Transport workers have taken control over the city bus services, allegedly creating an unpleasant situation for all the stakeholders, including passengers and owners.
They are allegedly charging fares on their whims, often violating the BRTA-fixed rates published on August 6 last after the increase in prices of fuel oils.
The bus drivers and helpers are claimed to have been ignoring the directives by the owners to collect fares at the new rate of Tk 2.5 per kilometre since its announcement by the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).
The bus owners alleged that the staff members are not also allowing their representatives to monitor the trips and count the number of passengers travelling with their vehicles.
That means the waybill system introduced to monitor the services operations is being overlooked by the staff members, and that the services are being operated on contract.
The passengers as well as the bus helpers and drivers are now complaining against each other, creating a chaotic situation.
A helper of Nur E Makkha service said the contract system is better than the way bill system as they can show passengers the fare chart and collect it accordingly.
"It is always difficult for us to convince passengers about the fares fixed by the owners as per the waybill system. But, we can now show the passengers the fare chart and charge for their pick up and drop off points," he said.
However, the owners said withdrawal of the waybill system does not mean withdrawal of the monitoring system, but now their representatives are not allowed to count passengers at the stoppages.
"In the waybill system, there was no scope of creating disputes with the drivers and helpers. But now it again started as the employees are manipulating the number of passengers," said an owner of a service operating on Savar-Notun Bazar route in the city.
He alleged that the owners are now getting less money every day.
Since the introduction of the new chart, passengers on various routes were complaining about charging fares at higher rates. The bus helpers also said passengers do not even want to pay the minimum fare of Tk 10 as they calculate it with the help of google.
While riding some buses on Savar-Notun Bazar and Sayedabad-Tongi routes, The FE found that the BRTA's fare chart was not on display in most of the buses.
Asked, a driver just brought out the chart from his pocket and showed it.
The FE also found that the owners' representatives are still engaged in various bus stoppages to collect money from the bus drivers and helpers.
Another bus owner, who runs his vehicles under the banner of Boishakhi from Savar to Notun Bazar, said making profit from buses has always been a difficult task while collecting the new bus fares is even more difficult.
"We have to pay road tax and spend some more money at various points," he said, adding that the contract system will have to be worked out if the BRTA chart is to be maintained.
Saidur Islam Jamal, Managing Director of Rois Paribahan, said the transport sector is already in a condition like keeping it into an ICU of a hospital due to different problems. The new fare rates and increased fuel prices have just aggravated its situation, he added.
"Now the contract system will just add to the difficulties as there will not be any proven data to get a fair share from the transport drivers and workers," he told the FE over phone.
Mr Jamal, who runs 35 buses for the company for the last two years, also expressed frustration that in the contract system, there would be no scope for them to calculate the daily expenses and accept whatever the drivers and helpers will say.
When the allegations were shared, BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mojumder said the BRTA is concerned about the sufferings of the passengers, not the fare collection system.
"We will look into the interest of the passengers so that they do not pay higher than the fixed rate per kilometre," he told the FE over phone, adding that the BRTA's mandate is not dealing with the bus company owners and staff members.
Secretary-general of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity Khandaker Enayet Ullah, however, avoided responding to the allegations and said the samity was working on bringing discipline in the transport sector.
Admitting that the owners have lost their control over their vehicles, Enayet Ullah, managing director of Ena Transport, said they were continuing efforts to resolve the problems.
Dhaka Transport Cooperation Agency has long been trying to discipline the city's transport system for the last one decade by bringing buses on various routes under a single company.
The system known as bus route franchise (BRF) by rationalising the bus routes is yet to get success even after intervention by the city corporation mayors under a special committee.
The first BRF introduced between Vatara to Narayanganj could not be made functional mainly due to having multiple ownerships of buses in a single route as well as 'political engagement' in the sector.