Some of the bus drivers and workers of the capital's Mirpur to Motijheel and Gulistan routes went on a strike on Wednesday morning citing abuses by passengers. The sudden unavailability of transports caused tremendous suffering to the passengers in and around Mirpur.
Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Helal Uddin are both residents of Kalsi.
When the correspondents approached him, Asif said he had been waiting for a bus to Khilkhet for more than an hour after leaving home around 11 in the morning but he failed to find his ride. Generally, he finds one bus or another bus almost instantly, he said.
Mohammad Helal, who had been waiting with his wife and children, also could not find a bus to Badda even after waiting for several hours.
Rehana Begum from Mirpur 11 also spent about an hour waiting for a bus on Wednesday.
Angrily, she said, "They [transport owners and workers] increase fares whenever they want to and then they make passengers suffer like this by going on strikes without warning. The government must take strict actions against them."
Meanwhile, public transport workers said even though the government has fixed the fare of public transports, most passengers refuse to pay the fare as per the charts and get into trouble with the bus workers and sometimes end up abusing them [bus workers].
Hridoy Hossain, an assistant of Prajapati Poribohon, said, "Two days ago, one passenger got into the bus from Mirpur 10 and got off at Mirpur 11. The official minimum fare for the distance – fixed by the government – is Tk10 but the passenger was paying me Tk5, which soon escalated into a quarrel and the passenger hit me at one point."
Another assistant of the bus, Hasibur Rahman, said the ban on sitting service has worsened the problems they have to face with collecting fares.
"Passengers do not want to pay the fares according to the official chart fixed by the government," he added.
Some workers also said that even though the government has banned public transports from charging higher fares in the name of a waybill, many bus owners are forcing the workers to collect it anyway.
A worker from Bihanga Paribahan on condition of anonymity said, "Our bosses collect the fares from us based on waybill. And, if we fail to pay that amount, we are abused by our bosses. So, we have no other option but to charge waybills."
Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Workers' Federation, said waybill was originally introduced to keep track of vehicles and the total number of trips they make but then bus owners started using it to charge passengers more.
About the workers' strike in Mirpur, Ali said the strike has been called by those who operate busses on contracts because, in the past, they could earn more by charging extra in the name of seating or gate lock services but now they cannot do that anymore.
"We have been trying to get rid of the contract system. If we can do that, the order will be restored on the road," he added.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary-general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said some workers cannot earn as much as they used to due to the ban on gate lock services and that probably was one of the reasons why the strike was called.
However, Enayet Ullah refused to comment on the waybill system.