Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home rush goes haywire

Confusion ruled the day for the millions of homebound passengers who crammed in the city's bus, train and launch terminals yesterday.
Unsure about the trip schedule and anxious of street violence during hartal, home-goers flocked to the terminals from early morning hoping to secure trips.
"I arrived here at 5:00am," Rumi, a college student, told The Daily Star at Hanif Paribahan counter at Gabtoli bus terminal.
"I took a rickshaw for some distance, then thumbed a lift on a rickshaw-van and I walked for two kilometres afterwards until I finally reached here."
"That was nine hours ago," he said.
Rumi's bus, scheduled to leave the terminal at 6:00am, never showed up.
Officials at the counter asked him to get a refund or wait till evening when they would try to slip him in another bus.
"So I'm waiting for my bus," said Rumi with a wry smile.
Transport providers said there was little they could do to help thousands of passengers like Rumi.
"We can't take the risk of operating bus amid hartal,” said Emon Ahmed, counter manager of Hanif Paribahan at Gabtoli.
He said he requested the passengers to wait till evening when he would try to put in extra buses to accommodate the extra passengers.
"Or they can return the tickets for refunds," he said.
But returning the ticket was not an option for Shimla.
"My father-in-law is seriously ill. I need to be in Barisal by tomorrow [today] morning," said Shimla, who was waiting at Gabtoli with her two-year-old girl. She had no idea what she would do.
Shimla could have followed Shobnom Ara's example. The mother of two at Syedabad bus terminal decided to return her ticket and take several short trips to Lakshmipur instead.
"It'll be painful and a lot of hassle, but at least I'll get to spend the Eid with my family," she said.
The situation just goes on to show that politicians have the least concern for the people, she added.
Shimla and Shobnom Ara were not alone. Majority of the bus services decided to keep their buses off the road to avoid untoward incidents. The entire schedule of almost all the bus services collapsed yesterday because of the hartal.
Many bus passengers were forced to switch to launch.
"I usually take bus to my home district Pirojpur. But as buses are halted today, I've come here to take a launch instead,” said Arif Hossain, a student of law at Daffodil University.
Again, Arif was not the only one to have switched to a different mode of transport.
A huge crowd thronged Kamalapur Railway Station to travel to northern Dhaka regions -- Uttara, Mohakhali DOHS, Tongi and Airport.
Motaleb Hossain was one of them.
The businessman arrived at Syedabad from Teknaf at 5:00am. He could not find any bus or auto rickshaw to Uttara. So, he decided to take a train.
Beside Motaleb, hundreds of people were waiting at the station since early morning to get on trains.
"It's a hartal day. So you never know what might happen on the streets. For this reason, we came to the station at 6:00am," said Shirin Ahmed, a teacher from Khilgaon.
She had to wait longer than she calculated -- her train came four hours behind schedule. The Dinajpur-bound Akata Express, which was supposed to leave the station at 9:50am, finally departed at 2:30pm.
The Chittagong-bound Subarna Express, scheduled to leave the station at 4:40pm, arrived at 5:30pm.
The delay, however, did little to stop the flow of passengers. Almost all the tickets for outside Dhaka were sold out. A few remaining ones were sold at an incredibly high price.
A journey by launch also became very expensive, a number of passengers complained.
“We purchased tickets at Tk 2,200 but the usual fare is Tk 1,500,” said Monirul Islam, managing director of a private telecommunication company. He was going to Barguna.
Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carrier) Association, however, denied the allegation.
No launch owner will charge more than the rate fixed by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), he said.
But reaching Sadarghat lunch terminal was not easy. Some had to walk for several kilometres to get a rickshaw.
However, it was a pleasant ride for those who went through all the hassles to reach the terminal.
"We boarded a bus from a Shyamoli bus counter risking our lives," said Afroza Begum, a teacher from Mirpur.
"But after we boarded, it was a dream ride all the way,” she said over the phone.
When she talked to The Daily Star last night, her bus was in Jessore, some 65 kilometres away from her home in Satkhira.
-Daily Star

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