After two long months, road transportation resumed across the country from 6 am on Monday amid fears of coronavirus infection. The government acceded to the demand by transportation unions of increasing fares per seat by 60 percent, but many passengers complained that they were charged double. The administration and transport workers say passengers are being transported in compliance with the hygiene rules, but exceptions are seen in many places.
Allegation of collecting extra fare in Khulna
Passengers were monitored at the Sonadanga bus terminal in Khulna city to make sure they were wearing masks. In addition, the passengers were provided hand sanitiser and disinfectant was sprayed on their feet. Although there were relatively few passengers in the morning, the numbers increased later in the day.
However, very few passengers were maintaining social distancing in front of the counters. Many passengers and bus workers were seen shaking hands and even hugging each other as they saw each other after a long time.
Meanwhile, the passengers complained that they were being charged double, whereas the fare was supposed to be increased by 60 percent.
Usually, the Khulna to Paikgachha route bus fare for one passenger is Tk90. According to the government guidelines, the bus fare is to be increased to Tk150 but Tk180 was being charged.
Zakir Hossain Biplob, general secretary of the Khulna Motor Workers' Union, said, "Action will be taken against the driver-helper of the vehicle if any passenger is overcharged."
Bus runs in Rangpur according to the health rules but the fare is higher
Bus passengers from Rangpur to Dhaka are worried about health rules and increased fares. The buses are operating according to the health rules, says bus counter master Ratan Mia. Meanwhile, passengers complain of being overcharged for fares.
Dhaka-bound passenger Sultana Arfin said, "They are charging more than the fare fixed by the government. Earlier the fare was Tk500. So, the fare should be increased by 60 percent to Tk800. But they are charging Tk900."
She sought the intervention of the administration in this regard.
Rangpur Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Mohidul Islam, said, "The police are strictly monitoring the health of bus drivers and passengers."
Crowds at the bus counters in Mymensingh
Long distance bus services have started from Mymensingh. One person is sitting on every two seats in the bus following the hygiene rules. However, a crowd was seen at the ticket counter. No one was maintaining social distancing in the queue at the ticket counters. Fares have increased. On the Dhaka-Mymensingh route, the ticket price has been increased from Tk 220 to Tk 350.
Mamtaz Uddin Manta, president of the Mymensingh Motor Owners Association, said, "Necessary directives have been given. Passengers cannot travel without following health rules. The local administration is monitoring the matter.
Public transport is running at risk in Brahmanbaria
Buses services resumed from Monday morning, but they are not following the health guidelines given by the government, thereby increasing the risk of coronavirus infection.
A huge crowd of passengers was seen at the Sarail Biswa road intersection on Monday afternoon. Although the buses are supposed to carry only 20 passengers each, they are carrying far more than that. Even though the fare from Brahmanbaria to Dhaka has been fixed at Tk 320, many passengers have complained that they have been charged far more than that. Also, no disinfectant and no body temperature measuring device was used on any of the buses.
Mohammad Hanif, general secretary of the district bus-minibus owners' association, said, "Buses are not being overloaded with passengers. The bus counters have hand sanitisers, but the temperature measuring devices could not be procured yet."
Public transport running without following hygiene rules in Tangail
On the first day of the resumption of public bus servics, vehicles from 23 districts including 17 in North Bengal are heading towards Dhaka via Bangabandhu Bridge. However, in many cases the passengers are not fully complying with the hygiene rules. In some buses, passengers have been seen without masks. As there is no police check post on the eastern side of Bangabandhu Bridge, buses are running without following the hygiene rules.
Tangail additional superintendent of police, Shafiqul Islam, said, "The traffic police had started a public awareness campaign to ensure that buses run in compliance with government hygiene rules even though there are no police check-posts on the highways. Legal action will be taken against any buses or passengers who violate hygiene rules."
Mobile court working in Bogura to ensure guidelines
All the coaches that left for Dhaka in the morning from Thanthaniya coach stand in Bogura city have ensured social distancing for the passengers. But the body temperature of passengers and transport workers was not measured.
Aminur Islam, general secretary of the Bogura District Motor Owners Group, said, "The organisation will not take responsibility for those who do not drive according to the rules set by the government."
Deputy Commissioner Fayez Ahmed said, "A mobile court is checking to see whether government directives are being followed or not."
"We are happy with the environment of the coach terminal as well as with transport owners and labour leaders," he added.
Regularly, 165 coaches go to Dhaka from Bogura Coach Terminal. About 2500 coaches go on different routes through Bogura, said those involved in the transportation business.
