Raising an eight-point demand, including making all offences under the new Road Transport Act bailable and minimizing the fine of Tk5 lakh for causing accidents, workers refrained from driving and protested on streets throughout the day, immense suffering for commuters across the nation.
Transport workers across Bangladesh enforced the first day of their 48 hour strike on Sunday, paralyzing the country.
Raising an eight-point demand, including making all offences under the new Road Transport Act bailable and minimizing the fine of Tk5lakh for causing accidents, workers refrained from driving and protested on streets throughout the day, immense suffering for commuters across the nation.
Although two influential members of the cabinet – the road transport minister and the law minister- requested them to withdraw the strike, the calls were rejected by the workers.
On the other hand, Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, also executive president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, remained silent on the matter.
The ongoing strike will continue till 6am Tuesday.
During the first day of strike, passengers and businesses faced suffered across Bangladesh.
Around the capital, many drivers and passengers were even harassed by the workers as they stopped vehicles and dragged passengers onto the roads.
In Jatrabari’s Kajla area, they slapped the drivers, and smeared their faces with mobil oil for defying the strike.
Although the Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader asked the workers to withdraw their strike, the transport leaders said the government could have sat with them before the strike began.
Osman Ali, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, told the Dhaka Tribune that they submitted a list of demands to the government on September 27, but the minister did not respond to that.
“What will we tell our workers? We will continue the strike because we have not gotten any answers,” he said.
Road Minister Obaidul Quader earlier on the day said it was not possible to change the Road Transport Act right now.
The minister however said they will consider after discussion if there is any logical demand from workers, but they will have to wait until the next parliament session.
The Road Transport Act, passed in parliament on September 19, stipulates a maximum sentence of five years in jail or a fine of Tk5 lakh for anybody causing an accident by reckless and negligent driving, and killing or injuring someone seriously.
However, if it is found that a driver has deliberately killed anyone or not averted a killing in a road accident, the matter would fall under either section 302 (murder) or 304 (culpable homicide) of the Penal Code, according to the explanation of the act.
The maximum punishment under for such is the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters transport workers were misinterpreting the act, thus enforcing the strike.
“The new law in one hand will come handy in lowering the number of road mishaps while it will also be helpful for the drivers if they drive properly,” he said.
Karam Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Union, said the union is enforcing the strike with demands from all workers across Bangladesh.
Dhaka district Sarak Paribahan Sromik Union’s Office Secretary Ibrahim Dipu said drivers will never be able to pay a fine of Tk5lakh.
“The responsibility must not be put on drivers helpers for any accident. It is not possible to drive a vehicle with fear of getting hanged,” he said.
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity (passengers welfare association) Secretary General Mozammel Haque Chowdhury said some of the demands by transport workers are logical, but not all.
“The fines are not intended to hurt people, but to bring crimes under control,” he said.
He however agreed that the demand for end to police harassment on the roads and including their representatives in investigation committees of a road accident was reasonable.
Road transport leader Osman said they will sit with transport leaders from all over the country after the strike ends on Tuesday and issue further programs.