"Traffic police sergeants and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) magistrates have been stopping ambulances on Dhaka streets regularly and imposing heavy fines on the owners over minor issues," Co-operative president Momin Ali said on Thursday morning.
The strike announcement followed an impromptu briefing of Dhaka Metropolitan Ambulance Owner Samiti (Dhaka Metropolitan Ambulance Owners Co-operatives) at the National Press Club.
Momin Ali said issues being picked upon by police included the absence of mandatory digital number plates and tinted wind shields and windows, the placement of CNG cylinders inside the vehicles, and breaking speed limits.
Such harassment had increased since the October 15 incident at Dhaka Medical College Hospital front gate that killed five people, including a mother and her teenage son.
According to him, the issues are-
-- Crossing speed limits
-- Absence of mandatory digital number plates
-- Absence of tinted wind shields and windows
-- Placement of CNG cylinder inside the vehicle.
"All the ambulances are yet to get digital number plates due to excessive red taping at the BRTA, but despite showing the Dhaka traffic sergeants the authenticated papers of applications, the ambulance drivers and owners are being harassed with traffic violation cases and fines," Momin Ali said.
Regarding tinted glasses, the co-operatives president said some of the converted ambulances and the older ones do not have such built-in arrangements. "The co-operatives are working on fixing the problem," he said.
CNG cylinders, meanwhile, were being placed under the backseats of the ambulances due to a lack of space inside.
"Despite informing the authorities regarding the matter, BRTA magistrates do not pay heed to the owners’ arguments."
Momin, however, could not provide an estimate for the number of incidents of harassment in Dhaka - where there are currently 170 ambulances registered with the co-operatives - or throughout the country, where a total of 6,000 ambulances are operating in a sector which employs around 20,000 people.
In response to allegations of parked ambulances creating bottlenecks in front of hospitals, Momin said the co-operative needs adequate parking spaces for ambulances near hospitals and clinics.
"We have already started monitoring Dhaka’s Uttara area and will extend this to cover the entire city eventually," he said.
Momin said the ambulance staff have been instructed to provide all sorts of support to the law enforcers, and the co-operative will fire anyone found involved in any crime.
He urged ambulance passengers to inform the owners regarding any irregularity and possible crimes, by calling the numbers painted on the bodies of the vehicles.