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Port city traders grapple with three crises

Waterlogging, extortion and weigh scales on Dhaka-Ctg highway create problems for them

NAZIMUDDIN SHYAMOL | November 05, 2022 00:00:00

CHATTOGRAM, Nov 04: Businessmen of the port city's three largest trade hubs - Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj - for a long time have been hamstrung by three major problems which are hampering not only businesses in city but also disrupting the supply chain of essentials.

Waterlogging in the city during rain or tidal surge, extortion and two weigh scales set up by the authority on Dhaka-Chattogram Highway have created obstacles in doing business and carrying goods to and from Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj areas.

Sources said importers and distributors cannot timely deliver the shipments to their respective destinations due to the weigh scales set up several years ago at Baro Dargahat point and Daudkandi on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway. Different modes of transports, including covered vans, trucks and other goods carrying vehicles are made subject to unnecessary delay and harassment by the authority for the weigh scales set up in those two areas. They are facing problems in timely delivering cargoes to in different parts of the country due to harassment by a section of employees at the weigh scale and also the law enforcers, it is alleged.

Local traders said, each goods-carrying vehicle could carry maximum 20-30 metric tonnes (MT) of goods before a weigh scale was set up at Baro Dargahat on Dhaka-Chattogram Highway. But now each of the vehicles can carry maximum 13 MT of goods as the maximum goods carrying capacity of those vehicles have been reduced to maximum 13 tonnes by the concerned authority since the weigh scale was set up.

The due to the new rules, owners of goods-carrying transports have been suffering economic losses every day as they are allowed to carry less goods and compelled to pay toll and extortion money to extortionists on the highway, alleged the port city-based traders. Besides their income have been reduced further as prices of fuel oil and gas saw a two-fold increase by the government over a couple of months ago. All these have impacted the commodities' markets across the country as traders and transporters have raised prices of essentials to minimise their losses.

Sources said, during the cyclone, tidal water entered Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj areas where different goods, especially the imported ones are stored at different go-downs and large warehouses. Most of the go-downs where essentials items, including rice, pulses, lentil, onion and spices were stored had under knee-deep water due to the tidal surge. Besides, rain also created Waterlogging in all low-lying areas of the port city including the three business hubs. Due to the cyclone and the rain, a large quantity of essential item has been perished under water at Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj go-downs.

Locals said, most areas of Chaktai, Khatunganj and neighbouring Korbaniganj and Rajakhali located on both sides of Chaktai Canal were submerged by monsoon rains and high tide recently. A large quantity of perishable commodities, including onions, garlic, rice, lentils, sugar, tea and spices were completely damaged as flood water entered shops and warehouses at the country's biggest wholesale markets.

Apart from these problems, local businessmen said, different groups of criminals, including extortionists, have been committing different types of crimes in those areas for a long time. Backed allegedly by a section of local influential people and politicians, the criminals' gangs are continuing criminal activities, including extortion in the business centres and on the highway for a decade. It is alleged that they illegally collect toll from businessmen as well as covered vans, trucks and lorries every day under the nose of law enforcers.

Mohammad Mohiuddin, general secretary of Chaktai Khatunganj Artaddar & General Traders Association said, "Due to the weigh scale at Daudkandi in Cumilla and Dargahat in Sitakunda on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, each of 6-wheeled trucks and covered vans, which have a capacity to carry 20-30 tonnes of goods, are allowed to carry not more than 13 tonnes of goods.

The businessman demanded to remove the weigh scale from the two points of the highway immediately.

The local businessmen also said that traders of other districts are allowed to transport 20 tonnes of goods by trucks, covered vans and lorries where as traders in Chattogram can carry only 13 tonnes in each of those vehicles which is a clear discrimination against people of Chattogram.

The Chattogram-based traders have called upon the government to save the country's prime business hubs in Chaktai, Khatunganj and Asadganj areas from Waterlogging, weigh scale and extortionists.

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