Owners, workers demand resumption of public transport

Threaten countrywide protests from Sunday

Staff Correspondent

1 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Leaders of transport owners and workers on Friday demanded resumption of public transport services considering the sufferings of common people and for the sake of livelihood of transport workers amid the lockdown.

They also requested the government to launch a stimulus package and provide food and financial assistance to support the transport owners and workers affected by the impact of the pandemic. 

Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation and Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association made the demands separately on Friday.

Earlier on Thursday, Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association, another major association of transport owners, came up with the same demand.

Transport owners said the transport sector has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and they are unable to shoulder bank loans any longer. Many transport workers had lost their jobs due to recent and last year’s complete shutdowns across the country, they said.

Apart from these, the transport sector bodies also hinted at staging a countrywide demonstration to press their demand for resumption of public transport services.

In a press conference at Jatiya Press Club, Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation placed a three-point demand including providing financial assistance to transport workers and introducing the sale of rice at Tk 10 per kg at bus terminals.

The transport body said they will stage countrywide demonstrations on May 2. They will also submit memorandums to the deputy commissioners in every district after staging a sit-in programme in front of the DC offices on Tuesday (May 4).

While announcing the programmes, the general secretary of the federation, Osman Ali, said they do not want to oppose the shutdown as the government announced it to save lives.

“As per the notification, the operations of labour-intensive industries, markets,               

educational institutions and courts are supposed to be closed. But garment factories, shopping malls, kitchen markets and offices are operating despite the lockdown,” he said.

For the sake of over 5 million transport workers, Osman said the government should resume public transport services as several thousands of people are now compelled to use alternative vehicles with extra fare and high risk of infections.

During the last one year of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has repeatedly directed to go by the health guidelines but most of the public transports ignored hygiene rules.

Over the issue, vice-president of the federation Sadikur Rahman Hiru said they had a meeting with the road transport minister and home minister in this regard.

“We will accept any punishment if we do not follow the health guidelines in a full-fledged manner. It is also a challenge for the transport sector,” he said.

Echoing the transport workers federation, the transport owners association has demanded that buses be allowed to resume their operations while maintaining hygiene rules.

In a statement on Friday, the organization’s President Mashiur Rahman Ranga and Secretary-General Khandaker Enayet Ullah also demanded the government to allocate Tk 50,000 crore as special incentives at a low interest rate.

Eid is knocking at the door but hundreds of thousands of transport workers are out of work. Many owners are living miserable lives with bank loan instalments, they said.

“The government should provide food assistance to workers and resume bus services,” the statement added.

On Thursday, bus-truck owners demanded the resumption of the public transport services at half capacity, Tk 5,000 crore loans with a low interest rate, waiving interests against loans taken by transport owners.

Ramesh Chandra Ghosh, chairman of the association, said that around two crore of passengers use roads while around 30 lakh workers and three lakh owners are fully dependent on the income from three lakh buses and minibuses.

Before came up with these demands, the workers blocked the road in front of Gabtoli inter-district bus terminal.

Earlier, the government imposed an apparently loose nationwide lockdown for one week from April 5 as the coronavirus cases continued to rise alarmingly from late March.

But the government allowed the resumption of public transport in city corporation areas from April 7 as well as reopening shops and shopping malls for five days from April 9 in the face of protests against the lockdown. The apparently relaxed lockdown extended by two more days till April 13.

As per the suggestion of the health experts, the government has compelled to enforce stricter lockdown from April 14 to April 22.

Later another gazette notification was issued to extend the ongoing lockdown by another week till April 28.

As the coronavirus situation of neighbouring India has taken a serious turn, the government also closed the border with India for 14 days from April 26.

However, the government allowed shops and shopping malls to open from April 25 due to the protests against the lockdown and taking life and livelihood into cognizance.

The Cabinet Division on Wednesday again issued a circular extending the date till May 5 midnight.