Truckers and covered-van drivers called off their strike last night after halting transport of goods across the country for about 18 hours, which hit businesses hard.
Rustam Ali, convener of Bangladesh Truck, Covered-van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council, made the announcement around 1:00am today following a meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his Dhanmondi residence in the capital.
“They [the government] met some of our demands and assured us of meeting some others. They said they would review the new road transport act,” he told The Daily Star.
Following the over three-hour meeting, Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary Nazrul Islam told reporters, “We have not made any specific commitment about bringing amendments to the law, but we assured them of reviewing it.”
The truckers and covered-van drivers enforced the strike amid a work stoppage by bus owners and drivers in 20 districts.
DELAYS AT PORTS
Transport of goods remained halted at all land and sea ports across the country during the strike yesterday.
At Chattogram port, movement of containers carrying imported and export goods remained suspended.
Usually, over 4,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of import containers are delivered from the port every day. But not a single truck entered the port amid the strike.
No export container could be sent to the port from the 19 private inland container depots, said Md Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association.
Meanwhile, transport of goods to and from Bhomra Land Port in Satkhira, Hili Land Port in Dinajpur and Burimari Land Port in Lalmonirhat was also suspended.
Sohrab Hossain, public relations officer at Hili Land Port, said goods-laden trucks had arrived at the port from India, but those were not allowed to ply the domestic routes.
No goods were released also from Benapole Land Port due to the strike.
Usually, the port earns Tk 25 crore in revenue every day, but it got only Tk 8.25 lakh yesterday. There was a cargo backlog as no goods were delivered from the port, officials said.
Around 500 trucks carry goods to and from the land port every day.
ESSENTIALS GET PRICEY
The prices of some vegetables, including okras, tomatoes and cucumbers, rose by Tk 5-15 per kg yesterday at the wholesale market in the capital’s Karwan Bazar, said traders.
There were a few trucks for hire and those were charging higher than usual fares, they mentioned.
Prior to the strike that began at 6:00am yesterday, a huge quantity of vegetables had entered the capital’s wholesale vegetable markets on Tuesday.
“Usually, I bring one truck of pumpkins, but yesterday [Tuesday] I brought two,” said Mahfuz Islam, a wholesale pumpkin seller at the capital’s Karwan Bazar.
As news of the strike spread, truckers hiked their fares, he said.
Another vegetable trader, Sayeed Khan, said he used to hire trucks from Jashore’s Khajura for Tk 12,000 each, but yesterday he had to pay Tk 15,000.
“I used to sell gourds for Tk 40 each, but yesterday I had to charge Tk 45,” he said.
Humayun Alam, a Tejgaon-based agent of Molla Salt and Patia Super Salt, said he hired two trucks for Tk 13,500 each from Chattogram’s Patia on Tuesday afternoon.
Yesterday morning, truckers refused to carry goods.
“They finally agreed as I gave them Tk 40,000 per truck,” Humayun claimed.
TROUBLES FOR GARMENT EXPORTERS
Garment exporters could not send their goods to Chattogram port from the capital by road because of the strike.
Sharif Zahir, managing director of Ananta Group, a leading garment exporter, said,
“Trucks did not leave the capital for Chattogram.
“We may have to go for air shipments if we miss the cut-off time,” he said, adding that air shipment usually costs up to 40 percent of the value of the export goods.
Sheikh Fazle Fahim, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the country’s apex trade body, said, “Any disruption without a heads-up puts a strain on businesses.”
Rubana Huq, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said, “All of them [garment exporters] are complaining. Buyers are getting stuck even during factory visits.”