Profit maximization behind crazy bus races; people’s lives in danger on city roads

It was an early January afternoon. A bus was heading towards Mirpur-10 from Pallabi, picking up anyone who raised their hands from the side of the road.

A competing operator’s bus quickly passed it, veered sharply left and came to an abrupt stop, cutting off the first bus.

The driver of the first bus started honking and eventually tried to force his way past the bus in front of him. There were a few scratches but he couldn’t get through.

As the two vehicles began to move forward, the drivers desperately tried to pass each other, repeatedly scraping the sides of the buses as those on board prayed for life.

But this is by no means extraordinary. People see and endure such recklessness and complete disregard for safety every day.

Most city dwellers probably can’t even remember the last time they saw a perfectly good city bus. Many lack taillights, turn signals, and sometimes mirrors and headlights. They pick up and drop off commuters in the middle of the road.

Through a network of transport companies, bus owners, drivers and traffic enforcement officers, millions of taka change hands each month to ensure that unsuitable buses stay on the roads and to maintain the status quo in the industry. Traffic enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to these corrupt practices even as road safety has become a major issue in recent times.

Drivers ignore traffic rules when driving the unfit vehicles, picking up as many commuters as possible to maximize profits. Many of those behind the wheel don’t even have a driver’s license.

Meanwhile, security and the rule of law take a back seat. At least 7,809 people were killed and 9,039 others were injured in 5,629 crashes last year, according to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity.

About 54% of crashes involved dangerously driven buses, said Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, general secretary of the association which compiled the figures by following media reports.

He said 5.33% of accidents take place in the capital due to reckless driving.

On January 20, 14-year-old Rakibul Hasan was crushed to death between two Ajmery Glory Paribahan buses. An unlicensed assistant driver was driving one of the buses while the driver of the other bus was a drug addict, Rab officers said after arresting them six days later.

Each month, each transport company pays Tk 1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh to traffic police and other corrupt officials who look the other way as these vehicles roam the roads. In addition, bus owners have to spend between Tk 600 and 1,000 every day for miscellaneous road and office fees, contributions to different workers’ and owners’ associations and political groups, terminal fees and fees. community policing.

About 5,500 buses from 110 companies operate in the capital and its adjoining areas, according to leaders of the Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association.

Even at a conservative estimate, transport companies pay a total of Tk 1.8 crore in bribes every month.

“Our company has about 30 buses. We give 1.5 lakh Tk to sergeants stationed on Mirpur-12 road in Motijheel,” said the manager of a bus company.

The spokesperson for another company, which has around 60 buses that operate between Mirpur 11 and Sadarghat, said his company pays around Tk 2.5 lakh to the traffic police.

Every company has at least one designated employee to take bribe money to traffic police stations on the road in the first two weeks of every month, one company’s chief executive said.

“Small businesses have one employee while large ones have up to three,” he said.

Also, bus owners pay Tk 300-400 every day to the bus company. This money is the source of the amount given to the police. There are allegations that influential leaders of political parties and transport associations also receive a share of this amount.

Owners of each bus also pay 100 Tk each day to different associations, terminals and community police.

A former deputy commissioner (traffic) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police has admitted that bus companies bribe the police because most buses do not have valid documents and many drivers do not have valid driver’s licenses.

When contacted, Munibur Rahman, Additional Commissioner (Traffic) of the DMP said he heard about the link about a year ago when he joined the department, but he never found any evidence.

“If we find an unholy connection and find any members of the police involved in such illegal activities, we will bring them to justice,” he told the Daily Star.

He added that the mindset of bus owners, drivers and attendants needs to change.

Asked why bus drivers are racing each other on the street, Jiban, a city service bus driver who operates on the Pallabi-Azimpur road, said: “If I don’t give a nice sum to the owner of the bus at the end of the day, he will replace me with another driver and I will be unemployed. We do our best to pick up as many passengers as possible, even if it means breaking traffic rules.

Abul Kalam, owner of three Safety Paribahan buses, said: “If I see other bus owners making more money than me, then I will look for another driver.

Since buses from seven to eight companies operate on the same route, competition to pick up more passengers is inevitable, he said, adding that the system would have to change.

Also, some drivers and their assistants are paid according to the number of trips they make in a day while others hire the buses for 2,250 Tk to 2,500 Tk per day. Both arrangements make drivers more desperate to make as many trips as possible.

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