The ban on inter-district buses and restrictions on public movement could not stop the mad rush of homebound people, as thousands made arduous journeys yesterday to celebrate the Eid with their loved ones amid the pandemic.
Braving inclement weather, the holidaymakers, mostly garments workers, left the capital and its adjacent areas for their village homes following the closure of factories ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr.
Many of them, including women and children, waited for hours at ferry terminals and on roads, getting drenched in rain. They took detours and changed vehicles multiple times to go home. Some even hopped trucks and pick-ups while many others walked long distances to reach their destinations.
Disregarding the health safety rules, they were desperate to go home by any means.
This mad rush has been going on for the last five days. But the number of home-goers yesterday was higher than that in the previous days. The authorities fear more and more people will leave the city today as the Eid will be celebrated tomorrow or Friday.
Last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged all to celebrate the Eid where they are to help check the spread of Covid-19.
Health experts have warned that the Covid situation in the country could worsen due to the increased public movement centring the Eid.
SUFFERINGS ON ROADS
The home-goers, mostly from low-income groups, faced immense difficulties as long-haul buses remained off the roads due to the government-imposed restrictions.
They boarded trucks, small pick-ups, human haulers and even rode motorbikes to reach their destinations.
Capitalising on the situation, the buses that were allowed to operate within the city charged passengers much higher than usual yesterday.
At Amin Bazar, buses were charging passengers Tk 600 each for a trip to Paturia or Chandra, which was Tk 200-300 earlier. One had to pay up to Tk 1,000 to go to Paturia by a motorbike or car or microbus.
Many of the home-goers said they had to spend three times the amount they usually pay as fares to go home.
Lata Khatun, a staffer at a hospital in Narayanganj, came to Amin Bazar to board a microbus to go to Sirajganj. After waiting for two hours, she got one, but the driver demanded Tk 2,000, which was Tk 1,000 for each passenger a day ago.
Many others, mostly garment workers, were seen waiting for vehicles at Gazipur's Chandra to reach their destinations in the northern region.
Talking to this newspaper, a woman said she was going to Natore on a pick-up by paying Tk 1,000.
Many motorbikes were seen carrying four people, putting lives at risk. Abdul Hye and his wife -- both workers at a garment factory in Savar -- along with their child got on a motorbike at Chandra to go to Bogura. They had to pay Tk 1,800 for the trip.
Rafiqul Islam, a worker at SM Knitwear Limited in Gazipur, said he got a 10-day leave and would go to Sherpur to celebrate the Eid there. He, along with wife and son, was waiting at Gazipur's Bhabanipur bus stand for a vehicle for three hours. But he was yet to get one as of 2:30pm yesterday.
Alamgir Hossain, a worker at Safa Sweater Factory in Gazipur, said he along with 13 co-workers hired a microbus for Tk 14,000 to go to Bogura.
Yesterday, the pressure of vehicles increased on the Dhaka-Chattogram and the Dhaka-Tangail highways.
Yesterday, there was a huge rush of home-goers at Paturia-Daulatdia and Shimulia-Bangla Bazar ferry ghats, the gateways to 21 south and south-western districts.
Five ferries left Paturia for Daulatdia in Rajbari while 14 more left Shimulia for Bangla Bazar in Madaripur from 6:00am to 5:00pm yesterday, carrying a large number of home-goers.
Meanwhile, a microbus driver was feared dead after the vehicle fell into the river from the pontoon at Daulatdia ferry ghat due to gusty winds around 11:00am.
The vehicle was salvaged but the driver could not be traced, reports our Manikganj correspondent.
[Our Correspondents in Tangail, Gazipur and Munshiganj contributed to this report]