Two ministers stand staunchly against certain provisions included in the draft Road Transport Act 2017, which was approved, in principle, by the Cabinet on March 26.
The Minister for Shipping, Shajahan Khan, and the Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives, Md Mashiur Rahman Ranga, joined transport association leaders in meeting with Transport Minister Obaidul Quader to argue their stance against the draft law.
The first point of contention arises against the draft law’s suggestion that in order to be eligible to become a conductor or assistant, the applicant needs to pass the fifth grade and in order to get a driving licence, the candidate needs to have passed the eighth grade.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Shajahan, who is also the executive president of Bangladesh Transport Workers' Federation, said: “A conductor or assistant usually becomes a driver within five to seven years. If he passed fifth grade and joined as a conductor, he is unlikely to go back to school and complete eighth grade. This means he will never be able to become a driver. This clause is clearly impractical.”
The second clause in question states that in cases of serious injury from road accidents caused by negligent driving, the punishment should be a maximum of three years’ jail or a fine of Tk25 lakh.
According to Shajahan and the Co-operatives Minister Mashiur Rahman, who is also the president of the Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Samity, such stipulations are unreasonable, since drivers cannot afford Tk25 lakh fines.
Other controversial clauses include the proposal to give police the authority to arrest drivers without warrants if they are found committing a cognisable offence and that BRTA will now be able to deduct points from licences for violations of the law. A licence which loses 12 points will be cancelled.
When asked about the meeting with transport leaders, Obaidul Quader told the Dhaka Tribune: “They want to soften the suggested large-scale fine and are asking that some of the other provisions be changed. But it is very tough for us to make a concrete decision about this issue. We definitely do not want any violence ahead of the national election.”
However, according to Shipping Minister Shajahan, their approach would continue to be peaceful and legal.
“The transport association leaders will not call for any programme that creates suffering for the commuters. Before draft law was prepared, we had stated our reasoning against certain clauses, yet they did not take our thoughts into consideration during the final draft. We will meet with law minister soon and demand that our observations are included prior to placing the draft final approval,” he explained, adding: “If the draft remains unchanged during the final approval meeting, we will take up the matter with the parliamentary standing committee.”
Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Samity Secretary General Khandaker Enayetullah said the transport owners and leaders would meet with members of civil society on May 4 and discuss the issue them, though he did not mention specifics on who would be present at the meeting or where the meeting would be held.