Be it on the highways or on ferries, people's desperate rush to go to their home towns for Eid only heightened yesterday, despite mounting difficulties.
This mad rush has been going on for the last four days and authorities fear it will get madder still from today as offices and garment factories will be closed for the Eid.
Pressure of vehicles had already increased yesterday on the Dhaka-Tangail and Dhaka-Chattogram highways.
The government had suspended inter-district public transport and asked all to stay at their present location to check the spread of Covid-19, but the move did little to stop the desperate home-goers from embarking on the difficult journey.
They left the capital by any means, disregarding physical distancing guidelines and ignoring the prime minister's request to celebrate Eid where they are to help check the spread of Covid-19.
Hundreds, including women and children, were waiting for hours under the scorching sun at ferry terminals and on roads. Many took detours and changed vehicles multiple times to go home. Some jumped on trucks, pick-ups and many even walked long distances to get home.
Low-income people bore the brunt of the rush as they had to pay fares hiked as much as double the usual amount for the journeys.
Health experts said the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh could worsen due to the increased public movement. They had earlier warned that the situation could turn more dangerous once the India variant made its way here.
Yesterday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque termed the decision to travel home for Eid as "suicidal".
PRESSURE INCREASED ON HIGHWAYS
In 24 hours, 31,899 vehicles crossed the Bangabandhu Bridge, the gateway to the northern districts, between 6:00am Sunday and 6:00am Monday.
On Sunday, it was 26,223 and the previous day's number was around 25,000.
This day-on-day increase reflects the increase in number of homebound people on the highways, despite a ban on inter-district buses and restrictions on movement.
Traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Tangail highway increased yesterday.
Due to the pressure of extra vehicles, there was slow movement over an area of about 13 kilometres from the east bank of Bangabandhu Bridge to Elenga of Kalihati Upazila, reports our Tangail correspondent.
Home-goers faced immense difficulty as long-haul buses were not operating on the road during day-time. Although the more fortunate could afford seats in private cars, low-income people were taking the risk of boarding the backs of trucks, small pick-up trucks and motorcycles.
Mozaffar Hossain, officer-in-charge of Gorai Highway Police Station, told The Daily Star, "Pressure of vehicles increased sharply. The flow of home-goers will increase from tomorrow [today] as the garment factories will be closed ahead of Eid," he added.
Meanwhile, like the previous three days, people in their thousands thronged the capital's inter-district bus terminals in Gabtoli and Sayedabad yesterday.
From Gabtoli, many went to Amin Bazar on foot to take a bus and other transports like private cars, microbuses, CNG-run auto-rickshaw, motorcycles, trucks and pick-up trucks.
Amin Bazar has turned into a makeshift transport hub as all kinds of vehicles were taking on passengers. A tailback was created from Gabtoli to Hemayetpur due to the rush.
Talking to this newspaper, many passengers said they were being charged almost double the usual fare.
Mamun Ali, who worked at an RMG factory in Keraniganj, came to Amin Bazar with his son to go to their hometown in Rajbari.
His journey back was not just due to Eid, but because he had lost his job in April as the garment factory he worked for was facing losses. Keeping his wife and daughter at his in-laws' in Keraniganj, Mamun was going back home.
"I only have Tk 2000. I don't know whether I can complete the journey," he said.
Transport workers however said they charge hiked fares to "manage" police. Whoever does not pay is caught and fined by the law enforcers, they alleged.
Around 12:30pm, this correspondent saw a passenger bus, which was heading out of the capital, disobeying a police signal to stop. A few metres ahead, police stopped the bus and the on-duty officer was handed a phone to talk to someone.
After a "negotiation" over phone, the officer let the bus to go.
Authorities have suspended daytime ferries and deployed BGB troops, but the surge could not be stopped.
Ferry services on the Paturia-Daulatdia and Shimulia-Bangla Bazar routes, gateways to the 21 south and southwestern districts of the country, have seen a massive rush for the last four days.
When ferries anchored at the terminals to take ambulances and vehicles carrying dead bodies, hundreds of people forcibly boarded them. Six ferries were seen leaving Shimulia terminal after such a scene during daytime yesterday.
Safayat Ahmed, manager (commerce) of BIWTC Shimulia terminal, said people cannot be barred from coming to the terminal. If the ferries are not operated, there would be even bigger crowds at the terminal.
Hundreds of passengers and also goods-laden vehicles were seen waiting at the terminal in the afternoon.
At Paturia, pressure of homebound passengers increased as the day progressed. Multiple ferries operated to transport hundreds of passengers along with ambulances.
[Our correspondents in Munshiganj, Manikganj and Tangail contributed to this report]