Ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) ministers, parliamentarians, leaders and their relatives are largely responsible for the chaotic situation prevailing in the public transport sector, bus owners and experienced drivers say.
The situation has worsened after the officials of law enforcement agencies started doing business in the sector buying buses and minibuses in the name of other persons, they claimed.
The ruling party leaders and their relatives control the bus owners and workers’ associations in the capital, which restricts the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and law enforcement agencies to take effective actions against the vehicles without fitness and route permit, and the drivers who drive recklessly, they say.
There is no more rule of law in the roads, they observed.
The chaotic situation of the transport sector came to the fore after school and college students began a demonstration demanding punishment to those responsible for 29 July accident on Dhaka airport road, which killed two of their fellows, and resignation of the shipping minister for his comments on the accident.
Abdul Karim Rajib and Dia Khanam Mim, class XII and XI students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment School and College, were killed on the spot after an Uttara-bound bus of ‘Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan’ lost control and ran over the students standing beside the road around 12:00 noon.
Shipping minister Shahjahan Khan’s brother-in-law Syed Nurul Haque alias Nannu was one of the directors of Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan bus service. He, however, told Prothom Alo that he is no longer involved with the company and sold his buses three years ago.
Shahjahan Khan is the president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation. Some 70 buses of Kanak Paribahan, owned by his brother Hafizur Rahman, operate in three routes in the capital.
The minister encourages the transport workers to stage demonstrations whenever citizens demand safety on roads or courts take action against reckless driving. He advised the workers from a meeting at his home to enforce strike after a court handed down death sentence to a driver and lifetime imprisonment to another one in February 2017.
Bangladesh Road Transport Samity president and state minister for cooperatives Mashiur Rahman Ranga was also present in the meeting.
Shipping minister, however, on Wednesday told Prothom Alo that slowly the transport sector is being disciplined and the number of road accidents is waning as he is in leadership.
Another influential person of this sector is Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association general secretary Khandaker Enayet Ullah, a vice-president of AL’s Dhaka north unit.
Mentioning that he is in the business for the last 35 years, he said, there is no such law in Bangladesh that bars people from a certain profession to do politics here.
AL MPs Pankaj Nath, AKM Shamim Osman and two former MPs Shahida Tarekh Dipti and Ashrafunnesa Mosharraf (Swapna Services) are also involved in the transport business.
Swechhsebak League general secretary Pankaj Nath-owned bus service company ‘Bihanga Paribahan’ began its journey in 2009. The transport committee of the government gave permission to 240 buses of Bihanga Paribahan to operate on five routes in and around the capital.
Shamim Osman’s bus service company is ZN Corporation. Some 50 AC buses of this company were permitted to operate between Dhaka’s Gulistan and Narayanganj.
Besides, MPs’ family members, Dhaka city Awami League leaders and associate bodies of the ruling party, Dhaka city corporations’ councillors are also involved in the business.
Officials of the government and law enforcement agencies are also found to be involved in the business. Relatives of a few high officials of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) do the business jointly with several companies. Several persons of a certain district have opened public transport companies in the last few years.
Most of these ministers, MPs, and influential persons have become owners of bus companies after the Awami League came to power in 2009. Earlier, ministers and MPs, including public works minister Mirza Abbas, of BNP-Jamaat alliance government used to do the business.
Dhaka (north) metropolitan unit Juba League, youth wing of Awami League, president Mainul Hossain Khan alias Nikhil is the chairman of Chalan Paribahan. Mohona Paribahan is the company of MP Kamal Ahmed Majumder’s brother Anwar Hossain Majumder, also Dhaka (north) metropolitan unit Awami Leagu’s information and research secretary.
Dhaka (north) metropolitan unit Swechhasebak League general secretary and DNCC councillor Faridur Rahman alias Iran is the chairman of Desh Bangla Paribahan.
Glory Express is owned by former Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Haque’s brother AKM Ismail Haque. He is the president of Shariatpur district unit of Awami League and chairman of Naria upazila.
Awami Motorchalok League joint general secretary and Dhaka north metropolitan unit Sramik League organising secretary Kalu Sheikh has got permission to operate three bus companies in the city in the last three-four years. They are Welcome, Moumita Transport and Swajan Paribahan.
VIP Classic is the company of AL’s Dhaka (north) metropolitan unit organising secretary Zahirul Haque while Swechhasebak League’s central joint general secretary Gazi Mesbaul Hossain’s sister Parvin Hossain is the managing director of Cantonment Paribahan. Former general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League Ajay Kar Khokon’s company is AK Paribahan.
Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association secretary general Mozammel Haque Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that the ruling party men could have played a positive role in developing the transport sector’s chaotic condition.
But they’ve been using it against the people’s interest. This is why death toll and chaos on the roads is on the rise, he added.
*The piece, published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza.