Padma Bridge: Hawkers at Daulatdia Ghat in the same boat as ferry services

The hawkers who ply their trade on the Daulatdia-Paturia ferry route are newly worried about running out of business at Daulatdia ferry ghat now that the Padma Bridge opened for traffic on June 25.

The government had provided a clarification prior to the opening that ferry services, at least in terms of availability and legal permits or schedules, could continue as before. But the challenge was always going to be competing with the $3.6 billion bridge as a preferred mode to cross the river.

When it comes to public demand, they simply cannot compete with the bridge in the long run. And it now looks like their demise may come even sooner than expected. Alongside them, hundreds of hawkers who used to depend on the heavy footfall of launch passengers are faced with the same fate.

During a recent visit to the Daulatdia Ghat, UNB’s Rajbari correspondent learned that the shops situated along both sides of the ferry ghat were already closing. Some hawkers had covered their stalls in polythene.

The lack of ferry/launch passengers has also meant the usual bustle of the ghat is gone, and launch staff are no longer engaged in aggressive tactics to pull customers away from competitors.

Besides, passengers have to pay Tk 5 as entry fee to enter the launch ghat. A few passengers were seen waiting at the launch ghat after purchasing their tickets.

Alamin Bapari, a collector of entry fees at Daulatdia ferry ghat, said they used to collect fees from 6 am to 9 pm each day and some 4000/5000 people on average would go through the ghat each day, even just prior to the inauguration of Padma Bridge.

That number has already dropped to a mere 1200-1500, which is way under even half the number of passengers they served before.

Currently, passenger buses are moving over the Padma Bridge from Faridpur and people are using the bus to cross the bridge - a long-cherished dream for many. This is the main reason behind low turnout of passengers, said Alamin.

Nurul Anwar Milon, representative of the Launch Owners Association of the ghat, said “The number of passengers has obviously come down due to the opening of Padma Bridge. The actual situation (the effect on their business)will be known after some days. If it prevails for long, it will be very difficult for us to meet our expenses.”

Afaz Uddin, a spicy puffed rice vendor, said “We used to sell puffed rice worth Tk 1200-1400 in a day, for a profit of Tk 500-700 in a day. But currently, we hardly sell Tk 700-800-worth (puffed rice)in a day. How do we survive now?”

A number of physically-challenged people, who collected alms from the ghat area, including one Ratan Sardar, said they are unable to get any gainful employment and hence must depend completely on alms. “We hardly earned Tk 400-500 in a day. Now we are worried about our income.”

Abdur Rashid, manager of the MV Nupur, said a total of 34 launches of the same company were operative on the two popular routes in the country: Daulatdia-Paturia and Aricha-Nagarbari routes.

Of those, 20-22 were running on the Daulatdia-Paturia, but already the number of vessels on the route has come down to 16. There are 1300-1400 staff of the company and the maximum salary was paid from the launch fares, he said.

Aftab Uddin, traffic inspector of Bangladesh Inland and Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Daulatdia ghat, said the number of launches on the route has declined due to the poor number of passengers.

Source: United News of Bangladesh