The operation of passenger buses has remained suspended on all routes in Sunamganj since Friday morning, though a two-day strike was called only for the Sunamganj-Sylhet highway. 

The intra-district bus operation has also been halted since the morning, inflicting immense sufferings on the commuters. 

The bus owners association of Sunamganj called the strike from 6:00 am on Friday to Saturday evening, to press home their four-point demand. 

The local BNP leaders, however, alleged that the government forced the bus owners to go on the strike to stem the rush of people to the divisional BNP rally which is slated for Saturday noon at the government Alia madrasah in Sylhet. 

During a visit to Mallikpur bus terminal in Sunamganj in the morning, the buses were found parked in queues when the workers were hanging out at the nearby tea-stalls.   

A good number of commuters turned to the terminal, but faced an untoward situation due to the transport strike. Ismail Hossain, who is 50, came to the terminal along with his son from Laurer Gar in Tahirpur upazila, to take a bus for Sylhet. 

But things did not go as planned and he was in a fix whether he should go back home or continue the journey to Sylhet in either way. 

Talking to Prothom Alo, Ismail said he knows nothing about the strike. “Some Tk 300 has been spent to come to the bus stand from Tahirpur. It will cost another Tk 300 to return home. I am now waiting if any chances come to go to Sylhet.”

However, he was left with little hope that a bus would start for Sylhet on the day. 

In a separate case, Helal Uddin, 40, came to the bus terminal along with his wife and daughter from the Alampur village in Sadar upazila, to go to Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital to visit a patient.

Helal said the bus operation was stopped without any prior message. “We think the government is doing all these. But we do not understand what is the problem with the BNP meeting.” 

He vented disappointment that they have to suffer for no reason. 

The long-haul buses were lined up on both sides of the road stretching from Sunamganj town to Mallikpur. No buses left the district since morning. 

The long-haul bus workers had initially thought that they would be spared from the restrictions. But this did not come true as they, on the previous night, were instructed to suspend bus operation as per the strike schedule. 

A representative of a long-haul transport agency, on the condition of anonymity, said they were told on Thursday noon that there will be no restrictions on running buses. They sold tickets to the passengers and some coaches even left the terminal at night. 

But, they were suddenly barred from operating coaches around 12:00 am. Later, they offered an apology to the passengers of the upcoming trips and returned ticket money to them. 

Nurul Islam, general secretary of BNP’s Sunamganj district unit, said the BNP men in no way can be prevented from joining the divisional rally in Sylhet. They have already been directed to resort to boats and launches, if they do not get any bus for Sylhet. 

Mozammel Haque, president of the bus owners association, said they have long been in a movement for stopping toll collection at MA Khan Bridge on the Sunamganj-Sylhet route, suspension of three-wheelers, renovation and modernisation of the Sunamganj bus terminal.  

The strike has been called in continuation of the movement and has no connection with the BNP rally, he claimed.