The clock was about to strike 8am on Tuesday, when Lubna Mahmuda, a job holder, was waiting at Moghbazar intersection to catch a bus for her office in Uttara, but to no avail.
After spending quite some time looking for a bus, Lubna was left astonished since she did not find any. Disappointed over the matter, she, claiming to have no knowledge about the strike, finally hired a CNG auto-rickshaw to return home and that too at double the regular fare.
During a spot visit at Shahbagh half-an-hour later, a huge crowd was found waiting for a bus.
Lubna and the crowd resembled thousands of commuters who had to endure immense sufferings on Tuesday due to the countrywide sine die transport strike called on Monday by the pro-government Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation (BRTWF) protesting conviction of a bus and a truck driver.
As a result, since 6am on Tuesday when the strike started, Dhaka was virtually disconnected from the rest of the country with no long-distance buses leaving its three main terminals – Gabtoli, Mohakhali and Sayedabad.
Even the inter-district bus service came to a halt due to the strike against the country’s landmark verdict for any road accident that handed down bus driver Jamir Hossain life term in jail and also the death penalty of truck driver Mir Hossain Miru.
People thronging at bus terminals in Dhaka were taken by surprise after they came to know about the wildcat strike since most of them claimed to have little idea about the matter.
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Transport workers block the roads at Gabtoli area in Dhaka Mehedi Hasan
Earlier, late on Monday night, the BRTWF called the strike from a meeting held at its Motijheel office, hours after Khulna Motor Workers’ Union General Secretary Md Zakir Hossain withdrew the indefinite transport strike being observed in ten districts of the division since Sunday demanding Jamir’s release.
He then said the decision was an outcome of meeting with the district administration, which the central leaders rejected later on, expanding the strike nationwide.
At Gabtoli Bus terminal, transport workers supporting the strike set fire to tyres around 10am, halting traffic in and around the area. Even, private transports avoided plying the road adjoining.
As the day progressed, the city service buses started hitting the roads, causing a great relief to passengers. But, there were allegations that workers of long distance buses at Sadarghat, Jatrbari and Mohakhali assaulted passengers.
Some agitated transport workers on Tuesday night clashed with police at Gabtoli area, blocking roads and setting fire to a police wrecker.
When contacted, Liton Kumar, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the strike caused thin traffic in Dhaka, making commuters suffer.
President of Inter-District Bus Owners’ Association Abul Kalam Azad on Tuesday told the Dhaka Tribune that they asked fellow members of the platform to stop running their vehicles.
Bangladesh Inter-District Truck Sramik Union President Tajul Islam said they just want Jamir and Miru cleared of their convictions.
Saying that ambulances will remain out of the strikes purview, he insisted to continue their protest until the demand is fulfilled.
On Sunday, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, also executive president of the BRTWF, backed the strike in Khulna, saying that the transport workers had the right to protest against the sentence.
The transport strike first began from Chuadanga, the home of bus driver Jamir, on February 22, the day when a Manikganj court sentenced him to life imprisonment in a landmark verdict, which is the highest punishment for any road accident in the country that occur mostly due to recklessness of driver.
Jamir’s death sentenced was for the deaths of five people, including filmmaker Tareque Masud and cinematographer Mishuk Munier, in a road crash in 2011, while Miru’s death sentenced followed the death of a women though road accident at Savar, Dhaka in 2003.
Meanwhile, our correspondents from Bogra, Rangamati, Jamalpur, Manikganj, Khulna, Jessore reported the similar sufferings of people..
Transport workers in Bogra restricted the movement of three-wheelers, while hundreds of people were left in trouble in Aricha or Patuiria ferry ghats due to the roads deserted of public transports.
In Khulna, some inter-city buses started to run after a meeting between local administration and transport leaders, but that did not last long due to obstruction by strike supporters.