Dhaka, May 24 (UNB) – Complaints about poor service quality against ridesharing companies are piling up because of mismanagement and careless attitude of drivers, users and experts say.
It is in stark contrast to the lofty promises with which the ridesharing services entered Dhaka’s market to provide quality services in a city known for its chaotic traffic.
Urban experts say the government should have strong monitoring, rules and regulations in place to force these companies ensure better services for commuters.
They also observed that most of the drivers, especially motorcyclists working with ridesharing companies, drive recklessly flouting traffic rules and causing accidents.
On April 25 last, BRAC University Fahmida Haque Labanya died after a covered van crashed into a recklessly driven motorcycle in College Gate area. She had hailed the motorcycle using Uber’s app.
During investigation, police found reckless driving – by both the Uber biker and the covered van driver – was the main reason behind the accident. Police also found that motorcyclist Sumon Hossain used fake address and information when registering with Uber.
Uber launched on-demand ridesharing service in Dhaka on November 22, 2016. Later, many local companies, including Pathao, Obhai and Shohoz.com hit the city streets offering same services.
Commuters, who regularly use ridesharing services, told UNB that they are disappointed with the quality of services.
Major complaints include reckless driving, drivers misbehaving with passengers and demanding extra money, refusing to go to the desired destination of commuters, and telling commuters to cancel trip request after wasting time and.
“Most drivers use apps of different ridesharing companies simultaneously and they chose their favourable trip,” said private bank employee Jahangir Alam.
Moinuddin Khan, a journalist, said that some of the vehicles used by ridesharing service providers are unfit. “They go out of order halfway through and sometimes the drivers refuse to turn the AC on,” he said, adding that most drivers lack navigation skills.
Tatini Haque, a private company executive, said that Uber and Pathao drivers often pestered her for extra money. “Many of them misbehave with me when I refuse,” she said.
Sometimes the companies charge abnormal fare, she said. “I hailed a car using Uber app to travel to Purana Platan from Mailbag. It showed a bill of Tk 150 but I was charged Tk 260 during my return trip.”
The other big complaint is about helmets. Most of the helmets provided are described as ‘toy helmets’ by many. Users said the helmets are used only avoid police cases.
Ridesharing companies still operating illegally
Urban expert and architect Iqbal Habib said ridesharing companies are running their services as per their whims as the government has no control over them.
“They are doing business illegally without any license and monitoring of the government. They also have no accountability since they’re not registered with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA),” he said.
Habib said the government made guidelines for ridesharing services last year but is yet to make it effective.
The guidelines stipulate that ridesharing companies and the owners of the vehicles used for the services must have enlistment certificate from BRTA.
A BRTA official, wishing anonymity, said 16 companies, including Uber, Pathao, Host International, Golden Rain Limited, Obhai Solutions Limited, Rider Rideshare Inc Limited, Pickme Limited, Easier Technologies Limited, and Computer System Network Limited, have so far applied for BRTA certificate.
“None of them has been given a certificate as they failed to fulfill the conditions. But the companies are in talks with government to relax the conditions,” he said.
According to information provided by ridesharing companies who applied for BRTA certificate,1,04,389 motorcycles and 18,253 cars are being used to provide services.
Urban expert and former UGC chairman Prof Nazrul Islam said ridesharing companies initially got overwhelming response from commuters. “But the companies are earning bad names for mismanagement and bad attitude of its driver partners.”
He said strong government monitoring and strict enforcement of laws are needed to restore discipline. “The driver partners of ridesharing companies often flout traffic rules and mainly bikers have now become the cause of accidents.”
Prof Nazrul said ridesharing companies should register drivers through proper assessments and provide them necessary training before deploying them. “They should also give importance to customer complaints and take steps to resolve them,” he said.
Joint Commissioner (Traffic-South) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mofiz Uddin Ahmed said they are working to bring a change in the traditional attitude of drivers.
About the illegal operation of ridesharing services, he said BRTA is supposed to deal it. “We only check whether the vehicle has valid documents or not.”
