Inter-district transport shutdown fails to stop commuters


Despite the government imposing a strict 9-day-lockdown on 7 districts with high Covid-19 transmission rate, and banning inter-district transports to delink Dhaka, homebound and capital-bound commuters are continuing moving.

They seem to be determined to reach their ends by using mostly alternative means of transportation, or even walking if they have to. On getting to the edge of the capital or the districts under restriction, they easily find cars, microbuses, auto-rickshaws, CNG-rickshaws, and motorbikes waiting to get them to their destinations, but at much higher fares.

The number of these alternative vehicles even increases once the evening starts to fall, as the pressure of homebound passengers increases at night. People who cannot but head to their village or get back to Dhaka are opting for the risky journeys defying all odds.

Since the start of the lockdown on June 22, many drivers are available with their private cars, microbuses and motorbikes at the edge of the capital including Jatrabari, Gabtali and Abdullapur. People are getting on these, and flouting health guidelines to reach their homes. 

They, who wear facemasks, hardly wear the masks properly, let alone maintain social distance.

But none of the transports can go far, crossing one district to another, for there are check-posts of the law enforcers to ensure the ban. So, the passengers have to change vehicles several times.

One Md Abul Hasan had the worst experience during a journey to Dhaka from Faridpur on Thursday as he could not but get back to the capital to make his livelihood. He told Bangladesh Post after getting back to Dhaka, “Usually it takes me two vehicles and a launch/ferry to go to my village or return to Dhaka. But this time, it took me six to seven vehicles to reach Dhaka.”

“This time, I had to pay a total of around Tk 1,500 to the vehicles I got up while it would only take me around Tk 300 from Faridpur in a bus.”, he said annoyingly.

It does not only make the commuters suffer by changing a number of vehicles, they have to pay way more than the average fare. The vehicle owners and drivers find the lockdown periods an opportunity to make some quick cash.

“Usually it takes Tk 100 to 150 to reach Munshiganj Mawa ferry ghat by bus, but the microbus drivers were asking for a minimum of Tk 500 to 1000 per person”, said Razu Ahmed, who was waiting at Gulistan in the capital to get on a microbus, shared with a few other passengers.

The drivers are claiming it is okay to take higher fares. They say they have to face challenges to ply their vehicles as they are running their vehicles defying the eyes of the law enforcers, with the risk of getting fined.

Mohammad Munibur Rahman, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) told Bangladesh Post on the movement of people, “We are giving out best efforts to check the movement of people. We have checkposts installed at the corners of the city. But the people who are from a short distance like Narayanganj and Gazipur are not even using transports. They walk towards Dhaka.”

“People have to be careful along with our efforts. Once they are made aware of the situation, the government’s initiative will be successful”, he added emphasizing on the awareness of the mass people.

The government has announced a nine-day strict lockdown in seven districts, including four districts around Dhaka, to curb Coronavirus transmission from June 22 till June 30, this month. The districts are Narayanganj, Gazipur, Munshiganj, Manikganj, Madaripur, Gopalganj and Rajbari.