At around midnight on Tuesday, a group of 10 youths was collecting money from goods-carrying vehicles on the road in front of the Dayaganj city corporation market, a major entry point to the capital for thousands of vehicles from the southern region. Refusal to pay often led to heated arguments between truck drivers and the group, sometimes to the point of vandalism.
"They took Tk60 and did not give me any slip. They take as much as they can from us — Tk50 or Tk100 per vehicle — in the name of the city corporation," said truck driver Jamshed.
The group claimed to be collecting tolls for the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), but according to DSCC sources, goods-carrying vehicles are not required to pay any such tolls and no such instructions have been given.
Freight vehicles entering Dhaka are being extorted by such groups at different points of the capital, including Shonir Akhra, Chankharpul, Joy Kali Temple, and Rajdhani Super Market, say transport workers.
"We do not know why they take money, but if we do not pay, they create trouble for us," said Rony Mia, a truck driver who entered Dhaka on the day via Nawabpur Road.
Rony showed a receipt for payment of Tk100 as city toll to the "Dhaka South Municipality". In reality, no such municipality of the city corporation exists.
Informed about the crimes, DSCC General Manager (transport) Shahidul Islam said, "We have no information on this. We will look into it and if proven true, action will be taken."
Jahangir Alam, organising secretary of the Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Owners' Association, told The Business Standard the organisation had informed government officials about the alleged rules violation, but to no avail. They later also filed a writ petition with the High Court on the issue, which is yet to produce any positive results.
For now, the truck drivers say they have no choice but to continue paying the money to the extortionists.
"If we refuse to pay they break the rear view mirrors of our trucks," Md Sohel Rana, a truck driver from Jhenaidah, said on Tuesday.