Long tailbacks on highways, crammed buses, launches and trains, and anxious faces of holidaymakers — the usual scenes before every Eid are missing this time.
The number of people leaving the capital for the festival is relatively low this year.
Fears of contracting the deadly virus, economic hardship and floods in several parts of the country have forced thousands of holidaymakers to cancel their trips home to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha tomorrow with their loved ones.
Besides, the government has asked public servants to remain at workstations during Eid vacation.
According to estimates by transport operators, around 80 lakh to 1.15 crore people leave the capital to celebrate Eid every year. But their journey often turns bitter largely due to traffic jams, overpriced tickets and delays in public transport schedules.
But things were different this year.
There was no pressure of home-bound people at the bus terminals over the last few days. However, the bus stations and Sadarghat launch terminal started seeing crowds of people since yesterday afternoon, operators said.
The passengers did not have to endure tailbacks either at the exit points of the capital or on highways, nor did they face any traffic congestion on the way.
Major bus operators claimed to have maintained health safety guidelines as much as possible and took a number of passengers that cover only 50 percent of the vehicles’ capacities. Many small bus operators, however, violated health directives.
Even though buses were less crowded, home-goers heading for south western districts faced severe hurdles at both the ferry terminals, as floods and strong currents in the Padma continued to disrupt ferry services.
The rush of holidaymakers is likely to increase today as the three-day holiday for Eid begins, operators said.
Crowds were scarce at train stations; only 17 intercity trains are operating with 50 percent of the capacity. There was also no major disruption in train services.
Health experts, however, stressed the need for maintaining health safety guidelines during the journey, or else Covid-19 infection rate could go up sharply.
Mosharref Hossain, general manager of Hanif Paribahan, said the number of passengers has increased yesterday but it was still unlike other years.
He said they were operating only 30 percent of their total number of buses. “We are incurring huge losses due to the low number of passengers on the way back to Dhaka,” he said.
About maintaining the government’s directives to only meet 50 percent of their passenger capacity, he said: “Major operators are following the directives but many local and small ones are not. Some are even meeting 100 percent of the passenger capacity.”
People heading to the south western region are facing hassles, as authorities are operating 10 out of the 16 ferries on the Shimulia-Kathalbari route due to strong currents in the Padma, which washed away a pontoon of the Shimulia ferry terminal on Tuesday.
As a result, many are taking the alternative Paturia-Daulatdia route, resulting in huge pressure on the vehicles there and causing tailbacks on the way there.
A Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) staffer at Shimulia said the number of passengers, especially on motorcycles and other light vehicles, has increased yesterday.
“The numbers of passengers and vehicles were high in the morning as the ferries remained suspended the night before due to strong currents,” he said, preferring anonymity.
Meanwhile, around 250 private cars and microbuses were seen waiting at the Paturia end of the Paturia-Daulatdia terminal around 1:00pm. Some 300 trucks were seen waiting at truck terminals at that time as well, reported our Manikganj correspondent.
Zillur Rahman, BIWTC deputy general manager at the terminal, said they were facing a pressure of vehicles since yesterday morning as many people started leaving Dhaka. “However, our ferry services remain normal,” he claimed, adding that they were operating 15 ferries.
LAUNCH AND TRAINS
Meanwhile, Sadarghat launch terminal witnessed a relatively higher number of people yesterday as many of them, especially garment workers, rushed there after their offices or factories were declared closed.
Abdus Salam, joint director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), said the number of passengers increased yesterday afternoon.
“There is a crowd of passengers at the terminal today [Thursday]. But the crowd is not as intense as previous Eid holidays,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Even Kamalapur railway station did not see its usual Eid crowd.
Bangladesh Railway is operating only 17 intercity trains with 50 percent of the passenger capacity. As all tickets were sold out online and people without tickets were not allowed to travel, there was no pressure of passengers at the stations, officials said.