A group of ruling Awami League activists allegedly in connivance with police and city corporation officials continued collecting illegal tolls from goods-laden transports and other vehicles in the Karwanbazar car parking area although it was made toll-free in February.
Traders said that the influential people forced them to pay Tk 50 to Tk 200 for each of the vegetable-loaded trucks and other vehicles parked at Karwanbazar, one of the capital’s wholesale business hubs, as the city corporation remained indifferent.
Dhaka North City Corporation chief estate officer Aminul Islam, however, denied the allegation of city corporation officials’ involvement in the illegal activity, but admitted that the illegal toll collection was there.
He further said that he requested the police, Rapid Action Battalion, DNCC’s zone office and local ward councillors to take action against the extortionists.
The city corporation earlier leased out the car park for decades. Since February it was declared free for parking as per police recommendation to mainly reduce the traffic jam on the main road.
Businessmen complained that one Motiur Rahman, who earlier leased in the parking area, continued the toll collection illegally in cooperation with ruling party’s local leaders and a section of corrupt police officials of the Tejgaon police station.
Motiur could not be contacted for comment though this reporter went to his office at Karwanbazar on several occasions for the purpose.
But his assistant Md Rafik Miah claimed that the city corporation had illegally cancelled the lease, causing financial losses for them.
He added that they had filed a writ petition seeking justice in this regard while continued toll collections to ward off losses.
City corporation officials, however, said that Motiur got the lease through a corrupt process.
The city corporation chief state officer, however, said that they had cancelled the lease in due process and any toll collection from transports for parking in the area had been illegal since February.
DNCC Zone VI executive officer Mir Nahid Ahsan said that though he conducted mobile courts, picked up some of the toll collectors and gave them punishment yet the toll collection could not be stopped.
He said that the city corporation now would write to the police to take actions against the toll collectors.
Anower Hossain, who drives a bus that transports employees of the Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited to and from their office nearby, said that the toll collection created troubles for them, adding that they had to pay Tk 100 in toll daily though the parking was free there.
Businessman Fazlur Rahman said that not a single vehicle was allowed in the Karwanbazar area without the toll, especially from the evening to the morning.
He said that the illegal toll certainly affected the commodity prices.
They said that though a number of policemen were frequently seen on the spot they did not take any action against the extortionists.
Tejgaon police station officer-in-charge Shamim-ur-Rashid Talukder, denying taking any share from the toll, said that he asked his personnel to arrest the toll collectors.
But, he added, it was not possible for the police to stay there round the clock to check the extortion.
Tejgaon Thana Awami League president Abdur Rashid said that the party would not take the responsibility of any individual’s corruption.
He asked the agencies concerned to take tougher actions against the toll collectors regardless of their political identity.
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