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07 Apr 2021 16:42:43

Riders renounce restriction on ridesharing

Riders renounce restriction on ridesharing
Riders of various ridesharing platforms hold a protest in front of National Press Club on Wednesday. The Business Post photo

Rifat Islam

Hundreds of riders continued to protest in different areas of the capital on Wednesday, calling on the authorities to allow resumption of ridesharing.

They also demanded scrapping of the provision of fine imposed by the traffic police, calling it as injustice.

Protesters gathered at the intersections in different parts of the capital at 11:00am and protested for about 40 minutes before police charged baton to disperse them.

“They left us with no choice but to disperse them. It is a government decision. We are not the authority to fulfil their demands,” Monibur Rahman, Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police told the Business Post.

It was the second time in less than a week the riders took to the streets to press home their demand after Bangladesh Road Transport Authority on March 31 banned ridesharing amid a surge in COVID-19 caseloads in the country.

“Big ridesharing companies deceive us. Government also does not support us, though it gave concession to big industries. We are here as we don’t have any other mean for survival,” said Rabiul Islam, a protester.

Robiul accused the police of charging them with baton without any warning during their protests.

“We wanted police to give us a written commitment or at least talk to the media. But they did not pay any heed to us,” he said.

Kamrul Hasan, president of ridesharing drivers’ union, said their members also protested in some other areas in the city like Shyamoli, Airport Road.

Ridesharing has become a popular of transportation in Dhaka and some other major cities in Bangladesh for the last few years with the arrival of new technologies.

It prompted many unemployed, half-employed youth to join the profession, which in turn became their source of bread and butter.

According to a list of different ridesharing companies submitted to BRTA, some 1.23 lakh cars and motorcycles currently engaged in the ridesharing business. Of them, 1.04 lakh are motorcycles.

Riders said the government decision to ban ridesharing in lockdown was a big blow to our bread and butter.

Finding with little option, many riders started taking passengers by the contract keeping aside app-based system.

It forced them into bargain, significantly reducing their income.

“The government imposes lockdown, but no one cares about workers like us,” Pratul Biswas, a biker from Dhanmondi area, said.

Tapos Talukdar, a motorcyclist, claimed police often fine them for silly matters.

“I had to pay Tk 2,000 as fine for taking passengers during this ban. I am not alone. Many of us face the same situation. If it continues what we will, how we will pay installment for motorcycle,” he said.

"If ridesharing is resumed, our service will be launched in compliance with the guidelines of the health agency," said Syed Fakruddin Millath, Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs for ‘OBHAI’.

Ridesharing companies like ‘OBHAI’ has already launched food and parcel delivery services, which came somewhat as a relief to motorcyclists as they took it as an alternative option in this hard time.

The authorities have allowed takeaway and online food services in the lockdown. Companies like Uber and Pathao have been providing food since the beginning of the lockdown through 'Food Service'.

According to a study published last year by the Policy Research Institute, an app-based ride-sharing services have created a market of Tk 2,200 crore in Bangladesh.