• Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:41 am

Thousands head home for Eid with total disregard for lockdown

  • Published at 11:15 pm May 18th, 2020
Mad_Rush_Mehedi Hasan
Homegoers flock to the Shimulia-Kathalbari ferry terminal in Munshiganj to head home for the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr holidays on Monday, May 18, 2020 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Private transport and shoppers across the capital have scaled up prior to Eid

Despite the government travel ban and policing on roads, thousands of people on Monday started leaving Dhaka city for home to celebrate the Eid-ul-fitr with their families -- putting lives at risk amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agitating passengers vandalized the Paturia-Daulatdia ferry terminal where the ferries were stopped, barring people from going home amid restrictions to curtail Covid-19 infections.

After eight hours, ferry services reopened around 6:30pm, allowing emergency goods vehicles, trucks, and ambulances, while police strictly monitored passenger vehicles.

Meanwhile, private transport and shoppers across the capital have scaled up prior to Eid.

Defying the public transport ban, people were travelling. They are leaving Dhaka city for their hometowns, nulling the shutdown measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

History repeats itself ahead of Eid with this third wave of mass migration, setting off fears of further coronavirus spread. 

Earlier,there were similar scenes of people rushing home soon after a public ‘holiday’ announcement. The scene was repeated once again when garment workers returned back to work in Dhaka and Gazipur.

Amid the inter-district travel ban, people resorted to various means in order to go home. CNG-run auto rickshaws, private cars, human haulers like Nosimon, Porimon, Lagunas, ferries and so on, are being used by desperate travellers returning home. 

Though Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has installed 10 checkpoints on roads going out of the city, people are making it out to ferry terminals and highways.

How are people leaving Dhaka?

DMP beefed up restrictions since Sunday with 10 checkpoints at Gabtoli, Ashulia, Abdullahpur, 300 feet, Rampura, Demra, Kafrul, Postagola, Babubazar Bridge, and Jatrabari, to stop people from travelling.

People were still leaving and entering the city by microbus, private cars and CNG-driven auto rickshaws. Passengers were helplessly waiting in Dhaka under the Sayedabad and Jatrabari flyovers for transport out of town.

Our correspondents saw some trucks, microbuses, private cars, stopping to give people with bags a ride home.

Seven people, including three women and a child, were waiting at North Jatrabari near the Sayedabad bus-stand, to go to Comilla.

Soon a private car stopped and asked them their destination. The driver then agreed to take them for  Tk500 per person. Three passengers agreed to the fare and hopped on.

Elsewhere, some young men from Madaripur, Barisal, and Faridpur districts, were waiting to go to Mawa ferry ghat. 

A few CNG drivers and motorcyclists were competing for their business. Md Lokman Hossain, a Madaripur-bound passenger, and a few others, finally settled on a CNG-run auto rickshaw for Tk1,000 per person to Mawa.

Lokman, who works in construction said: “After my work at an under-construction building stopped with the lockdown, I was doing some work at another old building. But, at this moment, all work has stopped, so I have nothing to do but go home to celebrate Eid with family.”

“I hear that if one can cross the Padma River, one can find some private cars or Lagunas, although the drivers charge a lot,” he added. 

In Jatrabari and Sayedabad, all kinds of vehicles were picking up passengers right in front of the police.

At times, the police took action against some passengers, but most went unhindered.

DMP Deputy Commissioner (traffic-East) Md Shahed Al Masud said they were controlling movement at three checkpoints – Postagola Bridge, Signboard area, and Sultana Kamal Bridge in Demra.

“We have taken action against transport carrying passengers. But it is true that some vehicles are slipping through.”

Vandalism at the Paturia-Daulatdia ferry terminal

With private cars not being allowed to cross the Padma River, enraged drivers and passengers attacked and vandalized a  Paturia-Daulatdia ferry ghat counter.

The vandalism started when the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) stopped ferry services last morning as the crowds were growing bigger and bigger.

Following the decision, the ferries were stationed in the middle of the river and thousands of private cars and microbuses were sent back.

Ferry traffic started once again after eight hours, from 6:30pm, only for emergency vehicles, said BIWTA Paturia Ferry Assistant Manager Mohiuddin Rasel.

Vehicles with perishables and emergency goods were not able to cross the river earlier due to overcrowding on the ferries.

Shimulia-Kathalbari river port shut down to tackle influx

Unable to tackle the influx of thousands of people homeward bound, the authorities decided to shut down the Shimulia-Kathalbari river port last evening. 

Though the terminal was operating on a limited scale with 13 ferries, it was further reduced to 4 ferries to discourage the growing crowd on Sunday night, said BIWTC officials.

But later, to deal with the backlog, the authorities increased the number of ferries to 12.

Eventually the terminal was shut down in the evening as it was getting difficult to handle such huge crowds.

Until last evening, over two hundred vehicles and thousands of people could be seen waiting to cross the river on overcrowded ferries.

Additional reporting by Tanjil Hasan, Munshiganj and Motiur Rahman, Manikganj

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