Many commuters argue that the ban should only be implemented when alternative transportation methods exist for those routes
Human hauliers are continuing to operate in the capital more than six weeks after a ban was imposed by Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
The human hauliers, popularly known as Legunas, are mostly converted small pickups which can carry up to 14 passengers.
On September 4, DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia told a media briefing that the Legunas create serious traffic problems and dubbed them as “one of the main causes” of road accidents in Dhaka.
“Legunas are not supposed to be in the city,” he said. “These vehicles will operate outside the city, on the feeder roads, where they have been given route permits. We will make sure that no Leguna runs on Dhaka’s city streets.”
A visit to various parts of the capital last week revealed that human hauliers were still operating within the city, defying the ban. The traffic police were not seen taking any action against this.
“We heard about the ban and stopped operations for two days,” Abdul Alim, a Leguna driver in Mirpur 2 area, said. “We resumed operations after our leaders said that there will be no problem.”
Another driver, Rubel Mia, said they did not receive any written order to stop driving human hauliers. “The traffic policemen are not stopping us from operating. They are only checking the number of passengers and vehicle speed,” he said.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), there are 5,156 registered human hauliers in the city. Sources, however, say the number could be as many as 10,000.
The general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto-rickshaw Auto-tempo Transport Workers Federation (BAATWF), Golam Faruque, told the Dhaka Tribune that “about 4,500” Legunas have been operating in the capital after obtaining permission from BRTA.
He said the DMP ban was an “unfair decision” which had hit the Leguna drivers and workers hard.
“We have spoken with police officials and political leaders about the negative impact of the decision,” he said. “We have successfully made them understand that the ban would increase public suffering and that it would not be a wise move before the election.”
Another BAATWF leader, declining to be named, said they had to do more to appease police and political leaders. “We were allowed to resume services after paying a large sum of money to them,” he said.
It has often been alleged that Leguna drivers are underage and untrained, plus that many of the vehicles are unroadworthy.
According to Buet’s Accident Research Institute (ARI) research, at least 48 people were killed and 81 were injured in 39 accidents involving human hauliers in 2017.
Commuters who regularly use human hauliers urged the government to arrange alternative transportation for the people.
“I have to travel to Badda from Mohammadpur regularly and there is no bus service from here except the BTRCs,” Afroza Begum, a regular commuter on the route, said. “We don’t want to use Leguna but the authorities have to ensure bus services for us before banning them.”
Another regular commuter on the New Market to Farmgate route is Sahamim Hassan, a student of Tejgaon College.
“Taking the human hauliers is risky, but it is convenient for us,” he said. “What services will we use if Legunas are stopped? It is the government’s duty to ensure safe transportation for the people. They can ban Leguna, but they have to ensure safe alternative means of transportation before that.”
Other routes used by the vehicles include Jigatola to Farmgate, Dhanmondi 2 to New Market, Mirpur 1 to Mohakhali, Khilgaon to Gulistan, Mirpur 2 to Farmgate, Shonir Akhra to Nilkhet, and Farmgate to Niketan.
DMP Joint Commissioner (traffic south) Mofiz Uddin Ahmed said police were only stopping the human hauliers from operating on the city’s main roads.
“We are working to rearrange the operation system of Legunas plying the city’s internal roads to avoid congestion on the main roads,” he said.