To address or solve any problem, the first thing is to acknowledge the problem. Denial, neglect or rejection of a problem never brings any positive outcome. In many cases, denial or reluctance to address any problem by the concerned authorities in this country makes things worse. The mode of denial concerns not paying heed to the sufferings or troubles of the citizens or contesting the issue falsely asserting that all is well. In reality, all is not well and that's why people raise their voices and air their grievances.
The students' protests for the reduction of bus fare and ensuring road safety is a vivid example in this connection. For the last two weeks, students of different colleges have been demonstrating on roads demanding half the fare for them on public transports. The demand has logically extended to ensuring transport and road safety. Amidst the ongoing protest, two students were crushed under the wheels of two buses within six days. The accidents clearly show that road safety is deliberately compromised and pedestrians' lives are at risk on roads.
In an attempt to cool down the students' agitations, the government has already announced half the fare for students on buses operated by the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). The number of BRTC-run buses is, however, very small. Later on Sunday last, private bus operators agreed to half the fare for students on conditions. The conditions are: students have to show their valid photo identity issued by the educational institutions; only Dhaka buses will allow half the fare and will be applicable from morning to evening and on working days only.
This is a small but positive step for several reasons. First, the step is a clear acknowledgement that there is a problem with bus fare. Second, it indicates that reduced bus fare is possible. Third, it also shows that students' demands are logical and legitimate.
There is, however, doubt that the announcement of half the fare would be implemented effectively as bus owners may devise some tricks to compensate for the fare cut and pass the buck on other regular commuters. Following the fuel price hike, the government has also increased the bus fare. Nevertheless, most of the bus operators are overcharging the passengers and not following the re-fixed fare properly. Every day, some commuters are confronting drivers and helpers of buses on road regarding the undue charge of extra fare. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has failed to compel bus owners to display the fare charts on every bus. Without a visible fare chart in the buses, it will be problematic to ensure half the fare for students. Already some students have alleged that bus drivers and helpers are not complying with the half the fare as announcement.
Nevertheless, the small positive step may lead to a greater change in course of time. Those will mend the many flaws of the public transport sector in the long run. To do so, it requires step by step development in a planned manner so that chaotic public transport may come to order. The authorities need to work persistently to address the demands placed by students for the sake of road safety for all.