People suffer as transport strike on

Staff Correspondent | Published: 14:07, Nov 20,2019 | Updated: 00:52, Nov 21,2019


A woman handover a newborn to a man over a road divider as an ambulance carrying a mother and the baby got stuck in a congestion triggered by a road block imposed by transport workers in Signboard area in Narayanganj on Wednesday. — Sourav Lasker  

Chaos ruled over roads across the country cauisng sufferings to passengers and disrupting commodity supply as goods vehicle owners and workers on Wednesday joined bus workers on strike in protest at the Road Transport Act 2018.

Bus workers in around 30 districts were on strike since Friday though the leaders of bus owners and workers claimed they did not enforce any strike.

Export and import activities halted at Chattogram and Benapole ports on the day while businesspeople feared severe disruption in trade and subsequent price hike of essential commodities if the strike continues.

Prices of vegetables went up at Karwan Bazar wholesale market in Dhaka on the day. Reports from Barishal also said increase of prices of kitchen market and grocery items after the strike enforced.

Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on the day in Noakhali asked the transport owners and workers not to inflict sufferings on the people.

He also said the issue would be settled as the home minister Asaduzzaman Khan was scheduled to sit in a meeting with the transport leaders on the day, reports United News of Bangladesh.

Leaders of goods-carrying vehicle owners and workers are in a meeting with home minister at his Monipuripara house till filing of this report at 9:30pm on Wednesday on the prevailing situation. 

Bus workers halted operation on long-route and inter-district routes at different districts while a handful buses left the capital’s Mohakhali and Gabtoli bus terminals.

Movement of long-route buses on Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-Sylhet was snapped for around seven hours as the transport workers blocked the highway at Signboard area in Siddhirganj of Narayanganj.

Transport workers also smear their fellow workers with burnt oil at Signboard in Narayanganj, Chattogram and Gazipur for driving vehicles on roads defying their strike.

Rush of passengers increased on different trains as they failed to get any buses at different districts.

Drivers of CNG-run auto-rickshaws, rickshaw pullers and riders of ridesharing services also charged extra fares taking the advantage of shortage of public transports on roads across the country.  

The road transport law came into effect on November 1 more than 13 months after it was passed in the Jatiya Sangsad in September 2018 but road transport and bridges minister twice deferred enforcement of the law for making people aware about it.

The Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Goods Transport Owners-Workers Unity Council on Tuesday announced to go in strike from Wednesday asking the government to suspend implementation of the new law and amend it as per their nine-point demands.

The demands are - defining all road accident cases against drivers as bailable and no owners could be arrested or harassed in road accidents cases, issuing driving licence in short time with easy conditions and the licences should be issued for the type of vehicles the applicants drive at the time of application, allowing all modified goods carrying vehicles to run on roads, a reality-based law with reasonable fines comparing with the income of the owners and the workers, parking facilities at all metropolitan, city corporation, district towns, highways and business spots, an end to harassment by police in the name of checking documents, integrated system to control overloading, no infrastructures besides the highways, and service lanes for slow moving vehicles. 

The strike enforcers blocked Dhaka-Chattogram Highway at the Signboard in Narayanganj for seven hours since morning snapping Dhaka’s road link southeastern and northeastern districts.

Moniruzzaman Chowdhury, a student who left Chattogram for Dhaka at 7:00am on Wednesday by a Silk Line Paribahan bus, told New Age that around 11:30am the bus stuck near Kanchpur Bridge as the transport workers did not allow buses to enter Dhaka till 2:00pm.

Dhaka District Bus-Minibus Sramik Union’s Mohakhali terminal unit secretary Shahidullah Sadu told New Age that some transport workers beat up some bus drivers in the morning who were running vehicles on Dhaka-Tangail route.  Later police handled the situation.

Seven mobile courts led by executive magistrates of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority were on operation in Dhaka on Wednesday to enforce the new law.

They filed 38 cases and realised Tk 35,600 in fine at areas including Farmgate, Shymoli, Demra and Khilgaon areas.

New Age correspondent in Chattogram reported the strike halted goods and containers transport to and from Chattogram port and no buses were allowed to leave for Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar from Chattogram since morning.

Transport of goods by truck, covered van and lorry came to halt at Chattogram port from 6:00am.

Sergeant Nasir Uddin, the Port Security Department at gate  4 of Chattogram port, said very few vehicles were seen at the port gate since morning though there remain miles long queues on other days.

Around 2,000 export (garments) containers did not enter the port from the Inland Container Depot and 1,000 import (consumer goods) containers did not come to the Inland Container Depot from the port.

No container-laden vehicles left any of the 17 private off-docks to the Chattogram port.

