Residents of Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Niketan – the posh residential areas in Dhaka which also constitute the city's diplomatic zone – are far from happy with the insufficient number of rickshaws that the city authorities have allowed to ply in the area.
The plan for the new area-exclusive transportation service was chalked out when the housing societies of Niketan, Gulshan, Baridhara and Banani sat with Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the DNCC to come up with stronger security measures following the terror attack on a Gulshan cafe on July 1 that killed 23 people, including 17 foreign nationals.
Inaugurated by DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq on August 10, the service include 500 rickshaws – 200 each for Gulshan and Banani, 50 each for Niketan and Baridhara – and 20 air-conditioned buses for the four residential areas.
Following the launch, the DNCC has permitted 1,000 more rickshaws in the areas at different times, said Md Abdur Rahim, personal secretary of the DNCC mayor.
Still, it is not enough to meet the demand in the four areas where at least 5,000 rickshaws are needed, said locals and the authorised rickshaw pullers.
This correspondent recently visited the areas and saw how scarce rickshaws were.
Amin Azad, a resident of Banani, seemed quite nettled with the transport service when he was asked about it.
“Yellow rickshaws? Help us? Absolutely not! They have made things worse here. Why would they not allow normal rickshaws to cross the Banani bridge? The entire idea is ridiculous. And because of it, rickshaw fare has skyrocketed as well,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
He further said although walking between Gulshan and Banani was not particularly difficult, it would also not be feasible for someone carrying heavy bags.
“This problem must be addressed. The commute system in Gulshan-Banani areas needs attention,” he added.
Farzana Akhter Rumki, student of a private university who lives in Gulshan 2, said residents of these posh areas often faced difficulty on rainy days due to the rickshaw crisis.
“Most of the time it takes me at least 15-20 minutes to find a rickshaw for hire. CNG-run autorickshaws are not readily available in these areas either,” she added. “It gets particularly worse during the morning and evening rush.”
Authorities concerned acknowledge that the new service is far from sufficient and are planning to gradually increase the number of rickshaws in the areas, sources said.
In September, Pabon Kumar, senior office executive of Niketan Welfare Society, told the Dhaka Tribune that they received a number of complaints from the local residents regarding the inconvenience and requests to increase the number of rickshaws every day.
He said leaders of the welfare society and local ward councillors had taken the issue up with the DNCC mayor.
When contacted, Mayor Annisul Huq also confirmed that he was aware of the crisis.
“We have discussed this issue with the housing societies of the four areas several times. We will monitor the situation and take steps to alleviate the crisis accordingly,” he said.
Meanwhile, foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka are pleased with the tightened security measures put in place by the authorities following the terror attack.
At a recent event with Mayor Annisul Huq in Dhaka, several diplomats including US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat praised the government's efforts to ensure safety in the diplomatic zone.