Indo-Bangla trade through Bengal port hit for hours as truckers agitate against ‘goonda tax’
International trade between India and Bangladesh through the Mahadipur land-port in Malda district of West Bengal came a total standstill on Monday following agitation by a section of truck drivers.
The truckers alleged that the driver of a truck carrying stone- chips was attacked by local goons after he refused to pay “goonda-tax.” They also alleged that the goons slashed the driver with sickles. The injured man was admitted to Malda Medical College and Hospital with critical injury.
The incident irked the truckers who immediately blocked the busy road intersection at Susthan and gheraoed the customs office. Police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse them.
On an average, 400 trucks enter Bangladesh everyday only through the Mahadipur port. The quantum of extortion money runs into crores of rupees, the truckers alleged.
Arnab Ghosh, superintendent of Malda district police, said, “A trouble broke out and we sent a force to Mahadhipur. The situation is now under control.”
Mustaq Ali, a trucker, alleged that the Malda district administration is aware of the fact that the only place where drivers park their vehicles and wait for customs clearance is an illegal parking zone manned by local goons. “However, no steps have been taken to stop this extortion. A few months ago the goons tried to burn down some trucks after the drivers refused to pay the extortion money,” Ali alleged.
Another trucker, Shanti Ram Mahato, alleged that the goons charge arbitrarily and at times truckers have to pay as much as Rs 6,000 per truck. “We are always in a hurry because we have to cross the Indian border on time and meet the deadline for delivery. Whenever the truckers refuse to pay, the goons either assault them or do not allow the trucks to leave,” Mahato alleged.
General secretary of West Bengal Exporters’ Coordination Committee, Ujjal Saha, said the administration is aware of the goons and the illegal parking zone. “The goons attacked truck drivers many times in the past after they refused to pay goonda tax,” Saha alleged.
A senior district police officer, who is not authorised to talk to the media, said one man was arrested on Monday. “Police are conducting raids to nab the rest,” he said.
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