Many inter-district bus and truck services were suspended on Friday
Transport services in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country remained suspended on Friday, causing immense suffering to commuters and long-distance travellers across Bangladesh.
Dhaka's streets were devoid of public transport all day, citing security concerns.
Most areas in Dhaka, including Elephant Road, New Market, Dhanmondi, Farmgate, Shahbagh, Katabon, Uttara and Airport road, had no passenger buses available.
The government-run Bangladesh Road Transport Commission (BRTC) bus service was the only public transport option available throughout the city.
The move came following the countrywide protests demanding road safety and justice for two Class XII students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment School and College, who were killed by a speeding bus on Dhaka's Airport Road on July 29.
This caused immense suffering to the Dhaka commuters, who struggled to find public transport all day. Many people were seen walking or travelling by rickshaw to reach their destinations – sometimes paying double or triple the cost of the usual fare.
Owners of inter-district road transport services also suspended operations in several districts on Friday, citing the same reason.
Our correspondents in Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Bogra, Mymensingh, Khulna, Madaripur, Jamalpur, Kurigram and Naogaon reported that transport owners cancelled their Dhaka-bound trips because “students in Dhaka are vandalizing the buses.”
“The owners are concerned about the lack of security on the roads, as vehicles are being vandalized and damaged,” said Mamun-ur-Rashid Bachchu, president of Bangladesh Transportation Workers’ Association in Jessore. “Under these circumstances, the transport services for 18 routes have been halted until further notice.”
Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said: “Most of the buses that came from outside Dhaka on Friday [Thursday] were unable to enter the city; those that did manage to enter the city were unable to leave because of the chaos.”
Shah Akhtaruzzaman, joint convener of Bogra Transport Owners Association, said: “The Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation is holding talks with the administration in Dhaka. The services will resume when our safety is ensured.”
School and college students have been staging protests since July 29 demanding road safety and strict implementation of traffic laws.
After five days of continuous protests, the government assured the students that their demands had been accepted.
Protests continue in Dhaka
Students’ protests in Dhaka continued for the sixth consecutive day on Friday.
Protesters were seen regulating traffic and stopping vehicles to check if the drivers' were carrying valid driving licences.
A 10th-grader, one of the protesters in Manik Mia Avenue, said they would not accept anyone's assurances except the prime minister's.
"We want Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to address us directly," she told the Dhaka Tribune.
Students, accompanied by locals in some places, were seen demonstrating with placards in Dhanmondi, Uttara, Mirpur, Kakrail, Manik Mia Avenue and other places.
Transport workers demonstrate 'for safety'
Transport workers blocked the roads and demonstrated in Dhaka’s Sayedabad, Gabtoli, Mohakhali, and Jatrabari bus terminal areas, reports UNB.
Jamdani Khandker, office secretary of the Road Transport Owners’ Association, claimed that “at least 500 vehicles were vandalized” and drivers, alongside their assistants, were attacked in the last few days during the student protests.
Workers said they would continue their strike until their safety was ensured.
Sayedabad Bus Owners Association chief Abul Kalam Azad urged the transport workers to call off their strike.
“Please bring your protest to an end. We will talk to the higher-ups about your demands,” he said.
A group of unidentified men attacked several students of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) at the university's Campus B in Satmasjid Road, Dhaka around 6:30pm on Friday.
Some of the victims and witnesses alleged that the group, consisting of about 60 men, were activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student body of the ruling party.
A number of students were injured in the attack. It was reported that the attackers beat up some journalists as well.
In a separate incident, a Dhaka Tribune photographer witnessed a group of unidentified men rebuking student protesters in the Mirpur 2 area around 3pm. The protesters left the area shortly afterwards.
Locals were heard saying the men were members of the ruling party affiliates.
More accidents, more death
Amid the protests for road safety, three cases of death caused by road accidents were reported on Friday.
In Dhaka, a bus rear-ended a motorbike in Moghbazar area around 1:30pm, critically injuring the rider, 23-year-old Saiful Islam Rana. He died in less than an hour at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Agitated locals vandalized the culprit bus, owned by SP Golden Line service, before setting it on fire, police said.
In Tangail, 15-year-old Sadia Jahan was run over by a pick-up truck at Beltoli Bazar in the Shakhipur upazila around 9:30am.
She was pronounced dead around 12pm at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital.
Sadia was a student of Class X in Barachowna High School in Shakhipur.
In Dhamrai, Savar, at least three people were killed and 30 were injured in a head-on collision between two buses on Dhaka-Aricha highway, our correspondent reported.
APUB urges students to stop demos
The Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) issued a statement on Friday requesting the student protesters to withdraw from the streets.
In the statement, expressing full solidarity with the movement for road safety, APUB President Sheikh Kabir Hossain said the government had already accepted the students' demands and was working on implementing them.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already directed the authorities concerned to immediately implement your demands. Put your trust in her; I request you to take the public suffering in consideration and withdraw from the streets,” he further said in the statement.
Our reporters Bilkis Irani and Afrose Jahan Chaity, and our district correspondents Tauhid-Uz-Zaman in Jessore, Abdullah Al Dulal in Rajshahi, Liakat Ali Badal in Rangpur, Nazmul Huda Nasim in Bogra, Ashrafuddin Seizel in Mymensingh, Md Hedait Hossain Molla in Khulna, Manjur Hossain in Madaripur, Bishwajit Deb in Jamalpur, Khondaker Md Abdur Rouf in Naogaon, Ariful Islam in Kurigram, and Nadim Hossain in Savar contributed to this story