As she does every day, Jeneva Nasrin started for her office on Tuesday morning. But she was surprised by the light traffic – something that was unusual on a working day.
"As far as I know, there was no previous announcement of a strike. It is not a public holiday either. Then why are there hardly any public buses?" questioned Jeneva, owner of a business consultancy firm.
"Yet, I was very lucky to have rented a car; it took only 20 minutes to reach my office in Panthapath from Mirpur-1 circle," Jeneva told The Business Standard.
This instance does not exactly reflect how much commuters suffered in the absence of public buses. Office goers were the worst affected.
With the new road transportation law coming into effect, most buses stayed off city roads on Tuesday, fearing tough penalties for traffic rule violations imposed by mobile courts of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).
As a result, the lack of public transportation on the streets – especially buses – caused major sufferings for city residents.
People waited for ages in long queues for buses at different bus stops in the city.
Sium Jahan a regular commuter on the Mahammadpur-Farmgate route, told The Business Standard that he had to pay a high fare to get to his destination on a CNG-run auto-rickshaw.
"It usually takes only 5-10 minutes to get a bus at Mohammadpur bus stop. I waited at least 30 minutes, but couldn't get on a bus. There were very few buses available," he added.
Tania Sultana, a private university student, said she managed to board a bus in the Mirpur-10 area, but only after a 45-minute struggle.
"I asked several bus workers what actually happened. They replied that most drivers refused to take their vehicles on Dhaka roads for fear of tough punishment by the BRTA's mobile courts," she said.
Salman Ahmed, a resident in the Mirpur-6 area, couldn't get on a bus at the Mirpur-10 intersection even after waiting for 30 minutes.
"Eventually I had to take a ride-sharing trip on a motorcycle to go my office in Motijheel," he said.
Kazi Ebadur Rahman, a part-time employee, told The Business Standard that they were forced to get off a Tetulia Paribahan bus at the Mirpur-12 area.
He said at around 9:15am, transportation workers pulled over most buses there and chanted, "We want hassle-free roads, hassle-free BRTA offices."
Because of this spontaneous protest, the Mirpur-Farmgate route became empty within a few minutes.
After a few hours of protest, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Pallabi traffic zone dispersed protesters from the road, and buses started plying the Mirpur-Farmgate-Motijheel route.
Jahangir Alam, assistant commissioner of Pallabi traffic zone, said, "The number of buses on Mirpur road has decreased slightly. But today's situation is better than it was yesterday."
Shadhin Paribahan, which operates on the Mohammadpur-Khilgaon-Demra route, didn't run at least half of their buses on Tuesday.
"We regularly run at least 50 buses on the route. After the BRTA started to enforce the new law, most drivers did not agree to run the buses," said Abdur Razzak, a driver of Shadhin Paribahan.
He also said that most buses do not have fitness certificates and route permits for Dhaka roads.
Meanwhile, Rajanigandha Paribahan's owner Abdul Kadir said they have no problem with the new law.
"We make sure that everything is in order for our buses and drivers as per the law. So I don't think we will face any problem," he added.
Babul Sheikh, owner of Airport-Bangabandhu Avenue Paribahan, also echoed the same sentiment.
"The law will be a problem for those who have no papers or route permits," he said.
Meanwhile, BRTA's mobile courts filed 79 cases and realised Tk1,19,200 in fines at seven different spots in the capital.
BRTA Director (enforcement) AKM Masudur Rahman said mobile courts have been set up in the Manik Mia Avenue, Banani, New Market, Darus Salam, Sahajadpur and Demra areas.
"In most cases, we found that drivers were driving heavy vehicles with licences for light ones. Mobile courts also fined drivers for not having fitness certificates," Masudur said.
He also said the mobile courts will continue their drives until discipline is restored on the roads.