Let them cross the river | The Daily Star
03:55 PM, May 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:27 PM, May 19, 2020

Let them cross the river

Hundreds of people are stuck at the Shimulia-Kathalbari and Paturia-Daulatdia ferry terminals on their way to village homes, as the authorities suspended the ferry services to prevent crowding -- in an attempt to curb coronavirus transmission.

One must wonder why all these people were allowed to arrive at the ferry terminals in the first place, and then made to wait for hours on the river banks.

Will the authority's suspension of ferry service prevent these stuck, homebound people from crossing the river? "No" is the likely answer. These people would cross the river via small water vessels. That would be riskier.

When super cyclone Amphan is approaching, the river may become rough -- leading to fatal accidents.

According to our reporter, over 5,000 people spent the whole night at Shimulia under the open sky as the ferry service was suspended yesterday. Many children were in the crowd.

If ferry services do not resume today, who will feed these people? Will they stay at the terminal tonight too?

Let's now consider another aspect. How many of them can afford to return to Dhaka? If and when they decide to return, will the authorities allow them to enter the capital?

Authorities should take necessary initiatives so that the people stuck at ferry terminals can cross the river.

At this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, people should not go to their village homes this way. But how did they manage to reach the ferry terminals when police have already imposed restrictions in entering and exiting the capital without urgent needs?

Yesterday and today, pictures of throngs on the streets and on ferries have generated a firestorm of discussion on social media, and many netizens who uploaded these pictures were very critical of the homebound people.

But look closely at these photos, and you should understand the reality and the condition that has forced them to go to their village homes during this crisis. Have you considered how many of them will return to Dhaka after Eid as their livelihood is uncertain?

Many of these people were forced to leave Dhaka due to financial hardship and the debilitating burden of expenses that include daily essentials and house rent.

If these people can go home during Eid, they may get help from elected representatives or affluent people in their respective areas. If they are forced to stay in Dhaka, who will feed them, who will provide them money to pay rent?

It feels unnerving to see hundreds of people walking towards their villages. But fear of coronavirus transmission was not the first thought that came to mind, their uncertain future was.

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