Cashing in on heavy flow of vehicles on Paturia-Daulatdia ferry route, some dishonest BIWTC employees are allegedly overcharging goods-laden vehicles to board ferries for crossing the Padma through the route.
The route has been facing huge pressure of vehicles as ferry services on the country's another major ferry route -- Shimulia-Kathalbari -- resumed on a limited scale on Saturday, around a week after ferry operations were suspended due to poor navigability.
It causes long tailbacks of vehicles at the Paturia end of Manikganj and at the Daulatdia end of Rajbari.
Paturia-Daulatdia and Shimulia-Kathalbari ferry routes are considered the gateways to the country's southwestern districts.
Passenger, emergency and perishable goods-laden vehicles get priority to board ferries. So, trucks loaded with non-perishable items have to wait a long time for their turn.
Taking the chance, some unscrupulous employees of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), a government organisation authorised to operate the ferry service, are allegedly taking extra from the lorries and getting them on ferries quickly.
Usually, around 2,500 vehicles cross the Padma daily via the Paturia-Daulatdia route, says BIWTC sources.
According to the organisation, it charges trucks depending on their sizes. It takes Tk 1,460 for heavy truck, Tk 1,060 for medium ones and Tk 740 for mini-trucks.
On Friday, this correspondent talked to around 20 truck drivers, who paid the additional amount ranging from Tk 500 to Tk 1,500.
A truck driver said, "I had to pay Tk 1,000 extra to get the ferry quickly."
Asked about the role of law enforcement agencies, Rifat Rahman Shamim, superintendent of Manikganj police, said BIWTC is responsible for ferry operation and maintaining queues of vehicles. Police are deployed at the ferry terminal only to prevent any kinds of criminal activities there, he said.
Contacted, Khandaker Tanvir Hossain, assistant general manager in Aricha regional office of BIWTC, denied the allegations and said he had not yet received any complaint in this regard.
"Stern actions will be taken against the responsible persons, whoever they are, if the allegations of overcharging are found true," he told The Daily Star.
In another development, ferry services on the Shimulia-Kathalbari route resumed through an alternative channel on a limited scale on Saturday.
The channel was made by the Padma bridge authorities for transporting construction materials.
"As operation of ferry is not possible through the regular channel, we will use this Padma bridge's channel on a temporary basis," said Shafiqul Islam, assistant general manager of BIWTC at Shimulia ferry terminal.
"We are working to bring back navigability in our regular channel. We will resume the service via our previous route after restoring navigability."
Four out of 20 ferries are being operated on the Shimulia-Kathalbari route.
On September 13, the authorities concerned suspended the ferry services on the route due to poor navigability.
[A correspondent from Munshiganj contributed to this report].