Bus services resumed inside cities and districts on Thursday after 22 days of restrictions imposed to curb Covid-19 infections, but most passengers hardly complied with hygiene rules outlined by the government.
The movement of buses and other mass commuting vehicles had remained suspended since 14 April because of alarming spite in Covid-19 infections.
Bus services resumed in the morning carrying half passengers and charging increased fares. But passengers were not following hygiene rules.
In some buses, passengers were seen going to their destinations in compliance with the hygiene rules, but in most buses, passengers were seen to be crowded. Many were seen not wearing face masks.
BRTC bus conductor Liaquat Hossain said, "We are carrying passengers at half of our capacity and are not allowing anyone to sit side by side."
"Even then if someone tries to sit next to another passenger, we explain government orders to them and ask to get down," he added.
CNG driver Belal Hossain told The Business Standard that there were traffic jams in different areas since morning. "I was stuck in more than one places while travelling from Mirpur to Shahbag because of traffic jams," he also said.
Meanwhile, public transport has also resumed across the country. Although there is talk of operating buses in accordance with the government health hygiene guidelines, many appeared to have neglected in some places. Many passengers did not wear masks. Passengers also complained of buses charging an excessive fare.
However, much fewer buses were seen plying than usual. Passengers from far-flung districts are at increased risk due to frequent bus changes. They have to spend extra time and rent.
DMP Traffic (Ramna Zone) Sergeant Morshedul Islam said, "From today [Thursday], we are checking the issues like carrying 50% passengers in public transport, charging proper fare, use of masks and social distancing at various posts in the capital."
"We are taking actions against those who violate hygiene rules and laws," he told TBS.
The government on Wednesday issued a gazette notification allowing public transports inside cities and districts. However, inter-district transports such as buses, trains and ships are yet to start operating.
According to the newest notice from the cabinet division on Wednesday, public transports will be able to run within the respective districts only.
The notice also increased the lockdown period to 16 May.
People rushing to different districts with different excuses
Hundreds of cars, microbuses, private cars, CNG-run auto rickshaws, motorcycles and Laguna are seen transporting passengers from Dhaka to different districts of the country every day violating the government directives.
People are also getting on these vehicles without following social distancing and any kind of health rules. And to get to their respective destinations, they have to count fares four to five times more than usual.
The vehicles are going from some of the busiest places in Dhaka, including Sonir Akhra, Signboard, Chittagong Road, Postogola, Tongi, Abdullahpur, Mohammadpur and TT Para (near Kamalapur Railway Station).
Even at night, AC and non-AC buses carrying passengers at full capacity are leaving for Chattogram and its adjoining districts from the Sayedabad bus stand, said a local counter master.
When the reporter asked him about fares and tickets posing as a passenger, he said at the moment, he has to pay more. "We have to manage many agencies, so ticket prices are high," he added.
The government has extended the lockdown to keep residents in Dhaka so that coronavirus does not spread.
There are also reports of people leaving Dhaka in covered vans and pickups from various places. Low-income people mainly use these vehicles. There are one or more linemen for controlling these vehicles and getting passengers.
Talking to some linemen from different areas, it is learned that about 10,000 people are leaving Dhaka from different parts of the city per day. However, the pressure increased on Thursday.
When asked how a vehicle can run, on condition of anonymity, a transport leader in Sayedabad said he has to pay Tk2,000 per day to members of local law enforcement agencies. "I also pay at some checkpoints to reach destinations. So, there is no problem."
The government is responsible for the people's rush. The government has allowed public transport to run within the district. But the lockdown does not work that way. If people need to be confined at home, everything has to be stopped, said Akbar Ali, a bus driver.
The reporter talked to at least 50 passengers. They all said they needed to go home showing different excuses.
"I finished my exam yesterday and my hostel was closed. So, I am going home to Comilla but I am scared to see so many people together," said Tanvira Akhter, a student at the University of Asia Pacific.
Echoing the same, Aminul Islam, another student from Ahsanullah University, said the government should allow long-distance buses to run carrying 50% passengers with a 60% extra fare hike.