Most bus operators in the country, including inter-district bus services, have increased fares following the government's move to hike fuel prices.
To make matters worse, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, rickshaws (both paddle and battery run), and ride sharers were taking advantage of the untoward situation by overcharging passengers.
Reporters of The Business Standard, from across the country, found that fares have jumped drastically on some routes while bus owners and workers of several destinations have partially or completely suspended operations and are making arrangements to charge travellers extra.
In Dhaka, the number of intra-city buses decreased significantly since Saturday morning.
Commuters, mainly office goers, suffered as there was barely any public transport available on the city streets. Hundreds were seen waiting at various intersections and bus stops in the vain hope of getting a ride. Demand for auto-rickshaws and rickshaws was high, and fares went up.
According to the bus drivers, most of the companies have taken out fewer buses on Saturday (6 August).
Moshin Bhuiyan had to wait for a couple of hours before he could manage a bus ride to his destination. Travelling from Shonir Akhra to his office in Moghbazar, Moshin had to pay Tk10 extra today.
"Regular bus fare from my home to Moghbazar is Tk30. But the helper charged me Tk40 citing the fuel price hike."
Fewer than 20 buses of the Mirpur Super Link are plying on the Mirpur-Azimpur route, whereas around 40 buses usually run on that route.
The driver of a Mirpur Super Link bus, Emdadul Haque, told The Business Standard, "Three out of six of my bus owner's vehicles have been brought out today. I used to take Tk2700-2800 worth of fuel for five trips. Now it costs more than Tk4000."
Mirpur-Jatrabari route's Khajababa Ltd has 60 buses out of which 15-20 are running today.
Bus driver Md Mithun told TBS that he could not handle the pressure of passengers since morning as on the one hand the owners have reduced the bus operation and the price of fuel oil has increased on the other.
He said, earlier, fuel oil used to cost Tk3,200 per day but now it costs about Tk5,000. However, fares have not been raised yet. A decision may be made after settling the accounts tonight", he added.
Shikor Paribahan operates 55 buses, out of which only 15 are running today. The supervisor of the bus, Raju said that four trips used to cost Tk3,300 earlier, but it is not clear today how much it may cost.
"Fares may increase tomorrow. We got into trouble with the passengers every day when the fares were raised once before. God only knows what will happen this time," he added.
Only four out of as many as 40 vehicles of Alternative Auto Service are running today. Driver Md Shamim said, "If this continues, we will have to die of starvation. Prices of everything will increase due to fuel price hike."
When contacted for comments regarding the current situation, Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity Joint Secretary Samdani Khondaker, "Some bus owners have decided not to operate their vehicles as costs have gone up due to the fuel price hike. This is the reason why the number of buses in the city is low today.
"However, a meeting between Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) authorities and transport owners will take place in this regard today afternoon. Hopefully, everything will become normal after that."
In Munshiganj, operation of long-haul buses has almost come to a halt since today (6 August) morning adding to the woes of the passengers.
CNG-run auto-rickshaws and human haulers operating via the Muktarpur bridge were seen charging Tk10 extra at least.
Mithun Saha, a passenger from Dhaka, said, "I went to Narayanganj from the Muktarpur bridge paying Tk50 for a CNG ride on Friday.
"Today I was charged Tk60. A Tk10 increase in fare overnight."
Amina Akhtar, who was forced to ply a human hauler to reach her desired destination, said, "I left home thinking that I will get on a bus. However, there are none available this morning.
"Thus I had to ply a human hauler which charged me Tk10 extra than regular to reach Narayanganj."
Amjad Hossain, an employee of Dighirpar Transport Line, said, "Our counters are now closed. Services will remain suspended until we fix the new fares."
In Khulna, intercity bus fares have been hiked by almost 40-50%.
About 18 buses ply from Sonadanga bus terminal in Khulna to other cities. Among them, fare on Khulna-Paikgacha route has been increased by Tk35 taka to Tk150.
