Launch service operators have been accused of overcharging passengers departing Patuakhali’s Rangabali upazila for Dhaka after Eid.
On way back to their workplaces in the capital after spending their Eid holidays with near and dear ones, the passengers also complained of misconduct by staff members of the launch operators.
They said the launch operators have not only been ripping them off, but their staffers have been verbally abusive to any passenger who raised objection to the exorbitant fare.
Even fare for the special launch services -- authorised by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) to ease the Eid rush -- has been higher than the usual rate, the passengers alleged.
Launch is the only mode of transport for around 1.50 lakh inhabitants of five unions in Rangabali, an isolated upazila by the Bay of Bengal. A double decker launch -- Zahid-3 and Prince of Rasel-5 -- ferries them on alternating days to and from Dhaka throughout the rest of the year.
The special service to Dhaka started a week prior to the Eid holidays on an additional double decker launch daily and it is scheduled to end a week after the holiday.
Passengers said all launches were charging Tk 1,500 to Tk 1,800 for a single cabin against a regular fare of Tk 900 to Tk 1,000, while fare for a double cabin jumped to Tk 3,400 to Tk 4,000 from Tk 1,700 to Tk 2,000.
Mizanur Rahman, a passenger who booked a double cabin to go to Dhaka from Koralia under Rangabali, said he had to pay Tk 3,400 for it, while the fare is usually between Tk 1,700 and Tk 2,000.
The launch staff behaved badly when he questioned about the steep price, he alleged.
Khawja Sadiqur Rahman, deputy director of BIWTA and Patuakhali river port official, said they would investigate the allegations of overcharging and take action against the companies concerned.