It was about 10 am on Sunday (October 20) when this correspondent boarded a Sky Line Paribahan bus in front of Jagannath University in the city's Sadarghat area to go to Gazipur.
Incidentally, this correspondent was the first passenger to board the bus. There was nobody else but the driver, one conductor and one helper in the vehicle.
From the beginning of the trip, the helper loudly invited passengers to board the bus.
This correspondent expected that the bus would keep stopping to take on passengers until all the seats were taken.
But that was not the case. The 41-seat bus was mostly full at Gulistan – one of the prominent stops on the route – but the driver kept stopping the bus wherever passengers were available.
He cared little about stopping only at points designated by the authorities. In the bus there was also no mention of the names of the stops on the route. The bus stopped at least 40 times before reaching Gazipur Chowrasta at around 1.30 pm.
There was heavy traffic on the route on Sunday. But, because the bus was stopped at will, it took three and a half hours to reach the destination on the 35.1-kilometre route. It normally takes two hours to complete the trip.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the Sadarghat to Gazipur Chawrasta route has been assigned the number A-206, and that there are eight stops from Sadarghat to Tongi on the route.
The stops are Sadarghat, Fulbaria, Malibagh, Moghbazar, Sat Rasta, Zia Colony, Jasim Uddin Road, and Cheragali in Tongi, said Shafiqul Alam Sarkar, assistant director (engineering) of the BRTA (Dhaka district).
"The traffic police have the duty to monitor if buses stop at designated places. The BRTA also occasionally sends mobile courts to take action against violation of traffic rules," he added.
However, the staff of the bus have a different opinion.
When asked why the bus was not stopping at points designated by the BRTA, the conductor Ariful Islam said, "It's a local bus, so it's not possible to follow the stop schedule."
It was not only the bus staff who made the bus journey a bad experience, the passengers were also to blame. Many of them got off the bus at will. This bad practice results in road accidents in some cases.
The condition of the bus was also pretty bad. The vehicle was discoloured and a couple of seats were broken.
While defining the fitness of a bus, the secretary general of the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association, Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, said, "The fitness of a bus is determined by the quality of its seats, its lights, glass, colour, window etc."
"A bus having 26 to 31 seats is termed a mini bus, while buses having 32 to 51 seats are termed large buses," Mozammel said.
"However, most bus owners increase the number of seats to turn a minibus into a big bus. This makes the buses unfit. But, such unfit vehicles are getting fitness certificates from the BRTA," he added.
After spending an hour or so in Gazipur, it was time to return to Dhaka.
It was 2.45 pm when this correspondent started from Gazipur Chowrasta in a bus named 'Gazipur Paribahan' that operates on the Gazipur to Gulistan route.
The 45-seat bus stopped a minimum of 30 times to take-on passengers until it reached Wireless Gate in Moghbazar.
However, in complete contrast to the way they invited passengers to board, the staff were very abrupt and rude when dropping-off passengers. They even misbehaved with some of them.
An elderly passenger fell to the ground as he tried to get off the bus in Tongi. Luckily, there was no accident.
A female passenger wanted to get off at Moghbazar, but when the bus reached the Mogbazar Flyover, the helper insisted that the lady get off there, even though the flyover is not a place to drop passengers. The woman refused to get off the bus on the flyover, and eventually left at Wireless Gate, Moghbazar.
Such is the scenario of the bus transportation system in the capital. Commuters risk their lives every day to get around. We observe National Road Safety Day every year, as we are observing it today. But the situation barely improves!