City dwellers and commuters suffered for hours in gridlocks yesterday as Bangladesh Chhatra League brought out processions while celebrating its founding anniversary.
After being stranded inside vehicles for up to two hours, many walked to their destinations, leaving their transports behind. Many were seen waiting at bus stops but most buses were stuck in standstill traffic.
To observe its 69th founding anniversary, thousands of activists and supporters of Chhatra League, the pro-ruling Awami League student body, started gathering at Dhaka University from all corners of the capital in small processions since morning.
This obstructed traffic flow during the morning rush.
After a rally at Aparajeyo Bangla on campus around 10:00am, they started marching towards its central office, 23 Bangabandhu Avenue, around noon.
It took three and a half hours for all the small processions to reach the office via Shahbagh, Matshya Bhaban, Jatiya Press Club, and Paltan intersection.
Police in some cases halted traffic to make way for the processions, witnesses said.
Major thoroughfares -- Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, Mirpur Road, and Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Road -- were clogged with vehicles for several hours, causing spillover into adjacent streets.
"The situation was horrible. Unable to bear it anymore, I walked to work," said distraught Ahmed Shuvo while walking down Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue towards Farmgate around 1:30pm.
He said he had started from his Mohakhali home around 1:30pm to go to Shahbagh. He got on a bus only to get stuck near the Prime Minister's Office.
"I waited for around 40 minutes inside the bus and then got off along with other passengers," he said.
"We do not oppose political gatherings but we don't want programmes that make people suffer."
A businessman from Uttara said he had to get off his car near the Prime Minister's Office and walk nearly a kilometre to reach work in Farmgate.
"My driver reached Farmgate two and half hours after I reached there," he said.
They had started from Uttara around 10:30am.
Those opting to walk found it difficult to get through Shahbagh intersection as buses and trucks, which had taken the BCL activists there, were randomly parked on the streets.
"I started for Panthapath from Jatiya Press Club on foot but I had to take a detour from my easiest route via Shahbagh as there was literally no space to walk there," said Dil Afrose Jahan.
Those on public transports remained stuck in Shahbagh, Farmgate, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Paltan, Gulistan, Motijheel, Moghbazar, and Malibagh areas.
Vehicular movement in these areas was almost stopped until afternoon.
It took a lawyer at Dhaka judge court more than three hours to reach Farmgate. The journey from the court, in old part of the city, usually takes about an hour.
"Whatever you do, do it at a certain place. I request all political parties not to choke city life," the lawyer said.
The people who suffered the most were patients going to hospitals.
Jasim Uddin, a farmer from Kishoreganj, was admitted to National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases with severe breathing difficulties on Tuesday. The doctors there referred him to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
His brother-in-law Mizan Miah hired a CNG-run three-wheeler to take him to DMCH but they were stuck at Farmgate for an hour.
"Despite taking some detours, it took us two hours to reach the hospital. He [Jasim] was restless and had asked the driver to turn off the engine several times as it was noisy. I was worried," said Mizan.
Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury could not attend a press conference of Association of Buet Alumni at Dhaka Reporter's Unity. Stuck in jam, he delivered his speech over phone.
"After finishing a meeting in Mirpur, I started for the DRU. But I could not reach Bangla Motor even in two hours due to the huge traffic jam,” he said in his speech.
Masudur Rahman, a businessman, posted on his Facebook page, “Would it be a great loss if the day was announced a public holiday? It took more than one and half hours to get to Bangla Motor from Mohammadpur on a motorcycle … when will I reach Motijheel?”
The traffic mess also had an impact on the earnings of people of low income group.
Jamal Mia, a rickshaw puller, said he usually earns Tk 500 to Tk 600 by lunch. "But until now, I have earned only Tk 200 as I got stuck in jams at different places, including Bangabazar and Chankharpool," he said around 2:30pm.
Manika Debnath, a university student, sarcastically said, "All the pains of the bodies will end as all are walking. It is good [for health]!”
A journalist said he started for work in Farmgate on a CNG-run three-wheeler from his Bashundhara home around noon. "It took less than five minutes to reach the Kuril flyover. Then I faced the jams. I was stuck inside the vehicle for around an hour," he said.
He got off the vehicle, walked to Mohakhali, and got on a rickshaw and used the alleyways to reach Farmgate.
He reached work at 3:15pm.