Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Taxi relief on Dhaka roads not in sight

2 companies now uncertain about importing 2,000 cabs
City commuters will have no immediate respite from acute shortage of taxicabs as the two companies licensed to introduce 2,000 new vehicles by December last year are still uncertain about the import.
The communications ministry in February and September last year issued licences to the companies to import 1,000 taxicabs each with a minimum engine capacity of 1,500cc to ensure a comfortable service in the city and neighbouring districts.
The two companies — ruling Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury’s Karnaphuli Works Ltd, and Sharika Traders Ltd — obtained the licences under some new terms and conditions enforced since March 2011 to streamline the cab service.
The companies were supposed to import the vehicles and put those into operation by December last year. But Karnaphuli management now seeks relaxation of the terms and conditions, while Sharika eyes an 11-month extension to the deadline.
Taxicab service is in a dismal state in the city with only 2,000 rundown cabs in operation. Although 11,260 taxis were registered with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) in 1998, most of the cabs have been discarded for failure to meet standard fitness requirement, say taxicab owners.
Director (Engineering) of BRTA Saiful Haque said they issued a reminder letter to Karnaphuli on February 7 and after issuing a final reminder letter within the next few days, they will go for action as per the rules including cancellation of the licence.
Contacted, Saber Hossain said under the new rules applicable for only the new companies, they are not enjoying facilities like the old ones.
He said the terms and conditions to procure the cabs are needed to be uniformed.
Saber added, under the new terms and conditions, owners will be held responsible for incidents or accidents centring the company’s cabs which will make scope for harassment of the owners.
“If any driver gets involved in hijacking or drug peddling, owner of that cab will be accountable,” he added.
“This provision should be revised. We’ve already informed the authorities concerned to revise it,” Saber told The Daily Star.
As per the earlier terms, the companies already in service can replace their old cabs with new taxies. Besides, the old companies are exempted from such new terms that make it mandatory for new companies to have wireless phone service and a call centre.
Under the terms and conditions the taxies must be fitted with air conditioner and the companies will have to appoint full-time drivers having ability to communicate in both Bangla and English.
Earlier, the owners leased out taxies to drivers in return of a fixed amount of money for a certain period of time.
Executive director of Karnaphuli Group Lt Col (retd) Rajibul Islam said, “Fulfilling all terms and conditions to run a cab per day will cost around Tk 2,800.”
BRTA Director Saiful said once the new companies start operation, their demands will be taken care of.
Sharika’s managing director Nazimuddin Sarkar said they are going to submit an application seeking an 11-month time extension for importing the cabs.
He said they imported around 15 cabs from Japan five months ago, but those are still awaiting clearance at the Chittagong port due to a problem over the vehicles’ colour.
Nazimuddin said they will try to bring around 300 more cabs from Japan within the next two to three months and the rest within a year.
In a move to bring discipline to taxicab service, BRTA issued a circular in March 2011 stipulating that any company seeking licence to operate cabs must have a fleet of at least 1,000 taxis with a minimum engine capacity of 1,500cc each.
The move was an aberration in the usual practice, where a company with a fleet of 20 taxicabs had been permitted to run the business.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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