Sunday, July 29, was like any other day for two students- Abdul Karim Rajib and Dia Khanam Meem from Dhaka’s Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment School and College. Rajib, a second-year student of Humanities Department and Meem, a first-year Science student were waiting for a bus at the capital’s busy Airport Road to go back home.
However, fate had some other plans! Even as the duo was waiting along with others, a speeding Uttara-bound bus of ‘Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan’ reportedly ploughed into the hapless students at Kurmitola, opposite the Radisson Hotel. The speeding bus killed Rajib and Meem on the spot, besides injuring seven others, in what is seen by many as the menace of the out of control and speeding vehicles on the capital’s streets, jeopardising the lives and safety of the pedestrians every day.
Soon the students put up a blockade to protest the reckless driving which has claimed the lives of two fellow students. It took the police a lot of persuasion and cajoling to send the agitating students back home. However, what followed the next morning and which would continue everyday for the next eight consecutive days, was something the Government and the civil administration had hardly anticipated. Tens of thousands of students took to the streets protesting the poor traffic regulations in the country and demanding justice for the deceased students. It subsequently took a turn for the worse, as the students’ agitation gained momentum, hitting long-distance transportation and as expected, the business and the economy.
With the festival of Eid-ul-Azha approaching fast and garment manufacturers busy readying production and shipments before the impending Eid holidays, the students’ agitation could not have come at a worse time for the apparel industry.
“Due to the ongoing students’ protests, the export-oriented garment sector has faced the biggest trouble. For the last week, we have been unable to transport finished goods From Dhaka to Chittagong, or bring imported raw materials from Chittagong to Dhaka,” reportedly underlined the President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Siddiqur Rahman.
If that was not all, the agitation reportedly also forced the buyers to stay put to their Bangladesh travel plans, to place orders before all important festival season (Christmas and New Year) in the West.
“The movement has tarnished the image of the country as well as the businesses,” reportedly underlined an upset Rahman, whose sentiments were echoed by the President of the country’s apex traders’ body Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI), Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, in a press meet a day earlier.
“We have been facing difficulty in doing overseas trade for the last eight days owing to the ongoing stalemate,” complained the President of the FBCCI at a press meet in Dhaka. He added, “We, the business people, do not support such strike or movement that disrupts daily life and transport, and would not support in future also.”
Though there is no exact estimate as to the loss suffered by the garment industry as of now. However, as per industry insiders, the loss suffered could be rather substantial considering the fact the agitation has severely disrupted the supply chains and transportation for more than a week.
After almost 8-days’standoff, the students are now reportedly leaving Dhaka’s streets, following a call by the country’s Prime Minister to the student community, who also promised stricter punishment for rash and negligent driving.
Nevertheless, the misery of the apparel manufacturers seems to be far from over. “The students have opened our eyes to the anarchy and indiscipline on the roads. However, with grave concern, we have noticed that students have gone back to classes but the transport system is yet to return to normal. Very few vehicles are plying on the highways, and the business community has to suffer,” underlined a concerned BGMEA President to the journalists, who could well be counting serious business loss for the RMG sector in the coming days, once a proper estimation is done.