Driver's license is mandatory to ensure road safety. But those license-related activities have been inactive for three years. It transpired the failure of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the country's sole driver's license providing organisation. BRTA is another organisation after the railway authorities that did not have any system of their own to provide digital services and rely on contractors.
About 4.4 million licenses are stuck due to arbitrariness of contractors and inefficiency of the BRTA. It is not possible to verify whether the license possessed by the driver is authentic. As a result, at one hand road safety is threatened, on the other hand, people have to suffer year after year while trying to get or renew the license.
We noticed drivers of 2 million vehicles do not have driving license. Now with so much suffering and complications with licenses, naturally many drivers would not want to go to the BRTA office. Which is why many drivers drive without a license or without renewing it. On the other hand, those vehicles have also become a major source of police extortion.
In such a situation, a few days ago, six brothers were crushed to death under a pickup van at Chakaria in Cox's Bazar. The driver of the pickup van did not have a license. One study found that drivers' involvement was responsible for 90 per cent of accidents in the last 20 years. Now due to the complexity of the BRTA license, legal action is not going to be taken against the persons responsible after the accident.
The process of providing license, new applicants' personal information, fingerprints, photo and database, adding old licenses to the database and storing them online is entirely dependent on the contractor. An organisation called Tiger IT has been overseeing this work since 2011. However, due to the complexity of the agreement, they stopped issuing new licenses from 2019. Later, another company called Madras Printers got the job. The previous contractors did not handover the technical operation system to them.
It is alleged that the Tiger IT did that to keep the work to them permanently. On the other hand, the capacity of the new contracting company has been questioned. But the point is, why should a contractor maintain the operations and storing important database related to road safety? It also involves the issue of national security. The lack of technical capability of an organisation like BRTA is not only unfortunate but also worrisome.
Nur Mohammad, chairman of the organisation, says the issue is a technical problem. They are hoping for a quick solution. Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Road Transports Nazrul Islam also says that they are looking for a solution.
However, they do not seem to be moving towards a lasting and effective solution. We do not want important government agencies to be held hostage by contractors. They must acquire the ability to quickly issue and renew driver's licenses on its own management. Such state of civic service is unwarranted in digital Bangladesh.