The first day of the ban on ride-sharing services via motorcycles stripped over one lakh bikers of means to a livelihood until further notice.
Keeping in mind the rising Covid-19 infection rates, the BRTA on Wednesday banned operation of motorcycles under ride-sharing services to ensure health safety guidelines and social distancing. The decision, however, did not say how long the ban would last.
Bikers protested across several points of the city yesterday, with the a riders' organisation called Dhaka Ride-Sharing Union hosting a congregation in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the morning.
In addition, a group of bikers blocked Dhanmondi road 27 intersection mid-morning to protest the ban, causing a gridlock that lasted for almost an hour.
While ride-sharing had begun as a concept where commuters can "share" their rides with fellow-commuters traversing the same route, in Dhaka city, ride-sharing is undertaken professionally by riders who adopt it as means to an easily available livelihood.
During the pandemic, a lot of service-holders who lost jobs took to ride-sharing as a means to support their families and earn money.
Al-Amin is one of them.
The 35 year-old was retrenched from his job as a floor manager of a factory in the capital last March when the country went into a lockdown.
Since then he turned to his bike to provide him with the means to feed his family.
"This decision is not just bad for me, it can literally mean that my family has to starve to death," said the former RMG worker.
"I live with my wife and two kids, and I have to support my younger brother who is a college student. It is the beginning of the month, my house rent is Tk 8,000, and it is due in ten days but if I spend whatever money I have on rent, I will not have anything left to feed my family with," said Al-Amin.
His former colleague Abdul Kuddus is at a similar quandary. After losing his RMG job to the pandemic, Kuddus had taken his bike to the road.
"It feeds me, my two children and my old mother. It helps me put a roof over their heads. If I cannot ride my bike, how can I still afford that roof?" he asked.
Kuddus used to be able to earn around Tk 1,000 for 12 hours of being on the road, but has nothing in savings to tide him over this period.
According to 2019 data that different ride sharing companies submitted to the BRTA, there were some 1.23 lakh cars and motorcycles associated with different ride-hailing companies. Of them, 1.04 lakh were motorcycles.
In addition, BRTA sources said that 23,493 vehicles were enlisted with the BRTA to operate under the ride-sharing services, of which 80 percent are motorcycles.
"We are ready to adopt any and every safety measure needed to make sure our passengers are safe. We can tie rocks to our stomachs and tide this through, but will our families starve to death?" asked the secretary of the Dhaka Ride-Sharing Union Belal Ahmed, while protesting in front of the Jatiya Press Club.
"We implore the policy-makers to come up with a decision that allows us to maintain safety guidelines while earning a livelihood. If they do not want us to be on the road, they have to arrange for relief for all of us," he said.