Battery-powered rickshaws and rickshaw vans, mostly plying on backstreets in the capital, continue to operate despite a 2015 ban by the High Court on plying of such three wheelers across the country.
Most of the accidents on the city roads are often occurred due to the reckless movement of such battery run rickshaws and other three-wheeler vehicles.
Considered as highly hazardous on roads, the High Court asked the government to stop them from plying as they do not have valid permit to run on the roads and carry passengers or even goods.
Those opposing plying of such motorized illegal vehicles said that they create unnecessary traffic jams by narrowing passages on the roads and also carry passengers beyond their capacity risking accidents due to reckless driving.
Mohammad Zakir Hossain of Khilgaon who owns a shop located under the flyover said, “Hundreds of such battery-powered three-wheelers carry passengers in turns under the very nose of traffic sergeants and police but none is punished for the illegal acts. They take huge amounts of bribe money everyday allowing such illegal vehicles on the roads.”
Initially, such motorized vehicles were allowed to run as a source of income for the mostly very poor and disabled people. However, with time ordinary able persons are defying the rules and hugely marginalizing legitimate income of the poor.
While visiting some areas of Mugda, Manda, Hazaribagh, Jigatla, Kamrangirchar, Dakshin Khan, Mohammadpur, Badda, Jurain, Jatrabari, ShanirAkhra, Demra, Basabo and Mothertech, it was noticed that such illegal vehicles are running in the backstreets or sub lanes where there are no traffic police to watch the illegal business.
Talking to some local rickshaw owners, it was learnt that the number of such rickshaws is more than one lakh in southern part of the capital. And the number of such battery-powered rickshaws across the capital is more than five lakhs, said an estimate.
Some of the vehicle owners, who requested not to be named, said that they dare to ply such illegal vehicles because local ruling political party leaders and corrupt traffic police officers support them. “The (illegal road transport) business earns millions of takas everyday from all over the city. How can they forget the greed for money,” said Bashir Miah who has 23 such vehicles, none of which are registered.
It is estimated that at least a Tk 20 crore is being collected from these illegal road transport businesses every day. Local influential and ruling party leaders collect the money and a large part of the money also go to concerned police stations, according to an investigation of the Bangladesh Post.
Each such battery powered vehicle earns huge amounts after meeting the cost of charging for electricity. It costs about Tk 2500-3000 per month for charging the batteries. And since all these power lines are illegal, the customers who pay regular electricity bills have to suffer from load shedding.
A driver using such battery-powered rickshaw, Kashem Hossain, told Bangladesh Post that, "This rickshaw my main source of income. If they ban this I may face difficulties in surviving.”
According to the power supply companies in the capital, there is no shortage of power supply in Dhaka at present. But even then, there is occasional load shedding, the root cause of which is thousands of illegal power connections used for charging the heavy-duty batteries everyday.
Contacted with several senior police officials to find out about the alleged bribe money at the police stations, none of them agreed to talk to this correspondent. However, a traffic police official said they had already received a directive from the Dhaka South City Corporation to ban the illegal vehicles. Police have also started a drive to evict these illegal vehicles.