After 17 days of a long wait, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has finally begun to put the newly announced Road Transport Act, 2018 in implementation mode.
In pursuance of rules and regulations under the new law, as many as 10 different mobile courts of BRTA have initiated 88 cases, with fines to the tune Tk 1, 21,900 for violations of the law.
In the course of the drive by the mobile courts, BRTA's executive magistrates did not impose punitive measures on drivers and violators of the law.
In most cases, magistrates found expired and faulty licenses of bus drivers.
BRTA officials have said that they are implementing the law in order to make people aware of the need to abide by traffic rules.
However, the traffic department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police is yet to begin implementing the new law on an immediate basis.
Wishing anonymity, a deputy commissioner at the traffic division said that due to equipment-related problems and software up-gradation, the department could not go into action.
The presence of the mobile courts on the first day with a view to enforcing traffic rules showed a dramatic change in the plying of vehicles in the capital.
There were also delays in public transport movement, as evidenced by the rather long wait women and service holders had to go through in queues at several bus stoppages.
Meanwhile, a marked decline in the plying of privately-owned vehicles was noticed on major routes in the capital.
AKM Masudur Rahman, director (enforcement) of BRTA, visiting the mobile court in the Banani area, claimed that the traffic scene on Dhaka roads had begun to change.
"We are not trying to collect a huge number of fines. That is not our goal. BRTA simply wants to bring about a change in the behaviour of drivers and commuters," said Masudur.
S M Samirul Islam, executive magistrate of BRTA, said that 11 cases had been filed and Tk 25,000 realized in fines in Banani.
"The mobile court observed that drivers were behaving normally and had taken the law seriously. On the very first day, we just conveyed the message to all that they ought to be prepared to see the law in practice," he added.
Masudur stated that the mobile courts will resume operations on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the mobile court team deployed at Manik Miah Avenue south imposed fines amounting to Tk 20,000 and sued 14 vehicle drivers for not possessing proper licenses.
Md Masud Hasan Patwary, executive magistrate of BRTA, said that most of the drivers had no valid licenses.
Another mobile court, at Manik Miah Avenue's north side, imposed fines totalling Tk 12,500 and sued over 10 vehicle drivers for not providing proper services to passengers as well as being in possession of expired or faulty driving licenses.
BRTA executive magistrate Sarah Sadia Tajnin said that the court found that most buses have extra seating arrangements, which is a violation of traffic laws.
"In the forthcoming mobile court operations we will surely check the conditions of seating arrangements in buses as well as of reserved seats," she added.
Meanwhile, Mafizur Rahman, a manager of Bikash Paribahan Limited, claimed that the mobile courts fined the company for inhumane treatment.
"They fined us Tk 2000 just because the bus door was open while the bus was plying. But they didn't fine passengers who tried to get down at places where no bus stoppages exist."
Md Shakil, the driver of the same bus, claimed that the BRTA mobile court vehicle itself has a bumper fault.
"They sued us for a simple bumper fault, but who will take look to the BRTA's own fault?" he demanded to know.
Another driver, Shaheen, said he had been sued over an absence of a heavy driving license and extra seating arrangements.
"The authorities have fixed November 20 for payment. They fined me TK 4000, which is more than a week's income for me," Shaheen said.
Mohsin, another driver, said that if the authorities begin to impose big fines, drivers will quit their jobs.
Due to the operations of the mobile courts, commuters had to struggle to get into buses.
Rakibul Alam, a university student, had to wait at least 30 minutes for a bus.
Failing to get into a bus, he began walking to Shewrapara.
Aloka Roy, a private service holder, said she had to hire a CNG-driven auto-rickshaw because she could not get into an Uttara bound bus despite making several attempts to do so.
Meanwhile, Shifun Newaz, an assistant professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology's Accident Research Institute, was of the view that the strategy BRTA has adopted to implement the law is appreciable.
"But at first the authorities should implement the law with an imposition of reasonable fines. After a few months they can raise the fines, albeit gradually," he said.
Osman Miah, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, told The Business Standard that his organisation is observing the situation.
"The workers welcome the new law, but the fine range is too high. We urge that BRTA ensure smooth services and bring about changes within its administration. Else the law will not succeed," he added.
This correspondent could not reach Khandoker Enayetullah, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, despite making several attempts.