Failing to find room inside, people travel on the roof and the locomotive of a train at Court Railway Station in Rajshahi as there is no other option for them. Transport workers of the division have been on strike since Sunday. Photo: Star
Transport leaders of eight northeastern districts have called an indefinite strike from today, while staff of the sector in Rajshahi division have continued abstaining from work since Sunday morning.
Bangladesh Road Transport Samity (Dhaka division) yesterday called the strike in Mymensingh, Netrakona, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Kishoreganj, Tangail, Gazipur and Dhaka to be enforced from 6:00am today, in protest at a recent attack on their leaders and workers in Netrakona by Ansar members.
A team of Ansars led by a magistrate swooped on transport workers on May 24 when they gathered at Netrakona Sramik Union office to protest an earlier assault on one of their drivers by auto-rickshaw drivers in Netrakona, alleged transport leaders.
They raised a seven-point demand, including immediate withdrawal of the Netrakona deputy commissioner, stopping extortion by the police, and banning of unregistered pick-ups, auto-rickshaws and other vehicles on the highways.
Long-distance bus ticket counters at Shiroil remain closed due to the strike. Photo: Star
If the authorities concerned met the demands by 6:00am today, they would withdraw the strike, transport leaders said.
Meanwhile, the indefinite strike called by transport workers and owners in Rajshahi division to press home their six-point demand continued for the second day yesterday amid inconclusive meetings between transport leaders and the divisional commissioner.
"The authorities promised to take action against unauthorised vehicles and illegal toll collection. Our strike will continue until we see the administration take action," said Manzur Rahman Pitar, convenor of Rajshahi Bus Truck Owners and Workers Oikya Parishad.
Commissioner of Rajshahi division Helaluddin Ahmed told The Daily Star that the workers had agreed to withdraw the strike, having seen action against unauthorised vehicles.
"We will intensify action against illegal vehicles tonight [yesterday night]," he said.
Rajshahi Bus Truck Owners and Workers Oikya Parishad called the strike, demanding a ban on plying of unauthorised vehicles like Nosimon, Korimon and bhotbhoti on roads and highways, stopping toll collection by the police and harassment by the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority in the name of issuing fitness certificates, and suspension of double-decker bus services in upazilas.
Pickets in Rajshahi city yesterday halted private cars and microbuses at different points and staged protests by lying down on roads in the Shiroil bus terminal area.
The strike has led to an increased demand for train tickets in the northern part of the country, while rickshaws, vans and auto-rickshaws have been charging passengers exorbitant fares, taking the advantage of the situation.
Fish trader Abdul Latif carried 10 drums of fishes to the railway station from Chapainawabganj to bring those to the capital but he could not find any room in the train to travel with his stuff.
Shafikul Islam had to spend double the amount he usually pays to travel from Rajshahi to Bagha upazila. On the way, he changed vehicles six times to reach his destination. The journey also took him two and a half hours more.
Meanwhile, the Bogra district administration on Sunday night met the leaders of Motor Transport Labour Federation at the deputy commissioner's office. The meeting proved abortive.
The President of Bangladesh Motor Transport Labour Federation, Rajshahi division, Abdul Latif Mondal, told our Bogra correspondent that they had not withdrawn the strike as the decision had to be taken at the divisional level.