The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority sued only 35 vehicles, collecting Tk 38,000 in fines in the process from different spots in the capital on Wednesday.
The amount is less than that collected in the preceding two days of operations by mobile courts following the implementation of the new Road Transport Act, 2018.
There are indeed signs of the BRTA stepping back from its earlier resolve to go for a strict implementation of the tough new law.
On the very first day of RTA implementation, on November 18, eight different mobile courts of BRTA initiated 88 cases, with fines to the tune Tk1,21,900 for violations of the law.
On the second day, the number of cases filed dwindled. BRTA's mobile courts filed 79 cases and realised Tk1,19,200 in fines at seven different spots in the capital.
And on the third day, there was a further decline, with the figure being only 35 cases and Tk 38,000 in fines.
Experts, commuters and officials are of the view that it is a clear sign of a retreat by the BRTA in light of the protests mounted by workers and transport owners against the law in the capital.
For their part, BRTA executive magistrates acknowledged that they have been filing fewer cases and charging lesser fines owing to the unrest among transport workers.
Talking to the Business Standard, BRTA Executive Magistrate Sarah Sadia Tajneen said that they have been instructed to file cases if something was found to be very wrong.
"We are just trying to make drivers and commuters aware of their responsibilities; we have no intention to sue more than necessary," she added.
When A K M Masudur Rahman, director (enforcement) of BRTA, was asked why cases and fines had declined to one-third just within three days, he told The Business Standard that the reason was the protest by transport workers and so the BRTA was careful about handling the situation carefully.
On Wednesday morning, the BRTA director informed the Business Standard that three different mobile court will work in the capital.
However, in the evening he claimed that seven mobile courts had been set up at different places.
Meanwhile, Md Refatul Islam, assistant commissioner of Ramna traffic zone of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said that the mobile court at Razmoni intersection at Karail had only filed a single case during the whole day.
M M Samirul Islam, BRTA executive magistrate, agreed with Refatul Islam.
"If people start to abide by the law, that will be our success, not fines and not cases," he added.
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity Secretary General Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury expressed his ire at the situation. Speaking to The Business Standard, he said that the soft manner in which the BRTA mobile courts had been acting in the last three days will cause trouble in the implementation of the traffic law.
"When the government takes a step for ensuring better road safety, the vested quarters in the transport sector begin looking for opportunities of fishing in troubled waters. The BRTA should take it seriously and should implement the law strictly," he added.
Protest causes commuters' sufferings
The decreased number of public transport vehicles in the capital owing to the transport strike caused immense sufferings for commuters on Wednesday.
In Kamarpara in Tongi and Demra, a large number of buses could not enter the capital and had to wait for long hours.
Andaleeb Ahmed, a commuter in Dhanmondi, said that he could see only three buses in the 20 minutes he had been waiting for his desired bus. "No buses are operating on Mirpur road, but I have seen plenty of private cars on the road," he said.
Daily commuters waiting for transport, which has been affected by transport workers' strike Photo: SaikatBhadra
Sumi Akter in Khilkhet road said that she could see only a few BRTC buses on the Farmgate-Uttara road. "I could manage a seat on a BRTC bus after several attempts. I have seen hundreds of commuters going to their destinations on foot in Khilkhet area," she added.
"Public buses are plying through Mohakhali area, but the drivers of intercity buses do not want to run the buses," said Sudhir Chandra, assistant commissioner of Mohakhali Traffic zone.
Few intercity buses have left Gabtali bus stand since Wednesday morning.
Md Shamim waited for a bus at Asad gate area on Wednesday morning for at least an hour.
"Then I tried to hire a CNG-driven auto-rickshaw or a ride sharing vehicle but they also demanded exorbitant fares," he said.
Rashedul Hasan, a student of Dhaka University, was also supposed to go to the university from Mohammadpur in the morning.
"But I could not join the class on time because I had to take a rickshaw instead of a bus," Rashed said.