Lockdown usually means less traffic, and an unusual cut in commuting time between places. But the movement curbs for Dhaka no longer can be translated in this way.
With the Ramadan-centric shopping bonanza on and public buses suspended, the city of 1.70 crore people has been witnessing more and more private transports coming out on roads every day even amid the coronavirus-led movement restrictions.
On Sunday, a huge number of cars, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and motorcycles were found trapped in long tailbacks at the major key points of the city in the morning and in the afternoon.
Police say they have been tackling the rising number of cars on the roads since the shopping mall reopening. The gridlocks intensify in the afternoon as many Dhakaites rush to shopping malls while home-bound people after office struggle to attend iftar with their families and friends.
On Sunday, there were long tailbacks from Army Stadium to Banani, Satrasta, Badda, Shahbagh and Banglamotor. Before iftar, hundreds of cars and microbuses were honking on the roads as everyone rushed to reach their destinations.
Md Shamsul Islam Nayon, assistant commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP, Traffic, Mohakhali Zone), said there has been a mad rush for shopping since the market reopening – prompting gridlocks at major key points of the city at afternoon.
About the congestion from Army Stadium to Mohakhali stretch, he said as all u-turns were blocked after opening of a U-loop, vehicles wait in long queues before the U-loops on both sides.
In the meantime, Md Refatul Islam, assistant commissioner of DMP Ramna Traffic zone, said they are not stopping the vehicles now to inquire about the commuting reason during the lockdown as the shopping mall reopening overflows the roads with traffic.
"As police relaxed the checking, more people are coming out everyday. People who do not have cars are availing CNG auto-rickshaws and ridesharing motorbikes on contact," he added.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), around more than 3 lakh cars have been permitted on Dhaka roads so far, and more are applying for registration everyday.
Contacted, public transportation experts say the huge number of private transports is enough to occupy the Dhaka roads.
"You do not need the buses, the cars alone can create huge traffic congestions if they hit the road at the same time like in rush hours," said Saifun Newaz, assistant professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology's (Buet) Accident Research Institute.
Shop owners want malls to remain open until 12am
The Bangladesh Shop Owners Association has demanded to keep the market and shopping malls open until 12am during this Ramadan – the peak time for sales every year.
The markets are now open from 10am-8pm.
In the letter to the prime minister in this regard Sunday, they also promised to strictly maintain the virus safety measures.
The association sent copies of the letter to the cabinet division senior secretary and commerce secretary too, confirmed a leader of the association to TBS.
According to the letter, as the restaurants are closed due to the lockdown and private offices end at 4pm, most of the shoppers usually complete Eid shopping within 3pm-5pm to do iftar at home. Moreover, people hardly come to the shopping malls after completing iftar in the evening.
Therefore, the malls witness excessive crowds in the afternoon, said the shop owners in the letter.
They think if the markets and malls remain open until 12am, the afternoon rush will be thin as people will get more time for shopping.