A meeting on half fare for students in public transports ended with no decision on Saturday as stakeholders put forth a set of proposals including the formation of a task force.
"The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) will consider the proposals, made by the transport owners, and make a decision," its Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told reporters after the meeting, held at the BRTA main office in the capital.
"The BRTA and transport owners are equally sincere in implementing half fare for students," he said before adding that the transport owners have proposed to form a task force in this regard.
Nur Mohammad further said they would sit with other government authorities concerned to determine the amount of subsidy.
"We will try to come up with a decision as soon as possible," he stressed.
After the meeting, Khandaker Enayet Ullah, president of Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association, claimed about 80% of bus owners in Dhaka are poor.
"If they are to take half fares, the government must decide first how the owners will be compensated," he said.
"We want to accept the demands of the students, we truly do. But certain issues need to be resolved first. We have made some proposals and authorities will decide on them shortly, we have been told," added Enayet Ullah.
He also said that there are also complications in determining who is truly a student and who is not.
"Many claim to be students, although they are not. Some might make ID cards to take advantage. We also have to see how the government solves these issues," Enayet Ullah said.
BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad said that the transport leaders have asked for data including the number of educational institutions in Dhaka, the number of students and how many of them avail bus services.
"We will contact the Ministry of Education to get this information," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, the BRTA held another meeting with its stakeholders on the issue of half-fare and it also ended without a decision.
Calls for the promulgation of law in parliament
Speaking on the 'The Highways Bill 2021, which was tabled and passed in the parliament on Saturday, BNP lawmaker Rumeen Farhana said, "Along with the demands for safer roads, students have been demanding half-passes for a long time. Following the recent bus fare hike, bus owners stopped accepting half fares leading the students to take to the roads.
Rumeen said the government could pass a law for the students to enjoy half fare on both state-owned and private transport.
"In that case, everyone must abide by that," she said, recommending," Legal provision for half fares should be made for all public transport, not just city buses."
In reply, Roads and Transport Minister Obaidul Quader said that half fare has been introduced in BRTC buses in response to the demand of students. It will be effective from 1 December.
"It will be effective on BRTC buses across the country." The minister added.
He further pointed out that the government cannot force fares on privately-owned transports.
"We cannot force them. They are not under the government. Maybe they will work with the government. They have been requested to consider the issue from their social responsibility and for public welfare," Quader said adding, "They even have been requested on behalf of the prime minister."