A gang of criminals has been collecting toll illegally from vehicles on Kuakata Road towards Kuakata sea beach.
They stop Kuakata-bound vehicles between Sheikh Kamal Bridge and Nachnapara area under Kalapara municipality and forcibly collect Tk 100 to 200 from each vehicle after handing out a fake receipt inscribed with “Kalapara Municipality”.
The total money extorted by the group every day is estimated at Tk 40,000 to 50,000, said locals.
Wishing not to be named, the locals also said one Sohel from Chakamoiya area in Kalapara upazila leads the gang, while its members identify themselves as members of Awami League or its affiliated bodies.
Kuakata beach draws a large crowd of tourists during dry season, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, and the forcible collection of illegal tolls on the road is making a dent on their minds about the beach, they said.
Alamgir Hossain, driver of tourist bus Emon Paribahan from Khulna, said before crossing Sheikh Kamal Bridge in the morning of last Friday, a group of people “stopped my bus and demanded Tk 200 for crossing the bridge. They gave me a receipt [number 1477] for only Tk 100, after I paid them Tk 150.”
More than 500 tourist buses arrive at Kuakata on Fridays and Saturdays from different parts of the country and all the buses have to pay the illegal toll, he said.
After this correspondent made repeated requests, Sohel, the alleged gang leader, refused to make any comment over the accusations made against him and his henchmen.
Kalapara Municipality Mayor Bipul Hawlader told this correspondent that there is no scope for the municipality to collect toll from buses. “We collect toll only from users of our bus terminal. The ones collecting the toll [from the road] are liable for their own act.”
Contacted, Monirul Islam, officer-in-charge of Kalapara Police Station, said they did not receive any complaint on the matter. “If any one files a complaint, we will take necessary legal action.”