About two lakh additional rickshaws have hit the city streets ahead of Eid-ul Fitr, causing massive traffic snarl-ups, with law enforcers opting to ignore the issue on what they unofficially say are humanitarian grounds.
It is the time when poor people from different parts of the country flock to the capital in a desperate bid to earn some extra money before the religious festival.
As in past years, a large number of labourers made their way to Dhaka this year as well at the start of Ramadan to earn their Eid expenses, The Daily Star found while talking with people in the sector.
However, with little knowledge of different city streets and routes, and sometimes poor understanding of traffic rules, they end up worsening the city traffic.
Rickshaws are everywhere. Schools are closed and politics has gone into hibernation. Yet there is no respite from traffic chaos. Roads have been packed like sardines since the start of Ramadan.
Areas such as New Market, Elephant Road, Green Road, Dhanmondi, Mouchak and Malibagh are the worst affected ones because of rickshaws. Travelling is really a nightmare, according to locals.
"I own 30 rickshaws and 14 of their pullers joined just ahead of and after the start of Ramadan," said Mohammad Sohel, owner of a rickshaw garage at Shahjahanpur.
He said all of them were day labourers and came from Jamalpur and Tangail districts.
"I came to Dhaka days before Ramadan began. I want to go back home with Tk 8,000 to 9,000 on the eve of Eid day," said Akhtar Hossain of Bogra, who was seen trying to get passengers at Palashi around midnight on Saturday.
He earns Tk 500 to 600 from 4:00pm till dawn. To minimise living costs, he spends his nights at the rickshaw garage and pays Tk 200 in rickshaw rent and food.
Sirajul Islam of Narsingdi, who came to Dhaka early this month, is also planning to return home with several thousands of taka for Eid expenses.
Father of two sons and a daughter, Sirajul has a small piece of land for farming, but he chose to come to Dhaka and pull rickshaws since there is no work in his village at the moment.
Sirajul, who got the rickshaw from a garage at Rayer Bagh in Kadamtoli near Narayanganj, said many rickshaws from Narayanganj often entered the city ahead of Ramadan since they help to make better earnings in the capital.
Often these rickshaws use fake numbers to dodge law enforcers, he added.
The Daily Star talked to around 30 rickshaw pullers who had come to Dhaka from different districts like Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Naogaon, Tangail, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Kishoreganj, Madaripur and Jessore.
The capital has 79,554 rickshaws licensed with the Dhaka city corporations, but around four lakh illegal rickshaws ply the city streets, said Mohor Ali, chairman of a rickshaw and rickshaw-van owners association.
On top of that, around 1.5 lakh additional rickshaws, a large number of which were either partially damaged or remained unused in the garage throughout the year for lack of demand, hit the streets ahead of Eid.
As police appear to be lenient with the rickshaw pullers during this time of the year, many are seen plying the streets that are off limits to non-motorised vehicles.
"The road is off-limits to rickshaws, but police do not stop us in Ramadan," said Rafiqul, who himself ignored the restriction.
Mosleh Uddin, DMP joint commissioner (traffic), said since the force remained busy managing the messy traffic during Ramadan, it could not keep regular vigil on rickshaws.
He, however, said sometimes police along with Dhaka city corporations' officials launched special drives against unauthorised rickshaws.