A section of clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents at the Kamalapur internal container depot has been on strike for two days now, threatening suspension of export and import activities at the depot.
The strike started after the customs house tightened measures for inspections of consignments in a move to stop tax dodging.
Enraged by the move, the C&F agents demanded the removal of Customs Commissioner Maruful Islam and Joint Customs Commi-ssioner Khaled Mohammad Abu Hossain, accusing them of enforcing “dictatorial” rules.
The agents alleged “harassment” by the commissioner, who demands frequent re-examination of import consignments. The re-inspection costs time and money, they said.
However, customs officials said only 17 of the 4,026 consignments were re-inspected since Islam assumed his current position. Besides, during re-inspection, duty evasion was detected, they added.
Insiders said some leaders of Dhaka Customs Agents Association and some other agents connected with the ruling party are behind the strike, as detection of duty-dodging by the customs house at ICD went against their interests.
Asked, Sheikh Md Farid, president of the association, said they “were unaware” of the agents' intention to strike on June 8.
“It began suddenly and I could not initially guess the reason. Later, we came to know that C&F agents have stopped working on allegations of harassment by customs officials,” he told The Daily Star.
The striking agents handed in a letter only yesterday citing their problems, he said. “We are in talks to solve the problems.”
Contacted, Islam said he asked the strikers to come to his office with their demands. “But none showed up so far,” he told The Daily Star yesterday afternoon.
He said he followed the rules for examination which was done for every commercial consignment.
Amin Ahmed, a C&F agent, said a consignment of industrial cooling system of his client has been stuck up at the ICD since May 24. “I am yet to receive the examination report,” he claimed.
Ahmed, however, said there was no political influence in the strike. “We C&F agents are the sufferers—that's why we are abstaining from work.”
The National Board of Revenue received Tk 1,292 crore in revenue in the July-May period of the fiscal year from Kamalapur's ICD, which handles more than 120 containers a day. The revenue in fiscal 2012-13 was Tk 1,629 crore.