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Bus,Truck strike in 10 districts cripples southwestern districts

  • Published at 02:32 pm November 18th, 2019
Rows of buses parked at a bus stand in Khulna on Monday, November 18, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

Since morning, no goods were unloaded or released from Benapole Land Port

Since on Monday morning, no goods were unloaded or released from Benapole Land Port. Drivers in three North Bengal districts also joined the strike.

Bus and truck drivers in 10 districts have gone on strike, protesting the new Road Transport Act 2018 (RTA) which came into effect across Bangladesh on November 17.

The unannounced strike has crippled the country’s southwestern districts since Monday morning, causing immense suffering to passengers and cargo transport.

The 10 districts are Jessore, Khulna, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Magura, Narail, Jhenaidah, Meherpur, Kushtia, and Chuadanga.

“Transport workers in 10 districts in the country’s southwestern region have stopped bus services,” Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association General Secretary Mortaza Hossain told Dhaka Tribune. 

Since morning, no goods were unloaded or released from Benapole Land Port, with a line of empty trucks on both sides of the border, waiting for goods to transport.

However, export-import and immigration services remained active at the land port. At the same time, vehicular movement of other smaller transport remained normal along the  Jessore-Benapole route.

In Khulna, bus drivers went on an indefinite strike, demanding correction in some sections of the RTA, halting communication on all road routes in the district.

The demands include rectification of fines imposed on vehicle owners and drivers, and withdrawing restrictions imposed on small vehicles.

Confirming the matter to Dhaka Tribune, Kazi Md Nurul Islam Bebi, president of Khulna Motor Workers’ Union, said: “The bus drivers decided to go on an indefinite strike demanding amendments to the newly enacted act.

"Transport workers do respect the new law; however, it affects transport workers and owners directly. Therefore, they are protesting so that some of the sections in the law, including penalties and fines on drivers and owners, and making them a non-bailable offence, are amended.”

Meanwhile, the Dhaka Tribune found bus drivers and workers, and other transport workers, playing cricket on the lawn of Sonadanga bus stand on Monday morning.

“We work all day and do not get any time to play. On Tuesday we are relieved from our everyday duties.  We are making good use of our free time, playing cricket,” said transport worker Abul Hossain.

Khulna Bus Workers Union President Mahabubul Islam said the drivers suspended their service as most of them did not have a license.

Transport workers play cricket in the bus stand area due to leisure in their regular work flow on Monday, November 18, 2019 | Dhaka TribuneThe drivers cannot get a new license or renew their old license from the BRTA due to the sudden demand brought on by the implementation of the new law, he added.

Strike leaves passengers stranded

Passengers from different districts who are currently trapped in Khulna, expressed frustration with the situation.

“I wanted to go to my village home from Khulna, but I found no mode of transportation at the Sonadanga bus stand,” said Rajia Aktar of Faridpur.

Mamun Sheikh, a resident of Dhaka, said: “I could not get back to work after vacation as my Royal Falguni Paribahan bus ticket was refunded because of the strike.”

In Satkhira, transport workers declared an indefinite strike by halting services on all routes until the new Road Transport Act is amended.

Meanwhile, thousands of passengers were in distress as bus services were suddenly suspended in the district. They have been trying to reach their destinations on three-wheelers paying higher fares.

Transport workers, including bus drivers, said the new law imposes the death penalty on drivers if anyone dies in a road accident and a fine of Tk5 lakh if anyone injured. 

They said a driver cannot afford to pay such a large sum of money as the maximum salary of a driver is around Tk15,000-20,000. 

As such, the transport workers refused to resume their services until the law is amended.

Former president of Satkhira Bus-Minibus Owners' Association, Abu Ahmed, said: "The transport workers want the new transport law to be amended before it is implemented.

"The owners can do nothing if the workers stop operating the buses."

In Jhenaidah, bus services along district's routes to Jessore, Kushtia, Magura and Chuadanga remained suspended since on Monday morning, but a few easy-bikes and now-banned three-wheeler autorickshaws were plying the highway routes.

In Kushtia, bus service remained unavailable since the morning due to the strike demanding the amendment of the Road Transport Act.

In Narail, all transport from the district were suspended since on Monday morning.

Ibrahim Mollah, a driver, alleged that with the new transport laws do not favour them and will increase driver harassment. 

In Tangail, movement of all transport from Bhuapur was suspended since morning.

In Rajshahi, bus services came to a halt on all routes, including the Rajshahi-Naogaon route.

Rajshahi Motor Workers Union President Jahangir Alam said the strike was not called by the union.

In Hili, all bus services on the Hili-Bogra route have been suspended since Saturday.

Local bus driver Shariful Islam said the drivers would have to pay fines exceeding their income if the new law is implemented.

Our correspondents Selim Reza, Md Hedait Hossain Molla, Asaduzzaman Sardar, Md Tauhid-Uz-Zaman, Nayan Khondoker, Al-Mamun Sagar, Kudrote Khoda Sobuj, Mehedi Hasan, K M Saiful Islam, Md Hedait Hossain Molla, Halim Al Raji, Abdullah Al Numan, and Abdullah Al Dulal contributed to the story.