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The dark economy of transport anarchy

Published : Saturday, 18 August, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 309

Haradhan Ganguly

Haradhan Ganguly

Why a week, why not the traffic week be observed throughout 48 weeks of the year? To flout rules is our very instinct. Keeping us within an abiding legal structure appears to be real challenge. Pedestrians, drivers, transport owners and related law enforcing bodies must be held accountable for all their actions. Enacting good laws and their sporadic or occasional (when situation demands)implementation will not address the anarchy in public transport, the outcome of long nourishing service to vested interests, lack of farsightedness of power structure and inefficiency. People's consciousness is a vague term.
They must be kept in constant vigilance and accountability. Especially it goes more with us. Any deviation or laxity will simply allow them defying rule is the last answer. Just you see, in the wake of the student agitation for safe roads, some efforts have been made to correct the ills in the otherwise disorderly public transport system. But as the time is ticking away, the situation remains mostly as usual in the capital.
Many public buses have continued to ply the city streets without legal documents and pick and drop off passengers on roads randomly. People are still risking their lives to cross thoroughfares. Bikers ride motorbikes on footpaths to avoid traffic jam, rickshaw pullers pulling haphazardly without maintaining any line, leading to traffic congestion, buses are still racing on the road; they are still operating buses under daily contracts, defying decision. Many bus owners rent out vehicles to drivers under daily contracts. In this practice, a driver pays a specific amount to the owner and to maximize profits they often drive recklessly to make as many trips as possible in a day - all are the common pictures on the city streets. On the other, it is also seen; police is seen strictly enforcing the traffic rules as they have been conducting weeklong special drive against errant drivers and passers - by. Three days were added to weeklong special drive.

There is no denying the fact that the untimely tragic death of Dia Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib ignited the historic school students' agitation that shook people's sensibility in a big way against decades long prevailing public transport anarchy. A non-political movement with a very honest desire to fix disorderly public transport system will open a new dimension in our history of struggles starting from British era.

This produced situation led concerned to take hurried efforts with an aim at giving quick consolation to bring the whole scenario under control. It is a left over crisis for decades. For its sustainable resolution, efforts call for deep rooted structural reform that will change the prevalent system, that will change the behaviour of pedestrians on roads, that will change the behaviour of passengers in buses, that will change drivers, that will change the owners of buses, that will change the state of buses and in the end that will bring institutional changes.

For these, a relevant law and its constant implementation without culture of impunity on political judgement are the preconditions to be fulfilled. An adhoc act of romping where BRTC chairman has to wander on road to check buses as an example is not the appropriate and relevant task to fix the whole disorder in public transport. A middle class lady is not able to do her office job using public transport; this is the reality of today. This is another part of anarchy, not to speak of often held killings on roads.

Road accident and traffic jam inflicts a heavy toll on the economy. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the country is losing 1.6 percent of GDP due to road accident. This is an old estimate of some years back. Today's estimate will be more considering the present scenario.    Passenger Welfare Association gave another estimate. In 2017, the entire country witnessed nearly 5 thousand road accident that caused 7 thousand 397 dead. 2 thousand 471 people died in road accident during the first 6 months of the current year.

Like road accident, traffic jams are also causing heavy toll on the economy. Accident research institute of BUET told that only traffic congestion of the entire country is taking away 2 percent from GDP every year. Taking jam and road accident together, Bangladesh is losing 3 and a half percent of GDP every year. Weak state of law implementation is the cause of it, concerned experts view.

In fact, shadow economy dominates the transport sector and chaos is a clear reflection of that evil influence. Shadow economy is sometimes termed as the black economy, hidden economy, gray economy or even informal economy. Generally, any economic activity which is hidden from official authority is considered a shadow economy. The reason for hiding or skipping may be regulatory, monetary or any other. An estimate said that a bus has to pay illegal tolls ranging between TK5000 to TK 7000, for trips from Dhaka to different districts of the northern region. According to an estimate, the amount of terminal - centric extortions in Dhaka stands at TK 100 million daily.

Leaders of different unions of the transport owners and workers allegedly receive shares of the amount. Some is the case with the members of the law enforcing agencies and road transport regulators. Local political leaders and activates are also said to have their stakes (The financial Express).Extortion is not obviously recorded as a part of the official economic activities of the transport sector. Had it been included, what would have been the size of the transport sector GDP is anybody's guess. Inadequate bus is pushing the number of risky vehicles like human haulers across the country.

More than 10,000 thousand registered human haulers pressed into service in the last seven and a half years in the country. Of these, around 2600 are in Dhaka. Besides, many unregistered vehicles run the different parts of the country. This is the shadow part of this sector. Mind it; shadow economy is not always illegal. It might be legal. But all things must be kept far off the authority's eyes.

The shady investment and ownership in the transport sector are other issues behind the creation of mess. Many times those we know owners, they are not real owners. They are giving proxy. Real owners are ghostly disappearing. Experts for long view, to curb shady ownership, holding companies of transport owners are to be formed. Some media sources informed, an initiative is there. But progress is slow. So long as a constant somehow binding structure for all relevant stakeholders is to be framed and implementation of law for the whole year is to be ensured, disorder in transport sector will not be removed.

 Sporadic romping as the outcome of sudden produced events will not fix the madness in transport. This writer still believes that awareness of the people is a vague term. They must be kept constantly in a law binding structure with no impunity culture. A slight deviation from implementation of law, then and there they will flout law. This is true for us. To seek example, we need not to go far.

Traffic week ended on 15 August 2018. Then things went back to their previous scenario. Despite efforts from traffic personnel and others, indiscipline on the city roads again has started. Very little effect is left over by traffic week. So we need implementation of traffic law for 365 days and punishment for disobeying for 365 days and stern vigilance for 365 days. Only then people will remain conscious. Time has come to think about the presence of a strong public sector which is to be called commanding height in public transport.

The writer is a freelance contributor

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