17 hours of truck journey, they are still happy to be home

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Some had gone to harvest rice in the low-lying areas of Tangail, and others to Cumilla. Whether long-haul buses are running or not, seasonal workers always travel by truck. But, with the lockdown in effect, the cost of the trip has gone up substantially, bdnews24.com reports.

After a long and difficult journey, the group arrived at Birganj Bazar, an impoverished area of Dinajpur in northern Bangladesh, at 8:00am Thursday.

Alongside the harvest workers travelled the other members of the working class, like Mokhlesur Rahman, who drives a rickshaw in Dhaka. Despite the 17-hour trip, he is delighted to be home.

“I can only spend one Eid with my children,” Mokhlesur said. On his weary shoulder, he carries a bag stuffed with their Eid clothes. Nothing else in life would give him as much joy as spending the holiday with them.

Every year, around April and May, seasonal workers are needed to harvest the Boro rice in the swamplands and other parts of the country. A major portion of these agricultural workers hail from the north.

Like last year, lockdown restrictions mean that these workers were dispatched to various areas for the harvest by government arrangement this year. Many of them are now returning home for Eid, having spent much of their hard-earned income on whatever they could get for their families.

When the truck carrying Mokhlesur stopped at Birganj Bazar, the passengers scrambled off with their scythes and shovels. Liton, a leader among the workers, began collecting their fares. The group got on at Tangail’s Elenga. They had gone to the area to cut the rice and were now paying their own way to get home.

Those who boarded the truck at Tangail paid Tk 500 each. The truck driver was charging Tk 700 for those travelling from Dhaka, while a few others had got on at Cumilla and paid about Tk 1,000.

Mokhlesur said he and four others boarded the truck around 2:00am from the Amin Bazar area of Dhaka. They were stuck in traffic at the Bangabandhu Bridge, Bogura and Hatikumrul for nearly six hours and it took 17 before they finally got to Dinajpur.

There wasn’t much traffic from Dhaka to Tangail, he said. But it took nearly three hours to cross the Hatikumrul intersection after paying the Jamuna Bridge toll. The truck was stuck in traffic on the bridge for a long time.

He usually returns home by truck every Eid, but the fare is much higher this time. It cost him Tk 700 to get from Dhaka to Birganj.

They faced a lot of trouble and hardship to get home, but all of them are happy to be back. As soon as they got off the truck, they began to haggle with the local three-wheeler drivers in a familiar way

“You could pay that much to get here by truck, but you can’t even pay me Tk 100?” one three-wheeler driver said.

The workers eventually settled for a price and got on the three-wheeler, wearing rueful smiles on their faces.