As a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country, the government has already asked the returnees from virus-affected countries to avoid public transport. Nevertheless, it is not easy to detect such returnees and stop them to use the public transport like buses and trains. Lack of awareness among many of the returnees coupled with overall indifference of most of the citizens on basic hygiene makes the thing more difficult.
Again, in a densely populated country like Bangladesh mobility of people largely depends on public transport. Buses, minibuses, trains, and CNG-run auto-rickshaws are the main modes of the country's public transport. It is sad to see that almost all the buses and minibuses are often dirty and unhygienic. A regular cleaning of seats, floors, handles and other inside arrangements of buses and minibuses is totally missing. By washing out the outer parts of the vehicles and glasses, owners of these vehicles find it sufficient. Trains are also not cleaned frequently. Some luxurious buses of long-route are probably an exception.
Thus, the commuters of buses and minibuses in this country are already vulnerable to different germs and diseases. Now the outbreak of coronavirus makes them more vulnerable. Nevertheless, there is no serious move to disinfect the public transport regularly. Media reports suggest that railway authorities issued instruction to keep the trains clean and ensure soaps in toilets. Despite being a routine work, these things have been largely ignored. In most cases, the work is done carelessly by the staff.
The situation is terrible in case of buses and minibuses. Bus operators care very little about the inside cleanliness of their vehicles. Even drivers and helpers of these buses are used to go away with dirty and unhygienic conditions of their vehicles. They are neither aware, nor care about their own cleanliness.
In major Indian cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, intensive measures have already been taken to disinfect buses, trains and metro rails regularly. The Indian government has also taken steps to clean trains regularly to contain the spread of virus.
The poor and dirty condition of the public transport in Bangladesh is an outcome of continuous negligence and reluctance of the concerned authorities. Instead of dismantling or withdrawing old buses and minibuses from roads and replacing those with better and commuter-friendly vehicles, the authorities have encouraged the deplorable practice. Backed by strong political force, bus operators also don't care about the poor conditions of the vehicles. To them cleanliness of buses is irrelevant, let alone disinfection.
Again, by not cleaning public buses regularly and never disinfecting those, the conditions of these vehicles already turned very bad. So, moderate disinfection will not turn these hygienic. It now requires thorough disinfection. Neither the authorities, nor the operators seem willing to do so.
A glimmer of hope is that a voluntary organisation in Dhaka has started to disinfect public buses. Although it is on a very limited scale due to the small capacity of the organisation, it is a great example of work for society and community. The initiative taken by Bidyanondo foundation is a welcome move. In this connection, the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) may come forward to disinfect buses in its fleet. Following the BRTC move, the government may put pressure on the private bus operators along with logistic support to do so.
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