A new agitation has started in the transport sector centering the newly enacted Transport Act. The indefinite strike enforced by goods transport workers since Sunday partially across the country, is affecting the supply chain and businesses.
Mainly observed in Dhaka division and some northern districts, the strike pressed for amendments to the Road Transport Act 2018 passed by parliament on September 19, following a countrywide student movement demanding road safety.
Although supported by majority of the countrymen, transport owners and workers are terming the punishment prescribed in the new act ‘illogical’ as they provide services to the nation by carrying goods from one district to another.
Bangladesh Goods Transport Owners Workers United Association since Sunday morning enforced an indefinite strike in Dhaka to press their seven-point demands, including amendments to the Road Transport Act, 2018.
The association, on Saturday, announced that the truck workers would not transport any goods until their demands were met.
However, goods transport owners and workers in Chattogram, Jashore, Bagura and Sylhet did not join the strike.
‘I just informed the authorities about their demands,’ said shipping minister Shajahan Khan, also a transport labour leader.
Road transport and highways division secretary Md Nazrul Islam alleged that transport owners and workers were trying to make an issue by observing work abstention after enactment of the new law.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in this regard said, “The goods transport owners and workers on Friday last promised not to impose any strike. But they violated their own promise.”
If roads and highways minister Obaidul Quader wishes I am ready to sit with the protesters, he added.
Abdul Motaleb, general secretary of the Bangladesh Truck Covered Van Transport Agency Owners Association, said they stopped driving trucks and covered vans since 6:00 am Sunday.
Following the indefinite strike, no truck or covered van left, or entered, Dhaka since the morning.
Observing that truck drivers do not kill anyone deliberately, Motaleb said, “A provision in the act states if an investigation proves that the death in a road accident was deliberate—it will be regarded as a punishable offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code.”
“If the government does not take any initiative to amend the law, we will enforce an indefinite strike,” he threatened.
Transport sector sources said that goods transport owners and workers in Chattogram, Jashore, Bagura and Sylhet did not join the work abstention.
Shyambazar Krishi Panya Arot Bonik Samity organizing secretary Mosharraf Hossain Molla said the strike will have an immediate impact on kitchen market prices of perishable food items like vegetables.
‘It is only natural for prices to rise when supply goes down against demand,’ said Mosharraf.
For food items like onions, potatoes or garlic, he said, it may take a day or two for their prices to go up following the strike depending on their stock.
Meanwhile, on Sunday night and Monday, transport workers staged demonstrations at different points of the city including Jatrabari, Mohammadpur and Tejgaon.
Blockading roads and vandalising vehicles, they created obstacles to vehicular movements including public buses. At those places, the workers harassed drivers who are opposed to the strike, before law enforcers and senior transport leaders brought the situation under control.
At some places public transport workers during the last two days, also joined the strike, decreasing the number of public transports at different routes of the capital and creating sufferings for the everyday commuters.
Many people were seen waiting at Mohammadpur, Gabtoli and Farmgate bus stand since morning because of the lack of transport.
Over 100 transport workers took to the streets at Teen Rastar Mor in Bosila in the city’s Mohammadpur area since morning, expressing solidarity with the truckers.
Some locals from West Dholaipar area alleged that transport workers blocked the Jatrabari-Postogola road in the morning obstructing movement of all vehicles and harassed some transport workers.
In the city, many passengers were also seen suffering due to lack of transport while the council leaders claimed that some passenger vehicle workers joined them.
At several intersections of the capital, transport workers checked license of the drivers; and if anyone was found without driving licenses they pasted burnt mobil on their faces.
No Swadhin Paribahan buses left Mohammadpur bus stand for Banasri on Sunday and Monday. Several other public bus companies including Meshkat, Moitree, Dipon, ATCL, FTCL and Prajapati Paribahan stopped their services.
Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Md Moniruzzaman Moni alleged that vegetable traders were facing huge losses in the district as they were not able to send the perishable kitchen goods to other districts due to the strike.
Goods import and export activities through Sonamasjid land port in Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabganj were also suspended due to the strike, Moniruzzaman added.
Md Anwar Hossain Anu, Narayanganj District Truck, Tank, Lorry and Covered Van Workers Union organising secretary, said no goods laden transports ran in the district all over the day.
Movement of goods laden vehicles were normal in the port city on Monday, reports our correspondent in Chattogram.
Chattogram Port Authority secretary Omar Faruq said in Chattogram the vehicles movement and loading unloading was going on in full swing.
Earlier, on Saturday, the owners’ association held a protest rally to amend the new law. Addressing another rally in the city, leaders of transport owners and workers threatened to launch a more intensive movement unless the government changes the Road Transport Act, 2018.