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Commuters left high and dry

by Istiak Ahmed Shimul

In addition to bus capacity being slashed to half, ride-sharing using motorcycles was banned beginning yesterday, leaving commuters in the capital in despair.

Beginning Wednesday, public transport workers are keeping half of their seats vacant to implement government directives to contain Covid-19 spread, and charging 60 percent higher fares.

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The vexation of office-goers was palpable at every bus stop and major street intersection, as half-full buses kept doors tightly closed and zoomed past them.

As most offices, companies and factories are operating in full swing, many were seen waiting for an hour to board a bus while some attempted to desperately get into buses.

Halima Begum lives in Shyamoli and works at the registry office in Tejgaon. She usually boards a bus from Farmgate.

“I was sitting at Farmgate bus stop for one and half hours last night. I am older than them, and a woman. Can I compete with young men who jump on the bus before I?”

Yesterday too, she had been waiting for 30 mins for a bus. “I am exhausted. If I don’t get anything in the next 15 minutes, I will get a rickshaw. I cannot afford a CNG, my job does not allow that. I am too old to compete to get on buses,” she said.

Twenty-year-old college students Meraz Ahmed and Rubel had come to visit their uncle who has a shop in Farmgate.

“We walked from Farmgate to Moghbazar, but could not find any bus to go back to Shahjahanpur. Finally we got on a rickshaw. The irony of the matter is, our pockets were empty and had come to visit our uncle for some financial help, and we ended up spending it on rickshaw fare,” he said.

Commuters at the starting point and ending point of routes managed to get transport, but those in the middle suffered.

The Khilket bus stop for example, is a median stop on all bus routes. The neighbourhood lies sandwiched between the periphery of major commercial points, and houses a wide range of income groups.

Yesterday, passengers carried out demonstrations at Khilkhet bus stand after being unable to find any transport during the morning rush hour.

Officer-in-charge of Khilkhet Police Station Munshi Sabbir Rahman said buses starting from Abdullahpur got half filled at the starting point and refused to stop at Khilkhet. “We had to ask them to take some passengers, so passengers would stop protesting. The buses complied,” he said.

This shows that for buses running the Khilkhet route at least, the BRTA directive was not possible to be implemented.

There was a queue of around a hundred people at Hatirjheel near Rampura Bridge, as office-goers tried in vain to catch a vehicle of the circular bus service.

SADARGHAT SEES SPARSE CROWD

Even though Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority hiked launch fare by 60 percent on condition that they will carry half their capacity, the effect could not be felt yesterday at Sadarghat. Police said it is because Sadarghat saw little foot-traffic even on a Thursday evening.

With the weekend ahead, Thursday usually witnesses a swell of city-dwellers trying to leave for their village homes.

Police said that with rising infection rates, the general populace are not choosing to leave Dhaka.

OC of River Police at Sadarghat Golam Morshed Talukder said they had taken all precautions to make sure launches do not board more than half their capacity, but the decrease in travellers in general meant the situation did not turn critical.  



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