For the centralised nature of its administration, a good number of people in the country have to live in the capital or district headquarters for work, livelihood or other requirements. Every year in the run-up to Eid these people leave the city in droves for their home districts to celebrate the occasion with near and dear ones. This has become a trend for a long time, thanks to the existence of close-knit societies in the country, which has so far passed the test of time.
By and large, Eid involves a flurry of activities ranging from shopping to collecting homebound transport tickets to preparing special meals etc. This piece is intended to highlight different aspects of the just concluded Eid festival.
In the last two years, people opted for muted celebrations of the festivals, staying indoors because of COVID-related restrictions put in place with the aim of limiting its transmission. With the country clawing back life as it was at the pre-pandemic level, citizens were mostly unfettered at making Eid plans and its celebrations this time around. This is corroborated by the fact that about 120 million people reportedly left the city before Eid.
Although the bottlenecks on two major highways (Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail-Rangpur) and at the ferry terminals on the Padma river stoked fear of long tailback and unending public suffering, homebound travellers mostly found the journey unusually smooth and hassle-free. This is because a significant number of residents sent their family members home much earlier than the holidays began in particular, and a better condition of roads apart from effective steps from law-enforcing agencies to maintain order on the roads in general. Undoubtedly, the ministries concerned and related authorities deserve a pat on the back for ramping up their efforts in providing homebound passengers with much-needed relief. That said, the journey back was not as smooth and road crashes claimed at least 40 lives and left scores injured in a span of three days of the Eid holiday putting a damper on their achievements.
Like clockwork, this time, too, transport ticket sales, though to a lesser extent, were fraught with chaos, blackmail and forgery. Just before the beginning of advance ticket sales, concerned ministers pleaded with the transport owners not to charge extra unjustifiably. Their pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears as passengers allegedly had to cough up much more than the usual fares. As a matter of fact, giving in to the unjust demand, I had to stump up an extra charge of Tk 150 for each ticket of a bus to the home district. The same may ring true for the majority of homegoers, to say the least. Deploying a specialised watchdog during festival times for keeping close tabs on transport operators could put a stop to their illegal practice.
During Eid, gas supply disruptions hogged the headlines in the news media. The supply cut starting on the night of Eid for 48 hours due to pipeline overhaul upended the Eid plan of many. People in the affected areas were left in the lurch. It was a double blow for thousands of households as they could neither cook nor could they buy fast food owing to the closure of nearby shops. bdnews24.com rightly portrayed the picture: affected residents had to set up a makeshift cooker with bricks for burning wood and paper to make a fire. All these could be averted had the authorities picked up a maintenance schedule sans Eid time.
Amid many odds and anomalies centring on Eid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's handing over of deeds for and keys to the houses under the Ashrayan-2 Project to some 32,904 homeless ahead of Eid as gifts was indeed a piece of welcome news. Elated at having a roof over their heads, they spoke to the media expressing thanks and gratitude with faces beaming with pleasures that had all the hallmarks of joy and ecstasy of the Eid festival.
Shopping is an ineluctable part of the Eid festival, which was largely limited to ordering and delivery online due to the pandemic in the last two years. With the prevailing ease-up situation, traders of clothing and lifestyle products experienced a shopping boom in the Eid market after two years of the pandemic-induced slump. From mega shopping malls to roadside tiny shops all were bursting at the seams. Almost all shopping outlets are reported to have strong sales and substantial profits, which in some cases were past the pre-pandemic levels.
During this Eid, the domestic tourism industry, which is a contributor of 3.02 percent to the country's GDP and currently employs over 4 million people, has bounced back after a continued plunge in the past two years amid the pandemic. Over 1.5 million holidaymakers made trips this time to domestic and outbound destinations that have helped rebound the hospitality sector, which lost around Tk 600 billion in 2020 and 110,000 jobs, according to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Dhaka saw a marked improvement in air quality during the Eid holiday. With an air quality index (AQI) score of 75, on May 5 in the morning, Dhaka's AQI was categorised as "moderate". Understandably, a sharp dip in vehicular and industrial emissions in the city has brought about the change. The change, ephemeral though, can be a shot in the arm. And the relevant agencies can capitalise on it and work out strategies, including phasing out fossil fuels and bringing in renewable energy, for a sustained improvement in Dhaka's air which is so badly needed for leading a healthy life.
On the whole, Eid is supposed to bring renewed joy, hope and happiness to everyone. While this was the case for many in the just concluded occasion, the desperate plight of distressed farmers from the northern part of shoal areas whose homes and crops were damaged by flash floods just ahead of Eid, as reported by newspapers, should not be overlooked.
Sharing joy and happiness with others is the motto of the Eid festival. It is an annual affair and that every year makes its due arrival. So, responsible attitudes on part of the citizenry, as well as making a well-rounded plan and institutionalising its management and implementations with proper coordination of all agencies concerned on part of the government could probably make the entire festival smoother and more meaningful for all.