As the ‘strictest lockdown’ enters its sixth day, Dhaka’s roads are no longer deserted, as rickshaws, autorickshaws and private vehicles descend in droves on the streets.
But the larger stores and shopping malls in the capital remain closed. Shops and businesses, aside from those near wet markets, are also shut.
Similar scenes played out in parts of Dhaka on Monday, as the bdnews24.com reporter visited Kakrail, Bijoy Nagar, Rampura, Malibagh and Shantinagar.
Long lines of rickshaws and private vehicles were seen at 10:30 am in front of the police checkpoint at the Nightingale Restaurant intersection in Kakrail. Police were checking each vehicle for ‘movement passes’. Those who did not have passes were fined and sent away. Two rickshaws were also overturned at the intersection.
A police officer said that people were forbidden from going outside and the rickshaws were overturned in “symbolic punishment”. They would be allowed to leave after an hour.
“I came here because a passenger wanted to go from Rampura to Motijheel,” said the driver of one of the rickshaws. “I didn’t know she didn’t have a pass. The police officer did not say anything to her and just let her go. But I am being punished. What can the poor folk like us do?”
Similar police checkpoints have been set up at intersections throughout the city. Some alleys and smaller roads are also blocked.
Megaphones set up in front of Shantinagar Bazaar repeat: “Follow all health regulations when coming to the bazaar. Make your necessary purchases and return home quickly. Do not spend extended periods of time at the bazaar during the lockdown and do not crowd the area. Stay at home. Stay safe.”
On Apr 14, the first day of the lockdown, Dhaka city was nearly deserted. Shops, stores, shopping malls and all public and private institutions were closed. Commercial banks and stock market transactions were allowed to open for three hours from the second day.
Despite the strict adherence to restrictions on the first day, the scenes on Dhaka’s streets began to change from the second, when rickshaws started appearing on the streets. As of the sixth day, that number had grown by leaps and bounds.
Rickshaw pullers say that, despite the number of rickshaws on the roads, they are not earning enough to get by.
“I started work at 7 am today,” said one rickshaw driver, Rafiq, who was desperate for money to buy food for the family.
“It is 10 am now. So far I got only two passengers. You can see many rickshaws on the roads, but we’re not getting any passenger.”
“The number of people on the streets, the number of rickshaws and other transports – can you truly call this a lockdown?” said Naya Paltan resident Hafizur Rahman, who works for a private company. “How will the pandemic abate if it keeps going like this?”
“The situation in Dhaka is not the same as on the first day of the lockdown. Things have been allowed to go slack. People have a lack of awareness. Looking at the roads you’d think we weren’t worried about the coronavirus at all.”
A Shegunbagicha-based shop owner said: “All stores near the wet markets can stay open from 9 am to 3 pm. But police come and shut my store if I ever try to open.”
“I opened my clothing store with only a small amount of capital. Now there is no business. How will I survive?”
The government imposed strong restrictions on Apr 14 in the wake of a massive spike in coronavirus cases. These restrictions were designated as the “strictest lockdown”, which will be in force until Apr 21.
However, factories, including those manufacturing garments, were allowed to remain open.