Vol. 5 Num 530 Wed. November 23, 2005  
Front Page

Transport strike ends predictably after rally

The wildcat transport strike, believed to be sponsored by the government, was withdrawn yesterday evening soon after the opposition's grand rally ended at Paltan Maidan.

People suffered a lot for the second day due to the countrywide strike amid a drama over the granting of bail to and release of the arrested transport leader Mujibur Rahman.

The ruling party-backed transport leaders claimed that the strike was withdrawn following the release of their leader Mujibur who was arrested in Dinajpur two days back. He was freed at 8:30pm from Dinajpur jail after getting bail in three criminal cases.

In the face of allegation that the government provoked the transport leaders to call the strike in a bid to foil the opposition rally, Communications Minister Nazmul Huda yesterday said the transport strike was nothing but an arranged game of the opposition.

He said the opposition parties had arranged the transport strike fearing poor response from the people to their rally at Paltan Maidan.

"Awami League, being rejected by the people, arranged the 'strike game' to save its face. The game was designed to shift the blame on the government if the opposition rally flopped," the minister told parliament in a statement.

Contradicting Huda, Jatiya Party lawmaker Moshiur Rahman Ranga, also a transport owner, said the transport owners and workers had called the strike to realise their demands including release of workers' leader Mujibur.

After Mujibur, a leader of North Bengal Transport Workers Federation, was arrested on Sunday night, some federation leaders led by its Secretary Habibur Rahman Khan, who happens to be father of a minister, called the nationwide strike from Monday morning apparently to prevent people from converging into the opposition rally.

A first class magistrate at Dinajpur yesterday morning rejected the bail petition of Mujibur in one case and granted him bail in the other two cases, our Dinajpur correspondent reports.

But he was released dramatically after the Court of Additional Sessions Judge SM Rezanur Rahman sat at 6:00pm and granted him bail in the third case.

The lawyers in the district were surprised to see the prompt attempt to grant Mujibur bail after normal working hours of the court. They termed it 'unprecedented'.

When thousands of commuters, office-goers and students experienced unbearable sufferings for the last two days due to the strike, the communications minister showed reluctance to resolve the crisis and blamed the opposition for the strike.

He had a marathon meeting with the pro-government transport leaders at his residence Monday night but he did not give any assurance. At last he assured the transport leaders of releasing Mujibur when the adjourned meeting resumed yesterday afternoon.

Habibur Rahman Khan represented the pro-government transport leaders in the meeting.

In another development, the 14-party opposition combine in Tangail district yesterday declared Habibur Rahman Khan and his son Lutfar Rahman Khan, also state minister for NGO affairs, persone non grata in Tangail.

The decision was announced during a demonstration of the 14-party in Tangail in protest against the government's alleged move to foil the opposition rally.

Meanwhile, thousands of people who needed to travel from one district to other faced tremendous sufferings due to the strike for the second day yesterday.

The absence of public buses including those of the state-run BRTC in and outside the city created scopes for the drivers of taxicabs, CNG-run three-wheelers, microbuses and trucks to cash in on the emergencies of the passengers.

Thousands of people were found waiting for transports at the city's main bus terminals -- Gabtoli, Sayedabad, Mohakhali and Jatrabari. Most of them had to reach their destinations on foot. The drivers of taxicabs and three-wheelers charged extra fare.

Sumon, a university student, along with his family members and friends, had to go to Kusthia to attend the marriage ceremony of his sister. Finding no buses, they were compelled to hire a taxicab at Tk 160 for each passenger to go to Aricha.

Rajshahi University graduate Mohsin Hossain Azad came to Dhaka Monday night by a truck for a job interview. He had some emergencies to return home by yesterday, but he could not see any transport. "I have to go by any means -- be it a truck or a tempo."

Md Aslam, 20, of Keraniganj was to go to Sirajganj as his sister-in-law died, but he found not a single vehicle that could carry him. "So far there is no indication that the strike is being called off. I fear I would not be able to see the body of my sister-in-law," he said.

This correspondent found Ekramul Haque, a day labourer hailing from Rangpur, sitting on the footpath in front of Parbat Cinema with bag and baggage. He said he was to go to Rangpur for his mother's sickness, but he found no vehicle.

Jahangirnagar University student Anwar Hossain who came to Dhaka yesterday noon said human hauliers charged high fare to carry passengers to the capital.

Alauddin Hossain along with his family members came to Zia International Airport by a taxicab from Savar to see off his brother who left for Kuwait yesterday. Alauddin said he had to give Tk 500 in bribe to a police sergeant at Savar for coming to the city.

There were allegations that besides preventing people from coming to the city to attend the opposition rally, the police and BNP activists harassed hundreds of commoners who were to come to the city for regular activities.

The two-day transport strike forces many passengers to have a risky ride on the train roof to come to the capital yesterday. The photo was taken near the Kamalapur Railway Station. PHOTO: STAR