Long route vehicles following hygiene rules, but such is not the case on inter-district routes in Rajshahi
In Rajshahi, the rules of hygiene are observed on every long-route bus, but such is not the case with inter-district route buses.
The buses leaving for Dhaka from Rajshahi's Shiroil bus terminal are carrying half their passenger capacity. Disinfectant spray is being applied on each bus before the start of the journey. In addition, disinfectant was sprayed on the ticket counters. Passengers and workers had their temperature measured before boarding the buses or while standing in line at the ticket counters. However, people were not maintaining social distancing at the counters. Passengers were also angry over the fare hike.
Anwar Hossain Kajal, manager of National Travels, said that the buses was running according to proper hygiene rules.
Safkat Manzur Biplob, joint general secretary of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, said, "Long route and inter-district bus services have started to a limited extent in compliance with the health department's health rules. In normal times 250 buses operate from Rajshahi but now 100 to 150 buses are running."
No one is following hygiene rules in Satkhira, allegations of overcharging fare
Bus services have started in Satkhira, but no one is following hygiene and social distancing rules. Satkhira district headquarters and upazilas are thronging with people. Many passengers do not want to take the buses because of the high fares. Bus workers say they are collecting fares according to government instructions.
On a visit to the Satkhira Central Bus Terminal at 12 noon, this correspondent found that there was the usual crowd of passengers. However, people were not following the hygiene and social distancing guidelines.
Jahangir Hossain, a supervisor of a Satkhira-Khulna bus, said, "The fare used to be Tk 96 before, but now we are charging Tk 150. However, passengers do not want to get on the bus due to the high fares. We are not taking on more than one person in one seat as per government instructions."
Abul Hossain, a bus passenger on the Satkhira to Khulna route, said, "I went to Khulna from Satkhira for Tk 80. Now they are charging Tk 150. The fare is too high."
Less passengers in Sylhet
Long haul as well as inter-district bus services started from the morning in Sylhet. However, the number of passengers was relatively low. The bus terminal was not crowded.
At the Sylhet Central Bus Terminal on Monday afternoon, it was seen that long route buses are following physical distancing but it is being violated in the inter-district buses.
Abdul Jabbar, a passenger who went to Srimangal by bus from Sylhet, said, "The helper in the bus had a hand sanitiser in his hand. However, it was not being given to the passengers. And as before, the helper is pulling passengers by the hand or pushing them to the back of the bus. As a result, the risk is increasing."
He said earlier the fare from Sylhet to Srimangal was Tk 130. Today it has been increased to Tk 190.
Selim Ahmed Folik, president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Union, said, "We are running the bus in compliance with hygiene and social distancing rules. Passengers for half of the seats are being picked up. Moreover, due to the low number of passengers today, many buses are not getting even half the passengers."
Social distancing not being maintained in buses in Dinajpur
Buses have started operation from Dinajpur Central Bus Terminal on different routes since morning.
Visiting the central bus terminal on Monday morning, this correspondent found that many buses were being sprayed with spray machines. Soap and water were kept for hand washing, however social distance was not being observed.
There was a mixed reaction among passengers about the increased fare and the new seating arrangements. Ordinary passengers who have been unemployed for a long time expressed reluctance to pay the increased fare.
Dinajpur Civil Surgeon Dr Abdul Quddus said, "The owners association will see to it. The district administration held a meeting and told everyone to abide by the rules. They will operate according to the government decision. Because the health department does not have that amount of manpower."
Huge crowds at Gazipur bus stops
In Gazipur, the physical distancing inside buses is somehow being maintained, but passengers are not following the hygiene rules at the bus stops and terminals because of the large crowds there.
As a result, in many cases the government's 13-point directive is not being obeyed.
On the first day of resumption of public transportation, there were crowds of passengers at various bus stops and terminals including Gazipur's Chandna Chowrasta, Joydebpur Terminal, Shivbari Morr, Boardbazar and Mauna Chowrasta.
As buses are now carrying half the number of passengers, there was a huge crowd of passengers at the bus stops and terminals, and most of them were not adhering to the health guidelines.
Although buses are carrying only half their complement of passengers, most of the passengers cram into the front seats, leaving the ones at the back empty.
Hardly anyone maintains social distancing. Again many passengers were not using masks or hand gloves for health protection. No hand sanitisers were available either.
However, in a number of buses, owners and labor leaders were seen making passengers aware of health protection. During this time, passengers were seen using sanitisers and spraying Savlon.