Tuesday, 11 October 2011

No licence sans test, govt urged

Tarana Halim demands a public announcement that incompetent drivers will not be given licences. She urged that the communications minister, Syed Abul Hossain, to make such an announcement at parliament.

Tarana Halim, also a famous artiste since her childhood, was speaking at a demonstration in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday.

Jointly organised by Saif Foundation and Families United Against Road Accidents (FUARA), Tarana said, the platform of accident victims had sent a letter to the communications minister requesting him not to give driving licences to incompetent people.

“[Communications minister] has given his word that he won’t succumb to such pressure.” Tarana said Abul Hossain’s assurance followed a letter from FUARA.

“I urge the honourable minister to announce that the 20,000 proposed licences will be cancelled and to train the 10,000 drivers who have already been issued licences,” she said.

She said 199,000 ‘unskilled’ drivers had been given licences in the past 18 years and added, “There is no scope to call road mishaps only accidents.”

An MP from reserved women’s seats, Tarana Halim said FUARA is a platform to move for social issues. The Saif Foundation was formed after her nephew Saif Ahmed was killed in a road accident in 2009. “Workers leaders and drivers rebuked us and many distinguished people joined them. I have no political ambition or interest. I want to tell them who see political motives behind these movements that I have never resorted to politics over deaths. Nor will I do it in future.”
She said good efforts are always questioned. “A tendency of ‘shutting up’ and ‘putting up’ is on in the country.”

Communist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim said drivers’ ignorance is one of the main reasons behind traffic accidents. “But the government is saying that anyone should be given licence if he understands the difference between a cow and a goat. What kind of a country is we living in?”

He said the entire communications system of the country needed to be overhauled by repairing the roads, increasing public vehicles and appointing skilled drivers and improving the rail and water transports.

Convenor of the organisation Public Service Commission member and Saif’s father Ekram Ahmed said they were demonstrating demanding amendment to the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 and its implementation, announcement of charges against ‘unskilled’ drivers responsible for accidents as non-bailable offence and increasing jail terms for such drivers to 10 years.
The communications minister recently came under stinging criticism within and outside the government over rundown roads after filmmaker Tareque Masud, ATN News CEO Ashfaque (Mishuk) Munier and three others died in a road accident in Manikganj on Aug 13.
The criticisms got harsher when transport owners stopped bus operation on 13 routes demanding repair of the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway.

According to a former US diplomat in Dhaka, as whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said in one of its cables, the minister was ‘less than an honest man’ in his business dealings.
Meanwhile, shipping minister Shahjahan Khan, also a transport workers leader, has been facing criticisms for his recommendation to provide licences to those driving without one for the last 10 to 15 years.

Shahjahan Khan in a press statement issued on Aug 29 said the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation had sent a list to the authorities of 24,000 such drivers. He had said the country had a shortage of 0.135 million drivers and said there was no need for test for drivers, the statement said.

The High Court Aug 25 ordered the government to stop issuing licences without proper screening and legal compliance, until Oct 17, by which time the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) is to submit records of the last five years. The same day, the parliamentary standing committee on communications ministry blamed the previous BNP-led government for issuing licences to unskilled drivers.

In his first reaction after the news reports and criticism over his insistence, minister Shahjahan on Aug 18 said he had proposed issuing licences through due process and refused the allegation of pressuring the authorities.

Following this, Tarana on Aug 20 from a human chain against road accidents said she would fast to her death if ‘unskilled’ drivers get licences upon recommendation from the shipping minister

No licence sans test, govt urged


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