Ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, launches plying Paturia-Daulatdia and Aricha-Kazirhat river routes are carrying passengers above the usual capacity, much to the risk of the people crossing the Jamuna and Padma rivers that often turns turbulent during the ongoing monsoon.
The situation is likely to worsen as the Eid nears.
Visiting the river routes on Friday and Thursday, this correspondent found launches overloaded with passengers at Paturia, Daulatdia, Aricha and Kazirhat terminals.
The usual capacity of 77-foot-long launch Shapla, as written on its body, is 129 passengers but it landed at Paturia terminal from Daulatdia with 210 passengers.
"We carry additional passengers only ahead of Eid," said Abul Hossain, master of the launch.
Launches MV-Bidyut and Hirok with capacity of 133 and 100 passengers respectively were loaded with 220 and 207 passengers.
Amanat-3 with the capacity of carrying 150 passengers was seen leaving
Paturia for Daulatdia with 250 passengers while 136 passenger capacity Monihar boarded 206 passengers.
"All the launches on the river route carry much more passengers than their capacity ahead of Eid or any big festival. There is nobody to check it. The situation will worsen during the several days before and after the Eid," said Abul Kalam Azad of Daulatdia.
There are 37 launches on Paturia-Daulatdia and Aricha-Kazirhat river routes. Most of the year, the launches ply with passengers below the capacity. Ahead of Eid and Puja, carrying passengers above the capacity is allowed to recoup the loss," said Md Abdul Hye, supervisor of Paturia terminal.
A bus landing at the terminal has to pay Tk 820 to a launch to carry its passengers across the river while the fair is Tk 20 for an individual passenger, terminal sources said.
The passengers should avoid boarding overloaded launches as it takes only 30 minutes to cross the river, said several locals who still remember the tragic launch accident at Aricha terminal in May 2005 that claimed at least 58 lives.
Police superintendent of Manikganj Bidhan Tripura said a good number of river policemen will be deployed to check overloading of passengers on launches.
Deputy Commissioner of Manikganj Rashida Ferdaus said a mobile team led by a magistrate will patrol the area to check any irregularities ahead of Eid.
"We have already sat with the police, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, launch owners, transport owners and workers for ensuring safe movement of passengers on the two routes," she said.