A government move to transport cattle to Dhaka and other big cities by train ahead of Eid-ul-Azha has so far failed to draw any response from farmers and traders.
As a result, Bangladesh Railways (BR) has not been able to operate a single such train till last night, just over a week before the festival on August 1.
Talking to The Daily Star, farmers and cattle traders said carrying the sacrificial animals by trucks, which they always do, is economically viable for them. It also involves less hassle, they said.
In such a situation, the special “cattle train service” is apparently left in limbo.
The railway ministry made the decision of introducing the service during a meeting in the first week of this month. The aim was to bring the cattle to the capital and other cities from southern and northern districts hassle-free, said railways officials.
The BR was supposed to run the first such train from Khulna to Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka 10 days before Eid, with five stoppages for loading and unloading the animals.
The plan was to extend the service to other big cities, including Chattogram, said the officials.
Nasir Uddin, divisional transportation officer of railways (Pakshey), said the authorities yesterday fixed Tk 12,000 for each cattle cart, which can carry 16 bulls/buffalos or 30 goats/lambs.
It means carrying cost for each bull/buffalo will be Tk 750, while it will be Tk 400 for each goat or lamb.
Nur Nabi, a cattle farmer of Char Ratikandi village in Sirajganj’s Shahjadpur, however, explained why he would prefer trucks to trains to transport his animals.
“We load our cattle onto trucks from our village and unload them at a certain cattle market in Dhaka, Chattogram or any other district. We have to pay Tk 1,200 to Tk 1,500 for each bull or buffalo,” he said.
“If I want to use the train, I will have to hire a truck or Nasiman [a locally-made three-wheeler] to take the animals to the station. It will cost Tk 500 to Tk 600 for each animal. Again, I will have to do the same for transporting the cattle to the market from the Kamalapur station in Dhaka,” he said.
As the train would stop at different stations to pick and drop other cattle, the train journey will take more time, which means his cattle will need more food.
“In the end, I will have to spend around Tk 2,000 to Tk 2,500 for taking each cattle to the market,” Nur Nabi said, adding that loading and unloading cattle multiple times would be a hassle.
Several other cattle farmers and traders in Pabna, Sirajganj, and Kushtia echoed his views.
BR sources said the special train has not been operated yet as there is hardly any demand for it among the traders.
Asadul Haque, Pakshey divisional railway manager, admitted that they were not getting any response even after engaging field officials of the Department of Livestock in attracting the cattle farmers to avail the special “cattle train service”.
“We are trying hard,” he said.
Asadul said they have made all preparations to run at least one “cattle train” every day with five carriages. He added that the train would stop at Mobarakganj, Chuadanga, Poradah, Kushtia, and Ullapara stations.
Aminul Islam Mollah, deputy director of livestock department (Khulna division), said their officials were working to encourage farmers to take the train, instead of trucks, for the safety of the “journey”.
“But the farmers seem reluctant to use train,” he said.
He also said about 8.93 lakh cattle are supposed to be transported to Dhaka, Chattogram, and elsewhere from Khulna division alone ahead of Eid.
“Most traders from Dhaka and other districts haven’t arrived here yet,” he added.