On the other hand, on the Khulna-Bagerhat route, the fare has been increased by Tk40 to Tk120, on the Khulna-Jashore route by Tk40 taka to Tk150, on the Khulna-Kushtia route by Tk70 taka to Tk350 and on the Khulna-Gopalganj route by Tk30 to Tk150.
Khulna District Bus-Minibus Coach Owners Association Joint Convenor Md Anwar Hossain Sona said, "The government has suddenly increased the price of fuel oil but did not increase public transport fares. It is not possible to buy fuel at such a price and run a bus at the same fare."
Transport owners in Bogura, without any prior notice, have suspended all inter-district bus movement from today morning.
According to local transport workers, bus service will remain halted until an agreement on the new fares is reached.
Bus movement in Barishal is currently normal but transport owners have said that they would go on strike if the fares are not increased by today.
In Netrokona, bus fares have increased as a reaction to yesterday's fuel price hike. The number of buses plying on the roads is very low compared to regular days.
Leaders of Netrakona Bus Malik Samity have claimed that they did not instruct anyone to charge passengers extra as they are waiting for the meeting between BRTA and bus owners. However, transport workers are forcing commuters to pay Tk10-Tk50 more depending on the length of the route.
In Cumilla, bus owners have said that they will maintain and follow the fares that are expected to be announced after today's meeting between BRTA and transport leaders.
Bus services are normal in the district with passengers being charged at regular fares, Jamil Ahmed Khandkar, president of The Motors Association Cumilla, told The Business Standard.
In Moulvibazar, bus fare on the Dhaka-Moulvibazar route has been hiked to Tk550 from the regular Tk430 effective from today morning (6 August).
In Pabna, tickets for Pabna-Dhaka buses are now being sold at Tk550 (non-AC) and Tk900 (AC) -- a Tk100 rise in fares from yesterday.
Meanwhile, bus fares in Lakshmipur, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Mymensingh, and Brahmanbaria are yet to see a surge. But the number of vehicles on the road has dropped significantly making passengers suffer to a great extent.
Transport owners are expected to meet soon to decide upon the matter and revised fares.
Whereas, bus services in Brahmanbaria have been said to be normal till the filing of this report.
In Chattogram, a transport owners' strike, that was called off at around 1:55pm on Saturday, caused inconvenience to thousands of commuters.
The decision to embark on the strike was taken around midnight on Friday, Belayet Hossain, president of the Chattogram Metropolitan Transport Owners Group, said.
Bus owners have decided to resume services complying with BRTA's request.
In Dinajpur, bus fares have not increased due to the increase in oil prices. However, the traffic has decreased at an alarming rate on road.
On Dinajpur-Dhaka highway, where 18-24 passenger buses used to ply every hour, now there are one or two buses travelling.
Mahesh Singh Chhutu, the bus chain master of Govt College Intersection area, said that there are fewer vehicles because of the increase in the price of oil.
"As the price of oil increased, the owners are not willing to drive the buses at the previous fare rate. However, the fare has not increased yet. Normal fare is being charged," he told The Business Standard.
The government on Friday increased fuel oil prices by 42.5% to 51.6%, highest in 20 years, dealing a big blow to people already overwhelmed by skyrocketing prices of essential goods amid record inflation.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Division hiked diesel and kerosene prices by Tk34 per litre to Tk114 and octane and petrol prices by Tk46 per litre to Tk135.
The new prices took effect at 12am on Saturday, said a press release of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources issued Friday night.
The government announced the hike at a time when oil prices in the international market are on a downward trend. Brent crude price on Friday was $95.50/barrel. It had gone as high as $129/barrel several weeks back.
Sources at the Energy and Mineral Resources Division and Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) said the latest price hike is the highest since 2001.
The previous highest diesel price hike was by 37.5% on 27 October 2008; the new hike broke that record as the price went up by 42.5% and that of octane by 51.6%.
Diesel is the most consumed fuel in the country, accounting for around 73% of the country's total fuel consumption.
Price hike of this fuel by 42.5% might have a disastrous impact on the transport and daily essential products as happened last November when the government increased the diesel price by 23.8%, said traders and industry people.