While many people from the southern districts are desperately looking for cabin tickets of launches to travel home ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, the private operators have created an artificial crisis of the tickets by preserving those for the influential people.
The vessel operators said the tickets were sold at least two weeks before Eid but sources in the launch owners association said the owners have reserved the cabins for VIPs, relatives, friends, business partners, and political leaders.
"For example, I've reserved four cabin tickets for a top police officer and two for a political leader," a launch owner told The Daily Star.
"If a minister or a secretary makes a phone call to me the night before Eid for a cabin, what shall I do? That's why, we've to keep some cabins till the last moment," said another owner.
While visiting Sadarghat terminal as a ticket seeker yesterday, this correspondent was denied any cabin ticket by the staffs of around a dozen launches.
A ticket seeker, Mohammad Atique, said, "I've been searching for a cabin ticket for the last two days at Sadarghat launch terminal."
A traveller on Dhaka-Patuakhali route, Hedayet Hossain, said it was not possible to get a cabin during Eid rush without lobbying.
However, people who have got tickets have paid almost double the fares.
"Usually, the fare for a single-seat cabin is Tk 1,100 and a double-seat cabin Tk 2,200. But I have to pay Tk 2,000 for a single-seater," said Anjan Saha, who will travel to Barisal on July 26.
Badiuzzaman Badal, adviser of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carrier's) Association, said, "We have a total of around 1,300 to 1,500 cabins daily. But the demand is more than double."
Deck tickets, however, are sold before boarding the vessels.
TRAIN, BUS TICKETS
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Railway yesterday continued distributing advance tickets for the third consecutive day at Kamalapur Railway Station amid allegations that scalpers were active, as tickets ran out within few hours after start of the sale at 9:00am.
"I've been waiting here for around 10 hours. The counter staff are saying tickets have already been sold two and a half hours after the sale opened," said Raihan, a ticket seeker of Teesta express, an intercity train running between Dhaka and Dewanganj of Jamalpur.
Regarding the allegations, Bangladesh Railway Director General Tafazzal Hossain said, "Suppose there are 800 tickets for a train. We have to keep 25 percent of tickets for online sale, five percent for VIPs and five percent for our staff. So, the number of tickets comes down to 520. If a person takes four tickets, so we can provide tickets to 130 persons."
"So, it is usual that tickets run out within three hours," he said, adding there was no possibility of ticket scalping.
The tickets for July 27 and 28 will be distributed today and tomorrow.
Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) yesterday distributed advance bus tickets for the third day. It will start special bus services today.
Tickets for private buses have already been sold out.