Launch service to the south of the country has continued from the Sadarghat on the first day of the third phase of blockades called by the BNP. However, only a few passengers decided to travel.
On Wednesday, 11 launches left Sadarghat for Barishal, Bhola, Chandpur, and Shariatpur carrying a small contingent of passengers. Some of the vessels were so empty that owners were worried about earning enough from the trips to pay for the fuel.
“The number of passengers has dropped due to the ongoing blockade. Though they were on the schedule, five launches haven’t left the Sadarghat at all. Still, launch service is available,” said Transport Inspector ABS Mahmud of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority.
"We got seven passengers for first class, 33 for the deck section and only nine for the chair section. How can we run a business with such a small number of passengers?" said Md Hridoy Khan, captain of 'Boghdadia-6' launch before it set off for Shariatpur.
The Imam Hasan, Sonar Tori-2, and Boghdadia-8 launches started for Chandpur on Wednesday morning. The Doyel-10 and Karnaphuli-14 launches left for Bhola's Ilisha, while Boghdadia-6 and Swarnadweep-8 set off to Shariatpur's Haturia. The Aulad-2 and Dweepraj-4 went to Barishal's Muladi and the Saruk-1 went to Bhola's Hakim.
Md Shohag Mollik, captain of the Boghdadia-8 launch, said it was carrying only 63 passengers to Chandpur. "I'm not sure how long we can continue the service with so few passengers," he said.
The company was facing 'financial losses' but they had to continue launch service to keep the route working, he said. "We're plying the launch to maintain our goodwill also."
"We had a few more passengers –135 –
heading for Bhola's Ilisha. But it's not worth the fuel cost," said Karnaphuli-14 captain Mizanur Rahman.
On Tuesday, 61 launches left while 58 launches reached the Sadarghat, said ABS Mahmud.
There were no security issues at the Sadarghat, said Sadarghat River Police Station chief Abul Kalam.
The BNP has called a fresh 48-hour blockade programme for road, rail and river routes in Bangladesh for the third time as part of its anti-government movement. The blockade started on Wednesday and will end at 6 am on Friday.
The opposition party has announced several programmes since it clashed with the police at a rally in Dhaka's Naya Paltan on Oct 28. A strike was called on Oct 29 following the clashes.
The BNP then called for a nationwide blockade from Oct 31 to Nov 2, followed by another phase of blockades on Oct 5-6. Now the BNP has called another blockade programme for Wednesday and Thursday.