Battery-operated rickshaws and easy bikes are running in the capital despite a ban by the High Court on plying of mechanised and battery-run rickshaws across the country.
Sources said the number of battery-run rickshaws and easy bikes is much higher than the need in the city while rampant violation of traffic rules by their drivers is causing frequent traffic jams.
Having no valid licence and road permit, these battery-run rickshaws are operating under the very nose of the authorities concerned.
It is alleged that these rickshaws are plying the roads by bribing local police and ruling party men. For this reason, law enforcers do not prevent them from plying the roads.
According to Bangladesh Rickshaw Van Workers Union, the number of battery-operated rickshaws in Dhaka is around 50,000. On the other hand, the number of easy bikes in the capital and its surroundings is more than 100,000, according to Auto-Rickshaw Workers Union.
A large number of battery-driven easy bikes and rickshaws are now plying alleys and by-lanes in the capital. The number of such vehicles is increasing day by day as there is no obstacle to their operations.
The situation has now reached such a stage that it has become difficult to walk on the streets due to the heavy presence of these vehicles.
Sources said at least 500MW of electricity is being wasted in recharging easy bikes and battery-run rickshaws in the capital. Such use of electricity often results in load-shedding.
On July 3 in 2014, the High Court banned plying of mechanised and battery-run rickshaws across the country as the vehicles are being run without any licences.
The HC bench of Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar passed the order after rejecting five writ petitions filed by rickshaw-owners.
After the High Court ban and subsequent drives organised by law enforcement personnel, almost all those rickshaws had been taken off the roads.
With the passage of time, many battery run-rickshaws and easy bikes are seen operating on streets in different areas of the capital, including Mirpur, Pallabi, Darus Salam, Airport, Turag, Dakkhin Khan, Uttar Khan, Banasree, Azimpur, Kamrangirchar, Zigatola, Basabo-Madartek, Jatrabari, Kadamtali, Demra, Jurain, Shyampur, Mohammadpur, Adabor, Rampura, Khilgaon, Sipahibag, Badda, Meradia, Moghbazar, Modhubagh, Mohakhali Wireless Gate and Uttara.
It is learnt that there are numerous garages in the capital to charge easy bikes and battery-operated rickshaws in the capital. Illegal power connections have been taken to those garages by managing officials of the electricity department.
While talking to easy bike drivers and owners, this correspondent came to know that these vehicles are running through paying secret tolls. The amount of toll is different in different places. These illegal vehicles are running after paying Tk 150 to Tk 400 per day.
Maruf, who runs his own battery-run rickshaw inside the residential areas of Newmarket to BGB Gate, said, “I pay local police Tk 1,500 per month so that I can run my rickshaw. I usually ply the alleys and by-lanes of the residential areas.”
These motorised rickshaws are similar to ordinary pedal-driven rickshaws. But with a battery-run motor set under the body and powered by rechargeable battery, it involves risks of accident.
Residents of Azimpur and Kamrangirchar areas alleged that the battery-run rickshaw drivers drive their vehicles recklessly, often causing accidents.
A regular rickshaw-puller needs to pay its owner Tk 100–150 per day while a battery-run rickshaw-puller needs to pay its owner Tk 300–350 per day, sources said.
It is also alleged that some leaders of the ruling party’s associate organisation Shramik League are involved in the motorised rickshaw trade.
That is why a large number of unlicensed three-wheelers ply across the capital with little or no resistance from traffic staff.
Ziaul Hasan, a resident of Moghbazar area, said, “Traffic police do not prevent them from plying the road as some leaders of the ruling party’s associate organisations are involved with the motorised rickshaw trade.”
A BRTA official said, “We continue conducting mobile courts in the capital. Right now several mobile courts are continuing operation against all kinds of illegal vehicles, including battery run-rickshaws.”
“The High Court banned battery-run rickshaws. But normally battery-run rickshaws have no licence and permission to run on the road. So our drives against those vehicles are going on,” he added.
Dhaka city corporation authorities have not issued a single licence for rickshaw since 1986.
Since then, the number of licensed rickshaws under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is 52,728 while 26,826 are under Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), officials said.
None of the authorities concerned, including Dhaka City corporations and traffic police, has had data on the number of rickshaws plying the city streets. According to experts, it could be 1.1 million to 1.2 million at present.