune.
Rabbani said the traffic police department is responsible for monitoring fare meters, and it is not the BRTA’s responsibility.
DMP additional commissioner (traffic) Mili Biswas said a huge number of cases are filed against auto-rickshaw drivers and their owners, but that does not deter them from charging extra fares or rent.
Sarwar Jahan, a professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said auto-rickshaws are necessary for private travel in the city.