Transport workers in Gazipur district on Tuesday joined their fellows in 11 other districts who have started an indefinite wildcat strike since Sunday protesting against the new road transport act that took effect on November 1, agencies report.
Hundreds of bus workers took to the streets and put up barricade at Mawna intersection in Sreepur area on the Dhaka-Mymenisngh highway around 8:00 am and continued it until 10am, causing immense sufferings to thousands of commuters.
Thousands of school going children, office goers and Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University (JKKNISU) admission seekers were the worst sufferers.
Bus workers said they will continue their strike until their demands, including cancellation of the new law, are met.
Ayub Hossain, sub inspector of Mawna Highway Police Station, said when they requested the protesting workers they allowed a bus carrying JKKNISU admission seekers to cross the area.
Though the road transport act came into effect on the first day of this month, the government delayed its implementation for two weeks.
A day after the law started being implemented, transport workers in 11 districts -- one in Rajshahi division and 10 others in Khulna division -- went on the wildcat strike.
According to transport owners, workers are refusing to operate buses due to the severity of the law. But some workers claimed that the owners were reluctant to allow unfit vehicles to take the road.
Under the circumstances, the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation has called meetings on November 21 and November 22 to discuss concerns over the law. And the impasse is unlikely to end before then.
The federation's President Shajahan Khan said the new law has created 'confusion' among transport workers.
"We will have detailed discussions on the matter during the meetings before placing our demands to the government. We will draw the government's attention to the provisions that should be amended. I believe the government will take our demands into consideration."
The prime minister has never singled out drivers for blame over road accidents, said Shahjahan.
"Every country has road traffic laws and we should too. But measures must be taken to clarify the law since it's not clear to all."
But the remarks of transport leaders in the Khulna region on the matter suggest that Shahjahan's calls are likely to fall on deaf ears.
Khulna Motor Workers Union President Kazi Md Nurul Islam Baby said drivers have 'willingly' stopped operating buses and are refusing to turn up for work.
"They are not listening to us. We tried to convince them to give us until the federation's meetings on November 21 and November 22. But they decided to stay away. How can we run buses without drivers?"
On whether the bus services could resume on Tuesday, Baby said, "There's no trace of the transport workers. Only god knows how long this strike will last."
Baby nonetheless sided with the workers over their concerns with the new law and said, "The monthly earnings of a bus driver is about Tk 20,000 to Tk 25,000 at most. Then how are they supposed to work if they have to pay fines of Tk 25,000 to Tk 500,000?"
The government introduced the new law in 2018 following an unprecedented movement by students for safer roads, after two students were killed in separate bus accidents in Dhaka. The new law has a provision for a five-year jail term and fine as punitive measures for deaths in road crashes.
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