Despite much anxiety among Dhaka city residents that the Awami League national council on Saturday would cause serious traffic jams, the situation turned out to be quite the opposite. Since morning, very few commuter vehicles have been seen on the roads.
Around 50,000 participants, including hundreds of councillors, local and foreign delegates, and other invited guests are currently attending the council being held at Suhrawardy Udyan in the city.
From 8am, police started restricting traffic inside the Dhaka University area, in addition to restrictions in the other areas surrounding the Suhrawardy Udyan premises.
People, mostly office-goers were seen waiting at bus stops while many were seen walking towards their destinations after police started implementing the traffic control plan around 9am.
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A major avenue in the capital scarcely saw any traffic on the first day of Awami League's 20th National Council Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
No vehicle was allowed to enter the Manik Mia Avenue to Farmgate route from 8am. People were seen getting down from the buses and walking to their destinations.
Also Read- Dhaka traffic advisory ahead of AL council
Even as late as midday, the tranquillity of the city remained unchanged.
Council excited, calm city
Dhaka Tribune correspondents found the city roads empty and unusually calm.
The city roads were seen almost empty with only a few of buses, private cars, and CNG-run vehicles.
A Dhaka Tribune correspondent took a motorcycle ride from Sadarghat Launch Terminal to Motijheel, Malibagh, Rampura, Hatirjheel, Sabujbagh, Tejgaon and Karwan Bazar, but did not find any traffic congestion.
On a regular day, it takes a minimum of 30 minutes for a biker to reach Motijheel from Sadarghat. On Saturday, however, it took only 15 minutes.
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Commercial areas that are usually congested saw a fraction of the usual traffic Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
Another Dhaka Tribune correspondent started his journey from Sadarghat terminal via Rampur and took the Hatirjheel route to Panthapath, taking only 40 minutes.
“Usually, I have to spend at least 30 to 45 minutes to travel to Farmgate from Shewrapara. But today, I was able to reach my destination within 12 minutes,” said Ashraful Islam, a service holder.
Travel along all of these routes by private car can easily take over an hour on an average day.
Autorickshaws and rickshaws rake it in
The absence of buses in the city was noticeable.
CNG autorickshaw drivers and rickshaw pullers had a heyday in the absence of public buses, charging higher fares on all routes. Many CNG drivers refused to use meters and haggled for fares instead.
Speaking with the Dhaka Tribune, Halima Khatun, a residence of Malibagh area, said she was supposed to go to Uttara to see her sister but could not find a bus although 30 minutes had elapsed waiting.
“I tried to take a CNG but the driver demanded Tk500 although the fare should not exceed Tk300-Tk350,” she said.
Rickshaw pullers also charged more than usual on Saturday, Azimur Rahman, who was waiting just beside Halima at Malibagh bus stop, told the Dhaka Tribune.
A human hauler driver said: “There is no traffic congestion but there are very few passengers. I have had to run the vehicle practically empty and fear that I won't be able to raise the cost of each trip let alone make a profit.
“If the situation continues into the night, I will have to make the deposit for the vehicle from my own pocket and will not be able to pay my staff.”