Commuters in Dhaka city are likely to face a scarcity of public transport on Wednesday as several thousand transport workers will join a rally at the city's Suhrawardy Udyan.
Awami League will organise the grand rally marking the historic March 7 speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
This year, March 7 will be observed with much more fanfare as the famous speech has been included in the Memory of the World International Register, a list of the world's important documentary heritage maintained by Unesco.
In view of this, the ruling party has planned to ensure a record gathering at the rally, party sources said.
However, in January, Obaidul Quader, general secretary of Awami League, had said that no rallies or processions would be allowed anywhere in the city on weekdays. He added that the Awami League itself would choose holidays for such programmes.
But at a meeting with Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon yesterday, leaders of transport owners and workers associations promised to take “actively” part in the rally.
Dhaka Road Transport Owners' Association organised the meeting at the city's Engineers' Institution to ensure the rally was a success. City Awami League general secretary Shah Alam Murad and other leaders were also present.
Mayor Sayeed Khokon said they want to set record by gathering the highest number of people in recent time and urged transport workers to join the rally.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, general secretary of the association and also the convener of Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Malik Sramik Okya Parishad (Dhaka Road Transport Owner Workers Unity Council), said 14,000 workers will take part in the rally.
He urged them to gather at Gulistan within 2:00pm on the day.
Mahbubur Rahman, organising secretary of the association, said some 15,000 to 16,000 workers will join the rally from the city's six bus terminals-- Gulistan, Saidabad, Phulbaria, Mohakhali, Gabtoli and Mirpur-- under the banner of Dhaka Road Transport Owner's Workers Unity Council.
Asked whether they will stop bus operations for the day, Mahbubur replied in the negative.
“There is a shift for workers. Workers of one shift will take part in the rally while others will operate buses. However, road transport is usually hampered when a big rally is organised in the city,” he told The Daily Star last night.
Replying to another question, he said transport workers will take part in the rally “willingly” as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will deliver an address there.
The party general secretary Obaidul Quader already met with the president and general secretaries of its associate bodies and adjacent districts of the capital.
AL leaders have also distributed leaflets among city dwellers requesting them to join the AL's rally ahead.
Obaidul Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, will hold a meeting with all councillors of Dhaka South City Corporation at its auditorium today at 3:00 pm, “to ensure huge gathering” at the rally, sources said.
People often face difficulties due to rallies in the capital as roads leading to the meeting venues are often choked with traffic.
On the other hand, in many cases, there is also a lack of public transport as leaders of the transport owners and workers associations, having political affiliation, force their workers to join rallies.
Against this backdrop, Obaidul Quader on January 7 said that no rallies or processions would be allowed on weekdays in Dhaka city.
At a meeting of Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) at the Nagar Bhaban, Obaidul Quader had directed DTCA to formulate a policy in this regard.
No social, cultural and political organisations will be allowed to hold rallies or bring out processions blocking the streets, Quader had said.
On January 12, he said his party was considering holding rallies on holidays in order to reduce public sufferings.
“We shall not hold rallies in the city, blocking roads, in future,” he said, while distributing blankets among the poor at a programme at Russell Square in the capital.