Inadequate launch risks health service to breakdown...

Dhaka, Saturday   11 July 2020

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Inadequate launch risks health service to breakdown

 Barishal correspondent

 Published: 03:40 PM, 2 June 2020   Updated: 07:54 PM, 22 June 2020

Photo: Daily Bangladesh

Photo: Daily Bangladesh

In the devastating coronavirus situation in the country,  the launch operation on the Barisal-Dhaka water route was resumed on Saturday after a long closure of two months and six days. The administration is working hard to control the overflowing passengers at the launch terminal.

Passengers have become hostages due to inadequate launches. Launch service has been operational from Saturday in compliance with limited health regulations as per government directives. There was a huge crowd of passengers at both ends. Besides, the health rules have gone disappeared in the crowd of passengers on the first day due to the launch owners' syndicate.

Due to which the people concerned including the passengers have expressed the fear of a massive infection of deadly coronavirus; although, the launch owners are not acknowledging the practice of rotation system.

According to BIWTA sources, 30 launches are currently in operation on the Barishal-Dhaka route. According to the rules, half of the launches will be at Dhaka Sadarghat and half at Barisal Naval Port Launch Ghat. But in the rotation system, the owners never run more than 8/10 launches on both ends. As a result, passengers are deprived of the minimum service and not even to get a place to set foot on the launch.

This rotation practice is also going on in this coronavirus situation. On the first day, only 3 launches have left Barishal for Dhaka. And only 6 launches left the other end (Sadarghat) for Barishal. The government-mandated health rules have disappeared due to high passenger pressure.

Having an equal number of adequate launches or transporting at both ends would have ensured social distance. However, in this case, the profit would have been less a bit for the launch owners. So they are transporting passengers by few launches without making all the launches in operation. Thus they are carrying more passengers in the launch. And getting more profit. Although the launch owners claim that there is no rotation system now.

They also claim that they are not claiming a 60 percent fare hike like buses.

Photo: Daily Bangladesh

Kazi Enayet Hossain Shiblu, general secretary of the Barisal district committee of the Sammilita Samajik Andolan, said one demand was that at least at this time in Corona, the owners of the launches should break the rotation. It can alleviate some of the sufferings as well as ensure social distance.

SM Iqbal, former president and lawyer of Barisal Cultural Organization Coordination Council, said “10-12 launches were running on this route even five years ago. Now it is 28-30. If the owners have so many losses, then why is the number of launches increasing every year? This matter proves that what is being said about losses is not correct. They are transporting passengers in rotation in the hope of huge profits.”

Manabendra Botbal, president of the Shaheed Abdur Rob Serniabat Barisal Press Club and a veteran lawyer, said the launch owners had introduced a rotation system by taking passengers hostage. Although the court has declared the rotation practice illegal, the launch owners are not abiding by it. No organization is even coming forward to break this tendency to disobey. If 20 launches, 10 in from each end, were operated every day, it would have been possible to implement the health rules directed by the government. This route is risky as the owners are maintaining the previous rules of rotation in the hope of a huge profit.

Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice-president of the central committee of the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation and chairman of the Sundarbans Navigation, president of the Barisal Chamber of Commerce, said the not 30 but 23 launches are operated on Dhaka-Barisal naval route. Of these, 18 to 20 launches are in operational regularly.

“There was a meeting at BIWTA recently. There has been talk of operating the launch within capacity. Although the bus fare has been increased by 60 percent, (we are) transporting passengers at the previous fare,” he said also.

He said transporting passengers according to the carrying capacity given during the launch survey would ensure social distance. However, since it was the first day on Saturday, it was a bit random. On Sunday, 6 launches are being left from Barisal. Now there will be no problem.

He said in response to a question, there is no rotation system. Some are not running launches. Some are not operating because of the coronavirus, again some are due to the lack of staff. Many steps have been taken to protect the passengers. First of all, passengers have to be aware of it.

Ajmal Huda Mithu Sarkar, joint director of BIWTA Barisal's maritime safety and traffic management department, said the owners have been instructed to operate the launches in compliance with health rules. However, the number of launches is low. Health rules can be maintained if at least 7 launches are operated from each end. They are being told about this again and again.

Barisal DC SM Aziar Rahman said, "I had a meeting with the launch owners on this issue in the morning as well." There are directed with strict guidelines for maintaining health rules. There is no substitute for ensuring social distance to avoid the coronavirus infection.”  Launch owners say they will increase the number of launches, he added also.