Ban on public road transport effective from Thursday
As rail and launch services completely shut down the previous day, thousands of homebound passengers rushed to Dhaka’s bus terminals and major ferry ghats, ignoring the government’s “stay at home” directives.
Despite the government’s attempt to enforce social distancing across the country since on Wednesday in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus by deploying armed forces, overcrowded ferries and buses did not face any hindrance in movement from the authorities.
The government announced a shutdown from today to April 4 for staying at home, but travellers are ignoring such instructions.
None of the government agencies are performing their duties to prevent the public gatherings in ferries or buses, particularly since such gatherings could take a heavy toll, as coronavirus is a highly contagious disease.
According to the announcement of the Shipping Ministry, some ferries can operate only for ambulances, necessary goods transportation, or emergency government vehicles. Passengers are not allowed to use the ferries until further notice.
However, our Munshiganj correspondent reported that thousands of passengers crowded the Shimulia ferry ghat on Wednesday.
Every ferry was carrying hundreds of passengers, ignoring the bar. Even a few speedboats and trawlers could move about without facing any barrier from the police or district administration.
Shafayet Ahmmed, assistant manager of BIWTC Shimulia ferry ghat told Dhaka Tribune: “Around 800 public transport vehicles, 250 trucks, and thousands of passengers gathered at the ferry ghat since morning.”
“To meet the overcrowded situation we operated 14 ferries throughout the day,” he added.
Monoj Kanti Boral, joint secretary of the Shipping Ministry said: “We are bound to open the ferry to meet the public pressure since public transport is still operating.”
Replying to a question regarding the large number of people gathering at the ferry ghat despite army presence, Munshiganj deputy commissioner Moniruzzaman Talukder said: “We are yet to bar travelling there as the BIWTA is allowing passengers.”
“However, passenger movement at ferry ghats will completely reduce from Thursday [today] as public transport will be suspended,” he added.
Similar gatherings were seen at the Paturia ferry ghat in Manikganj.
However, our Manikganj correspondent reported that the gathering was comparatively lower than the previous day.
High movement of passengers at bus terminals
As the train and launch services have been suspended strictly from Kamalapur Railway Station and Sadarghat launch terminal, people rushed to bus terminals.
Our Tangail correspondent reported a 15-km traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Tangail highway due to the significant increase of vehicles. The traffic gridlock was between Gorai of Mirzapur upazila and Pakullah.
Most buses were overcrowded, distressing travellers, especially during traffic jams
“We are going to Rangpur since the government has declared a public holiday,” said Monir Hossain, a passenger.
Asked about staying at home to combat the virus, he said: “Dhaka is not safe for a livelihood at this time. So we are moving to villages, despite the risk of crowds and traffic jams.”
Many trucks and pick-ups were found to be transporting passengers which is totally illegal.
Faruk Hossain, a passenger of a pick-up van said: “We are going to Rajshahi in a van as we did not get a seat on any bus.”
Badsha Miah, a truck driver, said: “It is taking 12 hours to reach Tangail from Dhaka, which usually takes only 3 hours.”
Mirzapur’s Gorai Highway police OC Moniruzzaman said: “Since the government closed public transport from March 26, the traffic pressure has gone up.”
Our district correspondent Tanjil Hasan from Munshiganj, Motiur Rahman from Manikganj, and Abdullah Al Numan from Tangail contributed to this report