People have been rushing to leave Dhaka through waterway routes since the government announced a lockdown across the country on Friday night to be effective from Monday, following an increase in the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
Many micro and small traders and workers involved in various sectors have decided to leave the capital as their business entities would remain closed amid the one-week shutdown. Besides, many people who had come to Dhaka from adjacent districts for various purposes, including medical, have started leaving for their home districts.
Kabir Mia, a van puller in Karwan Bazar, said many labourers and van pullers in the Karwan Bazar area left Dhaka by trucks on Friday night. "They left for their village homes as they have to starve to death if they stay in Dhaka amid the shutdown. This is because they will have no work as none can go out during the shutdown."
A hotel worker named Feroz Mia said the hotel owner had paid the salary and advised all workers to go home after the announcement of the lockdown.
There were a huge throng and lots of private vehicles on ferries on the Shimulia-Banglabazar route as no other means of transport but the ferry was available.
Mawa Naval Police Inspector Sirajul Kabir said besides private vehicles people were coming to the ghat on foot as various public transports were closed. Fourteen ferries are being used for emergency service vehicles and ambulance but those are carrying passengers and private vehicles on humanitarian grounds.
Munshiganj District Additional Superintendent of Police Sumon Dev said there are multiple traffic and district police check posts on the Dhaka-Mawa highway. No vehicles are allowed to enter the ghat without justified needs.
During the previous lockdown before Eid-ul-Fitr, home-bound people had to go through unprecedented sufferings and risks as ferry services were closed by authorities. This time, the authorities have kept ferry services open for medical and other emergency needs, but home-goers are using ferry services.
Meanwhile, there was a rush of people at the Paturia-Aricha ferry terminal in Manikganj. Passengers were found travelling in rickshaws, vans, motorcycles, private cars and on foot. The Dhaka-Aricha highway and the Paturia-Aricha waterway are used by people from about 21 southwestern districts.
There are several security posts in the highway area. Though the authorities sent some ghat-bound vehicles back, many managed to reach the ghat dodging check post policemen.
Monirul Islam, Officer-in-Charge of Golra Highway Police Station, said people moving on foot showing various excuses could not be stopped.
Zillur Rahman, Deputy General Manager, Aricha office of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, said 12 ferries were plying the Paturia-Daulatdia route and three on the Aricha-Kazirhat route to continue emergency services. Some home-bound people heading southwest are crossing the river in these ferries.
People said they had to pay extra fare due to the closure of public transport. Abdus Salam said he, along with three passengers, had come to the ghat area from Keraniganj by CNG with a fare of Tk1,000. Another home-goer Salma Begum said she had to pay Tk600 to come to the ghat from Mirpur.
In the Gabtali area of the capital, many people were seen walking towards Amin Bazar from where microbuses leave for Manikganj.
Besides microbuses, there were CNG-run auto-rickshaws, private cars and motorcycles in Amin Bazar. People had to bear three to five times more fare to travel by those overcrowded vehicles.
Microbus driver Alamin said they take extra fare because they have to give bribes to policemen when they stop vehicles on the way to destinations. Besides, they had to change routes and go to the destination in a roundabout way.
Our district correspondents from Munshiganj and Manikganj have contributed to the report.