People left in the lurch | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 21, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:44 AM, November 21, 2019

People left in the lurch

Many find no vehicles; some pay 3 times as much to travel

Commuters in 20 districts across the country suffered for the third day yesterday due to the transport strike, called to protest the enforcement of the much talked-about Road Transport Act, 2018.

Hundreds of passengers gathered at different bus terminals since morning only to find no bus was operating.

Failing to get buses, many were seen desperately looking for alternative transport like three-wheelers, motorised van, or easy bikes, to reach their destinations. Many had to walk long distances.

Drivers of such alternative transport took this opportunity to charge passengers with high fares. 

Protesting transport workers assaulted some other drivers who had tried to operate their buses defying the strike.

Several hundred buses and trucks were seen parked at different bus terminals and intersections in different districts as the strike began its third consecutive day.

In the capital, the numbers of buses and trucks were low all throughout yesterday.

A workers’ leader, preferring anonymity, said many bus drivers and helpers did not operate fearing penalty under the new law as their driving licenses and other related documents were not updated.

He also alleged that some agitating workers vandalised some vehicles and assaulted drivers who tried to operate their vehicles in the capital’s Tejgaon area.  

Meanwhile, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader at a programme in Noakhali yesterday called upon transport workers to refrain from making commuters suffer. 

Our correspondents from different districts reported on the struggles that commuters were facing due to the strike.

Vehicular movement on the Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-Sylhet highways was halted for around eight hours yesterday as workers blockaded the Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road in Signboard area around 6:00am.

Transport operation resumed around 2:00pm as they withdrew the blockade, however a four-kilometre-long tailback was created. Some people opted to commute on foot, while others had to pay extra money if they chose another mode of transportation. 

“I paid Tk 100 to travel from Signboard area to Jatrabari on a rickshaw-van, whereas the bus fare is Tk 5-10,” said Alok Saha, an insurance company employee.

Shakil Ahmed, a student of Dania College, said, “I have an exam at 1:30pm. I got out of home in Shimrail area at 11:00am. Now, I cannot get any transport. I will have to walk to reach my college and give the exam.”

On the other hand, bus operation on the Dhaka-Mawa Highway remained halted since morning. A similar situation prevailed at the Shimulia Ferry Terminal area. Many commuters faced trouble after reaching the terminal on launches from southern parts of the country.

Many who crossed the border and entered Bangladesh struggled due to the transport crisis.

“Me and my six-member family came to Bangladesh today [yesterday]. But we could not get any transport to go to our home in Tangail. Today, we will stay at a hotel and will try to catch a train tomorrow,” said Rohit Chandra Das, 50, who came to Bangladesh through the Burimari border of Lalmonirhat.

Aklima Begum, a resident of Narail, was on her way to Khulna Medical College Hospital to visit her grandson yesterday. Due to the unavailability of buses, she got on an easy bike and van after crossing the Bhairab river and then managed to reach Phulbari Gate in Khulna.

In Pabna, several hundred passengers were seen waiting for buses at the town’s main bus terminal yesterday noon. However, due to a lack of buses, there was a mad rush whenever one approached.

“I have been waiting here for a bus for around an hour and half but I could not get on. Whenever a bus came, people rushed to get on. I cannot even reach the door due to the huge crowd as I have a baby with me,” said a woman, who was looking for a bus to go to Sathia upazila.

The Bangabandhu Bridge, which connects Dhaka to southern districts, looked almost deserted as there was barely any vehicular movement on it, said workers at the bridge.

Besides, commuters also suffered in Rangpur, Dinajpur, Kurigram, Chapainawabganj, Jhalakathi, Faridpur, Pirojpur, Cumilla, Noakhali and Tangail, 

Workers’ leaders in most of the districts said they would continue the strike until their demands are met and they get the directives from the workers’ central committee in Dhaka. 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association in a press statement yesterday urged transport workers to withdraw their strike immediately considering public suffering.

MOBILE COURTS FILE FEWER CASES

The number of cases filed by the mobile courts of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) declined sharply a day after transport leaders criticised the operation of courts under the new law.

Yesterday, seven BRTA mobile courts in the capital filed 38 cases against different vehicles yesterday. The courts also fined violators of traffic rules a total of Tk 35,600.

The number of cases were 79 and amount of fine was 1.19 lakh just the day before.

At a meeting with BRTA Chairman Kamrul Ahsan on Tuesday, transport leaders placed several demands, including using the BRTA mobile courts for creating awareness for the time being instead of enforcing the law.

“When transport workers in many districts are protesting against the law, operation of these courts are rubbing salt on their wounds. So, we asked the authority to stop operation of those mobile courts,” a top transport leader told The Daly Star after Tuesday’s meeting.

(Our district correspondents contributed to the report.)

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