The stand-off between students and bus operators over discounted fares is set to continue after the second day of talks between the road transport authorities and transport owners failed to yield a breakthrough on the issue.
Amid heated protests by students demanding a 50 per cent discount on bus fares, the BRTA held a meeting with representatives of the police, transport owners and workers but with no success.
Another two-hour meeting was held at the BRTA office in Dhaka's Banani on Saturday but transport owners refused to budge. Instead, they reiterated the demand for a subsidy to offer the concession to students, arguing most of the bus owners in Dhaka are "poor".
After the meeting, the BRTA urged students to remain calm, saying it would take time to reach a decision on the issue.
"This was a continuation of the talks held on Nov 25. Transport owners and workers have made many proposals. They wanted details of the number of educational institutions and students in Dhaka city," BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder.
"The issue of giving separate identity cards to students in case a concession was granted also came up for discussion. There was a proposal to form a task force with officials from education and home ministries, BRTA and transport stakeholders to look into the matter.”
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, leader of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said, “In Dhaka, 80 per cent of bus owners are poor. They depend on one or two buses for their income. Their children also go to school or college."
"For this reason, the transport owners and workers are proposing a subsidy before deciding on the issue of discounted fares. We have to decide where the subsidy will come from.”
Meanwhile, students poured onto the streets of Dhaka once again to demand safe roads following the death of Notre Dame College student Nayeem Hasan, who was run over by a city corporation garbage truck.
Protesters from several colleges began occupying the streets of Asad Gate and Dhanmondi 27 around 12 pm on Saturday, according to the traffic police's control room.
A group of students also blocked the Uttara House Building area around 11 am before being removed by the police.
After a 23 per cent increase in diesel prices, the government increased bus fares by 26 per cent under pressure from transport owners. Since then, the students have been protesting for half the bus fare.
Students have been protesting in Dhaka for a 50 per cent discount on bus fares for days after the rates were increased in light of a diesel price hike. The death of Nayeem on Wednesday added a new dimension to the protests.
The demonstrations paralysed traffic in Dhaka on Thursday and ended with the protesters vowing to return to the streets on Saturday unless their demands, including justice for Nayeem and a concession on bus fares, were met.
Later on Friday, Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader announced that student fares on BRTC buses would be halved from Dec 1.