Road transport workers to hold countrywide protests tomorrow

Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation holds a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Friday. — New Age photo Demand for the resumption of public transport services kept growing with the government relaxing restrictions imposed on movement and other activities to contain the spread of Covid-19 and people violating health guidelines and restrictions while expert feared further spike in Covid cases and deaths. Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation at a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Friday announced countrywide protests for immediate resumption of transport services.

The programmes include countrywide protests on Sunday and protests in front of deputy commissioner’s office in district headquarters on May 4 for three-point demands.

The demands are resumption of the public transport services with 50 per cent passengers against the capacity following health regulations, financial support and relief for the workers and rice for the workers at Tk 10 a kilogram and government’s open market sale points at all bus and truck terminals. The announcement came on the 17th consecutive day of the restrictions amid widespread violation of the health guidelines and restrictions across the country. Following huge pressure of vehicles coming from Dhaka, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation on Friday operated all ferries on Shimulia-Banglabazar route in the River Padma.

Crowds kept growing at kitchen markets, shopping malls and shops as the government reopened those despite health experts’ fear that such relaxes of restrictions might cause further surge in the number of Covid patients and deaths. The government also allowed domestic flight operation on all but Cox’s Bazar routes from April 21. Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association in a release on Friday urged the government to resume bus services immediately following health regulations while the workers became agitated due to joblessness.

Earlier on Thursday, transport workers blocked the road in front of Gabtoli bus terminal in Dhaka and Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners’ Association held a press conference at the same terminal for resumption of the bus services. At Friday’s press conference, federation general secretary Osman Ali said that currently the restrictions was only imposed on public transports while all other industries, shopping malls, markets, different offices, garments, and kitchen markets remained open. He said that people continued movements using cars, microbuses, auto-rickshaws, rickshaws, motorcycles and even mini trucks paying high fares.

As a result, he said, about 50 lakh workers depending on the sector were passing days in hardship ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. ‘If the workers take to the road, we will not be re3sponsible for that,’ Osman added. Replying a question, federation senior vice-president Sadiqur Rahman Hiru said that they helped the workers as per their ability through 249 unions under the federation.

The federation leaders said that workers would stage protests at Gabtali, Mohakhali, Saidabad and Phulbaria terminals and elsewhere in the country at 11:00am on Sunday. New Age correspondent in Munshiganj reported that from Friday morning pressure of passenger and goods-laden vehicles for southern districts increased at Shimulia ferry terminal. BIWTC officials said that they operated all the 16 ferries on the route as more than 400 private and 200 goods-carrying vehicles were seen waiting to cross the river from Shimulia.

Earlier the corporation ran only two or three ferries to carry the emergency vehicles during the restrictions.  Defying the restrictions some speedboats and trawlers were seen carrying passengers on Shimulia-Banglabazar route. BIWTC Shimulia terminal assistant manager Prafullah Chowhan said that the ferries were carrying the cars first.

Earlier the government imposed an 11-point restriction on public movement, public transports and businesses for one month with effect from April 5. The restrictions, however, remain almost on paper. The government on April 7 allowed buses in all city corporation areas including Dhaka and Chattogram metropolitan cities for a limited period at half capacity and increased the fare by 60 per cent.

The government, however, again imposed restrictions on public movement and overall activities from April 14 suspending the operation of public transports, including buses, trains and launches but excluding goods-laden transports. The authorities on April 14 allowed all banks to continue their activities daily for a limited period of time and on April 25 allowed shops and shopping malls to resume activities. Covid-19 killed 57 more people and infected 2,177 in 24 hours until Friday morning, raising the death toll to 11,450 and infections to 759,132 in the country, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.

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