Whenever there are major political events in the capital, Dhaka dwellers prepare themselves for a day of chaotic gridlock, road rage, and lengthy commutes on the city’s streets.
Yesterday, however, the residents were welcomed by surprisingly empty streets, even though separate rallies were being staged by both the Awami League and the BNP at different points in the afternoon.
They had Dhaka Metropolitan Police to thank partially, as the law enforcement agency gave conditional permission to both parties, forbidding them from blocking roads during their respective programmes.
Also fearing violence surrounding the political programmes, most bus operators did not run their services during the day, while private car owners chose not to bring out their vehicles unless they absolutely had to.
The relatively empty streets meant shorter commute time for most office-goers yesterday.
Tauhid Hasan, a service holder, started his journey from Azampur in Uttara at 4pm and reached Tejgaon at 4:40pm. “On most days, it takes me at least an hour and a half to two hours to complete the journey. But it was completely an opposite situation today [yesterday],” he said.
It took less than 30 minutes for Sabrina Ahmad, a Dhaka University student to travel from Shahbagh to her house in Shanir Akhra. She thanked the parties for not creating gridlock in the city.
For Asif Islam, a service holder, it took only 15 minutes to reach Panthapath from Azimpur on a motorcycle. “Usually it takes at least 30 minutes to travel between the destinations on motorcycle. I did not have to wait at traffic signals as there were fewer buses,” he said.
Although the time for commute was slashed significantly, many had to suffer for the absence of public transport. Some had to take long journeys by rickshaw as there were no alternative available.
Another reason why the city streets enjoyed some extra breathing space yesterday was because commercial establishments of Zone 4, where a large share of shopping malls are located, stayed closed because of their weekly holiday.
This zone comprises many major points of city including Dhanmondi, Karwan Bazar, Hatirpool, Manik Mia Avenue, Monipuripara, Farmgate, a section of Tejgaon, Nilkhet, Kataban, Elephant Road, Kalabagan, Sobhanbagh, Hazaribagh, Jigatala, Pilkhana, Rayerbazar and a part of Lalmatia.
As part of yesterday’s political programmes, the Awami League observed “Democracy Protection Day” in front of its Bangabandhu Avenue headquarters in the capital’s Gulistan area and at Russel Square in Panthapath. The BNP also staged its scheduled “Democracy Killing Day” rally in front its headquarters in Dhaka’s Nayapaltan.