Dhaka travellers face frequent police stops on the second day of lockdown

Traffic in Dhaka has picked up somewhat on the second day of the post-Eid lockdown but travellers are frequently being stopped by police as part of the efforts to enforce the 'strictest' pandemic curbs yet.

Many rickshaws plied Mirpur Road on Saturday. Although there is a marked police presence in the area, the law enforcers have been 'humane' towards them, according to Md Farhad, a rickshaw driver.

Farhad said he has earned around Tk 500 since taking to the streets in the morning without getting in any trouble with the police.

Although the rickshaw drivers have largely been let off the hook, police have taken a sterner approach towards other vehicles, stopping and questioning travellers at regular intervals. While some were allowed to continue on their travels, others were turned away for failing to provide a valid reason for going out.

At around 10 am, traffic police seized a battery-powered autorickshaw in Gabtoli and sent it to the dumping ground.

"These types of vehicles are banned so I sent it to be dumped," said Traffic Sergeant Ali Ahmed, who is on duty there.

Mominul Haque said that he took his car out to bring a patient to the capital from Savar. "I dropped off two people, including the patient, on the other side of the bridge in Aminbazar and just as I was turning my car around, the police stopped me," he said.

"My wife is nine months pregnant and we have two children at home. I bought the car with a loan of Tk 99,000. I knew about the lockdown but I had to go out because of an emergency."

Hundreds of people were seen crossing the Aminbazar Bridge and entering Dhaka on foot in the morning. Almost everyone was stopped and questioned by the police.

Atiqullah, an employee of a pharmaceutical company from Natore, said, “I got off from a motorcycle at Aminbazar in Savar. Then I crossed the bridge on foot.”

The kitchen markets in the capital are open like any other day. However, the number of customers is relatively low. Although the shops on the main road are shuttered, stores in neighbourhoods and alleyways are open for business.

More pedestrians, cars and rickshaws were seen in the alleys of Old Dhaka's Azimpur, Lalbagh, Bakshibazar and Palashi than on Friday.

Vans selling fruits and vegetables are also drawing more customers than a day earlier. However, most restaurants and meat shops are closed.

The roads in Malibagh, Rampura, Khilgaon are almost deserted, except for rickshaws and three-wheel vans here and there. A few people standing idly on the sidewalks were sent scurrying by the sight of the police patrol vans.

Rickshaw driver Azad said, “I am in big trouble. Customers are scarce. I've been sitting at the Malibagh intersection for an hour and a half but still, there's no sign of customers."

Vegetable vendors have also set up shop on the streets of Shantinagar Bazar. Jamal Sheikh, a vendor, said, “Customers are few and far between. I haven't even sold 100 takas worth of vegetables this morning."

The road leading from Kakrail to Ramna Park was virtually empty in the morning, with only a smattering of rickshaws running. The situation is much the same in the different inner roads and alleyways of Paltan. Islami Bank Hospital official Syedul Haque said, “There are more restrictions during this lockdown. That's why you won't find many private cars on the road.”