Dhaka, Bangladesh
All but campuses reopen amid corona risks

All but campuses reopen amid corona risks

Road transport apparently ill fits, other communications adapt to new normal

News Report: Life and business, save

institutional academic activities,

reel out from an over two-month

lockdown with coronavirus risks

hovering around.

All modes of domestic

communications are also going to

kick-start on a limited scale

matching with the mobility being

unleeshed with the overall

reopening, avowdly on a "trial-and-

error basis" for a fortnight till

June 15.

However, road transport, seen by

all who speak about as the most

problematic of all modes of

transportation in terms of chaotic

run and accidents, appears to ill

fit yet in the pandemic period while

the other modes of communications,

like rail, waterway and airway,

arrange to adapt to the evolving

'new normal'.

The three others visibly prepared

the paraphernalia to operate under

the prescribed health protocols,

including sanitization tunnels at

terminals and stations, and agreed

to charge the same fares as before

despite running to half the seat

capacities for 'social distancing'

to contain viral contamination.

By a contrast, road-transport

owners of buses and minibuses in

particular went on haggling for fare

hike and exacted the nod from the

BRTA at a meeting Saturday to a

phenomenal raise of 80 percent to

run at half the passenger capacity--

at a time when commoners' incomes

are at the lowest ebb. Yet they

appeared noncommittal on being able

to ensure health safety, and they

will come out a day later, Monday,

on grounds of preparation.

Meanwhile, economic activities are

to resume on a larger scale from

today after the staggering 'general

holiday' ended on May 30 in a new

normal that necessitates maintaining

the anti-corona health rules.

The end of the shutdown was hinted

in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's

address to the nation last Sunday

evening as she said people's way of

living cannot be blocked

indefinitely and cited examples of

reopening in many foreign countries.

A loose lockdown in Bangladesh

under cover of holiday already

seemed falling apart with the

limited reopening of export

industries, shop reopening ahead of

eid and a taciturn bending of rules

letting townspeople go to native

homes for eid celebration, observers

said. And her speech hinted at

further relaxation of the ongoing

nationwide shutdown over the

coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to

allow people to resume economic


In her nationwide televised address

on the eve of the Eid-ul-Fitr

festival the prime minister also

announced that all the programmes

that the government launched to help

the people in the wake of the COVID-

19 outbreak will continue until the

present crisis is over.

“I and my government will stay

beside you, Insha Allah, until the

crisis is over,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina mentioned that most

countries of the world had already

been compelled to ease the lockdown

over coronavirus because it is not

possible to halt the way of income

of people for an indefinite time.

“It’s not possible in any way for a

developing countries like


The government initially declared a

general holiday on March 26 for 10

days. Later, that was gradually

extended till May 30 as the country

kept on seeing a rise in the number

of (confirmed) cases and deaths from


On Saturday, health officials

confirmed the highest daily death of

28 patients for a second day so far

but a decreased number of 1764

cases, in a wave of ups and downs in


The government first allowed from

April 26 the reopening of garment

factories that supply to some of

world’s biggest clothing brands.

Since then, around 4,000 out of

7,200 factories had resumed

production in different industrial

belts like Dhaka, Ashulia, Savar,

Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram

as well as various Export Processing

Zones (EPZs) across the country by

maintaining health protocols,

sources at Bangladesh Garment

Manufacturers and Exporters

Association (BGMEA) said.

The government also permitted

opening markets and shopping malls

from 10 am to 4 pm from May 10 by

maintaining health guidelines and

social-distancing measures.

Now that government offices and

industries are reopening, a

concomitant necessity of transport

for both office-goers and service-

seekers is created. In smaller

cities and towns both sides could

use regularly washed and

disinfectant-sprayed non-motorised

vehicles like rickshaw and easy-

bike. Some private transports with

similar anti-infection measures

could be used on specific purposes

of official service delivery and

service receipt.

For the sprawling capital city,

Dhaka, along with its outskirts, a

different commuting solution was

deemed viable. The aforesaid

transports were already in operation

under restrictions. But that's

expensive for commoners whose

incomes are blocked by the anti-

corona lockdown or home-stay or

emaciated through limited work or


A twin-remedy lied with

retrofitting staff buses of offices

and factories and the double-decker

state buses. The seating arrangement

has to be rearranged into single-

seater rows.

"All the buses must undergo

fumigation with disinfectants at

both ends," says one suggestion.

The BRTC double-deckers have to be

put in intra-city circular bus

service as mass transport for the

commuters with the retrofitting and

fumigation processes mentioned


None sans personal-protection

equipment like mask and possibly

hand-gloves be allowed onto the


None the less important is that no

ramshackle buses with bug-ridden

sticky seats of the old times should

be allowed in the street in the 'new

normal' emanating from the

surrealistic global and local

situation created by the novel

coronavirus or COVID-19 that is

still taking huge human tolls and

locking people down to home.

As a matter of fact, it'll no

longer be advisable to allow the

chaotic run of transport, mostly

outmoded and outwardly-painted buses

and minibuses, in the post-pandemic

new world with virtually resurrected

life and business, analysts think.

And now is the time, in the

intercession, the government

authorities concerned in transport

and traffic planning, lately

involving the highest echelons, got

down to specifying action plans to

execute the strategic transport plan

when life is rolling back in full


At the core is route franchise to

run company buses as mass transport

on already-designated routes. A

holistic remedy for problematic

traffic lies in execution of the

dormant strategic transport plan or

STP along with route franchise,

experts say as many special drive

for diciplining traffic had yielded

little results despite unforeseen

'road-safety uprisings' by students

in Dhaka's streets following

frequent fatal accidents that had

left a number of students dead,

among others.

The long-stalled ‘bus-route

franchise’ scheme was conceived

under the donor-aided STP taken up

by Dhaka Transport Coordination

Authority (DTCA). Safe-route

campaigners and transport experts

from BUET lamented that the scheme

for running company buses under

route franchise couldn’t take off

for "subtle opposition by transport


As a result, the old-mode

transport system had persisted until

the corona-enforced shutdown in this

mega-city while zillions of

passengers suffered for good

transports in adequate numbers and

fatal accidents continued to happen.

Various types of smaller vehicles

and ramshackle ones used jam the

low-capacity city routes, wasting

valuable working time and money as

well, the experts said.

Commuters in the capital seemed

caught in a double bind as they

suffered from inadequate mass

transport and also traffic jam with

zillions of smaller and non-

motorised vehicles.

"In all capitals across the world,

mass transport is in the public

sector, run on subsidy in public

good," said former secretary Abu

Alam Md Sahid Khan amid the latest

bout of debates over road


A fresh start of life with a fresh

mode of transport communications as

well as things realigned in all

spheres, now upended, is a cherished


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