The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) has questioned the reasoning behind increasing bus fares by 60 percent and demanded that the government cancel its decision considering the hardships of lower income people during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"The government has raised the fare by setting a number of conditions, but those conditions are not implementable in most cases," said the non-profit consumer rights organisation.
In a press release undersigned by its President Ghulam Rahman on Tuesday, CAB alleged that buses were charging double the fare to passengers cashing in on the 60 percent fare hike. "It will make the life of the jobless worse and of middle class people unbearable."
"It will not be possible to maintain a minimum of three-feet of social distancing when transporting passengers at half the seating capacity in a densely populated country like Bangladesh," CAB said.
The press release said that is why the CAB had been advising the government from much earlier that, instead of increasing fares, it should provide the transportation sector with a stimulus package – like for exports and other sectors – or pay subsidies and adjust fuel prices.
The consumer rights group said it had also suggested that the government run the state-owned Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation buses if private companies refused to operate their vehicles on some specific routes.
CAB said the increase in bus fares will push up the cost of living of the people. That is why, it added, the government should review its decision and scrap the bus fare hike.
The government, on Sunday, increased the fares of all buses, including inter-district bus services, by 60 percent as the vehicles may only carry half their capacity of passengers to maintain social distancing amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Earlier, the fare committee of the BRTA recommended increasing the fares of all buses, including, inter-district bus services, by 80 percent.
On Thursday, the government decided to allow public transportation – including buses, trains, and inland water vessels – to resume services from Sunday while abiding by social distancing rules and health directives.
In separate meetings with transportation company owners on Friday, BRTA and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority decided to resume public transportation services.
All modes of public transportation have been off the roads since March 26, when the government enforced a shutdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country.