Transport restriction hits commuters

In many places, law enforcers ‘advised’ bus and launch owners to keep their vehicles off the road for ‘security reasons’

The virtual blockade imposed by the government led people from all walks of life to hit a bad patch since Friday evening as the opposition was approaching its pre-scheduled “march to Dhaka” programme.

The road and rail communications between Dhaka and other districts came to a grinding halt making commuters, plus commoners suffer their worst.

The pro-Awami League transport associations halted traffic movement in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country in an effort to thwart the opposition’s programme.

In many places, law enforcers “advised” bus and launch owners to keep their vehicles off the road for “security reasons”.

At Gabtoli, Syedabad and Mohakhali bus stations, buses had been kept idle since Friday night.

Train passengers thronged the Kamlapur Railway Station and left with a sense of frustrations. Only a few water vessels were allowed to anchor at Sadarghat Launch terminal and to leave the station.

The BNP chairperson on Tuesday urged people from all walks of life to converge on Nayapaltan for Dhaka march to press home their demand for an election under a nonparty government.

Centring the opposition’s programme, police high-ups said they would not allow the troublemakers to come to Dhaka and create anarchy under the cover of a political programme.

The commuters observed that they did not experience this kind of “strike” even during the opposition-called back-to-back nationwide blockades and Jamaat-called hartals.

Talking with the Dhaka Tribune some called the transport restriction “government-sponsored blockade”, the same of which was created by the government to foil BNP’s rally on March 12.

In the capital, commuters were seen wait at different bus stations since morning.

Long queues were seen at Shahbagh, Banglamotor, Farmgate, Moghbazar, Mirpur, Asadgate, Jatrabari and Mohakhali bus stations.

CNG-run three-wheelers, small trucks and rickshaws capitalised on the traffic restriction.

From Mirpur to Motijheel, bus fare is only Tk20, but yesterday commuters had to spare Tk200 for the commute.

“We have paid Tk200 each to reach Gabtoli from Manikganj,” said one mini-truck rider Mozammel Haque who had two children and wife with him.

He was struggling to get a vehicle to reach Sadarghat launch terminal from where he would embark on a journey by sea to Bhola to attend his father’s first death anniversary tomorrow.

Sources said only 13 vessels reached the anchorage from different districts.

A BIWTA traffic inspector Syed Mahfuzur Rahman said six launches left the terminal in the morning with a handful of passengers.

Asked why water vessels were not plying, he said launches ceased to ply for security reason.

Our Barisal correspondent reports at least 7 triple-deck launches were kept idle near Beltala shipyard, about two kilometres from the launch terminal.

Barisal Launch Owners’ Association sources said no-launch would sail for Dhaka because of the restriction imposed by the administration.

Aftab Hossain, president of the city Sramik League and Barisal Bus Owners’ Association, claimed that the plying of buses and launches were stopped, not by the pressure of administration, but by the decision of the association.

Many passengers thronged Kamlapur Railway Station for train, the mode of transport they could at least rely during blockades and hartals, but to no avail this time.

A private company employee Syed Sahidul Alam said he bought a ticket of Gadhuli Express to go to Chittagong which was supposed to leave Dhaka at 3:20pm, but the authorities announced that it was uncertain when the train would come.

“I had already spent Tk600 on the fare of a CNG-auto rickshaw to go to Syedabad bus station from Gandaria, but failed to get any transport.”

Sahidul Alam said he had gone to Shyamoli and experienced the same situation.

Several passengers at the railway station said the station master and the manager had to leave their office around 9am following protest by the aggrieved passengers waiting for trains for hours.

“Somehow, we managed the situation. Passengers will be given their refunds,” a staff of the station manager’s office said, seeking anonymity.

Our correspondent reports all Dhaka-bound trains from northern districts were being barred at Tangail station from entering the capital following the authorities’ order.

Padma Express from Rajshahi and Nilsagar Express from Nilphamari were sent back to their respective starting points after they reached Gharinda Railway Station in Tangail at 7:10am and 7:40am.

On the other hand most inter-district bus companies kept the shutters of their counters down.

At Gabtoli, SP Golden Line’s counter Manager Arifuzzaman said the buses that left Jessore and Satkhira Friday evening were yet to reach the capital.

“Ferries are not plying. So, we don’t know when the buses will come,” he said.

local Awami League and Workers’ League activists were seen take positions near Gabtoli to resist for what they said anarchy by the opposition in the name of Dhaka march.

A highly placed source at Police headquarters said the long-distance vehicles would not ply till Sunday evening.

Moreover, transport associations in Chittagong, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna called a two-day transport strike from yesterday morning, protesting the recent vandalism and arson attacks on vehicles.

Source: Dhaka Tribune