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Bus owners arbitrary decision for fare hike unwanted, unacceptable

Commuters hope PM will intervene to give them relief

Published : Monday, 1 June, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1007
Observer Special

The road transport sector has once again taken the government and the people hostage for the self aggrandisement of the owners.

The bus owners have once more revealed their true colours by abnormally hiking the bus fare in the wake of the reopening of the country after 66 days lockdown imposed to combat Covid-19.. However, this time their unfair profit mongering scheme seems to have reached its pinnacle. Unfortunately and surprisingly this time the government organisation Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) is conniving with and patronising the bus owners.

In an unrealistic and fanciful manner, the owners have hiked bus fare by 60 percent. Moreover, this hike has come along with the decision to ply buses with half or 50 percent capacity. This unjustifiable hike has no moral or business rational.  It is clearly a unilateral, rent-seeking and  whimsical decision of the bus owners to make money on the people's plight.

We are even further astounded to note that the BRTA, the country's key transport regulatory authority, has been a direct patron of this bizarre hike in appeasing the bus owners' community. In an hour meeting with the owners the BRTA on Saturday recommended to raise the bus fare by 80 per cent. Later on Sunday they issued a circular to raise it by 60 per cent. In the whole exercise the BRTA did not feel to hold any public hearing. Such decision is sheer arbitrary, unwanted and unacceptable. This is more unacceptable when the other public transports like railway and launch services have not gone for fare hike considering the passengers' plight due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to the abnormal hike, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the government would reduce and rationally adjust the hike in bus fare, considering people's present economic ability.

However, the commuters are not convinced with this official response as they found no respite in the BRTA circular. The bus owners and BRTA should have understood the common people's financial ability. The decision of the committee led by the Chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority would overburden people who are already facing hardship due to the two-month long shutdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
On this matter, we mark clear imbalance and ambiguity, in terms of practicing regulatory command. It seems the bus owners are regulating the BRTA, not the people who will use the buses.

Bus commuters are not wealthy people and the majority of them not even fall under the middle class segment. And imposing a record 60 percent hike in one time in bus fares for commuting from one place to another is inhumane since millions of people across the country were without work and pay for couple of months.

The Coronavirus pandemic had hit all people. Our transport owners must realise and sympathise with this fact. Most importantly, they must conduct their business as per public convenience and a balanced profit margin. The illogical price hike only suggests transport owners have become desperate to makeup the losses incurred during the shutdown. They want whatever money was not earned in the last two months must be earned in the next few weeks, no matter how much  sufferings it will cost the common people.

The Prime Minister announced Covid-19 stimulus introducing loans with a low interest rate for the business community. The bus owners could have availed that loan facility to cope up with their losses during the shutdown period instead of charging it on the people.

With regard to the nature of price hike in Bangladesh, once bus fair goes up it hardly comes down to its previous rate. Bus owners have no qualms to go for unilateral fare hike. Always the commuters are the victims of their lust and greed.

Since the Corona curse is not likely to leave us any time soon, rather confidently we can say that the 60 percent hike in bus fare will also not come down. The bus owners have planned a farfetched and sustainable profit making mechanism at the cost of their passengers' misery. The passengers will have to cope both with a short and a long-term bus fair dilemma.      

Our transport businessmen and especially bus owners have often caused manmade disasters for personal profiteering and gains. Ranging from shutting down roads and services, spreading violence and vandalism to illegally hike bus fares, they have hardly appeared as a pro - people service oriented business entity. The regular law breaking practice in the transport sector leads to innumerable tragic road accidents and deaths. The indiscipline in the sector often creates violence and anarchy. Even the government succumbs to their muscle flexing and people are hostage in the hands of the 'mafia' groups in this sector.

Most dangerously, they have often taken the government a political hostage while forcing it to bow to their unfair demands. Even more, the owners have repeatedly meddled in government's policy making and regulatory procedures.

If the country's bus owners community repeats failing to distinguish between right and wrong, fair and unfair, something serious needs to be done. If the owners do not get on track and sincerely share the sorrows of the people in the time of a national health crisis, we urgently draw the Prime Minister's immediate intervention. She has been markedly astute with her leadership and negotiation skills in the times of many dilemmas. We believe she can handle the bus owners and give relief to the common people, especially at this time when they are hard hit by Covid-19 fallout. 

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