BD Post Report
Daily commuters in the capital and elsewhere in the country were left stranded on the roads at a loss after they came out of homes on the first working day of the week to go to their workplaces as the country’s transport workers enforced a countrywide transport strike from Sunday 6:00am.
The streets of Dhaka virtually became free of buses on the first day of the 48-our countrywide strike, leaving school-, college- and workplace-bound passengers amid untold sufferings.
Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation (BRTWF) called the strike from a rally organised in front of the National Press Club on Friday, demanding amendment to the recently enacted Transport Act 2018.
The strike was confirmed in a press release, too, signed by BRTWF president lawmaker Wajiuddin Khan and general secretary Osman Ali and sent to media on Saturday night. The release threatened of an indefinite strike from October 30, ‘if their eight-point demand is not met within the period’.
Thousands of people were seen waiting for buses at various bus-stands all across the capital on Sunday morning. Their sufferings multiplied by noon as more and more people, mostly uninformed about the sudden strike, joined the stranded office- and school-going commuters.
No public transport, except for a few state-owned BRTC buses, some CNG auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws, was seen plying the city streets. Many people were forced to walk on foot to reach their destinations. Others rode rickshaws, rickshaw vans and CNG-run auto-rickshaws paying double fare than the usual.
In reply to a query, road transport minister Obaidul Quader categorically rejected any possibility of fulfillment of the workers’ demand saying, “There is no scope at present to amend the Transport Act as only two days are left of the current session of the parliament.”
Addressing the workers, he said, “Withdraw the strike. There is no profit in making people suffer.”
Meanwhile, when asked about the strike, BRTWF executive president and also the shipping minister Shahjahan Khan declined to make any comment on Sunday noon at his secretariat office. He avoided a group of approaching reporters saying, “No comment; no comment.”
“There is no precedence to make accident-related offences non-bailable,” said BRTWF general secretary Osman Ali. “And it is not possible for drivers to pay Tk 500,000 in fine for road accidents.”
Our correspondent reports, unruly transport workers harassed passengers at Jatrabari intersection in the capital, forcefully pulling them down from private cars, rickshaws and auto-rickshaws, although organisers claimed that the strike covers public transport only. The workers pasted burnt black mobil on the faces of drivers of private cars and CNG autos.
Hundreds of commuters were seen waiting at Farmgate, Malibagh, Moghbazar, Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Shyamoli, Asadgate, Nilkhet, Azimpur, Mohakhali, Kuril, Mirpur-1, Mirpur-10 and other intersections of the capital for bus. A very few of them succeeded riding on the BRTC buses.
Shakila Haque, who works at a private company in Karwan Bazar, said she had waited at Malibagh, Mouchak and Maghbazar for a long time.
Nawrin Hassan, from Mahanagar Housing Society at Hatirjheel, said she had waited for a bus for about an hour.
“Usually, I have to wait for five minutes for a bus. As there was a long queue, I looked for a CNG-run auto-rickshaw but to no avail. I waited for a bus again,” she said.
“Fortunately I got a bus and reached near Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC). In a rickshaw van, I reached my office at Karwan Bazar,” Nawrin said.
Traffic Inspector Asad from Abdullahpur area in the capital said that there is no public transport on the roads since morning. The number of private vehicles is also limited. People are travelling on rickshaws to reach their destination.
A woman and her aged mother were seen crying beside the road at Khilkhet in the capital. They were going to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, but finding no transport for a long time the woman started crying sitting on the pavement.
Her mother said, “I wanted to go to the hospital to see a doctor for my daughter but found no buses even after waiting for two hours. We were not informed about the strike earlier.”
Basu Deb, who works at a private company and resides in Mirpur’s Purobi area, said that he had to stand on the road for a public bus from 6am to go to Motijheel, but no vehicle was there.
“Later, I had to hire a rickshaw for office,” he added.
Moreover, no inter-district buses also left Gabtoli, Mohakhali or Sayedabad terminals in the morning.
“We tried to run some buses in the morning,” BRTC Gazipur Depot Manager Bulbul Ahmed said. “But they were blocked at the Gazipur crossroads and at Board Bazar by transport workers. They beat some of our drivers. So we have halted service,” he said.
No long-route buses left the Mohakhali Inter-District Bus Terminal on Sunday morning, said Bus Owners Association general secretary Abdul Malek.
Our correspondents from different districts reported that no long-route buses left respective bus-stands following the strike.
The eight point demands of the transport workers include: making all offences by road accident ‘bailable’, cancellation of the provision of fining Tk 500,000 for involvement in a road accident, keeping a representative from their federation in any probe body formed for road accident, fixing minimum educational qualification for getting driving licence to class-V, and stopping police harassment on roads.
On 12 October, the workers’ association decided to launch demonstration by going on a two-day work abstention from 28 October to press home their eight-point demands that included amendments to the Road Transport Act, if their demands are not met by 27 October.
BD Post Report