Things that make you to Think
Bargaining with the drivers of Auto-Rickshaws, Taxis or even with the
bus conductors is a common scenario in this crowded city of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Mainly the middle class and the poor are the worst victims, as their commuting hassles start right from the early
office hours, while they also have to go through huge traffic when returing home in the evening.
Although, the auto-rickshaws and taxis have fare meters; they seldom follow the fares set by the government. Moreover, people are yet to bear any fruit of several High Court directives that were given in the preceding years to stop collection of excessive transport fares.
Like other sectors, transport fares have become an interminable problem for people these days. For example, CNG taxi cabs were once a common transport service for the middle class people while the poor people occasionally used it for emergencies. But these days, one must consider himself lucky to hire a CNG cab for a moderately decent rate.
Kabir Chowdhury, who is a resident of Lalmatia, Dhaka, has to face an intolerable situation every morning when he goes to hire a CNG cab for his office at Motijheel. For the last one year he seldom pays under Tk 150 for a 7km journey from Asad Gate where the ideal fare should not be more than Tk 90 according to the fare meter ordained by the government.
He shares all this while searching for a CNG at Asad Gate.
Like Kabir, Monirul Islam is another victim of the same situation. He is agitated with the constant scene of bargaining transport fares every morning. He says, “It is totally ridiculous. Although I know that the CNG drivers have no other way, I cannot not hold myself back from getting annoyed by their behaviour.”
This reporter found a rickshaw-puller at the Enam Medical College & Hospital at Savar who had just suffered from a terrible accident and urgently needed to go the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment. His relatives were found to be in a hurry to find a transport. In this situation, one of his relatives quickly said, “Ambulance charges are Tk 2500 and when we look for a taxicab they charge about one thousand less. Now we have no option but to look for a CNG cab.” After a while, they had to settle for a CNG cab for an unconscionable fare of Tk 700. Such cases are very much common on the roads around Dhaka city.
The last time the Ministry of Communication increased the CNG fare was in November, 2010 which was followed again with another rise in January, 2011. Back then the Tk 14 rate for the first two kilometres was increased to Tk 25 while the Tk 6 fare for every other additional kilometre was increased to Tk 7. For intervals during traffic jams, trip breaks, and traffic signals, the fare of Tk 1 was increased to Tk 1.25.
Moreover, the CNG owners’ deposit amount was increased from Tk 450 to Tk 600.
However, it seems the meter in the CNG cab is nothing more than a showpiece nowadays, just like the fares set by the government are not followed. Today the average CNG cab drivers have to pay an owner’s deposit of Tk 800 – Tk 950 per day, and as a result, they are compelled to take excessive fares from passengers to meet their owner’s deposit and other costs.
However, the CNG owners have a different opinion. “Now the import cost of a CNG cab is around Tk 600000 accepting customs, VAT, and supplementary duties. The maintenance costs, machinery-tools and implementation costs have all increased as well. Generally, all prices have been hiked without considering their effects on transport fares,” says
Mohammad Ali who is the Announcement Secretary of Dhaka Metropolitan CNG Auto-Rickshaw Owner’s Association.
“We know that the deposit charges compel the drivers to take excessive fares from the passengers, but on the other hand we have no
other way but to increase the fares. Governments are only bothered to issue a fare list and rules, but they do not know how the owners import a CNG, how they maintain it and how they manage the corrupt traffic
police. ” he adds.
Meanwhile, many CNG owners and drivers claim that they have often been harassed by the police sergeants while in some cases there is also the issue of theft. Also, the drivers often have to pay ransom to the police sergeants while they threaten to file cases if they find that the driver is not complying with the meter,” the CNG drivers also claimed, “But they do not even know why we take excessive fare!”
“Only if the CNG deposit charges are decreased or the fare rates are increased; we will agree to comply with the fare meter. Otherwise we cannot meet our daily costs” says Sujan, a CNG driver who demanded Tk 800 to a passenger from Savar to Badda at the Savar bazaar bus stand.
Besides the dilemma of unfair transport fares, another vital fact is the lack of transport alternatives for the middle class and poor people. For many years, registration for new CNG cabs has been halted by Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).
A BRTA Inspector Abdur Rashid said, “Currently we are only allowing replacement of CNG cabs, based on registrations made earlier.”
Another official from BRTA said, “As the CNG causes traffic jam in Dhaka city, issuing new registration is not possible now.”
In Dhaka, the total number of CNG is 20291 while 8583 are minibuses, according to BRTA.
The number of CNG’s that have increased between January, 2012 and June 2012 are 1646 while only 20 new minibuses were added on Dhaka’s roads. However, the number of motor cars increased in the same period is 4494 bringing the total number of motor cars in Dhaka to 182247.
Experts have opined that the options of transport for the middle class and poor people have not been extended compared to the growing population of Dhaka city.
One commoner said to this reporter, “I have a car. But I do not support the use of private cars in this city. Still I have to use my car because I do not find any proper alternative in our transport system. We often use our cars even when we can reach our destination on foot or by bicycle. CNG cabs would never cause traffic jam if the CNG’s and minibuses
are only used for long distance routes.”
However, the gas price hike is another vital reason which forces the CNG owners and drivers to take excessive fares rather than using the fare meter. Several times during the previous years: the price of gas and fuel have increased.
If such condition prevails, nothing will improve for the general mass. However, the act of excessive transport fares demanded by the vehicle owners or the drivers is the sign for some more serious issues in the future.