Contacted through email, Uber spokesperson said they keep a close watch on their driver partners and take action if they get complaints about violation of rules, regulations and guidelines.
In case of any isolated incident or unpleasant experience, the spokesman urged the riders to use Uber’s in-app feedback method to inform them about the actions that jeopardize the safety of driver-partners and riders.
Brahmanbaria, May 24 (UNB)- A bridge by definition exists to connect two places, to allow seamless communication despite changes in terrain that may have otherwise required a change of vehicle.
Against this there is a singular image of a bridge as a standalone structure, like some commissioned sculpture, with no roads leading to it, neither any going away, even as the main bridge structure stands tall over the Pagla River in Krishnagar union of Brahmanbaria.
With no approach roads on either side though, it is rendered worthless and the Tk 14 crore spent on it would seem to have been a total waste of public resources.
On a recent visit we found locals were still forced to cross this stretch of the Pagla River by the traditional boat costing Tk 10 each.
When the decision was taken to build it, mostly it was meant to benefit the people of Krishnagar, Borail and Birgaon unions
Locals said it would form the most important connecting route for the people of the three unions to reach the Sadarupazila, and from there on to the district town.
The construction of the main structure of the bridge in Krishnagar area began in January, 2016 and ended in June 2018.
Hasan Enterprise won the contract for the main structure of the bridge from the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) under its Rural Transport Improvement Project (RTIP-2).
“We have got the bridge for the noble initiative of former MP of Brahmanbaria-5, FayzurRahman,” they added. FayzurRahman was a 1-time MP for Awami League from 2014-2018 who failed to secure the AL nomination in the last election.
Locals also said work has been done on the approach roads on both sides of the bridge, but ultimately not connected to it.
MdNurul Islam, Nabinagarupazila engineer said there was some ‘complexity’ with the purchase of land connecting the bridge on both sides.
“But that has been solved and soon the approach road construction will be completed,” he added.
The current MP for NabinagarEbadulKarim Bulbul said the issue will be resolved “after consulting with the project implementation authority and others concerned.”
Kushtia, May 23 (UNB) – The local administration has identified at least 3,000 encroachers who have illegally occupied the banks of rivers and canals in the district, obstructing their water flow.
These encroachers have built houses, shops and markets on the rivers and canals. Now, the authorities concerned are trying to free the banks in six upazilas of the district.
“The rivers and canals have been illegally occupied,” kushtia Deputy Commissioner Aslam Hossain said. “We’ll take every step to restore the normal flow of the water bodies.”
Already, the administration has conducted an eviction drive in GK Ghat area on the Garai River bank in the district town.
Officials said many structures have been built on the banks of the Padma, Garai and Hisna rivers, and canals under Ganga-Kopotakkhya irrigation project.
The Hisna River in Bheramara upazila is hardly recognisable with houses and shops on both sides while farmers are growing paddy on the dried-up river beds.
Locals said big trawlers used to ply the once vibrant river but now it has dried up because of illegal encroachment.
Bheramara Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Sohel Maruf said a list containing names of 200 encroachers was sent to the deputy commissioner. “The number is higher,” he said. “The river was illegally occupied at various times and the water level has subsequently gone down.”
According to the water development board, at least 2,921 encroachers are occupying the banks of the Padma, Garai and the irrigation project’s canals. Most of the houses are made of brick and there are some tin-shed shops, too.
These encroachers have been living here for a long time, officials said.
WDB Executive Engineer Pijush Krishna Kundu said dredging at various canals has started. “We’ve served notices to the land grabbers,” he said. “We’re conducting drives to free the water bodies.”
Khalilur Rahman Maju, former president of Sacheton Nagorik Committee, said illegal establishments and pollution have destroyed the rivers.
“The rate of river encroachment and pollution is very high in Kushtia. Since the land grabbers have been identified, the administration should bring them to book and free the water bodies,” he said.
Cumilla, May 22 (UNB) – Comilla Intermediate Secondary Education Board is struggling to deal with its workload for lack of required manpower.
According to official sources, 124 posts, out of 219, at the Board have long been lying vacant, hampering its everyday activities.
