Saturday, 27 November, 2021

Transport Strike

Untold sufferings of commuters

Untold sufferings of commuters
People’s sufferings are aggravated on Saturday, the 2nd day of the nationwide indefinite transport strike, for want to vehicles. In the photo taken from Gabtoli area in the capital, people are seen heading towards their destinations on foot carrying sacks. – SUN PHOTO

The transport strike enforced across the country for an indefinite period in protest against the rise in fuel prices entered its second consecutive day on Saturday, paralysing the country.

Dhaka was virtually cut off from the rest of the country as no long-haul buses or trucks left or entered the capital because of the strike.

Public transport such as buses, minibuses and human-haulers went off the roads on Friday in response to the strike, causing immense sufferings for commuters.

Goods transportation from different ports in the country was suspended due to the transport strike.

Exporters say the sudden hike in fuel prices will negatively affect exports, imports and local markets.

The delivery of imported goods has been suspended since Friday morning, resulting in container congestion at the ports.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Vice-president Shahidullah Azim said the sudden hike in fuel prices will put them into serious trouble.

Mohhamad Hatem, executive president at Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said a single-day strike caused a halt to at least $135 million exports.

“If the strike continues, buyers may put pressure to ship goods by air freight. If failed to do so, orders might be halted or cancelled,” he said. The delivery of imported goods was significantly disrupted in the sea and land ports, including Chattogram, Mongla and Benapole.

Meanwhile, vegetable prices were hiked at kitchen markets in the capital on Saturday on the impact of the strike.

Infuriated by the transport strike, general people urged the government to enact a law against a sudden transport strike.

In the capital, commuters, particularly the office-goers and students, had to face immense trouble in reaching their destinations.

Hundreds of people were seen waiting at bus stands for hours together for transport to go to their respective destinations. Many were also seen going to their destinations on foot.

Private cars, motorcycles, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and rickshaws were seen plying the city streets.

 Many commuters alleged that CNG-run auto-rickshaws were charging excessive fares to take advantage of the situation.

There are also complaints that ride sharing apps like Uber and Pathao hiked their fares significantly.

Only a handful numbers of government-run BRTC bus service operated in the capital. Most of the BRTC buses were seen jam-packed with the passengers. Many were seen trying to get into the jam-packed BRTC buses to reach their destinations.

Naim Rahman, an employee of a private organisation standing at Airport bus stoppage, said, “I will go to Mohakhali. But I could not make any arrangements even after standing for a long time. The CNG-run auto-rickshaws who are willing to go are asking huge rent.”

“People are being hostage as there is no bus. Understanding the peril of the passengers, auto-rickshaws and others vehicles are asking two to three time higher price," he added.

Many people were seen waiting for buses at various points on Dhaka-Aricha Highway. Some used short-distance human haulers, easy bikes and battery-run rickshaws to go to their destinations.

Our correspondents from different districts reported that no long-route buses left bus stands there. However, battery-run auto-rickshaws were in operation for a short-distance journey.

Leaders of the Truck Owners and Workers Federation on Saturday held a meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal at his residence in the capital's Dhanmondi.

After the meeting, they vowed to continue the nationwide transport strike until the additional fuel prices are withdrawn or transport fares are increased.

"We’ll continue the strike until our demand is met," said a leader of the federation after the meeting.

The home minister reportedly affirmed that the decision will be announced after talking to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Additional Secretary General of the Truck Workers-Owners Federation Abdul Motaleb said the strike will end only after one of the two demands is met.

He said the transport owners of the country have no intention to continue the strike if the government can reach a solution through negotiations.

Meanwhile, launch owners also suspended their launch operations across the country on Saturday, protesting the fuel price hike.

Bangladesh Inland Water Passenger Carrier Association's (BIWPCA) Secretary Siddiqur Rahman Patwary said, "We had a meeting on Friday about raising fares. We also talked to the BIWTA chairman over phone. He told us that there will be a meeting with us at 12:30pm today over the issue. But he has not contacted us yet."

"Now, launch owners are unwilling to run their vessels. However, the organisation has not declared any programme or strike," he added.

Zaynul Abedin, joint director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) at Sadarghat, said launches were already moved from Sadarghat, the largest launch terminal in Dhaka.

Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carriers) Association demanded on Friday that the government double launch fares from Tk 1.7 per kilometre to Tk 3.4 for the first 100 km and from Tk 1.4 per km to Tk 2.8 per km for travelling the distance beyond the first 100km.

Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association, Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation and Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Drivers Union said they will not withdraw the strike until the hike in the fuel price is cancelled or transport fares are increased.

Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Owners’ Association President Md Tofazzal Hossain Majumder and Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association Executive President Rustam Ali Khan on Thursday announced the nationwide indefinite strike, protesting against the hike in the diesel price. On Wednesday, Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) increased the prices of diesel and kerosene at the retail level by Tk 15 per litre in line with the global market.

The transport strike hampered business activities in Chattogram port city. Movement of both public and goods-laden transport was also suspended.

Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) Secretary Md Omar Faruk said that no goods was delivered and entered Chattogram port on Saturday due to the strike.

Khatungonj Trade and Commerce Industry General Secretary Syed Sagir Ahmed said businesses at the country's biggest wholesale market were hampered greatly as no buyer came to the market due to the transport strike.

The business leader urged transport workers to withdraw the strike and the government to find a solution to the crisis. A faction of transport owners announced operation of their buses in the port city.

Chattogram Metropolitan Transport Owners Group President Belayet Hossain said that they would ply buses in Chattogram city, considering public sufferings.

But, they will continue a discussion with the government to press home their demands, he said.

Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation Chattogram Secretary General Golam Rasul Babul said they continued their strike in protest against the hike in diesel price.