Transport owners are not complying with the ban on long-route buses during the ongoing lockdown imposed to curb the second wave of Covid-19.
Long-route buses are running on different routes from Chattogram targeting passengers returning home. It has been alleged that long-route buses are transporting passengers on different inter-district routes.
Visiting Betbunia area of Chattogram-Rangamati road at 8am on Monday, it was seen that several buses of Paharika Bus Service were parked at the Chattogram end of the road. Some buses were also parked on the road's Rangamati side.
A bus carrying passengers from Rangamati comes and stops shortly before the police checkpost. After getting off the bus, the passengers cross the checkpost on foot and board another bus.
Similarly, several tourists were seen entering Rangamati by changing buses. No action was taken by the highway police or the police on duty at the checkpost.
Rangamati Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said, "Some 18 tourists were fined on Sunday for entering Rangamati in violation of the ban. The passengers, including the tourists, do not stop travelling due to the reckless activities of the transport owners. I am talking to the officer-in-charge. He will take action."
Bus passenger Animesh Chakma said, "I am going to work after the holidays. I did not get a bus on my way to Rangamati. However, buses have been running from Rangamati to Chattogram since Eid, but by changing buses once. Normally, the fare is Tk120 but they are charging Tk250."
Mainuddin, a driver of Paharika bus, said, "We are driving buses with permission. No bus from Chattogram is entering Rangamati and no bus from Rangamati is going to Chattogram. Passengers are being dropped off at the district border. They are walking to another bus, boarding it and then going to Chattogram."
When asked, Moinuddin Selim, president of the Rangamati-Chattogram Bus Owners Association, told The Business Standard, "Even though everyone is happy on Eid, long-route bus drivers are going hungry. So, we are forced to transport passengers in compliance with government restrictions."
Raozan Highway Police Officer-in-Charge Kamrul Azam said, "We had a checkpost on the Chattogram-Rangamati border, but it is not there now. If buses carry passengers this way, they are definitely violating the health guidelines."
Similarly, long-route buses from Cox's Bazar, Noakhali, Cumilla and Feni are entering Chattogram. On Sunday afternoon, it was seen that working people had started returning to Chattogram through entry points to the city, such as Shah Amanat Bridge and Kaptai Road.
The pressure of cars, motorcycles as well as long-distance buses was palpable. Those who could not go home for Eid holidays due to various reasons were also seen crowding at the bus stations.
Amir Hossain, a shop employee, said he reached the Aziz Nagar police checkpost on the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar highway by bus from Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar. After walking a short distance and crossing the Cox's Bazar gate, he got on another bus, thus reaching Chattogram in two steps.
Sohel Mohammad Manju, managing director of St Martin's Enterprise, a bus company operating on the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar route, said, "Even though the government has permitted buses to run inside districts, police still make a fuss. So, I was forced to stop the bus service."
Cumilla Highway Police Additional Superintendent of Police Mollah Mohammad Shahin told The Business Standard, "People went home before Eid. Now they are going on travels. We are seizing so many cars. We cannot find places to keep them."
"Still people are not paying heed. It is not possible for police to handle the situation if the transport owners are not aware," he added.