Chattogram Port Authority secretary Omar Faruk said though loading and unloading goods from vessels were normal, the goods delivery activities remained suspended as there was no truck or covered van since the morning.

There were 35,000 containers at the port on the day while its capacity is 49, 000 containers and nearly 3000-4000 containers delivered from the port daily, he said.

He also said if the strike continues, the number of containers would increase in the port for delivery.

Prime Mover Trailer Workers Union general secretary Abu Bakkar said no prime mover plied on road since morning.

Clearing and Forwarding Agents’ Association president AKM Akter Hosain said if strike continues, the port would be in terrible situation and the import and export would be disrupted.

Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mahbubul Alam said the strike would leave a negative impact on the economy.

He said about 90 per cent of import and export of the country is done through Chattogram port. Prices of different essential products would increase due to prolonged strike, he added.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association director and Apollo Sewing and Garments managing director Anjan Shekhar Das said he could not deliver his products as no vehicle entered the port for the strike on Wednesday.

Saint Martin Paribahan’s Dampara counter manager Nazir Ahmed said though their two buses left Chattogram for Dhaka at 7:00am and 7: 30am, after 8:30am no bus could leave Chattogram.

Eagle Paribashan’s manager at AK Khan counter Md Kamal they returned money to the passengers as buses could not ply.

Strikers were seen stopping cars, CNG-run auto-rickshaw, auto-tempo at Bishwa Road area, Halishahar, Barapol, Eidgah, Mansurabad, Port Connecting Road, Bahaddarhat, Muradpur, and Lalkhan Bazar areas.

They allegedly smear their fellow workers with burnt oil on their face for defying the strike.

New Age correspondent in Jashore reported the strike, that began on November 17 and spread to 10 districts in Khulna division, brought manifold sufferings to passengers, patients, admission seekers to Jashore University of Science and Technology, and businesspeople.

Loading and unloading at Benapole land port remained stopped since Monday due to transport strike which hampered export and import activities, said Benapole Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association joint secretary Mohsin Milon.

Jashore University of Science and Technology said it would hold the admission test today and tomorrow despite the strike. Its  vice-chancellor Anwar Hossain said they arranged bus services at several places on the outskirts the town and railway station to carry the students and their guardians.

New Age correspondent in Barishal reported strike of goods laden vehicles increased price of kitchen market and grocery items in the city.

There were buses on local routes but no bus left the city on long routes.

Delowar Hossain, president of Buhumukhi City Vegetable Wholesale Market in Barishal, said prices of all vegetables except green chili, increased by Tk 5 to Tk 10 per kg.

Ganesh Dutta, one of the leading vegetable trader of the city, said only few trucks reached the market on Wednesday, while at least 14 to 15 trucks reach on usual days.

Prices of all vegetables increased by Tk 5 to Tk 10 in last 24 hours, he added.

A group of transport workers also brought out a procession in support of the strike at Kashipur area on Wednesday.

New Age correspondent in Lalmonirhat said no long-route and intercity buses left the town on the day while passengers were seen waiting for buses at the central terminal, Haribhanga and the town bypass area.

Lalmonirhat Motor Owner Union general secretary Md Asadul Habib Lavlu said the workers went on strike on their own fearing high penalty in the new law.

New Age Rajshahi University correspondent said bus communication between Rajshahi and other districts remained suspended for six-hours and there was no goods transport on Wednesday.

New Age Rangpur correspondent bus and goods carrying vehicles’ workers in the city began strike on Wednesday.

Rangpur District Truck, Tank Lorry, Covered Van Transport Workers Union president Hafizur Rhaman said enforcing the new law was unjustified without improving the management and conditions of the roads across the country.

Many of the transport workers at Rangpur-Kurigram bus stand said harassment and complexity for getting BRTA license need to be stopped. 

Transport workers in Bogura started strike on long routes and inter district routes on the day along with the goods carrying vehicles’ workers, reports New Age correspondent in Bogura.

As few buses took to the roads, protesting workers forced passengers to get down from buses on Dhaka-Rangpur and Bogura-Natore highways.

Admission seekers to Bogura Azizul Haque College were worst sufferers on the day. They were forced to pay extra fares on other transports.

New Age correspondent in Khulna reported bus strike under the division continued for third consecutive day while some buses run from Khulna.

New Age correspondent in Mymensingh said for the second consecutive day bus strike on all routes continued in the district while goods carrying vehicle workers strike started on the day. Passengers alleged they were hostage to the workers.

From 10:00am on the day, Tangail bus workers started the strike on all routes from the town, reported New Age Tangail correspondent.

New Age correspondent in Shariatpur reported that bus strike continued in the district for two days.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email