Health rules still elusive in public transport
Ensuring hygiene in public transport, especially in city bus services amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, is still a far cry. The government has permitted public transport authorities to run services by maintaining health directives and asked transport owners and workers not to take passengers exceeding half the usual capacity, but the reality is different.
The authorities asked the transport workers to wear face masks during trips and keep hand sanitizers for use of passengers and not to carry any passenger without face masks.
But the directive has been greeted by more in violation than in abiding, and , although the violation is a common sight in the buses plying in the city, the law enforcers turn a blind eye to it.
While travelling in different areas of Dhaka city, this correspondent found that the bus services were rampantly violating government order. No government agency was present to monitor, whether public transport workers were complying with government's health directive.
On carrying extra passengers, Paristan Paribahan supervisor Sumon Hossain told the Daily Observer, "We are trying to maintain all health guidelines, but it becomes a problem during office hours, especially when people come out after office break. Sometimes passengers forcibly get into buses ignoring the seat capacity despite repeated reminders from our staff," he added.
Shahinul Haque, a transport owner of Agradut Pvt Ltd, said, "We bus owners regularly give strict directives to our bus workers to follow heath guidelines. We take instant corrective action if any kind of violation is noticed."
Transport workers were not able to give any satisfactory answer to why they do not keep hand sanitizer or allow passengers without masks.
Commuters alleged that transport services often fail to provide hygienic services although they have to pay 60 per cent extra fare due to the government order.
Jonayed Ibn Mortuza, a private company employee who regularly uses public transport, said, "Despite running on full capacity, many bus assistants are found relentlessly calling for more passengers and it has become a common scene."
Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association President Mashiur Rahaman Ranga said, "A bus is run by a driver, an assistant and a fare collector. It is difficult for them to handle so many passengers. Many a times, passengers get into the bus by pushing away the assistants."
"We have asked the government to monitor health rules with the people of BRTA, police, BGB and Ansar. If someone gets into the bus we can't force him/her out," he added.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, Secretary General of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, said, "We have served notice to all bus owners, transport companies, associations, district and other units to operate carrying half the usual capacity of passengers. The matter is also being monitored by the law enforcement agencies."
"We have said that strict action should be taken against anyone who violates government rules," he added.
Meanwhile, general observation indicates that buses plying long routes and passenger trains maintain relatively better hygiene rules.