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Transport workers continue protest despite leaders calling strike off

  • Published at 02:37 am November 22nd, 2019
Benapole Transport Strike
File photo: Long route buses parked at the Benapole land port bus stand as transport workers continue their protest on Thursday, November 21, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

Commuters faced trouble in Dhaka as well as several other places in Bangladesh, as most long-distance buses were grounded

Although transport owners and leaders called off their nationwide strike on Thursday, workers in a number of districts around the country continued to abstain from work in protest. 

Commuters faced trouble in Dhaka as well as several other places in Bangladesh, as most long-distance buses were grounded. 

After a day of intense strike, which was imposed on Wednesday to press home the cargo transport workers’ demand for amendment to the newly implemented Road Transport Act, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal sat with the leaders of several bus and cargo transport associations late Wednesday night. 

During the four-hour meeting, the minister agreed to look into their demands, and the transport leaders cancelled the strike after a day of intense and, in some places, violent demonstration. 

Despite this decision, some bus owners and workers continued the strike in several parts of the country on Thursday, massively inconveniencing the commuters.

Transport leaders claimed that the workers had forcefully grounded the buses in many districts.

The leaders of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, led by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan, met to discuss the issue at their Dhaka office on Thursday.

The federation’s Joint General Secretary Sadek Khan said that they would decide on their next course of action after the meeting, which is due to end on Friday.

KhandakarEnayetullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, said many buses could not enter Dhaka, as they were barred by the protesting workers.

“The buses that had gone to Mymensingh yesterday [Wednesday] could not return today [Thursday]; workers are blocking the inter-district buses from returing to the capital,” he added.  

However, he expressed hope that the situation would get better as the government has decided to be flexible in enforcing the new transport act.

Despite all the assurances from the government, 50% of the buses were grounded in Dhaka’s three bus terminals – Mohakhali, Gabtoli and Sayedabad.

The scenario was similar across the country. Transport workers continued abstained from work and demonstrated, reported our correspondents from Jamalpur, Dinajpur, Jhenaidah, Khulna, Chuadanga, Naogaon, Narail, Satkhira, Tangail, Kurigram, Benapole, Sherpur and Faridpur.

Bus owners and workers started work abstention demanding amendment to the new traffic law since Sunday, before the cargo transport leaders and workers went on strike on Wednesday, and some of them are still on strike.

During a visit to Mohakhali, this correspondent found a significant number of Ena Transport buses grounded both inside and outside the terminal.

Abu Bakar, a banker who was looking for a bus to go to Mymensingh, said: “We have been waiting for two hours to get a bus, but the transport services to Mymensingh seems to have been shut down.”

However, AbulKalam Azad, president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association’s Sayedabad unit, said the situation got better later in the afternoon. 

Enayetullah, who was present at the meeting with the home minister Wednesday night, said: “Drivers are afraid of being harassed by the protesting workers who are still on strike in different districts.” 

A bus driver in Naogaon, Sumon, said they did not initiate the strike because the transport leaders had said so, nor would they withdraw it at their instruction. 

Khulna Motor Workers Union General Secretary Md Ziaur Rahman Mithu said representatives of the bus owners and workers would present a draft proposal to the government, and the decision regarding the strike would be made after that.

Government officials and transport leaders said they hoped the road transport situation would get better by next week. 

Our district correspondents contributed to this report