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Operators asked to run passenger buses on highways

Govt assures security during blockade

Staff Correspondent

The government on Wednesday asked owners to run intercity passenger buses and trucks on highways from Friday, defying political programmes like strikes and blockades if any.
 Shipping minister Shajahan Khan at a meeting at the secretariat assured the transport operators of all security measures for the long-distance passenger buses and trucks amidst countrywide violence during the rail-road-waterways blockades being enforced by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 18-party alliance in protest against the January 5 national polls.
‘Passenger buses will ply on highways from Friday. The government will provide security for the long-route transports during any blockade or strike from now on,’ Shajahan told a press conference after the meeting with the representatives of bus-truck owners and the law enforcement agencies.
 The violence and vandalism erupted immediately after the declaration of the 10th parliamentary elections schedule on November 25 as the opposition alliance announced the first spell of the nationwide blockades protesting the schedule and demanding non-party caretaker administration for a free and fair polls. 
Over 100 people were killed so far in the violence that also collapsed the inter-district road communications. Almost all operators kept their passenger buses off the highways during the blockades.
 Asked why passengers and transports were being exposed to violence without resolving the on-going political crisis, the transport sector leader turned minister said, adequate security measures were already in place to ensure safety of the passengers as the fourth spell of the opposition’s 72-hour blockade began on Tuesday morning.
The minister parried to reply on a query whether the government would take the responsibility if any buses or the passengers came under attack.
 When pointed out that over 40 drivers and their helpers along with many passengers were already killed due to arson attacks and pickets during the blockades, Shajahan said the government would give compensations in case of the losses of life.
‘We have already given compensation to the families of 16 drivers who were killed during the street violence,’ he said.
He also called upon the common people to come forward and help the lawmen in containing violence and vandalism.
 The minister said the owners would decide today  in which routes they wanted to resume transport services and the government would ensure their security accordingly.
He alleged that the BNP-Jamaat alliance had launched terrorism across the country in the name of movement for a non-party caretaker government.
Asked for his comment, Bangladesh Bus Truck Owners Association treasurer Mohammad Kamal Hossain told New Age that the transport owners had decided to run long-route buses on Dhaka-Mawa, Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Comilla routes on trial basis.
Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association and Ena Transport chairman, K Enayetullah, also confirmed that the owners had agreed to run buses on some long routes on trial basis. But the final decision on which routes the buses would be plying during any blockade/hartal would be taken today, he added.
The minister claimed that over 1,000 goods-laden trucks were now plying the Dhaka-Chittagong highway defying the blockade and police were providing them security.
He observed that the local people in at least two-three districts had got some relief after the joint forces backed by Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh had conducted drives against those who were involved in violence and vandalism.
Meanwhile, pickets clashed with lawmen at Sitakunda in Chittagong on Tuesday night and set fire to at least 12 covered vans on their way to the port city.  

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