Razia Khatun, a private company employee living in Agargaon area, had to spend only Tk50 on her way to and from office in Moghbazar in normal times. But the cost of her daily commute went up to around Tk600 during the transport strike that went on for the last three days.
Yesterday Razia waited for the BRTC bus since 8am, but could not get on any of them even after waiting for more than one and a half hours. She was forced to take a CNG autorickshaw for Tk300 to go to office on time, but her misery did not end there as it took more than two hours to reach her office.
Like Razia, numerous city commuters and inter-district passengers also suffered due to the countrywide transport strike – protesting the fuel price hike – that rolled into day three yesterday.
With hiked fares, ride-sharing cars, motorbikes, CNG-run auto rickshaws and paddle-run three-wheelers ruled the Dhaka streets amid the strike.
The number of private cars increased significantly yesterday with long tailbacks on many roads in the capital. There was also traffic congestion in many areas including Mirpur, Farmgate, Banglamotor, and Shahbagh.
Only a couple of private companies and the state-owned Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) operated busses on the city streets yesterday.
People, mainly office-goers, travelling to and from distant areas on the first working day of the week were desperately looking for a mode of transportation to reach their respective destinations.
A number of commuters complained that CNG-run auto-rickshaws, rickshaws, and ride providers were taking advantage of the untoward situation by charging them extra.
Selim Khan, after waiting for a bus at Mirpur since 8am, was forced to take a paddle-rickshaw ride for Tk200 to reach his office in Karwan Bazar.
Speaking to The Business Standard, he said, "I started today two hours earlier than my reporting time but still couldn't manage to get on the very few BRTC buses plying on the road. It looks like there is no end to the suffering of ordinary people like us."
Saira Khatun, who came to her office from Mohakhali by rickshaw, said it took her two hours to reach her destination.
"I had to pay 10 times more than the regular fare for the distance," he added.
Abdus Sobhan, who took an Uber to reach his office in Farmgate from Kamlapur, said, "I was waiting for a BRTC bus for hours but failed to get on one."
"Then I had to pay Tk600 for my ride to Farmgate, which is almost double the regular fare."
It was evident that the number of public transport vehicles on the streets of Dhaka was far from enough to be able to handle the high flow of passengers.
BRTC driver Nazmul said, "Our buses alone are not enough to accommodate the large number of passengers."
Meanwhile, commuters complained that the buses of the state-owned company were also charging extra fares.
Meanwhile, the suspension of launch service by owners on Saturday morning added to the woes of the passengers.
Bus and launch owners had withdrawn the strike yesterday after the authorities concerned decided to increase the fares, but owners of covered vans and trucks said they will continue the strike.
Chattogram felt the heat as well
People in Chattogram also suffered a great deal due to the transport strike.
Hundreds of people were seen waiting for hours on the roads of the port city as many were forced to rent cabs or motorbikes at higher rates to reach their destinations.
When contacted, Chattogram Metropolitan Transportation Owners' Group Secretary General Belayet Hossain said, "All of our 300 vehicles are on the road now. Efforts are being made to normalise the situation as soon as possible."
Mamun Al Hasan, a resident of the city, said CNG auto-rickshaws were charging Tk200 for carrying a passenger from the district's Shah Amanat Bridge to Gunagari in Banshkhali instead of the regular fare of Tk60.
Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) Assistant Commissioner Shariful Islam said, "The number of public transports today is more than yesterday. However, the crisis is still there."
On Wednesday, the government increased the prices of diesel and kerosene by Tk15 per litre.
Public bus and goods transport owners, who have suffered heavy losses because of the Covid-19 lockdowns, enforced the strike on Friday to protest the decision to hike fuel prices.
They also demanded that fares be readjusted.