Thousands leave city amid relaxed travel curbs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 23, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:23 AM, May 23, 2020

Thousands leave city amid relaxed travel curbs

Thousands of people continued to leave Dhaka yesterday as the government apparently relaxed travel restrictions ahead of the Eid.

The authorities at Shimulia-Kathalbari and Paturia-Daulatdia ferry terminals resumed services after three days, allowing people to head for 21 south-western districts.

Although Rab Director General Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun yesterday said that only those using personal vehicles will be allowed to travel to their hometowns, many people travelled on pickups and three-wheelers, spending two to three times the usual fare.

The Rab DG told reporters through video conferencing that no public transport could be used for the journey.

Eid-ul-Fitr, the largest religious festival of Muslims, will be celebrated on May 24 or 25, subject to the sighting of the moon.

The cabinet division on May 14 said movement of people will be restricted across the country and no one would be allowed to leave the city where they work from May 17-May 28. This was an additional restriction over the nearly two-month long suspension of public transport aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Police set up check posts on key highways to enforce the restrictions, but failed to stop the home goers.

In a desperate bid to stop people from travelling, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation suspended operation of ferry services on the Padma river on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people stuck at the terminals then crossed the river by small boats while many others returned to Dhaka.

FERRY SERVICES RESUME, HIGHWAYS SEE RUSH

Ferry services between Shimulia and Kathalbari terminals resumed after 12:00am yesterday and 13 or 14 ferries operated across the Padma, a BIWTC employee told The Daily Star.

Ferry services on this route were first suspended around 3:00pm on Monday amid crowds of thousands of people. Officials resumed the services for four to five hours early Tuesday before suspending them again.

Ferries between Paturia and Daulatdia terminals also resumed after three days.

Dhaka-Aricha Highway and the Paturia Ghat saw a mad rush of home goers begin yesterday morning, reports our correspondent from Manikganj.

People were traveling in cars, microbuses, pickups and motorcycles.

Akkas Ali, a shopkeeper in Dhaka, told our correspondent that he reached Manikganj by rickshaws and pickups.

"People who have their own vehicles can travel easily. But people like us are suffering the most to go home," he added.

Cars, microbuses, SUVs and motorcycles were increasing on roads since yesterday morning, reports our Tangail correspondent.

Besides cars, many people were seen heading to their villages on foot and battery- or CNG-run three wheelers, reports our Gazipur correspondent.

Police on Dhaka-Chattogram Highway, however, intensified checking on different entry and exit points to restrict movement of people, reports our Cumilla correspondent.

CRASHES MAY RISE

Crashes and fatalities have peaked during the Eid holidays in recent years.

Analysing road crashes during Eid from 2017-2019, Kazi Shifun Newaz, assistant professor at Accident Research Institute of Buet, said buses were involved only in 30 percent of the crashes and mostly cars were involved in the rest.

Many car owners are likely to operate their vehicles to earn some money, taking advantage of the government decision. And many inexperienced drivers are likely to be behind the wheels, resulting in more crashes, he said.

At a time when the medical facilities are struggling to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak, the crashes would put further pressure on them, he said.

During Eid last year, at least 224 people were killed and 866 others injured in 203 crashes across the country, according to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity.

Around 27.4 percent of the crashes involved buses, 26.33 percent motorcycles, 16.4 percent trucks, pickups, lorries and trailer trucks, 7.82 percent cars and microbuses, and 13.52 percent auto-rickshaws and other vehicles, it said.

TOUGH ON ERRANT GOODS-LADEN VEHICLES

The Road Transport and Bridges Ministry on Thursday warned of tougher actions if goods-laden vehicles carried people.

On the same day, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) wrote to the Inspector General of Police, additional IGP (highway), all deputy commissioners and superintendents of police, and director (enforcement) of BRTA to take stern action against the offenders.

The warnings came hours after 13 people, including two children, were crushed to death when a truck overturned and plunged into a ditch in Gaibandha's Palashbari.

In its letter, the BRTA said carrying passengers on goods-laden vehicles was punishable under the Road Transport Act-2018.

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