In the amid crisis of covid-19 Bangladesh Government took a controversial step to curve the infection. Those who own a private car, can only go outside the capital (or anywhere in the country). Others simply can’t.
This decision already created a buzz and irked so many people who don’t own a car.
When the general holiday was extended till May 30, the government advised everyone to stay at workplace. The holiday notification states: No one may leave the workplace during the general holiday. During this time, public transport, passenger boats and railways will be closed and air traffic on domestic routes will be closed. Vehicles other than those engaged in emergency services must be strictly controlled.
To implement this decision of the government, the police surveillance was increased at every place of entry and exit of Dhaka. Many citizens were sent back as they could not show reasonable reasons for leaving or entering Dhaka. On May 17, a top police official announced, “No one will be allowed to go home on Eid.”
Not only the announcement, the government stopped the ferry service on two routes from Dhaka to the south to prevent people from going home on Eid. Yet many people have tried to go home like that. To stop the flow of people, the government at one stage stopped the ferry service at Paturia and Mawa ferries. At that time many homebound people were also sent back to Dhaka. But the result of letting go to the ferry was the crowd and chaos on the whole road.
In the context of the increasing number of deaths and deaths due to corona every day, people took this decision of the government quite positively. Most of the patients with coronary heart disease are still residents of Dhaka. So going home on Eid means increasing the risk of corona in the village. Starting from the health minister, health experts have repeatedly warned about this. Some have suggested curfew during Eid.
Then on Thursday night, the government suddenly relaxed restrictions on the movement of homebound people on Eid. Earlier it was said that no one will be able to go home on Eid. Now being told, you can go home, but in a private car or microbus. After this announcement of the government, the search of the entrance and exit of Dhaka was practically lifted. Thousands of people were seen leaving Dhaka in private cars and microbuses since Friday morning. Many are going by van, motorcycle or even truck.
The latest decision of the government has provoked strong reactions in various quarters. Many have asked, when the government will lift the restrictions, what was the need to do so much drama? One wrote on Facebook, ‘Is this country home and car owners?’ Another commented, ‘After the hard-working poor return home, is the opportunity for the rich to go home by car? So what’s the point of keeping public transport stuck? ‘
If the government allows people to leave work or go home on Eid, then why stop public transport? Stopping public transport means obstructing the movement of ordinary people. And letting go of private cars or microbuses means that only those who have this facility can go.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) said, ‘We have received instructions from the police headquarters that those who want to go home can go home. Police will ensure safety on the way. There will also be checkposts for the safety of the common man. However, public transport will be closed.
Such discriminatory directives are against the law. The government has said public transport will be closed. Ferry is not public transport?
After the government relaxed the restrictions, the pressure of homebound people on Eid has increased in 21 districts of the south-west through Paturia and Mawa ferries in Manikganj. Passengers are going to the ferry terminal from Dhaka by private cars, microbuses, pickup vans and motorcycles. After crossing the ferry, go to the other side by rent-a-car, micro or any other vehicle. Many have said, those who have cars, will they only celebrate Eid? I have to go home by any means. People die in accidents when they go home by any of these means. A few days ago, 11 workers were going to Rangpur hiding in a truck loaded with iron rods. At least 11 people were killed when the truck overturned in Gaibandha.
The government has stopped buses and minibuses due to the risk of coronavirus infection. People can be infected when many people are together. But hundreds of people are crossing the river together on the ferry. Is there no system to prevent infection? What benefit does the government really want to get by keeping public transport half open and half closed?
It is also difficult to determine which is the private car and which is the rental. According to the newspaper, rent-a-car and microbus fares in Dhaka have increased several times after the government relaxed the restrictions on movement. Passengers will go to their destination packed in these vehicles. The level of risk from public transport is no less.
Those who cannot afford to rent a car or a microbus have traveled long distances in vans, autorickshaws, easybikes, and even freight trucks at risk. We saw such a scene again in early April, when the ready-made garment industry was opened. Thousands of workers have come to Dhaka on foot, in rickshaws, vans and autos. If there is a little compassion for these poor people, no one can ask them to come like this. The workers are helpless. For them, hunger is far more frightening than corona’s fear.
Is the government the car owners? Not poor people?