Illegal toll collection from the Indian trucks continues unabated at Burimari land port in Patgram upazila under the district, thanks to the lax vigilance by the customs officials, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and police.
"The organised gang compel us to pay Tk 200 to 300 as illegal toll in the name of labourers' welfare fund at Burimari land port," said Narayan Chandra Das, 52, a driver from Cooch Behar district in India.
"If we don't want to pay illegal toll, we face harassment and our vehicle goes into the risk," said another driver Tepantor Nath Singh from Jolpiguri in India.
"If we do not give toll money as per their demand, the labourers refuse to unload the goods from the truck," said truck helper Narendra Sen from Mathabhanga thana in Kuchbihar district.
On behalf of the gang, labourers' sarder (leader) Jobed Ali moves around with a bag and collects illegal toll from 150 to 200 vehicles coming to the land port from India daily, said several transport workers and locals at Burimari land port.
Asked about the matter, Jobed Ali said, "I never charge any toll money from the drivers. I just request them to give a small amount for the labourers' welfare fund. Most of the fund collected by me is spent for the welfare of labourers working at the land port. Customs officials, BGB, police, and even cadres get share of the fund."
Safar Uddin, president of loading and unloading labourers' association at Burimari land port, said the organisation spends Tk 8 to 10 thousand for the welfare of labourers at the land port daily.
"Sometimes we spend huge amount if any labourer faces accident. The fund for labourer welfare comes from Indian drivers and traders' donation," he added.
On the other hand, Afzal Hossain, a labourer at the land port, alleged that general labourers never get anything from the welfare fund of the association and the collected money is pocketed by some labourer leaders and others.
"Labourer leaders collect large amount of money in the name of labourers' welfare fund but there is no account in this name," said another labourer Masjidul Islam.
Contacted, Patgram Police Station officer in charge Amiruzzaman and Burimari BGB camp commander Abdul Hamid said they are unaware about the matter.
Sohel Rana, assistant commissioner of Customs at Burimarui land port, said, "I have heard the matter but I did not get any written complaint in this connection. With the help of law enforcers, I will try to stop illegal toll collection from Indian vehicles in the land port area."