People were seen rushing out of the port city, facing almost no hindrance yesterday, the last day before enforcement of a weeklong lockdown throughout the country. Although the government asked residents to not move from their location, initiatives from the administration to compel people to comply with the directive were absent on the roads.
As a result, people, many with families, were seen going to their village home "to enjoy the seven-day holiday".
There were some constraints on roads -- a lack of inter-district buses being one, but the desperate "holidaymakers" left no stone unturned to overcome the obstacles.
One of them was Azizul Islam, who works at a shop in a city shopping mall.
"I couldn't go home due to my work. As the shopping mall is going to close today, I've a seven-day vacation now, and so I'm leaving the city for my village home at Cox's Bazar's Chakaria," the 27-year-old told this correspondent at Karnaphuli Shah Amanat Bridge area.
"However, there are problems...I came here very swiftly by a city bus, but now, I've to go the rest of the way by a CNG-run auto-rickshaw and other small vehicles," he said. "Drivers of auto-rickshaws are demanding triple the regular fare."
Asked, why he is leaving the city spending extra money, Azizul smiled and said, "My newly-married wife is there, and she requested me to come home."
Capitalising on the mad rush, many drivers of small vehicles were seen demanding high fares.
In Bahaddarhat intersection, Sadhan Rudra along with wife and two children was seen bargaining with an auto-rickshaw driver over fare.
"I work at a private firm. As my office is going to close today, I've taken an early leave to go to my village home at Fatikchhari upazila with my family," said Sadhan. "But the auto-rickshaw driver is demanding double the normal fare."
Admitting the matter, Md Jasim, the driver, said usually he takes Tk 250-300 to go to Fatikchhari from Bahaddarhat, but he was demanding Tk 500 yesterday.
"The lockdown is going to start from tomorrow, and we'll have to sit idle with no income during that time," he said. "So, I'm trying to earn as much money as possible today."
Meanwhile, no initiative from the administration was seen to keep a check on the whole situation. One or two inter-district buses were seen plying on the road, dodging the eyes of the administration and capitalising on the lax monitoring.
A Chattogram city-bound bus coming from Cox's Bazar was seen dropping off passengers at Bakalia area around 11:30am.
Contacted, Suraya Yasmin, executive magistrate of Chattogram District Administration, said three mobile courts conducted drives in different exit routes of the city in the morning.
"We will be strict from tomorrow to compel people to stay at home, as 12 mobile courts will be on roads round the clock," she said.
Echoing the same, Sumani Akter, additional district magistrate of Chattogram, said mobile courts of the administration conduct drives every day, but people's awareness is key for the lockdown's success.