Thursday, 26 May, 2022

Police take hard line on extortion

Law enforcers have adopted a hard line against extortionists on different roads and highways across the country on the occasion of holy Ramadan and the Eid-ul-Fitr festival.

Traders allege that a section of policemen and musclemen take extortion from goods-laden trucks, resulting in an increase in transport costs as well as commodity prices.

The police headquarters have directed all the law enforcers concerned working on different highways not to harass the goods-laden trucks and covered-vans in the name of checking their document papers.

Earlier on Monday, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said prices of essential commodities would definitely get stable if extortion on the highways is dealt with.

The minister made the remarks after attending the first taskforce committee meeting on the review of essential commodities held at his ministry auditorium.

“I have already talked to the home minister about taking action against the extortionists who collect toll from truckers transporting daily essentials,” he added.

Law enforcers, including the uniform and plain-clothes police, launched a massive action against the organised extortionists in the wake of the reported news of such extortion by some vested groups, including a section of local political leaders and law enforcers, police headquarters sources said.

From now, no vehicle carrying goods on highways or roads can be stopped without any specific complaint or information.

If necessary, they can search their fitness papers and other document papers just at the beginning and at the end of its journey, police headquarters sources said.

The fresh instructions were given to field-level police officers at a virtual meeting on monthly crime review for February held at the police headquarters with Additional IG (Crime and Operations) M Khurshid Hossain in the chair on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by all the Metropolitan Commissioners, Range DIGs and District Police Superintendents.

The additional IG told the meeting that shopping malls, focusing on Ramadan and Eid, market security needs to be strengthened.

Law enforcers will keep watch on any person or group spreading propaganda or rumours through social media to avert any untoward incident.

The police officer emphasised the need for strengthening traffic management to keep the traffic moving normally.

The meeting emphasised the need for bringing the police service to the doorsteps of the people by making the beat policing activities more dynamic.

In the face of the growing demand by the transport leaders and workers, the additional IG instructed law enforcers, especially highway policemen, to refrain from harassing the goods-laden trucks and covered-van workers in the name of checking their document papers, sources said.

The top police official also sounded a note of warning, saying that stern action would be taken against those corrupt law enforcers if they are found involved in any immoral act like extortion from transport workers.

There are a widespread allegation of robbery and extortion from transports, including goods-laden trucks on different roads and highways, including Dhaka-Chattogram highway.

A section of highway policemen and police sergeants are realising toll from Dhaka-bound goods-laden trucks regularly, detective sources said.

The ill-practice in the name of checking documents is going on for a long time, alleged transport workers.

Transport owners and employees alleged that they were forced to pay money to extortionists at different spots on the highways on a regular basis, and the traffic and highway police also take their share.

Shamim, a truck driver of Khajuria in Magura, said, “We are really held hostage to these highway policemen.”

“The highway policemen intimidating to get involved in various cases force us to pay toll,” the driver said.

“Law enforcers even beat up truckers for refusal to meet their illegal demand for extortion.

Earlier, the toll collection by law enforcers took place only at night, but recently it is committed in broad daylight,” said Khalilur Rahman, driver of a Kushtia-bound soybean oil-laden truck from Dhaka.

“It seems that the highway police and police sergeants lie in wait for different goods-carrying trucks at different strategic points of the highways, he added.

“We are subjected to inhuman torture by law enforcers on highways if tolls are not paid to them, alleged Sohel Rana, another truck driver of Jashore.