People's desperation to visit their permanent residences for Eid celebrations brings cheers to vehicle rental services providers amidst the gloom of the pandemic.
This gives them somewhat of an edge over inter-district transport service providers as the government enforced restrictions on the long route transports to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
For the last couple of days, the demand for private cars and microbuses soared 100 per cent with a 50 per cent hike in rent compared to the pre-pandemic Eid seasons.
Amid a second wave of coronavirus infections, public transport services were suspended from April 5.
Although the government revised the decision to resume public transport services within major cities two days later, the long-route transport services were kept suspended.
On May 4, the government decided to extend the ongoing lockdown till May 16, keeping suspended inter-district buses, launch and train services.
Then, people finally started to move out from the capital to their destinations on foot, goods-carrying trucks, pick-up vans and motorcycles, leaving the low-income people to bear the brunt as they have to pay extra or almost double than the usual for the journeys.
Well-off families are teaming up with others to rent cars or microbuses to go to their homes.
"In the last five days, I made eight trips carrying home-bound people. But in April, the total number of trips was less than 10," Md Shagar, a driver of a privately owned car, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Shagar, who works for a car company paying a remuneration of Tk 600 per trip, said among recent trips, the highest payment from customers was Tk 22,000 for a trip to Cox's Bazar and Tk 12,000 for another to Chattogram.
A trip to Cox's Bazar on a regular day costs Tk 15,000 and Chattogram Tk 8,000. Shagar hoped that if the trend continues, the income of this month would be better than that of recent months, as their income had fallen significantly for the low number of trips made in recent times.
Md Shahed, a resident of Dhaka's Uttara, said the most enjoyable part of his life was to visit his hometown during Eid seasons.
"No restriction could prevent the people from going home during such festivals," he said, adding that he was looking for a car to leave for his hometown in Habiganj.
"However, the fare is very exorbitant as around Tk 2,000 has been demanded by the car owners," he added.
Zakir Hossain, who works for a private company in Dhaka, said it has been over a year since he visited his hometown in Cumilla district as he skipped the trips in the last two Eids for the virus.
"So this time I am going home to celebrate Eid with my family. The situation of the pandemic is bad but my parents are adamant to see me," he said.
"We rented a Hiace-branded microbus for the members of the family with Tk 9,000, up from Tk 4,000-5000 in pre-pandemic times," he said.
Sheba.xyz, a startup that provides various services through its online app and site, connected hundreds of rent-a-car companies with their platform.
Ilmul Haque Sajib, co-founder of the company, said since inter-district bus services had been suspended, the demand for trips with rental cars has also increased from the beginning of this month ahead of Eid.
"Those who can afford it are renting a car and going home to the village with the family. Since the beginning of this month, the demand for Noah, Hiace and other private cars has been increasing," he added.
Around 50 trips have been made every day using Sheba's platform in the last few days, which is twofold that before Eid when the situation was normal.
"Usually, the fare increases by 10-15 per cent centring Eid. However, in the current situation, the rent has increased by another 20 per cent over that," said Sajib.
Abdul Alek, owner of the Central Business Center & Rent A-Car, said the demand for trips before Eid this year was four to five times higher than any other year.
"I have a total of 14 cars but I can't meet the current increasing demand and had to turn down many customers," he said.
A driver of a private car claimed that they had to pay bribes to some police personnel at some check posts as such transport services outside Dhaka are now restricted due to the lockdown. This is also a reason for the increase in rent.
Mir Istiar Hossain, owner of the Mir Rent-a-Car on Green Road of the capital, said requests started flooding in from from the beginning of this month.
"Especially, the big microbuses are all booked, not a single one is available till Eid."
"Usually, we would make 20 trips every day in the 10 days before Eid," Hossain said.
Now the situation is that there is a demand for 100 cars every day. It used to cost Tk 6,000 to go from Dhaka to Sirajganj. Now it has increased to over Tk 12,000.