Talking to some of its officials and employees, the UNB correspondent found that the present manpower shortage was created as no new officer or employee was hired for many years while many went on retirement by the time.
The Comilla Education Board started its journey in 1962 comprising 15 districts of greater Chattogram division.
Six of the districts -- Cumilla, Brahmnabaria, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni and Laxmipur -- are now under its jurisdiction after Chittagong and Sylhet education boards were established with five and four districts respectively in 1996 and 2001.
Sources said there are 219 approved posts at the Board. However, 124 of them at different levels have been lying vacant for long, said Shahidul Islam, deputy controller (Exam).
Of those, six out of 24 first class posts, 11 out of 19 second class, 81 out of 115 third class and 26 out of 61 fourth class posts are currently lying vacant, he said.
Of the first-class posts, one each of audit officer, information officer, sports officer, programmer, assistant programmer and assistant maintenance engineer is vacant.
One post of assistant secretary, assistant college inspector, personal secretary to the chairman, assistant sports officer, security officer, assistant librarian, deputy assistant engineer and data entry computer operator of the second-class employees each is also lying vacant.
A number of officials, who preferred not to be named, said the existing officers and employees of the Board have to endure tremendous pressure to cope with the everyday workload.
They said a deputy secretary (Academic) is performing the duty of the sports officer as additional charge.
The officials said as there is no information officer, people who come to avail themselves of various services face difficulties.
They demanded that manpower against the vacant posts be recruited immediately to ease their workload.
Contacted, Chairman of the Board Prof Md Ruhul Amin Bhuiyan said they lose a lot of staff as many officials and employees are going on retirement every year.
He said the required manpower will be hired following the approval of the Education Ministry.
Cox’s Bazar, May 21 (UNB) - Ramadan is the month when Muslims try to get closer to each other with greater love and affection with the spirit of the holy month. But the Rohingya Muslims living in Cox’s Bazar camps find it painful when they get together for having iftar meal as their tragic memories constantly haunt them.
“We used to take Iftar and offer prayers together with our family members and relatives before August 25, 2017. Now, we’ve got detached from our homeland and beloved ones. Having Iftar with them is merely a memory now,” recalls Rafiq Alam, a Rohingya man now living at Balukhali Moynaghona Camp No-11.
Visiting 32 Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf, the UNB correspondent found no shortage of Iftar items there but a sense of isolation and sadness was there among the Rohingya people.
Rohingya Lalu Mia, a resident of Balu camp, said, “We had simply water for Iftar during Ramadan last year. Now, there’s no scarcity of Iftar meal, but a feeling of sadness grips us as we couldn’t meet our relatives for the last two years after being displaced from our homeland in Mongdu under Rakhaine State.”
Some female Muslim Rohingyas like Yasmin, 21, of Naikhong area, Julekha, 25, and Mayesha of Mijjiripara also shared their own tragic stories.
They said they all lost their mothers as Myanmar soldiers killed them during their widespread persecution against Rohingyas. Every year, during Iftar, they deeply remember their mothers as they used to provide them with their handmade delicious Iftar items.
The correspondent also found several shops inside the camps where Rohingya people were selling various Iftar and other items made by them.
Md AbulKalam of Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) said, “Rohingya people were provided with various Iftar items ahead of Ramadan.”
He said the World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing iftar items like gram, oil, lentil, vermicelli, onion, garlic among the Rohingyas under an e-voucher programme.
Rohingyas, living in Cox's Bazar, are now stateless. Despite living in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya lost their citizenship following a change in Myanmar laws in 1982.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingya people in crowded settlements in Cox’s Bazar as 741,000 of them have fled persecutions in Myanmar and taken shelter in Bangladesh since August 2017.
On May 7 last, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi called for solidarity with millions of forcibly-displaced people worldwide – including over one million Rohingya people living in Bangladesh.
The UNHCR chief shared his warmest wishes with all those observing the holy month of Ramadan with a call for unity in the face of prevailing challenges.
"The holy month of Ramadan conveys a very important message which we must not forget—may what unites us prevail over what divides us," he said in a video message recorded during a visit to the Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar.