Bus fares are too high for these Eid travellers. They opt for trucks to go home

A group of construction workers carrying their equipment walked all the way from Mirpur Mazar Road to Amin Bazar, a bustling transport hub. They were looking for a way home to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with their loved ones.

Golam MortujaAntu, Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 6 July 2022, 06:48 PM
Updated : 6 July 2022, 06:48 PM

The swarm of Eid travellers has yet to reach its peak, but some of them have wrapped up their work in Dhaka and headed home.

One of them, Shariful Islam, failed to catch a vehicle to the northern district of Bogura after trying for half an hour.

"The bus staff are asking for at least Tk 600 for the trip. They are charging people Tk 400-500 even for a seat on the engine cover. I tried to get a ride on a truck, but they too demanded no less than Tk 250," he said.

Shariful, 28, worked on piling under a contractor at Aftabnagar in Dhaka. He was going home early due to the Eid holidays but the occasion brought little joy to him as it meant an additional expenditure of his hard-earned money.

“We earn on a day-to-day basis. There's no bonus for us. Whatever we make is spent during Eid. I have two daughters at home and have to buy something for them. There's no income during Eid -- only more spending." Shariful, therefore, thinks twice before taking the Eid trip back home.

Like Shariful, many others from the lower-income groups, especially the day labourers, are forced to travel back home during the Eid holidays at higher fares. To cut down on their spending, many of them depend on truckers. The trucks that return home empty after delivering animals to the cattle markets in Dhaka are a cheaper option for them.

The group of four including Shariful started for Gabtoli from their makeshift residence in Aftabnagar on Tuesday evening. They arrived at Mazar Road at around 9.30 pm and found out that the ticket prices were “too high”.

They walked over to Amin Bazar Bridge and waited in search of other means to travel along with some other groups.

Around 11:15 pm, a Chapainawabganj-bound SM Enterprise bus stopped near them and began calling for passengers. The driver's assistant said each seat on the engine cover would cost Tk 500 for the trip.

The fare was too high for the passengers but the bus staff gave no discount. As the police started flashing the laser asking the bus to move, the driver went over to the middle of the bridge where the parties began haggling over the fare again.

Only two from the collection of groups agreed to pay Tk 300 per person to travel as far as the Hatikumrul intersection.

Police disallowed trucks from stopping at the Dhaka end of the Amin Bazar Bridge and Shariful began strolling again with his group.

Another 40 people were waiting on the other side of the bridge to travel up north, with all of them vying for a cheaper trip home.

Soon, a truck filled with empty crates stopped by and called for passengers headed for Natore, Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj, three neighbouring districts.

The driver's assistant initially asked for Tk 400 per person, but the trip-seekers managed to haggle it down to a "fixed fare of Tk 300".

“Do you have soft mattresses spread over the truck or something? Why are you asking for such a high fare?” said one disgruntled traveller.

“The government raised the prices of everything, and you only blame us when we ask for higher fares. If we carry passengers, we need to pay a commission to the [law enforcers] as well. We've to make some income, don’t we?” the assistant snapped back.

Some weary travellers ignored his claim and got on board. But those still waiting on the roadside united in their criticism of the government.

As time passed, some more trucks stopped by and the desperate people rushed to those for a bargain. But no matter the destination, the fare remained over Tk 300 and very few of them chose to get on.

As the crowd kept growing, two rickshaw pullers appeared to be in no hurry for a ride to Gobindaganj in Gaibandha, another northern district.

“Now there are too many people here. Let the crowd thin out and the truck fare will automatically drop. There’s no point rushing,” said Jabedul, who gave a single name.

His assumption proved to be right as a mini-truck loaded with steel plain sheets hit the brakes and offered a trip to Bogura for Tk 300 each person. However, the waiting crowd began to haggle again.

Annoyed by this, the driver asked for Tk 1,500 for nine persons, eventually settling for Tk 1,200 to take them home.

People then rushed frantically to the truck. "Hey, hold this sack,” one of them shouted. “Throw me the bucket,” another man barked. A group of nine boarded the vehicle in the midst of a ruckus.

Truck fares to Bogura began to drop after 1 am as trip-seekers got rides for Tk 100 to Tk 150 per person, though the fares to Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj still ranged between Tk 200 and Tk 250.

A group of four labourers who worked at the Dhaka airport had patiently waited up to that point for a trip to Chapainawabganj but were unable to meet the expected fare, so the group began the journey on foot.

The travellers avoided many trucks returning from the Eid cattle markets as they smelt of cow dung. But a large group of workers gave in to the urgency and boarded one such truck when the driver asked for Tk 150 per person for a ride.

As the night darkened, Amin Bazar gradually became deserted with the poor workers departing for home.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher