The hassles often faced by vehicle owners in obtaining fitness certificates for their vehicles are too well known to talk about. What still prompts a sufferer to refer to the apparently incorrigible situation is the dim prospect of a possible respite that could be had from an alternative arrangement, namely outsourcing of vehicle inspection.
Years ago, there were talks about outsourcing of vehicle testing as a possible remedy for the difficulties caused mainly by the limited network and inadequate facilities of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). But like most government agencies that consider delegating a portion of their activities as taking away some of their authority to call the shots, the BRTA too was no exception. As a result, although transport experts and road safety activists campaigned for introduction of outsourcing, things did not turn up favourably. It was way back in 2012 when the government first contemplated the idea. There were advertisements in newspapers back then asking well equipped automobile workshops to get registered with the BRTA to conduct vehicle fitness tests. The initiative didn't move further in the face of strong opposition from BRTA staff. It may be noted that the government at that time had formed a committee to set the required criteria for eligible private agencies for checking fitness of vehicles.
Now, after a lapse of more than seven years, the issue has again surfaced, much to the surprise of those who could recall the move years ago. It has been learnt that the government is now convinced that the lone state agency BRTA, because of its technical and manpower constraints made further worse by the alleged corrupt practices, is not at all well placed to cater for a job that involves testing of hundreds of vehicles a day. The number of vehicles of all varieties is fast increasing in all major cities of the country, especially Dhaka. This has obviously fuelled test demand manifold. The curious thing here is that despite the sharp increase of vehicles on the roads, there is no noticeable rise in the number of discarded vehicles. Ramshackle vehicles, especially buses, which should have been declared unfit years ago are still plying the roads, even the highways-at the expense of passenger safety. Under the circumstances, it appears that the BRTA people in charge of inspection are the sole beneficiary of the prevailing system, and the way fitness certificates are issued, often without the vehicles presented for inspection, verges on mockery.
With the idea of outsourcing revived, one hopes the government does not falter this time. Clearly, the government is concerned about the recurrence of road accidents across the country, caused in many cases by vehicles not fit to be in use. Thus, in order to bring discipline in vehicle testing as well as relieve the vehicle owners of the many hassles, there is a need for serious effort to evolve a suitable mechanism through outsourcing.
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