Transport strike: Rally over, demands gone
While transport leaders held Khulna hostage for the last two days "to wage a war against illegal three-wheelers", their vociferous demands fizzled out around the time the BNP ended its rally.
Launch workers, following suit, had stopped vessel operation to press home a 10-point demand, which included the crucial demand for higher pay.
Not to be outdone by these two, engine-boat owners too took their vessels off service on the Rupsha, demanding that per-head fare for ferrying passengers be raised by a whole taka to reflect the hike in fuel prices.
All three of these apparently unrelated transport organisations called strike in the lead-up to the BNP rally in Khulna.
Right after the rally, buses were back on the roads, launches revved their engines, and engine-boats happily ferried people.
But none of their demands have been met.
Let alone having their demands met, they had not even spoken to the authorities, nor had the government given them any assurance that their legitimate demands would be seen to.
Even more strikingly, the BNP's divisional rally dispersed at 5:45pm and the "raging protests" of the transport owners and workers fell silent by 6:30pm. Things went back to their normal state in less than an hour.
The BNP activists can surely thank their lucky stars for this "coincidence" that at least allowed them a smooth ride back home, a welcome change from the rocky road they had to trudge to reach the rally venue.
In the past, transport strikes dragged on for weeks on end with meeting after meeting taking place between workers, owners, authorities and ministers.
This time, the authorities did not take any steps to sit with those on strike. When the public suffered from this, did they know ahead of time that the protests would be short-lived?
Interestingly, while the engine-boat owners created a din stating that the oil prices no longer made it feasible for them to carry passengers, the problem seemed to apply only for those trying to make it to Khulna.
However, the crisis caused by the global oil prices seemingly did not affect trips exiting Khulna, with boat-owners merrily providing this service to the public at the existing (supposedly low) fares.
The BNP and the Awami League slung mud at each other for the past two days with the former alleging that these strikes were concerted efforts to foil their rally and the Awami League claiming ignorance.
In response to the BNP's allegation, road minister Obaidul Quader told the press on Friday that the strikes were called by the owners and workers and that the government did not direct anyone to go on strike.
Rather, he insisted, the AL-government provided all forms of administrative support for the rally to be held.
Also on Friday, Nur Mohammad Mazumder, chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), told journalists that transport operations were suspended in Khulna on political grounds.
"They have not officially approached us with their demands, and the BRTA was not aware of the strike," he said at a programme held in the capital.
A similar situation was created in Mymensingh before the BNP rally on October 15. Bus owners and workers had gone on a sudden strike citing security concerns.
As those concerns did not come to pass centring the Mymensingh rally, the Khulna transport owners came up with new concerns. This time they said they wanted battery-run three-wheelers off the roads.
If Rangpur transport owners go for a strike before October 29, the date for the BNP's next divisional rally, will that be a coincidence too?