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6 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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ENFORCEMENT OF ROAD TRANSPORT ACT

Heyday for touts at BRTA as licence seekers flock

Earlier we used to take Tk 7,000-8,000, but now we charge up to 12,000 for a new licence, says a middleman
MUBTASIM FUAD, Dhaka
Heyday for touts at BRTA 
as licence seekers flock
A large number of licence seekers with their motorbikes and middlemen crowd the BRTA office in the capital’s Mirpur area on Monday following the enforcement of the Road Transport Act 2018 with provisions for tougher punishment and fines. Focus Bangla Photo

With Friday’s enforcement of the Road Transport Act 2018 having provisions for tougher punishment and fines, the number of licence seekers as well as licence touts has spurted in and around all three premises of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) in the capital. BRTA officials, meanwhile, said they had not anticipated this sudden rush of application seekers, and hence were conducting their business as usual, presumably because of which the agents are having a field day. These agents are promising, for a hefty fee, to get drivers their licences even if they fail the driving test.

Getting a driving licence through agents in backdoor channels is too easy by spending extra money, but it is hard to get a licence from BRTA offices in a legal way, licence seekers said. They alleged that BRTA officials are not at all interested to work for the applicants following legal procedures.

However, Mohammad Abdur Razzak, a deputy director (Enforcement) of the BRTA, said they are conducting drives by their executive magistrates regularly. “We have three BRTA licence giving offices in Dhaka. We have deployed three dedicated magistrates there to conduct drives in and out of the BRTA premises,” he added.

"As the number of licence seekers has increased, they will carry on their duty with utmost sincerity,” Razzak expressed hope.

According to BRTA sources and its official website, the legal procedure of issuing licence takes around five to seven months and costs Tk. 2,024 (for Learner 345+ and for smart card driving license 1,679) for professional driving licence and Tk. 2,887 for non-professional driving licence.

Applicants require passing a driving test for their licence, but the test can be bypassed if agents are hired to acquire the licence through backdoor channels.

This correspondent posed as a licence seeker and went to the Mirpur BRTA, seeking a licence for his motorbike license. He saw several irregularities in that office.

At around 11:00am last Sunday, Sujath was waiting in front of the BRAC bank at the Mirpur office of the BRTA. He was approached by an agent named Khaled, who asked for Tk. 9,000 in return for providing the driving licence within three months.

The young agent asked Sujath if he wanted a licence. When Sujath replied that he did not know how to drive a motorbike, the agent said: “It is okay. You

have to fill up the learner’s form and the rest of the work will be done by us. But you have to pay extra money to get a licence through the backdoor.”

Khaled told him: “It will cost more than Tk. 10,000 for a licence, but you will get it within two months. You also need not go through the driving test as we will manage it.”

When approached by this correspondent, the agent said that earlier they used to take Tk. 7,000-8,000, but now the rate is Tk. 10,000 to 12,000 for a new licence.

Around 12-15 agents like Khaled operate at the BRTA’s Mirpur office, with each individual securing the service of potential clients from respective sections, including learners’ section, digital form submission section, fingerprint section, and delivery section.

Another agent, Munim, who claimed to be a college student, asked for Tk. 11,000 for a new driving licence with an advance of Tk. 2,000. He dismissed his more affordable competition as a false agent. “I am charging more because I am the real agent and can get you your driving licence within three months,” he said.

Asked whether there is a risk that the document he will provide would be fake, Munim claimed: “We work with employees at the office. So, the document will be genuine.”

This agent also promised a fail-proof service, saying the applicant does not have to pass the field test. “But you have to attend it,” he added.

Service seekers complained about the inadequate number of officials who were mostly slow and took hours to get the job done.

‘If you give agents money you will get your work done without delay as they have underhand dealings with the staff working here,’ alleged Mohammad Sakil, a resident of Tejgaon.

A motorcyclist said that officially it takes Tk. 2,545 to get a driving licence. This can be had even without passing tests by paying the agents Tk. 10,000.

“It is very difficult even to submit papers at the office, which is very unusual. But things get done smoothly once the agents get involved,” he said with anger.

However, Nazmul Islam Raju, executive magistrate of BRTA Mirpur office, said that he was unaware of drives that were conducted last week and he also couldn’t provide information about the number of arrestees.

He said, “I have to check the documents in file, and only then I can say whether any drive was conducted last week or not.”

When asked about different of mysterious signs and marking on learner driving licence implying the agent he belongs to, he said that he knew nothing about it.

Seeking anonymity, a senior officer in the office said that recently the Mirpur office has been teeming with agents.

Generally, the BRTA takes six to seven months to issue a driving licence and charges a fee of Tk. 3,500. Initially, the applicant receives a learner’s card and after six months has to attend a field test before getting the licence.

But applicants at the scene told this reporter that the agents, with the help of BRTA officials, can make this process as short as three months.

Salauddin, a student of Dhaka City College who needs to ride a motorbike for study, told this correspondent that he went to the BRTA Ekuria office for a driving licence and an agent did the job for him. He simply filled up a learner’s form paying him Tk. 10,000.

Mortaza, another applicant, said he had learnt a little driving during his six-month stint as a pickup van helper. Later, he made a deal for Tk. 11,500 with an agent and got the driving licence within a period of three months.

However, SM Samirul, executive magistrate of the BRTA’s Ekuria office, said they are monitoring the work.

“For example, last week we jailed four agents. Whenever we conduct a drive, they (agents) get the information and we find the area almost without any agent. When we conduct drives and punish a few of the agents, the others flee the area. If you (journalist) have any list of the agents, give it to us, we will take appropriate measures,” he said.

Asked how the agents get to know about the drives and flee from the area, the executive magistrate said they generally do not inform anyone about any drive. “But when their (agents) informers sees our vehicle at the Postogola bridge—near the Ekuria office—or somewhere on the road, they might alert the others,” he said.    

However, talking to the news outlet, BRTA director (administration), Md. Yusuf Ali Mollah said that special drive will be conducted if found the number of agent has increased. “Whenever the number of agents goes up and we are informed of the matter and we conduct drive to stop their menace,” he said by adding that we (Officers of BRTA) all wants an agent-free BRTA.

When asked what measures they are going to take against the BRTA officials who collude with the agents and venture into illegal activities, the BRTA director said, “If they receive any written complain, they will take strict action after investigation.”

According to the latest data from the BRTA, there are over 3.5 million registered vehicles in the country, but only 2.6 million drivers have valid licences.

The authorities, however, do not have any information about how many valid licence holders have not renewed their licence after expiry.

Officials of the BRTA, on condition of anonymity, said when students protested against anarchy on the roads, a surging number of people were in a hurry to have a new driving licence, or renew the old one, or get a vehicle fitness certificate, leading to long queues on the premises of the BRTA offices.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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