Sunday, 19 August 2018

Massive extortion on Mirpur footpaths

Desk Report: About 2,000 hawkers sit along the footpaths around the Mirpur-10 intersection in the capital. The hawkers have to pay around Tk 50 to 100 every day to run their businesses there, reports Prothom Alo.
These businesses on the footpaths leave hardly any space for pedestrians.
The traffic intersection spans wards 3, 7 and 14 of Dhaka North City Corporation. The south section of the four-way over-bridge is in ward 14.
The footpaths have all sorts of shops — permanent and makeshift — selling everything from fruits to cell phone accessories as well as clothes, wallets, toiletries and more.
There are also second hand book and magazine stalls, tea stalls and so on. At several points the shops take up the entire footpath.
Six ‘linemen’, depending on the trade, extort Tk 50 to 100 every day, according to several businessmen in the area, declining to be named.
They said the ‘toll money’ totals over Tk 100,000 every night. The booty is later shared among local policemen and Awami League leaders and members, they added.
None of the businessmen agreed to name any ‘lineman’, who collected the toll.
“We have to keep everyone happy if we are to do business. Even then the police often creates trouble for us,” said a cell phone accessory trader in front of the Shah Ali Plaza market in the area.
A fruit seller tried to stop this reporter from taking photos and asked him to delete the pictures already taken. He moved away when asked his identity.
The pedestrians are compelled to use the main road at the risk of their lives because of the illegal encroachment of the pavements.
“I have to wait for the bus on the main road,” said Lamia Rahman, a Jahangirnagar University student.
Haris Molla, a resident of Senpara Parbata, said, “I have to push and shove though people every morning as I take my daughter to college. Many of the students use the main road to avoid the hassle.”
Last Ramadan, councilor of ward no. 14, Md. Humayun Rashid had said hawkers in his area would be ousted after Eid.
“I cannot carry out the eviction on my own. It’s a joint task to ensure the hawkers cannot re-occupy the footpaths as soon as they are evicted,” Humayun said.
“An eviction operation was conducted during mayor Annisul Huq’s term. But it was futile,” another councilor Md. Mobashsher Chowdhury from ward no. 7, said.
Comments of the ward 3 councilor could not be taken as he was abroad.
“None of the leaders or members of Awami League are involved in the extortion or money distribution. If anyone commits anything in the name of the party, that’s not our responsibility,” Azadul Kabir, general secretary of Mirpur thana Awami League, said denying the allegations.
The estate department of DNCC is liable to evict the illegal businessmen from footpaths.
“Generally the eviction is carried out for repairs or other reasons. There is no plan to dislodge the traders now,” said the chief estate officer Aminul Islam.
“The stalls are simply set up again the following day,” he further said.
Asked about the distribution of the toll money among the policemen, inspector (investigation) Aslam Uddin from Kafrul station said, “I cannot say what the others at the police station do. But I myself never take money from anyone.”
“I’ve been shifted to this police station (Mirpur) about a week ago. I have been busy with the student movement as soon as I came here,” said the officer-in-charge at Mirpur police station, Dadan Fakir, adding, “I shall verify the allegations.”

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