Unfit vehicles vanish; number of vehicles on the roads drops to nearly half in Dhaka
Robiul Islam Chowdhury parked his new car at a corner of Banglamotor intersection. He asked a traffic sergeant for advice on whether the vehicle is okay.
The police official, with obvious uncertainty, suggested that Robiul should remove the extra lights on the car. However, neither Robiul nor the traffic sergeant looked confident in the end.
Such confusion over the newly enacted Road Transportation Law was apparent in the metropolis on Sunday — on the third day since the law came into effect.
Police are not clear about the details of the law. Drivers, passengers and pedestrians are also confused. The law, enacted on Friday last without adequate preparation, has reduced the number of vehicles on the streets in Dhaka.
This correspondent talked to at least 15 traffic sergeants and traffic division officials of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP). "The law mentions the highest ceiling of the fine — Tk25,000. But there is nothing about the lowest," said an additional deputy commissioner of DMP traffic police.
"So, the DMP commissioner can fix the lowest fine in accordance with the DMP ordinance," he added preferring anonymity. Police officials held a number of meetings with members of the traffic division on Saturday to fix the fine chart.
Meanwhile, many drivers didn't take out their vehicles on Sunday fearing a huge fine and punishment under the new law.
Mohammad Bellal, a driver of Shadhin Paribahan, said he and the helper checked the bus before making the trip.
"I will have to pay for this if something goes wrong. We are more cautious than ever before. Now we check the vehicles before each trips. We never did that before," he added.
In the meantime, police have adopted a "go-slow" technique as they motivate pedestrians and drivers to comply with traffic rules, instead of filing cases or fining defaulters.
Refatul Islam, assistant commissioner of DMP Ramna (traffic) zone said that they were instructed not to fine anyone this week.
"It may take all this week for us to go into action following the new law. Besides, the upgrade of the fining software will need nearly 15 days," Refatul added.
Jahidul Islam Khan, assistant commissioner of DMP Darus Salam (traffic) zone told The Business Standard, "The digital POS (point of sale) machine and the entire software system needs an upgrade. That's why we are just observing the situation and trying to motivate drivers and pedestrians to follow traffic rules."
Only in extreme cases, traffic police said their decision stands for towing vehicles to the holding station.
Nahidur Rahman, an on-duty traffic sergeant at Banglamotor intersection said the traffic scenario has changed already.
"We haven't found any vehicles with major issues. Unfit vehicles have vanished," he commented.
Md Golam Mostafa, assistant sub-inspector of Moghbazar traffic police box also admitted that the number of vehicles has dropped in the last three days.
"We used to struggle with excessive traffic even last week. But the number of vehicles has come down to almost half now," he added.
DMP commissioner Mohammad Shafiqul Islam will brief the media on Monday at the DMP Media Center regarding the new Road Transportation Law.