The number of intra-city public transports on Dhaka streets has fallen drastically even though the transport owners came out to confirm that their services will remain normal following the clash at Naya Paltan between police and BNP activists on Wednesday which left one man dead.
As a result, commuters, especially officegoers, suffered immensely and were forced to pay a hefty fare for alternative means of transportation.
Bus stands in Banani, Kakoli, Chairmanbari, and Mohakhali were found deserted with only a handful of shuttles coming to serve the passengers.
The members of the Dhaka Road Transport Owners’ Association on Thursday announced to keep bus services normal in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh on Saturday amid fears of violence over the BNP’s rally planned for that day following an emergency meeting.
However, some transport workers bdnews24.com has spoken to have a different narrative.
“Not many passengers today. [I] haven’t seen many longer-route coaches either. The numbers are fewer because of the BNP’s planned rally on Saturday,” said Moinul Haque, the assistant of a driver of Balaka Paribahan which operates on the Gazipur-Sayedabad route.
Another driver’s assistant of Bikash Paribahan on the Azimpur-Abdullahpur route, who could not be identified, told bdnews24.com that the operator has decided to run fewer buses.
“Some of our buses are not running today. But as you can see, seats are not filling up even after that,” he said.
A city bus of Azmeri Glory Paribahan, which moves on the Chandra-Sadarghat route, was found half-empty during the peak hours after office hours.
“There weren’t not many passengers either in the morning. Usually, this time around after work, you won’t find an inch of space on the bus to place your feet inside the bus. But see, today there’re hardly any passengers,” said Motaleb Hossain, the driver’s assistant of the bus.
At least one person was killed and scores were injured when clashes broke out on Wednesday in Naya Paltan between police and BNP activists amid a Mexican standoff centring the venue of a planned rally of the opposition party in Dhaka on Dec 10.
HARDLY ANY LONG-HAUL COACHES EITHER
The number of long-haul coaches was also found relatively low during quick visits to some of the busiest terminals in the city on Thursday evening.
Sharif Uddin, a staff of a Gulshan-based private company, had been waiting for a Tangail-bound bus at the Kakoli bus stand for over an hour.
“Usually, I travel to Tangail to spend my weekends there and it never takes more than 10-15 minutes for a coach heading that way to arrive here. But it’s been over an hour and not a single bus has so far arrived. I’m not even sure now if I can make the trip or not,” he said.
bdnews24.com approached Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, to find out why fewer long-distance coaches are operating from Dhaka, despite the owners’ earlier commitment that they will keep services normal.
He sidestepped the question. “There are coaches on the road, but not so many passengers as not many people came out today to travel due to yesterday’s incident."
One of Enayet Ullah’s peers, president of Mohakhali Inter-District Bus Owners’ Association Abul Kalam, was firm in his assertion that they did not shut down or lessened the scope of their operations.
“Every single coach is leaving from the terminals to their destinations. Not a single one was made out of operation,” he said.
Meanwhile, bdnews24.com’s photographers spotted some police checkpoints on the highways out of Dhaka city, where thorough searches were being carried out by the members of the law-enforcing agency.
BEEFED UP SECURITY IN KAMALAPUR
Security measures have been ramped up in Kamalapur, one of the major entrances to the city via railways, since Thursday morning.
Police personnel, including plainclothes detectives and Railway Police, were found carrying out ‘stop and frisk’ of the passengers coming out or going into the station.
Ferdous Biswas, chief of Railway Police Station, however, said the security measures were tightened ahead of the Victory Day celebrations on Dec 1.
“Teams of detectives and Railway Police will continue surveillance of all stations in Dhaka throughout the month to ensure the safety of the passengers,” he said.