Private Bus Transport Business: Owners, Workers Associations More Powerful than Government-TIB

Holiday Post, Dhaka, 5 March 2024: The private bus transport business in Bangladesh is heavily affected by corruption from top to bottom, commented Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). The anti-corruption organisation stated this while releasing its research study ‘Integrity in Private Bus Transport Business’ at a press conference on Tuesday. TIB further mentioned that the sector is held hostage by the bus owner-worker associations and syndicate that are backed by the ruling political party, and in some cases, even the government seems powerless before them. To overcome the challenges in the sector, TIB presented a 15-point charter of recommendations.

Mentioning political patronage and role of syndicates as the root causes of irregularities and corruption in the bus transport sector, TIB Executive Director (ED) Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, “The private bus transport business is entirely plagued by irregularities and corruption. Its root cause is the collusion between bus owners’ and workers’ associations, empowered by political patronage. According to our research, almost 92 per cent of the bus owners are associated with political parties, of whom 80 per cent are from the ruling political party and 12 per cent are from other parties. As a result, despite expectations centering the transport sector that it would become a public-friendly one, in reality, it has been held hostage by the owners’ and workers’ associations, and their syndicate is taking undue advantage of this hostage situation. The hostage situation is so severe that the owners and workers, due to their collision, seem more powerful than the government. The government is failing in implementing its own laws and regulations to control corruption and irregularities in the private bus transport sector. Also, the expected services cannot be ensured, and at the same time, general workers in the sector are being deprived of their basic rights including a fair wage.”

Criticizing the role of the stakeholders associated with the transport sector, Dr. Iftekharuzzaman added, “Extortion and illegal transactions of various dimensions take place in bus transport. The city corporations, highway police, and owners’ and workers’ associations work in collusion in this regard. The BRTA has definitely failed to discharge its specified duties, and to mask the failures the agency is giving the excuse of manpower shortage. The corruption and irregulatiries alongside illicit transactions in the BRTA are taking place in collusion. The situation is becoming more critical, as all the concerned are sharing the economic benefit, made through corruption. We call for exemplary punitive measures against everyone involved in corruption and irregularities in this sector. Because, corruption thrives further when it is uncontrolled.”

The TIB research report shows that controlling of the transport business by the rulling party members and its patronised quarter is at the centre of rampant corruption and irregularities in the bus transport sector. Most of the leaders of the owners’ associations in the sector are associated with the ruling party. The 22 companies (13.1 per cent), included in TIB’s study, own 81.4 per cent of the bus transport business. Almost 92 per cent members of the board of directors of these large bus companies are directly affiliated with the ruling party (80 per cent) and other political parties (12 per cent). They have monopolised authority in the owners’ and workers’ associations alongside creating impediments in law formulation and implementation by capturing policy mechanisms, thus taking the sector hostage.

Another example of the severity of irregularities and corruption in the sector has come up in the comments made by 40.9 per cent of the transport workers participating in the study, who alleged that one or more buses in their respective companies do not have registration or other necessary certificates. Of them, 24 per cent of the workers have mentioned that some buses of their companies do not have fitness certificates, while 22 per cent have mentioned that the buses do not have route permits. Moreover, there is a scarcity of professionally trained and licensed drivers for private buses. According to media reports, there are 63.5 per cent licensed drivers against the vehicles registerted with the BRTA. Furhtermore, 11.9 per cent bus owners, participating in TIB’s survey, said their companies have one or more unlicensed drivers or drivers with expired licenses. In addition, 22.2 per cent of the workers, participating in the study, said the drivers operate vehicles and conductors, helpers and supervisors discharge their duties taking alcohol or narcotics. Moreover, the drivers use mobile phones while driving, which causes accidents alongside casualties.


Lack of important maintenance, inclusion of additional seats, and overcharging fares are among other irregularities in the bus transport sector. According to 89.2 per cent workers of the city services and 60.4 per cent workers of the inter-city services, participating in the study, said their affiliated companies do not change and maintain tyres, engine oils, brakes, etc, following the rules. As the buses of their respective companies are not maintained regularly, the vehicles emit black smoke. In many cases, the bus owners change the interior design of the vehicles to add additional seats. Some 40.4 per cent workers of the city services said their companies changed the design of the buses to add more seats.

Another concerning information is that 35.2 per cent of the female passengers, participating in the study, said they experienced or observed sexual harassment by helpers or co-passengers. The rate of sexual harassment is 31.3 per cent for the inter-city buses, and 42.6 per cent for the city services. Of the victims, 83.2 per cent were harassed by co-passengers and 64.3 by helpers.

TIB’s research report has also highlighted that the bus owners and workers have to annually pay an estimated BDT 1,060 crores at different levels as bribes. Of the amount, they pay about BDT 25 crores to the groups with political party affiliation, who extort money on roads. Moreover, bus owners and workers pay or are forced to pay bribes for political rallies, observance of various days, violating traffic rules on roads, for parking vehicles outside the terminals, and illegal ‘token’ based trades. The highest amount, more than BDT 900 crores, is paid to the angladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) as bribes for registration, certification, and renewal of vehicles.

The research was conducted by TIB researchers Md. Nuruzzaman Forhad, Farhana Rahman, and Mohammad Nure Alam. Adviser – TIB Executive Management Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Director of Research and Policy Division Md. Badiuzzaman, and Director of Outreach and Communication Division Mohammad Tauhidul Islam were present in the press conference, among others.

TIB has put forward a series of recommendations aimed at upholding integrity in the private bus transport business, addressing the myriad challenges currently faced by the sector. These recommendations span various aspects of operations and governance, emphasizing the need for comprehensive reform to ensure fair practices and efficient service delivery. Under the category of worker and financial management, TIB advocates for cessation of informal recruitment practices and issuance of written appointment letters to workers in accordance with the Labor Act 2006 TIB also recommends proactive measures to construct essential infrastructure and implementation of e-ticketing systems to streamline service delivery alongside necessary policies for financing and administration, human resource management, gender, grievance registration and redressing, open information, procurement, and ticketing; implementation of the National Integrity Strategy, specially by preparing and implementing a code of conduct for the bus owners and workers; and taking necessary measures to fully implement the Road Transport Act 2018.


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