It does not take a transport specialist's insight to find out why the newly introduced transport law failed to see the least success after more than three weeks of its coming into force. The much trumpeted law has met its inevitable fate -- not because of the enforcers' neglect but because of the unworkable circumstances that make enforcement of many key provisions of the law difficult, even impossible. Soon after the draft law was formulated, experts did mention that unless the country's unruly transport sector is sufficiently reformed, the law will not be able to take its course. The media, too, took note of the issue flagging it as a prerequisite for the law to succeed.
Clearly, the authorities did not heed much to the concerns expressed, or if at all, considered the law no different from scores of other laws that remain mostly shelved or are applied only rarely. Given that a transport law is not just a set of pious intentions, but one meant to be enforced, even harshly, it has no scope for leniency for the sake of the safety of millions of people on roads and highways across the country.
The prevailing situation has brought to the fore some critical issues that should have been resolved well ahead of the law coming into force. The law forbids plying of many indigenous transports such as covered vans, legunas, nosimons, karimons etc, but no prior action was taken to ban those outright. Similarly, there was no firm action to remove unfit transports from the roads nor was there any noticeable drive to ensure that drivers, especially of heavy vehicles, have appropriate driving licences. The provision in the law for stern penal action against illegal vehicle parking -- an issue that has sparked the most discontent -- appears to be unjustifiable in the country's prevailing context, as there are very few legal parking spots in the country, even for the buses and trucks. For the private vehicles, except for some shopping malls in Dhaka and Chottogram, there is hardly any dedicated parking lot. The demand for parking facilities, particularly in the capital, is a longstanding one, but no effort has been in sight to create the facilities by the government or incentivise the private sector to build such facilities. So, in the absence of legal parking facilities, imposing hefty fines for roadside parking of vehicles is totally unfair. Again, the method of investigation into road crashes, as envisaged in the law, appears to have largely ignored the point of view of the alleged offenders -- the drivers.
As the situation has ceased to change, it is clearly the sense of sanity to discipline the chaos that has become the casualty. Observers, however, still believe that with required reforms gradually in place, the law can be implemented in phases. And to do so, there is a lot to think about and work on. There is also the need to revisit some of the provisions of the law to render those more realistic and workable.
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