THE allegations of the Transport Owners’ Association that the Highway Police and the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, which is led by the shipping minister, extort money from transports should not be ignored as if it is true, it is deeply concerning. The Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association at a meeting on Tuesday alleged that the extortionists collect illegal tolls from buses running on the roads. The owners said that they had to pay hundreds of takas to the Highway Police and the workers’ federation on each route every day. They also said that activists of the workers’ federation collected monthly token money from buses, which delayed their journey According to the owners’ association secretary general, however, some owners complained only against the Highway Police for extortion. It needs to be pointed out that leaders and members of both owners and workers’ organisations were against such extortion. The increase in crimes involving police personnel, who are supposed to be protectors, in recent times is a matter of grave concern. What has compounded the problem is that some corrupt policemen are found involved in taking money not only from buses but also from other traders although the police are in the habit of saying that they have taken stringent measures to check extortion.
It is, however, an open secret that extortion of traders by a section of law enforcers and goons is rampant not only in the capital but across the country 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 law enforcers themselves engage in criminal acts, hapless victims, indeed, become helpless.
As the cases of extortion are on the rise, the situation demands a well-orchestrated strategy 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. It is also imperative that the authorities concerned should order competent and credible inquiry into the extortion cases and have the responsible individuals prosecuted and punished exemplarily.