Thousands of people leave Dhaka and suburbs for village home amid lockdown
The plan was final – they will celebrate Eid with the relatives in Tangail this year. But the main concern of the family members was reaching the destination safely and without hurdles amid the surge in Covid-19 infections.
After learning from the media about the huge rush of holidaymakers on the roads and ferries, and crisis of public transport amid a lockdown, private service holder Abdullah Al Mamun decided to start for home on the Eid day when usually fewer people would travel.
Along with his wife and kids, Mamun came to Chandana Chourasta in Joydevpur in the morning, but found no direct bus to Tangail due to the government’s restriction on inter-district bus. They all were wearing masks.
He saw CNG-run auto-rickshaws, cars, microbuses, pickup vans, minibuses and trucks were carrying passengers on the highway to short and long destinations. But they were charging higher than regular days while very few people were seen wearing masks and following social distancing. So he had to take some time to choose the best option for a safer travel.
Spinning mill operator Kabir Hossain of Sreepur had to work until the day before Eid. His eight-year-old daughter wished to meet her paternal cousins at their village home in Mymensingh during the Eid.
When he came to Sreepur bus stand with his wife and daughter on Friday morning, he found that they needed to change transports to reach the destination. Though short, he felt that the trip would be expensive and full of hassles.
Thousands of people were seen waiting with their families holding kids on the lap and luggage in hand at the bus stands in Tongi, Station Road, Cherag Ali, Board Bazar, Maleker Bari, Chandana Chourasta, Chandra, Kaliakoir and Maona areas for a suitable transport to go home. There were service holders, businesspersons, shop salespersons, daily wagers and people from all occupations.
The rush of holidaymakers was huge between May 11 and May 13 when millions of people left Dhaka for their village homes to celebrate the Eid. The crisis for public transports made them desperate to reach their destinations using various modes of transport.
Some long-route buses operated on highways defying the ban while the authorities had to allow ferry service considering pressure of passengers.
Like the previous day, the pressure of personal cars was much higher than other vehicles on the highway on Friday.
At Maona Chourasta, the helper of local bus Takwa Paibahan – wearing his mask under the nose – was alerting the passengers who were boarding the bus that they would have to pay Tk300 for the Eid day whereas the regular fare is Tk100. Inside the bus, there accommodated passengers on every seat – defying the social distancing rules.
Driver Rafiqul Islam said that the bus would go to Mymensingh if they found enough passengers. He defended the higher fare saying that the number of buses was very few on Eid day and that the passengers would reach the destination faster than anytime.
Rental cars were there on the highway too. They were seen charging Tk300-500 each for Bhaluka and Mymensingh from Joydevpur Chourasta.
Abul Kalam said that the owner had not allowed him to take the car outside due to lockdown and did not give him bonus for this Eid. “Today he gave me permission and asked me to keep it with me whatever I earn. I will buy foods and dresses with this income,” he said.
Ismail Hossain was at Tongi Station Road bus stand looking for a suitable transport to go to Netrakona. He runs an ornaments’ shop in Dhaka New Market that remained open until Thursday night.
He said that this year his wife and children were not going to his village home to celebrate Eid due to the spread of Covid-19. “But I need to meet my relatives and give them presents,” he added.
Cosmetics shop worker Anwar Hossain came to Joydevpur Chourasta from Uttara on a shared CNG. Here he was waiting for a bus to Netrakona, from where he would need to change transport again to reach Purbadhola.
He said that he could not go home before Eid as the shop was open until Thursday. Asked about the higher fare, he replied: “It is okay for today. The travel will be relatively comfortable and I will reach home quickly.”