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Dhaka Tribune

Buses flout health guidelines, chaos around fares

Passengers in Dhaka alleged that they were being overcharged by bus operators

Update : 03 Sep 2020, 05:57 PM

Dhaka undoubtedly has one of the worst public transport systems in the world, which has become even more fragile during the pandemic as health guidelines are entirely disregarded.

Adding to the problem, further chaos ensued as operators were not charging the actual fares, as had been decreed by the government.

Since September 1, the government has disallowed standing passengers, but buses continue to take passengers beyond their capacity. At peak hours, most local buses are overcrowded despite the pandemic.

In spite of making the wearing of masks mandatory on public transport, neither passengers nor bus drivers or helpers were seen wearing face masks.

During a sudden visit to Mohakhali Bus Terminal and through boarding some buses, the Dhaka Tribune correspondent found that operators did not keep hand sanitizers on board and did not disinfect buses before embarking on a fresh journey.

Such a dangerous situation is not being monitored or controlled properly, despite several government agencies attempting to work on it, including the transport authority, the police and the district administration.     

“We have been monitoring the situation and have ordered bus owners to follow the rules,” said Mohammad Abdur Razzak, deputy director (law and enforcement) of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).

“We are operating mobile courts and punishing violators,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

“All deputy commissioners (DC) at the district level have been requested to operate mobile courts and take necessary action,” he added.

Reports from Dhaka Tribune’s district correspondents speak of mobile courts being at work due to overcharging of fares and violation of health guidelines across the country. However, compared to the sheer number of buses in the country, these meagre measures do not achieve the bare minimum in terms of results.

Passengers being overcharged

Many passengers on Thursday alleged that they were being overcharged by some private bus operators in Dhaka.

The distance between Mohammadpur and Khigoan is 14.8km. As per the government fare chart, a journey should cost Tk22, but operators fixed the rate on their own at Tk25 last year. Once the government permitted limited transport operations post lockdown, the fare was fixed at Tk45, more than double. Now, the fare has been reduced only to Tk35, not even back to Tk25.

Rafiqul Islam, a commuter, claimed that passengers were the ultimate losers due to a lack of monitoring in this sector.

It is mandatory to display a fare chart on public transport, but on Thursday, this reporter did not find any fare chart on the Midline Paribahan (Dhaka Metro Ba-13-0301), a private bus operator.

When asked about the matter, bus driver Badal said he did not know about installing a fare chart as the owner had not instructed him to do so.

Toufiq Tariq, another passenger, said he travelled regularly from Board Bazar to Banani at Tk40. But the actual fare is Tk30. When two seats were allocated for one passenger to maintain social distance, the fare was Tk60. Now, the bus is charging Tk50.

“Most of the buses plying the Dhaka-Tongi or Dhaka-Gazipur routes are carrying passengers beyond their seating capacity, avoiding the health guidelines at peak hours in the morning and evening,” he added.

The BRTA’s Mohammad Abdur Razzak, said “We are taking action against overcharging and carrying more passengers beyond seating capacity.” 

In light of demands made by road transport owners, the government has allowed the transport vehicles to carry passengers at full capacity from September 1 on condition that pre-lockdown fares were reinstated.

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