Ratna Khatun reached Kamalapur Railway Station at 8:00am from Savar along with her son, daughter and a granddaughter and immediately bought standing tickets of a Chapainawabganj-bound local train.
As the departure of the train was scheduled at 12:20pm, they laid out a plastic sheet on the floor of the railway station, sat down there and waited for hours.
The train, Rajshahi Express, didn't arrive at Kamalapur until 2:00pm. But their yearning to celebrate the Eid at the village home with their relatives beat the pains they endured during the journey.
“What else can we do? We will have to face the troubles,” said Ratna, aged about 55, from Pabna's Chatmohar upazila. “My youngest son lives in the village. We all are going home to celebrate Eid together. This pain is nothing compared to the joy we would see.”
The train finally left the station at 2:40pm. Until 5:30pm, it was running three and a half hours behind schedule.
Like Ratna and her family, thousands of people yesterday left Dhaka taking trains, buses and launches as the Eid-ul-Fitr, the biggest religious festival of the Muslims, is knocking at the door. If the Shawwal moon is sighted anywhere in the country today, the Eid will be celebrated tomorrow.
People thronged the Kamalapur and Biman Bandar railway stations, bus and launch terminals since morning and scrambled to board trains, buses and launches. Many reached the terminals and stations just after joining office yesterday, the last working day before the Eid vacation.
Although there was a huge pressure of holidaymakers at the train stations and bus and launch terminals, their journey home was largely hassle-free till yesterday evening as they did not have to endure major tailbacks either at the exit points of the capital or on the highways.
The Sadarghat Launch Terminal was bustling with passengers since morning and the launch service was smooth till noon. But things turned bad after 3:00pm when thousands of people thronged the terminal following the closure of garment factories.
Many bus passengers alleged that they had to pay an extra Tk 50 to Tk 250 to buy each ticket, but the authorities didn't take any action against bus operators.
Around 4.4 million people are workers in the garment sector. Of them, 80 percent work in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj.
According to recent estimates, around 80 lakh to 1.15 crore people leave the capital to celebrate Eid at their village homes. But their journey often turns bitter largely due to traffic jam, overpricing of tickets and delays in bus and train schedules.
Transport operators and workers said holidaymakers' journey home was relatively better this year than the previous years due to some measures taken by the administration.
Faruk Talukder Sohel, chairman of Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners' Association, said the authorities opened a large part of the under-construction four-lane Dhaka-Tangail highway and some 23 bridges before the Eid, resulting in easy movement of vehicles.
Every year, the government imposes a ban on plying of trucks on highways three days before the Eid, but it can hardly enforce the ban, he said, adding that this year law enforcers enforced the ban at the truck terminals.
About Paturia, Doulatdia ferry terminals, Faruk said two new superintendents of police in Manikganj and Rajbari did very well to make a syndicate, responsible for artificial traffic jams at the terminals, ineffective.
Mosharref Hossain, general manager of Hanif Paribahan, said many people sent their families to village homes much ahead of the Eid to avoid possible hassles on highways due to their poor condition, which might have made the journeys on the eve of the Eid comparatively hassle-free.
Yesterday, Kamalapur Railway Station witnessed this Eid season's biggest rush of passengers.
Abdul Bari, a garment worker, came to the station from Narayanganj around 1:30pm after joining office to go to Sirajganj. “I will catch any of the north-Bengal-bound trains to go home,” he said.
Shitangshu Chakrabarty, station manager at Kamalapur Railway Station, said 69 trains were scheduled to operate yesterday. Of them, 30 left the station till 1:30pm, with several running behind schedule.
He blamed the delay in schedule on the huge pressure of passengers. “Trains have to wait longer at the stations than the stipulated time,” he said.
Most of the buses left Gabtali, Sayedabad and Mohakhali inter-district bus terminals on time and no major traffic congestion was reported from any of the highways till the evening.
However, long tailbacks were seen on part of the Dhaka-Aricha (Gabtali to Manikganj) since the evening due to indiscriminate parking, reports our correspondent travelling to Faridpur.
Mosharref of Hanif Paribahan said the overall traffic situation on the highways was good and their buses were leaving the terminals on time.
People heading for southern districts did not face major delays at Paturia and Shimulia ferry terminals although there was a huge pressure of vehicles. Many used launches and speedboats to cross the Padma.
At Gabtali, most of the holidaymakers booked their bus seats in advance. Tickets were sold at the counters randomly since the morning. Some of those were of the back row seats.
At Sayedabad, a correspondent of The Daily Star did not see any mad rush for tickets before the counters till the afternoon. Almost all the buses left the terminal on time, said in-charges of different bus counters.
Although homegoers had to endure moderate traffic jams in Daudkandi and Feni, the overall traffic situation on the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Shylet highways was good, they said.
Visiting Mohakhali bus terminal, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday said his ministry took many measures to make sure that holidaymakers' journeys would be hassle-free.
OVERPRICING OF TICKETS
Many passengers alleged that bus operators were taking extra money from them for tickets.
A The Daily Star correspondent saw a long queue of passengers before the counter of Ena Enterprise at Mohakhali terminal. All of them had to pay Tk 50 more than the regular fare for each ticket to Mymensingh.
“I have bought two tickets for Tk 540, but its regular price is Tk 440,” Md Zaman said, showing the tickets. Khandaker Enayetullah, general secretary of Dhaka Road Transport Owners' Association (DRTOA), is the owner of the bus company.
Abul Kalam, president of DRTOA, said they increased the ticket prices as the fuel consumption went up and they needed to hire additional staff during the Eid season.
Asked whether they had taken an approval from the government, he replied negatively.
Some passengers at Gabtoli terminal also alleged that they had to pay an extra Tk 100 to Tk 150 than the regular fares for each ticket.
Although a mobile court of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority closed three inter-district bus counters and fined two at Sayedabad bus terminal on Wednesday for charging passengers extra fares, the counters were seen doing the same yesterday.
Around 12:30pm, a Daily Star correspondent found the counters of Ekushey Paribahan and Dola Paribahan charging passengers extra fares.