Businesspeople in Bangladesh's business heartlands at Chaktai, Khatonganj and Asadganj are suffering from three major crises which are hampering their trade and business as well as disrupting the countrywide supply chain of essentials. Weighing scale on the Dhaka- Chattogram highway, waterlogging for rain and tidal water, and extortion and crime are cited as the pain in their neck.
Weighing Scale: Trade and business of commercial hub Chattogram is suffering a lot as the local businesses cannot supply the imported goods to other parts of the country smoothly for the restriction at the weighing scale at Boro Darogahat on the highway. Earlier, the goods-carrying vehicles could ferry 20-30 tonnes of goods on the highway. But, traders say, there was a restriction imposed on carrying more than 13 tonnes of goods, thus increasing the transport cost which leaves an impact on the consumer market.
Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Mahbubul Alam says, "It is very unfortunate that the government is controlling the trade and business of Chattogram by setting up the weighing scale (load-control station) on Dhaka-Chattogram highway." Around 60 per cent to 65 per cent of cargoes are unloading in Narayanganj - not in Chattogram - due to the weighing scale on the highway, he told The Financial Express about the detour of the traders.
"The traders of other districts can carry 20 tonnes of goods on their trucks or lorries, while Chattogram traders can carry only 13 tonnes - this is a clear discrimination," clarifies the CCCI president.
There had already been a weighing scale on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway at Daudkandi in Cumilla. However, another weighing scale was set up at Boro Darogahat in Sitakund on the highway in June 2018.
The chamber chief of the port city demands that the government remove all weighing scales from the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, or set up scales on all the highways across the country to eradicate the "discrimination".
Abul Bashar Chowdhury, chairman of BSM Group, said the Chattogram businessmen were suffering a lot for the weighing scale on the highway. Echoing the CCCI president's views, Mr Bashar also demanded that the government withdraw both the weighing scales from the highway.
Mohammad Mohiuddin, general secretary of Chaktai Khatunganj Artaddar General Traders Association, said, "Due to the weight scale at Daudkandi in Comilla and Darogahat in Sitakunda on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, 6-wheeler trucks-covered vans cannot bring more than 13 tonnes of goods. As there is no weight scale anywhere else in the country, traders in Chittagong are being discriminated against."
Sagir Ahmed, former general secretary of the Khatunganj Trade and Industries Association, also regrets that Chattogram traders are facing discrimination compared to other areas of the country due to the weighing scales, resulting in huge losses for them.There has to be a same system for all 22 highways of the country - not for Dhaka-Chattogram highway only, he says.
Sufiur Rahman, organising secretary of the Inter-District Truck and Covered Van Owners' Association, pointed out that there was even an inconsistency in weight at the two weighing scales at Boro Darogahat and Daudkandi.
Nurul Absar, convener of the Inter-district Goods Transportation Association, alleges that the scale was set up here (Boro Darogahat) to harass the people of Chattogram and to destroy the port. "Around Tk 0.1 million is being extorted every day from the goods-laden vehicles on the highway, and part of the money is pocketed by some unscrupulous police officers and leaders," he claims.
Waterlogging: Tidal water entered the Chaktai, Khatonganj and Asadganj area and the maximum go-downs of the essentials including rice, onion etc had gone into knee- deep water during high tide. Besides, raining also created water logging there. So, huge essentials in the maximum go-downs at the Chaktai, Khatonganj and Asadganj area used to be damaged due to the tidal and rain-water. As a result, the businessmen of the hubs are suffering a lot due to the damage of the essentials at the go-downs there.
Sources said large areas of Khatunganj, Chaktai and neighboring Korbaniganj and Rajakhali located on either side of the Chaktai canal were submerged in knee-deep to waist-deep water during the high tide and monsoon rain. The water congestion used to damage large quantities of perishable commodities, including onions, garlic, rice, lentils, sugar, tea and spices, after water flooded into the shops and warehouses at the wholesale markets.
The water congestion forced traders to raise the height of the doors of both shops and warehouses in an effort to prevent water from getting in. However, even this was not enough as water managed to seep in through the walls.
General Secretary of Arothdar Samity of Khatonganj Md Mohiuddin says, "The tidal water entered the Chaktai, Khatonganj and Asadganj area and maximum go-downs of the essentials, including rice, onions etc, went under knee-deep water. We, the traders, are loser due to the tidal water."
President of Chaktai Merchant Association Harun Ur Rashid says, "We are loser for the entering of tidal water and waterlogging for raining every year. But, CDA has yet to complete the construction of the sluice gate."
President of Chattogram Rice Mills Owners Association Farid Uddin said goods in maximum go-downs at Chaktai, Khatonganj and Asadganj area were damaged by tidal and rain-water.
Foijullah Chowdhury, an importer of spices, said the loss is yet to be calculated. But, the traders lost crores of taka due to the tidal and rain-water.
The Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Mr Mahbubul Alam, further said every year, Chaktai, Khatunganj used to be overflowed by rainwater and tidal water due to waterlogging. "We want to be free from waterlogging soon as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had allocated huge money for the megaproject."
Regarding waterlogging, Mohammad Mohiuddin, general secretary Chaktai Khatunganj Artaddar General Traders Association, said the water capacity of Karnaphuli river has decreased. As a result, tide water is entering low-lying shops and warehouses without rain. Businessmen are facing huge financial loss due to this. Even after four years, CDA could not complete the construction of sluice gate. "We demand that the work be completed as soon as possible."
Extortion and crime: Silent extortion is vitiating life of the Chittagong businessmen recently. Terrorists indulged in silent extortion in Chittagong. Around 15/20 groups patronized by political influencials are engaged in crime and extortion in the area. They used to collect toll from businessmen as well as the trucks, lorries etc every day. The shopkeepers and small businesspersons are suffering due to the extortion. Now, silent extortion is an open secret in the port city, sufferers said.
Sources said the terrorists used the names of the top terrorists of the city for committing crime. Sometimes, they used the names of political leaders and political parties for collecting tolls. Some of them phoned the businessmen and business enterprises for toll. They threatened the concerned businessman and other persons not to disclose the incident of demanding toll to police or journalists or anybody. The criminals used to give ultimatum to the victims to pay the toll within very short time. Sometimes they gave the opportunity to pay the toll-money in installments. If the businessmen or other victims failed to pay the toll within the set time, the terrorists harassed them and threatened to kill them. Mr Mohiuddin, the general secretary Chaktai Khatunganj Artaddar General Traders Association, said extortion and crime posed a big problem for businessmen here.
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