People in their hundreds continued to leave the capital and its outskirts on Sunday in a bid to reach their hometowns and villages before a countrywide strict lockdown comes into force.
Many people were seen going to their villages with all their belongings and family members. They said they were leaving this busy city for good.
One of them was rickshaw puller Mohammad Belal who used to live in a rented house in Kamrangirchar. He along with his wife, daughter and two grandchildren was taking all his household goods in a pickup van to his village home in the northern district of Dinajpur.
"For the past one year, the income from pulling a rickshaw has been very low. It was difficult to manage three meals a day for the family. On top of this, I am not as strong as before physically and that is why I find it difficult to drive a rickshaw. And now as the lockdown is coming, we will have to die of hunger if we stay here," said Belal while sitting in the pickup.
"After losing everything in the village, I came to this city eight years ago to live a little better life. But today, I'm forced to go back," he said in a choked voice, adding, "I have four daughters but no son. That I could marry off them all is what gives me a peace of mind."
"I have a small house at my village home. I'll live there and lead the rest of my life doing whatever work I can manage."
In the meantime, the traffic congestion eased up and his pick-up van started moving.
Like Belal, Amena Begum was bound to her village in Kushtia with the intention of never coming back to Dhaka.
She has been married for three years. About one and a half years ago, she came to Dhaka from Kushtia to stay with her husband who works with a private company here.
"Following the lockdown last year, my husband's income decreased. We had been leading our lives with great difficulties since then, but cannot manage it any longer. So, I am leaving this city forever."
Two more families who were going to their villages for good were found in the capital's Gabtali and Bijoy Sarani. They also mentioned reduced income and looming uncertainties over the days ahead as the reasons for their leaving the city.
In Gabtali, thousands of people were seen going to Amin Bazar by rickshaws or on foot. From there, microbuses, personal cars and minibuses were leaving for different districts of the country but passengers were being 4-5 times overcharged.
This has led to the emergence of a broker class who collect passengers for the vehicles.
Speaking to several brokers, it has been learned that 150-200 microbuses and personal cars leave Gabtali for different districts every day. Besides, about 500 motorbikes and 100-150 CNG-run auto-rickshaws also carry passengers to different districts, they added.
Kamal Khan, a broker, said a majority of passengers are bound to Rangpur, Kushtia, Dinajpur, Rajshahi and Khulna districts. Each passenger now has to pay Tk1,200-2,000 to go to these districts, although the fare was Tk350-600 previously.
Besides, some minibuses carry passengers to Paturia Ghat at a fare of Tk400 per person, which was Tk75 earlier, he added.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, ferries plying the Shimulia-Banglabazar route saw the thickest crowd of south-bound passengers over the past several days.
On a field level visit, The Business Standard found every ferry on the route was crowded with passengers, although there were a small number of vehicles. Even though the ferries are supposed to carry goods carrying vehicles and those involved in emergency services, personal vehicles were also seen onboard the ferry.
Asked, Shafayet Ahmed, assistant manager (commerce) of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) at Shimulia Ghat, told TBS, "Currently, 15 ferries are plying the route. There have been crowds of passengers since morning, but there is no pressure of cars. Every passenger gets on the ferry by force."
Zakir Hossain, in charge of Mawa Traffic Police, said, "We are requesting people to follow the lockdown-related instructions, but passengers are coming to the ghat from Dhaka in different ways. Again, passengers coming from the Banglabazar Ghat are trying to go to Dhaka."
Meanwhile, crowds of passengers flocked at the Signboard point of the Dhaka-Chattogram highway.
Due to a shortage of public transports, passengers were seen leaving for their destinations on microbuses, personal cars and motorbikes paying extra fares. Some even went by pick-ups.
On the other hand, the Paturia-Daulatdia route saw a rather less rush of homebound people on Sunday.
Zillur Rahman, deputy general manager at the Aricha office of the BIWTC, said 14 ferries were plying on the Paturia-Daulatdia route and three on the Aricha-Kazirhat route. There was no additional pressure of passengers and vehicles in both the ferry terminal areas on the route.
Each ferry was carrying 40-50 passengers or a little more, he added.
Sumon Deb, additional superintendent of police (administration) in Munshiganj district, said there was less passenger pressure at Shimulia Ghat since morning due to the supervision of police at check posts on the highway.
"Police are on high alert at the Nimtala check post. No vehicles except ambulances and those involved in emergency services are being allowed to enter."
**Our district correspondents from Munshiganj and Manikganj also contributed to the report.