'We work in connection with employees and officials at the office. So, the document will be genuine'
The growing number of applicants seeking driving licences and renewal of other necessary papers from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has become a boon for brokers, owing to the involvement of some errant officials and the poor standards of service.
They are promising, for a hefty fee, to get drivers their licences even if they fail the driving test.
Under pressure from a student movement for safer roads, the number of licence seekers and transport renewal applicants has suddenly increased. Dhaka Metropolitan Police has also stepped up its monitoring on the roads.
The government has ordered BRTA to work 9am – 9pm six days a week.
The Mirpur BRTA office usually issues 150-200 new driving licences every day, but since last Thursday, it has issued up to 270-280 licences each day, said BRTA Assistant Director Ali Ahsan Milon.
He said the number of licence renewals has also doubled over the past few days. “We usually renew 80-100 driving licences every day, but now the number is around 200. Further we generally issue 750-800 fitness certificates daily, but we are issuing 1,100-1,300 now.
“And because of the August 5-11 Traffic Week, the number of BRTA service seekers has nearly doubled.”
Although the BRTA is keeping all the circle offices open 12 hours a day, it has not deployed additional manpower, and the standard of services is the same as before.
This has resulted in a swarm of brokers in front of the offices, who are making a hefty profit by helping applicants expedite their licence applications and other renewals.
Our correspondent visited the BRTA headquarters in Mirpur yesterday, where a large group of brokers were moving around the office. The brokers were everywhere, inside the office, the bank, the main door of the stamp office and the photocopy shops.
Several 'help booths' had been set up in front of the office, not by BRTA officials but people who appeared to be volunteers.
Our correspondent posed as a licence seeker and went up to one of these booths seeking help.
The volunteers immediately began naming their price. They promised a fast and hassle-free process, but for the right price.
One of the brokers, Md Selim Reza, who identified himself as an assistant director of a local coaching centre, asked for Tk9,000 in return for providing the driving licence within three months.
He demanded the entire amount up-front and said the applicant would get the licence even they fail the field test.
Another broker, Imran Hossain, who claimed to be a student of Government Bangla College, asked for Tk11,000 for a new driving licence with an advance of Tk2,000.
He dismissed his more affordable competition as a false broker.
“I am charging more because I am a real broker and I can get you your driving licence within three months,” he said.
Asked whether there is a risk that the document he will provide would be a fake, he claimed: “We work in connection with employees and officials at the office. So, the document will be genuine.”
This broker also promised a fail-proof service, saying the applicant does not have to pass the field test.
“But you have to attend it,” he added.
Generally the BRTA takes six to seven months to issue a driving licence, and charges a fee of Tk3,500.
Initially, the applicant receives a learner's card, and after six months they have to attend a field test before getting the licence.
But applicants at the scene told this reporter that the brokers, with the help of BRTA officials, can make this process as short as three months.
Mofiz Uddin, 35, one of the licence seekers, said he was waiting for hours to get his papers, but the officials inside were busy doing the work of the brokers.
“It is very difficult even to submit papers at the bank, which is very unusual. But things get done smoothly once the brokers get involved,” he said with anger.
“I was left with no choice but to make a deal with a broker for Tk9,000,” added Mofiz.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, BRTA Assistant Director Ali Ahsan Milon said that the pressure of submission of applications has increased suddenly and the BRTA is trying their level best to handle them all.
Asked about the presence of brokers at the BRTA offices, he said: “We have been carrying out special drives every day. Even today, we have nabbed and punished eight brokers by conducting mobile courts.”