Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Tickets vanish days before sale starts

Launch Cabins for Eid Trips
Tickets vanish days before sale starts
Cabin tickets of private launches almost disappeared a day before the owners formally started selling those yesterday, a week ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
The ticket seekers who went to Sadarghat Launch Terminal yesterday had to return empty-handed as tickets of all the launches, except for a few, had been sold out earlier.
And those available were being sold at a rate double and even triple than what the government has set for the Eid rush days when around 8 to 10 million people leave Dhaka on launches.
Visiting the Sadarghat launch terminal on Thursday evening and yesterday morning, these correspondents talked to officials and staff of over 20 launches in the guise of passengers, but failed to manage a single cabin ticket in fair price.
Several staff offered them one or two “extra cabins” which are designated as rest rooms for launch master and other staff. Meanwhile, they were also offered tickets at much higher prices.
The government-set fare is Tk 820 for a single cabin and Tk 1,640 for double.
Allegations are there that only those having connection with the launch owners, managers and staff could manage tickets yesterday, a claim which the authorities refuted outright.
A staff of Parabat-11 (Dhaka-Barisal) route asked Tk 2,000 for a single cabin and Tk 4,000 for a double one when the correspondents, posing as passengers, approached him for a ticket.
“All the cabins are booked. However, I can mange a staff cabin for you of August 15. But it will cost Tk 2,000,” a staff of Sundarban-8, plying on Dhaka-Barisal route, told these correspondents.
Another staff of Surovi-8 launch (Dhaka-Barisal) suggested that finding a mediator to reach the launch owner or manager might work.
Usually around 50 to 60 launches ply everyday from Dhaka to different southern locations. The number shoots up at 70 to 80 a week ahead of Eid, and 115 to 120 in the last three days.
“We have the capacity of arranging for around 2,200 cabins per day. But the demand rises to 8,000 to 10,000 during the Eid festivals,” said Shahabuddin Milon, vice-president of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (Passenger Carriers) Association (BIWPCA), an organisation of the launch owners.
A large launch generally has 60-65 cabins while 25 in those small ones.
Another senior official of the BIWPCA said they would arrange for around 12 special launches just before the Eid when passengers would be able to buy cabin tickets on the spot.
There are six government-run steamers to ply towards southern districts, two of which are currently out of order.
Launch owners sell tickets of the cabins only, not of the deck. The deck tickets are sold just before starting the launch or while plying on the river. Thousands of passengers travel on launch deck after collecting tickets on first-come-first-served basis, said Milon.
People of different influential sections like parliament members, political leaders, bureaucrats, police and army officials, who enjoy quota privileges, have secured most of the tickets of the cabins at least three weeks before Eid, said a number of launch owners.
Many passengers claimed that a syndicate of local political leaders and transport workers were involved with the cabin ticket business. They forcibly booked cabin and would sell those at much higher prices just two or three days ahead of Eid.
Denying the allegation, Badiuzzaman Badal, senior vice-president of BIWPCA, said 60 to 70 percent cabin tickets were sold out over phone before yesterday. But he claimed that rest of the tickets were sold to the passengers in due process yesterday.
About taking action for charging extra money by some launch, Badal said, “According to an agreement with the BIWTA, we will suspend the launch’s trip for one week.”
Chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Shamsuddoha Khondkar said they would take immediate action if they got any complaint of taking extra fare.
In response to specific allegations against some launch staff asking high price, he bypassed a specific answer, and mentioned that there was a monitoring team working at the terminal to look into the issue. “They will obviously take action if [the allegation is] proved,” the BIWTA chief added.
Rafiqul Islam, senior deputy director (port) and also a member of the monitoring team, claimed that no launch owner was found to be involved in charging high price for tickets. Some staff could be involved in such activity, he added.

-With The Daily Star input

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