The Transport Owners’ Association’s allegation that the Highway Police and Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation are extorting money from its members should not be ignored by the authorities as it will be deeply concerning if it proves to be true. Experts alleged that thousands of crores of takas are extorted from this sector every year, which are distributed among people in the power structure. A senior leader of the Narayanganj District Truck, Tank, Lorry and Covered Van Workers’ Union said that if any truck or covered or pick-up van came to Dhaka from Narayanganj, the driver had to pay up to Tk 3,000 at police checkpoints near Matuail, at Jatrabari, Kamalapur TT Para, VIP Road, Shantinagar, Rampura and Badda. Section 38 (3) of Road Transport Act 2018 says that except terminal charges, no money can be collected from any transports entering or leaving the terminal, or running on roads, highways or in any other public places. The owners said that workers’ federation activists collected monthly token money from buses running on highways and roads which delayed their journey. Some owners complained only against the police for extortion. The rise of crimes involving police personnel, supposed to be protectors, in recent times across is a matter of grave concern.
It is, however, an open secret that extortion of traders by a section of law enforcers and goons is rampant although various measures have reportedly been taken by law enforcers against such crimes. This is rife in all types of business establishments, from luxury shopping complexes to roadside vendors and even construction and real estate sectors. They all have to pay toll on a daily or monthly basis. Several incidents of extortion occur in the city almost every day but most of the cases are not reported to the police for fear of reprisal. Although many general diaries were filed after the extortionists had demanded toll, the police reportedly took no action. The government, however, preferred to remain silent on the issue. The law enforcement agencies are supposed to protect citizens from criminals. But when lawmen themselves engage in criminal acts, hapless victims, indeed, become helpless.
As the cases of extortion are on the rise in the city and elsewhere, the situation demands a well-orchestrated strategy to be undertaken by the government against such crimes. Overall, the government immediately needs to streamline the police, not to mention making a course correction in conducting the force. It needs to realise that any further delay in this regard may lead to a situation which will be hard to cure. The authorities concerned should order competent and credible inquiry of the extortion cases and have the responsible individuals prosecuted and punished exemplarily.
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