No long and short distance buses ran on Monday morning due to a strike called by the Sylhet Divisional Committee of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation (BRTWF). Freight services have also been halted.
The committee made the decision at an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon.
SSC examinees and tourists visiting Sylhet are suffering due to the sudden suspension of vehicle service.
Abu Sarkar, acting president of the Sylhet Divisional Committee of BRTWF, said they had given a memorandum to Sylhet City Corporation Mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury and several departments of the administration to implement a five-point list of demands by transport workers by Nov 21.
Strikes have been called across the division as no action has been taken even after the deadline has passed.
No transport would move in the Sylhet Division until the demands are met, he said.
Transport workers have also called for a fair and proper triennial election of Sylhet Regional Auto-tempo and Auto Rickshaw Driver Workers’ Alliance, the scrapping of the current committee which was ‘elected in a farcical, uncontested manner’, the refund of cash collected as nomination fees and the suspension of the deputy director of the Sylhet Regional Labour Department.
The five demands include the withdrawal of cases against Sylhet district bus, minibus, coach-microbus worker leaders, the cessation of all kinds of harassment against ordinary workers by Sylhet traffic police and highway police, an end to the collection of tolls at Sherpur Bridge, Sheola Bridge, Lamakazi Bridge and Fenchuganj Bridge, and making parking arrangements for all vehicles including cars, microbuses, three-wheelers, and CNG-powered autorickshaws at various locations in the city, including Chauhatta.
Zakaria Ahmed, organising secretary of the Sylhet Division BRTWF said they have been pushing for these demands for a long time. Despite repeated calls for a transport strike, he had previously called off such action after meeting the administration and getting assurances of a solution.
“No action has been taken even though a memorandum has been issued to different departments of the administration, including the division commissioner, the deputy commissioner, the police commissioner and the superintendent of police on several occasions. So, I had to opt for a strike,” he said.
During the strike, transport workers were seen picketing at Kadamtali Central Bus Terminal, Kumargaon Bus Station, Humayun Rashid Chattar, Chandipur, Tetli Bypass and various markets on the Dhaka-Sylhet highway.
Azharul Islam, the parent of an SSC candidate from Osmaninagar, blamed both the administration and the workers for the situation.
He said: “The workers are sowing chaos in the name of a transport strike. The administration also bears responsibility. Solving problems through discussions would not lead to this much suffering for the common people.”
Tourists from different parts of the country are also stranded in the city due to the sudden stoppage of vehicles.
Md Arif, a tourist from Dhaka says, “I came to Sylhet to visit Shahjalal’s shrine, but now I can’t return home because of the strike.”