Three decades ago, the Dhaka City Corporation stopped issuing licences to rickshaws, considered to be one of the main contributors to gridlock in the capital.
A number of organisations and associations are taking advantage of the situation and are illegally issuing number plates to rickshaws, charging as much as Tk15,000.
Several such "number plates" can be found on a rickshaw. Every three months, the rickshaw owners have to pay Tk450 against each plate.
The city corporation is losing revenue on one hand, while an increased number of rickshaws continue to contribute to traffic congestions.
According to the two Dhaka city corporations, there are 79,554 licenced rickshaws in the capital. However, the actual number is estimated to be around 1.1 million.
A Buet study put the number of illegal rickshaws at one million. It found that 28 organisations were controlling the illegal rickshaw business but no actions were being taken against them.
These organisations include Dhaka Division Rickshaw and Van Owners’ Association, Bangladesh Rickshaw and Van Owners’ Federation, Metropolitan Rickshaw Owners’ League, Rickshaw and Van Owners Workers League.
Apart from them, there are organisations like Muktijoddha Samannay Parishad, Bangladesh Rickshaw and Van Owners Federation, and Bangladesh Rickshaw Owners League.
Dhaka South City Corporation Chief Revenue Officer Yusuf Ali Sardar said they stopped issuing rickshaw licences after 1986 at the government’s order. Even after that, various organisations applied for rickshaw licences but the city corporation could not issue them.
“These organisations move the court whenever we launch drives against illegal rickshaws. When the court issues stay order, these organisations start issuing new licences citing the court order,” he said.
Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association Secretary General Mozammel Haq Chowdhury said there were no controls over the illegal rickshaws and fares.
“Numerous accidents are taking place because of additional number of rickshaws in the streets,” he said. “Police should launch drives against the organisations that are controlling these rickshaws.”
About 10% of Dhaka residents use private vehicles for commuting. 25% use public buses while 5% use autorickshaws and taxis.
The rest 60% use rickshaws. And rickshaw pullers use this opportunity to charge extra fare.
Ashraf Uddin, a rickshaw puller at Shahbagh, said his rickshaw had city corporation’s licence.
“I could not keep it in garages as I did not have licences from the [rickshaw owners] association. So, I had to take two number plates and have to pay Tk450 for each of them every three months,” he said.
National Rickshaw Van Owner Worker League’s General Secretary Yunsur Ali said the government and city corporation had an agreement in 2001.
He said they applied to the city corporation for rickshaw registration as per the agreement but the city corporation did not issue them.
Yunsur claimed they provided number plates on behalf of the organisation after that.
About taking extra money, he said they charged Tk20 per month for footing organisational expenses. “We do not take anything apart from that,” he claimed. “We have nothing to do if anyone uses our name to extort money.”
He alleged that “fake organisations” were using freedom fighters’ names to issue rickshaw licences.
Dhaka North City Corporation’s Panel Mayor Osman Gani said: “Only the city corporation, not any individual or organisation, has the authority to issue rickshaw licences. We have discussed the matter several times before. We are still discussing it.”
The article was first published on Bangla Tribune