People are resorting to rented cars, short-route buses to reach their village home
With the Eid-ul-Fitr approaching fast, a large number of desperate people are leaving Dhaka for their village homes along with family members throwing caution to the wind amid the government-imposed movement restrictions imposed to curb the transmission of coronavirus.
Although no long-route buses are allowed on the roads, people are resorting to rented cars, microbuses, CNG-run auto rickshaws and even mini trucks for small distances, and changing vehicles several times to reach long destinations.
Since Friday morning, the holidaymakers were seen gathering at the capital’s exit points such as Gabtoli, Syedabad, Gulistan, Gazipur and Tongi intersections to catch local transports, knowing that they will have to take multiple stoppages on their way home.
From Gabtoli, the wave of home-goers moved to Paturia Ferry Terminal while from Syedabad and Gulistan people rushed to Shimulia terminal to cross the Padma River.
The government has not resumed operation of passenger trains during the ongoing lockdown. However, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) resumed flights on seven domestic routes on a limited scale from April 21.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked Muslims to celebrate the Eid in their present locations to help check the spread of coronavirus across the country.
The officials of all government, semi-government autonomous and private organizations, banks, and financial institutions were asked to remain at their respective workstations during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.
Huge crowd at ferry terminals
“Both passengers and vehicles are thronging in large numbers at the Paturia Ferry Terminal since early hours of Friday,” said Zillur Rahman, deputy general manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) Aricha office.
The authorities have increased the number of ferries to 15 on the Paturia-Daulatdia route.
Regardless, many private vehicles and goods-laden trucks were waiting in long queues at the terminal waiting to cross the Padma River.
Mawa Traffic Police Inspector (TI) Helal Uddin said that it would not be possible to prevent the transmission of coronavirus since many people were travelling without maintaining the health guidelines.
He added that in order to handle the extra pressure of passengers and goods-carrying vehicles, the terminal authorities had chosen to allow vehicles on a priority basis. “As a result, around 800 vehicles, including 300 freight trucks, are stuck at the Shimulia Ghat since Friday morning.”
Shafayet Ahmed, BIWTC manager at the Shimulia Ferry Terminal, said a total of 15 ferries were operating on the Shimulia-Kathalbari route since Friday morning.
At both of the ferry terminals, good-laden vehicles and private vehicles could not use the ferry for hours as large numbers of people boarded on the ferries on foot.
The situation developed as the holidaymakers have only ferries to cross the Padma River.
The authorities halted operation of all the 87 launches due to lockdown that normally carry thousands of passengers. Nearly 500 speedboats and trawlers were also not in operation on Friday.
At Paturia Ferry Terminal, Bashir Ahmed, an employee of a private organization, said that he was going to Faridpur with his family members.
“We thought that before Eid there will be a rush. But what we have seen here is unbelievable. This is more than an Eid rush,” he said.
Meanwhile, a mobile court imposed a Tk20,000 fine on a BIWTC staff as he charged extra money from the drivers to board a ferry at Daulatdia Ferry Terminal.
Charging extra fare
Some home-goers alleged that small trucks, private cars and microbuses were taking advantage of the situation by charging fares five times more than usual.
Crowds of homebound people were seen at Signboard, Shirail intersections and Kanchpur bus stand on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
According to the passengers, the long-distance bus counter staff were charging TK400 from Comilla-bound people, Tk500-600 from Chandpur-bound passengers, Tk200-250 from Daudkandi-bound and Tk300-350 from Gauripur-bound people.