Workers have demonstrated in Chattogram in protest against a decision to keep factories and offices open with the public transport system shut ahead of a strict lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak.
As private cars and motorcycles, rickshaws and freight transports are allowed, huge tailbacks were created in the port city after the protesters blocked the streets in the Tiger Pass area for three hours to 10 am on Wednesday, reports bdnews24.com.
Witnesses said the commuters took to the streets after waiting for transports for long in the rain at the Tiger Pass bend.
No motorised passenger vehicle will be allowed during a seven-day strict lockdown across the nation starting on Thursday. Offices will also remain shut but factories will remain open.
Some restrictions were announced for three days ahead of the strict lockdown. In this period, offices and factories remained open but the public transport system was shut, measures that created trouble for people to go to work and then return home.
“The government announced the lockdown to control the pandemic, but it has allowed production at the garment factories that have most crowds,” said Debesh Chowdhury, a factory worker in Chattogram EPZ.
“It has ordered a shutdown of the public transport system while the offices are open. Many factories have vehicles for the officials, but not for the workers, which has put us in trouble.”
Another worker, Nazma Begum, said they are changing transports to reach factories as the authorities have not arranged transports for them. “We are paying three to four times higher than the usual fare. And we are being late.”
The protesters also blocked buses transporting officials of factories in the EPZ.
An official of a factory said their bus reached the factory at 11:45 am instead of the usual time of 8 am due to the blockade.
Nezm Uddin, chief of Kotwali Police Station, said the roads were empty due to rains. At one stage of waiting for transports, the workers began demonstrating.
Later, the police talked to the workers and the leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The protesters left the street after the BGMEA leaders assured them of transports for commuting.
Syed Nazrul Islam, the first vice-president of BGMEA, denied that protests were linked to keeping factories open amid the lockdown.
“We’ve talked to owners of the factories. They said there was a delay to get transports for the workers as some vehicles were broke down and missed the schedule. It has nothing to do with the lockdown.”
He urged the police to cooperate with the authorities to transport the workers from 6 am to 8 am and from 4 pm to 8 pm every day during the strict lockdown.