Transportation activists claim BIWTA doubled entrance fee at launch terminals to cover up its fund mismanagement
The increase in launch terminal entrance fee has added to the sufferings of marginalised people, claimed transportation activists.
They point out the mismanagement of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) funds, and say that the BIWTA has put the burden on the shoulders of commoners.
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, or Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association, demands the immediate withdrawal of the increase. It also demands the introduction of a digitised system to collect the fee to prevent corruption and mismanagement.
The BIWTA doubled its fee for passengers to enter the Sadarghat and other launch terminals in September last year.
Now passengers have to pay Tk10 for each ticket instead of the Tk5 that it used to be before. BIWTA officials said that the new charge has been introduced to bridge the gap between their earnings and expenditures.
Kabir Hossen, a garment worker, said passengers like him with minimal income are affected the most. He recalled the last experience of having to buy tickets every time he went out of the terminal to buy food.
"We went to the terminal hours before our trip. I had to buy tickets three times, one for each time I entered the terminal in just a couple of hours. This is totally unjustified," he told The Business Standard.
Meanwhile, Badal, a vessel owner said that collecting toll from launch passengers was illogical because they pay taxes to the government.
"We, the owners, even offered to pay the toll on behalf of the passengers, but the BIWTA rejected our proposal," he added.
"It could be a trick of the owners. They will not pay the money from their pocket, instead they will use this as an excuse to raise the launch ticket price" explained Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of BIWTA.
Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of BIWTA, dismissed corruption allegations against BIWTA and said, "We have already suspended staff whose corruption was proven. At the same time, we are planning to collect toll digitally."
Kazi Wakil Nawaz, a director of the BIWTA, termed the decision of increasing ticket price as 'perfect'. The official rationalised the move by saying, "This will prevent vagabonds — who are a security threat to the actual passengers — from entering the terminal."
"We raised the fee after nearly 8 years," Nawaz said.
Another official said that the BIWTA increased the fee after being instructed to do so by the finance ministry.
According to the BIWTA, more than one crore people used BIWTA launch terminals last year. The BIWTA earned around Tk5 crore last year from toll from 14 terminals in the country against 28 crore taka expenditure, meaning a gap of Tk23 crore.