2014 off to a bad start
The New Year brings no relief for the people of Bangladesh as the nation braces itself for an indefinite blockade from this morning.
Living with uncertainty over the last one month, people yesterday had a brief respite from violent political programmes. Commuters moved freely in the capital as there was no transport crisis, security check or harassment by law enforcers that they had gone through on Sunday and Monday.
The BNP-led 18-party opposition combine enforced a blockade for 23 days since November 26, demanding postponement of the parliamentary polls schedule. In the last 35 days, people had a respite from political programmes for only 10 days, mostly on weekends.
A total of 71 days were lost to hartals and blockades in the last year, which had a serious effect on public life and the economy.
The government should provide extra security to inter-district transport operators for transporting passengers and goods smoothly during hartals and blockades, transport leaders told The Daily Star last night.
Additional security for transport operators has been introduced only recently, but it has proved to be inadequate. As a result, supply chain of businesses was only restored partially.
In an apparent move to thwart the opposition's “March for Democracy”, the government unofficially banned all Dhaka-bound transport from Saturday to Monday to cut off the capital from the rest of the country. No Dhaka-bound train operated either on Sunday or Monday.
The ongoing political battle between the two major parties has affected the country's garment sector most. Garment makers are sending goods to the port and bringing raw materials to their factories on weekends with police escort.
“I don't know how some of my goods-laden trucks will reach Chittagong port from Habiganj tonight [Tuesday night],” said Shafqat Ahmed, managing director of Saiham Knit Composite Ltd.
The BGMEA and BKMEA have suggested Shafqat send his shipment with police protection.
“We're set to lose our competitiveness in the international market due to the political deadlock,” BGMEA president Atiqul Islam told this newspaper.
The two-day halt in rail trips deprived 1.10 lakh passengers of the service and caused around Tk5 crore in revenue losses to the railway.
Nearly 25,000 railway officials and employees were busy yesterday as train services resumed. Kamalapur Railway Station was seen bustling with passengers.
A top railway official said over 8,000 Ansar members were deployed yesterday to guard trains and railway tracks.
Khandaker Enayet of the pro-government Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Samity, which did not operate any buses on Sunday and Monday, said the samity started operating vehicles yesterday and would continue during the blockade.
“Police have reassured us about security. If necessary, we will ask law enforcers to help run buses,” he added.
A few launches operated to and from the Sadarghat launch terminal during the opposition's “March for Democracy” programme, but all the vessels operated yesterday.