Hartal dampens business | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 01, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 01, 2010

Hartal dampens business

Policemen take rest in front of shuttered shops at Bijoy Nagar in Dhaka during hartal yesterday. Photo: Amran Hossain

Public transports came to a halt, private cars remained in safe garages and financial institutions served sparse clients, as the countrywide hartal called by the main opposition yesterday heavily disrupted business life in the capital.
But small businesses, footpath shops and day labourers bore the brunt.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called the strike, known as hartal, to protest the eviction of its Chairperson Khaleda Zia from her long-time house in Dhaka cantonment.
This was the second hartal of the opposition in the last 16 days, after it staged a nationwide strike on the same grounds on November 14, three days before Eid-ul-Azha.
Dhaka roads that usually remain clotted with traffic and people looked almost bare. No long-route bus left Gabtoli, Shyamoli and Kalyanpur terminals. Only a handful of buses defied the strike to ply inside the city.
All the supermarkets and major shopping zones kept their shutters down. Although banks and other financial institutions opened their backdoors, the turnout was thin.
Aminul Islam, a warm-clothes seller at Paltan, the heart of the country's political activities, could not sell a single piece of item until 3pm although he opened his shop at 9am.
"As buses are n4ot plying, people can't come," he said.
Unlike the past strikes, many roadside shops could start their business in the morning amid a huge number of security personnel, who successfully could keep the strike-supporters at bay in the Paltan area, but their sales were low.
Abul Hossain, a T-shirt seller in the same area, said the sales were quite low. "Many shops opened, but there were no clients."
Bulbul Ahmed, a rickshaw-puller, usually starts his day at 8am, but yesterday he was hesitant and started taking trips at 1pm, only to less trouble-prone areas.
Until 2:30pm, he could manage only two trips, as most city-dwellers opted against going out.
"I don't know how much I will be able to earn today," said Ahmed, who lives in Hazaribagh with his wife and a 10-year-old school-going daughter.
The office-goers and many other city-dwellers with no option of staying at home had to go through difficulties to reach their offices and other destinations, as only a few public transports were available.
"I had to spend 10-time higher fare to reach office, as I got no bus," said ABM Nahidur Rahman, who works for a brokerage house in Motijheel.
Although economists and business leaders cannot exactly estimate how much loss a strike causes to the country's $100 billion economy, they said such losses hold back development efforts.
The country's knitwear makers, who fetched over $6 billion in exports in the last fiscal year, said the strike particularly hit their preparations to complete increasingly higher orders and deliver on time.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), the country's apex trade body, has termed the losses of the shutdown massive, urging the opposition party to find alternative ways of protest.
The economists said any strike has both tangible and intangible impacts and badly hits the country's industrial and services sector.
The country's services sector, which accounts for over 50 percent of the country's gross domestic output (GDP), is severely affected by any strike, said Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a think tank.
The strike also erodes confidence of entrepreneurs and investors, he said, urging the political parties to consider other political programmes instead of a complete shutdown.


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