According to the Launch Owners’ Association sources, a total of 22 small launches ply the route everyday in interval of 25 minutes.
There have been no new launch on the route in last ten years for conspiracy of a syndicate.
As launches are very small in size and unfit, commuters fear to make journey on it. Many accidents, big or small, take place everyday.
On Wednesday night, Munshiganj-bound Khaja Express was hit by a sand-laden trawler around 9:45pm, leaving at least 25 injured.
Md Chan Mia, master of Khaja Express, said: “The sand-laden trawler could not be seen as there was a lighter ship anchored in the river. As a result, the trawler hit the launch.”
The route is very vulnerable in terms of security. Although there is a ban of plying sand laden trawler or ship in the river at night, these trawler and ships are always plying in the river breaking the laws. The authority does not take any action against it.
When asked, Sub-inspector Md Mosharaf Hosen, In-Charge of Mukterpur Naval police outpost, said: “We do not know about any accident on Wednesday. As we do not have logistic supports, we are not able to patrol in the river after 6pm.
“But we try to reach quickly whenever we have any report of accident,” he added.
About plying of sand-laden trawlers and ships in the river at night, he could not say anything.
The speed of the launches is very slow though they have ability to ply fast. To have more commuters, they take 45 to 50 minutes to cross a distance of only seven kilometres.
But, in the same river, the Dhaka-Matlab and Narayanganj-Matlab launches ply very fast. So, commuters believe that it should take only 25 minutes to cover the distance in Munshiganj-Narayanganj route.
Commuter alleged that a syndicate has ceased the speed of the launches in the route. They claimed after banning these unfit small launches, new and fast launches should be introduced immediately.
Shiplu Mandal, a passenger of this route, and also a college teacher, said: “We board these launches risking our lives. The old and unfit launches go very slow but sound much. There are not sufficient life-saving-buoys in the launches.”
Suvangkar Pal, resident of Narayanganj city, said: “Every day I have to go to Munshiganj for my job. I used the route earlier. But as it takes much time, I avoid this route and go by CNG-run auto-rickshaw to save my time.”
Service holder Fatema Sharmin said: “The launches are very small in size and not safe. They have no fitness at all.”
When this reporter visited Munshiganj Launch Terminal recently, he found that launches that can carry 60 passengers have only 10 life saving buoys.
Master of MV Khaja Chan Mia, said: “It is the order of the authority to keep one buoy against six persons.”
Dil Mohammad Kompany, member of Munshiganj-Narayanganj Launch Owners’ Association, said: “New launch could not be introduced as there is no profit in this business now. Besides, route permit is not issued for new launch. It takes little time to go Narayanganj by road. So, passengers have decreased in this route. At present, maximum 1000-1200 passengers use this route.”
He also said: “Every launch has fitness. They are all steel-bodied. It takes 40-45 minutes to go to Narayanganj by launch. To go faster, engines of the launches should be changed.”
About the poor launch service, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Public Relation Officer Mobarak Hosen Majumder said: “We are going to look into the matter and discuss it in the next meeting to take necessary steps.”