Scores of commuters, including children, had to wait for hours on the streets due to a sudden transport strike in the port city yesterday.
The strike, announced by a group of transport owners on Wednesday, caught many city dwellers unawares yesterday morning.
Chittagong Metropolitan Gono Paribahan Malik Sangram Parishad, an association of transport owners, had called the strike with demands, including flexibility in issuing driving licence, keeping three-wheelers off the streets and letting old vehicles ply the streets, said Belayet Hossain Belal, president of the association.
Meanwhile, people of all walks of life, especially school students whose annual exams are going on, found to their dismay that they had no means of reaching their destinations on time.
Sanja Ahmed, a class-II student, was on the verge of tears by the side of a road in Amtol area around 10:00am. With her exam about to start in minutes, she almost lost all hope of reaching her school, some eight km away, on time.
Working people were seen walking in their hundreds on the streets of the port city in the morning. Many said they did not know about the strike.
Exploiting the dearth of vehicles, rickshaw pullers and CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers, asked for exorbitant sums.
Two students of Haji Mohammad Mohsin College said they had to pay more than twice the usual amount to an auto-rickshaw driver to get to the college.
Buses, owned by people who do not belong to the association, were on the roads. But the staffers charged passengers according to their whims.
“The strike was called by a group of owners. They did not talk to everybody and did not wait for everyone's approval,” Manjurul Alam Manju, president of Chittagong District Paribahan Malik Group, said.
Belayet Hossain Belal, who had called the strike, denied the allegations. He claimed that his association told authorities concerned on November 25 that it would go for a strike for an indefinite period unless the demands were not met by November.
“We went for this strike as the ultimatum expired.”
Some other demands by transport owners included stopping vehicle requisition and filing of false cases by police, creating new routes, and driving middlemen out of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority offices.
Police said they detained several “vandals” for trying to cause anarchy.