Bangladesh capital witnesses annual exodus ahead of Eid festivities

Dhaka, Apr 29 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of people cramped themselves in overcrowded trains, buses and boats, defying the instruction of authorities and risking their lives, as people in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka started leaving for their native villages on Friday ahead of the biggest Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Eid is expected to be celebrated in Bangladesh either on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the crescent moon, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

The police in Dhaka’s airport railway station struggled to prevent people from traveling on railway couplers – that connect the wagons of a train – as Friday marked the start of the holiday period triggering a mad rush of migrants returning home.

“We are not allowing anyone on the rope of train (railway couplers) but you know it’s not always possible to stop them,” an assistant superintendent of railway police, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the press, told EFE.

Duty officer Abdur Rahman at Kanchpur Highway police station, which is at the crossroad of two major highways connecting Dhaka with divisional cities Chittagong and Sylhet, said there was huge transport pressure on the highways.

“So far everything is fine in our two highways. In the morning the buses had to go slow because of security checks. But now they are running at normal speed,” he told EFE.

Local media reported a 15-kilometre long tailback on a north-bound highway near Jamuna River. However, local police chief Mosaddek Hossain told EFE they already addressed the situation and restored normalcy on the road.

Riverways, which are mostly used by central, south and southwest-bound passengers, were just as crowded.

Dhaka University student Shams Rahman said he started at 7am by bus from Dhaka to the central Madaripur district and traveled around another 50 kilometers (31 miles) in three hours to reach a Mawa Ferry Station on the bank of the Padma river.

“I was hoping to cross the river by a speed boat before taking another transport to reach home. But now I don’t see any speed boat here. All I see are people and people. There are some large boats, which carry passengers. People are risking their lives to use those,” Rahman told EFE.

Meanwhile, the authorities have taken several measures in anticipation of the rush in the run-up to the Eid holidays.

The country’s railways announced that all inter-city trains would run every day, irrespective of their normal schedule, and launched six special trains to help ease the rush.

The shipping ministry banned all trucks and covered vans from using ferry services for three days before and after Eid except for those carrying emergency goods.

Sand-carrying bulkheads were asked to suspend their trips for five days before and after the festival so that passenger boats may operate smoothly.

The road transport and bridge authorities opened three under-construction flyovers on a major highway to ease traffic congestion.

There is no official estimate of how many people leave Dhaka for their villages during Eid-ul-Fitr.

Dhaka-based Prothom Alo newspaper, citing data from mobile phone users, reported that some 6.5 million people had left Dhaka during the previous Eid-ul-Fitr in May 2021 despite Covid-19 restrictions.

More people are expected to leave the capital this year as Bangladesh lifted all Covid-19 restrictions in February as the pandemic situation gradually eases.

Dhaka, with a population of over 22 million people, is the world’s fourth most populous city behind Japan’s Tokyo, India’s New Delhi, and China’s Shanghai, according to US-based World Population Review.

The capital city, which is about 300 square kilometers (116 square miles) in size, has seen a 3.39 percent increase in population from 2021. Some researchers say the city contributes nearly 40 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP. EFE

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