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During the protest, students chanted various slogans demanding half the bus fare. According to the students and eye witnesses, the students had an argument with a driver of ‘Prajapati Paribahan’ and his assistant (helper) regarding giving half the bus fare. At one point of the argument the agitated students broke down the glass in the front side of the bus. The helper was allegedly beaten up that time too.

The students had blocked Mohammadpur bus stand area for three hours, from 11.00am to 2.00pm. However, they did not stop the vehicles of pharmaceutical companies, ambulances and vehicles carrying patients.

Later around 2.00pm police and Mohammadpur unit Chhatra League president Naimul Hasan went to the spot to bring the situation under control. There Naimul promised them to comply with their demand within two days. After that, the students withdrew their protest.

Before that, Md Anik, a student of Mohammadpur Government College, declared the protest programme on behalf of the students. Addressing the protesters, he said if their demands were not met within two days, they would take to the streets again.

In the meantime, the students of Dhanmondi Ideal College blocked the Science Lab intersection from 12.45pm to 1.30pm. Later, the teachers of the college and police went there and convinced the students to clear the road.

Repeated blockades

The bus fare has increased by 26 to 27 per cent all over the country from 7 November as the price of diesel was increased by Tk 15 per litre. The students say, after implementation of newly announced bus fare, the transport workers are not accepting half fare from them as before. The bus staff behaved rudely whenever they tried to pay half the bus fare. They even forced them to get off the bus.

Meanwhile, last Saturday, a student of Begum Badrunnesa Government Women's College complained that she had been threatened to be raped for trying to pay half the bus fare. RAB arrested the driver and helper of the bus of ‘Thikana Paribahan' on Monday.

Students of Badrunnesa Government Women's College staged a protest in Bakshibazar on Sunday. Students of Dhaka College and some other colleges joined it. After the increase in bus fare, there were several protests at least in six places in the capital till yesterday. Students of at least 14 educational institutions have joined it.

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Safia Akhter, a student of Lalmatia Women's College, who joined the protest in Mohammadpur yesterday, told Prothom Alo that the bus staff misbehaved when they wanted to pay half the bus fare. Half the bus fare is the right of the student, not anyone’s mercy. They will remain on the streets until this right is realised.

However, the bus owners claim that since half fare for the students was not taken into consideration while fixing the fare, it was not possible for them to take half the fare. They would face a loss for this.

Even the minister used to pay half the fare

Information minister Hasan Mahmud told reporters at the secretariat yesterday that he himself had paid half the rent as a student. When he was studying at Chattogram University, bus staff used to charge half the fare from the students. The minister further said that the bus company could consider the demands of the students.

Meanwhile, ‘Gano Shanghati Andolan’, Bangladesh ‘Jatri Kalyan Samiti’ and ‘Sammilita Samajik Andolan’ issued a statement yesterday demanding introduction of a half-fare system for the students. Earlier, the ‘Gano Forum’ had issued a statement with the same demand on Sunday. At a rally on the same day, the ‘Student Rights Council’ (Chhatra Adhikar Parishad) demanded half the bus fare from the students.

In a statement, Junaid Saki, chief coordinator of Gano Sanghati Andolan and Abul Hasan, executive coordinator, expressed solidarity with the agitating the students. They demanded that half the fare be officially declared for the students, adding that apart from the students, those who would not get a seat on the bus would pay half the fare.

The statement from the ‘Jatri Kalyan Samiti’ said that the bus owners are showing unreasonable and extra expenditure in various sectors by misleading the officials of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). Thus, this monopolistic spike in the bus fare had become a burden for the passengers.

No solution as yet

The authorities of some educational institutions are taking initiative to discuss the issue among the students and bus owners. Jagannath University authorities are expected to discuss the matter with the bus owners on Tuesday.

However, the bus service regulator BRTA has not shown any visible initiative to address this issue. This correspondent called the chairman on Monday for his statement on this issue. However, he didn’t receive the call.

Mohiuddin Ahmed, a private employee who suffered yesterday due to road blockade, said, "How can a government remain silent when the roads in the capital are being blocked day after day?”

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