Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  
Star City

Passengers helpless at terminals
Taxi, autorickshaw drivers charge higher fare, decline to take short trips

The passengers at city's bus and launch terminals and railway stations are held hostage by the taxi and CNG autorickshaw drivers who decline to take short trips and charge higher than metered fare if they agree to take such trips.

"To get a CNG at Mohakhali terminal for a trip to Eskaton is like winning a lottery. Even if a CNG autorickshaw driver agrees to go, he will ask Tk 60 to 80 for less then 5km distance," said Khaled Khan, a passenger at Mohakhali terminal.

The situation is similar at Sayedabad and Gabtoli bus terminals.

"They (the drivers) look for passengers going to areas like Mirpur, Dhanmondi or Uttara and the fare is unexpectedly high," said Humayun Reza at Sayedabad terminal. "I need to go to Khilgaon, but found no CNG in the last half an hour."

There are rules that taxi drivers are bound to go wherever a passenger wants to go. But the drivers pay no heed to the rules and the police do not take any action against them.

The autorickshaw drivers sometimes exploit the passengers' plight when they carry big luggage. "Whenever the drivers see that we have luggage and we cannot run to get a vehicle on rent, they charge double fare," said Jasimuddin, a passenger at Sayedabad.

"It is normal that passengers coming from outside Dhaka carry big luggage with them," he added.

The passengers also complained that the CNG or taxi drivers do not help the passengers in carrying the luggage. "Sometimes the porters forcibly take our bags and ask for a big amount for carrying them to the taxi or autorickshaw," said a passenger.

When asked, the drivers said they do not dare to touch the passengers' bags in fear of assault by the porter leaders. "If we want to help the passengers, they will beat up us," said Matin, an autorickshaw driver at Sayedabad terminal.

The drivers said they do not want to take short trips from the bus terminals or airport as they have to pay toll to local goons and bribe the police at the terminals.

"To enter and take passengers from the terminals we have to pay Tk 2 to 5 to toll collectors," said Mansur, a driver at Mohakhali terminal.

"At Kamalapur railway station there is a fixed parking toll. Besides, we have pay to Tk 2 to 5 to the extortionists for each trip," said Hridoy, another CNG driver.

Another common allegation of the drivers is that the taxi or autorickshaw owners charge higher amount as daily deposit for the vehicle.

"The government has fixed the daily rent at Tk 350 for an autorickshaw and Tk 500 for a black cab but we are to pay much more than the fixed amount," said Jamal, a taxi driver.

Moreover, they said they have to pay Tk 50 to 100 every day to the traffic police.

The situation is the same, if not worse, at the Zia International Airport where passengers are regularly held hostage by taxi cabs. Although the number of taxis waiting to carry passengers at the arrival terminal is high, very few people actually avail their services mainly because of the high fares demanded by the drivers.

Motalib Hossain, who returned from Malaysia after a few years, was feeling lost especially since no one had come to receive him. "These cab drivers have been hounding me to hire them ever since I came out of the terminal. But I do not trust them. And in any case, they are demanding an amount which is too high."

According to the regulations of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), every vehicle with a metre is bound to go to any place within the city area from 8am to 8pm. One has to pay a fine of Tk.700 for disobeying this rule.

Police said they fine at least 30 to 35 metered vehicles everyday after receiving complaints from passengers.

"Most drivers do not have original licences, so we fine the drivers against the papers of the vehicle and the vehicle owners pay the fine for the misdeed of the driver. If we can ensure genuine licence for all the drivers and can collect the fines from their own pockets, the drivers will charge according to the metre," said Jahurul Islam, traffic inspector 1 DMP.

Taxis at the airport terminal too refuse to carry passengers to short distances.. PHOTO: Syed Zakir Hossain