The inauguration of the much-hyped Dhaka Nagar Paribahan (Dhaka City transport) Service marks the journey of what is called a bus franchise system. If the rationalisation of this particular bus route from Keraniganj'sGhatarchar to Kanchpur can set an example for other bus operators reluctant to join the system, this pilot project will have served its purpose. It has taken as long as six years to convince a few bus companies to join the initiative. By this time Annisul Huq, former mayor of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) who came up with the idea of implementing the system, died, his counterpart of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Syed Khokon took upon himself the responsibility of introducing the system without success. All because the move was opposed by the bus companies. The opposition is still there and the joint effort by the two incumbent mayors could at last make it happen.
For decades an unholy nexus has developed in the transport sector. It has left no stone unturned to sustain irregularities, indiscipline and chaos in the sector with the heinous motive of serving its interests. The interest concerns daily toll collection, albeit illegal but made an unwritten law. It is a huge stake too, because the daily toll collection reportedly amounts to no less than a million taka. The transport workers are exploited while those involved in the nexus eat the cream. During the pandemic, the wretched workers starved but the toll collectors did not help them. No wonder that a top workers' leader has welcomed the introduction of the transport pool under the route rationalising system. But the majority of the bus companies are unwilling to put their acts together in order to provide improved service. Reports have it that some of them still realise bus fare at a higher than the approved rate.
Clearly, the new system has the potential to bring about a discernible change in bus operation. With the Bus Route Rationalisation Committee and the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority keeping a watchful eye on the operation of buses, the service promises to be better simply for two reasons. First, no buses of other companies will be allowed on the designated route; second, the unauthorised buses now plying on the city roads will be dumped to the dumping site in Matuail. If the authorities can strictly execute their plan, the elements who have so long sabotaged successive moves to bring order in the transport sector, particularly in the city's bus service will get the message.
The construction of bus bays and marking of designated bus stops for embarking and disembarking passengers can change the service for the better to a great extent. As the bus operators including those at the ticket counters have been given a short training, better behaviour and service practice can be expected of them. Since they will be brought under regular service rules, their exploitation by bus owners will come to an end. So long their organisation has been abused by intriguing people, now they may enjoy their rights such as fixed working hours and wages. This can earn them the dignity they deserve.