Rent-a-car operators in Bangladesh now expect brisk business from the holidaymakers during Eid-ul-Fitr amid the pandemic- induced restrictions on the movement of inter-district public transports following a rise in Covid-19 infection.
Many rent-a-car operators experience a sharp rise in pre-booking for Eid journeys over the past few days as the desperate holidaymakers are out to reach their relatives to celebrate the largest Muslim festival ignoring the extended restriction on inter-district public transports till May 16.
The holidaymakers are going deep into their pockets to rent private vehicles paving way for the operators to make quick money. Some of them said they are even ready to pay more than double the fares for their family or single trip.
A conservative estimation indicates at least one crore people would leave Dhaka to celebrate Eid with their near and dear ones.
Shahedul Islam, a resident of Dhanmondi in Dhaka, booked a seven-seated microbus to go to Chattogram to celebrate Eid costing him Tk 15,000, which was Tk 9,000 earlier.
“I usually go to my native home in Chattogram on rented microbus during Eids and fares hovered around maximum Tk 9,000 to Tk 9,500 but this year I booked a small microbus at Tk 15,000. We are forced to pay the huge amount in absence of public transports,” he said.
Shahedul said that the operators told him that they were charging high for the risk of a possible monetary penalty ranging from Tk 3,000 to Tk 5,000 for violating restrictions imposed by the government for the pandemic.
“They also claim that would have to return with an empty vehicle for charging extra. I think it is not rational as there is also the pressure of Dhaka-bound passengers from Chattogram,” said Shahedul.
Mahbubul Haque, who runs Haque Rent-A-Car at Mirpur-1, told The Business Post on Tuesday that a trip from Dhaka to Chattogram on a 10-seated microbus usually costs Tk 9,000 to Tk 9,5000 but during Eid holidays he usually charges Tk 14,000 to Tk 15,000 as the demand peaks.
“We are enduring huge loss because of the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic which forced us to completely close our business. During this Eid season, I am trying to recover some of the losses,” said Mahbubul, who has eight vehicles including cars, microbuses on his fleet.
“This pandemic took a heavy toll on our livelihood and business. We usually run the business taking loans from banks which we have to repay on monthly basis. Failing to repay the monthly installment, I have to pay more with interest for the loans I took for purchasing those vehicles,” said Mahbubul.
It costs Tk 400 for an individual to reach Sylhet from Dhaka on a non-AC bus and Tk 1,200 on an AC bus. But the suspension of inter-district public transports forces an individual to pay Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,500 on a shared car or microbus.
Heavy vehicle driver Abdul Motaleb, who usually drives a bus of Ena Paribahan on the Dhaka-Chattogram route, now drives 11- seater microbus to ferry passengers from Dhaka to Chattogram to earn his bread and butter. He said fuel cost for a round trip on the Dhaka-Chattogram route ranges between Tk 3,000 to Tk 3,500.
“I am charging Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,500 per person for a one-way trip and I think it is reasonable considering the risk of facing a penalty from traffic police,” he said.
“I was fined Tk 5,000 thrice along with the recording of cases against me for ferrying passengers amid restrictions,” he said.