It’s service charge, not extortion

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Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said they prevent extortion on highways and that what transport leaders collect from vehicles was “service charge”.

“Leaders of the transport sector give us a list of how much service charge will be collected at which places. If not followed, they asked [police] to take action. We prioritise that list,” the minister said yesterday.

He, however, said, “We think the service charge should be taken from a specific place. Police face an awkward situation as the service charge was not collected from a specific point and many think it is extortion.”

The home boss made the comments in response to a reporter’s query after he joined a discussion marking the 19th founding anniversary of Highway Police in Bangladesh Police Auditorium at Rajarbagh Police Lines.

According to transport leaders, the “service charge” is taken as operational costs of different transport associations. In Dhaka, the charge is Tk 80 and Tk 70 outside Dhaka.

Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, who spoke at the discussion as a special guest, criticised the extortion on roads and operation of three-wheelers, including auto-rickshaws, on highways.

In response, the home minister said the scope for extortion was widespread.

Extortion is taking place in many places, he said, adding, “We have repeatedly asked you [transport leaders] for a list of places from where you take the service charge, we will not allow any charge outside those places.”

He said, “We have taken measures regarding the operation of Nasimon-Karimon on highways. We don’t want any illegal vehicles to run on highways. We are working to make the highways safe. Our Highway Police is working.”

Talking to reporters after the discussion, the minister claimed that police “do not stop vehicles to extort”.

“Our police personnel stop vehicles at different times to check their fitness. If they find a vehicle has mechanical issues or is carrying something illegal, they stop it. It is not extortion; it’s part of their regular duty.”

Additional Inspector General of Police Md Shahabuddin Khan, also the chief of Highway Police, said their goal is to ensure safety on roads. “Discipline on the highways should be ensured by enforcing the law.”

Inspector General of Police Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun, who presided over the discussion, said police will perform their duties to make this year’s Eid journey safe and smooth. No vehicles carrying sacrificial animals would be stopped on roads without specific information.

LondonGBDESK//

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