Transport workers in the southwestern region of Khulna have gone on an indefinite strike protesting harsher punishments for offences under the new Road Transport Act 2018.
Bus drivers and their assistants in several southwestern districts have willingly stopped operating transports, said Khulna district Transport Workers' Union President Kazi Nurul Islam.
"Actually, a section of drivers stopped running buses from Sunday, which spread across the region on Monday. The workers' union or owners' association didn't call the strike," he told Bangla Tribune.
The transport workers respect the new law, but it affects them directly, according to the union leader. They are protesting against some provisions in the law, including penalties by imposing fines on drivers and owners, and making them a non-bailable offence,” he added.
In Jashore, drivers and transport workers have stopped running buses since 9am on Monday. The local transport union confirmed that the workers voluntarily went on strike soon after the new law came in effect.
According to the union, a faction of drivers started to refrain from running buses since Sunday, which has now spread to the 10 districts in the southwestern division of Khulna.
In Narail, bus operations on the five internal routes have been halted by transport workers for an indefinite period without any prior announcement.
The local Transport Workers' Union Joint General Secretary Sadek Ahmed Khan said their organisation has nothing to do with the strike. "Drivers and workers halted services without consulting us," he claimed.
In Satkhira, transport workers went on an indefinite strike by halting services on all routes until the new Road Transport Act is amended.
"They want some provisions to be amended before the new is implemented," said Satkhira Transport Owners' Association President Abu Ahmed.
Bus services in the districts of Bagerhat, Magura, Jhenaidah, Meherpur, Kushtia and Chuadanga have been also halted, according to media reports.
The new law
On Oct 22, the Road Transport and Highways Division issued a gazette, stating that the Road Transport Act would be effective from that day. Parliament had passed the law in September last year, replacing the 1983 Motor Vehicle Ordinance.
According to section 105 of the new act, if anybody gets seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle-related accident, it would be considered an offence under the relevant sections of the Penal Code-1860.
However, no matter what section 304(B) of the Penal Code contains, if anybody causes accident by reckless and negligent driving, and kills or injures someone severely, the person will face a maximum sentence of five years in jail or fine or both, reads section 105.
The offences that fall under section 105 are not bailable.
The maximum punishment under section 302 of the Penal Code is death penalty while it is life imprisonment under section 304(B).
The law also hands hefty fines for violation of traffic rules.
For driving without licence, the maximum penalty is six months in jail or a fine of Tk 25,000 or both. It is same for running unfit vehicles.
The maximum punishment for driving vehicles without registration is six months’ jail sentence or Tk 50,000 in fine or both. The highest punishment for honking banned horns is three months’ jail term or Tk 10,000 fine or both.
The law says the maximum punishment for illegally modifying vehicles’ body parts is three years’ jail sentence or Tk 3,00,000 fine or both.
According to the previous law, the maximum punishment for driving without licence was four months’ jail or Tk 500 fine or both. For driving vehicle without registration, the punishment was 3 months’ jail or Tk 2,000 fine or both (for first time) while for running unfit vehicles the punishment was three months in jail or Tk 2,000 fine or both.