One hundred and two cases filed against unfit vehicles in the city on a single day is a clear indication of the gravity of the problem facing the transport business in the metropolis. It is an open secret that the capital city's transportation is mainly operated by run-down buses and auto-rickshaws. The decision on phasing out the auto-rickshaws has been postponed twice upon appeal by the owners of the vehicles. It is the last time extension under which these three-wheelers are in operation now. The expert team from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) is against any further time extension. Also, the active life the manufacturing company set for those is already over. However, the buses -- actually the mainstay of the city's transportation - are yet to receive any such ultimatum. But it is common knowledge that the majority of city buses are ramshackle and should have been taken off the road long ago.
Usually, well maintained public buses have a lifespan of 20 years. But a large number of buses are older than this cut-off mark. When H M Ershad was president, a move was on to get rid of the buses in operation for more than 20 years. The job could not be accomplished in the face of organized protest by the transport workers. This does not mean the transport sector should be left unattended altogether where the phasing out of rickety and unfit vehicles is concerned. One silver lining in the sector is the drastic reduction of accidents involving trucks which earned the infamy of 'killer trucks'. A lesson can be learned from the operation of trucks. If the truck drivers know how to behave, so should bus drivers.
The responsibility of sensitizing drivers about traffic rules, the value of human life and discipline lies to a large extent in the system. If the authority cannot put in place an effective system, erring drivers get a chance to go away with their misdeeds. They feel no remorse for causing accidents. Lately, mindless competition between two buses caused severance of hands in the city and elsewhere -the latest incident taking place in Gopalganj involving a bus and a truck. Those assigned to the job of maintaining order on the street have against them complaints of irregularities and even toll collection. When unfit vehicles can run on the road with impunity, drivers are encouraged to break laws. One thing is linked to the other in the business. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority must spell out in clear terms if it has the heart to take action against the road-unworthy buses in the first place. The institution of cases will be seen as an eye-wash. If the vehicles are unfit, they must not only not run on roads but also be sent to the junkyard.
The late mayor of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Annisul Huq made a set of proposals including pressing into service 4,000 new buses on city roads and bringing down the number of operators to a handful. Clearly, the idea was to get rid of the dilapidated buses. His untimely demise seems to have put an end to the well-intentioned plan. But why? The mayoral offices of both north and south should pursue the project so that the city is free from run-down buses which are an eyesore as well.